Why keep a corporate weblog? For us, it’s all about developing a relationship with our customers. We created the ClearContext Corporate Weblog to provide our users with detailed information about our product, share information with those customers in areas that we are passionate about, and make connections with potential customers. In the four months since we started the blog, we have seen a dramatic increase in customer interest and loyalty. As relative newcomers to the blogging community, we want to share our thoughts behind the decision to start a corporate blog, the way we use it to connect with customers, and our advice for starting one for your company.
In late 2004 we released the first production version of ClearContext Inbox Manager for Microsoft Outlook, an email prioritization add-in that automatically organizes the inbox and automates the message filing process. While developing the application, we quickly became regular readers of several weblogs, including Office Weblog, Office Zealot, Ed Bott, Omar Shahine – basically anybody who had something to say about Office productivity, email issues, or Outlook. It became very clear to us that the people who wrote and read these blogs were exactly the type of people that we wanted to give feedback on the product. So, on December 15th we put up the first entry in the ClearContext Corporate Weblog with our public purpose, “to share information about the company, our products, email productivity tips, and anything else that captures our attention, particularly if it’s related to email or productivity technology.”
Internally we hoped to do more than that. We hoped to develop a closer relationship with our customers by putting a face to the company. We hoped to build a customer base of like minded people. We hoped to develop our brand and spread the word on ClearContext Inbox Manager. We hoped to get our customers to participate in the direction of the product. We hoped to establish ourselves as knowledgeable in our field. In four months of blogging, we feel we have already made great progress towards these goals.
Here’s what we use the weblog for:
- We share information in areas that we are passionate about that we think our customers want to hear about.
- We gather feedback on how customers are using email and email tools to refine our long-term product direction.
- We build product awareness and buzz.
- We provide potential customers more data on the product and our competitors so that they can make a software decision that is right for them.
- We answer questions users have on the best way to utilize our product and suggest ways to get the most out of ClearContext Inbox Manager.
- We provide detailed information about our future product plans to ensure that our development priorities are aligned with our customer’s needs.
- We write about issues posted on our Features & Support Forum that likely apply to a broader group of our users.
How’s it working? The corporate weblog has been an extremely good investment of our time and effort. In just four months of use, we feel that we have already seen some great results:
- The weblog has been an excellent source to date for finding new customers. We consistently introduce new customers to ClearContext Inbox Manager via our interaction with other bloggers.
- We have very quickly put the word out on new product developments. Within days of our blog post on our new release, most of our customers had upgraded and tried out our new features.
- We have clearly communicated project direction and received direct feedback from our users. It was this feedback that defined many of the features implemented in our v1.1 release.
- We have used the weblog to provide our customers with a variety of information about email productivity. We’ve posted email tips and techniques, email productivity information from around the web, and hosted a comprehensive email usage survey with help from a number of other bloggers.
So are you thinking about starting a corporate weblog and wondering if it’s worth it? As far as we’re concerned the answer is clear – you can’t afford not to. The dollar cost to run the weblog is relatively low, so that is not an issue. As a resource constrained software startup, our hours are precious and the time required to post relevant, fresh material on the weblog is daunting, but it’s a small price to pay in exchange for a direct connection with many of our most knowledgeable (and demanding) customers. Are you worried that you might not be able to come up with content once you start a site? We had the same fear, but now have a backlog of posts we want to write. Are you passionate about your area of expertise and want to talk about it? Do you come across an article a few times a week that you find interesting? Are you constantly thinking of new ways to utilize your product or service? Those are the very things your customers will find interesting as well. Blog it.
For more detail on starting a corporate weblog, we suggest you look to the following resources:
Robert Scoble’s Corporate Weblog Manifesto – a passionate list of 20 items to consider before starting a corporate weblog.
The Red Couch – Robert Scoble and Shel Israel (with Marc Orchant
editing) are writing a book on Corporate Blogging and have posted
advance drafts of individual chapters. Definitely worth a read,
particularly their corporate blog tips.