How to Grow Your Business with Blogging

Blogging    +    Grow Business Online    =    Grow Your Business

Blogging makes it possible for business owners to grow their businesses online and to tell their stories in fresh ways to reach new audiences. There is power in a story: stories draw us in, and they captivate our attention. They teach us more about each other and strengthen the bonds of relationships.

Blog article writing is an essential element in helping unfold a story to customers and breach the radar of new customers. Site visitors and search engines are looking for fresh, interesting content. Published and optimized blogs are like an annuity – they will continue to attract your targets’ and search engine interests into the future. Blogs combine elements of websites, newsletters and forums. They provide static pages of information like sales letters, drive action like informational emails, and create conversation through interaction.

However, the best blogs engage target customers to take action. Position yourself so search engines readily find you, then nurture those online relationships so the potential customer gains trust and ultimately chooses to either buy from you online or visit your store. By responding to customers and comments, blogs can help grow businesses by fostering community.

BENEFITS OF BUSINESS BLOGGING:
• Lead Generation
• Research and Development
• Direct Sales
• Brand Awareness
• Search Engine Traffic
• Sales Support
• Public Relations
• Crisis Management
• Attracting New Audiences
• Interaction and Engagement
• Learning From Your Audience

Grow your audience by thinking long term and offering overwhelming value. By being genuine, approachable, helpful and friendly, you will create raving fans. Take your audience on a journey from a visitor to a return visitor by providing educational resources and other informational articles. Turn them into subscribers by solving their problems and demonstrating solutions. Convert them into customers by encouraging conversation, involvement and a sense of community. Use persuasion, conversation and provide a call to action with a compelling offer. Readers who constantly consume your content create free word of mouth marketing for your brand.

Audience Lifecycle: Visitor->Return Visitor->Subscriber->Converted->Advocate

Start with your title first. Use a whiteboard for developing keywords and topics into your blog post title. Use the Google keywords tool, use long tail keywords and use nine words or less for better refined searches. Have your blog topic answer questions: Is your topic for fun, to grow business, or to position you as an industry expert? What compelling position can you provide to readers? Who is the audience and what’s the point? Blog titles that answer questions or demonstrate practical advice by using specific information are the most compelling. Use comparisons, percentages, numbers and specific product information to validate credibility.

Blogging Quotes   Benefits of Blogging
Businesses that blog at least 20 times per month generate more than five times more traffic than those that blog four times per month. Those that blog also get 4x more leads than others. Set a publishing schedule or outsource by using guest bloggers and having co-workers lend a hand. Create useful internal and external links to provide better educational experiences for users. Have your links open to a new window and make sure the keyword you’re linking to is a website that contains the same keyword on that site. Host other blogs and bloggers — everyone loves to be featured, and it offers an opportunity to reach out in the blogging community.

capture 19How can you make your blog article more interactive? Use a call-to-action encouraging readers to engage: Share button for social, an open-ended question, invitation to comment below, “email us now invitation,” click to tweet, downloadable paper, etc. Ask questions, get feedback and learn as they learn. Use two to three related original images in each post and label them accordingly. Make sure to name each image, description and alt text using the same keywords. Keep your blog easy to read with images, video and design principles. Six-hundred or more word posts enable better engagement for staying on a specific page longer. Use 7-10 keywords when you are tagging your blog posts and link back to your website to make it more searchable.

Finally, measure your blog with metrics such as Marketing grader, unique visitors, traffic rank, indexed pages, linking domains, MozRank and Facebook fans. Like any productive practice in your business, blogging takes commitment, investment and a bit of creativity to achieve real results. With determination, publishing weekly and promoting your posts across the top social media networks or using applications such as Share this, you can help gain attention. Happy Blogging!

SUMMARY
• Attract targeted visitors who have a problem you can solve.
• Inform, advise, discuss, help.
• Build trust with positive experience over time.
• Demonstrate positive results.
• Make offers that match audience wants/needs.

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What types of Blogging techniques do you use?
Tell us by leaving a comment below!

Blogging with the Best

AmericasMart had the pleasure of attending the 2012 Design Bloggers Conference in Los Angeles last week with about 200 industry bloggers. It was a welcoming, motivated group, eager to soak up advice and meet their fellow bloggers face-to-face.

Martyn Lawrence-Bullard kicked off the conference on Monday morning with a glimpse into the world of designing for celebrities such as Cher, Elton John and Cheryl Tiegs. Thought-provoking sessions were led by a who’s who of the hottest design bloggers including Tobi Fairley (Tobi Fairley Interior Design), Ronda Carman (All the Best), Cassandra Lavalle (coco+kelley) and Brian Patrick Flynn (Décor Demon).

I think fellow attendee Leslie Fine (Leslie Fine Interiors) summed up the conference nicely with the following “Ten Pearls of Wisdom”:

Hello from February Atlanta Apparel!

For the next five days I will blogging LIVE from our February Atlanta Apparel Market! As a part of our AmericasMart Marketing team, I am excited to bring you a behind-the-scenes look at the new trends and fashions. Plus, I will be attending all of our exciting events and seminars…and of course, reporting back to you with all the good information!

Get a head start and check out americasmart.com/apparel for line listings, showroom/booth locations and event schedules!

See you at Market tomorrow!

Amanda Macy Cheek

Guest Speaker Niki Papadopoulos’ Top 10 AmericasMart Tips

IMG_1048I love going to the AmericasMart. When I first moved to Atlanta, it was this giant treasure chest of a building and I would ALWAYS tag along with my Mother-In-Law when she would offer to take me. We would start with breakfast at the diner across the street and hit up the 7th floor for serious shopping. That was before I knew what else lived inside and I was able to get access on my own as a designer (one of my happiest moments!)

Being that I have spent some serious time there both shopping for fun and shopping for work I have some tips for making the most out of your AmericasMart experience.

1. You MUST wear comfortable shoes. It is not an option, it is a necessity. You will walk forever and you need to be comfortable (or you could just buy cute flats somewhere in Building 3.)

2. Get a map/directory and hold on to it! If you are coming for the first time you might get disoriented but a campus map and the directory will get you where you need to go.

3. Bring business cards. As a designer this should be automatic, but it is the easiest way to hook up with showrooms. Give an associate your business card and ask them to send you whatever you need to set up an account/line list/etc. This way you don’t leave with 5,000 brochures, unless you’re into that.

4. It also doesn’t hurt to keep a copy of your Tax ID and Business License in your bag. I carry mine around and I pull it out more then you could imagine.

5. Bring a small notebook that can fit in your bag. You will need it.

6. Have your camera ready and charged. Of course always ask if you are allowed to take pictures, but I find that snapping a photo of what it is I like and then jotting down where it is from, is the best way to keep track of what I see. There are so many showrooms and options that if you like a piece, snap a photo, get the info, then send that photo to your showroom rep and chances are they can hook you up with the rest of the line.

7. Utilize the Coat Checks! You will have your hands full, you will have a bag, maybe a cart as well, they will get full and cumbersome. There are coat checks located in each building near the lobby or registration area, ditch your coat, it’s one less thing to struggle with.

8. Market Wednesdays are awesome. If you can’t make it to Market or if the idea of fighting ATL traffic downtown on a busy Market Week isn’t appealing, hit up Market Wednesday. They are typically every other month (check www.americasmart.com for exact dates) and most showrooms are open specifically on those dates. Sometimes showrooms are open every day, some are only open during Market, etc. But most vendors make and effort to be open for Market Wednesdays.

9. Coffee. If you need coffee like I need coffee (or water and sustenance in general) you can find it in every building! Specifically: Building 1, floors: 2, 4, 7, 10, 14, 15, 16, 19. Building 2, floors: 8, 10, 12. Building 3, floors: 1, 2, 5, 6.

10. Strategy: I like to work from the top down and walk the loop in each building. It helps to have an idea of where you want to go and what you are looking for in advance, that way you make the most of your time. If you aren’t up for chatting with vendors or showroom staff and just want to get through as much as possible, I like taking my directory and noting each showroom that looks appealing and then contacting them for information later. That way I can see as much as possible and still get the information I need when the time comes.

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If you don’t see Niki on the Home floors, you can find her at the “Blogging, Business and Bites” panel on Saturday, January 15. She, along with three other blogging peers, will give insider tips on how blogging can build your business. It all starts at 4 p.m. in Building 1, floor 14, 14-D-9.

Blogging For Business

image001_SmallIn preparation for speaking to fellow retailers at the upcoming AmericasMart Gift Market in Atlanta next month, I’ve been thinking about what I feel are the most important aspects of blogging for business. I started a blog for my invitation, stationery and gift boutique in October of 2008. I wasn’t exactly sure what a blog would do for my small business when I started it, however, I now know how valuable it is for keeping current customers engaged and obtaining new customers. I hope to be able to share some of what I’ve learned about “blogging for business” with my colleagues in Atlanta in January.

Here is a sneak preview of what I’ll be sharing.

Keep It Simple

It really couldn’t be easier to create a blog for your business. It is much easier than creating and maintaining a website and can even be your business’ website if you don’t have a reason to keep a separate web presence. Using free blog hosting services such as WordPress and Blogger, it’s as simple as creating a free account, selecting from one of their excellent blog templates and filling in the blanks to customize the blog for your business. Then you do have to actually come up with what you want to blog about.

More about that at my upcoming seminar. Hint: It’s simple.

Keep Communicating

One of the original reasons I started a blog was because I didn’t want to send emails to customers too often at the risk of ending up in their SPAM folders or them just not reading emails because they were to frequent. I have always sent a monthly email newsletter to customer who subscribe and found that as business grew, there were times I wanted to communicate with customers more than monthly. Blogging was my answer. I post information on the blog that is worthy of sharing between newsletters and then direct customers to the blog for special updates, event info, sale and new product notifications. In this case, if customers want the information, they are free to review it, however, we are keeping our promise of only emailing them once per month.

Keep It Going

Blogging does take time. You may be lucky enough to have someone to delegate

blogging to, which would mean it won’t take as much of your time. I actually really enjoy blogging and using it as a platform to tell others about my business, therefore, I maintain our blog entirely on my own. Anything worth doing takes time and one of the biggest blogging mistakes you can make is to stop blogging once you’ve started. Make a commitment to your blog, just like you commit to your business. Make it something reasonable for you, not something an expert told you. If you can commit to blog once a week that’s great. If you can commit to once a month, that’s better than not at all.

Keep It Connected

Because I’m also an avid user of social media for my business, I use other social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to promote our blog to existing and prospective customers. After I post on our blog, I always put a link to the new post on Facebook and Twitter. These avenues expose our blog to many more people than just those who choose to follow it. I also reference the blog in our monthly email newsletter. I’ve found that this makes creating the newsletter faster and easier. I typically cover some of the same information in the monthly email newsletter that’s recently been posted on the blog. I link directly from the newsletter articles to the blog to share more detailed information, making the newsletter more concise.

These are just a few of my “blogging for business” tips. I’ll be sharing much more at the upcoming panel discussion “The Power of Blogging” AmericasMart University: Building

Your Brand Course on Thursday, January 13, 2011 from 1- 2 p.m. in Building 1, Floor 10, Room 1001. I hope to have the opportunity to meet many of you there!