Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Blog Your Dreams to Life - Why You Should Start a Blog BEFORE You Start a Business

Right now all you see are roses..but how will you really feel about your business 6-12 months down the road?  Blog a virtual business to life and you will be prepared for real life business in more ways then imagined..and you can get started today.  You will be EXTREMELY grateful to yourself and very wise to have taken the time. Let's get going with my 'Boys Only' business as an example:

1)  OPEN SHOPBlogger is a fantastic place to start your blog (Business).  You can set up your website with color and personality.  Organize pages, add pictures, video and tons of text content. Blogger gives you labels, search tabs, custom headers and many more features to become a functioning website--for FREE.  If you want the dot com at the end of your business name, you can purchase a custom domain for only $10/year with Blogger.  I'm not going to reinvent the wheel -- you can click "Create Blog" in the upper right hand corner of this blog and follow Blogger's easy instructions, or click here to find other instructions.

2)  ESTABLISH INVENTORY:  How do you gain inventory for free and share it with the world?  Virtually of course!  This is the fun part.  You should start out with the idea:  "This is my store and these are the things I would sell in it".  It may only be virtual inventory -- but the benefits WILL be solid in the following:

     a)  Inventory (Wish) List
     b)  Product Knowledge
     c)  Company Contacts   
     d)  Customer/Product Feedback
     e)  SEO functioning and Linking

Inventory:  I truly enjoy finding unique clothing, toys and accessories for boys.  I search daily via websites and actual brick and mortar shops.  I want to share with my followers the wonderful products I've come across and where they can purchase them.  I do so, by posting them in my blog.  When the day comes to start your business, you've only to scroll up and down your blog for what you'll sell.

Product Knowledge:  When I research a product/company I find out their history, and why they began their business.  I discover the materials used and skills they incorporate into their product(s).  Surely, if you're selling something, you'll want to understand all you can.  If I have purchased the product myself, I give a positive review and post it along with pictures I have taken (you must have pictures in a successful blog).   If I can only lust after the product, I download the pictures and post what I consider a custom advert for the company.  (I have never had anyone complain for free 'positive' press).

Contact with Company:  Make sure you contact the owner of the website and send them the link to your post.  Add a little hello, tell them who you are and how much you appreciate their creative work in this field.  Encourage them to add your post to any media linking they may have.   (I was thrilled with my first linking!) When you actually begin your business, company owners will most likely remember you and hopefully be happy to sell their inventory under your business...which isn't always a given. 

Feedback:  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder -- and customers for that matter.  You may absolutely love a product, but find a good part of your audience does not.  Although your ego may be bruised, at least your pocket book won't.  Wouldn't it be good to learn this lesson early?  By allowing comments on your blog you can gain valuable feedback.  Later, when you have a shop, you can continue to use your blog to ask your customers how they would feel about stocking a certain product.

SEO and Linking:   We'll discuss this in detail below -- but understand, this is a great feature in Blogger.  Each time you post publicly, it heads out to Google's search engine.  It is not only free marketing -- it's one of good quality.  You'll want to add an Alexa rating system so you can measure your SEO success, but posting sincerely and often with many links into and out of your blog will be incredibly beneficial in getting people to find you and what you're writing about. 

3) INCORPORATE SEO:  Search Engine Optimization.  It's a love/hate relationship.  A necessary evil and survival food.  This is probably the greatest lesson you will learn about actually having a business.  Any successful business has to have good SEO to be found.  You can spend hundreds on a cool website, logos and expensive inventory and think, 'Okay, here I am!" But...'NOBODY WILL HEAR YOU!!!'  SEO will tell the world who you are.  With your blog you have already told the world who you are.  Every post is a unique label that will bring searchers to you.  Potential customers will come to read your reviews and where to find what they're looking for.  You will inevitably (when selling product) have to pay for some SEO, but a blog is a great establishment for keeping your customer base up...why do you think so many companies have one now?

4)  CUSTOMER BASE:  If you have been posting sincerely and consistently then you will begin to establish followers (future customers).  You may want to create a Facebook Fan Page as well as a Twitter Account.  Holding Give Aways will bring many to your site, but many come for the 'free food' if you know what I mean. Until your Alexa Rating is in the low 700-400s you will probably have to provide most of the give aways yourself.  Product knowledge with witty posting will always top this.  Keep things interesting, playful and respectful.

5)  RESPECT:   My desire to start a boys only shop found favor with so many friends and acquaintances, but I had 0 small business experience.  I started my blog Just for Jack...it's not always about Jill just over a year ago.  What have I gained?  A whole new respect for small business owners, who are doing what I only dreamed of doing.  They work incredibly hard and I am glad to help bring others to their websites when I can.  I have familiarized myself and established contacts with amazing designers and businesses who give me opportunities to review their quality products. 

12 months of dedicated posting have gone by...are you still as excited about your business?  In any case, you will have washed away fantasy and swallowed much reality.  Now, you can stand back and make decisions with much more logic and a little less emotion.  Is it truly time to upgrade to a shopping cart website?

I love blogging on Just for Jack and will continue sharing the best in boys.   Surprisingly,  I have discovered my talents do not rest in small business retail--but in other unexpected places at this time.    I'm so glad I blogged first.  ;-)

Good Luck, and may all your dreams come true.

C.T. Kirkpatrick

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