The marketing manager for a large Internet business told me that her company had considered starting a blog to communicate with their clients; however, they decided not to after they conducted a survey of their customers where 85% said that they never read blogs.
Basing actions on a survey can be a good idea, but I would not have made the assumptions that this company did. This post is not about convincing you to have a blog (although you probably should). Instead, it is a warning about letting your biases cloud your interpretation of data and your decision making.
First of all, in my opinion the results of the survey were skewed by the fact that many of the people responding probably had no idea (or the wrong idea) what a blog is. Many of the 85% who said they never read blogs may read them all the time, but they do not recognize them as blogs.
Lesson #1: Do not assume that everyone else uses the same language as you, and understands the same jargon, even if they act as though they do.
Blogs do not necessarily have the word “blog” anywhere on them. Blogs are web sites. They may display information a little differently from traditional web sites, but to most readers they are simply web sites.
The company might have gotten better results from a focus group where they could have defined what a blog is, shown examples and discussed their customers’ perceptions of and reactions to blogs.
Even if we assume that the survey was correct, and 85% of their current clients do not read blogs, there was another error in their logic. They failed to consider that they might attract additional customers by having a blog.
Lesson #2: If you want only the level of business you have today, keep doing what you are already doing. If you want to attract new customers, do new things.
Having a blog, and engaging with other bloggers, would have given this company much more exposure. They could have reached customers that will never hear of them otherwise. And, they could do this at a very low cost.
Lesson #3: Do not spend more time and energy deciding whether or not to do something than it would take to do it.
Instead of holding meetings, conducting surveys, and debating whether they should start a blog, they could have simply started a blog. Maybe this is too much to expect from a big corporation, but it would seem that they could have given someone in the marketing department a $10 monthly budget for a TypePad account, and made it a part of their job to spend an hour or two a day, or a few hours a week, posting to the blog, interacting with people who posted comments, and forming relationships with other bloggers. Then, they could track the results.
When you are considering trying something new, do not let your assumptions color your research. Be open to trying new things to reach new customers.