Social media strategies boost online sales for small business.
[Carey Aron] I feel like marketing over the last two decades that we've been doing this has really changed. Where it used to be more one-dimensional, like a print ad or an email or going to market or shipping a catalog out. Now there's just more dimensions to reaching your customers.
[voiceover] That’s Carey Aron. She and her husband John are co-owners of The Pasta Shoppe in Nashville, Tennessee. They make pasta. Not just any kind of pasta. Pasta in the shape of footballs, a Thanksgiving turkey and the mascot of your favorite college football team. As John tells it, almost no shape is off limits, no matter how unique.
[John Aron] I think our approach is really a lot of discovery and trying things. Trial and error and then refining things.
[Carey Aron] We've had requests for mattress springs. We've had requests for strange animals. And all kinds of things that people think of either to be funny or to be serious.
[John Aron] If we can find a way to serve our customer, we'll take a chance and then make it better based on the feedback. All of this e-marketing/ecommerce is new. And you have to have an appetite for discovery. And so if you can combine the search and discovery online with a real need in your customer. If you can find a way to make that match, you're going to win.
[voiceover] Winning for the Arons means communicating with their customers in real time and making sure anyone looking for custom pasta can find them online—quickly and easily. It starts with Google and Facebook.
[John Aron] So Google means prospects. And prospects in our door. Facebook means sales and sales feedback. Who's buying? What is their age? What do they want?
[voiceover] Fundraising is a big part of The Pasta Shoppe’s business. By embracing ecommerce and online marketing, the company allows its customers to leverage their own social networks to raise money. John recalls one fundraiser’s story:
[John Aron] We created a custom URL that we thought she was going to automatically email to her group. What she did was post it to her Facebook. We didn't really know that would happen four years ago. Today, we'll do over 30,000 Facebook orders of out-of-town family and friends who are supporting a fundraiser who shop that link and get the credit.
[voiceover] As the Arons’ relationships with their customers have evolved, so have their partnerships with key stakeholders. For example, John and Carey worked closely with their relationship manager, Jane Melrose, to obtain financing for their new website. To get the financing they needed, they had to explain why the website was a fixed sales tool, not a piece of software. The Arons worked with Jane to help communicate this message to the bank. Now, the ecommerce website is a key driver of business success.
[Carey Aron] One thing I love about our relationship with SunTrust is that one, it's been going on for a long time. And they've been so interested, helpful, and really spent time getting to know who we are and what our business is all about. So over a number of years as our business continues to evolve, and we've grown into different sales channels and things. They've really been there right with us every step of the way.
[voiceover] SunTrust relationship manager Jane Melrose has seen The Pasta Shoppe evolve first hand.
[Jane Melrose] I really feel like that I'm not a banker; I'm a relationship person. And that what I do is help bring new ideas. I help bring solutions to problems they're having. What I want to be is that trusted advisor. Where they have an issue or a question or just a concern that they trust me to help them. And that I'm also bringing them solutions ahead of time.
[John Aron] Well, you know, when you think about professional services, for us, it really is the banking relationship. When I talk to my CPA, it's about what's happened. When I talk to my banker, it's about where are we going tomorrow.
[voiceover] Every day brings opportunity for The Pasta Shoppe. Through social media, John and Carey get ideas for new shapes and engage with customers.
[Carey Aron] I think what I love about the feedback we get from our Facebook page is what's fun to see is when people actually post recipes they've made with our product, so we're not asking them to do that. They'll actually take the product, cook it up, take a picture, and send us their results and really share with us. Sometimes I'll post questions out there. We have a weekly contest called Wacky Wednesday. We ask all kinds of questions for people and then we give away some free product.
[Carey Aron] So it's been fun to see that actually there's a dialogue with you and your customers on social media. I really feel like they're a part of our marketing team.
[John Aron] Any time you can engage with your customers in social media, you have an opportunity. Some of those opportunities are not going to pan out, but the ones that do are going to tell you things about your future that you need to learn.
[Carey Aron] I would say the best advice is to start small. If you try to do everything with social media, you'll be overwhelmed. Really find the social media programs that are going to work for you.
Social media strategies boost online sales for small business.
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