Kickstart Your Online Community With Your Offline Customers

by Jim Berkowitz on December 14, 2010

Here’s a synopsis of great post by Lucy Beer (@elementalc), Online Marketing Coach, Strategist & Blogger, Kickstart Your Online Community With Your Offline Customers.  Check out the complete post for more.

Developing a thriving online community is a challenging task for many small businesses. But if you have a business with an offline component – a retail store or physical location, a call center, or any other offline way that you interact with customers and prospects – you can use this to your advantage. Don’t compartmentalize your thinking by trying to build your online community only with people that you reach online.

I suggest focusing efforts at first on bringing your existing (and happy!) customers into the online fold – this can really help build your community, grow your audience and kickstart organic online community growth.

Your strongest opportunities to bring offline clients online are:

  1. At the point of purchase
  2. In your follow-up process

Below are some ideas on ways to bring those customers into your online community. You’ll have to decide which are applicable and important for your business, how you can integrate them into your specific sales cycle, and then train your staff on implementation…

  1. Ask customers how they found you – Start with the basics! Did they ‘google’ for a specific product or phrase? Did they see you on Facebook? Twitter? Getting a sense of how people find you will give you a direction in which to focus your efforts.
  2. Have email sign up lists at the store counter or point of purchase.
  3. Combine contact information with social information to get a complete picture of your customer.
  4. Use location-based services like Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places to offer ‘checking – in’ incentives, and advertise those in your physical location as well as online.
  5. Tell customers about your Facebook Page and what incentive there is for them to “Like” you.
  6. If your business is on Yelp or any similar review site, incentivize customers to go there and leave feedback.
  7. Make customers aware of any online ways that you offer customer service and support such as via Twitter or your Facebook Page.
  8. Create compelling referral incentives through online channels.
  9. Encourage Creativity – Reward customers who get creative with your product, or express their satisfaction creatively by uploading funny pictures, video etc.
  10. Highlight your best customers.
  11. Remind customers of your online communities and incentives when you follow up with them via email or direct mail.

The one comment I would add is: If you only have limited time to put towards building an online community and you expect immediate results, you should probably not even start. Successful communities aren’t built overnight – it takes time, and effort.

{ 3 comments }

Don Revs December 22, 2010 at 5:00 am

A good working idea is that if you business is doing well offline, it may be time to think about having an online presence. essentially as an add on to your bricks and mortar business.
next step: check out the competition.

CRM Consultant December 22, 2010 at 6:45 am

Time and effort indeed. Things tend to start slowly before snow-balling. compound interest is a great example of this to use a financial analogy.

Jasmin December 23, 2010 at 10:45 pm

This is inspiring article. I want to add an idea that may be you can use customer cellphone number as their coupon ID to put-in our online community (and don’t make it public) and give away small give as an incentive.

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