There may be hope this Small Business Saturday if local businesses implement the right strategy, products (a singular focus), and customer service.
Local bookstores are reportedly “booming,” according to a CBS News column published on Nov. 23, 2018, Black Friday.
The success can be traced to a singular focus – books – specialization, and customer service in local communities.
Also on Friday, a report from newser.com announced a Toys R Us resurrection, with pop-up shops just in time for the holiday season. Even Geoffrey, the chain’s giraffe mascot, is making a comeback, after calling it quits earlier this year.
I’m confident Toys R Us, and other retailers on the brink of collapse, can still survive in this market.
Nostalgia can only take the store so far. It will take a narrowing of the products and services, hopefully shedding Babys R Us and other spin-off stores.
But for many brands, going back to the basics is a great place to start.
Follow Eric on Twitter @ericzimmett for continuing coverage
Facebook introduced Suggested Likes. Anyone else notice this?
Upon Liking a post or a page in the Newsfeed, Facebook now appears to be suggesting other similar pages. Another opportunity for advertising, too.
In marketing school it’s taught that the purpose of a business is to create a customer. One new way has emerged in recent years to specifically identify new customers, or at least those who opt to check-in.
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on StateCollege.com in Tech Talk, a biweekly column by Eric Zimmett. Click here to view the original column.
Location-based services (LBS) allow users to check-in at businesses via smartphone and share their location with other users, in addition to posting photos, comments or reviews.
According to the annual Mobile Life study, published this week by research group TNS, there are six billion mobile users in the world. Among them, one fifth (19 percent) are already using LBS. They’re already “checking in.” And three times that number (62 percent) is planning to do so in the future, according to the same report, available at www.tnsglobal.com/mobilelife.
The most publicized of these LBS is Foursquare. Foursquare was founded in 2009 by Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadura.
Prior to Foursquare, Crowley co-founded a similar service called Dodgeball, which was acquired by Google in 2005. Four years later, Google shut it down and replaced it with Google Latitude.
There are a reported 20 million Foursquare users – up from eight million just one year ago – according to a Foursquare report released on April 16, 2012, a social media holiday also known as Foursquare Day. Foursquare’s growth is a reflection of not only the company’s success but the adoption of smartphones and our increasingly mobile-tech lifestyles.
Foursquare, which is free for both users and merchants, is now one of many LBS including Facebook’s own check-in feature – a 2011 revamp of Facebook Places – which allows users to tag a location in any update or post.
Four steps to Foursquare for the user
- Check in
- Get Points and Badges
- Become Mayor
- Get Rewarded
After signing up for Foursquare, and downloading the free application for smartphones, users are ready to check in. This is done by simply launching the Foursquare application and viewing the Places around you. Foursquare determines a user’s location based on the smartphone’s built-in GPS.
For those thinking Foursquare is a bit too personal, keep in mind that the check-in is a manual process. Users decide when and where to check in.
When checking in, users can add comments, tips or photos for a given location. If a business isn’t in the Foursquare system, users can add it themselves.
As I noted in my April 1 column – 5 Things Small Business Owners Should Be Doing –Foursquare is mostly user-generated. Users check-in on their own; unlock specials that merchants have created and compete with friends on their Leaderboards.
By checking in, users receive points and badges based on where, when and how often they check in. The Mayor often receives the largest reward. All rewards are set by the merchant.
A user becomes “Mayor” if he or she checks in more frequently at a location than other Foursquare users in a 60-day period. And can be ousted as mayor if someone checks in more frequently.
When a special has been unlocked, a clear message will display on the user’s smartphone screen notifying him or her of the accomplishment. To get rewarded, the user must then show the screen to the merchant to receive the unlocked special.
Four steps to Foursquare for the merchant
- Claim your venue
- Get your stickers
- Create a special
- Track its success
Merchants can create a venue or, if it’s already been created, search for it then claim it. Once you’ve found your venue on Foursquare’s website, click the link to let Foursquare know that you manage the venue. (Foursquare also makes it easy for merchants with multiple locations.)
After a few quick confirmation steps, you’ll be ready to use Foursquare for business.
Foursquare will verify that you’re the business owner by providing you with a verification code by phone or mail.
If the information for your business listing is incorrect, you’ll be able to edit it and continue claiming the venue. In many cases, Foursquare users create venues with incorrect or missing information.
Once a venue has been claimed, Foursquare will send you a Foursquare sticker. A window-cling that reads: “Foursquare Check-In Here. Check in to unlock specials, meet up with friends and explore what’s nearby.”
Creating a special: Foursquare allows merchants to create specials for Foursquare users to unlock and redeem. Specials like a discount with a minimum purchase (spend $25, get $5 off); a free offer (check in and get a free gift); specials for return visits (free coffee on your fifth visit); or specials for achieving Mayor status. Foursquare has a group of specials at your disposal and a step-by-step guide for creating them.
Once you’ve completed the above steps to claim your venue, and created a special, it would be a good idea to notify all of your staff of Foursquare and the special you’ve offered. Foursquare makes this easy, too, with informational Employee Flyers for your staff.
Track the success: You’ll have access to real-time Foursquare analytics showing the total number of check-ins; most recent visitors; most frequent visitors; a demographic breakdown; activity across other social networks; as well as the success of any specials being offered.
And it’s all free. Get started at http://foursquare.com/businesses.
Thanks for checking in
With Facebook and photo-applications like Path and Instagram all incorporating location features, other services are following Foursquare’s lead.
This results in customer activity that’s happening as close to the register as it gets.
Location-based services are attracting users at an unprecedented rate. Businesses would be smart to jump on the location-bandwagon now before their next would-be customer checks in across the street.
Editor’s Note: Eric Zimmett is a tech writer and small business consultant who works at StateCollege.com assisting businesses with how to navigate today’s difficult marketing and advertising landscape.
In his inaugural tech column for StateCollege.com, Eric Zimmett gives you five things small business owners should be doing. His “Tech Talk” column appears biweekly on StateCollege.com.
5. Social Media
Social Media is a great space to interact with customers on a variety of fun, engaging platforms.
Use social media as a conversation with your customers – to strengthen existing relationships, build new ones and give a little taste of your personality as a business owner.
Today, your customers will expect you to be using social media. Participate: launch a Facebook Page; use Twitter, Foursquare or Pinterest. Engage and interact with your audience.
Facebook is an excellent hub for conversations, news, comments, contests and photos. Facebook also offers a small-business advertising program. A good Facebook Page requires quality content and regular frequency. Update your Facebook Page every day and respond to comments and questions promptly.
Facebook rolled out its new Timeline layout to all brand pages Friday. Read more about the new brand pages at facebook.com/about/pages. Not on Facebook Pages? Get started at facebook.com/pages/create.php
Twitter announced last week, on its sixth birthday, that it has reached 140 million users (in tune with its 140-character limit). The micro-blogging platform serves as a way to alert followers of news, specials, changes or insight into the company.
Foursquare is a mobile application that rewards customers for visiting your business. Reward check-ins with a special discount or offer. Or award your most frequent customer – which Foursquare dubs Mayor – with the highest prize.
Foursquare requires minimal effort to keep going. Unlike Facebook Pages and Twitter profiles, Foursquare is user-generated. Users check-in on their own. Users unlock specials that you’ve created and compete with friends on their Leaderboard.
Is your business already on there? Claim your venue at foursquare.com/business.
Pinterest is a pin-board for interests. Launched just two years ago the site has already eclipsed 11 million users, according to a January report by comScore, becoming the fastest site in history to reach the 10-million mark. Businesses have found recent success on Pinterest by interacting with users and sharing company photos and/or products. The best part of Pinterest is the ease of sending visitors from a Pin to your website or product page, especially when it comes to e-commerce.
A blog is a great way to share your expertise in your field, to brand yourself as an expert.
It’s also a great way to stay on top of trends, new information and be connected with your industry. Start a blog and stick to a regular schedule to keep your posts fresh and relevant.
Three leading blog services are WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr.
Keep your content focused. Don’t sell your business on your blog; that will happen organically after you’ve branded yourself as an expert in your industry.
The best part about YouTube – other than those funny cat videos – is that you can build your own online TV network free of charge.
Build a YouTube Channel and either link to videos in your industry (Informational Videos or How-To videos) or record them yourself. Creating the videos on your own allows the viewer to get to know your business.
A new feature introduced last week by YouTube allows for simplified video editing, making it even easier to get started with your own channel.
2. Get on the Street
Slow business day? Well don’t just sit there, hit the streets! Talk with your customers one-on-one. Offer samples, coupons, or ask questions. What better a way to get customer feedback than talking directly to them? Thinking of implementing a new menu item? Or changing your store layout? Ask people on the street. Some won’t want to talk to you. Focus on the ones who do.
Put your face in front of the business. Then your customers aren’t just shopping at the store on the corner, they’re shopping at your store on the corner: Bill’s office supplies, John’s book store, Wendy’s coffee shop. They’ll connect with your business on a more personal level.
Advertising isn’t just for national brands. Local businesses need it more than anyone. It isn’t enough to just open your doors and hope people come in. Advertising builds companies. It informs, sometimes entertains, and reminds customers that you’re there, and that you have the products they want and the expertise to service them.
Believe it or not, it’s possible to generate word-of-mouth. It’s called advertising. When you advertise your business, and advertise the same message often enough, you’re using word-of-mouth to build buzz about your business.
Search-engine marketing is an online super-highway where you can connect with customers who are searching for your products and/or services. Make sure your website is well optimized and contains information – skip on the fluff – that best portrays your business.
If you don’t know how to build an effective website or make it search-engine friendly, find someone who does. Being visible when customers are searching for you is an important step in acquiring new customers.
What are you waiting for?!
So get out there and talk with your customers; whether it’s in person, in the ads or on your blog. Be friendly. Be yourself. Have fun. Interaction is key. Show people how much you love your business. Because if you do it well enough, they will too.