Fast Company

Flowtown Extends Reach of Small Business Marketing

Now that brands are becoming more aggressive users to social tools like Twitter and Facebook, there's a danger that consumers will be inundated with marketing messages and unwanted advances. The messages have become "touch points" scheduled by a system; the major brands have many ways to touch a customer--advertising, public relations, direct marketing, telemarketing, and now SCRM. With all that at their disposal, no wonder brands sometimes appear to be stalking consumers. But those are the big brands. What about the smaller ones? The ones that need to build a brand and can't afford to at the same time?

Tom's Tavern, a restaurant in Phoenix Arizona that has been in business for 25 years, is a perfect example of a business that could use social media effectively without stalking customers. Indeed, Tom's opened at the time when marketing was something a restaurant in downtown Phoenix didn't need to do.

But times change, and things got more competitive. About five years ago, I showed the founder how to use Constant Contact to send a monthly newsletter of specials, recipes, changes, and events. His loyal clientele opened that newsletter for the first several years in almost amazing numbers, because they do love the restaurant.

And then the number of opens started to go down. And down. The owner called me recently for a new idea, and I suggested social media. But for small and medium-size businesses, who don't have an entire marketing team (the owner greets the guests, writes and sends the newsletter, and even collects the business cards for the mailing list), email is often the only answer, and they have to make it work.

How does a business like this optimize its email customer list in a way that makes sense? Luckily for Tom's Tavern, this is the summer Flowtown came into my life. I have started using it to market AZEC10, the nonprofit conference I organize annually for entrepreneurs. I easily imported all my contacts and all the previous conference attendee lists. Then I wrote an email, and Flowtown scheduled a campaign for me to find my contacts on Facebook and Twitter (there are other options, too, ).

It scheduled intervals between emails, and gave me choices whether I wanted to reach all my contacts or just Twitter followers with a message appropriate to them and another just for Facebook friends.

The first email, to my Twitter friends, with whom I am VERY engaged, got a 73.6% open rate and a 16.7% click rate, and several registrations. The second, which went to my entire Gmail contact list, and got a dramatically worse response, convinced me that my overall email list (which I never curate) is worthless. That's what small businesses find out every day. But if they use the people on their email list who are also on social networks, they can find the deeper relationships they already have. Or establish those relationships.

Flowtown gave me immediate good information. I had names on my Gmail list like "support at deru.net" (my ISP) and the generic addresses of several mail lists. if you consider uploading Gmail to Flowtown, remember that Gmail saves the email address of everyone you have ever emailed.

Flowtown showed me how to make the most of my email contacts--how to find them elsewhere and deepen my relationship to them. By the time of the conference, I will not only have more ticket sales, but better lists. And metrics. Small businesses often don't have ANY metrics, let alone the comparative metrics Flowtown has given me.

If you are dipping your toe into social marketing, Flowtown might be for you.

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