Attracting new customers -- or keeping the ones you have -- may be one Tweet or Facebook comment away. Or your next big idea to grow your business may come from "connected" consumers. The big question for many small businesses is -- are you engaged in having these conversations with them?
Keeping today's consumers interested in your brand, products, and services is especially difficult for small and mid-size firms that are not only trying to keep up with the Walmarts of the world, but also with technology trends and the growing amount of customer information they are collecting. With mom-and-pop stores, the key goal is to make it easier for them to reach these informed customers and bring them the technologies they need for continued success.
As an example, a family-owned restaurant in Western New York State wanted to improve its operational efficiency and more effectively compete with chains by finding new ways to engage its customers while keeping costs down.
Using new technologies coupled with insights and expertise, the restaurant was able to offer its customers a new level of service -- and to do more with less.
The restaurant moved one step closer to its customers through the use of an interactive social media platform to monitor what customers were Tweeting about regarding their restaurant experiences. While still sitting at his table, a customer might Tweet that his service was slow or his steak overcooked. Four seconds later, the restaurant manager could be at that table to correct any problems.
For small and mid-market businesses, analytics is the key to smarter commerce, enabling them to understand consumers' needs and act on them in real-time.
As another example, a company that owned multiple wineries needed to understand its customers -- and their preferences -- more fully. Its goal was to keep track of which wines were most popular at its wine tastings to ensure that its stores were appropriately stocked -- and to monitor who was buying which wine and when. Business analytics revealed new insights about customer likes and dislikes.
For example, the company couldn't understand why one of its most popular and highly rated wines at its wineries was not moving at all in its retail stores. It turned out to be a simple fix -- people just didn't like the bottle's label.
The evolving dynamic of social media is creating new opportunities that were not previously available to small and mid-size firms. Those who seize these opportunities will be defined as risk takers -- charting a new path and capturing new markets.