Micro ISV Blogging: Why?

I’m probably preaching to the converted, but ever since I started blogging, and even more so since I read this forum thread, I’ve wanted to gather my thoughts on this topic.

If you’re trying to start a software company, chances are you already have a million things to do with any given minute. What could possibly convince you to commit any significant chunk of your time to publishing your thoughts online?

Firstly, why not?

  • It’s not going to change your fortunes overnight. If you’re looking for a quick fix, blogging definitely isn’t it. A reader will probably have to stumble over your blog at least 2 or 3 times before they even think about adding it to their feed reader, or start checking back on a regular basis. Unless you’re a special case, it’s going to take time to build a circulation.
  • Your readers will probably not be your customers. Even if you’re lucky enough to target a market which reads blogs, you’ll probably have to work hard to get any of them to read yours. It’s nothing personal, but development and marketing blogs are most likely to appeal to developers and marketers. If you think you can write regular, quality content that directly appeals to your target market, why are you wasting your time reading this, you should already be blogging as often as you can.
  • The obvious one I’ve already alluded to: It will to take a lot of extra time and effort.

Those are some pretty compelling reasons. It’s going to be extra work, it’s going to take time to get people to read it, and even if you do build an audience, you probably won’t be able to sell anything to them.

Fortunately, there are some equally compelling reasons why you should have been blogging all along. In no particular order:-

  • Adding personality to your site. It’s nice to find a friendly face behind a corporate website, and a certain type of customer will respond to it. They might not follow your blog, or read more than a few posts, but the fact that it’s there will help. The actual value of this will totally depend on your target market, but unless you have highly objectionable blog content, it’s unlikely to hurt. Also, once you’ve been blogging regularly for a while, a quick glance at your blog should show your commitment to your product.
  • As well as adding personality, a blog can add stickiness to your site. Any variable content on your site gives visitors a potential reason to return.
  • If you do manage to make your blog appeal directly to your customers, the personality and the stickiness will give you a great channel for customer communication. You should be well on your way to building brand loyalty and customer evangelists.
  • Reader recommendations. Even if you can’t sell your products directly to your readers, you may still benefit from the relationship. I’ve never met Ian Landsman, there’s an ocean between us, but I still know of him and his software. If I found myself with a need for helpdesk software, or had a client ask me about helpdesk software, his product would be my starting point. No Googling, no chance for the highest Adword bidder to grab my attention first; he couldn’t buy that.
  • Bloggers read blogs. In the same way that a reader might recommend your product, you might catch the eye of another blogger. I’ve never met Andy Brice either, but if I ever need a seating plan, I’ll know where to start. Andy doesn’t blog, but he is very active in the developer community, often popping up with great advice. I’m not sure I’d have known of him or his software without the plugs from Ian and Bob Walsh.
  • The selfless community aspect. One of the most satisfying things about having a blog is the ability to recommend and link to other sites. If I see another blogger with something interesting to say, or a really cool product, it feels great to be able to link to them from my blog. I know that the link will help, either with their search engine ranking, or even just because I might refer some visitors who then become regular readers or customers. I’m sure Ian and Bob get a great feeling from knowing that they helped Andy get some recognition in the community.
  • The selfish community aspect. It’s nice to be recognised for what you write, and for your products. It can give you a great lift to see that someone agrees with what you have to say, or that another blogger has been paying attention to what you’ve been doing. Try not to underestimate the morale boost (building your own business can be lonely, stressful and demoralizing), but if it doesn’t sound important enough, you will also get a little search engine benefit each time someone links to your product or your blog.
  • Your Long Tail of referrers. You will get visitors to your blog posts from search engines or other blogs. The post might be six months old, but it might be exactly what the searcher was looking for. Some of those visitors will stay for more; some of them will come back regularly. If the post was related to your product, you might just convert that visitor to a customer. These posts, visitors and referrals will never show up as a major source of traffic to your site, but they will make up a long tail. If you add up all of your minor sources over a significant period of time, you might be surprised by their importance.

I think those expectations are reasonable for most bloggers. I didn’t mention fame or fortune; they’ll either come or they won’t, I don’t think we should seek or expect them from our humble ISV blogs!

I started blogging about 9 months ago when I was launching a new product. I originally thought of the blog purely as another marketing channel, but quickly came to appreciate and enjoy it for other reasons. In retrospect, blogging was the most rewarding aspect of the launch.

If you run a Micro ISV, do you have other reasons to blog? Or have you chosen not to blog for a reason I haven’t mentioned?