How A Local Business Taught Me How To Engage Customers Online

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Local businesses have groaned for years under the weight of national giants.  Small retailers curse the big box store when it moves down the street.  Bookstores rail against the online stores.  Insurance agents complain about the budgets of the direct companies with lizard mascots and mega marketing.

How can we compete?  Social media, content marketing, and email strategies equalize the playing field, and even give us little guys an advantage.

Local businesses don’t need national attention.  They only need the obsessive attention of their local market, and these new tools allow such attention because it can magnify the engagement a local business already garners from their small base of customers.

Don’t believe me?

Here’s a story of a local business that is dying and being swamped by national corporations.  Yet, one employee, Adam, decided to quit complaining about the big boys and get creative.  He used these new tools to create demand for his product making it unique and specific to his audience.

Adam is was local sportscaster, and he chronicled his experiment on his own blog including a video of the broadcast which evolved from creative engagement with his customers.

Listen to his insights.

First, he recognizes the realities of his business:  “The local sportscast is dying. The emergence of all-sports channels and catered fan websites has rendered this medium mundane. No opinions, not enough time to delve into details and a complete lack of resources.”

Second, he finds a solution: “So, other than expecting people to turn on their TV at a designated time because they always have…how does the local sportscast attract an audience? Engage them.”

Third, he applies it to his problem: “Last night I tweeted out that I’m starting something called #Sportscast. This week’s theme: Old School Wrestlers. I simply asked for people to tweet me the names of former wrestlers and I’d try to fit them into my sportscast.  Nearly 50 responses later, I had a pool of possibilities. The result is the video…”

Ok, I know we are not in a business as exciting as sportscasting, so you are probably thinking, “Great idea, but how does this apply to me.”

Ask yourself questions?

Who is my audience (or customers)?

What can I do for them that big boys can’t?

What do I uniquely know about them?

Brainstorm with me.

I live in Louisville, KY, and every year we have a big event that you may have heard of—the Kentucky Derby.

Think through questions that people might have about Insurance related to this specific local event that the big boys won’t answer.

  • Do I have coverage to rent my house for Derby week?  (this happens a lot)
  • What if I have a Derby party with lots of mint juleps, should I worry about liability coverage
  • If I am at the track, and someone steals my winning ticket, am I covered?
  • What if someone breaks a car window at the track or steals my ipod out of the car?  Should I pay out of pocket or turn in a claim?
  • What if my business sponsors an event at the track and someone gets hurt, who is liable?

These questions could easily turn into newsletter content, blog posts, tweets, etc., and they are uniquely you.

Or you could get plain silly with social media, and post pictures of agency owners in crazy Derby hats.

At your next agency meeting, think through who your customer is and what are their likes and dislikes.  Find ways to ask and engage them, and create content that demands their attention because it answers their questions and fills a need in their world

(this post originally appeared on the Grow website)

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