Hone Your Listening Skills – SmallBizSat Q&A with Dave Fleet

Small Business Saturday is just around the corner; are you ready yet?  So far, our small business experts have provided some incredible ideas on how to promote your business online. But do you know how your media campaign, brand or service is being perceived by your customers?

Today, we are joined by Dave Fleet (@davefleet), Vice President of Digital for Edelman in Canada, who gives his take on small businesses’ new potential buddy: listening tools. Read on and find out what he has to say about these unique tools and how he thinks one bakery has mastered the Tweet.

Q. If you were working with a local small business owner who’s in the retail space, like a clothing store, a coffee shop, or restaurant, what online  tools would you recommend they use to help market and promote their business?

A. For me, step one for businesses with a physical location like these is ensuring that they’re visible in key location-based tools. Take Google Maps, for example – you want your business to be visible if a potential customer searches for businesses of your type in your area. So, ensuring that each of your locations is represented on Google Places is key. Not just that the location is there, either, but that useful information such as the phone number, opening hours, specific local website (if appropriate) are featured. Lower the barriers to finding information about your business.

Q. If you were working with a local small business owner who’s in the service industry, like a lawyer, realtor, or electrician, what online tools would you recommend they use to help market and promote their business?

A. Broadly speaking, I think listening tools are most businesses’ potential new best friend. Whether you use free tools like Twitter Search or paid tools like Radian6, by listening to online conversations you can gain insights about customer perceptions, identify point-in-time needs, find opportunities for customer service, conduct market research and more. Listening to online conversations is incredibly powerful.

Q. What do you see as the best use-case for running promotions through a social check-in tool like Foursquare? How about a deal site like Groupon?

A. While location-based tools like Foursquare are still emerging, I think they do have potential for small businesses as a low-cost loyalty tool. The idea of rewarding people for repeat purchase is nothing new, and there’s little potential downside to doing things like rewarding the “mayor” of your location with small perks – whether that’s a parking spot close to the store entrance, or a free coffee, or a discount. I think there’s a lot of room for smart businesses to take advantage of this mechanism.

As for Groupon, the primary question for small businesses is whether they can handle the foot traffic that is driven to them when an offer goes live, and whether they can afford the short-term lower margins. For businesses with fixed capacity, there’s a potential risk there. However, there’s a significant potential upside in terms of awareness and customer acquisition if you’re able to deliver a positive experience for people.

Q. What’s your favorite example of a company running an online promotion that drove additional traffic to their physical store(s)?

A. It’s a small example, but I love the example of the bakery that tweets whenever a fresh batch of muffins becomes available. They’re able to see an immediate increase in people coming through the door from surrounding offices whenever that happens. I love this example because it’s so simple, yet effective. You don’t always need to come up with complicated programs to get results.

Q. What’s your favorite social media tool that a small business should use to promote themselves?

A. It’s not a silver bullet, but I love the flexibility that Twitter provides. You can network with other people in your industry; build relationships with customers; spot and address point-in-time needs; run promotional programs and much, much more. The flexibility and real-time opportunities, for me, makes it my favourite tool.

Based in Toronto, Dave Fleet leads a North America-wide team providing integrated social media services within Edelman’s Digital practice, which works with clients including RIM, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Pfizer, Kraft, Labatt and Red Bull. Dave merges an understanding of relationships and community building with expertise in communications to provide a range of integrated communications and social media services for clients. His blog, davefleet.com, is dedicated to exploring the intersection of public relations, social media and marketing.

You can also check out our previous interviews from our Small Business Saturday series to find out some of their useful and valuable marketing tips!

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