Blogging about your market or niche is a cheap way to build yourself an audience of engaged followers. But it’s important to do it right, presenting yourself as an honest source of information.

Long before I launched my first Kickstarter campaign for Hamtun Watches, I was blogging about watches. I knew that eventually I wanted to get in to the watch industry, and so a blog seemed a good place to start. With no significant upfront costs, it was a risk-free way to assess how quickly I could pick up an audience.

How I used blogging to build my audience

I knew I wanted to write about watches, but the same process applies to most markets. Want to sell sunglasses? Write about accessories. Want to sell video games? Review video games. You get the idea.

The most important thing to remember is you have to be honest. You’re going to be reviewing your future competitors, and you don’t want your comments to come back and sting your business later.

However it’s also important to not suck up to people you’ll be competing against, if your readers don’t think you’re writing honestly they won’t trust your views. If they aren’t reading your stuff, they are of no value!

So how did I use the blog to generate customers for the future?

  1. Started blogging
  2. Captured email addresses for visitors to my blog
  3. Made sure I was covering watches in my price range so that my readers would likely be interested in my future product
  4. Shared my content as widely as I could, bringing more visitors to the site
  5. Once I had enough subscribers, announced a landing page for my own watch encouraging people to sign up for information on it

I did not use the same email list as I’d built during the blogging. Why? This list was people that had asked for reviews of watches, not sales emails. I told them about the new watch and left them to decide if they were keen to learn more about it. By treating your email list well, you build a level of trust. Spam them and you might make a few sales short term, but long term the list is ruined.

Building a blog

Let’s go in to a bit more detail on the building of the blog.

It’s important that your blog looks high quality. There are hundreds (probably thousands) of other blogs out there and you’ve got to stand out. Some blogger site using the default theme isn’t going to cut it.

First thing is picking a blogging platform. Use WordPress, don’t waste time thinking about it. Everyone uses WordPress, it’s easy, free, and widely supported.

What to call your site? To be honest, this is the part I always struggle with most. You need a proper domain name (something like http://myWatchReviews.com), not a subdomain (http://myWatchReviews.WordPress.com). Everybody serious has a proper domain name and they cost just a few pounds. Pick one up at Namecheap.

Next you need somewhere to host your blog. For this you have a few options. One is Dreamhost, where this site is hosted. If it is working well for you today, it’s a good option! Otherwise head over to Bluehost and pick up one of their cheap plans or, if you have a big budget, use WP Engine for the ultimate performance and support.

Now to make it look good. If you have a little bit of budget, check out StudioPress.com for some stunning ready-to-go WordPress themes that you can implement with a few clicks. If you don’t want to spend anything at all, a Google search for “free WordPress themes” will turn up thousands, but they are unlikely to be of the same quality and will lack the support you get from StudioPress or other premium sites.

Finally, you need a logo. Yes, a logo matters. Don’t make it yourself unless you’re a professional. Making a website for your mum’s friend doesn’t count. There are sites these days that will make OK (not great, but OK is good enough here) logos for you and let you export them in minutes. I’ve used LogoJoy before and had perfectly acceptable results. I suggest you do the same.

That’s everything you need! Get your site online and start blogging. I’ll talk in more detail about how to turn your traffic in to email subscribers at a later date. What matters for now is that you’re writing content and putting it online for Google to find.