This is not a numbers business

It's interesting being in the middle of a blogstorm. It causes interesting conversations, that's for sure! (Even here in the halls at Microsoft).

Tim Bray, of Sun Microsystems chimes in: "There's a word for companies that base all decisions on ruthless quantitative ROI metrics: Bankrupt."

My co-author, Shel Israel, in a followup to our failure to answer Werner's question, takes a second stab at "why Amazon should blog?"

Me? I go back to when I was a retail dude in a small store in Silicon Valley in the 1980s.

I learned that if you didn't open the door you didn't get any customers.

You had to open the door, even if you thought today might be a slow day and you'd be better off going to the beach (there were days when we did less than $500 in business, which didn't even cover our rent and electricity, much less our salaries, but we opened the door anyway).

This is a people business. Even when it scales all the way up to a billion dollar business.

I was reminded by that yet again yesterday. My cell phone rang. Rajeev Gopalakrishnan said hello. He runs a .NET User Group in Harrisburg, PA, USA and wanted me to help him find some more speakers for his user group. He invited me to speak.

Now, will that conversation add anything to Microsoft's bottom line? No. Will it show up on a spreadsheet somewhere? No. Will it satisfy Werner's question? No.

But it's exactly why I blog. I want to be found in the search engines. I want people to know there's a guy at Microsoft (actually, now more than 2,000) that cares about what his company does and is accessible.

I didn't start a blog to get 20,000 readers. I started a blog to talk with Dave Winer and Dori Smith and share with them what was going on in my life and tell them what I thought about what was going on in theirs.

Speaking of which, I disagree with Dave's take on this argument this morning. People shouldn't start blogging because their competitors are. They should start blogging because they want to talk with their families. Their friends. Their customers. And other people. About what they care about.

You know, we'll come up with demographics. Psychographics. Business intelligence. ROI graphs. And all that too.

But I really could care less about the numbers. Maybe that makes me a bad blogging evangelist. That's OK.

Our book tells you about 188 other companies and what they thought about blogging's effect on their business. Their relationships. Their accessibility.

David, in my comments, reasks the question again: "Why would people prefer to hear from Amazon over the authors who sell on Amazon and the other customers at Amazon?"

I go back to Rajeev. Why did he call me? I was accessible. He wanted to have me help him out. A simple phone call. A simple blog.

This is not a numbers business. It's a people business. Are you available to share your business with people or are you hiding behind customer support walls, spreadsheets, or IT solutions to interacting with your customers?

I am not going to remain a blogging evangelist. I have to get to work on Rajeev's request. That's the downside of being accessible. Your customers tell you to do more work. Off I go, have a good weekend!

Oh, and I remember my first interview with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. He told me how he offered his Apple I to HP and Atari and was rebuffed. Why? Because his bosses at those two companies didn't think there would be enough people who would buy a personal computer.

In other words, Wozniak didn't have the numbers either. Did that matter in the end? 🙂

Update: James Robertson, who runs his own business is a Product Manager for Cincom Smalltalk, says the same thing in his post "Trying to find the ROI in blogging."


TechCrunch rates online Feed Readers

Those of you who've been reading me for a while know that I use an RSS News Aggregator to read many times more blogs than I could read just by visiting them in a browser. (I use NewsGator Online, which brings blogs into Outlook). That tool isn't rated in this article, instead Frank Gruber looked at all the online aggregators which are very popular. Good review! If you haven't yet tried an RSS Aggregator, an online reader is a good way to start.