Small Business Saturday, You Got This

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Total reported spending reached an estimated $15.4 billion at independent retailers and restaurants for 2016’s version of Small Business Saturday. Woohoo!!! What will Nov. 24, 2017’s edition reveal as consumers are once again urged to shop small and visit the “mom & pop” locally-owned stores on Main Street USA?

That is up to you. Will you your small business be ready to engage with customers? Do you even know which customers to target with your ads? Hopefully your Social Media Mangers does. If not, I’ll give you a hint.

The 20-something’s

New survey from Coupons.com reports that during the 2017 holiday season this group plans to shop in-store more than any other age group.

Jeanette Pavini, Coupons.com savings expert reveals that “20-somethings are savvy, using technology to find the best deals, and knowing not every great deal is online.”

She should know, as understanding how consumers are motivated during key shopping seasons provides Coupons.com with data to translate into more relevant coupons at the right time.

And when you put a Mastercard survey’s results stacked against this one, it should be a great Saturday. Spending growth at mom and pop shops has outpaced that of the big chains in both of the past two years.

Why?

When Americans aren’t shopping online, it’s because they’re looking for more personal connections — and the advice they can receive from local SMBs. That’s the word from Sarah Quinlan, Mastercard, Inc. Senior Vice President.

Tech, on-line shopping, mobile apps, etc. may indeed be the wave of the future for mass shopping, but on an individual level– the community level– chatting with the clerk still holds weight. And when the consumer actually has the opportunity to speak with the store owner, well, that is, as they say money in the pocket.

Will you be working your products & services this Saturday?

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Social Media Gone Wrong Kills Small Business

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Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Case in point, the new found “voice” of the people, using the power of social media to make their disapproval as “customers” powerfully effective by destroying an innocent woman’s life. Over the Oct. 14-16 weekend a firestorm was ignited on Facebook when the daughter of coffee shop owner Kato Mele on HER PERSONAL page expressed HER PERSONAL opinion that the Lynn Ma business would never host a ‘‘Coffee with a Cop’’ event.

{Coffee With A Cop is a nationwide project seeking to build trust between police departments and citizens that they serve.}

Being that she was Manager, many people incorrectly assumed that this was an ownership decision and rapid-fire comments and criticism flew, ending with her saying stupid, hateful, vicious things like police were “bullies and racists.”

Upset responders, some quite possibly hiding under the smokescreen of internet anonymity (bots & fake names) shot back with death threats, sexual taunts and un-called for boycotts of the White Rose Coffeehouse.

Just as social media can be a highly positive force for social engagement with customers of a small business, it can also be bastardized into a destructive virus attacking indiscriminately.

The people with the pitchforks insured the coffee shop’s painful death by attacking the small business.

According to an article in the Boston Globe:

They got into the cafe’s Facebook page, leaving hundreds of bad reviews to drive its five-star rating down. Mele’s daughter received rape threats. On Monday, the cafe was slammed with abusive callers, saying horrific things: They hoped Mele and her daughter are ruined, that they never work again, that her daughter drowns. An especially charming bunch of them, parroting a line from the hateful website that played on “coffee with a cop,” said they wanted to have coffee with a c-word.

Regular customers stayed away, whether by fear of attacks on them or because they were misled into believing it was company policy. Their lack of strong support helped nail the doors shut. Nobody apparently bothered to check the facts. Shoot first, ask questions later.

Had the protestors followed rule of law, that someone is innocent until proven guilty, they would have seen that the owner:

  1. ordered her daughter to take down the page,
  2. sent the police a personal apology,
  3. tagged the remarks as ‘‘distasteful, biased and hateful,’’
  4. invited officers to the shop for coffee as a sign they were indeed welcome,
  5. And— fired her daughter.

What Should/Could Be Done?

If an employee of your business was rude & crude to a customer, who then complained on social media, an acceptable response from your business would be an apology, a come back to our biz and we will comp your meal, or outright termination of the employee. And most customers would be satisfied.

Not in this case. Customer flow has trickled down to nothing and as of press time the owner is reported to have decided to close down, packing up perishable inventory for donations to a food shelter. Her dream turned into a nightmare.

And customers have had “their” place taken away by “non-customers.”  The power of social media gone wrong.

What could you do to avoid the damage? Advise employees that although they are free to express their opinions on their social media outlets, do not mention your business or represent an opinion to be representative of the business.

What could you do to contain the damage? Short of having a public relations team or a competent social media manager, depend on the good will, and support of your customers.

Word to the wise, continually build strong customer engagement with your customer base. They are your last, best defense on the social media battlefield.

{Note: Although the offending Facebook comments have been deleted, the Daily Mail managed to dig some up if you want to read what started the fireworks.}

Pet Project by Small Businesses Fosters Community Engagement

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Nearly a dozen, local, pet-related small businesses and organizations answered the call to mount an interactive customer engagement promotion recently in Salem Ma. Rather than be blindly competitive to serve their own needs, they joined together to support a community event to entertain customers.

“Howl-o-ween” was a pet parade and pet costume contest that drew 100 contestants (dogs & cats mostly) and an estimated crowd of several hundred on-lookers.

Customers and non customers (and especially their pets) either took part in the parade, costume contest or applauded in support to make this a really interesting community event that fits in nicely with Salem’s month-long Haunted Happenings celebration of all things Halloween.

Salem Main Streets, which creates and supports numerous community events and initiatives throughout the year to promote the downtown district, thought up & produced this event. It did so with the support of Creative Salem, Salem Pet Photo, the New England Dog Biscuit Company, Artists’ Row, PALS, Black Cat Tours, It’s Reigning Cats and Dogs, Healthy Hounds Doggie Daycare, Penelope’s Pet Boutique, and a number of other community partners.

Yes, there really are that many pet-themed stores in one city.

What could other similar-themed businesses & organizations in your city or town do to engage their community of customers?

6 Social Media Customer Engagement Guidelines Small Biz Should Follow

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Remember in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie when they talked about the “Pirates Code” being more like guidelines than rules? We have something similar in the Social Media world. There are some things that through trial and error we’ve learned you shouldn’t do— unless you want to drive away customers, followers, readers, etc. Not rules, but pretty good guidelines.

Posting is a big one. Don’t over post. Don’t under post. Don’t post irrelevant content. Posting content is what I do for clients, so I do have accumulated experience in this area.

To arrive at the above-mentioned findings, Sprout Social surveyed more than 1,000 Facebook, Twitter and Instagram users to determine what annoys them about brands on social and what drives them to unfollow.

Then the folks at CJG Digital Marketing sifted through the data to produce the following Infographic.

6 Social Media Behaviors to Avoid in 2017 (Infographic) - An Infographic from CJG Digital Marketing

(Embedded from CJG Digital Marketing )

Main thing to absorb is that 2.8 BILLION people use social media. If you are a small business owner or an entrepreneur THOSE are a lot of customers to be ignoring if you aren’t on line— and a lot to be ignoring if you are on social.

To repeat, the six no-no’s that Sprout Social focused on are:

  1. Posting too many promotional messages.
  2. Sharing irrelevant information
  3. Tweeting too frequently.
  4. Using jargon or slang awkwardly
  5. Staying too quiet
  6. Not replying to messages

Think about it and it makes sense. You are on social media not to scream from the rooftops about how good your service or product are. You are here to directly engage with potential customers, not to waste their time.

If you need help with consistent posting of blogs, FB posts or Twitter, feel free to contact me.

Email vs Face-to-Face. And the Winner Is…

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Community involvement by small business merchants is a service I feel very strongly can be used to attract customers and then convert them into being brand ambassadors. Fund-raisers are a prime example. Your store helps promote the bowl-a-thon for the local kids’ club. Parents then support you back with their patronage and positive word of mouth.

But how do you best reach those people?

In today’s 2.0 world, email is the accepted method of contact. Faster, less expensive than letters, flyers and brochures. But, a recent study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, indicates that the 1.0 world of face-to-face gets better results.

What?

Forty-five participants were each required to ask 10 strangers (total sample 450 people) to complete a brief survey. The constant was that each made the same request sticking to the same script; the variable was that half of the participants made requests by email, while the other half went direct with the face-to-face approach.

Survey Results

According to Vanessa K. Bohns, who conducted the survey with Mahdi Roghanizad of Western University, “face-to-face requests were 34 times more effective than emailed ones.”

She explained “In our studies, participants were highly attuned to their own trustworthiness and the legitimacy of the action they were asking others to take when they sent their emails. Anchored on this information, they failed to anticipate what the recipients of their emails were likely to see: an untrustworthy email asking them to click on a suspicious link.”

The convenience and cost saving on your end does not balance against the comfort zone encroachment of the community member being solicited for funding.

Want your community project to be a success?

As techie as we may want to be, in this case old-fashioned face-to-face would be the best way to successfully mobilize people to contribute and support.

17 Visions of Tomorrow’s Social Media Landscape

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How can we possibly predict what the future will look like, so we can better prepare today for the realities of tomorrow? That is the question asked by Peter Kozodoy in a recent piece for Inc. Magazine. But it is an every day question posed by Social Media Managers, what with regular Facebook adjustments being constantly added or the constant one-upsmanship battle escalating between Instagram & Snapchat.

Kozodoy asked 17 of the world’s most prolific super-influencers for sage advice and prognostications; though varied there was one recurring theme. Catering to the consumer’s needs in the places that he or she expresses them will be the key to your client’s success in converting them into customers.

When I started this blog my message was that small businesses had to be on social media, because if they weren’t they could not hear the comments & complaints being transmitted by customers. Now just being “on” is not enough. You need to actively find where your customers are and engage them there on Facebook, Tumbler, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. Don’t expect them to come to your website or store on their own.

Point in fact:

Mobile phones, search, and social media have changed shopper paradigms forever. Today, shopper’s have unique paths to purchase tailored to their lifestyle. This has had a profound impact on how, when and where consumers engage with brands.” — Ted Rubin, Social Marketing Strategist, Acting CMO of Brand Innovators, and Co-Founder of Prevailing Path

Location, location, location:

Brands that will thrive in the future are those that are able to hyper-target their messaging based on identifiable social and geo-locational triggers using immersive marketing campaigns and augmented reality scenarios to engage and influence buying decisions.” — Douglas Idugboe, Co-Founder, Smedemy

Very interesting to see what “big names” like Mari Smith, Jeff Bullas and Jay Baer had to say. Their comments and Peter Kozodoy’s wrap-up conclusions are a good read for all Social Media Managers that want to put their clients ahead of the competition by already being today where the customers will be tomorrow.

Beyond the Front Door, Working with Competitors to Benefit Community

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Dynamic partnerships await small business merchants (and their Social Media Managers) who venture beyond their front door and reach out to fellow merchants, be they competitors or not. Usually the driving force is not profit but to do something beneficial for the community. For in displaying a genuine give a damn attitude about their customers, so do these businesses develop a loyalty from those shoppers.

Take Salem, Ma for example. During October, everybody is knee deep in Halloween-based customers; but come January, they live or die on local patronage.

So, it comes as no surprise that when the call was issued for participants in the upcoming annual Salem Arts Festival Fashion Show, which in itself is a fundraiser for our Salem Arts Festival, the response from local biz was not “I can’t afford the time, or the money, or the merchandise.” It was more so “What do you need?”

I am lifting a paragraph from the Salem Main Streets blog (which I write, so I won’t have to worry about plagiarism…)

The Fashion Show annually highlights a growing number of local boutiques – including Avalanche, Beach Bride Baubles, The Boutique, Curtsy, Emporium 32, J. Mode, Lifebridge’s Second Chance Thrift Shop, Modern Millie Vintage & Consignments, Ocean Chic Boutique & Waterbar, the Peabody Essex Museum Shop, re-find and re-find men’s, and RJ Coins & Jewelry, with professional stylist Lisa Ann Schraffa Santin on hand. Make up will be provided by the fabulous artists from Laura Lanes Skin Care, Rouge Cosmetics, Radiance Aveda, Arbonne by Roz, and Victoria Crisp, with hair styling by Bella Hair Studios and My Barber Shop.”

Those are a lot of stores, giving a lot of time, products, services, and employee hours for a fashion show where they aren’t making a dime. That day.

Take a look at the posted picture again. Where do you think those audience members will go when they need an outfit or accessories, a hair-do or makeup? The mall in another town? I think not.

Modern consumers are no longer blind sheep to be swayed by a clever TV ad. Savvy shoppers are adept at surfing the internet to look at small business Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts to see what’s hot and what’s not— and where they want to spend their loyalty to buy it.

By developing partnerships with “competitors” and other local biz, merchants can do more for the community— and themselves — than they could do alone.

I challenge your business, or clients (if you are a social media manager) to seek out or even initiate opportunities with fellow merchants to invest in your community’s social environment. The rewards are sufficient to be shared among many partners.

(Photo credit to Creative Salem)