old-time storeOnce upon a time, a person could come up with an idea, open up a shop downtown, and sell his or her goods or services to the local community. It’s not so simple anymore. If you’re a businessperson wondering if a blog can really help your small business, the answer is yes. But in order to make your efforts effective, we’re going to have use our blogs like virtual storefronts.

Brick & Mortar: Display tables and free samples

Virtual: Give it away on the blog

I went to a business after-hours meeting one Tuesday night, offering my blogging services to the local shops. I spent some time talking to a florist who was concerned that a blog would hurt her bottom line.

“Why would I give away my flower arranging secrets on a blog? People will use that instead of buying them from me, or coming to one of my paid workshops! Even worse, what if the competition steals my ideas?”

Her thoughts were reflected similarly in the crowd and highlight a very big paradigm shift needed if you’re going to use the web to further your business.

flowers on shelfWe live in the age of information. YouTube, Pinterest, Google — anything you could possibly want to know — is free and accessible. Someone who is intent on learning flower arranging will go online and find tutorials, even if they are from a shop thousands of miles away. This takes your customers further away from you.

But imagine that this florist started her blog. She wrote tutorials, offered free tips, and did some YouTube videos. Now it’s true people might use all her information. But when a wedding or funeral comes into the picture, who do you think is going to pop into their heads first? The person whose content is trustworthy, authoritative, and helpful.

  • Use your knowledge to bring people closer.
  • Build authority on the web.
  • Get in peoples’ heads, even if you don’t get their business right away.

A professional blog will do this for you.

Brick & Mortar: Signage, ads and commercials

Virtual: SEO and social media

There are several ways to market your business online — whether your services can cross the globe or you’re a local hairstylist serving a particular location.

  • woman holding open signSet up a Google business page so that you start showing up in local search results when someone is looking for services in a particular area.
  • Join Facebook groups or other online communities that service a town or city.
  • Offer incentives on your blog through giveaways and coupon codes that can be used online or in person.
  • Install an SEO plugin on your blog and make sure every post is optimized for keywords that zero in on your niche and location.
  • Set up Facebook or Google ads that expertly target Internet users in a certain area.
  • Continually add new and relevant content to boost your ranking in search results. The more people linking back to your site, the higher you’ll climb. Remember, in order for people to link to you, the content must be helpful and shareable!

Brick & Mortar: Cooperation with other businesses

Virtual: Cooperation with other blogs in your niche

One of the biggest mistakes I see new business bloggers make is thinking they have to build their own crowd from the ground up. It’s much more effective to find and invest in crowds that have already gathered somewhere else!

hands stacked on top each otherBlogging is as much about sharing other peoples’ content as it is about yours. If your blog and social media profiles show your customers that you’re willing to give out information, even from competing sites, you will quickly gain authority on the web. You’ll build good relationships with other blogs that may share your content with their audience or be willing to advertise for you for a small commission.

Content curation is one of the most time consuming but well spent ways a blogger can grow their following.

  • Get an account with Feedly and track all the other blogs in your niche.
  • Use Hootsuite, Buffer, and other social tools to help manage your content sharing.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for a guest post from another blogger and vice versa. Cross-pollinate audiences!

Brick & Mortar: Front window display

Virtual: Give ‘em something they haven’t thought of!

A blog gives you endless possibilities for putting something in someone’s head they never would have thought of on their own.

boy looking through storefront windowWith a brick-and-mortar store, the shopkeeper will carefully display the best outfits or toys, showcasing them in a way that makes people stop and look in and wish they could have the items.

Good photography is key online. Create blog posts with visual graphics that are easy to pin on Pinterest. Make the graphic vertical and add some text as an overlay.

Combine your products and services and tell a story in your post. If you offer cooking classes, for example, create a recipe showcasing various products that can be purchased at your workshop for a discounted rate.

Don’t forget your email list!

The single most effective way to reach your potential customer base is through email marketing. Start building your email list the second your blog goes up. You should have opt-in forms on the sidebar, below every post, as an option on your menu bar, and perhaps even as a pop-up. Despite the increase in social media use, email is still the most direct route to your customer’s pocketbook. Check out user-friendly, affordable options like Mad Mimi.

Most of the web is a blog

Not having a blog for your business is like not having a phone number for people to reach you.

The majority of websites on the Internet now are some version of a blog, and what once had the association of a one-person online journal now is the majority of the information we share online. Not having a blog for your business is like not having a phone number for people to reach you. It takes a lot of work to build it well, but in the end the return on investment has the potential to be greater than any other kind of advertising you can do.

Image by brillianthues via Compfight cc