The Savannah Morning News columnist Bill Dawers wrote an excellent column over the weekend about how local businesses in Savannah are missing the PR and social media boat. That’s not surprising, considering how busy entrepreneurs with strained budgets are. Many businesses don’t go beyond advertising or a listing in a community directory. So what’s a small business owner to do?
Get your customers to promote for you.
The best promotion you’ll ever have is word-of-mouth referrals. Give your customers an easy, fun, and social way to promote your business. Chicago’s More cupcake bakery offers a great deal to customers: get tagged on Facebook with one of their cupcakes, and you get a cupcake free. Take a look at their Facebook page: it’s plastered with people thrilled over getting a free cupcake. These customers are evangelists for the More product. Their enthusiasm is infectious for something as simple as a cupcake. In today’s economy, it would a lot easier and cheaper to make a whole batch of cupcakes at home, but More has elevated the cupcake to modern art and made it an experience. And they’ve made it profitable for their customers to tell others about it. They gave More cupcakes lovers even more of what they love: a free cupcake for spreading the word.
So how can you do the same for your clients?
- Make sure your product or service is fabulous. I mean over-the-top fantastic so your customers can’t wait to spread the word. Without that, none of the other steps will work. Customers have to love your business.
- Give them something in return for spreading the word. More gave a cupcake. If you’re a service provider, give a free 30-minute consultation. Give away a coupon. Can you make your gift visual? If so, you’ve given your customers another way of sharing it: a photo of themselves with your product.
- Get an online presence. More’s clients didn”t have to drag a cupcake all over town telling everyone about it. All they had to do to was take a photo and upload it to Facebook. So if you’ve got a website, great. That’s the hub of your online effort. But websites are rarely social. There’s little about them that encourages sharing. That’s where Facebook comes in. Create a business Facebook page and develop an innovative strategy for it that encourages your clients to share on it. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive: simply create a place where your clients gather and tell the world about how much they love what you do.
Once you create a social media campaign of this sort, the word spreads quickly. Customers review your business online on sites like Yelp. The media picks up on it and writes a review or a story on how creative you’ve been in your marketing. I’ve never been to More or eaten one of their cupcakes, but I’m covering their story. It’s unique, creative, and sweet, for both clients and the owner.