One of the hottest trends over the last ten years is blogging and its impact on marketing is profound. At a recent agency seminar, I had a surprising number of agency leaders ask me if I knew of any agencies who have gotten new clients from their blogs. What struck me was the number of people who were asking. In the past, it was a few skeptics but always more who said they have active agency blogs. This time no one was defending blogging. Everyone, without exception, said they got seduced by the blogging hype, created their own, forced agency talent to spend hours creating content, and never, ever got any prospects, very few visits, and no new clients.
I sense that too many agencies have fallen for the 'easy solution' and are finally realizing their worst fears. They’ve heard the industry claims about the benefits of blogging, the simple formula for creating sales-driving content, and the story after story of ad agencies winning new clients by turning away from traditional business development practices and striking it rich in the social media gold rush. One agency exec told me that the only people who are having any success with blogging are those blogging experts who will share their success with you for a small fee. Way back when blogging was a novelty and only the most innovative agencies were doing it, they attracted attention. Today, it is oversaturated and abused but still, some are selling the benefits as if it were 1999.
To complicate matters, blogging relies on the digital media ecosystem. The very same system that is rotten with fake clicks, bots, fraudulent profiles, Russian espionage, scammers, hackers, and every sort of miscreant, in addition to your prospect. According to Hosting Facts, over 4 million blog posts get published each day. SEO won't do it. You have to push your blog content out to those people whom you want to see it through digital media and email. You may get some traffic but over half is fake while much of the rest is not desirable leaving a precious few to read your blog post. If that post is about your Cinco De Mayo celebration, well, that was a waste of an impression. SEO, social media, LinkedIn posts, Medium stories, where, oh where does all the traffic go?
Have you ever tried boosting your blog post reach through AdWords, featured posts, sponsored content, and all the rest of the pay-to-play schemes out there? The cost analysis does not justify the expense because the incidence of your ideal prospect is too small. You can see a jump in traffic to the blog but end up spending precious time chasing dead ends. I know the sales pitch from Google, Facebook, Twitter, and all the rest. Before you bite, you might want to check out Bob Hoffman’s acerbic view of digital media. If, on the other hand, you are selling small, reoccurring services, or high-volume work, you can play the numbers game with digital media. However, before you do, check with Bob.
At this point in the discussion the ever-growing number of blogging experts make the argument about the quality of the blog post, ‘Of course, you aren’t getting any traffic. All you blog about is yourself.’ They all say you have to give something of value like a free webinar, an hour of free consulting, a how-to e-book, or other worthless offers unless of course, you are a blogging expert. For the most part, agencies aren't selling get-rich-quick schemes, secret weapons, or proprietary formulas. They sell their unique combination of experience, insights, and creativity. That’s not the blog post recipe for success because it isn't something you can describe in 1,500 words or less.
Can you grow your agency with a blog? No, but it can help. A blog is only one small piece of the puzzle. It is, for the most part, a tool for those few prospects who, after vetting your agency on the 7 – 10 things they think are important, might check out a post or two for additional insight into how you work and what you think. I know that many of you will choke on my assertion but I always look at the data first. Over the last few years blog post interactions have been declining while blog post publishing is on the rise – fewer readers and many more blog choices. More to the point, look at your website analytics. Blog page traffic is, on average, far down the list of daily visits compared to your about, capabilities, team, or work pages. Don’t get me wrong. If you are Interbrand posting about the world’s most valuable brands, you will get significant traffic. But, you aren’t and you don't spend the time and money like them to produce highly desirable content.
I've posted about blogging before. Better yet, I’ll paraphrase; Don’t blog! Unless you have something to say. Don't blog until you find your unique differentiation and a way to express it that is interesting, competitive, provocative, and results-driving. Don't blog if someone tells you that your blog is the key to your new business success. Don't blog if you question what it is that you should say. Don't blog even if you think you have something to say but can't figure out how to get it in front of your prospects. Don’t blog unless you are prepared to spend lots of money to push your content out to the right audiences. You'll end up spending too much valuable time with nothing but frustration to show for it. So said the agency owners I talked to.
The blogging experts make the argument that business people are always active on the internet looking for new resources and solutions. That is true, and if they are interested in your agency, 90% will go to your website to do some initial vetting and decide if your company is worth investing more time in – like the time to read a blog post. First, they will want to know a few fundamental things before continuing. If they get the right answers they may dig a little deeper, and maybe, just maybe (like 20%) will visit your blog. Given the facts, is a blog worth investing in? My experience says yes but only if done right, with the proper expectations, and as a complement to the more important tools of business development.
Like all the tools at your agency’s disposal, a blog is yet another. It is not the Holy Grail of business development like some would have it. It is one of many things to consider and evaluate for the time, cost, and effect. You should analyze all the things you can invest in and objectively determine the best tools for your agency. For example, blogging takes a lot of time and shows marginal if any benefit while a beautifully executed case study also takes time but has more practical uses and a greater return. Attending networking events requires time and follow-up, but the chances of interacting with actual prospects is high. You get the point. Make a list of all the tools. Assign a value to quantify the cost (time and money) and the result (prospects and clients). Rank them from best to worse, take the top few that you feel most passionately about, and leave the rest alone or minimize your involvement. Don't look for the silver bullet or magic bean. Commit to a smart strategy and do the hard work.
I’ve got a lot of advice on how to make your business development efforts more productive and would enjoy sharing with you. I’m always open to a conversation. If you like this post, click the thumbs up, so I’ll know, and then sign up for my new business newsletter. Follow me on LinkedIn for daily tips, tricks, and insights. #LetsGrow!