Beyond the Handshake

by on Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Bryan Bottger of The Buddy Group has an insightful post on MediaPost’s Social Media Insider about the need for “Experiential Marketing”. That means taking a variety of actions that break down the wall between a brand’s online or conventional media presence and its actual or potential customers, and create human-to-human interactions. As Bryan puts it:

“Without your creating “real,” non-digital engagement, consumers will start to consider your digital engagements as fake and overly self-serving. A handshake still means something — that’s why travel on Southwest continues to increase….”

(via Creative Commons)

For big brands, experiential can be a big deal. Long after Felix Baumgartner will no longer instantly be recognized as the guy who jumped from space with a parachute, Red Bull will be leveraging the video of his record-setting feat. Those of us who watched this amazing event didn’t mind the signage and the product placement, because this crazy obsession seemed so entirely real.

Fortunately for local merchants, providing live interactions with your customers can be as easy as opening the door. Local merchants, as a rule, do real … real well.

But there is plenty of room for improvement, and creativity. Clothing boutiques are masters of the “trunk show”, an informal way to give loyal customers a head start on a new season’s merchandise. Why can’t a hardware store do the same, perhaps with demonstrations of the latest tools or building materials. Or even holding classes for budding builders or DIY-ers. Home Depot does that, why not you? Many wine shops now hold tastings, why not the frozen yoghurt store? Years ago, a group of karate students in Canada demolished an abandoned house in a try for the Guinness World Record. Suppose a group from a local school joined with, say, Habitat for Humanity to clear a building site.

Local businesses have an advantage over big brands: the distance between the brand and the customer isn’t nearly so far. Why not take advantage of that shorter distance and connect with your customers … as people.