Word of mouth is now world of mouth

02/13/2014 05:15:00 PM
Coral Beach

NGA Show 2014 retailer panelCoral BeachA panel of retails discussed tactics, including social media, they are using to attract and retain customers during a breakfast session Feb. 10 at the NGA Show in Las Vegas. Panelists (from left) were Mike Beal, chief operating officer for Hen House Four B Corp. and PriceChopper, Mike Longo, vice president Longo’s Supermarkets, Paul Hamilton, field merchandiser for King’s Super Markets Inc., and Roger Drake, owner of Drake’s Foodland IGA in Australia.LAS VEGAS — The best way to succeed in social media marketing efforts is to fail.

Although his message initially sounds counterintuitive, social media expert Erik Qualman assured independent retailers that his mantra of “fail fast, fail forward and fail better” is a strategy that works. He offered tips and information on how to ease into the online community during a general session Feb. 11 at the National Grocers Association annual show.

“Two things drive good business,” Qualman said, “having the right people on your team and word of mouth.”

With smartphones, mobile devices, and social media in the mix, Qualman said the word-of-mouth factor is on steroids now.

He cited the example of a New Jersey wine seller who went from $4 million to $50 million in sales in four years by launching a video blog. The first installment of the blog was a dismal failure, however, by episode 505 the merchant had figured out how to entertain while informing consumers and making sales.

“If he hadn’t tried and failed and tried again — and again — he wouldn’t have achieved that success,” Qualman said.

Lori Taylor, aka The Produce Mom from Indianapolis Fruit Co., had similar advice for retailers during a pre-show session on Feb. 9.

The session, sponsored by the Produce Marketing Association, was one of several pre-show educational programs the NGA scheduled as an experiment for this year’s event. Peter Larkin, NGA president, said he heard a lot of positive response about the pre-show sessions and that the association will likely have a similar schedule for next year’s show.

Taylor, who launched her blog “The Produce Mom” about two years ago, said it has grown in popularity from 167,000 page views the first year to more than 100,000 views per month this year.

“Consumers want a produce advisor but they don’t want a doctor or dietician telling them what to do,” Taylor said.

She cited surveys that showed today’s consumers trust only 15% of the information they see in advertisements, but trust 90% of what social media and bloggers tell them.

“The bottom line is you need to get online,” Taylor said. “The ROI (return on investment) on social media is the fact that your business will still exist in five years.”

Taylor pointed out that most social media networks such as Facebook, twitter and Pinterest are free. She cautioned retailers to avoid reinventing the wheel, however.


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