By J. Dean Spence
All businesses exist to create value in some way(s) for their customers. This is their fundamental purpose: to create value which will take the form of some kind of artifact, and which, in turn, will generate profit.
For a business to be relevant, the value it creates must be unique, must differ in some way from what the competition is doing. Businesses make value available to customers and must capture some of that value as profit. Value capture is the key to a strong business.
In “Why Value Capture is the Most Important Business Idea You Haven’t Read Enough About”, Eric Jorgenson suggests that the ability to capture value can be easily tested: can you raise prices for your products and/or services without losing customers? Jorgenson goes on to write, “Value capture is important to ongoing survival because it allows for reinvestment in the business to create a stronger competitive advantage or fund R&D for new products”.
Value creation and capture, then, are inextricably linked.
One way businesses create value is through creative output. You can, for example, create value for your customers through your company blog—and that value can, in turn, help you capture value.
At the very least, a company blog should do four things: inform, educate, entertain, and make the reader curious about your products and/or services. The first three is how you create value, and the fourth is how you capture value.
INFORM AND EDUCATE
The first two, inform and educate, are obviously related. To inform is to provide news that your readers can use—especially if it can potentially have a positive impact on their lives. Jorgenson in “Why Value Creation is the Foundation of Business: How to Define it, Measure it, and Manage it” writes “value is created through an irreversible process which gives a resource’s order greater usefulness to other humans.” On the other hand, educating is a tremendous source of value. Most people like to learn new things and turn to blogs to do just that.
To find material for your blogs that is both informative and educational, mine such sources as Think With Google!, the Pew Research Centre and the Search Engine Journal. If your blog is consistently informative and educational it will establish you as a thought leader and will guarantee that readers return to your blog again and again.
I believe that one of the drivers of the success of blogging in general is the very human need to be entertained. Bryan Alexander, in The New Digital Storytelling: Creating Narratives with New Media, argues that blogging is the most pervasive form of Web 2.0 storytelling. And everyone loves a good story. Alexander also suggests that bloggers, in their blogs, present themselves as characters. Each blog builds on the character whether it be serious and formal, humorous, informative, scholarly, tech or business-savvy, educational or entertaining.
The ultimate goal of your company blog is to make your readers curious about and purchase your products and/or services, so that you capture value. We can call it “contents’ return on investment”. The key here, though, is to sell without looking like you are selling, or else the return on investment will be low. I recently came across a blog on Medium called “Future of Food” by a Canadian company called Yuma. The blog started off well; in fact, I thought I was reading a “slow food” manifesto. The blog states, “We’ve simply forgotten the culture of good food”. Great stuff. But the blog ends with a hard sell by the company—so much so that I felt cheated. I thought I was reading something revolutionary, when, in fact, it was basically native advertising—and unashamedly so! And the underlying tenor of the people who responded in the comment section of the blog tended to align with me. Cheated.
Your return on investment will not be high if you shove your products and/or services down peoples’ throats. What is required is a slight of hand in which you create value for your readers while gently nudging them in the direction of value capture.