Discover a key trend for business in 2016

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A new year is the time when many of us make changes to our lifestyle.

Diets and vamped-up exercise routines to shake off the extra Christmas pounds, sprucing up the CV for new job applications, getting rid of clutter when we take down the Christmas decorations.

It’s the time of year when we realise just how much stuff we have, and many of us make resolutions to declutter our lives.

It’s no coincidence that author James Wallman’s book Stuffocation has been in the news over the past few days.

Wallman, whose job is to predict social trends, rightly points out how our lives are stuffed to the gills with things, and for some, that can increase stress and anxiety.

Take a look in your garage, spare room, basement, or attic.

One of the book’s main ideas is the growing desire to replace all this stuff with experiences – those which you can buy, and those which you can’t.

For small businesses looking to tap into future trends, a key movement in the next few years is bound to be that replacement of buying stuff with building memories for ourselves and our families.

The “experience economy” is set to grow, and many small and medium enterprises have services or products which fit that trend. The key now is to recognise that, and modify the way you interact with your customers to speak to this desire.

Here’s how you can do that:

Define who your customers are, and what experiences they are seeking

You need to know your customers, what they like and dislike, where you find them on social media, their problems, and how you can solve them.

That knowledge will enable you to look at the language you’re using when you speak to them, the images you choose, and where you post on social media, for example.

If you’re looking to give an eco-friendly experience to people in their twenties, you may well want to use platforms like Snapchat and What’s App, and video broadcast platforms like Periscope. If you’re looking to provide a family-friendly experience, you’re more likely to reach potential customers on mainstream platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Use your Google and Twitter analytics to help define your dream customers. Build a clear picture of them in your mind. When writing copy to appeal to them, use that picture to critique your words and images. What experiences appeal to them? Are they thrill-seekers, or those who crave comfort and nostalgia? What is it about your products or services which fits the bill for them? That should be the focus when you communicate with them.

Use case studies to tell your potential customers what a great experience you can provide

Food, tourism, and leisure businesses are ideally placed to tap into this trend, and sharing the stories of people who have built great memories from your products or services is an effective way of doing that.

A special page for good stories from your customers with their images and video would be a great asset to your business. The best recommendations come from people who are willing to be named and pictured. Dot smaller recommendations from customers throughout your website.

Ask those who have had a great time if they would be willing to be featured on your blog. Their stories, well told and using good images, are effective tools for your small business marketing.

Do you have customers who come back year after year? Ask them why – use their quotes well when you share your blogs on social media.

Make yourself part of existing marketing campaigns which fit the trend

2016 is the “Wales Year of Adventure”. Tourist body Visit Wales is highlighting the country’s attractions which build memories and experiences for visitors, from the culinary delights of Michelin-starred restaurants in Monmouthshire, and street food in Cardiff, to high octane adventure attractions like zip slides over former slate quarries in north Wales, surfing, white water rafting, mountain biking, walking, and bushcraft.

Experiences also include visiting the country’s rich literary heritage sites, spa breaks, and historic attractions like World Heritage site Blaenavon, stunning castles and museums. Visit Wales says adventure “begins when we step outside our normal lives and do something amazing”. Find out more about the campaign here http://www.visitwales.com/

Visit Wales has various ways SMEs can become involved with its campaign – from ensuring their details are posted on the relevant Visit Wales search sites, to copying @visitwales in on tweets and using the hashtag #visitwales, and writing specialist articles for the tourist body.

It has set up a way of working on Flickr which will allow businesses to share images with Visit Wales followers. For more details on the ways businesses can benefit from this campaign click here http://www.visitwales.com/working-with-us

The Visit Wales campaign is just one example – tourist bodies across the UK are an excellent resource when it comes to getting the message out for “experience economy” businesses. Tag them in tweets and on Facebook, share Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook images with them, and most will re-post good images and case studies from your customers. Good reputation for your business builds a good reputation for the area. It’s the kind of virtuous circle which ensures benefits all round.

If there’s nothing suitable in your area, why not start a Twitter hashtag campaign with like-minded local businesses? Perhaps you, as a group of businesses, could also set up your own Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook pages so that you can all share your images and good case studies.

Customer service is key

Nothing sours customer experiences faster than bad service. No amount of blogging or social media posting will cover that up. Selling the dream requires excellent service at source, and good customer relationship management afterwards.

If a customer does have a complaint and posts it on social media, for example, take it seriously, respond to it quickly and politely, and take the discussion off-line as quickly as you can. Don’t enter into arguments online, whatever the pros and cons of their complaint.

On the other hand, if someone compliments you on your customer service, don’t be afraid to share it!

Have a happy, and experience-packed, 2016.

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