In his recent article posted on LinkedIn, CEO of HootSuite, Ryan Holmes, stresses what he says everyone can learn from the business of food trucks: don’t wait for your customers to come to you – go to them.
Why food trucks in particular? “Food trucks did what most brick-and-mortar restaurants couldn’t,” Holmes says. “They brought their tasty, affordable offerings straight to the festivals, street corners, and office buildings where their target consumers live, work and eat.”
Companies such as Zipcar and Netflix have also employed similar strategies, he says. “Forward-thinking vendors chose a new, more direct way to reach their target consumers. I think there’s a lesson there for all of us…These companies – many of which just so happen to be household names – have all found ways to make it easier for clients to engage and transactions to happen.”
Implementing unique and unexpected forms of customer service is crucial in maintaining your current relationship with clients, and garnering new business. When you hire a company to work with on your media relations strategy, you want to know that your message is in good hands and that you’re not going to have to worry about the outcome of your campaign. We’ve come up with our personal “food truck” checklist for personalized customer service in the media relations space:
1. Staying on Top of What Reporters Want to “Consume:” When pitching the media, it is so important to specifically target who you are reaching out to. You want to maintain good relationships with reporters, so it doesn’t make sense to reach out to every reporter about every story. It is important to understand the interests, personally and professionally, of the reporters with whom you are reaching out to. Knowing who likes health stories, who prefers business and finance, or who enjoys entertainment stories results in targeted and quality earned coverage.
2. Making it Personal, Even if the “Vehicle” is Mass: One thing is for sure across the board – reporters want information that is going to be of interest to their listeners. They want information specific to their region and their listener’s demographics – they want stories that are relevant to their audience. For example, the dad in Chicago who is driving his kids to school hearing new data on childhood development in Illinois. Or the San Francisco businesswoman and mom of a college student driving into the office learning about a new report on student finances. You have to trust that the outside teams you hire have the expertise to develop and nurture your message in a cramped media landscape.
3. Understanding How the Sausage is Made: Understanding a bit about a firm’s work strategy and team member roles, including whether someone will be your go-to client manager, can reduce chances of miscommunication or error. This insight will also enable you to gauge how effectively the team communicates and works together, which is a key element of success in any project. When you are choosing firms to work with for your PR outreach, it is important to know that the team who will be managing your project is dedicated, tenacious, and most importantly enjoys and respects the other people they work with. This can lead to the best outcome possible for collaboration on your project.
4. “Cultivating” Your Message: Knowing how to speak to reporters is a skill even the most accomplished and experienced spokespeople continually work on to master. Learning the art of crafting natural-sounding, concise and clear messages that provide relevant stats and information to reporters and listeners is key. This attention to station needs and customer service means those charged with disseminating your message are trained in this personal, need-serving approach.
5. Tracking their Whereabouts: Is there anything more frustrating than feeling like you’re not being kept in the loop on what’s happening with your project? When you decide to utilize an outside company to help in your media relations, you don’t want to feel like you have given up complete control. It is important to select to work with a company with whom you feel comfortable entrusting your project, but who also respects the fact that you have the greatest vested interest in the outcome, and who appreciates your desire to be a part of the process.
You clearly have a good message to get out to your audience. You want to be proactive in engaging your customers. You aren’t waiting for them to come to you; rather, you are going to them and proving to them that you want their business and support. You are making yourself top of mind in their decision of where their allegiances are going to lie and where their dollars are going to go. “I’ve noticed in the race to win consumer’s hearts (and wallets), entrepreneurs – from restaurants to software vendors – are increasingly turning to an old-fashioned fix,” Holmes says. “Their quaint recipe for success: Don’t make the customer come to you. Go to them.”
These are lessons that are applicable to all types of companies– yours…ours…your neighbor’s…your cousin’s, regardless of industry. It’s up to all of us to think like food truck proprietors and take initiative, be creative, collaborate, and try our best to most effectively go to our customers.