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September 19, 2006

Should B2B marketers blog?

Laura_ramos My colleague, Laura Ramos, researches B2B marketing and is doing some work around B2B blogs. She has some thoughts on how B2B companies should be approaching blogs, which I've included below -- it's a cross-post from Forrester's Marketing Blog on which she writes. Any additional thoughts about the success and applicability of B2B blogs would be most appreciated -- we'd especially like to hear how companies are going through the decision making process of whether to have or not have a blog.

On to Laura's post!

Along with podcasts and RSS feeds, blogs are showing up on business marketers’ radar. Of the 210 B2B marketers who told us that they use these emerging tactics today, over 70% said they planned to boost their spending on social computing tactics during the next 12 months. But just because firms like Boeing, HP, NetApp, Sun, and Unica have entered the blogosphere, does that mean every marketing executive should as well? My answer today is a qualified “Perhaps.”

Successful blogs have two interconnected ingredients, a community that finds reading the blog -– and contributing to it -- valuable. Outside of high tech, B2B marketers will find it hard to hand content control over to customers, prospects, and public commentators. Mainly because they worry that bloggers might say things that hurt their company’s image, brand, or standing in the market. So although many B2B blogs use an authentic voice, they come across as more promotional than openly communicative. Jim Firestone’s “Big I, little t” blog is such an example, although Xerox gets credit for taking steps to get closer with customers.

From our own experience at Forrester, blogs are a bit like children –- they demand constant attention and nurturing to grow up properly –- so deciding to initiate a blog is not a decision taken lightly. Questions marketers should answer are: What is the purpose of the blog?  Who is the audience?  Will the blog encourage participation? And, who should own the blog’s content?  Beyond these, B2B marketers should know:

Does our business – or industry group – change quickly enough to support the realtime publishing model? While innovations among industrial components like ball bearings, pumps, and compressors may not keep pace with Moore’s Law, their manufacturers shouldn’t rule out blogs entirely. Niche industry publications like Chemical Week, Masonry Magazine, and Scrap (the bimonthly magazine of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries) have readership that blogs, as a less expensive publishing media, could supplement or enhance.

How does the blog fit into the rest of our communication (notice, I didn’t say “marketing”) strategy? Consider whether the blog community can help boost customer service, innovate new products/services, or enhance the flow of information inside the organization. Promotion is not the sole reason to establish a blog.

The bottom line? Get familiar with blogs by reading and contributing to relevant, related ones. But don’t prioritize blog investment above other interactive tactics like search marketing, email, and Web seminars where the results are easier to measure and the value is easier to quantify for now.

And let me know if you disagree or see things differently.

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Comments

Sante

Hi Charlene and readers,
The complexity of problems increases as the size of the Client decreases (and if any of you deal with Small and medium enterprises you know what I'm talking about).

There are 2 major issues with blogs and Social media that require great attention:

1.The impact on communication
2.The impact on business models

As part of ongoing consulting contracts I am preparing strategies for the travel industry, in particular use of blogs and social media for hotels in Italy. Tourism is a very important industry and I follow a number hotels in Tuscany.

There are many issues that surface performing a strategic analysis of hotel activities that are not related to the B2C phase: Think of communications with travel agencies or vortals just to name a few.

I'll be posting further considerations on the subject, I'll send you a trackback if you'd like me to.

Sante

Cornelius Puschmann

Thanks for the very informative cross-post, Charlene (and Laura!). I was a little surprised that ACCAbuzz (http://www.accabuzz.com/) wasn't mentioned as an example for a "slower" industry adapting blogs. My impression is that since B2B enterprises talk to a different audience than B2C players, putting the emphasis on communication over marketing is an especially promising strategy. Open dialogue supports the propagation of new ideas inside an industry and creates awareness outside of it. The potential dangers - exposing your brand to criticism - exist whether *you* blog or not, because others will blog about you either way. Blogs are fairly inadequate direct marketing tools, but have a very high potential for trust-building, corporate social networking (new forms of recruiting and community-building) and corporate intelligence (using the company blogs as an information resource). In a sector where "hostile feedback" (as for example Dell is facing at the moment) is likely to make up a lesser percentage of the discussion, blogging has many possible uses.

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