5 Rules To Turn Your Local Business Into A ‘Social’ Business

Before I dive in and give you some juicy, usable ideas for winning new customers and growing your business through social channels I want to get something straight. When I say ‘social’ business, I don’t mean social enterprise or non-profit businesses.

What I mean by ‘social’ is making your business a talking point. It’s about how you can make your business interesting enough so that people want to talk about it and share ‘stories’ of your business with their friends and colleagues.

Social Media vs. Social PR

Also I’m not just talking about Social Media and how to use Facebook, Twitter, Google+ etc… These channels are part of a much bigger, powerful opportunity - ‘Social PR’.

‘Social PR’ encapsulates how people, not newspapers or local radio stations, are now responsible for promoting and marketing your business:

  • Your customers buy from you, they ‘experience’ your business and they share those experiences with their friends and contacts. Through their online networks their ‘stories’ spread far and spread quickly, reaching hundreds of potential customers who would never have heard of your business through traditional means. It’s super-charged word-of-mouth.

PR Is Dead. Long live Social PR!!

In the past it was businesses who controlled the ‘stories‘ that were spread about their products and services. Now that power lies with us:  the consumers.

How PR used to work

Social PR - Image 1 - How PR used to work

How Social PR works today

Social PR - Image 2 - How PR is now

The Curse of Mediocrity

‘Mediocrity’, hmmm…sounds like the name of forgettable character from an ancient Greek tragedy that no one really remembers.

The same curse befalls a business who is neither great nor terrible, but just average. No one talks about you and few will remember you.

In the world of Social PR, no one shares stories about average experiences. Their tweets and Facebook posts are either about something they love or something they hate. Positive publicity is what you’re after, but even a negative story creates a buzz and gives a business something to react and respond to. No news is not good news.

Making Your Business ‘Remarkable’Stand out by being unique and doing things differently

Even the most mundane, boring businesses can become talking points. It just takes creativity, desire and a little courage.

In his book ‘Purple Cow’, Seth Godin (renowned marketing thinker, best selling author and entrepreneur) says that the key to successful marketing is to make your business ‘Remarkable’.

What he means is that you need to focus on making your business standout from the crowd so that people want to talk about you. It’s not about gimmicky or expensive marketing; it’s about doing things differently and surprising people with the positive way you do business.

Here are 5 tips for making your business remarkable and getting people talking. I’ll back-up the theory with some practical applications of these ideas for businesses that you don’t typically think of as ‘remarkable’.

1. Do The Unexpected – Surprise, Don’t Shock

Don’t allow your business to be an ‘also-ran’ and fade into the background. Find a way to deliver something above and beyond what people expect. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or strange, just surprising. Your customers should say ‘I really didn’t expect them to do that, but I love it!’

Example: Commercial Cleaner

Commercial cleaners clean offices and premises late at night when employees have gone home. Their work is rarely witnessed or praised by the office workers who benefit. But what if the cleaner was to do something a little different to leave their mark. What if a cleaner left a foiled wrapped chocolate resting on your keyboard so when you get to work the next day there’s a treat waiting – that’s a nice way to start the day, right?

Or each cleaner could be issued with a sticker with their name, photo & message on it – ‘Have an excellent day!’ They could leave a sticker on every desk they clean which reminds the office workers that someone is there at night, working hard for them, and that person has a name. It humanizes an otherwise faceless business.

2. ‘Going The Extra Mile’ = Business As Usual

Treat customers with a level of service that they just don’t expect, and act like it’s normal for you to do this. ‘That’s just the kind of business we are!’

Going the extra nile - plumbers with cakes

image courtesy of Clever Cupcakes: http://www.clevercupcakes.com/

Example: Plumber/Handyman

When a customer calls you out to their home to do a job, don’t go empty handed.

Take them a muffin or cupcakes as a treat. You should act as if you’re a guest in their house; guests are courteous and they bring gifts. It only costs you $0.50 a time to do this and you can bet they’ll remember the next time their faucet breaks they should call the guys with the cakes!

3. Be Bold Not Boring

Everything you do is a marketing opportunity and you need to make the most of it. Look at the assets you have from your store front to your branded plastic bags. Do they make people stop and look? Do your customers say ‘hey, great bag, that’s really cool!’

If they don’t, then you’re not doing enough to make your business memorable.

Example: Dry Cleaners

All dry cleaners use the same sort of polythene bags to protect customers’ clothes, and every customer carries this bag down the street in full public view.

Yet every bag from every dry cleaner looks identical – transparent with a logo stuck on it. What a great opportunity to stand out and get noticed. Why not switch colors and go for a glaring bright pink bag, or be bold and get some daring designs printed with people in their underwear (funny & relevant).

4. Work Doesn’t Have To Be Just About Work

You want to make your place of work more than just where you work. It should be a social place that people like to come to and has real character. Customers respond to the genuine, personal approach so get out from behind the counter and show them your fun side.

Example: Optician

You want to build up a relationship with your customers so they both trust you and like you.

Why not use your empty store at night for a wine tasting event. Invite your customers in for an evening of fine wines and run it in conjunction with a local wine merchant – they provide the wine and advice, you offer a free & fun evening for your customers. And again, be playful with it – call it ‘Glasses half empty’.

5. Reward Loyalty With REAL Rewards

Rewarding loyalty is an obvious thing to do, but don’t do the typical thing of offering customers more of the same. You want to extend your relationship beyond your store so that customers really remember you and appreciate you.

Example: Dry Cleaner

Create a loyalty scheme which rewards customers for every 10th visit they make to your business. But don’t offer them 1 free clean – that’s so predictable!

Again, team up with a friendly local business, maybe a restaurant or a salon and offer a free lunch or beauty treatment (good lead generation for that business). Then when that customer is enjoying their free lunch or getting pampered they’ll think of you.

Create Positive Experiences NOT Adverts

The more positive experiences you can create for your customers the greater the impact of Social PR on your business. These experiences become stories and these stories get shared which drives new customers to your door, and keeps existing customers coming back. All this and you didn’t have to spend a cent on advertising.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Local Search Column


About The Author: is Founder & CEO of BrightLocal.com. BrightLocal provides local SEO tools for local businesses; see their research section for the latest findings about the local search market.

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  • http://www.reelseo.com/about/grant Grant Crowell

    Thanks for posting this, Myles. There’s a lot more to a social business than just PR, so it probably would have been better for the editor to have titled your article around a Social PR strategy. I also think that the customer care cycle should include listening to the existing conversations and talking with consumers, rather than just waiting for all the responses to come in. But I get what you’re saying and agree that what we consider to be “social” today really should be more than just the minimum ante of showing up; it needs to include and integrate customer care, and have a commitment to genuine person-to-person engagement that we don’t just expect our audiences and customers as “fans” to do all the activity for us. Otherwise, we’re not really being “social!”

  • http://www.vampyr.se Markus Pettersson

    Good and concise. Isn’t it fun to work in PR nowadays? But (there always isone, huh?) – we must stop confusing traditional PR with media relations, which is only a small part of it. Don’t simplify and downgrade a field that also includes lobbying, customer relations, investor relations, public affairs, speech writing etc.

  • http://gonemtb.wordpress.com/ Steve Bryant

    Some great ideas but unfortunately most cases in the real world are about cost cutting and not paying wherever possible. I may sound very jaded but would still like a plumber or electrician or handyman to try the muffin idea. My plumber/electrician friends biggest complaint is not getting paid for work he has just completed and I doubt any number of muffins will change that.

  • http://www.brightlocal.com Myles Anderson

    Thanks guys – all good comments.

    @Steve – i appreciate that local businesses have plenty of issues and it’s never plain sailing. But i think there’s a lot to be said about making an impression and establishing a rapport/relationship with each client – it can really help when chasing down the money.


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