Blogging is a hot topic right now and the cornerstone of much so-called inbound marketing activity. But I often hear professional services people ask: Do blogs really work? This is a loaded question. In my experience, blogs do “work” if by work you mean generate new leads. On the other hand, if by “work” you mean … stimulate forward movement in the sales funnel or impact new-client acquisition or even improve revenue … well that’s an entirely different story.
The 95/5 rule
Our company has a blog and I have been blogging for a long time now. Although when I first started this whole content creation thing, we didn’t call it blogging. We called it thought leadership.
I still believe there is a big difference between thought leadership and content marketing, but I’ll save that argument for another day. The main point I want to make here is that blogging is good for filling the top of the sales funnel. But it’s not so great for pulling leads through the sales funnel toward a concrete business relationship where someone becomes a new client.
Why do I say this? First, and most importantly, in our experience this is true. I’ll get all sorts of tire-kickers to consume the lite-bites content you can find in my 1,000-word articles. But for most people, that is the extent of the time they’re willing to put in.
It takes fewer than 10 minutes to read a blog post. So I think it’s fair to say that people won’t be achieving their very important business goals, realizing the opportunities that excite them most or overcoming the challenges that really vex them — based on 10 minutes with you or me or anyone else. Sorry, but I’m just not that good.
This is something I call the 95/5 rule. At any given time, 95 percent of everyone who is consuming your content is not in a buying cycle. On the other hand, 5 percent of everyone who is consuming your content is likely in a buying cycle.
Who is in your buying cycle?
I know it’s an old-fashioned concept that modern bloggers tend to disrespect. So please excuse my old-school mentality for just a moment and indulge me on this one. In my experience, people in a buying cycle exhibit these characteristics:
- They need the services you offer.
- They have appropriate budget.
- They have a timeline in which they must act or there will be consequences.
- They are willing to engage in serious good faith dialogue.
- If they are not the final decision-maker, they are prepared to marshal a team or committee to get a decision made.
This is what I would call a prospect. This is different from a lead. How so? A lead may exhibit the first two characteristics: need and budget. But if they do not have an impetus to act and a charter to address a goal, opportunity or challenge, then they’re not a prospect.
This does not mean that they are not valuable to your organization — especially in the future. In my experience, it is best to nurture leads over time so that when they do enter a buying cycle they think of you first.
But a prospect is different. They are the ones that business development and sales people want to talk to right now. So this raises an important question. Do blogs generate prospects? Well … yes and no.
Stimulating leaning-in behavior
A few years back, I was hanging out with my niece at the beach here in California. She was a bit too small to go diving into the waves that were crashing on the beach. So we ran back and forth with the waves and she got wet up to about her ankles. It was a lot of fun and she squealed with laughter. I could tell by the look on her face that she wanted to go diving into those waves. But she just wasn’t ready.
This is how I see blogs. Most people who consume blogs are looking for an idea or a solution. But they may not be ready to dive into a relationship with you or your firm. Not yet. These are the 95 percent who are not in a buying cycle right now, for whatever reason.
But there will be that 5 percent who want to go deeper. If all you’ve given them is an article, then they might disengage or go elsewhere for more ideas. This is why blogs alone are not enough.
Don’t get me wrong. Blogs are important. You do need to stimulate and nurture the 95 percent who may come into a buying cycle at some point down the road. However, if you’re expecting that a blog will all of a sudden put thousands of prospects in your lap who are ready to buy right now, you’ll probably be disappointed.
Even so, blogs are often the gateway that prospects will pass through to become your client. So if you don’t have a vibrant blog and content marketing platform in place, you are probably missing out on opportunities to engage your market.
A resource to help you
If you want to build a lead nurturing program using blogs or other types of content, I have a solution for you. It’s called 7 Steps To A Lead Nurturing Program That Keeps You In Front Of Prospects. This free resource contains seven videos and downloadable tools. You can access it by clicking here.
About the author
Randy Shattuck is a senior marketing executive and founder of The Shattuck Group, a full-service marketing firm that specializes in growing professional services firms. Using eight core services, The Shattuck Group impacts the growth potential of professional service firms.