A New Platform Could Power Up Corporate Blogging
Corporate bloggers now have a faster way to integrate the customer information they receive with their CRM systems. The iUpload Customer Conversation System, launched today, provides a content management platform with wiki capabilities and discussion forums for broad collaboration efforts. The system integrates with Salesforce.com and NetSuite, and includes an editorial approval option, compliance reporting, and additional security, according to the company.
"Today there's a big delta between what the market talks about in terms of corporate blogging and how customers are actually using our platform," says Robin Hopper, CEO of iUpload. "Most of the initiatives are still putting a friendly face on marketing. Either you name a blogger and want good content to engage the community or you set a blogging policy for all staff members. Both are a good start, but don't go far enough."
In October 2005 iUpload and Guidewire Group, a market research firm, conducted a survey that revealed corporations increasingly are adopting blogs to improve customer relationships and overall business processes. According to the survey, 89 percent of respondents are either currently blogging or plan to in the future. Still, companies are struggling to develop a strategic plan for implementing, managing, and getting maximum ROI from those initiatives.
"[We've] launched a unified platform that redefines the concept people already have of blogs. Successful blogs can have incredible new ways to market to customers if tightly tied to CRM packages," Hopper says. "What's very powerful about the approach is, these customers are willing to provide demographic information about what they're interested in. When that's integrated with the CRM system, it becomes a whole new way for [companies] to target messages for longer-term lead generation."
Analysts agree that tying this type of information into other systems can be the next phase of customer relationship success. "In the old days, you'd have a conversation at tradeshows and shoot the breeze. A blog automates that," says Guy Creese, managing principal at Ballardvale Research. "People have conversations with the loyal customers, but a lot of times these conversations don't filter back within the company. It's hard to get feedback from frontline employees; you have all these impediments. Blogging lets you get comments. It's an ongoing customer satisfaction plan."
Even if companies have gathered such information in other ways, many content experts are overloaded by needing to place that content in various systems-partner extranets, internal databases, corporate Web sites. Integrating a blog entry with other systems decreases that work and helps multiply a single entry, according to Creese.
Still, he and other industry pundits warn organizations not to jump straight into the deep end of the blogging pool. "Companies can start for very little money with a basic blogging platform. It will help if they understand what the strengths and limitations are before they invest in more sophisticated capabilities," says David Schatsky, senior vice president of research for JupiterResearch.
CRM integration with blogging tools gives businesses more control over how content is accessed and distributed, according to Schatsky. Creese says that companies have a long way to go before acting on the information they have gathered this way. "For a lot of time it will be unofficial, but over time there will be analysis of blogs and seeing how sentiment is changing. Just like today companies do customer surveys once a quarter, you'll get similar [studies] of what blogs are saying. Technology is there to analyze the content of blogs. That's the next step, but there has to be a welcoming of blogs first."
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