Why Your Retail Brand Needs To Connect With Customers On Facebook

By Bob Phibbs, The Retail Doctor

In a piece entitled The Last of the Facebook Holdouts, ABC News spotlights the people gloating they aren’t on Facebook. It said in part, “the Web 2.0 teetotalers just don’t understand what the fuss is all about and couldn’t be happier on their own. ‘Some of the great joys in life are meeting new people in person and people watching and spending time with my kids and writing,” said David Vicker, a 37-year-old freelance media producer.’”

Such comments miss the point entirely. It isn’t an either, social media is an AND. You can do that AND be part of various social networks. According to a March report from research firm Nielsen, two-thirds of the planet’s Internet population visit social networking or blogging sites. Across the world, activity in “member communities” accounts for one in every 11 minutes spent online, the report said. Chances are good those are your customers as well.

A recent poll by the Gift and Home Channel found:
36% don’t think their customer base is on Facebook
31% don’t know how to get started on Facebook
18% don’t see the value in having a profile for their store on Facebook

Facebook is sort of a party where you invite people to attend.
A Facebook Fan page is a group for people already interested in you. It shares a component of Twitter - the update feature that allows you to tell people what’s going on in your store in real time.

Facebook is used to hold onto your customers who know you. You share collected experiences. You can grow fans until a point when you stop trying or doing anything to draw people who know you to your site.

When I was first becoming established as a retail consultant, I met a little coffee roaster; he had more debt than he had in sales. He had resigned himself to the thought, “It can’t go any lower.” But it wasn’t always that way. He had opened a coffee house in Long Beach, California in 1976 and made it stand out by roasting the green coffee right there in his pecky-cedar clad storefront. Being too far ahead of the curve on gourmet coffee, he could have failed but gradually he thrived.

A Starbucks opened ten blocks from him in 1994 and he said, “I know my customers, they’ll be loyal.” And for awhile they were. Then they started to drift away and sales went down 10% over the previous month for each month. This kept up for years. Mike kept thinking something would change, maybe somehow Starbucks would trip, customers would try them and return eventually but when it really came down to it, his back was against the wall. He could go nowhere else.

When I asked him about his assumptions that he knew his customers, he had to admit, he had been wrong. Mike already had his leverage to force the issue and change how he looked at customers. He was faced with a hemorrhaging P&L statement and saw the consequences of his assumptions.

That’s why I encourage you to let go of all your preconceptions about marketing, sales and how “it used to work.” We are in a new arena these days and it is “change or die.” You can’t proudly cling to the past and be successful in a recession/recovery. It is dangerous when you say you know your customers – especially when you may be wrong. Mike Sheldrake would be the first to tell you that.

Facebook works for businesses that potentially have fans of the business. Usually businesses with events as well but not necessarily.

The Pros: Keep in touch with your very best customers and fans.
Immediate updates for new merchandise, sales, events
The Cons: People who don’t know you probably won’t see you.
Must be reciprocal, people have to accept your invitation to join them.
Doesn’t show up on any search other than Facebook

I like my FaceBook fan page because people are pulling my information rather than me pushing it out to them. Same with LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube. With all the open rates going down on emailed newsletters it is one more way to get to customers who like you to remember you.

The beauty is that you can set up a fan page quickly and for free. One thing is important to know though right now, you need to setup an individual account first to link to the business page. Also easy.

After using it awhile, you might find Facebook may not be right for you but another social media site is (see my post on Twitter.) But shouldn’t you at least try it before deciding your customers aren’t on there, you don’t need it or whatever lame excuse your lazy butt is comfortable repeating?

Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor, has helped thousands of independent businesses compete by using his approach to business and not discounting. He speaks to groups large and small how to grow sales in a friendly, engaging and entertaining manner. His Book, You Can Compete: Double Sales Without Discounting is the backbone of several companies training programs and teaches his methods for making over a business. Download more free tips at http://www.retaildoc.com/ or buy the recording of How To Generate Thousands in Free Publicity. Become a fan on Facebook and follow Bob on Twitter at http://twitter.com/TheRetailDoctor