Blogging For Business
A community of business-savvy bloggers is emerging. And they are here to stay.
|Fawiza Abdul Wahid|
U blog, U sell
Syameen Md Khalili and Rozana Sani
A bunch of enterprising Malaysians have found a more effective way to sell. They blog their business. Siti Syameen Md Khalili and Rozana Sani write.
• Cupcakes, anyone?
Ellie Darus used Blogger.com to launch her part-time career as a custom-order cupcake baker. The 32-year-old IT professional first started using Fotopages in 2006 to share photos of her home-made cupcakes with friends, but when orders started to come in, she signed up with Blogger.com in the following year.
The mother-of-one frequently updates her blog (http://kekcawan.blogspot.com) with menus, pictures, pricing and promotional information.
To build her brand of cupcakes called de’ Heart, she also relies on other online platforms ranging from social networking sites such as Facebook and Friendster to online forums and e-groups.
The good part about being able to use online technologies to make money is the small overhead
and wide reach, Ellie points out.
“I don’t have to rent a premise. I make new friends, including customers and bakers. This means more contacts and links to extend my business. My customers are from all over Malaysia and overseas.”
Having tried many platforms to build her online business, Ellie says blogging is the most effective.
“Around 80 per cent of my customers found my blog through Google Search, links from other blogs and Web sites, and Yahoo! Groups,” she adds.
In the near future, she plans to include an online ordering form in her blog. She also plans to organise online and offline contests such as cupcake decorating contests.
• Personal shopper service
United States-based online entrepreneur Haniza Zainal Abidin blogs at http://blog.whoosh2.com. This is also a platform for her online business, Whoosh2, which is a personal
shopper service based in California.
Haniza says customers can order materials featured on the Whoosh2 Web site or blog or even request for items only available in the US such as Gap jeans or Coach bags and have Whoosh2 ship them to their address.
“I bought a domain name, rented hosting space and used a Mac application called iWeb to create and design my Web site at www.whoosh2.com. Then I used a couple of social media
sites to help bring traffic into the site.
“I found out that having a blog is one of the best ways to do so as Google picks it up whenever it’s updated.
So, I use Blogger and Facebook to disseminate news to the public.”
Although there are challenges that come with doing an online business, Haniza prefers to look on
the positive side.
“The best benefits are that the tools are free or
available at a low cost and that I can sell the items to anyone or anywhere without being stuck in a brick-and-mortar environment.
“The online payment system is also secure and reliable,” she explains.
Going forward, Haniza plans to set up a real online store.
• Custom ribbon embroidery
Kerteh, Terengganu-based electrical engineer Halina Abdul Hadi first started her blog (jahitanmaklang.blogspot.com) in mid-2006 to show friends her ribbon embroidery projects. Positive response and sales demand generated from it then prompted the 44-year-old to make the blog a focal point of her post-retirement plans.
Today, Halina does ribbon embroidery on a part-time basis. Jahitan Maklang showcases her products while another blog, Ribbon Chanteq (ribbonchanteq.blogspot.com), which she shares with her partner, Kak Ina, contains an ordering form. “But normally people will send an e-mail or call us to specify their requirements,” she says.
Halina’s spare time is spent mostly on sewing, so she keeps her blog postings short and sweet.
“The income from this venture has been satisfactory, given that it is just for fun. If I manage to complete a lot, then more money will be in the bank. But at normal pace, I can only complete two to three bags a month. This also depends on how many orders I get,” she points out.
Halina plans to improve the layout of her blog and create interesting products to woo more buyers.
• More cakes
Fawiza Abdul Wahid is the owner of online bakery Wizcakes (wizzcakes.blogspot.com), which is a registered home-based family cake baking business.
“I operate full-time from my home located in Bandar Sungai Long in Kajang. Running this company requires me to get e-mails answered, bake cakes and get them delivered, clean the utensils, and ensure that the working area gets scoured at the end of the day,” she says.
Wizcakes is the primary medium Fawiza uses to market her wares to the public. She actually has two blogs.
“Wizcakes is basically a presentation of some of my work enclosed with details such as price and description, testimonials from customers and an e-mail address for people to place their orders. The other (inawhiz.blogspot.com) is more of my cake journal – the stories behind the finished product,” she says.
Through her postings and word of mouth, Wizcakes has recorded a significant increase in sales by five-fold since it started.
“The challenge is probably the limitation of the features offered in this free service. The other challenge is my lack of computer know-how,” she says.
Fawiza plans to continue writing and sharing her thoughts, cakes and stories through the blogs.
• Sarawak craft and food
What began as an experiment for 26-year-old Mohammad Firdaus Othman turned out to be quite a success. His venture in selling craft from Sarawak online, as featured in his blog Puakumbu-shop (puakumbu-shop.blogspot.com), in May last year is drawing encouraging sales.
“I first started the blog to gauge the Internet market in Malaysia and apply what I have learnt in the university. Initially, I planned to just sell puakumbu, the hand-woven warp ikat textile of the Iban, but there was increased interest in other Sarawak craft and food. From there, I added more products to the catalogue,” he says.
Mohammad Firdaus is certainly happy with the way things turned out.
“The blog is my key business channel. I also use applications such as Friendster, Facebook and Alibaba,” he says.
With more traffic, he plans to have a Web site with his domain name and improve on the current selling and buying techniques being practised on the blog.
“I’ll be putting more focus on expanding my market reach to include buyers from abroad. Part of my expansion plan is to get listed on eBay,” he says, adding that his current buyers are from Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.
• Online boutique
Dazzling Daffodils (dazzlingdaffodils.blogspot.com) sells clothes online. If everything goes according to plan, the online boutique could soon have a physical presence in one of the shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur.
“The (online) boutique has been around for only three to four months and the response has been quite good. I am quite optimistic about this business and hope it will grow further,” says proprietor and blog owner Joanne Looi.
Ipoh-born Looi, 25, is currently pursuing a Master’s degree at a local university. She handles the online boutique business with some help from her brother after starting the business with a couple of girlfriends as a form of side-income generator. As the store is virtual, she is doing so with ease.
“Blogging has definitely made an impact on this business as Malaysian are starting to have the confidence in purchasing goods online. As the boutique has only started operations not too long ago, the business revenue ranges from a few hundred ringgit to maybe a thousand ringgit. I hope that the growth projection this year will be better,” she says, adding that shopping online saves time and can be done in the comfort of the home.
“Currently, the gallery comprises pictures of the apparels worn by models. But I plan to have some of my girlfriends to model the apparels for a more realistic feel. There are also plans to have a wider range of choice in products.”
Dazzling Daffodils also have a presence in Facebook and Friendster. “I make use of these online community to gain popularity. The boutique is also listed in some of the online boutiques directory and the bloggers central listing.”
• More apparel
Cats Whiskers Malaysia (catswhiskersmalaysia.blogspot.com) is a boutique with physical presence in five locations around the Klang Valley. Headquartered in Petaling Jaya, the business is run by three women who are all in their 30s.
The blog plays a supplementary role in the business.
“It basically features weekly newsletter which we e-mail to our customers. It shows our products and pricing, and customers can opt to order online if they are unable to visit our stores,” says partner Lim Siew Peng.
Through the blog, Cats Whiskers aims to target customers outside of Klang Valley as they offer delivery at a minimal cost.
The most challenging thing about running a business blog, Lim says, is it requires the partners to be innovative, creative, flexible and intuitive to find out what works and what brings in the sales.
“The other challenge is finding ways to engage customers on a routine basis and providing interesting content that will make them want to come back and tell others about it. If they are a bloggers themselves, we hope that they will link it to their blog,” Lim adds.
Cats Whiskers hopes to expand the online sales and maybe offer payment facilities (such as credit card, paypall, tie-up with local banks).
Trend fast catching on
BUSINESS blogging is catching on in Malaysia, as observed by online fashion e-zine Emmagem.com.
And the opportunities are endless, says the e-zine founder and editor Tan Yet Mee. This is because Malaysians, especially Gen Yers (the Net generation), are now used to purchasing online.
“I think a blog to help a business is very important these days. Blogging allows for direct and current information about the products, plus consumers can communicate directly with comments and get an immediate reply.
“The setback is that a blog needs constant updating to be successful and responsive, or it will share the same fate as helplines, which do not give adequate information. And the backlash can be immense if a mistake is made,” she explains.
The other premise of a business blog, Tan says, is that it is a platform for the sharing of personal opinions and experience.
“It is an excellent communication and public relations tool, especially for small business owners. The younger, tech-savvy consumers like to relate with those like themselves, who are on the Internet a lot. I mean, how often does one get to speak to the owners or company representatives themselves and get their assurance?”
The blog system, Tan points out, is more systematic. And when optimised on search engines, it allows information on the products to be more easily accessible online.
A blog is also easy to set up, use and has a much lower maintenance cost compared to a regular Web site. Plus, blogs do not need much advertising.
“Treated correctly, a business blog with useful and credible information will have a strong following similar to recommendations through word of mouth or viral marketing,” Tan says.
Her words are backed by evidence found on Emmagem.com’s Malaysia Online Fashion Shopping Directory (MOFSD) and Classifieds page.
Emmagem.com’s assistant editor-cum-writer Karen Marie Christie says MOFSD has about 1,100 online shops listed to date. Most of them are individual independent entrepreneurs who set up shop on blog platforms such as Blogspot and Wordpress to sell their items.
“They get their clothing or accessories from suppliers and post them up on the blogs for all to see. Potential buyers who browse their shop can e-mail them to purchase the items. Once both parties have agreed on the price and shipping cost, the buyer will deposit money into the bank account by e-banking or by visiting the bank. And once the seller has checked that the cash is in, he will ship the items,” she explains.
As compared to an e-commerce-based shop, a blogshop involves more steps between the buyer and the seller, but it has a more personal touch, she adds.
Meanwhile, Tan says since MOFSD started in 2007, Emmagem.com has witnessed a significant growth in fashion blogshops.
“We get daily e-mails from newbies who want to start a business and ask to be
listed. A lot of conventional-selling e-commerce platform online shops get themselves listed on MOFSD to promote their sites, too,” she says. – By Rozana Sani
Dos and don’ts
- Be honest in the item description. This is, after all, an online business. People can’t see the items in real life.
- Take good photos of the items and probably in every angle.
- Communicate well. Always make sure that there is a written e-mail agreement on the transaction to prevent any miscommunication.
- State shop policies on the site for people to see as well as contact e-mail or telephone number.
- Ship on time. People want their
- Attend to complaints immediately.
- Market yourselves well. Introduce your shops to online magazines or fashion-related blogs.
- Get a feedback page (for example,
http://emmagem.com/feedback/) to monitor customer feedback on your customer service.
- Always take a feedback and improve
- Think long term for the business and make appropriate decisions.
- Sell items that are torn or spoilt (and can’t be seen through photo).
- Keep customers waiting. Always reply their e-mails as soon as possible.
- Trick customers with misleading information.
- Shirk when there is a complaint;
source: Tech & U NSTP Monday 23/2/2009