Blog Posts — What do you write?

 

blogAre you having trouble trying to think of what to write on your blog?

There are times when I’m in a rut and just can’t think of something that would interest my customers and that I haven’t written about before.  That is when I check this list to get my thought processes whirling.  You might want to copy these ideas for your “go-to” file when you get stuck.

Write a How-To Post

What can you show your customers that they can do for themselves. DIY posts are very popular.  Recipe posts are some of the most popular shares on Facebook.  Even though you may not sell individual food products, you could occasionally include either a regional or holiday themed recipe.  If you do sell individual food products, a recipe for using these products could be welcomed.

How about something for the kids to do or make? Closer to the gift-giving category.  Teach them how to wrap a package or how to create a unique bow or enhancement for a gift.  How about a printable for a gift card?  Or a how-to post about gift-giving — such as what to say in a sympathy note, or giving a unique gift for Valentine’s Day.  An example of a post that I did  is Simple Ways to Show You Care.

If you create videos, and you should, how-to videos are very popular additions to your blog

Spotlight one of your products or gift baskets

Expand on the description of one of your gifts.  You can show various ways that it can be used.  Include a photo showing the excitement on a customer’s face when they received it (hint: this could be staged just as most stock photos are).  With this type of post, adding a special discount or offer at the end of the post may increase sales.

Tell them about you and your company

Is something exciting happening at your company or in your life.  Getting to know you is one of the most important steps in relationship marketing.  If you are planning something new or introducing a new product, show your excitement about the news in a blog post.

An example of this on my own blog is a post about an  Unexpected Inspiration .  Another example of where I combined information about me and my area along with a sales pitch for a gift is Sunflowers.

Create a List

A list is what you are reading right now.  It could be a list about anything.  Ideas are “Our 10 Best Selling Gifts,” “15 Ways to Say You’re Sorry,”  “Five Fun Gifts to Give.”

You can make them related to the gift industry or occasionally include a “just for fun” list.  One of my posts was created strictly for humor:  Simple Wisdom for Life and Business.

Write about the Gift Industry

Tell your readers about the latest trends.  How about a post about the most popular colors for the season and how you are combining them into your gifts?  Or why food gift baskets are more popular than just gifty ones?

Invite a guest blogger to write a post for you.

If you are really serious about growing your business, you already have a blog and so do many others.  Find a blogger that has something to say that your readers may be interested in reading and invite them to contribute a post to your blog.  Make sure that you don’t just copy a post from their blog, however, as that is copyright infringement which can have serious repercussions.  You could also offer a guest post to other bloggers in the industry.

I have used guest bloggers on this blog.  One of these posts was: Has Your Website Been Hacked or Compromised by Laura Wheeler.

And a few more tips

Whenever you write a blog post, share it on your Facebook business page, twitter about it, add it to LinkedIn and any other social profiles that push your brand.

Make sure that you have a social sharing plug that allows other people to share your blog content with their friends and readers.

And, most importantly, write regularly.  This is something that I have to slap my own wrist for.  In the busy process of creating and growing my businesses, writing regular blog posts has been neglected.  I suspect that is true for many of you as well.  So, join me today as I commit to keeping both this blog and my own gift business blog updated on a REGULAR basis.  And if you want to see what I write in future blog posts here, it’s easy to register, in the right hand column on this page, to be notified when they appear.

 

Dare To Be Different

When we first start our business, we are told to research, to find out what works for others and to determine how we are different.  But many of us are afraid to take that step that would keep us from being  just “more of the same.”  We copy what works for others in our industry and are afraid to be different.

Fear of being different is often what keeps us in place and keeps our business from standing out in the crowd.  Fear stands between us and success. 

Do you really want to be successful in your industry?   Do you want to be what Seth Godwin describes as a “purple cow in a field of brown cows”?  Then. . . . ..

Don’t be afraid to stray from the proven patterns created by others!

What worked for other people, might work for you. But it might not also.  It might make you just another one of those brown cows munching away in the field instead of the “purple cow” that gets the attention.  If you want to stand out from all the other gift companies, then find the unexplored paths. Lead people to places they have never visited before! Try new things.  Add new products.  Create new markets.  If it doesn’t work, try something else.

Don’t be afraid to be yourself!

It’s your business and you are your business.  Don’t try to be something you are not.  Let a little bit of “you” show through in your website and both your online and offline marketing.  It makes the business less commercial and more friendly.  And, best of all, it creates TRUST. 

If you’re writing a blog, and have an opinion, state it.  If you’re not comfortable with your own opinions and viewpoints, don’t blog. Blogging is about being personal.  It’s not about being more of the same. Your voice is YOU and is different than all the other voices in all the other blogs within your industry.   Even if all of the bloggers in the gift industry say the same thing, your voice is what will make your statement stand out and be different.

Don’t think you can please everyone all the time!

Because you can’t.  If you’re blogging, your opinion is going to be different than that of others.  That’s a chance you take when you let YOU show through.  Without intending to, you may offend someone or they may read something entirely different into your meaning.   If you’re operating a business website, there’s no way you can offer something for everyone.  Even the way you have your site set up may offend some.  A Bible verse may turn off those who are not Christian while those “Naughty” gift baskets that you offer on Valentine’s Day may offend the more conservative.  Sure, whichever direction you take, you may lose a few customers along the way.  But you will be yourself and, by daring to be yourself–even if it’s different than the standard– you may attract even more customers.  You may even discover a whole new market that you never thought of targeting before.

Don’t be afraid to dream!

Dream. Hope. Believe! If you continue doing things the same way all the time, you will achieve the same results.  Act on those dreams or  you’ll never achieve them. Believe in yourself and understand what makes you different.  Don’t just march in the gift industry parade or even in the parade of life.  Step up and LEAD THAT PARADE!

The leader of every parade is someone who  DARED TO BE DIFFERENT!

Blogging –Tips for writing blog posts.

A lot of you probably say that you don’t have time to start a blog because you don’t have the time or creativity to write long posts on the blog.  My answer to that is:  Blog posts don’t have to be long to be valuable.  Some of the most read posts on this blog were fairly short.

So just how long does a blog post need to be?

And the answer is:  As long as necessary to get your point across without boring your reader.  Some tips to consider:

  • The attention span of your readers.  Most readers won’t spend very long reading each post so only write a long post when you have something important to say.
  • Search Engine Optimization.  Most web pages should be at least 250 words long for maximum SEO.  You could apply this to blog posts as well since each post is considered a page.  But only write posts that long when you have that much to say.
  • Quantity of posts on the blog.  If you write frequently, you might want to write shorter posts than if you only write an occasional post.
  • Variety is the spice of life.  So mix short posts with long posts to keep the reader interested.
  • The topic you are writing about.  Sometimes you’re writing about a topic that just needs to be longer than other topics that you may write about.
  • Statistics.  As you blog, keep track of your statistics and see which posts are the most read.  If the most read are usually short and to the point, you might consider writing more in that style.

Very few people read word for word.  Most scan for content.  Keep that in mind when writing your posts (or even your website pages) and make them easily scannable.  This is easy to do if you incorporate a few things such as:

  • Lists (like this one). 
  • Using bold, italics, CAPITAL LETTERS, and underlining to vary your text.  Just make sure you don’t overdo it.
  • Use headings and subheadings to break up a page.
  • Pictures,  that are appropriate to your subject, will draw a reader’s attention.
  • Sometimes put an important bit of text or a quote inside a box or indent it.
  • Use short paragraphs.  A single sentence or even a single word can create an effective paragraph.

Is Internet Progress Overrated?

computer-userHas progress on the internet taken us to a better place?  Has it helped us grow our business?  Are all the new-fangled opportunities for “social networking”, videos, and streaming javascript worth the time and effort involved in using them?

I’d say “yes” and “no”.  The internet has provided us the opportunity to operate a business model that can compete with the big corporate giants that are able to outspend and outemploy more than we ever could.  The internet allows us to expand outside our local market and sell to people all over the country–or even around the world, if that is our goal.  Yes, the internet has definitely helped us grow our businesses.

Social networking and all the other new-fangled ideas, such as blinking pictures, videos, podcasts, flash pages, streaming javascript (which allows us to have constantly changing photos or text on our site) are another story however.  They’re cool! They’re neat!  They’re fun! But do they really increase traffic and sales conversions?

My answer is a resounding NO!  That is why, even though we have the knowledge and capability to do so, we don’t incorporate most of these new techniques in the websites that we own and seriously want to convert.  And the reason is simple.  These are gimmicks that are intended to make a website look “professional”, “up-to-date” and “cool” .  But, in reality, except for the “under 30 age crowd” (which are only a very small minority of my customers), most customers dislike them.  And, unless they are incorporated very carefully by someone who understands search engine spiders very well, most search engines dislike them even more.

Many users of the web are technically-challenged.  That’s true of even many of our gift basket company owners.  They don’t understand all this new-fangled stuff and prefer to avoid it.  But it’s all too easy for a webmaster, who enjoys adding this type of glitz to a shopping website, to convince you that it’s the thing to have if you want to be “up-to-date”.  But what is much more important is how does it help you convert visitors to buyers?  Does it make more money for you?

If used correctly and you have the time to spend on it, social media  has its place and can help to a degree.  Social media doesn’t yet come close to competing with search or email in terms of effectiveness. But marketers are still asking themselves whether that is because social media is ineffective or simply because, despite the hype, a huge percentage of people online aren’t actively or regularly engaged with social media sites and channels. 

By social media, I’m referring to Facebook, My Space, Linked In, Twitter and the many others out there.  These social networking sites can be used to promote your business.  I use them for that purpose.  But they are just a tool and are not nearly as effective as other means of driving traffic to your website.  There are ways to automatically post your blog posts on your Facebook wall and as a Twitter.  But you have to understand how they work and how best to use them.  And learning that takes more of those precious minutes.

Forums and Blogging are two other forms of social networking that can be very effective.

How much time do you have to spend on all these sites?  When I asked the members of my Gift Basket Network what their biggest problem was, the most frequent answer was “Not enough time in the day to do everything that needed to be done for their business”.  Add to “not enough time” such activities as posting “I’m going to my son’s ballgame tonight” on your wall on Facebook or “Today is a beautiful day.  Just don’t have time to enjoy it” as a Twitter post and what do you have?  Not more traffic to your website, that’s for sure.  You’ve just deducted precious minutes from those hours that were already filled with your “have to do” list. 

Blogging, posting on related blogs, and posting in forums can help build your business…once again, only if used correctly.  A blog, that is built specifically to drive traffic and is properly optimized, is a fast, effective, and efficient way to communicate with your customers and prospects  — just as I am communicating with you.  It can make you “real” to those customers and help them to get to know you as a person.  It can also be used to sell products if done right.  But you need to know the techniques necessary to do it.  Posting on blogs, that are related to your website and have good search engine visibility, can help your own website’s seach engine optimization by providing valuable links to your site.  And you don’t have to have any technical savvy to do that.

Forums that are related to your industry can’t be beat for effective communication with others in the industry.  In the gift basket industry, there are a number of them that you can participate in.  You need to be selective and use those that are used by others who have information to share.  But, as with anything, you must give in order to receive.  Just signing into a forum, reading what others have shared, and signing out is not enough.  You need to contribute as well if you hope to receive that info you must have when the time comes and you’re desperate for an anwer to a question.

Post Foods ran a Shredded Wheat ad recently that asked this very question about progress and answered the question with:
 
” Honestly, what thanks do we owe progress?  We’re up to our necks in landfill, down to the wire on resources, and climate change is out to get us — or at best leave us with a nsasty sunburn.  Historically, civilizations are destroyed by progress.  Just ask the Pharaohs…”

And, just as the ad went on to say, “That’s why at Post Shredded Wheat, we put the “no” in innovation”, we, as owners of Gift Basket Network have also said “no”.

I created Gift Basket Network about six years ago.  One person (me).  One ingredient (professional gift basket company owners that wanted more traffic to their websites).  One website.  It was simple to navigate.  No add-ons or plug-ins.  Heck, it was even built in basic html and optimized following the severe requirements of the search engines.  We didn’t give it a fancy name or a lot of glitz.   Our market was not the gift basket company owner.  Our market, at that time and still is, the potential customer who is ready and willing to buy a gift or gift basket and is just looking for a place to do it.

We market to the gift basket company owners in other ways.  One of these was in the form of Gift Retailers Network after we had clearly established Gift Basket Network  one of the top gift basket directories on the web.  This blog that you are reading right now is another way that we market to you.  It is our way of demonstrating to you that combining the tried-and-true methods of internet marketing with a few carefully selected “social networking” methods is using progress to build your business. 

Does it work? History has proven it to be true so far.  But time will tell.