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Intuit Case Study: All Action, No Talk for QuickBooks Online blog

Paul Rosenfeld, General Manager of Intuit’s QuickBooks Online, and his team had a great idea: why not start a blog to communicate with – and learn from - their 35,000 customers?

Paul is an informal kind of guy. A staff member suggested the blog one sunny Friday in Mountain View, CA. Paul said, "Why not." When he came in on Monday, lo and behold, the staffer had created a QuickBooks Online blog using TypePad. It was customized with the green header of the QuickBooks Online product page but wasn’t an exact replica.

“Hey,” Paul said. “This is great. Let’s go with it!”  Or something to that effect. The point, as he puts it, was to just start. (And by hosting the blog externally, he didn't have to get on corporate IT's lengthy action list.)

More Action / Less Talk
”Everyone (in big companies) thinks in terms of PowerPoint and big projects and lots of money. Our blog is an example of a lot of action and very little talking,” he said in an interview. “We’re very proud of it. It’s the first blog at Intuit.” (One other exists, for TurboTax, but it’s only open to registered users.)

Here’s a look at how Rosenfeld has developed the QuickBooks Online blog with the help of a handful of staffers, what they write about and lessons learned for other corporate managers harboring secret thoughts of blogging…

Case Study: All Action, No Talk for Intuit's QuickBooks Online Blog

By Debbie Weil

Paul Rosenfeld, General Manager of Intuit’s QuickBooks Online, and his team had a great idea: why not start a blog to communicate with – and learn from - their 35,000 customers?

About_us_paul_1 Paul is an informal kind of guy. A staff member suggested the blog one sunny Friday in Mountain View, CA. Paul said, "Why not." When he came in on Monday, lo and behold, the staffer had created a QuickBooks Online blog using TypePad. It was customized with the green header of the QuickBooks Online product page but wasn’t an exact replica.

“Hey,” Paul said. “This is great. Let’s go with it!”  Or something to that effect. The point, as he puts it, was to just start. (And by hosting the blog externally, he didn't have to get on corporate IT's lengthy action list.)

More Action / Less Talk

”Everyone (in big companies) thinks in terms of PowerPoint and big projects and lots of money. Our blog is an example of a lot of action and very little talking,” he said in an interview. “We’re very proud of it. It’s the first blog at Intuit.”

Here’s a look at how Rosenfeld has developed the QuickBooks Online blog with the help of a handful of staffers, what they write about and lessons learned for other corporate managers harboring secret thoughts of blogging…

Those pesky corporate blogging guidelines

A few months after the QuickBooks Online blog was launched, Rosenfeld was invited to a meeting by Intuit’s Corporate PR department. Legal was there too.

He recalls that the conversation started with the BIG QUESTION: "What are the risks involved in blogging?" More on Corporate Blogging Guidelines.

He responded: "The issue isn’t how do we prevent blogging or deal with the risks of blogging. The question is why aren’t we blogging when Microsoft the Evil Empire has thousands of bloggers?  What is the mindset around here that we shouldn’t be reaching out to customers and talking to them?"

Shortly after, Rosenfeld started a "global bloggers" email list. He challenged colleagues (mid-level managers to senior execs) to start a customer-focused blog. "Anybody who isn’t blogging in 30 days is off the list!" he wrote. Colleagues were intrigued.

Meanwhile, Paul continued to post many of the entries to the QuickBooks Online blog himself – 11 entries in July, 2004. By August, a handful of brave staffers had joined him in posting.

Topics covered include:

Nothing extraordinary. But useful.

Not every employee is itching to blog

Rosenfeld’s exhortation to his team of 90 is “Blog!” But he’s found that not everyone is a natural blogger. They’re afraid to write or not sure what to say. About six staffers regularly post.

He encourages everyone, no matter what their level or title. “Each person has something valuable to contribute to customers. They may be in operations keeping the trains running. They may be working on a new product. But each has something valuable to contribute and there are always great opportunities to blog about who you are, how you see the world and what excites you about your job." (Does this guy sound like a dream boss, or what?)

He’s instituted no formal review process for posting. But the staffers who do write the blog (developers, operations managers, marketing and product managers) often ask each other to take a look before publishing an entry.

Rosenfeld's tips on how and what to write

”If you treat a blog as a corporate communications vehicle and tell people you're going to review everything they write, you’re going to fail miserably,” Rosenfeld said. “You’re going to clamp down on their feelings (and they won't write).” Apparently his bloggers understand where the line is between personal writing and inappropriate disclosure (about a new release, for example). He admits it can be tricky. "A business blog is the intersection of your personal thoughts and feelings with a professional goal."

Rosenfeld says he doesn't particularly care what topics are covered on the blog. "The goal is to build confidence in prospects and customers by sharing relevant information in a transparent, open and honest way. To build confidence in our product."

Not coincidentally, a key component of QB Online's brand is customer service. "Our customers go crazy over our service," Rosenfeld said.

Rosenfeld's definition of a natural blogger is someone "who sits down and writes a couple of paragraphs... he or she may be outgoing or not, but definitely has a point of view and wants to share it." As one staffer said to him, "It's not that difficult. You've been blogging all your life. It's called talking." He discourages rambling, however. "A ramble without purpose is a blog entry without a purpose."

Measuring the ROI of the QuickBooks Online blog

It's still early days, Rosenfeld points out. The blog currrently gets 500 to 700 visitors a day. Readers occasionally leave comments. But not as many as you might expect, considering that the blog has a potential audience of 35,000 customers.

Interestingly, his team recently launched a discussion board for customers to ask product-specific questions. Thus far, more customers appear to be interacting with the message board than with the blog. Which correlates with the latest stats on general understanding of blogs: only 7% of U.S. Internet users are reading blogs.

More on message boards vs. blogs

But type "QuickBooks Online" into Google and you'll see that the QB Online blog comes up as the #4 result. Not bad for search engine optimizing Paul's product line, considering that the blog isn't  part of Intuit's official Web site.

BONUS Paul Rosenfeld’s Corporate Blogging Screed

Paul agreed to share with me the Shakespearean ode he sent to colleagues at Intuit, exhorting them to add a blog to their customer relationship strategy. As promised, it was sent on the 30th day of his blog challenge.

”Fellow bloggers and those as yet to be, and Those Who Will Never Be, It is with heavy keyboard that I post my final message to most of the lot of you.

Alas, my small, vain attempt at stirring the pot of Intuit's customer advocacy juices has fallen mostly on deaf ears. I mean not to be pejorative, simply declarative, factual. Our journey, once started, is now ended.

For, your Outlook meetings beckon! Your emails ring out to be answered! Glorious powerpoints await to be drawn majestically on the screen. And even a few "..." call out to be written down, multiple times, over and over again. For many, indeed, this is the true calling to a bountiful corporate life.

But who, indeed, fattens our wallets and feeds our children? I say, our customers do. And I say, let those of us who hold them dear, who bleed when they bleed, march forward! Let us band together, learn, engage, and grow strong in our customer rightfulness.

For how could I look myself in the mirror tomorrow in the am, one day old beard glaring dolefully down on my contemptible visage, screaming "Liar! Charletan! How dare you declare your intent to cast non-bloggers from the LIST and not do so on the thirtieth day as you so boldly declared?" Nay, I cannot bear this thought anymore than not posting a blog every day or thrice. For, I blog, so I am.

For those about to be cast into the void, I attach my final document. An excellent commentary by an expert business blogger about the joys you too easily forsake. Wield it in good health, open your mind and heart to a new way, and perhaps, one day, I may have the privilege and joy to call you...Intuit Blogger.

Fare thee well! Odious Corporate Blogger, Paul"

(Editor's Note: Nice to know that somebody in corporate America has a sense of humor. Clever, huh?!)

Postscript

Rosenfeld admits he "crumpled after I took everyone off the list because so many people came back and said 'DON'T DO IT.'" So he made it a public email list. Now anyone can add to the distribution; they continue to send around ideas about corporate blogging.

And yes... other Intuit blogs are in the works.

Useful Links

Case Study on ACCABuzz blog (Air Conditioning Contractors of America)

Paul Rosenfeld's post to the QuickBooks Online blog about this Case Study

Also see Toby Bloomberg's profile of Intuit's QuickBooks Online Blog


 

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Posted by Debbie Weil on April 7, 2005 in Case Studies , Corporate Blogging Guidelines , Etiquette | Permalink

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» Case Study: All Action, No Talk for QuickBooks Online blog from debbie's blog - Debbie Weil is an expert on business blogging as a lead gen/search/branding/PR strategy. She is the publisher of award-winning WordBiz Report.
Paul Rosenfeld, General Manager of Intuit’s QuickBooks Online, had a great idea: why not start a blog to communicate with – and learn from - his 25,000 customers? Paul is an informal kind of guy. He threw the idea out on a sunny Friday in Mountain View... [Read More]

» QuickBooks Online blog from OnLine Sales Success
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» Paul Rosenfeld on Intuit's QuickBooks Online Edition Blog from Backbone Blogging Survey
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Comments

Toby

Debbie - great interview! Exciting to see blog strategies being adopted by corporations. Perhaps blogs are beginning to "tip" as a viable marketing tool. ...and much appreciate the mention to Diva Marketing Blog.

alvin Johnson

I read your article about Intuit Case Study: All Action, No Talk for QuickBooks Online blog. Hope,QuickBooks Online blog services would allow to access the accounting software from any browser irrespective of QuickBooks editions and versions that are using currently...

quickbooks hosting

This is a great concept "Only action no talks" and getting a feedback from employs via a blog is lot more provoking and efficient work.
Their number will definitely improve.

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