As the old saying goes, there's no such thing as a free lunch, but there is such a thing as free marketing. If you treat your customers well, they can be your best asset when it comes to spreading the word about your business.
In today's world, people are more likely to value information that comes from their friends and social connections, rather than content that comes from a business. No matter how trendy or on-message your content is, it's still going to come across as advertising.
Here are a few ideas for how to encourage and make the most of user-generated content.
Embrace Social Media
As much as you might want your restaurant or retail store to be a place where people come to escape from the distractions of their phones, the reality is that's just not going to happen for most people. Rather than fighting against it, you can embrace it and reap the benefits that come along with photo sharing on social media.
Create an Instagram-worthy space in your store or restaurant and watch as customers flock to it to take photos. Include instructions for hashtags to use and your business's social accounts to tag and then respond to the photos as they come in.
Take this one step further by offering a free drink or retail item to anyone who takes a photo and posts it with the appropriate tags and hashtags. This is a great way to help build buzz and get people interested in the idea of coming to your establishment.
You can use a point of sale system to track these freebies and begin building customer loyalty in the process.
Yes, it's painful to think that someone will come to your business just to take a photo. But once you have them in the door, you have the opportunity to get them to stay — and hopefully come back again.
Places like the Museum of Ice Cream in San Francisco have seen tremendous success by existing primarily as a social media destination. You don't need to go this far with your business, but it's a good model for what's possible once you break down mental barriers about the role social media should play in your operations.
Make the Most of Reviews
Another place where your customers can help you online is on review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google Reviews. Positive reviews can make or break a new customer's decision to walk through your doors, so you need to take them seriously.
The best way to earn positive reviews is by delivering a top-notch experience to every one of your guests or clients, but there are also ways that you can help the process along. You should never directly solicit positive reviews, but you can incentivize customers to leave a rating or review after they visit your establishment.
Consider offering a discount or other perk for people who review you on a platform. Sure, you'll lose a little revenue in the process, but you'll more than make up for it in positive online clout. The reviews will be authentic because they're coming from your actual customers, rather than from contractors that we've all heard about businesses hiring to write fake reviews.
Use your POS system to link reviews with customers and make tracking perks simple and easy. You can even use it as the beginnings of a customer loyalty program.
Partner with Community Organizations
Local businesses are an essential part of their local communities, and there's an opportunity to leverage those networks to reach a broader audience while supporting some worthwhile causes. You might think this requires money or other donations for a sponsorship, but that's not always the case.
Offer to use your space to host meetings for local groups. It gets people in the door who might not ever come in otherwise, and helps you earn goodwill with them. In return for using the space, you can ask them to tag you on social media or mention your business name in other promotions.
People who attend the meeting or event will likely to recommend your business over a competitor because of that personal connection. Even people who don't attend the meeting will be more inclined to visit your store because they'll know you're doing something good for their organization.
Not only will you gain some more business, but you'll probably also feel a little better mentally and emotionally.
It can be draining to focus on the bottom line day in and day out, and working with a worthy cause might be just what you need to remember that life is about more than just having a profitable business.
Time is Money
Time is the biggest obstacle to implementing any of these strategies. You need to go through social media posts, network with community organizations, and keep track of online reviews.
Epos Now's POS software can help automate things like inventory and employee scheduling so you can spend more time growing your footprint and less time on administrative tasks.
Contact us to learn more about how we can help you find more time for marketing.