Friday, July 19, 2002

Blogs and business relationships

A number of people have asked me why I maintain this blog. While there are a number of reasons – a personal KM strategy among them – I realized I hadn’t really given much thought to a significant aspect of the reason: the business relationships I’m building as a direct result of the contributions I make to the blog and the content I read from other blogs.

Thanks to this blog, I now know two individuals who have both been very helpful to sales opportunities for my company. The first was a prospective customer – and a past salesperson so thoroughly botched the relationship that the firm had zero interest in talking to us. (Now knowing the full story, I don’t blame them at all.) A few months ago, the director of KM at the firm started a blog – and discovered this site. We both write about similar issues, and have found that we both appreciate each other’s opinion. A month ago, I was in New York on business, we met for lunch and hit it off. While things will move slowly (we’re still a long way from establishing whether InterAction is right for the firm), the fact that we now have a solid relationship is a testament to the value of the blog. An opportunity at this firm will run to six figures.

Just this past week, another six figure opportunity arose at a large technology consulting firm. Our salesperson asked if I would join him in a meeting with some senior members of the team. Once I heard the name of the company, I realized that I knew someone with a connection to the firm – now a professor, he was the founder of the consulting company. I called the professor, we talked about the opportunity and the people who would be in the meeting, and I went into the meeting with both more information and a strong relationship. Not only was his feedback helpful in preparing for the meeting, but we discovered some mutual colleagues as a result of talking through our various interests.

I’m not alone. I’ve spoken to others who have identified business opportunities from personal relationships they build through their blog. But the whole notion of blogs as business relationship-building tools has been largely unexplored. It’s not something that can be institutionalized – to work, the relationships must be personal, which requires a certain credibility on an individual level – but I think it’s a very significant aspect of professional blogs that would largely put to bed the question “are blogs fads?” Fads? Nope. If I continue to develop relationships (two in seven months isn’t bad at all) that could yield significant six figures in revenues, then it’s a no-brainer.

Keep in mind that the R.O.I. calculation on this is almost laughable. I paid $40 for the software, and spend 15-20 minutes per day adding content to my site. Even if you assume a high billable hour rate for my time, my investment over a year might reach $10,000 – and that’s a soft cost (time) not a hard cost. The hard cost is just $40.

Just like a few years ago I would go out of my way to reward companies who had web sites, I am pre-disposed to work with people who have recognized the value of contributing to the weblog community – and as the blog model gains momentum, that will only get easier.

What are you waiting for? Put your business where your blog is.

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