Real blog ROI

One of the things that resulted from copywriter Bob Bly‘s "blogs are a complete waste of time" story in October (see my post) were lengthy (and still ongoing) discussions on a number of blogs, including mine, about showing some evidence that a blog can generate a direct return on investment (ROI).

Here’s an example of how it can.

Artist and painter Duane Keiser of Richmond, Virginia, USA, has started A Painting a Day blog:

For this blog I’m going to try to make a painting each day (starting 12/10/2004.) Most of the paintings on this blog will be postcard-sized oil sketches (I call them Postcard Paintings.) I paint them on site, using a modified cigar box as an easel. Occasionally I may post a larger, more finished painting, in which case I’ll include the dimensions. If you would like to purchase a Postcard Painting, they cost $100. Just email me with the title/date of the one you want.

Even though he’s just started this, his blog this morning shows that he’s already sold six paintings. It’s not clear whether these sales have come directly from the blog (but his note, above, does say he started this two days ago, 10 December) or from his website. I’d be willing to bet that he will get more sales via his blog than from his static website.

In any event, the six sales he mentions on his blog means $600 in revenue. What did it cost Duane? His time, materials (paint, canvas, etc), add in a proportion of his site hosting costs and other business-related costs. I would guess that his costs would be considerably less than $100 a painting.

I’d say that’s pretty good evidence of ROI. Easy to measure, too. Ok, be a purist: this is direct sales. Nevertheless, it’s proof (on a small scale, to be sure) of what you can do with a blog. We’re obviously not talking about the kinds of numbers Bob was asking about: show him a company that generates 1% of the $40 million annual sales his #1 client generates through email marketing, but as a direct result of blogging.

Don’t always focus on the big numbers: look at the percentage when measuring the ROI.

Here’s another example, one that’s been going for much longer.

Hugh McLeod of gapingvoid fame sells his quirky cartoons as business cards (he also sells the cartoons). He’s not running that as a formalized business. But I bet he can provide evidence of his ROI.

Good things can come in small packages, as the saying goes.

UPDATE 12 Dec: I’ve just seen The Virtually Infinite ROI of Blogs, an article by Susan F. Heywood published in DM News on 6 Dec.

Susan says: "Because my blog generates revenue and my time was the only cost to set
it up, the ROI of the medium essentially has been infinite, in my

Her article explains how she gets revenue from her blog, and how she measures that.

Via Robin Good (via Scoble), whose post How To Use Blogs For Direct Marketing discusses Susan’s article.