I started to write this as a “2008 Wrap-up” but it wasn’t working.  I focused on the ways the blog and business had worked together, but it started reading like a chronology and laundry list, rather than a real discussion of how the blog has helped me and my business grow.

So I’m starting over here, with a bullet-point list of how the blog has helped shape my business and how I think about my business.

The blog lets me “launch” new products on the cheap.  I get to introduce new products, get feedback and then rework my offering before I spend lotsa money advertising or changing the website.

The blog helped shape our convention booth design.  Starting in May 2008, I posted several items about new thoughts on booth design.  I showed photos of our booth from previous conventions and offered a few new ideas.  The remarks I got from our readers helped me reshape my design.  In June, we tested out the design (with cheap parts) at the IFDF Convention in Daytona Beach.  Based upon the success of the layout, we upgraded to better shelving that was easier to pack and better-looking.

The blog gives me a place to talk business strategy and get feedback.  In the post Be Agressive. B. E. Aggressive!, I used the blog to discuss, in free form mode, our business’ use of money.  And while I didn’t throw our purse wide open, the post and subsequent discussion helped me realize that we need to buy new equipment when we need it, rather than using the old stuff until it falls apart.  It’s also helped me plan my purchases at the end of the year (right now) so I get the full tax advantage.

The blog helps me think about the industry in abstract ways.  In the April post, Do Funeral Homes REALLY Need the Internet?, I rambled about how I think funeral homes will use the Internet in the future.  Besides starting some important discussion with several readers, the post also kickstarted some thinking about my own website and how I interact with our cot cover customers in cyberspace.

I use the blog to make important business decisions.  Our June trip to the KFDA convention was done by car, precisely because I wrote a post for the blog that looked at the expenses for flying or driving and weighed the benefits of each.  The research I did for the post helped me ultimately decide to rent a car.

The blog lets me think big and sometimes fail.  In one big sweeping post, I told everyone that I’d be using my knowledge of Orlando to write a special brochure and website for 2008 NFDA Convention attendees.  In that post, I laid out an ambitious plan to make our company integral to the experience of attending the convention.  And then we didn’t do it.  Any of it.  While I didn’t follow through with this one (because of time, cost, etc.), the blog lets me dream big and get immediate reaction to huge ideas.

The blog is a great place to dissect an experience.  The needs of a blog post (or magazine article) are pretty specific.  In my experience, the framework provided helps focus my thoughts and provides a matrix for explaining an event, deconstructing the ingredients and understanding the outcome.  In 2008 KFDA Convention: Day 3 and Wrap-Up, I looked back on our June 2008 experience and figured out what went right and what needed adjusting.

 The blog archives my thoughts on industry issues as they evolve.  In the article Serious Money is Coming to Online Obits. And Why it Won’t Work., I predicted that the funeral home-funded version of Tributes.com would have to transition to an ad-supported service in 18 months or less.  Just six months later, they’re running banner ads on almost every page.  With the blog, I can search more than two years of my thoughts on issues like cremation or pet funeral services and see how my own opinions and observations have evolved over time.

The blog secures new business.  I added four consulting clients this year, all because they saw the value of my knowledge and, more importantly, recognized that I am a “thinker” in the industry.  Does that mean I’m the best?  Far from it.  But it means that I have spend considerable time thinking about these issues and researching the information.  Even better, my clients tell me how much they enjoy my work (pat on the back, please) and that my services are a good value for the money spent.

The blog jump-started my book.  No, the book isn’t ready yet; I’ve decided to work on it some more and make it truly spectacular.  But the blog gave me the start I needed and helped me build the framework for the book.  Plus, the feedback from readers led me to see what path the book should take.  It’ll be done sometime in 2009, I promise.

The blog got me a speaking gig!  My first big speaking engagement was partly because of all the writing on this blog.  I presented “Tried and True Marketing and Merchandising Techniques” at the 2008 OGR Conference in Key West in November.  From that gig, I booked two presentations at the IFDF Convention to be held in St. Augustine in 2009!

The blog attracts people who help my business grow.  Many of the industry folks who have helped me spread word about my cot covers and expand into new markets (we just sold to an Australian distributor!) came from this blog.  In fact, every time I turned around at the 2008 NFDA Convention, I was greeted by someone else who reads the blog!

The blog helped me plan our most successful event ever.  The 2008 NFDA Convention was so successful for us because I planned a good location, upped our booth size and laid out an effective plan.  Without the written planning I did on the blog, I might not have seen the opportunities or acted upon them.  A recent study found that those who consider themselves “lucky” are simply more observant of new opportunities and willing to act on them.  My luck continues to improve because the demands of blogging help me focus my attention and expand my thinking.

The blog directs people to my retail website.  In fact, www.cotcovers.com is the most clicked link from this site.  In the last year, 379 people visited the retail site and looked at our covers. 

In all, the blog takes a lot my time, but it also focuses my thinking and helps me make important business decisions.  And while I don’t think every business needs a blog, I know that mine benefits greatly.