Recently, during a holiday in Australia, my girlfriend and I were walking down the main street of Bellingen, a sleepy and beautful town in New South Wales, when a burly bearded man in an apron approached us to ask if we were looking to eat on that particular evening. We weren’t as we had planned to eat back at our rather cosy campervan and were more in the mood for a coffee if anything. However, I asked what was on the menu and he was excited and passionate to tell us about the menu. He additionally latched onto our desire to have a coffee and claimed to have the ‘best coffee in town’ but also backed up his words in action by offering the coffees on the house if we didn’t agree that they were great.
He got us with this offer and so he guided us past the competing cafes to his clearly very new business and sat us down. The lattes came shortly after and they were as good as he suggested but rather than pay up when he came to get the bill, we decided to stay and have a 2 course meal. His eyes visibly lit up and willingly told us about a couple of the dishes that he had forgot to tell us about beforehand.
The meal was great, made with very fresh ingredients and the whole experience got me thinking about how a simple bit of effort to engage, listen, and action with potential customers led this guy to have two satisfied customers and a reasonable tip on top of the bill.
The concept of Social Media of course is not at all that different…
The owner was engaging with potential customers by conversing on the street corner away from his shop front as that is where the people were passing and presented the greatest opportunity – remember, we weren’t even looking to have a coffee initially. Not too dissimilar from the way that social media has allowed businesses to engage in conversation away from the corporate website. Taking active part in conversational hot spots around the web could equally present greater opportunity than simply focusing on the dated strategy of getting visitors to the corporate site.
The conversation with the owner allowed him to listen to what we wanted and make a proposal that was appropriate and personalised to our desire for coffee. Again, social media presents a tremendous opportunity for companies to listen. This is very much understated and misunderstood as many see the new set of social tools as a new channel to promote within. A certain amount of self promotion is ok but it is important to have context and be able to back things up (i.e. “We have the best coffee in town. If you don’t agree, you don’t pay”) but to listen is where the value truly is.
In the end, we were so satisfied with the service and the product that it led to a greater income than two coffees (which he put on the house in the end anyhow). Had we popped by and decided to try a coffee without the effort of the owner’s engagement, would we have stayed for our 2 courses? Who’s to say, but it is clear that passionate engagenment in this way, comparible to what a social media strategy should be formed of, definitely contributed to us having a pleasant evening that was much better than either of us had expected.