February 23, 2018

About Contributor Andrew Bourland

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I was the cofounder of Andover.net, href="http://www.ClickZ.com">The ClickZ Network and href="http://www.marketingvox.comt">MarketingVox. I currently maintain a blog on various business musings at href="http://www.bourland.com">Bourland.com and consult with major web sites on various issues related to business model and development.

Posts by Andrew:

Defining ROI on Business Blogs: HubSpot.com cracks the code and delivers solid answers

Posted by: of andrewbourland on on 11/6/06

No doubt about it: the most complex problem business bloggers face is coming up with a clear definition of what ROI their blog has produced.

How many sales did it result in? How many subscriptions did it sell? How many seats to your conference did it fill? How many solid leads did it generate for your sales force?

Brian Halligan, a former VP of Sales at Groove Networks and MIT Sloan graduate launched Hubspot.com to provide solid answers to that very problem. Hubspot tracks visitors at each stage of involvement in your blog’s content, and tracks that visitor as they move down the funnel to an actual sale. Every day and with every post and with every event you can track where you stand with the visitors you have attracted to your website.

Though still in beta mode, Hubspot.com’s solution is definitely worth checking out.

If you would like to hear the full story, watch the video above.

It’s not too long, just under 20 minutes. Time well invested, given the amount of time you would otherwise spend wracking your brain seeking answers to this very complex problem.

In Praise of Our Competitors: BlogBusinessSummit.com shows us how to do it right

Posted by: of andrewbourland on on 10/27/06

On the surface, it may not appear that our friends at BlogBusinessSummit.com are our competitors. After all, their site is devoted to promoting the Blog Business Summit, a major event which they host 2-3 times a year.

But in a very real sense, they are our competitors: they compete with us for the mindshare of corporate business bloggers who are seeking to find a way to use blogging as a more effective tool for reaching out to their customers and keeping them informed and happy. So our biggest competitor is a conference company.

Why is that and how could you benefit through knowing about it?

Because unlike most conference sites, they don’t just spring up a few months prior to their event and start banging their drums with the conference message. Instead, they use their conference site as a blog to become thought leaders in this space.

You may not have had the slightest inclination in the middle of June to attend a Blog Business Summit, but when you did a search on Google for “business blogging”, they were listed right up there in the coveted Top Ten listings.

[Do note however, who has the Number One slot in that listing… ]

So chances are good that they are one of the resources you would have turned to, along with Business Blog Consulting, for information and guidance on business blogging. You might have bookmarked us both in your list of RSS feeds you check regularly, and if you haven’t already, you should.

But something may have happened around mid-August or September when you were reading all those great articles that Teresa, Steve, DL and our very own Dave Taylor regularly write: you might have noticed they had a conference coming up.

And then as time progressed, you might have thought you ought to go… and then, if you were one of the smart and fortunate ones who wisely reserved a seat at their conference this past week (I’m jealous: you got to rub shoulders with Jason Calacanis and schmooze with Robert Scoble and John Batelle), you actually forked out the money and went!

Well folks, that was their objective all year long. That’s why they kept blogging away in Seattle through all those miserable rainy days and nights: they wanted you to come to their conference!

So where do you come in?

You may have limited your thinking about business blogging to blogging from your CEO or key executives or just blogging about your company. That’s a good thing, but BlogBusinessSummit.com shows you how you can use effective, high quality blogging to keep your company’s products, services and even events in the forefront of people’s minds all year long… even if you aren’t talking about your company’s products, services or events.

Do it the BBS way and keep strong visual reminders about those products, services and events adjacent to, above and/or below your content. They don’t talk about their conference all year long. They talk about the issues it addresses.

And thus they become a thought leader.

And they sell a whole bunch of seats to their conferences.

And unless I’m unaware of it (always a possibility), that blog is their sole means of marketing that conference.

Amazing, huh?

Oh, one more thing…

Next time you are there, look at the right hand side of the page. They’re plugging their book.

So in your product/service/event blog which addresses the issues surrounding that product/service/event, you can plug not only the focus of the site, but related product/service/events as well!

So add that thinking to your mix. If you’re business isn’t blogging yet, maybe emulating their style would be a great way for you to start. If it is, you aren’t limited to “a” company blog. You can have a bunch of them.

You’ll find business blogging can be a beautiful thing…

VideoBlogging: A Great Option for Corporate Bloggers

Posted by: of andrewbourland on on 09/18/06

There was quite a bit of controversy over at TechMeme this past weekend over the question of whether bloggers should videoblog or just stick to text.

I’d like to weigh in on this issue, given my credentials as a brand spankin new videoblogger that just launched a new business oriented videoblog (we interview entrepreneurs from early stage companies).

For the most part, sticking to text is best. It’s easier, cheaper and far less work and maintenance than having to put up a videocast of whatever you would normally blog about. People can scan text quicker and it’s easier to reprint a particularly informative blog entry to pass around the office.

But there are times where video could come in real handy…

An interview with a key player at your company or within your industry.

A quick demo of a new product or service you are launching.

Some quick interviews with partners and clients you run into at a conference or trade show.

A Channel 9 type “mini-documentary” of projects you have underway and the people in charge.

Video helps you capture that human essence that words cannot always do… An expression on a person’s face, the tone of their voice, a hesitation in saying something… Impossible to capture in text. Easy on video.

You don’t necessarily need a production grade videocamera, special lighting or even a studio to add video to your blog. The resources you need are surprisingly affordable and easy to use.

Bottom line, it’s not an either/or question… really more of a “which is more appropriate for what I’m trying to communicate here?” type of a question.

Video is growing in leaps and bounds on the net, and it behooves you to learn how best you can benefit from it.

UnConferences: Not a Bad Thing to Attend After All

Posted by: of andrewbourland on on 09/11/06

I have to eat my words and offer a public apology to Josh Hallet, whose BlogOrlando UnConfererence I questioned the validity of in this forum.

In that piece, I charged that UnConferences were essentially anti-capitalistic over-reactions to the sins of the current approach to conferences. I questioned their value, recalling an UnConference I attended at the ripe young age of 16 which degenerated in to chaos.

I got some feedback from people telling me that I shouldn’t be so harsh in my judgement of UnConferences, that I should attend one before I make such rash statements in the future.

Such an opportunity arose this weekend when I attended PodCamp Boston, a gathering of podcasters and videocasters designed to teach each other what they’ve learned about the art, craft and business of podcasting.

An agenda that looked informative and useful emerged as the days for the conference approached. An impressive list of experts and well known figures within podcasting steadily grew as well, making the conference that much more valuable for me to attend.

It was a free conference, but it was looking early on like something of great value to me, so I signed on as a $250 sponsor — which I would have been glad to pay anyway just to rub elbows with the quality of people who would be attending.

The sessions moved along quickly and were quite lively with enthusiastic participation from the attendees — much more so than other conferences I’ve attended where people tend to fall into catatonic states unless the speaker was particularly charismatic.

Anti-capitalistic? Hardly. The organizers did all they could to facilitate good networking and introducing those who would benefit greatly from meeting each other.

I learned a great deal in the time I was there, and hope I was useful to others as well. Not only that, despite being a dyed in the wool introvert, I ended up joining three local organizations which will help continue the learning path I’m on. It will also help me in my networking about, learning more of the right people that I should be talking to.

So Josh, you were right, I was wrong. The UnConference can in fact be a tremendous opportunity to learn more about the topics you are interested in.

I would recommend corporate bloggers seek out these venues as well to increase their knowledge on their blogging skills. They only cost you the time, energy and knowledge you put into them — which will serve to increase their value substantially.

Dreamhost Tells the Truth… and Keeps My Business

Posted by: of andrewbourland on on 08/2/06

Over the past month I have had nothing but frustration with Dreamhost, who happens to be my ISP (Internet Service Provider). The server has been down or very slow for hours, seemingly days at a time. My email has been inaccessible on and off throughout the month. And to make things worse, I couldn’t even get through to their online support area to find out what was wrong.

Well, today I got their newsletter in which they included a link to their weblog, which went into excruciating detail about what their problems were for the month of July.

Here’s a link to the post.

A good lesson for all of us here is that when things go wrong in your company and customers are affected as I was, simply telling the truth about what happened and what you are doing to correct the situation is sufficient to keep their business and happy with you.

If only Dell would learn this lesson

UnConferences: A Waste of Time and Money?

Posted by: of andrewbourland on on 07/18/06

The “UnConference” is all the rage right now… an agenda-free gathering of like minded souls who seek to learn from each other’s wisdom… an “expert free zone”… no sponsors… no official speakers or panels. Since Dave Winer began to promote this idea earlier this year, it seems that every new conference wants to be an “UnConference”, therefore freed from the sins of conferences past.

No doubt the standard approach to conferences has abused the trust and credibility attendees place in the promoters of these events: vendor speakers giving the same talk they gave at the last 5 conferences they spoke at, sales pitches from the podium, vendor stacked panels, outdated and irrelevent content. Believe me, I used to review conferences and even put on a few back in my ClickZ days (at which fyi, we didn’t allow pitches from the podium, did not invite vendors to speak or participate on panels, but depended upon industry experts instead), but is the UnConference the best solution we can come up with to the current model?

I remember well the first “UnConference” I ever attended. It was way back in 1972 when I was in high school. I was a part of this radical coalition called “Student Alliance” which sought to give high school students more freedom and choice than they were given at that time. One day, I received a mailing from a group of similar “Student Alliances” from all over Wisconsin (I was living in Green Bay at the time) who sought to hold a conference among the various Student Alliances from all over the state. And guess what? The pitch sounded remarkably like the UnConferences that are being popularized today: no agenda, no speakers, just a collective sharing of our common wisdom and experiences. All of us were experts. And by god, it was FREE! Made sense to me. So I set aside a weekend in February, bought a bus ticket, packed up my goodies for a great weekend and headed to Madison.

To make a long story short, the weekend was a total disaster.

In a vacuum, strong voices can and will emerge, and despite rhetoric to the contrary, they will quash the voices of those who don’t share their views. Friday evening, which we set aside for “agenda setting” rapidly deteriorated into chaos when a coalition of feminists (it was still in its early days at that time) took over the meeting and issued a series of demands which included banning anyone from the conference who uttered any of the sexist words or phrases from the list which they so kindly provided.[Today, none of us would utter any of those words or phrases in a public setting under any circumstances, but at the time, it was a radical notion, for example, to ban the use of the word “girl” or “bitch”.] They took up an enormous amount of time and bandwidth with their rhetoric and demands, so after about three or four hours, we called it a night and decided to reconvene the next morning to see what we could do about setting an agenda for the weekend.

Next morning, the Marxist coalition decided it was their turn to take over the agenda setting session, and before you knew it, all hell broke loose and no agenda ever got set.

So you had about 150 teenagers from all over the state who came there to learn from their peers what they could do to more effectively impact change in our schools and we ended up doing absolutely nothing. Actually, we ended up doing the kinds of things that teenagers did at that time with nothing to do, no adult supervision and no agenda.

Beyond the profound sense of disappointment I felt, I was pissed that I had wasted an entire weekend, the bus fare, the cost of meals. I didn’t look forward to reporting back to my fellow members of Student Alliance of Green Bay East High School that nothing got done, I learned nothing and had nothing to give.

I’m not saying here that all UnConferences or even BlogOrlando in particular will end up in chaos with all attendees going home empty handed. But I am saying that without some sort of preset agenda and without a seeding of real experts who can address the relevant issues, you risk losing more than the price of admission (free). You risk the value of however many days of time you invest. You risk airfare (steadily climbing as we speak), hotel and food expenses. And you risk coming home with a profound sense of disappointment having wasted your time.

Fact is, I’d be far more interested in attending BlogOrlando if I knew that there was going to be an agenda in place, some sort of schedule, coverage of topics that I wanted to learn more about, experts on hand that are qualified to address them and yes, I would like to have a few sponsors and vendors there demoing their latest (or even better, upcoming) new products and services. Properly handled, sponsors and vendors can make a tremendous contribution the quality of a conference. It’s great to go home with a few good tchotchkes and some stories about the cool new products you saw demoed. Better yet, it’s great to blog about them!

It seems to me that, bottom line, the UnConference movement is at it’s core anti-commercial.

While I agree with them that I don’t want the conference agenda spoiled by sales pitches given by VPs of Marketing who paid for their time at the podium, it doesn’t mean that a quality conference can’t be properly planned, informative and useful… AND produce a nice profit for the promoter (who takes on enormous risk, believe me) through charging for admission and providing a venue for sponsors and vendors. It also doesn’t mean that a conference can’t provide a venue for the experts within the audience to be heard and to exchange ideas.

Conventional conference organizers have abused the trust and good will of their attendees, that much is clear. But the UnConference is not the answer.




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