A recent edition of the NAWBO SmartBrief email newsletter used the headline "Cookie maker's blog revived her flagging sales" and linked to a story in the Star Tribune about Katherine Novotny's experience in turning around her business by blogging about its impending shutdown.
One week later, Katie was able to write a Thank You, St. Paul!!! post and announce that St. Paul Classic Cookie Co. had "made it through."
Did Katie's blog save her business?
No, I don't think the blog itself saved the cookie shop. Looking at her archives, Katie has been blogging sporadically since July 2006. Most of the posts prior to the crisis (only 6 in 2006 and 7 in all of 2007) are basically ads for Katie's products, recipes, specials, and the like.
Then, Katie used her blog to do what blogs do best: she engaged with her readers on a personal level.
With business blogs, this includes your customers and your network of contacts. Katie's experience is a classic case of online and offline results. First, her fellow downtown business owner, Lisa Cotter Metwaly, owner of the Q Kindness Cafe, forwarded the story via email to others like Michael Belaen of the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce and a downtown e-newsletter with 3400 subscribers. Another friend from a local networking group, Linda LaBarre, a professional organizing consultant, took it upon herself to distribute flyers downtown on Katie's behalf.
I point out all the time that nobody ever got fired for blogging, though a handful have been fired for doing something stupid on their blog. Similarly, I'd argue that Katie didn't save her business just by having a blog, but by doing something very smart on her blog. She used it to engage with her customers and friends the same way she would if talking to them face to face in her shop or at a networking event.
Over at the Small Company Big Image blog, Katie is quoted as saying,
"Enough people responded that we were able to pay our bills, meet our deadlines and stay open. And we were also able to talk to our customers so they understood why we raised our prices the next week."
The second sentence contains the key. Her blog post enabled her "to talk to her customers so they understood" her business.
The lessons? Use your business blog as a tool for connecting on a personal level. And don't wait until you're about to close the doors to get started.