How Social Media, Digital Marketing Is Helping Operators Gain Leads & Connect With Customers

November 12, 2015

The technology evolution has undoubtedly changed the way companies do business; similarly, it has changed the way consumers view and interact with those businesses, too. With the click of a button consumers can purchase a product, review a company, and simply have their needs met right away through their phones, laptops, tablets and smartwatches.

In the vending, micro market and office coffee service industry, operators have been taking steps to keep up with the changing technological landscape. Today, a few successful operations have been using technology, such as social media and digital marketing, to gain new leads, connect with current customers and build their brands.

Chattanooga, TN-based Five Star Food Service incorporates social media into its overall business strategy in several different ways. “We use a mix of primarily Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to share information such as company news or announcements, upcoming vending or micro-market promotions, upcoming tradeshows or events, new product releases, general interest articles, and social media contests/giveaways,” said C.J. Recher, senior marketing manager at Five Star.

The company tailors its social media content around what is ‘shared’, ‘liked’, ‘retweeted’, etc.

For Five Star, social media can be an outlet to promote its own brand, but it can also be used as a customer service platform. “We’re finding customers are just as willing to reach out via Facebook as they are the telephone to let us know of a machine or product issue,” said Recher.

In an on-demand world, the ability for consumers to connect with the company right away is important for Five Star. In order to be at consumers’ fingertips, Five Star is also rolling out a cloud-based mobile customer service app that will be accessible from its vending machines, micro markets and dining facilities. “Customers who need support can scan a QR code or enter the specific web address with their phone,” said Recher. From there, customers are able to put in a service request, tell the company how it’s doing (feedback form), give the company a call or visit its Website and/or social media sites. “As is with any customer service platform, rapid, personalized response is vital to customer service success on social media,” Recher continued.

Research has found that social media usage can help generate leads and boost sales. In fact, 58 percent of marketers who have been using social media for three years or longer state that it has helped them increase sales, according to Marketo, a maker of marketing automation software.

Five Star, for example, recently launched a micro market and vending lead generation campaign with digital content focused around the most popular snacks and drinks that its customers purchase. The company shared the content through social media. “The goal is to ultimately increase new business sales via leads generated through the campaign,” said Five Star Marketing Manager Danelle Layton. “Although it’s early to tell how successful the campaign will be, early results are positive.”

The company ‘gated’ the piece of content on its Website, so if the reader wanted to view the article in its entirety, they had to enter their name and email address.

Although this technique is meant to gain new leads, Five Star also created a campaign to grow sales with current clients, too.

Within the past month the company launched a monthly office coffee service email campaign via a newsletter-type piece sent to existing customers. The goal of this campaign is to increase same store sales by introducing new OCS products, pantry provisions and cross-selling the company’s other lines of business. “We plan to continue creating campaigns, both social and digital, overtime to increase new business and same store sales,” said Layton.

It’s not just large companies that utilize social media and connect with customers online. Digital marketing can be done by operators of any size and budget, too, says Jennifer Skidmore, sales manager at J&J Vending, located in Union City, CA, who considers herself to be part of a small operation.

Social media engagement is a primary focus of the company. It updated its Website to be mobile friendly, promoted its social media engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and Instagram and purchased a mobile app for customers to report issues. Skidmore also writes blogs for the company as part of its marketing strategy and to build its brand. It also increases how often the company shows up on Internet search results.

J&J Vending is dedicating more of its resources to develop a strong online presence. “We are also looking at the future of how customers will shop, so we are currently creating an online ordering feature,” said Skidmore.

As technology evolves so too will consumer and business interactions through social media and other digital marketing techniques. It’s a great way for operators of any size to generate new leads, increase same store sales, build their brands and connect with customers.