Bottling Christmas…

29 November

The fact that I don’t love Christmas is irrelevant to this post. I do love real Christmas trees that grow outdoors and I’m a big fan of a US company called Juniper Ridge. They have a brilliant marketing story. When I say marketing story I don’t mean ‘made  up’ story. The best business stories are real ones that tell people why you do what you do.

Juniper Ridge are the world’s only wild fragrance company. They bottle and sell natural scents found in nature.

According to the ‘About’ page, ‘Juniper Ridge was founded in 1998 by hiker, mushroom-forager, and wilderness enthusiast Hall Newbegin‘. What makes this company so different is their obvious passion for being out in nature. All employees are trekkers and hill walkers. Producing scents and perfumes came as a result of wanting to share the outdoor experience with other nature lovers.

juniper ridge christmas in a bottle

We are the world’s only wild fragrance company. We’re hikers and backpackers, not fashion or luxury-industry types. We distill colognes and perfumes from real plants, bark, moss, mushrooms, and tree trimmings found hiking the backcountry. A hundred years ago, all perfumes were made this way. Today we’re the only ones who handle every step of the process ourselves, from beginning to end.

Juniper Ridge happen to have a very visual product and they use imagery to tell their story. It’s interesting to compare the different platforms that businesses choose to tell their story. Have a look at the Juniper Ridge facebook page, Instagram account and blog. They have almost 28,000 followers on Instagram, so they’re obviously doing something right! There’s definitely an element of ‘armchair travelling’ when you follow these trekkers online.

juniper ridge
 

In my coming posts, I plan to feature businesses who don’t have a very visual product or service. What different ways are there to tell a story, other than with plain text? I’ve already written about using audio effectively. I’m really interested in business videos at the moment. Short video content is the next big thing. We’re going to have to learn how to be comfortable in front of the camera! I’m going to research companies that are either making or using video content. Let me know if you find any great examples. Drop me a line if you’re too shy to comment!

Time to blow some bubbles

23 April

Today is a special day for me; nerve-wrecking and exciting in equal measure!

In my mind I am rewinding 18 months. The idea for Three Thought Bubbles was inspired by a quote I read; what are the three things that you would like people to believe about your business? It got me thinking and my answers inspired me to talk differently to my customers.

why do you do what you do 2

Today I am launching Three Thought Bubbles; fun workshops, teaching business owners how to blog with heart.

I’m thoroughly bored of websites, although I know they serve a purpose. Most of them are static and full of corporate talk. Is there a human in there? Really?! I believe that we need to start communicating online in a much more human way.

Using social media has made me more social! Made someone with a fear of networking events start connecting with other business owners. The difference is that I have found a way to talk about what I do in a way that feels comfortable to me. Firstly, via blogs and Twitter and then in the ‘real world’! These 3d meetings have led to great collaborations as well as mutual support in business. And most importantly, my customers get a sense for how I do business before they meet me in person.

I’ve decided to teach my workshops for two reasons; I want show other businesses how blogging can help them on a business and personal level. And I’m driven by a passion to share these skills and collaborate with other creative people.

I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me in launching this business. A special thanks goes to the loyal group of new friends and allies that I have met on-line. Photographer Aine Teahon is one of them and I’m so grateful for the photos she took of my workshops. Designer Karen Seery created my branding and website and interpreted my ideas perfectly. She was a dream to work with. Next up are my endlessly creative friends and family. And finally, my favourite husband Ben!

So, have I got you thinking about how you tell your story? Would you like to learn a new skill in a relaxed environment? I’d love to meet you at one of my workshops! My next class is on Sunday 26th May. If you can’t make this one, be sure to sign up for my mailing list.

Why do you do what you do? Learn how to write your business story.

11 March

Colin Harmon from 3FE coffee shop, Dublin.

Hell yeah – what a statement from Colin Harmon, from 3FE coffee shop, Dublin! If I was to ask you why you do what you do, would you be able to answer? There are lots of reasons why I do what I do. And once I launched this second business, I realised that my values or ‘whys’ overlap between my two skills. First off, I like to be creative but the main kick I get from what I do, is helping other people. So whether that is designing or teaching; it’s all about connecting with others.

When I first launched my jewellery business in 1998, I supplied galleries and shops around Ireland. But the downside of that was that I never got to meet the people I was designing for. So, there was no feedback and no chance to design something specially for someone. I had to find a new way of doing business so I could get to know my clients and involve them in the designing! Now I only design to order.

I’m watching with amazement how quickly online ways of communication are changing. If we want to connect with readers, we have to be open and human. It makes sense right? People buy from people they like or can relate to. And so, your  business story is the core of your business. Colin Harmon from 3FE coffee shop certainly knows how to tell his story! He takes us on his crazy adventure from the world of finance and investment to barista champion and coffee shop owner. He describes his whole journey and his passion for coffee and coffee culture. He tells his story in a conversational way, including short film clips and photos. He held my attention right to the end! But most of all, he really made me want to try his coffee…

3fe coffee shop Dublin Colin Harmon, 3FE coffee shop, Dublin

Lucky for me, 3FE is around the corner from my studio in The Design Tower. Tomorrow’s cuppa might be a Bolivian Finca Loayza – complex, biscuit sweetness, keylime pie, dark chocolate finish. I hope I get to meet Colin.

*Edited to say that I just had a tasty, double-shot, Guatemalan latte and am fully charged for the rest of the day! I didn’t get to meet Colin but I’ll catch him next time I drop by.

3FE coffee shop, Dublin

Learning how to write your business story is a key part of my workshops. Class numbers are limited to 6 which allows for lots of creative interaction! Get in touch if you’d like to find out more. I’d love to hear from you.

Hold their hand – Make your online user experience as easy as possible

20 December

Hold their hand! Make your online user experience as easy as possible. Don’t create stumbling blocks. This is the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given.

Every day, we visit sites that make us want to scream. ‘What do they do?’, ‘How can I get I contact them?’, ‘Why do they want my zip code when I don’t have one?’. It’s as if some companies go out of their way to lose customers.

This video from Google Analytics is hilarious. It compares the online browsing experience with a “real life” checkout experience.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes when you’re designing your website or blog. Keep everything simple and make it easy for the user to do business with you. (I could watch this video over and over; it’s important to have a sense of humour too!) What makes you scream when you visit a site? Let’s create a list…

My workshops cover this topic along with other customer-focussed tips. Courses are on-going so get in touch if you’d like to register your interest.

Blogger spotlight – Rangoli

13 December

If I’m going to start a series of interviews with business bloggers, I guess I should shine the spotlight on Rangoli! What is it about this blogging lark that I have found to be so great? And why do I want to teach you how to do it too? Let’s get this self-interview started.

Please note that my previous business Rangoli is now closed so I can focus on Three Thought Bubbles; teaching businesses how to write an authentic blog.

Who are you and what do you like to do?

I’m Aisling Nelson and from 1998 to 2013 I owned a business called Rangoli. I designed bridal jewellery and hair accessories. In 2008 I started writing a Rangoli blog and found that it was a great way for me chat naturally about my business and connect with my customers before they met me in person. My blog was a finalist in the Blog Awards Ireland in 2012 and 2103 for best blog of a SME. That was a thrill! I realised that this was a skill I’d love to share with others and so the business Three Thought Bubbles was born. I teach businesses how to write an authentic blog. I train one-to-one or small group workshops. I also work as a social media consultant.

I’ve always been very customer focused; working one to one with brides taught be all about listening and storytelling. That’s what blogging and all social communication is all about! When I’m not designing, I love to go on travel adventures.

When and why did you start blogging?

I got introduced to blogs around 2006. Most of the blogs I read were industry related (bridal) and American. There were very few Irish bloggers on my radar. Bridal trends generally start in the US and filter here after a year or two. I found it a great way to forecast trends. The downside was that the content didn’t always relate to a European audience. I also found a lot of them to be too ‘perfect’. My husband and super-techie business advisor, suggested that I should write a Rangoli blog. I remember my shocked reaction;

Why would I do that? What would I write about? Who would want to read it and how would it help my business?

These, I discovered were very important questions. I thought about them briefly, chose a blogger domain and jumped right in!

Recently re-designed blog template
 

Did you enjoy it straight away and would suggest others take the same approach?

Yes and yes/maybe. I totally took to blogging even though I felt awkward ‘talking to myself’ initially, (now I ramble on confidently as if I was speaking to a bunch of friends!). Writing a blog reminded me of the creative diaries I kept in college. It was a place to gather all of the things that inspired me to design. I immediately saw how ‘friendly’ my blog was compared to my static website.  My service is very personal and I wanted to share some of that feeling on my blog.

What appeals to you about blogging?

One of the main reasons that I enjoy blogging is that I am quite a shy person. I am really good with small numbers of people but I used to find networking or self-promotion quite difficult. Blogging changed all that. I was able to be the ‘me’ that people met when they visited my studio. I have made great connections with customers and peers online. I see blogging as an introduction before a face to face meeting. It’s a lot more sociable than people think! Writing a blog has led me to giving public talks which I would never have imagined possible. (It has also led to great brunch dates at The Fumbally).

Sharing sketches and samples for a bespoke Rangoli design

How did you choose your content – did you have a structure?

From day one, I knew that I didn’t want my blog to be all about me. I thought about the things my readers would be interested in reading about. Then I chose six distinct categories;

Rangoli designs; Here I showed bespoke designs so that readers could see the process of having a piece designed. I often involved the client in the story too and shared pictures of the work in progress. The image below illustrates an unusual jewellery request.

Inspiration for you: These posts are things that I discovered that I felt would be of interest to my readers. My headpiece designs were closely tied in with hairstyles so I featured lots of posts on choosing wedding hairstyles. I’ll also recommended quality products and included links to other online inspiration.

Tips and advice: A place to share my knowledge and expertise on everything from styling your look to being yourself!

Rangoli Loves: Simply put; a place to document things that inspired me to design! Random stuff like Downton Abbey or underwater photography.

Wedding stories: This was a really popular section of the blog where clients shared stories and photos from their wedding day.

And finally, Aisling’s world: Things I love, places I’ve been and the magic in between.

A desert wedding spotted on a trip to Uzbekistan
 

What do you think makes a blog successful?

I think the key is to be very authentic and write with your reader in mind. I write my blog for adventurous on-line explorers like myself! I am a fickle reader with subscription-commitment issues. I want to be surprised by new ideas and feel a connection with people.

If someone reads a couple of my posts and decides to get in touch as a result, then I consider my blog to be successful. The aim of my blog is not long-term readership necessarily. The beauty of this type of content is that is archived for people to read whenever they search for it.

What do you like most about blogs?

For me, it’s finding out something about people and why they do what they do. I love the communication possibilities from written word and visuals to video or audio podcasts. Many people think that the internet is an impersonal place but blogging is all about being sociable! Here are some great storytellers that I discovered recently;

  • Herriot Grace, an online, collaborative family business, where a father and daughter live 3400 kilometres apart.
  • and the Real Italian Foodies, an Irish-Italian couple who run an award-winning restaurant in Limerick and now sell their own line of Italian sauces.
Margarita from Chocolate creative shares her inspiration and design process

What has blogging taught you?

I’ve found a way to tell people what I do in a way that feels comfortable to me. But the biggest revelation is how amazing it is to connect and collaborate with other creative people. The support from other people is amazing!

What advice would you give someone thinking of starting a business blog?

  • Take action and get started (you can keep it private initially until you have some content to share.)
  • Be clear about who your audience is and what they want to read about.
  • Edit and re-edit. Reduce your word count and make every word matter!
  • Be sociable and supportive towards other bloggers; it’s a really friendly community. Meet up in person too.
  • Enjoy not knowing exactly where your blog will take you! It’s a big huge adventure.

Do you have a favourite quote?

People are reading about you while you sleep.” Michael Margolis from Get Storied.

I love this radical yet simple idea. Put your ideas out there online and they’ll work for you even while you’re snoozing!

Why do you want to teach others how to write their own business blog?

Every day I discover brilliant businesses online that are telling their story. But I can think of so many Irish businesses that don’t have a strong internet presence. I really want to change that! Blogging is simple, inexpensive and really effective for business. I’m here to share this skill and de-mystify some of the preconceptions about self-publishing. Here’s the biggie though; I want to teach you that it’s fun. And it will definitely change your world in unexpected ways!

Where else can we find you online?

*Rangoli is now closed but my sites are still available to view for reference.

Rangoli Website
Blog
Facebook
Pinterest
Twitter

Aisling Nelson (rangolitweets) on Pinterest

 

Did you enjoy reading this interview? It’s tricky interviewing yourself, so ask me any question and I’d be delighted to answer it for you! This is part of a series about business bloggers – check out the others. Do you have a favourite blog? Send them my way and tell me what you love about them. And if this post has got you thinking about starting your own blog, let’s get talking about my next workshop dates. I’d love to meet you. 

Your business story

6 December

What stops you in your tracks when you’re browsing online? Are you a 5 second flicker like me? While waiting for a slow page or link to open, I’m already looking at another open tab. It could be more interesting!

I’ve been reading a lot about what holds our attention and what ‘speaks’ to us in our online world. And once I discovered what it is, it made complete sense! We want to connect with the person or people behind the business and see if we like them. What are they about? Do they think like I do? Do they ‘get’ me? We want to make a basic human connection.

Would it surprise you to know that your ‘about’ page is one of the most visited pages on your site? Readers want to know why you do what you do and how you came to be doing it. And most importantly, how can you help them solve a problem. A ‘problem’ is a loose term for any purchase decision that they are thinking about!

This is the first in a series of posts about great ‘About’ pages. First up is Jane from Sugru. Sugru is a self-setting rubber that can be formed by hand and can be used to repair or adapt everyday objects. Jane tells the story of how her business was formed, through a scrolling time-line of polaroid pictures. Her heading for this page is ” A partial visual history of Sugru; from ‘hmm’ to ‘yay’ via ‘eureka’ and ‘wow’. Here is a section of this wonderful visual story; it makes me want to try out their product and read lots more about it!

The pictures scroll down, bringing us from February 2003 right up to September 2012. It’s an ongoing story which makes it so engaging! It also gives a feel for how much time and effort has gone into creating this product and business. The latest post tells us that Jane has just won the London Design Festival ‘Design Entrepreneur’ award. So well deserved! Check out the Sugru website for inspiration.

Who or what grabs your attention online? I’d love to hear from you. This will be an ongoing series and I want to share really diverse content! Leave me a comment or drop me a line; I’d love to hear from you.

Who do you want to delight?

27 October

Who do you want to delight? As I mentioned in my very first post, I am voraciously consuming content about marketing. If you’d told me a few years ago that this stuff would become a passion of mine, I would have laughed very loudly. But these ideas are mind-blowing; really! And they force you to shift your learned ways of thinking and seeing the world. If you run your own business, it’s time to shake things up.

In the last year, I have discovered the most amazing mentors on-line; passionate people who want to share their skills and knowledge. You’re going to get to meet lots of them on my blog in the coming months.

First up is Seth Godin. Are you a Seth devotee?! Seth tells you things that seem so commonsensical, you think you must have already known them. But you didn’t. I find that I want to put his ideas into practice and I want to share them. That’s what it’s about, right?!

Seth Godin

I follow Seth on Twitter and even his tweets are magnetically click-able! This guys knows how to use words and use very few of them. What I love about his posts and blog is the lack of clutter. Lots of white space + easy to read content. I know that he will sum up his ideas in a bite sized pieces. And his ideas leave me thinking for the rest of the day.

Here’s an example of a post from his blog. Why don’t you take Seth’s quiz and then visit his site for his answer?

Take this simple marketing quiz

Not so simple, actually, and about more than just classical marketing:

There are a hundred people in a room, perhaps a trade show or a small theatre. What’s your choice:

  1. Sit in the back, watch, listen and learn.
  2. Cajole your way onstage so you can make a slick presentation that gets everyone on their feet, buzzing and excited, eager to do business with you or hire you.
  3. Set up a booth in the lobby that energizes and engages 12 of the people enough that they tell their friends, while it disturbs or mystifies two of the others and is ignored by the rest.
  4. Provide a service (like cookies and juice in a box at the exit) that many of the people there are appreciative of but few remember or talk about.

Hear what Seth has to say…

I’d love to know who or what  inspires you. leave me a comment below or send me an email.
Image credit:
Original image from Seth Godin’s website