Scanning through my feeds today, I came across Beck’s Mixer posted at b5media. Beck’s beer has created a site where you can mix and match tracks (rhythm, bass, atmosphere and hooks), save them, create your own and share them with others. (You can spend a lot of time there, too.)
I thought, Well, that’s cool. It’s well done. It fits Beck’s brand image and community.
But, don’t I wish that something like that is possible for a smaller brand, one with lesser budgets for their customer experience.
And then I thought…well what if a florist allowed you to mix and match your flowers to create a bouquet. What if ProFlowers (maybe they do) created a site that allowed you to create stem-by-stem, flower-by-flower, an arrangement of your own design.
And then share it on their site.
And what if customers, not so blessed with time or creativity, could vote on which one they really liked and then…what if these same customers could buy these arrangements and what if their creators were paid a nominal fee.
Now you have an army of designers, and a community of followers, all talking about THEIR designs and ideas using…YOUR service. Oh. And buying them and telling everyone about them.
That’s buzz. That’s customer engagement. That’s community. Now you’ve got a loyal and dedicated sales force AND designer team.
Ok. Great. I used ProFlowers, a large well-funded company, to illustrate another example of a digital community site which engages the customers in creating their brand experience. And have fun, and share their story and make a little money.
Ok. You’re not. You’re a brick and mortar company in a small town.
Let’s take the same example. What if you allowed your customers to create their own spring bouquet…AND…what if you photographed their creation and shared those photos on a board at your store?
And you included their name and their photo.
What if you named their design to honor them?
And what if you took those photos and put them up on the photo-sharing service called Flickr. It’s free. It’s easy.
And what if you created a blog (Forget that static website. It’s not doing anything anyway.) You uploaded those same photos you posted at Flickr to your blog, every 3-4 days. You wrote a little story to accompany each photo of how that design was created….The post can be a couple hundred words.
Ok. You’re busy. You don’t have the time to: A. learn this digital stuff. (Come on. That’s what you’re saying to your self: digital stuff.) B. Do this digital stuff.
Here’s the solution: Hire a high school student to intern and handle this digital stuff for you.
Here, in my rural community, it’s expected that high school students intern at local businesses as a graduation requirement. Oh. And they do this for class not for pay. (And no, I’ve not done it yet. Why? I’d never organized that data with a plan. And the high school is…well, I watch their marching band and football team practice from my house every day.)
The theme is the same with the bricks and mortar flower shop as the global brand and its digital site. It’s just more expensive with the global brand and its digital site.
Oh, and the community of users at the global digital brand remain a lot more anonymous. They’re known by ‘user names’; not real names.
And there is your HUGE advantage. Your customers aren’t anonymous. A personal relationship exists. You know them by THEIR…REAL…name, not user-name, and you know them by face. You know how their day is going just by their posture when they walk in your store.
It’s the connection the large global brands obsessively seek. And there you have it as part of your normal day. And all it costs is the time it takes to smile and say their name in greeting.
Hey Becky! Hey John. Hey TallDude. Hey Paul Chaney!
Bottomline. (What is the bottomline?) The bottomline is as a small business in a small town you have what the global brands lust for, pay a lot of money for to, in-effect… fake. And that’s a personal connection that’s created, a REAL community that’s created, all from your daily and personal 1-to-1 experiences, where you’re able to make a personal difference with very little expense: smile and say their name when they walk in your store. ( You can do more. But that’s where it starts.)
And now, with some free or inexpensive digital media, digital stuff, (Flickr, blogger ) and a high school or college intern, you can expand on your community without losing its foundation: the personal connections.
Chop-Chop. What, or who, are you waiting for?
Ok. That could come across in writing as obnoxious. But…there’s nothing holding you back except that first step you haven’t taken. So, take it. Have fun. Show me the photos of your friends and customers.
Paul Chaney says
Make sure Seth sees this post, because it’s one that he’d certainly have an interest in. Great idea Zane and love the way you tailored it to small biz use.
Becky McCray says
Thanks, Paul, and welcome! I’ve already told Zane he needs to expand this out into a book!
Klaus Holzapfel says
This article is right on. Nice community building strategy. Unfortunately it is still a bit of a hidden secret that a ton of highly interactive “stuff” can created for pennies on the dollar these days.
I actually love the opportunity to really wow customers these days and give them their true moneys worth. Some guys are still a bit shy in asking because they thing everything is so expensive. But the playing field is fairly level these days.
Becky McCray says
Klaus, thank you! I like thinking of this as a chance to really wow customers. You’re right that small business people still need to know lots more about what is available to them right now.
Great article. Might be worth checking out what Orbius is doing to enable community building for small and medium-sized organizations.
Shawn K says
Inspiring post now I just need to leverage it with my skill set.