This week I had the pleasure of telling my story as an entrepreneur to a class at Atlantic Baptist University here in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. The instructor and her husband are friends who also happen to own my favourite summertime ice cream destination (Ava’s Ice Cream).
Afterward we were chatting about how to use the Internet in hyperlocal cases such as a neighbourhood ice cream shack. It’s tricky because there’s not a lot of value to extract from the Internet for an ice cream stand in a small town so it would be ill-advised to overinvest.
However, there is potential in connecting with your most loyal customers (e.g., with entertaining bits of information). There’s also the potential to offer insider deals to customers via a newsletter or Twitter.
A couple examples:
- Write a twice monthly email containing a piece of interesting ice cream trivia, a call for feedback (e.g., vote for a new flavour), and a chance to win free ice cream.
- Use Twitter to spread "discount phrase of the day" (e.g., first 20 customers to say "bungie" save $0.50 off any cone).
In both cases, have little cards available for customers to take and have a sign up sheet at the stand for the newsletter. Only the most loyal customers will care, but they are also the best customers. If you can get your best 10% of customers to come in twice as often, you’ll notice the difference.
Perhaps most important thing for a local business is to use the Internet to listen. In a small town like Riverview, New Brunswick, it’s not incredibly likely that people are writing about Ava’s Ice Cream shop online, but if they were, the owners would surely want to know what people are saying. For a small business, I suggest starting with Google Alerts as a simple way to be notified if your brand is mentioned online.
Showing Up Online
An interesting aspect of participating online for a hyperlocal business is all the low-hanging fruit. As an example, I did searches for "ice cream in riverview" and "best ice cream in moncton" to see what would show up. The results are not impressive and there’s ample opportunity for a local business to gain some traction. (Remember my caveat: there is not a massive opportunity online for a small town ice cream shop – I’m simply using it as an example.)
After this blog post is picked up by Google and after I drop a note on Twitter, I’m expecting that we’ll see Ava’s Ice Cream in the search results. If you want to play along at home, throw up a blog post or Twitter update and link here.