Building A Virtual Community For Your Offline Customers

Lets face it, the Internet has changed the world and no matter what type of business you have, YOU NEED to figure out how to use it for your company.

I dont think theres a business owner or marketing manager alive who hasnt realized they need to include the Internet in their marketing efforts.

If there does happen to be one or two left out there who still feel the Internet just doesnt work for their business, Im quite sure they are spending their last few days as a relevant business or marketing person.

Since the advent of Web 2.0 all the buzz online is about building community and using the web to engage the visitors who arrive on your website. Well what about companies that need to get people through their doors in order to provide their products or services to them?

Is there still a way for these offline businesses to capitalize on all this web 2.0 stuff? Yes, there is!

Lets take a restaurant for example. There is really no substitute to getting your customers inside your doors so they can experience the atmosphere, the service, and taste the delectable delights that your top notch chef prepares each day.

Although this is correct, there are still ways for you to build an online community with these offline customers.

Think about it

How many times have you wondered what the daily special was on your favorite restaurants menu?

Have you ever found yourself trying to find a new place in town to try but you wanted to find out what other people thought of the menu?

What if your favorite restaurant typically has entertainment in the lounge? Who is performing?

These are just a few different pieces of information a prospective diner might find themselves seeking the answer to. If you happen to own a restaurant, are you giving your customers an easy way to gain access to these answers?

If you are expecting your customers to simply pick up the phone and give you a call you may be missing the boat. In fact, how do you know if they even know your phone number?

Lets just look at the facts

The last time I checked I found that over 80% of the people in the USA have at least one email address. I am quite sure the 20% who dont are probably not in a position to visit your restaurant anyhow!

The following are three steps you can take to begin to build a community for the people who visit your restaurant.

Ask Every Diner for Their Email Address

If you want to improve your chances of gaining this valuable piece of information, you need to make sure you are providing some type of value. Maybe you can offer a 10% discount on their current bill or maybe a free desert. It doesnt need to be a very expensive offering, but it does need to be something that makes it worth them taking the chance that you wont fill their inbox with a bunch of unwanted garbage.

Start a Diners Club (or something named a bit more creatively)

Its a human need for people to belong. Why not give your customers something to belong to? Who wouldnt be thrilled to receive a free meal on their birthday or a dinner for two on their anniversary?

Remember how youve found yourself wondering what specials were being offered at your favorite restaurant? Well if you were a member of their Diners Club and you received an email each week notifying you of those specials you would always be in the know.

What if by joining the Diners Club you had an opportunity to get preferred seating in the quiet part of the restaurant, right in front of the beautiful field stone fireplace?

Be creative! The more creative you are, the more successful youll be at building your community and ultimately your sales!

Send Periodic Emails with Valuable Content DONT SPAM!

If you are sending one email per week with your weekly specials, why not include a great recipe they can try at home? If your Diners Club members are at all like me, theyd rather visit your restaurant and have you make it for them, but theyd be very pleased that you cared enough to give them the option.

You dont have to limit it to recipes either. If your restaurant is known for excellent service, include a series of articles on how to host first class dinner parties in your home. This type of content shows your members that you arent just interested in getting them in your restaurant so you can get their cash. It shows them you care about them as a person, and not just a person with a wallet or purse!

These are just a few steps you can follow to begin to create an online community for your offline customers. If you arent a restaurateur, use this example to explore your brain for similar ideas in your business.

Source: Pete Brand