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Should Small Businesses Blog?

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I blogged last week about the Microsoft Office Live Vision to Venture event. In every location, local entrepreneurs were asked to participate in a panel discussion about their start up stories. Carli Kiene, Owner, inkedFingers Fotography was one of the panelists at the Austin event. Carli added a blog to her website to help stand out in the marketplace and develop relationships with her clients. 
I caught up with Carli after the event for a Q&A on the benefits of blogging for small business owners:

Kelly:  What are the main benefits of blogging for a small business owner?

Carli:  Blogging allows me to connect with my clients on a very personal level. As a photographer, I am able to post daily my recent photographs for potential clients to view my updated work and existing clients get to know me as a friend, not just some girl taking their wedding photographs.

Kelly:  How often do you blog?

Carli:  I try to blog after every shoot, but when I have three shoots a weekend I can't post everyone's shoot.  On average, I blog 2-3 times per week.

Kelly:  How do you determine topics for blog content?

Carli:  Because I am so passionate about photography, it is my goal to communicate this through every post. I want my clients (mostly brides, right now) to know that I LOVE working with them – they are fun to be around and I love photographing them. I have had potential clients tell me that they decided to book me after looking at my blog. In a photographer's case, if you're writing enough in your blog and not just posting pictures, your clients can get a feel for your great personality and that's enough to generate business.

Kelly:  What blog software do you use? Is it hard to add it to your site?  Is it expensive?

Carli:  Blogspot hosts my blog. It's free, easy to use and quick to get started. I just inserted a link on my website to redirect people to my blog, hosted on blogspot. I have seen other business owners have an expensive site built and then incur additional costs by having a blog page added. At the same time, I have seen large, reputable companies use these free blogging sites like blogspot or typepad with no hesitation. They are fully customizable.

Kelly:  What results have you seen from your blog?

Carli:
  Like I said, I've had clients still deciding if they would book me as their wedding photographer, look through my blog and that was their deciding factor. I had one bride who had booked me but I had not yet photographed her, and she did not know I had a blog. She said in one night she read through/viewed EVERY blog I had ever posted and it generated that much more excitement for her upcoming shot. This is the same girl after I posted her pictures on the blog, couldn't stop sending her own friends/family to take a peek and comment. That's creating enthusiastically satisfied customers, if you ask me.  Will she refer her friends, bridesmaids and cousins to use me as their wedding photographer? She already has.

Kelly:  Have you had to overcome any obstacles or difficulties while starting your blog?

Carli:  My first couple of posts I wasn't really sure what to say. I didn't think I knew what my clients wanted to hear. But it really isn't that difficult I have learned. Clients of service-oriented businesses want to know what makes your company tick. They want to know why you are in business… do you love their job? What is your favorite coffee drink at Starbucks? If one of my bride's sees that after every bridal shoot I posted in the past on the blog I RAVE of the bride's beauty and comment on some crazy and fun occurrence during the shoot, it builds her own excitement for her bridal portraits.
Ultimately, blogging is about furthering your relationship with your clients. If they know you and you know them (or even if you are providing the perception that they are getting to know you) then they will be back. Period.

A special thanks to Carli for her time. If you want more information on starting a blog, check out John Jantsch’s article on 10 Essential Blogs Tools

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