Barry Meehan from WorldwideCycles.com is an interesting speaker. He's giving a case study presentation today at the IIA Congress about how his cycle shop in Clonmel, Co Tipperary uses the web to complement their business.
Barry is a passionate cyclist. He started the site with friend and fellow cyclist Ray Clarke to
give customers the opportunity to make online purchases whilst still getting the same level of service that you would expect from your local bike shop.The tagline of their site is "products for cyclists by cyclists" and it's a very good place to start with a website that is customer facing - what you know about and what you can provide.
Barry's presentation at the Congress was probably the most interesting of the morning given that he's a cyclist, a bike shop owner who uses his blog and the internet to complement his business and give customers another way of contacting the shop, rather than it being his whole business.
It's probably what makes him a great example for people who don't know what kind of web presence they need but would like to begin.
His presentation will be online at the IIA site soon but centred mostly around his blog (main blog here), his use of Flickr and You Tube videos and generally talking about simple "social networking tools" engaging his customers and creating a following.
For example, he told how members of his message boards were asking about the best way to clean a bike. The next time Barry was cleaning his bike, he grabbed the camera and took photos, and then posted them to his blog. He spoke about how you can simply but effectively answer customer questions and show that you're listening to them.
I grabbed him for a few minutes to have a quick chat. Despite his business-like appearance above he's remarkably frank and outright about what he does, claiming no technical expertise in the web - he just likes what he does.
- The biggest mistake, in his opinion, is to try and make any website or web presence too complicated. Keep it simple is his advice.
- It doesn't take as much time as poeple are afraid of. Barry works from home every Monday handling the accounts, the website queries and the blog. He'll check in during the evenings but he doesn't really feel that it gets in the way of other activities he needs to do.
- Write about what you know about and what you enjoy doing. People will respond to you if they see you're passionate about what you write about. Before he started blogging Barry had no creative writing skills or formal writing experience but through his blogging he now finds himself thinking about writing a book.
- For example, to get his website promoted he uses Google Adwords but also his blog and various cycling message boards around the country.
- He finds "word of mouse" - people forwarding links, talking about what he writes on message boards, commenting on his blog etc to be very effective. He'll also mention the website in interviews or where he thinks it's appropriate, or, as he says "if it fits"