Blogging has been a great tool for me in the nearly two years that I have been doing it. Masi Bicycles has enjoyed some great success and growth, as well as much greater brand recognition....

Sales have nearly doubled each of the past two years, though we're still a small company with modest numbers. The point is, blogging has been a great tool for me in my efforts to bring the brand out of the cellar and back into the bright light of day.
I have been a huge proponent for small businesses to blog, as if their lives depend on it... because they do. Drawing from my experiences in the bike industry, where the bulk of my business blogging discussions take place, small retailers really can't afford not to blog....
I know, I know, I know.... that statement is very polarizing, but let me expand (I just got back from the Chinese buffet).
Small bike shops are frequently getting beaten on price and selection by big mail order companies or much larger retailers. Having a blog enables the shop to create an interractive community built around the shop (and elsewhere) that also helps to give the shop a "larger" appearance. Using the blog enables the shop to post shop rides, new products, special events, sale prices, etc, etc. Allowing comments also gives the shop the chance to allow their happy customers to preach to the unconverted masses and bring them into the flock.
On the opposite side of that coin, it also allows them to diffuse any negative experiences and show that they are serious about retaining customers (this one is a little more frightening for some folks). Some shops use the blog as a way to reach out to a much wider and farther away audience, similar to the bigger mail order companies.
Web sites are expensive and frequently more difficult to update on a regular basis, but a blog site can be done very effectively for absolutely free. In most cases, the only expense required with a blog is the time to post. Yes, I know that not everybody feels comfortable writing posts and many bike shops don't have anybody who can really string together a coherent series of thoughts. That said, those are still the same people who are speaking to customers face to face in the retail setting.
Clearly, I am preaching to the choir here in this setting, but the relevant issue is that the power of blogging is grossly under valued in the retail world. Keep in mind that most of the customers who walk into your retail store are spending time "shopping" online before they step foot into your store. They are engaging in an online experience, wouldn't you prefer that they have that experience with you?
We often lose sight of the fact that sometimes we can answer the expensive sounding question of "how do I reach my customers/ find new customers" with a very simple and very cheap answer... blogging.
What do you think?

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Small Business Can't Afford Not to Blog

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Tim Jackson rarely writes about himself in the third person, so he is going to take the opportunity to do that now. Tim is a bike geek, first and foremost. This geekdom has taken Tim to the helm of a small, but respected bicycle brand- Masi Bicycles. This has proven to be Tim's dream job and has given him the chance to experiment with previously unconventional methods of marketing, such as blogging and other social networking, to try and reestablish the name and reputation of his beloved Masi brand. In the past year, Tim has been very lucky to meet and learn from many different marketing professionals who have been kind enough to validate some of his marketing ideas and embolden him to keep pushing ahead. Tim is a battle hardened marketer, educated by the school of hard knocks, as opposed to any professionally accredited institution... which is a bummer because that would probably get him a better paying gig somewhere. Tim will likely be a somewhat infrequent contributor here because he keeps his hands pretty busy fighting in the trenches each day, but he'll stick his head out in the air long enough to fire off some half-baked theories from time to time. He apologizes in advance, just for the record.