Chicago Business Blogger Offers Advice for Newbies
Chicago-based blogger and business owner Jess Constable is standing by to answer reader questions about successful business blogging.
Good morning! My name is Jess Constable, and I’m here to tackle a topic that can be the best marketing asset or the worst time-waster for any business owner: blogging.
To give you a bit of background, I am an accessory designer in Chicago with a line called Jess LC and a blog called MakeunderMyLife.com. I actually started my business when I was 15-years-old with the accidental sale of an (ugly) ankle bracelet. I quickly decided making money selling jewelry trumped babysitting, so I kept selling and growing my small business one bauble at a time.
In 2007 I graduated from the University of Michigan and started Jess LC as a full-time career in Chicago. It was a small operation but a successful one with wholesale accounts in over 100 stores nationwide.
Then the recession hit.
While the economy tanked, I launched my blog, MakeunderMyLife.com (which I refer to as MML) without intending to use it as a business tool at all. But boy was I wrong.
The minute that I started blogging and helping people “makeunder” their lives, which was a personal passion, I started getting more and more online customers. And once I started marketing my business on other established blogs while continuing to contribute and help people on MML, things really started rocking. We are now bigger, more profitable, and well known than ever – thanks to the power of blogging.
From my experience there are some key traits that help businesses use blogging successfully:
1) Don’t Just Blog About Your Company – I made this mistake early in my business. Before I started MML I had a blog that only contained Jess LC updates. Which really just resulted in a glorified newsletter. The fact is: readers don’t want to come back again and again to a blog just to get “sold.”
As Gary Vaynerchuk, a well known social media expert, has famously said, “Don’t just try to get in your customers pants on the first date. You gotta get to know your customers, give them space, respect them, ask them on a date. Be polite.”
A blog or any social media effort that is only about sales, products, and “sealing the deal” will only distance customers and make them distrustful. So make sure to keep your blog content varied, interesting, and personal, and feel free to use a blog as a platform for customer feedback on upcoming products or recent product launches.
2) Consider the Time Commitment Before You Start a Blog – A great blog a can take a lot of time. Consistent posting (1-6 times per week is ideal), great writing, quality photos, and unique content are time intensive. Posts can take 30 minutes to two hours to craft. So make sure that your heart is in this endeavor.
If you are starting a blog just to increase sales, consider advertising on well established blogs (or Patch!) as a sponsor instead. Giveaways, ads, and editorial posts from people who have a loyal following can be much more time effective than trying to drum up interest in a new site that is poorly updated or cared for.
A “skeleton blog” which is out of date, unattractive, or abandoned can still be found by potential customers when googling and reflects poorly on your company image. So go big, or pay someone else to blog about your company on their site instead.
3) Marry Your Blog and Business Experience – A well executed blog should look and feel like your shop. The images, layout, graphics, and writing should feel familiar to loyal customers.
Think of blogging as an extension of your brand. If you are a rock-and-roll barber shop, for example, make sure that you have a site that has the same rocker edge in your layout, has a header that looks like your logo (or is your logo), write about new popular hair styles, and your favorite hair bands – whatever draws people to your shop should shine as content on your blog.
And remember to ask for feedback and even consider sharing great customer hair cuts in photos as well – it’s all about getting the customer excited to be a part of what you are doing as a company – not just about what you are selling.
So how are you feeling? Overwhelmed? Excited to get started? Still confused about how to get a blog following? Let me know!
Please feel free to comment and ask any questions you have about blogging and business. I’ll be rounding up all the Q’s posted here on Friday and sharing my A’s next week.