How Blogging Can Catapult Customer Loyalty

catapultI see a lot of ecommerce websites that have a blog. And all too often I read the same things:

“We have a new widget, here are all the specs”
“Don’t miss our special shipping offer this month”
“We added 5 new colors for this gadget”

The blogs read like an infomercial. NOBODY sits down at the computer and says “I can’t wait to find a great commercial to read”. Or “I love marketing speak, especially in a blog”. DO NOT MAKE YOUR BLOG INTO A ROLLING PRESS RELEASE!

People read blogs because they want to solve a problem, or learn more about a topic. Maybe they want to read something humorous about their hobby. Or they want to get into working out and don’t know where to start. Customers (especially loyal ones) want to connect with a company in some way. If they trust your company or see your store as a leader in the industry, they’ll be much more likely to have loyalty in the form of repeat sales.

Shift the focus of your blog from you to THEM!

Don’t blog about your new products, your new offerings, your company. Instead, think like a typical customer ( or a new customer to your niche) and ask yourself:

What are they interested in learning more about?

To make this post more concrete, I’ll choose a niche and give a few examples of what to do with a blog in this arena…. I’ll pick an online store that sells camping and outdoor equipment (because my 4 year old daughter asked me when I was going to take her camping after watching a camping episode of “Little Bear”).

Here are a few blog ideas for an online camping and outdoor gear store

  • If I were going on my first camping trip with my daughter, I might google “What to bring on my first camping trip?” or “What to expect on my child’s first camping trip?” or “camping tips for a beginner”. So why not have a blog post all about the first camping trip! Make sure your title has a key phrase people will likely type into Google, and cover this topic from many angles. Refrain from advertising in the blog post itself (I can’t stress this enough).
  • Where to find the best ghost stories to tell on a camping trip
  • Interview a designer / engineer for a particular brand of camping items. Send them an interview by email asking them interesting questions that your readers would like to hear the answers to.

People love contests.

A recurring contest (be it weekly, monthly, or quarterly) can translate into people subscribing to the blog and coming back regularly. Here’s a few off the top of my head:

  • 1. You can only bring 3 things from our store into the wilderness with you. You will become lost. What 3 things would you choose and why?
  • 2. Tell us your worst camping experience.
  • 3. Tell us your best camping experience.
  • 4. What’s the one thing you forgot on a camping outing that came back to haunt you?

The key is to initiate a contest on your blog, state that you will pick the “best” entry, and the winner will receive a free gift. You’ll publish the winning story and a few other top entries or honorable mentions (on your blog of course). For this to be successful, consider:

  • You have to publicize this contest – Your homepage, post it on twitter and your facebook fan page, maybe even a low cost Google AdWords campaign, are all good places to start.
  • Setup a form online where they can submit their story. Collect their contact information.
  • Make sure the gift is something of value. Nobody wants to win a book of matches. Don’t break the bank, but it should be a valuable product from your store.
  • For every submission, offer them a small token of appreciation ($5 off coupon, upgraded shipping, etc…)

Now you’ve got them hooked

Your blog now has a recurring contest, and content that is engaging and pertinent to your market. Now make sure your blog allows for email subscriptions, RSS reader subscriptions, an option to subscribe to your newsletter, and maybe a few well placed links/images for top sellers, new products, top rated items, etc… Let the words in your blog stand on their own, and enhance the blog pages with your ads and marketing.

Do all of this, and you’ll gain a loyal following of camping enthusiasts that will come back to your blog regularly, and will think of your company first when they need new camping products for their next trip.

Please share other ideas below on getting the most out of an ecommerce blog.

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