Why are Mom and Pop businesses so popular? What makes them almost iconic in cities, towns and neighborhoods all over the world?
Our local hardware store is wonderful. It has been in the center of town for years. When you need to replace that screw that broke you just take it with you to the store. When you walk in the front door you are welcomed by the bells hanging from the door. The owner or one of his associates is behind the counter waiting to greet you and help you find the part you need. That personal, immediate assistance is priceless. Yes I may have to pay a cent or two more for the screw I need but they will measure, double check it is correct and make sure I am happy with the purchase. Excellent!
If a Mom and Pop small business can satisfy a customer so completely, why do they need to fool with marketing through social media? How will that help them? Manish Mehta so elegantly wrote about this in his article Isn’t the Value of Social Media What Business Is All About?.
The “Mom and Pop” businesses in our neighborhoods have always followed sound and pragmatic business practices, rooted in developing, maintaining and strengthening relationships with customers. The customers and the businesses valued those relationships because “Mom and Pop” offered convenience. They listened to their customers and used their suggestions to improve the business. They provided great service and found ways to thank their clientele. Social media is really nothing more than the simple application of these business practices in a digital form.
Social media is a wonderful way to get feedback from your customers about what they want from your business. The New York Times had an article on July 22, 2009 about Curtis Kimball. Curtis is a small business owner hawking his crme brle from a cart in San Francisco. The article reads
Three weeks after Curtis Kimball opened his crme brle cart in San Francisco, he noticed a stranger among the friends in line for his desserts. How had the man discovered the cart? He had read about it on Twitter. For Mr. Kimball, who conceded that he hadn’t really understood the purpose of Twitter, the beauty of digital word-of-mouth marketing was immediately clear. He signed up for an account and has more than 5,400 followers who wait for him to post the current location of his itinerant cart and list the flavors of the day, like lavender and orange creamsicle.
I would love to say that I just had a really good idea and strategy, but Twitter has been pretty essential to my success, he said. He has quit his day job as a carpenter to keep up with the demand.
Social media marketing allows small business owners to connect with their target market inexpensively. It is a continuance of a service-based industry. Although the cost of social media marketing is free you will have to commit to spending time creating a profile, finding your target market and maintaining your information.
A Sample Small Business Social Media Plan
I have a friend who owns a small business servicing appliances. I have recommended that he grow his service-based business by establishing a website or blog. He could use this to provide scheduling to online customers, provide tips to keep appliances running smoothly or links to order supplies. He could also use it to remind customers to service certain appliances on a yearly basis.
This business owner runs a customer-friendly business. He knows how to perform the work and his customers are happy with his service. I believe adding a website or blog would be that extra step needed to draw in a clientele who is looking for the convenience of being able to schedule an appointment online or find out where to order the replacement filter for their air conditioning unit. He could establish a Facebook page so his pleased customers can brag about what an awesome job he does. He could tweet to everyone on a really cold winter night to make sure the heat tape is on so the pipes don’t freeze. His LinkedIn profile could provide access for others to recommend his service.
Torben Ricks writes in his December 13, 2009 blog post The emergence of social media simply makes it more possible [for Mom and Pop businesses] to connect directly with customers every day. I believe that the local small business will have to incorporate some social media strategy into their marketing plan in order to complete in an every changing, competitive marketplace.
Recently on my Facebook Fan Page I poised the question Why should a mom and pop small service-oriented business develop a social media strategy. Kenda Morrison responded with these 5 tasty tidbits.
Engagement – Social Media affords the opportunity to ‘be there” when the client/potential client is seeking information. You can begin conversations and thus relationships BEFORE they ever walk through your brick and mortar door!
The long-term return on Investment – both time and money!
Consistency. Too often, Mom and Pop’s market inconsistently due mainly to budget constraints. Implementing a Social Media Campaign will afford you the consistency needed to turn potential customers into customers and yes, even occasional customers into frequent purchasers.
Right now – the opportunity is huge for Mom and Pop’s. The majority have not realized the true value of Social Media. NOW is the time!
My challenge to you is choose one social media tool. Keep it simple and decide who your target audience is. How do you want to engage them? How much time can you spend? Be consistent. Give something to your target audience that they want. Don’t take…GIVE! It will pay off with faithful, happy customers!