Lessons from a pumpkin spice latte

Welcome to fall – and pumpkin spice latte season.

If your Twitter timeline was anything like mine on Monday, it was full of excitement over first tastes of the seasonal coffee drink from Starbucks.

“First pumpkin spice latte of the season!”

“Happy Labor Day … or first day of pumpkin spice season!”

“Pumpkin Spice! It’s officially fall!”

The pumpkin spice latte phenomenon happens because Starbucks has managed to create an event around the release of its seasonal drinks.

Craft beer lovers know the same thing exists with seasonal beers – especially for pumpkin/October and Christmas specialties.

So, what can businesses and marketers learn from both of these events? Several things.

Create a feeling of community around your product.

The release of exclusive, seasonal beverages comes with a social buzz from those that are loyal to the product. So, use your social media outlets for an opportunity to create additional buzz. Do a countdown of days until the product’s release if it’s seasonal.

Don’t have a seasonal product? Use social media as a way to encourage people to tell their stories about using your product. And then monitor your feed closely. Retweet/repost/repin positive feedback you receive. Respond directly to any negative feedback you get to get more information. Why was the customer not satisfied? How can you fix it?

You don’t have to have a contest on Facebook to create buzz.

It’s the marketing ploy that makes us cringe: “Like us on Facebook for a chance to win a shopping spree!”

Facebook contests are a great way to pick up a bunch of “likes” on your page.

But, what does that get you? How many of those new users are simply liking your page to take advantage of the offer … then will never visit your page again. Yes, you’re creating a spike in likes/fans … but if they’re not loyal to you or your product (or, most importantly, willing to talk with others about how fabulous your product is), then what’s the point?

Check out the Starbucks Facebook page. As of this morning, the only “Like to get us to 4,000!” was posted by a fan – not an official Starbucks representative. The only official posts are drink ideas, photos, questions and polls. And that’s creating community through a Facebook page.

Use email effectively to create exclusive opportunities.

Having points of contact with customers is important. That’s a basic marketing (and business) rule.

So, the question begs to be asked: If you’re tweeting and Facebook posting all of your news for public consumption, why would a customer subscribe to your email list?

Here’s a solution: Email your customers first.

Before a sale, a new product announcement or anything that is buzz-worthy from your business, send an email to your subscribers an hour before you announce it on social media channels. If it’s an online sale, include a link to the sale an hour before anyone else has access to it.

This will create a feeling of exclusivity … much more effectively than a Facebook contest … and will cause customers to want to subscribe to your emails. That’s a win-win for everyone.

On your website, encourage customers to sign up for emails and be clear – email subscribers will get offers before they’re announced on social media. And then stick to that promise.

So, as you enjoy your pumpkin spice latte this season, think back to the idea of creating community and exclusivity in your own business. How can you make it work for you?

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