How can you start leveraging your blog to launch a new business idea? Here are ten pieces of advice from young entrepreneurs operating across North America.
1. Recruit from your audience. I don't mean hire your readers (though you can do that, too). Rather, you should get your audience involved early as beta-testers, customers and social media street teams. Allow them to be involved so that they are cheering for your new project (which they helped with in some way), rather than ignoring it or possibly hating it for taking some of your attention from the blog.
2. Get as much feedback as possible. The No. 1 thing a new business can do is get people using, testing and commenting on the product or service. Your readers are the perfect group to test and refine your first launches. Get readers on the phone, email them, use Facebook and Twitter, engage them in every way you can before you try selling to people who don't know or trust you.
3. Tell the story behind the success. One of the biggest keys to my success has been letting my audience in on the "behind the scenes" story of my book and business. Your blog audience doesn't want you to just pop up one day with a shiny new product that you've effortlessly shepherded into the world. They want to follow the ups, downs and struggles of your hero's journey. That way, when you do launch they will be even more vested.
4. Advertise your new business on your blog. One of the benefits of a successful blog that gets a great deal of unique visitors is that you can cater the content to your demographic accordingly. Instead of catering your banner ads to your target audience to make a few bucks, swap the advertisements out to promote your new business. Your visitors don't even need to know it's your business at first. It helps as you test the market.
5. Your blog is a starting point, nothing more. I have several different products that are relevant to the readers of my personal blog and I'll make references to them on my blog -- but I don't do hard sells. That's not what my blog is for. My community is more about coming up with new ideas and testing them, rather than selling. Your blog may be different, but always remember it is a starting point, not an end.
6. Become an expert. If you want people to buy your product or service, become an expert in your field and use your blog to brand yourself. Write about your industry and prove to your potential customers that you're a trusted source. Use your blog to drive inbound traffic to your new business's site. Once you attract customers ask them to sign up for your mailing list so you can contact them at a later date.
7. Use guest posts to expand your reach. If you have a blog and a bit of credibility, reach out to other (more successful) bloggers and ask to guest post on their site. Writing about something related to your new business will get people interested. This not only is beneficial from an SEO standpoint, but will allow you to really hone in on who your target market is and who resonates with the idea.
8. Your readers are your first clients. Your first clients should be people who are already comfortable with you and know you. Write a post announcing your new business and offer your current readers a free consultation or free sample of your service or product. You'll be more successful if you can attract clients from the people who already know you: your readers.
9. Ask and you shall receive. Create a survey to find out if your readers are interested in the idea. One of the companies I work with uses this tactic to gauge the interest when creating new product lines. Ask simple questions such as, "If we made product X with feature Y, would you buy it?" and "What features or products would you like to see from us?" Analyze the feedback and decide if you still think it is a good idea.
10. Find a partner to generate leads. You are great at writing, keep it up and don't stop. Find a product or service that your audience needs and then find the vendor or service provider that is the best at that business. Partner with them and create a commission agreement for generating leads and referrals.
Special to The Globe and Mail
The Young Entrepreneur Council(YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.