Sometime last month, my friends and I did what most people do on a Friday night. Yes, we went out to blow off some steam and in the process, popped in to Pizza Hut to grab something to eat. The problem was, we probably dropped by at a bad time. The waitress seemed like she’d be anywhere in the world except serving at our table. Don’t get me wrong, my friends and I weren’t expecting 5-star treatment, but is a little courtesy or even a smile too much to ask for? Like most people who simply wouldn’t bother to complain about how rude the waitress was, we just grit our teeth and left as soon as we could. Fast forward to the next morning and one of my friends suggested that we go to a local restaurant named Joe’s, located in Oxford’s Summertown (isn’t that the best ever name for a town?) so we paid them a visit.
From the moment we entered the restaurant, we were made to feel welcome. The food was absolutely divine, their attention to detail was impeccable and their service was amazing. In fact, their receipt had a handwritten ‘thank you’ along with a smiley face on it!
It’s amazing how little effort can make a customer happy. Having enjoyed the food and the service, I felt I must run to the top of a hill and announce to everyone that these guys are amazing and that all my friends should check them out too; or at least the modern method of doing so, which is to tweet about them or to mention them on Facebook. Unfortunately I couldn’t tag them in my tweets or Facebook status as they didn’t have a presence on Twitter and Facebook. So here I was, a satisfied customer, looking to give this restaurant a big ‘thumbs up’ and a recommendation to my friends about how awesome they are, but with no natural channel to do so. So I thought I should compile a list of quick and easy ways small businesses can help customers become their advocates. (Please note that Joe’s, to their credit, have now set up a Facebook page).
#1 Out of sight, out of mind
At the very least, make sure you have some sort of social media presence so that, like me, your customers can recommend your business to their friends. This shouldn’t take you long, as setting up a Facebook page and a Twitter profile literally takes a few minutes. Make sure you include details such as the address, a phone number and a link to your website. If you are unsure or are not confident in doing this yourself, get someone who is tech savvy (like your niece or nephew) to do this for you. If you have the time, here are a couple of great posts on how you could set up a Facebook page and a Twitter page.
#2 A picture is worth a thousand words
Images can convey quite a lot about your business, and this is especially important if you are a restaurant or a retail outlet. This also helps to give your business or your brand some sort of personality. So when you include images of your premises on Facebook, make sure you either invest in a really good camera or you obtain the services of a professional photographer. Although this may sound silly, the images on the web do in fact influence what people think about your business, as it’s the only tangible way they could associate quality with.
If you want to take this to the next level, you could propose to your guests that you can take good quality images and with their consent, upload it to your Facebook page and invite them to tag themselves and their friends on your fan page. This will ensure people will visit, engage and share your page with others.
#3 Consistency is the name of the game
Now that you have set up a Facebook page and/or a Twitter page with about 10-20 fans or followers, it is important to consolidate your existing fans and to grow this number. When it comes to Facebook and Twitter, it is extremely important to be part of your followers’ social network experience (which means being visible on their Twitter feeds and Facebook newsfeeds). Having said that, it is also important to not overdo this; there’s nothing more offensive on the social sphere than spam. On average, I’d say 1-2 posts a day is more than sufficient. The secret to maintaining great posts is to make sure your updates add value to your fans and followers. If you are a restaurant owner, sharing little cooking tips to your followers could be quite beneficial to them. For example, you could have a ‘recipe of the week’ post and share a tip to your followers.
#4 Offer incentives
Everyone likes to feel special and it’s the same on social media. Offering your fans and followers a special discount to try out a new item on the menu would help bolster loyalty toward your Facebook fan page.
#5 Save time with tools
I’m sure most small business owners wouldn’t really have the time to constantly be on social media platforms updating statuses and tweets. If you can’t hire someone to do this for you I suggest you use tools such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck in order to schedule your tweets for the coming week and to monitor what people are saying about your brand or business on Twitter. Make a schedule at the beginning of the week as to what type of tweets and updates you want to share with your followers and also schedule at least half an hour a day to monitor and respond to any user engagements.
#6 “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”
Use Facebook insights to measure and monitor the virality of your posts. Facebook provides a wealth of statistics, from how many people who are talking about your page right now to which demographic and geographic (including which cities) are most receptive to your posts. This will help you understand what works and what doesn’t. Marketers at one time used to spend quite a lot of money to obtain this market intelligence data which Facebook now provide you on a platter, and all this free of charge. So take advantage of the plethora of data and constantly tweak and improve your campaigns.
I’d like to share with you what an ultra-local business owner mentioned to me recently. His father set up a grocery store on a very competitive and busy high street in Colombo. I remember as a child frequenting his store on a daily basis with my grandfather who bought his loaf of bread, newspaper and his bottle of milk from this store like a prayer. How this business owner distinguished himself against his many competitors was his ability to form relationships with his customers. He knew my grandfather and me by name. He always made us laugh and we always left his store with a smile. So although two generations have passed, and his tiny grocery store is today a chain of supermarkets, he hasn’t forgotten what made his business succeed in the first place. When his son took over, he made sure he continued this formula on a whole new platform; he says that social media is simply a tool to form and develop these very same relationships at scale. None of the original classical methods of marketing have changed. The only thing that has, is where these relationships and conversations take place. Sadly most businesses don’t seem to grasp this concept well. Herein lies an opportunity for small business owners to be a serious threat to large multinationals. For me personally, Joe’s Bar and Grill has won a customer for life, without having to dish out heavy advertising spend.
*Image credit: ActiveSteve on Flickr.