Jonathan frequently writes about the value of a good blog in marketing efforts. Cyclelicious is evidence that blogging can get you exposure. Cyclelicious is only three days old and I'm already getting close to 200 page views each day from over 300 distinct visitors over those three days. That's good for a brand-new personal website with no promotion other than visiting and commenting at other bike blogs and no exposure from search engines. I really appreciate the support from my visitors and from fellow bloggers.
Online participation gets you business
Harris Cyclery in West Newton, Massachusetts has a very clunky, old-fashioned website. They're hard to find on the web unless you know exactly what you're looking for. Yet, they do online business from all around the world because most cyclists who participate in online forums know about their head wrench Sheldon Brown. If you have a question about cold weather cycling, old bikes, new bikes, odd bikes, trandems or fixed gear bikes, there's a good chance that Sheldon will be around to answer your question. "I started doing email listservs in 1993 or 94," says Sheldon, "using AOL. I put up the Website in December 1994. I think we were one of the first half-dozen bike shops to have a Website." For Harris Cyclery, their online business helps to reduce the seasonal ebbs that affect many bike shops. "We are fortunate that the Internet business helps to even things out, because the Internet side doesn't die out as badly in the winter as the local business does." According to Sheldon, his participation in various Internet forums "is a significant part of the equation" in developing Harris Cyclery's online business.
Peter White, owner of Peter White Cycles in Hillsborough, NH, prefers face to face interaction with his customers. Because of arthritis in his back, however, he has been forced to change the focus of his business somewhat. "Doing bike repair is very tough on my back. Building wheels is much easier physically since I'm just standing up."
"Since I made the decision many years ago to direct the business away from walk in traffic to mail-order, I've lost the interaction I used to have with customers, which I enjoy," says Peter. Email discussion "takes its place."
In Longmont, Colorado, the bike shop that participates the most in local forums is High Gear Cyclery. Shop owner Buzz Feldman and several of his employees are members of the local cycling discussion email list. This online participation is free marketing for the shop, which is the largest and best respected among the four bike shops in Longmont.
In Boulder, Colorado, Peter Chisholm of Vecchio's Bicicletteria is an active Usenet user. Peter believes this active participation results in increased business for Vecchio's, "both in terms of calls or email requesting information and then that resulting in sales or people buying things just because of my participation in the newsgroups."
Weigh it out
Peter White goes online more to socialize than for marketing. "I doubt that the time spent on the several lists I'm on has paid off in business. I could probably put the time to better use working on the web site or just building wheels so I can ship orders faster." Peter is just being naturally social. If you blog or otherwise participate online, you must be real and transparent.
Being a part of the online community can work for your business, but you can't have a sock puppet providing the voice of your business. It's essential for you to be in the community. Stay tuned to Cyclelicious for specific tips on making effective use of blogging for your business.
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