Mellow Monk is an online retailer of Japanese green tea based in California. The business is run by Paul Kotta who kindly agreed to talk with me on the phone about his Mellow Monk Green Tea Blog. Paul describes his blog as a "forum for presenting not just information about our green tea and our growers, but also topics related to this mission, including green tea in general, health and wellness, and philosophies conducive to living a mellow life." The blog also covers Japan: the people, the culture, and all things Japanese.
JH Could you give me some background information about yourself and Mellow Monk?
PK Mellow Monk started operations last April. It's something I do on the side; my full-time gig is technical editor-writer at a national laboratory.
JH How did the blog come about?
PK The blog was not originally part of the site, but I soon realized that a blog would serve multiple purposes and do so more efficiently than my previous approach, which was to hand-code multiple pages.
JH What has the blog achieved for you in marketing terms?
PK The blog page is now the second most frequently viewed page on the site after the home page, and that's exactly what I want. When I first started this business, I wanted to promote it online and wasn't looking into other forms of advertising except for sponsored links, and I thought that Google would be the best way to go. The campaign I used was a little too broad so we got a lot of clicks and we were spending a lot of money but it wasn't a very efficient way to advertise. You get about a hundred clicks and out of those, two people would buy tea. All of our revenue was going to the Google fund. I'm trying to focus on a certain market niche, not just green tea, Japanese green tea produced by small family-owned operations, and so it wasn't nearly targeted enough. That's what I'm trying to do now. The whole blogging thing really ties into that because it's such a good way for promotion.
JH How do you decide what to talk about in your posts?
PK I've established a fairly broad range of topics, either directly or indirectly related to tea. If I come across a topic that I think fits, I write a posting about it.
JH I notice you put quite a lot of cultural information on your blog.
PK Right, and that's the challenge because green tea is a very, very specific subject and there's no way to write a blog just on the topic of green tea because it would get too technical and boring. I thought "I've got to expand on it", so that's the connection with Japan, because it's green tea from Japan. You want to branch it out but you want there to be a legitimate connection between your original theme.
JH How much time you do spend writing posts or preparing them?
PK I would say that the average post takes about maybe two hours. I'm including everything: the writing and the rewriting, logging in, posting. If there's a picture then it would definitely be two hours. The blog has that nice feeling of accomplishment: you sit down, you write it, you post it and boom, it's up there.
JH How would you describe your blogging voice?
PK I try to sound friendly instead of stiff, but not too informal. Professional, but accessible. Knowledgeable, but not overly technical.
JH What qualities are required to be a successful blogger?
PK As with any form of communication, knowing one's audience is the most important requirement. After that, writing ability and the discipline to post regularly are two qualities that come to mind.
JH Do you have any other thoughts about your experience with blogging?
PK When it comes down to it, the blog is all about the content and substance, not form, and if you can write interesting posts that people want to read, then your blog will be popular. It's not about whether you have the money to advertise during the Superbowl, it's how interesting your blog is that determines whether people come back. It's also how good a writer you are and what kind of interesting stories you have. That's your most important asset. It's a way of levelling the playing field. If you know your subject and you're good at writing about it, that gives you a really big advantage over the big boys. I think that's what's so powerful about the whole blogging thing: it's content, it's not flash. It really doesn't have anything to do with how much money you have. Advertising would be comparable to movies, where how much budget you have, what sort of stars you can afford to hire is a big determination. Blogging, on the other hand, is more like writing, where one author working by himself on an old computer or word processor, if his writing is good enough, can compete with the best-selling authors out there. It's all to do with creativity and content.
JH Do you plan to give up the day job? PK I don't see myself giving up the day job. You have to think big and ideally this would become the Starbucks of green tea, but if it ever got to the point where it got too big for me to handle I would probably try and hire someone to run it before I gave up my day job. We're still some way from the point where I'd think this is taking up too much of my time.
JH Do you plan to give up the day job?
PK I don't see myself giving up the day job. You have to think big and ideally this would become the Starbucks of green tea, but if it ever got to the point where it got too big for me to handle I would probably try and hire someone to run it before I gave up my day job. We're still some way from the point where I'd think this is taking up too much of my time.