Every now and again I go to events which give me real food for thought and also practical advice. Last week’s was a ‘Blog to Business’ sponsored by Vonage – the business phone company which gives one man bands or small businesses a dedicated business line over the internet, via their home phone. Vonage offers plenty of clever and helpful tools (more
Firstly, a bit about Vonage. It’s not a traditional call network. Instead, you plug a Vonage Box into your home phone and broadband and then make calls from landline or on two smartphones, using the Vonage Extensions app. If you’re a freelancer or small business (or are thinking about creating a small business) it’s worth taking a look; not just for the chance to have a dedicated business phone but because of their great features designed around you. They include picking up voicemail online or having the sound files emailed to you, simple conference calling, a clear phone line so it looks like you’re in the office even when you’re out and about and even giving you an (020) 7 or 8 number even if you’re based in deepest Devon.
After a short intro from the Vonage Marketing Director, it was into the session. There was a bit of discussion, a lot of content and a few practical exercises. Here are 5 tips that really resonated and could help turn your blog into a business:
1. Define your brand – even before your blog is a commercial enterprise, you’re managing a brand. Your brand isn’t just about the way your site looks (but it does include that); it’s about everything associated with what you do, online and offline (your blog, Twitter, Pinterest, even emails to PRs). It’s worth spending some time asking what you want to stand for, how you want other people to consider you, who you’re trying to communicate with and how do you want to communicate.
2. Establish your niche – there were a range of bloggers in the session, from lifestyle to beauty to parent. Work out your key area, make it clear and stick to it. Make sure the site navigation reflects that, too. It doesn’t mean you can’t diversify (write about favourite recipes or what you wear each Friday if you want to), just make sure there’s one main focus and everyone’s clear what that is. It will help you with your content and it will also help with future commercial opportunities.
3. Network – one word that fills a lot of people with dread. Emma explained that it’s not in her nature to stride into a networking event and introduce herself to everyone with a firm handshake. But also that she’s pleased she made herself connect with people face-to-face as well as online, as she’s got a lot out of it. There are likely to be many, many bloggers in your space, but that’s a great thing, not a negative. Meanwhile Elizabeth’s mantra is ‘collaborate not compete’.
Get together, share ideas, introduce your different networks and you could open up new opportunities. Or make new friends. Great places online include Twitter chats (using #), Google local London, local blogger groups, Facebook groups. Also handpicked media, Nuffnang and Blogdash are worth taking a look at. Emma’s tips for face-to-face meet ups? Get to an event early, get the host to introduce you to others and if in doubt, stand by the tea and cakes!
4. Create a newsletter – or even a magazine – check out issu.com or canva.com to get started. You could even offer this as an incentive to sign up to contact lists. It can use the best content from your site plus anything else you’d like to add and could ultimately be an additional revenue stream. Mailchimp is a great tool to send it out.
5. Start to think commercially – there are so many ways to offer additional revenue streams. And some can be set up and then left to run. These include printables (do you have a recipe or template people might like to download?), digital design templates, workbooks or, further down the line, consultancy, coaching, webinars, eBooks or eCourses.
The sooner you start thinking like a business, the closer you are to becoming one. Thank you Vonage for sponsoring a great workshop.