This is written for the sales associate and the internet BDC team, to alleviate your fears and advise you on the most effective ways you can use social media to prospect and cultivate a solid client base.
In the mid 1990's, I was in the process of expanding the menu of services offered to my clients using every medium available to market my business outside of a nearby potential customer base: Newspapers, magazines (advertorials), billboards, radio, television, direct mail, parades, in house promotional events - the list was endless .
This was not intended to be some brilliant branding strategy - Heck, I didn't even know of the term "branding" at the time. The bottom line was that I enjoyed marketing. For me it was the closest thing to being in the entertainment business - therefore I modeled my professional strategy to mirror this industry.
So naturally when I first became exposed to the internet and its potential for success, I had to get a website for my business. On a tight budget I found someone to build a site for under $1000. One of my closest industry advisers thought I'd lost my mind. He was blind to the benefit of potentially widening my customer base past the small Philadelphia neighborhood. - I knew we were unique and the opportunity to invite a prospective customer and explore the salon without leaving the comfort of their home, sounded like a solid idea.
I understood the fears and desire clients had before entering a salon for the first time, and designed the website in a way to bring those natural defenses down without the restraint of a 30 sec television or radio ad. Original photos were used and a client survey was created to collect valuable data on customers. The success that followed strengthened my bottom line and taught my adviser a few things as well.
To some practicing transparency via the internet is terrifying. There was never fear of negative feedback because we were proactive with our efforts to provide stellar customer service by encouraging all feedback explaining to our customers that we want the opportunity to know what we are doing - right or wrong. When presented with this policy most customers would rather air complaints privately and boast publicly.
Moving ahead to 2006, aside from word of mouth, the website is consistently attracting new clients more than any other marketing tool. Facebook is steadily becoming the social networking hub. This presented me with a free tool that I could manage myself and interact directly with clients.
The height of frustration was getting my staff on board - They either didn't see the effectiveness of this strategy or had fears regarding social media and/or lacked ambition. To date, virtually every dealership has a Facebook page. Hopefully they are using it to its fullest potential and keeping their clients fully engaged. Nonetheless I recommend you take the initiative and start social media networking.