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6/02/2005

NOTICE: THIS BLOG HAS MOVED. CLICK HERE FOR NEW SITE

Interview: Gary Boulanger, Cycles Gaansari

Gary Boulanger is a recovering bike industry insider who know owns a small shop in Dayton Ohio. He also owns Cycles Gaansari, a niche bike brand with a growing cult of fans. As a former PR guy he knows how to tell a good story and leverage technology to communicate with his customers, prospects and the media.

A while back, I noticed Gary doing something cool with his shop newsletter. He uses a blog to post the newsletter then emails everyone a link to the blog. This is a great way to kill two birds with one stone. It's a cheap and easy way to deliver an email newsletter and it brings people to your blog where they can read other posts or click over to your shop's home page.

I asked Gary a few questions about his experience with blogs:

Q: how long have you been blogging for Cycles Gaansari?
I got a leg up on blogging when Michael Gamstetter, the former editor of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News, asked me to chronicle our first year in business in the print version with a column called "Retail Diary." Response from the industry was fantastic, so I continued "Retail Diary" on our website. At the same time, I was sending out a free subscription e-newsletter called The Bike Evangelist, and in less than two years, nearly 1,000 were on the distribution list. It was sent out as a text email. We're now at roughly 1,400 members, with folks from Finland, England, Italy, Canada, Puerto Rico, and most of the 50 United States. Late in 2004 I changed the format of The Bike Evangelist to a blog using Blogger, and send out a short update email to the distribution list, telling each subscriber there's a new posting. I try to mix humor, breaking news, music, book and movie culture; anything that a typical bicycle aficionado would enjoy.
Q: What are some of the effects your blog has had on your business?
It's been fantastic. Some days there's an instant response - folks call or email with questions, feedback on the posting, even orders for our products.
Q: Would you recommend blogs to other shops?
If the owner or manager has a knack for accumulating information, is computer and WWW savvy, then it could work. Otherwise, it might distract them from their day-to-day responsibilities in the shop.
Q: Do you feel you are getting a good ROI with your blog?
Absolutely. It takes me a few days to gather information, and just an hour or so to edit and tweak the blog before it gets published. Blogging is one of our strongest marketing tools, because it's such a soft sell, really. We sell cycling excitement, and let our customers buy from us.
Some good insight from Gary. Hopefully it helps other shops who are wondering how to use blogs to help their business.

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