I recently returned from a trip to the USA. During this trip, I saw many fantastic sights and had some amazing experiences. I also had a less than amazing experience on the way home due to the failure of British Airways’ check-in and baggage systems – but that is another story and perhaps another blog post about contingency planning. There is one particular experience from my trip that I wish to share with you here because part way through a conversation with a shop owner, I realised that I was experiencing the physical embodiment of what makes for good social media marketing.
I will explain…
My wife and I were visiting Glacier National Park in the north of the USA – a fantastic wilderness of stunning scenery and wildlife (well worth a visit). We had been on a sightseeing boat trip and having returned a few minutes earlier than expected we decided to pop into a gift shop to kill a bit of time. We had no real desire (or intention) to purchase anything but were simply passing by and thought we would drop in to while away a few minutes before getting some lunch. The conversation that we then had with the shop owner was a perfect example of how to carry out good social media engagement even though this was a real life scenario. It went something like this:
(shop owner dialogue is green, mine is blue and my comments are RED)
On entering the shop we were greeted by a warm and friendly smile from a well-presented lady who looked very relaxed, content and happy to be of service. – FIRST IMPRESSIONS WERE GOOD (IN A SIMILAR WAY TO A GOOD PROFILE PICTURE).
The lady lived up to these first impressions with a friendly opening gambit:
“Hi guys, how are you today?” – USE OF A QUESTION TO IMMEDIATELY ILLICIT A RESPONSE FROM US – ENCOURAGING ENGAGEMENT
“Very good thanks, you?” was my reply.
“Oh, I love your accent! Where are you guys from?” – ANOTHER QUESTION SHOWING INTEREST IN THE POTENTIAL CUSTOMER
“Newcastle, North East England. Do you know it?”
“Not that area but I have been to England a few times, I have relatives in Norfolk. Have you been there?” – A POTENTIAL STUMBLE HERE WITH A CLOSED QUESTION
“Yes we have been to the area a few times but it is quite far (by UK standards) from us and it takes a long time to drive there.”
“So when you say it takes a long time to drive there…?” – SPOTTING AN OPPORTUNITY TO KEEP THE ENGAGEMENT GOING
“Oh I don’t know, maybe 5 or 6 hours depending on traffic”
“Really?! That long? You don’t think of car journeys in England taking that long because it is such a small country. We have to drive everywhere up here, we are used to driving for hours to visit a particular shop or go see friends…”
“Yes but you don’t have the same traffic problems here that we have back home…there are more than 65 million people crammed onto our small island. Driving out here is much easier.”
“Do you have a car here? Have you come far?” – GETTING MORE INFORMATION FROM POTENTIAL CUSTOMER THAT MIGHT LATER INFORM A SALES OPPORTUNITY
“Yes, we have a hire car. We have driven up from Salt Lake City through the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone before arriving here.”
“Oh wow! What a fantastic trip. Where are you heading after this?” – NOTICE AT THIS POINT THAT WE ARE IN A SHOP BUT THERE HAS BEEN NO ATTEMPT TO SELL US ANYTHING BUT SHE HAS ESTABLISHED A RAPPORT WITH US BY NOW, WE FEEL COMFORTABLE IN HER COMPANY AND MORE LIKELY TO ASK HER QUESTIONS.
“We are driving up into Canada after this and then going west to Vancouver before we fly home”
“Oh great! Do you like ice cream?…there is a fantastic place just over the border that makes its own ice cream from buffalo milk. I will show you…” – AT THIS POINT SHE DIGS UNDER THE COUNTER AND BRINGS UP A MAP SHOWING THE BORDER AND CANADA
“Where are you crossing the border? Chief Mountain?”
“OK, that is good because the crossing there is quick, if you went across to the west coast and tried to cross over north of Seattle it takes hours…make sure that you don’t have any food or drink with you when you go the border crossing because you are not allowed to import it to Canada. Have your passport handy and sometimes they will ask you where you are planning on heading and where you are staying so it can speed things up if you have your itinerary and details of the accommodation that you have booked as well.” – VALUE ADDED CONTENT BEING VOLUNTEERED WITHOUT PROMPTING
“Thanks, that is good to know”
At this point, she spins the map around on the counter so that it is facing us. She points out the border crossing and ice cream place, circling them on the map with a pencil.
“Do you know what route you are taking?” – SHE HAS SPOTTED HERE AN OPPORTUNITY TO HELP ME WITH A POTENTIAL PROBLEM
“I was thinking of heading up here and then cutting off this corner to make it across to the Trans Canada Highway,” I say as I point to the map with my finger.
“Yes, you could do that but it won’t be any quicker because they are fixing the bridge here,” she says as she marks the map with her pencil “and if you go up this way you could stop here for lunch … try the apple and blueberry pie it’s fantastic …” she then circles a small town just off the road and writes next to it “great pie”.
The conversation went on like this and I soon realised that this woman was a wealth of useful information regarding travel in the surrounding area so I started to pick her brains a bit and due to her valuable advice we changed the route we had planned on taking.
“You may as well take this, I have drawn all over it now,” she said as she handed over the map” – MORE VALUE ADDED CONTENT GIVEN FOR FREE
“Thanks! That’s very kind of you.” I say.
So at this point, we have been chatting in this lady’s gift shop for several minutes and we have gained lots of valuable information from her. She hasn’t tried to sell us anything or even prompted us to look around her shop but she has been so helpful that we feel obliged to at least look around. We ended up buying several items in her store spending money that we otherwise would not have spent in there all because of how helpful and friendly this lovely lady has been towards us.
We did indeed follow this lady’s advice when we left Glacier. We whisked through the border crossing in a matter of minutes having all the information requested easily to hand and yes, the apple and blueberry pie was excellent!
I was reflecting on this conversation as we drove west along the Trans Canada Highway towards our night stop in Revelstoke and determined that I would write up a blog post about this experience. That night in Revelstoke, we were having a drink in the hotel bar and got talking to a couple who were driving east having just arrived in Vancouver. It turned out that they were following a route not too dissimilar to that which we had driven but in reverse. They planned on stopping in Calgary and then heading south to cross the border into the USA to visit Glacier and Yellowstone National parks…
“Well, in that case, you should go here” I got the map out at this point “the ice cream here is fantastic and the apple and blueberry pie here is amazing…I don’t need this anymore, why don’t you take it?” I handed the map across to them “it was given to me by a lovely lady in the Glacier Park gift shop here, you should go there, it is a great little shop with loads of locally made arts and crafts …”
It wasn’t until the next day that I realised that what I had done was the physical equivalent of re-posting the value added content that the shop owner had provided us. I even added a ‘comment’ and recommended that they visit her shop.
I like to think that the couple heading south took the time to call into the gift shop and spend some money … who knows, maybe they even returned the map.
Do share when you have experienced social media tactics working … on or off line.