Many years ago, I heard "First lady of financial planning" Venita Van Caspel lecture to a crowd in a Houston, Texas shopping center on how to develop a winning money attitude. Van Caspel said something then that’s stuck with me ever since. Asked by prospective clients how much she charged in financial planning fees, she’d reply, "Don’t ask what financial planning costs. Ask what it pays!"
Business owners contemplating starting a business blog often ask me about costs, and, since solid business decisions must consider expected return on investment, that question is perfectly in order, as far as I’m concerned.
At the same time, every business owner must be prepared to consider the corollary question – How will I know blogging’s paying off for my business? Based on my experience with business blogging, as well as the insight I gained all those years ago from Venita, I’m convinced it’s the answer to that second question that’s most important for business owners to discuss.
For beginning business bloggers, you can use your own website and your own server to post your blog, or sign up for a blogging "platform" hosted by a blogging company. Two popular free platforms are Blogger.com and, WordPress. TypePad offers a one free trial month free, and then charges a modest monthly fee. Blogware companies such as Compendium offer platforms with extra features to amplify business bloggers’ influence and "reach". Compendium helps answer the second question by providing weekly analytics on searchers who clicked on the corporation’s blog. Depending on the budget and the goals for the blog, blog-it-yourselfer small business owners can expect "platform costs" that range from zero to several thousand dollars a year.
Adding a professional ghost blogger to the marketing team can boost the marketing tab by $3,000 to $8,000 a year. In addition, business owners who want to reap maximum benefits from their long-term online marketing strategy may pay a professional to "optimize" their website in coordination with the blog, as well as to promote the blog in directories and even adword campaigns.
To put blogging costs in perspective, any entrepreneur should check out the list of advertising costs in David Verklin’s book Watch This, Listen Up, Click Here. A 30-second national radio spot on, say Rush Limbaugh, costs almost $5000 (yes, for just one!), a healthclub panel ad in Chicago costs $18,000, and the price of a 30-second commercial on Desperate Housewives is more than $250,000. (Verklin breaks those numbers down to an average cost of $20 to reach a thousand TV viewers in one brief encounter.)
All these marketing and advertising dollars are spent to achieve the one thing blogging does best – giving companies customers who want to be sold!
Back to Question #2 – How do you know your blog marketing’s working? When blog readers follow your "calls to action" – by phoning your business, faxing in a request or an order, signing up for a newsletter, or proceeding to your shopping cart to buy your product or service, you must have systems in place to differentiate these contacts from others that came through word of mouth marketing, ads, billboards, or commercials. Along with getting your content out there on the blogosphere, you must know precisely how much incremental business came as a direct result of the blog.
So (begging your pardon, Venita!) do ask how much blogging costs, but remember the more important issue – What does it pay?