We wanted to share what we’ve learned from working with thousands of restaurants, retailers, spas, and other businesses. Our hope is that this guide will help you advance your business and save you from some potentially painful lessons.
Lesson 1: Customers Rule — But Market Leaders Make Sure Their Voice is Heard, Too
With the advent of social media, customers are very much “in charge” now. They have the power to instantly communicate the good, the bad, and the ugly. Which is why marketing strategy must involve two-way communication.
Ideas to consider for your business:
- Respond to criticism with an instant apology — ideally, one that suggests a next step. For example, “Sorry to hear that! We want to help Please email us at _____.” Remember: some of the most loyal customers are the ones whose frown you manage to turn upside-down.
- Converse with customers – on social media, in store, even on traditional media. Here’s a great idea: thanking guests via social media with an invitation to return. Remember: Conversation is not the same as self-promotion. So ask, don’t tell.
- Make the customer experience fun. Think games, samples, in-store events and contests. Remember: To maximize the impact, many successful brands encourage consumers to share using a hashtag or an @mention. Don’t limit yourself to being reactive, when you could be proactive.
Lesson 2: Market Leaders Connect — By Going Where Their Customers Are
You can’t have a dialog with your customers if you’re not connected to them. Leading multi-location merchants establish communication channels, such as an email list and/or SMS opt-in club.
Some business owners are reluctant to text, since that seems too “personal” or “invasive.” There are two reasons to get over that sentiment right away:
- SMS may be your best option. According to mobile research firm MobileSquared, 90% of people read a text message within the first three minutes. Moreover, with all the noise on social media — and even in our inboxes — text is one of the surest ways to catch their attention.
- If you believe your messages are annoying or invasive, that means you’re not doing it right. Email and SMS clubs should provide valuable information that customers care about: sales, deals, new collections or menus, location openings, and special events.
Lesson 3: They Personalize — Hello, Behavior-Based Email Marketing!
Building an email and/or SMS list is a great start — but the next step for 2017 is to grow this list into a customer database. Consumers are overwhelmed with information, and research shows that they easily become paralyzed by too much choice.
The more you know about what is relevant to a specific individual or demographic, the more effective your marketing will be. It need not be complex – knowing that a group of customers responded to a certain offer in the past arms you with valuable information. You can design and promote future offers to drive business.
A simple way to start on this trend is called “behavior-based email marketing,” where you invite your customers to subscribe to email lists by interest topics, therefore self-selecting into what they want to receive.
If you want to get more advanced, you can send emails and promotions based on other behaviors, such as “Offers Redeemed,” “Contact Forms Submitted,” “Emails Opened,” or even “Website Activity. For example, you can send targeted content to people who viewed certain pages on your site, or even launch a target-re-engagement campaign for inactive users.
Finally, connect. Use the insights you have about your customers to start a conversation.