Building The Buzz
Best Practices by Lou Dzierzak, Lkdcom@visi.com
A decade ago, snow sports specialty retailers relied on flyers, print ads and radio commercials to connect with their customer base. Today, while those marketing methods remain important, social media is playing a much larger role in nurturing customer relationships.
Phil Leeds, co-owner of Skinny Skis in Jackson, WY uses Facebook and Twitter for event invitations, sale announcements, product news and providing customers with links to articles and blog posts.
“We love the events feature on Facebook,” explains Kjerstin Klien, Willi’s Ski and Snowboard Shop. Fairfax, VA. We also post pictures of things we are doing and new products we are excited about. We look for questions to answer and problems to solve,”
Since snow sports enthusiasts are likely to be heavy users of social media tools, retailers see the value in building relationships in that environment. “Letting customers “in” to the coolness that is our industry is great. We sell fun, and if our customers can grab a hold of this enthusiasm and be a part of our community than that makes it all worth it,” says Chris Bunch, Alpine Ski Shop, Sterling VA. “We want to provide a quality product and experience to our customers; core skaters and suburban moms alike. Social media provides an outlet to showcase not only what is new in the industry, but also focuses on local customers and how Alpine plays a relevant part in the community.”
Raul Pinto, Satellite Boardshop, Boulder, CO adds, “Some customers are just geeks on product so they want to know ASAP when something new has come in. Social media provides an easy way to keep them plugged into Satellite.”
When used effectively social media can build strong relationships with customers. “People love social media. They feel like they can get the answers they need. They feel listened to, says Klien. “I can’t tell you how surprised people are when they post a question on a forum or Facebook and get an answer right back.”
Already pressed for time with other operational aspects of running a store, is investing in ever-changing social media marketing worth the effort?
“Our customers love to stop in the store and say they saw something on our page,” says Bunch. ”It’s not for everyone. It’s real easy to fall into the trap that all you need is social media. It’s important, but so is actual interaction, and mainstream advertising. We still do radio and print, and those drive sales as well.”
Over time, Pinto has seen results from social media efforts. “We’ve noticed more results in the last year. We’ve learned what works and what doesn’t,” notes Pinto. “There are always new things to try. It’s so easy to get sucked into the buzz and forget about what’s more important. That’s the actual relationships vs. the virtual ones. Our focus is still 110 percent on the person walking through the door. You can never be sure if the consumer coming through the door has found out about you from twitter, Facebook or YouTube. In the end, if you don’t service them well the moment they walk in the door you’ve failed.”
Klien strongly supports that point of view. “Our business is one of relationships. Our customers don’t come to our store because they have to. They come to us because they want to. Part of the success of mom and pop brick and mortar stores is that customers come in because they want to see us. It’s all about authenticity. Social media can really fill cyberspace with blah, blah, blah then here’s the price. Authenticity is the foundation of any good social media program.”
Social Media Examiner, an online social media magazine, is designed to help businesses learn how to best use social media tools like Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn to connect with customers, generate more brand awareness and increase sales. www.socialmediaexaminer.com
Managing a successful snow sports specialty retail store requires expertise in an ever-changing array of business operations. Human resources, event planning, marketing, product selection, social media and e-commerce are just a few examples.
Lou Dzierzak is the editor of Cross Country Skier magazine. A full-time freelance writer, he has covered the business of outdoor recreation for more than 15 years.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.