Monday, August 20, 2012

Making it easy to stay in contact


As I pass the local cafe strip this morning I noticed a recently opened cafe had a for lease sign in the window. It would be unsurprising to me if they have unfortunately gone out of business because to my mind they had missed some very important opportunities to stay in contact with their customers.

To start with, the cafe never had an email address. How many people live via their email these days? I did have cause to contact the cafe about an event I was organizing there and guess what? An email is so much easier than looking up their phone details and they are free! Strike 1.

Next, they never had a web site. Not even a basic one. It isn’t difficult to create a very basic free one page web site with a registered domain. I have created lots of my own special interest web sites using the free Google Sites tool (www.ciaops.org.au if where you’ll find them). They are far from perfect or Web 2.0’ized but guess what? They are up there and they work. They get the message out. Having a web site would have been really handy when the cafe decided to change their opening hours unbeknownst to me until I arrived on the doorstep early one morning for a meeting. I can tell you that I was not please at all that the only way I could find out about this was by coming to the establishment. Strike 2.

I am only assuming here, but surely it isn’t too difficult to get your establishment listed in local Internet guides, coffee sites, etc? This is where I would think that you start attracting a regular audience and community. You make it easy for them to provide feedback, you solicit comments and you reward regular customers. Hell, even a Facebook page is easy to set up these days. I can’t understand why they didn’t make it easy for people to ‘check in’ on Facebook or Four Square. Why? Because the people that do this sort of thing are the influences. They are the people that other look and see what they are doing and then follow. These influencers are connected. They expect the places they frequent to be connected and easy to ‘check in’ to. So, strike 3 and you’re out.

I watched with interest as this local cafe started up. I frequented the establishment in an effort to support a local business but I could see that it was going to struggle without embracing even the simplest of technologies. Just like water and electricity any business needs to embrace technology and explore what can help them retain customers and better engage with them. Surprisingly, much of the technology is free and simply requires a little bit of effort to setup and maintain. It is all about using the best tools for your business and technology is something EVERY business owner needs to have on their tool belt.