by Courtney Eckerle
, Manager of Editorial Content
Coming up on his family-owned-and-operated pool and sporting goods store's 60th anniversary, Tom Hesselson, President and Owner, Hesselson's, was looking for a new way to boost store sales beyond the holiday season.
"When people ask me why a small store like ourselves is still around after 60 years with all the big box competition, the answer is that we continue to look for change — things that will make us better," he said.
That philosophy is what drove Hesselson to look into social media for his store, even though he wasn't sure at first if it was right for his customer base.
"I would say that most small businesses, if they're still run by someone in their 50s or 60s, then their kids have let them down if they haven't worked hard to bring them into the current time frame," he said.
Hesselson added, "Now a lot of the 20-somethings that got into all the social media 10 years ago are 30-somethings, and they have their young families. They're ready to jump into the swimming pool market."
Hesselson's doesn't work with ecommerce, but because customers are increasingly spending more time on their computers and tablets, developing a Facebook coupon emerged as a way to reach people outside of the conventional advertising channels of radio, newspaper and television.
The tricky part about social media success, Hesselson said, "regardless of the size of the company, is the quality of the offer," explaining that a lot of smaller businesses are afraid to jump into social media because they're concerned about profit margins.
"You've got to have a reasonable offer … [smaller businesses] are not sure that there's enough room to make a decent enough offer to attract attention and still make money at the same time," he said.
Hesselson decided to see how much a business of his size could benefit from social media by creating a coupon campaign that would be hosted on the store's existing Facebook page and would run for three weeks.
From the success of that first promotion, Hesselson's now produces a weekly Facebook coupon to keep customers checking back.
Hesselson's is a staple in the community, he said, so with this campaign, the goal wasn't so much about branding but about getting the message out about deals and driving customers from their computers into the brick-and-mortar location.
Step #1. Use a significant offer to attract attention
A fear Hesselson said he and other small business owners have is, "I can do a Facebook campaign or promotion, but why are customers going to look at mine when there's a million of them out there? What's going to separate me from everybody else?"
For the first coupon offered on Facebook, he addressed this fear by picking a product that held universal appeal. Rather than offering a swimming pool, a Hesselson's staple that some people may not be able to take advantage of, he chose a coupon that would apply to footwear.
With over 325 different types of footwear in-store, Hesselson knew the offer, $50 off any pair of regularly priced boots at $200 or more, would appeal to many customers — both current and new. To build up an audience, people had to 'Like' the Hesselson's page to redeem the coupon.
"We gave them what we thought was a significant offer, and it turned out that we were right … we wanted to give the Facebook promotion the best chance to succeed," he said.
This was a unique offer for the store. Typically, Hesselson said, they offer between $20 and $30 off products. The offer ran for three weeks, the last week being when Hesselson saw "most of the action."
He chose such a strong offer because he wanted to make sure that if people weren't utilizing the coupon, it wouldn't be because the offer wasn't good enough.
"I wanted that variable taken out of the picture. I wanted to make sure that if it flopped, I knew that it just wasn't the right thing for me to do, not that it was the wrong offer in the right vehicle," he said.
Step #2. Ensure you can track from social media to in-store
Hesselson was concerned about accurately being able to track the success of this campaign, as well as having customers reuse the coupon, so he decided to make it a requirement for customers to print it out.
"I didn't allow them to show the coupon online on their phone because I couldn't keep track of the repeats. So I made them print the coupon and bring the coupon [in]," he said.
Hesselson's has a loyalty program, so having to keep a record of coupons used gave store staff the opportunity to collect customers' information, such as names, addresses, emails and telephone numbers. Also, all coupons
are clearly marked 'Facebook Fan,' so they can be tracked.
Many customers were coming into the store after hearing about the coupon, and store staff members were taught how to direct people to the Hesselson's Facebook page, find the coupon and redeem it.
A good deal is only partially why the Facebook coupon was effective, according to Hesselson. For Hesselson's to be around for another 60 years, the successful elements of the past — such as positive in-store experiences — have to be woven into newer tactics, such as social media.
"It's a unique experience, coming into a place where you see people who have been working here for 20 years or more. My parents sold items to their parents, and now the grandkids are buying from me and three generations," he said.
Social media can be a vehicle for reminding customers of those positive experiences, while giving fans the opportunity to share it with their friends.
"Social media's all about people talking to other people about what they think is a good deal. It's not enough to just come in and buy it yourself … you went home and took a picture of it and posted it and showed it to all your friends saying, 'Look what I got,'" he explained.
Step #3. Build on previous success to develop an audience
The success of the first Facebook coupon convinced Hesselson that "it might be worth something," he said, so they decided to implement a weekly Wednesday Facebook coupon special.
Hesselson's has a large annual tent sale, where "we put big circus tents up on the parking lot. It's a huge success. We do an enormous amount of business. But if we ran a tent sale every single week, it's not a big deal anymore. The reason it's such a big deal is because we only do it once a year," he said.
He worried that if Hesselson's ran a coupon every week, the novelty would wear off, and it would no longer produce significant enough results.
"But, again, it's more about how not every coupon is good for everybody, so if you see one coupon a month that you're happy with … I don't think you can overdo chances for people to save on their purchases," he said.
The goal became more about building reasons for people to come back — both into the store and on the Facebook page, he added.
"If they get into the habit of going back and checking my Facebook page because, on a fairly regular basis, there's a good reason to do that, then I should be able to communicate with them, as well as give them [coupons]," he said.
The other content on Hesselson's Facebook page focuses on educating customers about products the store carries. Hesselson wants the coupon to keep people on the Facebook page so they can keep learning about products, which will also eventually bring them into the store.
"It's all about driving traffic to the brick-and-mortar," he said.
"We definitely hit a different group of people than we hit with TV, radio and newspaper," Hesselson said, adding, "I look at Facebook as the new word of mouth."
The results Hesselson's was able to garner from this campaign were:
- A 23% increase in online-to-offline conversion
- Over $5,500 generated in net store sales
- A 1,100% boost in ROI
Seeing such a large return on a small social media campaign for his store was a shock, Hesselson said.
"It surprised everybody. Who's going to expect that?" he said.
An important aspect of the success of this promotion was going all in for the campaign. Hesselson added, "Don't go into this looking for short-term … Branding is all about knowing that even though you don't see results today, you're building a foundation for tomorrow."
"You can't just do anything halfway … Like I said, you have to keep up with the times — keep changing — and you have to make yourself relevant every day. You can't let people take you for granted," Hesselson concluded.
- Hesselson's Facebook coupon
SourcesHesselson'sG/O Digital Marketing
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