Jan Davis, Advisor, Market Vue Partners

Wine merchant Gary Vaynerchuk says, "At its core, social media requires that business leaders start thinking like small-town shop owners . . . Only the companies that can figure out how to mind their manners in a very old-fashioned way — and do it authentically — are going to have a prayer of competing."

And he’s right! Whether you own a small business or a franchise or even if you are the CMO of a Fortune 500 company with thousands of local outlets, you’re going to be most successful if you build relationships with your customers at each and every location. You build relationships through understanding your local customers and then developing a dialogue with them.

You can start by identifying your customers by name and address. Ask customers if they’d like to be notified of special offers. Run a sweepstakes. Match on-line customers with off-line customers. Take advantage of social media – Facebook, Twitter, even a deal-a-day website. Once you have even a few hundred customers for each location, you can append additional data or join a direct marketing co-op and gain valuable demographic, interest and even cross-shopping data. Analyzing that data gives you a profile of your customers and helps you start the dialogue. It also helps you understand your local market area – are people walking down the block or driving five miles to visit your locations?
Ask questions. Use direct mail or email or a Facebook or Twitter offer to invite them back. Thank them. Reward them for their loyalty and for bringing in new customers. Treat them as valued friends of that particular store or unit or branch.
And to continue growing your business, you use that customer profile to identify non-customers in each locations’ specific market area that look like your best customers for that specific store. And the virtuous cycle continues.

Vaynerchuk story credit: Blogger Rod Kurtz