Gone are the days when the first snowfall brought customers flocking to your doors in search of the latest gear. In today’s ever-connected world, your customers open Instagram rather than a magazine to get the scoop on the latest trends. They shop virtual racks and know the style they want before ever setting foot in the door. Social media has changed the way customers shop, and likewise gear shops should change the way they interact with customers.
So take out your phone and let’s dive into some social media marketing techniques to raise the stoke level for ski season.
If You Aren’t on Social Media, You Don’t Exist
You know your target market, right? I harp on this topic a lot. If you don’t know your target market, you’ve got a lot of homework already. Before you can properly target your customers, you have to know who they are. Who is buying from you? Who do you want to be buying from you? If your answer is typically 60+ year old ski bums that have been coming to your shop for 30 years, you likely don’t need to continue reading this article. For the rest of you, if you aren’t on social media then you basically don’t exist to your customers.
Take Action: Develop a social media plan for your business today. Take a course in social media marketing or hire an expert with experience in the snowsports industry. Don’t give this task to your existing employees. Think about hiring a freelancer who is experienced in both snowsports and social media.
Be Where Your Customers Are
Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Foursquare, Tumblr… Where do you even start? It’s easy to get overwhelmed before you even start with social media. But there is hope. You don’t need to be on all the social media platforms. Instagram and Facebook still reign in the world of action sports retail, so start there. It’s better to rock at a few than slack at many.
Opening a Facebook Page and Instagram account for your gear shop or brand is a great place to start attracting customers. Your customers ‘hang out’ online in those areas, so adding your brand’s presence to the mix puts you at the forefront of their minds. Creating an authentic experience for your customers online gives them an idea of what to expect from you in stores.
If you want to really stand out from the crowd, get on YouTube. YouTube requires more time dedication to create high quality, useful videos, but it also gets some of the best ROI with customers. Tutorials and informative videos such as ‘how to sharpen your skis’ or ‘layering techniques for ski season’ draw in customers who are looking for some good help. If your videos are helpful, they are more likely to come shop with you to get even more knowledge.
Take Action: Create a Facebook Page and Instagram account for your company. Put together a list of things that get you stoked for winter and take inspiration from those for your own content. Identify competitors who are having success on social media and create a list of their accounts to refer to while you brainstorm ideas. List what they are doing well and what their accounts are lacking.
Tell YOUR Story
People connect with people, not with brands. Telling your story to your customers builds a stronger community around your shop. Why did you choose to open shop where you are? Where do you like to shred? Who are your biggest inspirations? Share those stories on your social media and find out how your community can relate.
Get some inspiration from accounts like Trew Gear or Vail Mountain to inspire you to crush your social game.
Take Action: Create a posting schedule that tells the story of your brand from the beginning. Ask yourself questions such as “what did I do today to make my business better?” Tell that story on social media.
Social Media is Inherently Social
Social media is a two-way street, especially for retailers and brands. Just as you wouldn’t welcome a customer into your shop and then not interact until they come to the register, you shouldn’t post a photo or story to your Instagram and then never respond to your comments. Your customers may have questions, comments, or feedback on your social media, so being present on your platforms is important. Respond to every comment that you get. Don’t know what to say? Ask them about their favorite slopes or gear, and follow up with them when they ask questions. Build a reputation of being helpful and fun, true to who you really are.
This is also important for damage control, should you ever need it. If you’re on top of things and can respond to an unhappy customer, you may just turn a bad situation into lifetime loyalty to your shop.
Take Action: Turn on notifications of comments for your business Facebook Page and Instagram account. Dedicate time every day to check your messages and respond to any comments or questions received.
Don’t Sell on Social Media
Does this sound counterintuitive? You’re a business, so your goal should be to sell, right? Not always. Social media is a different animal when it comes to selling. The primary goal of social media is to create a community around your brand, build brand awareness, and help your customers. The Pareto Principle, aka the 80/20 Rule, can be applied to social media as in only 20% of your posts should be to sell your product. The other 80% of your posts should be informative, entertaining, or inspirational. According to Social Media Examiner, the sales percentage may be dwindling as well, meaning that even less of your posts should be sales specific.
This is particularly true in the world of snowsports. When people browse Facebook or Instagram for snowsports, they are generally in search of information or entertainment. Posting pictures, videos, and stories of the local community, mountains, and conditions gives your customers the material they are searching for – then they land on your page as a side effect. Think of your social media as a way to raise the stoke level for winter rather than a sales channel.
Take Action: Show off your products in their natural environment – outside in use. Add weekly condition reports to your content schedule to provide information to your customers.
Bonus Action: Create a fun new hashtag and encourage your customers to tag their photos on the slopes with your hashtag. Make sure the hashtag is not currently being used and is unique to your shop. This gives you content to repost as well as a targeted list of customers who have not only shopped at your store, but also noticed you on social media and taken action.
Using social media doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Make it fun and informative and true to your personality. You know your community best, so take some of these ideas and apply them to see what works for your shop.
–Stephanie Yarbrough, M.B.A, is a business consultant and outdoor enthusiast who enjoys hiking, climbing, skiing, paddle boarding and mountain biking across the various landscapes of the world. After graduating from Texas A&M University, she built her career in business tax before transitioning to business consulting. In 2015, Stephanie and her husband Nate sold most of their belongings and began a nomadic lifestyle and she currently operates her consulting business from the comforts of her Sprinter van while exploring as much of the world as she can possibly fit into her lifetime. Follow their journey on Instagram at @adventure_in_a_backpack and at Youtube.com/c/adventureinabackpackcreative. Lead photo by Nate Yarbrough.
SIA is the trade association of the winter outdoor industry. Through SIA membership, brands, destinations, retailers, service providers and nonprofits solve immediate business problems, adapt to changing pressures, save and grow. #TheBusinessofWinter.