Constant Contact CEO Offers Advice on Winning in a Socially Connected World

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If anyone understands how to connect with customers online, it’s the chief executive of an e-mail marketing company. In her new book Engagement Marketing: How Small Business Wins in a Socially Connected World (Wiley), Constant Contact President and CEO Gail F. Goodman explains how and why companies should consider online tools an essential part of maintaining and strengthening relationships with customers.

In an interview with Bookselling This Week, Goodman expands on some of the topics she addresses in Engagement Marketing and explains how bookstores in particular can put her advice into practice.

BTW: If you could require every small business to include one thing in its marketing plan, what would that be?

Gail Goodman: The most important thing a small business needs is a method for keeping in contact with customers. Out of sight is out of mind. A customer forgets about your business literally minutes after the transaction. It’s up to you to ask if you can keep in touch — and then do so through social media, an e-newsletter, or even direct mail.

BTW: Many booksellers see the relationships within their physical community as more important and more effective than online relationships. How can they draw connections between online and offline engagement?

Goodman: Again, don’t be afraid to ask. If someone has just had a fantastic experience in your store, chances are they will be happy to connect with you online. Start by asking them to sign up for your e-newsletter right in your store — either through an iPad or smartphone, or just by signing up on a list that you keep by your register. You can further the connection by reminding them in your e-newsletter to Like you on Facebook.

You could also have signage right in your store that tells people they’ll receive notices of in-store events or special discounts if they Like your Facebook page. Once they engage with you online, offer reasons online for them to return to the store like special events or new release information.

BTW: How can businesses find a balance between engaging and overwhelming their customers?

Goodman: The difference between engaging and overwhelming is simple: offer relevant content. Bookstore owners can post the titles of books their staff is reading, offer special offers or discounts, and ask customers to post what they’re reading. Do fun things, such as asking people to post their favorite book to read at the beach or which children’s books they loved reading at bedtime to their children. Engaging content is content that gets people to talk to you — about themselves, which everyone loves to do!

BTW: How can booksellers ask their customers to endorse them without feeling that they’re asking for favors?

Goodman: Endorsement happens through content that engages: In my Facebook news feed recently, a privately owned hotel posted a picture of dawn breaking over the mountains with a caption of “Good morning.” Stunning photo! Within three hours, that photo had 77 shares. This means that 77 people shared it with their friends — and with each person having approximately 130 friends, that means approximately 10,000 people may have seen that photo and the link back to the hotel.

So post content that your customers enjoy. Have some fun! Post photos of customers (with their permission of course) during in-store events. Post them reading in the nooks and corners of your store. Do quick videos and ask them to talk about their favorite book or their favorite places to read (i.e., in bed!). Then post this content — and people will naturally share it.

BTW: What do you find most enjoyable about engagement marketing?

Goodman: I find it really exciting and satisfying to watch small businesses put engagement marketing to work — and then see real success with it as their businesses grow.

BTW: What are useful metrics for evaluating an engagement marketing program, and what are booksellers better off ignoring?

Goodman: Are people Liking and commenting? Are they sharing or retweeting your content? Are they responding to you when you send out an e-newsletter? Are you getting a growing number of subscribers, fans, or followers? Having said that, I always advise small businesses to worry less about “quantity” than “quality” with social media. You don’t need thousands of fans or followers to be effective. Having 150 people Like your Facebook page and 20 of those people engaging with you is fantastic.

BTW: What qualities should booksellers look for when hiring staff to ensure that they’re in a good position to move forward with engagement marketing?

Goodman: You want people who are customer-focused, who aren’t afraid to ask for the connection (i.e. “Have you liked our Facebook page yet?”) and who truly believe in providing exceptional customer service. —Interviewed by Sarah Rettger