I recently wrote an article on LinkedIn that discussed how I turned a struggling business into one of the largest single location camera stores in the country in just 5 years.
How did I do it? By leveraging the power of social media.
For the past 20 years, Unique Photo had been one of the largest distributors of photographic supplies in the US. Our customers were primarily small retail outlets – camera stores, tourist shops, pharmacies, professional photographers, etc. Business was good.
Then, in 2007, everything changed and we were in serious trouble.
There was an insurmountable list of challenges: film was replaced by digital and large stores like Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Amazon made products widely accessible. Margins decreased, new product lifespans decreased, and with them the number of small camera stores and photo-processing labs decreased, too.
Something had to be done, or we would be done.
My solution? Open the Unique Photo Superstore. Yes, we opened a camera store when all the others were going under.
I believed I could build something that had never been seen before. But there were 2 big problems with implementing my ideas: limited time and no budget.
All the odds were stacked against us. We couldn’t outspend Best Buy in advertising, Amazon had huge technological prowess over us and – being a new B2B in the retail business – no one had ever even heard our name.
I decided to give social media a try. It was inexpensive, had a low barrier to entry and I could actually do it myself. I jumped in, learning the techniques of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and how to use email effectively. I even invented a few tricks of my own.
The plan worked – even better than I had imagined.
Within 5 years, we were a highly recognized brand for camera equipment and photography supplies. We became one of the largest single location camera stores in the US and, in 2013, DIR Magazine picked us as the best camera store in the country.
So, what’s the secret to successful social media marketing? Here are 3 examples of the techniques that I used with great effectiveness:
- Interact with Online Customers as the Owner or Executive
There is no better use of your time and position. Getting a response to a Tweet at midnight dazzles the customer, makes them feel special and turns them into brand advocates.
- Comment on Your Company’s Page as You
Customers love seeing a top executive giving insights and engaging with their own brand. It demonstrates that someone authentic, knowledgeable and caring leads the company.
- Connect with Customers on LinkedIn
There is no better way to make the customer feel like they are more than just revenue than with a personal connection. I have gotten orders, complaints, compliments and suggestions from hundreds of customers on LinkedIn.
It all comes down to engagement and having real conversations with your customers. It didn’t require us to have a large team, and we didn’t need to compete with the larger, more established brands by advertising. Instead, we built a strong brand and loyal customer base by reaching out to consumers online.
To read the full article, featured on LinkedIn, click here: How I Used Social Media to Save My Business and Build My Brand.