How do people find your business if you’re brand new? That’s the dilemma for startups.
Back in the day, it was easy to buy a few “coming soon” ads in the local paper and you were set. Not any more.
However, what today’s social media marketing allows you to do is to build a following – a customer base – even before you open!
Here are 2 examples of startups I worked with who had successful grand openings:
Growler USA – Craft Beer Pub – Opened September 2015 – North Phoenix
Growler USA is a franchise and they did get some help from their parent company with logos, a website and more. George and Melissa, the owners, knew they had to learn how to manage their own social media. While George runs the restaurant, Melissa does the marketing. While they were under construction, Melissa attended the first few classes of my Social Media Marketing Boot Camp, but she couldn’t finish it because she was helping George get everything ready. They hired me to help promote the pub for the grand opening.
Growler USA is unique because it features 100 taps of local craft beers. In fact, one of the “beertenders” coined the phrase “1 Stop Pub Crawl”. I immediately replied, “That’s a hashtag!” So #1StopPubCrawl became the main hashtag including #craftbeer, #brewpub, #100taps, etc.
I set up their social media pages at first with generic pictures that their HQ provided since they weren’t open yet. During their soft opening, I took lots of pictures and created the cover graphic collage they use now.
Pre-building a following on Facebook is hard if you don’t do paid advertising. On Twitter, however, it’s different. I went hunting for people who had #craftbeer in their profiles or tweeted about craft beer and they were local to the Phoenix and Scottsdale areas.
Usually it takes me 30 days to reach 100 followers of hunting and posting daily – about 90 minutes a day. For Growler USA it took me 2 weeks! Seems like the craft beer enthusiasts were eager to learn about yet another brew pub opening up.
I also started following the local craft brewers whose beer they would be serving. Most of them retweeted when I’d mention them in a tweet.
Over on Facebook, I did ‘Like’ the local brewers’ pages with their page as well as “tagging” or “mentioning” the breweries in “coming soon” posts.
At the end of September, their grand opening was indeed grand – jammed packed with people checking out the 100 taps.
Once I built their following, Melissa took over the daily social media management after she finished the boot camp videos.
Note: I’m sad to report that Growler USA is out of business except for a location in TX. That’s one of the risks involved with franchising. If there is bad management at the HQ level, no amount of strategic marketing will help. (I’m sure the COVID pandemic didn’t help either.) It was still a cool concept. Too bad they couldn’t make it work. I’ve contacted my client to see what his story is. He had a great location. Hopefully, he was able to convert it into something else.
Simply Smashing Rage Release Room – “A Safe Place to Lose Control” – Opened November 2017 – Tempe
Steve’s situation was similar, however, his was a totally new concept – Simply Smashing Rage Room. It wasn’t as easy as finding all the craft beer enthusiasts in the area. For his place we needed to create awareness and increase exposure and search engine optimization.
I knew that once he was open, he’d get some TV press coverage. The challenge was when people then Googled “Rage Room Phoenix” or “Anger Room Tempe” or some variation of that, his page would come up.
The other challenge was construction delays. Steve had wanted to open in August of 2017, but wasn’t able to until November. With the first projected opening date in mind, in June, once the website was finished, I started blogging for him daily with articles on how stress is bad for you. At the end of each blog post, I’d have a call-to-action to join their email list to get a special invite to the opening.
Each blog post was shared on social media: Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+, his personal LinkedIn and the company page on LinkedIn. (Notice Instagram isn’t listed because you can’t share links on Instagram, only pictures and videos.)
At the end of June when I was pulling together the monthly report, I was blown away by one post that garnered over 1800 views from Pinterest! My first thought, “There are a lot of stressed-out people on Pinterest!” Who knew? I was posting to Pinterest mostly for the SEO backlink. (Here’s the infamous post.)
In late October, once we had a confirmed opening date, we had only 100 people on the email list. (I think it’s because it’s such a new concept and he wasn’t open yet.)
However, once I set up the grand opening event on Facebook and shared it on the page, which had about 80 likes, Facebook exploded. All of a sudden people started “tagging” friends in the comments below the event and the video promo posts. As soon as the friend was tagged, they got a notification. We saw that on almost every post. We had set the event capacity to 100 and it was full in less than 12 hours! And I hadn’t even sent out the invitation to the email list!
Facebook remains their main source of connecting with current and potential customers. Instagram, once they were open and they could post pictures and videos of people breaking stuff, started driving traffic to the website. Remember, you can’t post links on Instagram posts. They were going to the profile page and clicking on the link there. In the website tracking, we saw an increase in people coming from Instagram.
Furthermore, when someone in the Phoenix area Googles “Rage Room” they come up. In January 2018 they got 2000 visit to the website from the search engines. My strategy worked.
If you want to get found, you have to blog and be active on social media.
Each business is different.
Target markets are different.
With these examples, Twitter, which worked so well for Growler USA in generating a buzz, didn’t work for Simply Smashing. Where Facebook drove most of the interest for Simply Smashing, it didn’t generate so much for Growler USA. (Facebook Update — since this article was first published, Facebook’s algorithm change in March of 2018 has changed how business do organic (non-paid) marketing.)
That is why you need to really understand your target market and do your research as to how best to reach them in today’s digital world. You don’t have to be in all the networks. Moreover, focus your valuable time on the ones that are…
- Driving traffic to your website – and you learn this by checking your analytics monthly.
- Where your target market hangs out the most.
- Where you’re building valuable relationships with potential customers and referral sources.
Those will become your primary networks. Furthermore, you’ll have secondary networks like Pinterest that help with SEO. You need to post there consistently to keep coming up in page 1 of Search Engine Page Results (SERPs).