About 2 months ago we decided to get active on Pinterest and try to grow an audience there in few weeks. I’d gladly tell you about it, but the thing is, I don’t have much to tell.
With 25 followers and very little engagement.
I’m pretty confident I can say that we failed.
I’m being a little dramatic. It wasn’t that bad as we got to know the network and find out super interesting facts about it. I even wrote an article to share that knowledge with you.
Now, I realized that the only way I’m going to help smaller online businesses like yours connect with customers is by asking other successful small business owners for advice and insights.
Here it is: 8 super useful tips from small businesses actually building rock solid relationships with customers on Pinterest.
Why Your Small Business Should Start Engaging Customers On Pinterest?
Pinterest is one of the fastest growing networks and it brings a LOT of referral traffic (more than Linkedin, Youtube and Google+ combined).
It goes without saying, stats about the network are impressive. Not “oh that’s pinteresting” impressive, but “holy cow, I need to start right now” impressive.
However, that’s not really my point here. If you want more on that subject, Digital Marketing Ramblings has a great (and up to date) article referencing 120 Pinterest stats.
What will you get reading this article then?
As you may know, we’re an ecommerce video chat company. That’s official talk for “we’re selling a cloud solution to help you chat with customers right on your website”.
Ok, that’s great, but what’s the connection with Pinterest?
It’s simple, both tools can be used to build relationships with your customers. Even better, they can complement each other.
Let’s say you’re attracting 1000 visitors a month from Pinterest to your website but 900 of them are leaving and never returning (that’s not an unusual rate unfortunately). Live chat can help you retain more of those visitors by strengthening a rather weak relationship.
The beauty of the web is that you can talk to people from all around the world and even build relationships with them.
Without leaving your office!
It’s time you take advantage of that.
And you know what? When used correctly, and paired with the right tools, Pinterest is a great way to connect with clients.
Before you start reading, we made an infographic out of those tips (you know, if you’re feeling lazy):
Enough talking, it’s tips time!
Give Customers a Chance to SEE What They Will Get
Few words about Costa Rica Monkey Tours:
This young company organizes tours around the beautiful country of Costa Rica.
Their main priority is to build the best experience possible for their customers and make sure they have a fun and worry-free journey around the country.
Communicating the “customer experience” with pictures
The problem with selling tours is that you can publish photos of locations and explain to customers how you will take care of them.
Yet, you can’t really take a photo of your product.
Actually, this is a problem shared by the entire service industry.
You can provide a certain level of service but the real value of your product lies in the “customer experience”.
Let’s come back to Costa Rica Monkey Tours. The value of their product is the feeling customers get from taking part in one of their tours (it can be excitement, fun, an escape from their daily life…).
The question is: how do you communicate the fact that you “create lifetime memories” on Pinterest?
Costa Rica Monkey Tours came up with a rather simple but effective answer: you post photos of “happy customers”.
The idea can seem obvious, but it has to be done correctly.
Costa Rica Monkey Tours decided to take photos of their group of customers.
They then post them on their website, as well as on several social media networks, including Pinterest.
Photos are taken during activities like rock climbing, mud baths and more, allowing the brand to show potential customers what kind of fun is ahead of them.
Fostering a community around Costa Rica
It’s a well known rule on social media that only a small proportion of what you post should be directly related to your brand.
This means you have to find other topics, to truly engage customers.
Topics they truly care about (most of the time, they don’t really care about your brand, believe me).
This was a quite easy decision for Costa Rica Monkey Tours.
Travel is a popular theme on Pinterest and Costa Rica is a very photogenic country.
They told me, it’s been quite easy for them to connect with customers.
Pinterest has also been an amazing opportunity to “foster a community and open a window to the biodiversity and beauty of a country like Costa Rica”.
In the end, it’s never about your product.
It’s about finding a community where people’s interests and needs can be associated with your product. For Costa Rica Monkey Tours it means connecting with people interested in traveling and central america.
Sure, Pinners won’t all become clients.
However, they offer the company valuable insight on what people expect from a trip to Costa Rica.
What can we learn from them?
- Find ways to SHOW your customer’s experience
- Be part of a community (enter an existing one or build one around your product)
- Use Pinterest to get some feedback and monitor trends in your industry
Put Customers in the Spotlight
Few words aboutPudge’s Steaks:
Pudge’s first restaurant was opened 40 years ago by Frank Carbone. Today, the brand runs 3 locations around Philadelphia and has won multiple awards.
They are engaging customers on a daily basis with the “Pudge’s Challenge” offering a free large meal if they can finish it within 30 minutes.
Giving customers the recognition they deserve
“Pudge’s Steaks uses Pinterest first and foremost to engage with customers”.
That’s the first thing they wrote about their experience.
I was thrilled when I read that sentence because that’s exactly the kind of stories I was looking for.
Turns out they were the only ones using Pinterest to engage existing customers as a priority without really aiming for acquisitions.
They’re a local business, so acquisition through Pinterest will probably never be the best way to bring in customers for them. The idea to engage existing ones there, however, is brilliant.
Pinterest allows them to advertise the “Pudge’s Challenge” and put participants under the spotlight.
The board they dedicated to it is really well received by both participants and other customers, bringing attention to the challenge.
Following their idea to give customers recognition, they also created a board where they post pictures of everyday customers.
Another very well received initiative as people get to take some kind of “souvenir” of their meal home and share it with friends and family.
See how it works?
They engage existing customers and end up attracting new ones through very subtle referral.
Food & Philly pictures to bring people in
Food is the most popular category on Pinterest by far (and for both men and women).
It would be a shame to not take advantage of that fact!
We saw how Pudge’s attracts attention and fosters engagement, but they also put a great emphasis on the food they serve.
The restaurant has an amazing selection of Cheesesteaks and Hoagies.
What better idea than creating boards to show that to potential customers?
It’s an obvious win!
Basically, if you have food to showcase, pin away.
Pudge’s has a clear Pinterest advantage being in the food industry. But you know what they told me?
They didn’t stop at food boards to connect with customers.
They created several board about Philadelphia, local events, sports to create a deeper personality for the brand.
This way, locals can identify more easily with the proud Philly brand.
What can we learn from them?
- Publish pictures of your customers and encourage them to share them
- Build a personality for your brand by posting about local events, sports…
- If you have food to share, do it across several boards, if you don’t see if there’s a way to create a food board connected to your brand
Make Sure You Know Your Pinterest Audience
Few words about Parker’s Crazy Cookies:
Parker’s Crazy Cookies is a boutique bakery located in the San Francisco Bay area.
They design ultra customized cookies for parties, events or thoughtful gifts.
Founded by Dave Parker after he returned from few years in Spain, the company today delights customers all around the world.
Helping out customers with event planning and gift giving
What was quite unique with Parker’s Crazy Cookies’ story is that they started Pinning after customers told them about the network.
In other words, they already had an audience there.
They just needed to become a part of it.
Parker’s Crazy Cookies focused on the fact that a lot of people are using Pinterest to scrapbook for events.
With that in mind, they created highly event focused boards to give potential clients fun and original ideas of how they could use their cookies.
When I think about it, Parker’s Crazy Cookies is kind of Pinterest’s soulmate:
– they’re selling cookies (which could be the king of foods on Pinterest),
– for events
– or that can be bought as a gift.
As I said before, food is the most popular category on Pinterest, Wedding and Events are in the top 10, and there is an entire section entitled “gifts”.
The only thing they might be missing is the DIY side.
Yet, they succeeded, not because of what was popular on Pinterest, but because they took the time to get to know their audience.
They found out that Pinterest users were scrapbooking for party ideas, when they could have assumed they’d be looking for food or gift ideas.
They focused on their users rather than their own goals and it pays off.
Pinterest users are ready to buy
When I asked them why they loved Pinterest, they said it’s because “people there are ready to buy”.
They are looking for events ideas and are already in a “shopping mode”.
The event focused strategy is one part of their success but another part of sales happens through “word of mouth”. Or rather the fact that people are sharing pictures with their friends and relatives.
The cookies are highly customized, which makes them highly shareable.
And let’s admit it, the product is fun! Imagine eating a cookie that looks like you? How cool is that!
To sum up how referral works for them:
– people see a relative posted a picture of a cookie that looks like him/her.
– they end up thinking it’s fun.
– they think about an event or birthday coming up.
– think about how original it would be to serve those cookies.
And there you go: a new sale!
What can we learn from them?
- make sure you know how people are shopping on Pinterest
- if you have highly customize products, share the story of your customer with the photo of your product
- Encourage sharing
Share Your Passion, Not Your Product
Few words about Blue Pine Outdoors:
Blue Pine Outdoors is in the Kayak sales, rental and tours industry.
They’re a local, family owned and operated business offering customers a large selection of kayaks.
Very passionate about their job, they love to help client plan their next kayaking adventure.
Sharing a passion with equally passionate people
They started pinning to “connect better with customers” and found out that a lot of customers, just like them, “look forward to see great kayak pictures to day dream about”.
For Blue Pine Outdoors, Pinterest is way more than just a marketing medium.
It’s a great way to escape and meet like minded people. People who “wish they could paddle as a full time job”.
When they answered my questions about Pinterest, I could read the passion in their words.
There’s one funny anecdote they shared that I have to share with you:
Their dream would be to be on the water all day long and spend as much time possible kayaking.
To share that passion with customers, they had t-shirts made with sentences like “Born to Paddle, Forced to Work” or “I’d rather be kayaking”.
I loved that story because it’s a great way to show customers you are on their side, that you share the same dreams.
It’s also funny and sets up a light mood. Perfect to connect with customers.
Valuable insights from the kayaking community
Throughout their Pinterest journey, Blue Pine Outdoors had the opportunity to get useful feedback from followers that turned into great new ideas.
As a local business, they still find Facebook more effective when it comes to connecting with local customers.
Pinterest is then used as a complement to connect with a broader community, and share a passion rather than just a product.
What can we learn from them?
- Find people who share your passion
- Sell dreams
- Gather feedback from like-minded people
Engage Customers With Contests, Track Performances With Analytics
Few words about Boot Barn:
From the humble beginnings of a family run storefront, to 164 stores in 24 states, Boot Barn epitomizes the American dream of hard work, honesty and value.
Today, they are dedicated to honor american’s heritage with a selection of more than 8,000 quality boots, jeans, shirts, hats, belts and more.
Most importantly, Boot Barn makes sure every customer gets the same personal experience than years ago when founder Ken Meany created the brand.
Finding out customers needs and preferences with Pinterest Analytics
Pinterest has allowed them to “connect with customers like never before”.
They mainly use Pinterest’s new analytics tool to track popular pins and see which products are getting the most attention.
It makes it easier to identify trends and know which products to advertise.
Whether it is seeing their photos repined, holding contests or answering comments, Boot Barn made it a priority to take the best care of online customers.
As a complement to regular product pictures, they gather pictures of happy customers all over social media and post them to create a deeper connection with their audience.
Finally, a quite original use of Pinterest.
They’ve recently started to use direct messages to connect with vendors interested in selling their products.
Increased engagement through contests
As a larger brand, Boot Barn experimented a lot more than others with Pinterest promotional possibilities.
They set up several contests inviting customers to create wishlists and theme boards.
Boards that were then “shared all over social media”.
This type of promotional campaigns allowed them to gain awareness and increase customer engagement.
It was also a great way to let existing customers know about the brand’s Pinterest presence and gather new followers.
While they still see a better engagement on Facebook, they predict a bright future for Pinterest, especially with the launch of promoted pins in the near future.
What can we learn from them?
- experiment with Pinterest Marketing options (rich pins, contests…)
- use Pinterest’s analytics to see which pins are getting the most attention
- adapt your strategy to what you learn on analytics
- engage with customers through comments
Always Ask Yourself “What’s in it For the Customer”
Few words about Marvelous Molds:
Marvelous Molds™ designs high-quality, food-grade silicon molds for home, retail baking and cake decorating.
They collaborate with renowned cake decorators Elisa Strauss, Earlene Moore and Marina Sousa to offer the foremost designs in silicone molds.
Collaborating with professional cake decorators and promoting their creations
The challenge for Marvelous Molds is to show customers how they can use their product.
Posting photos of molds isn’t engaging.
Posting photos of beautiful cakes is (especially on Pinterest).
Their products resonates well with Pinterest’s audience which loves wedding and food related pictures.
Molds can also be used in the DIY spirit which is a great advantage on the network.
Yet, customers need to see the finished product to understand how they can use the molds.
The idea of collaborating with cake designers makes a lot of sense when you take this approach.
Marvelous Molds gets to show customers different uses for their products, and designers get recognition.
It’s a win-win!
“Win-win” perfectly describes the feeling I got when reading about their Pinterest experience.
They put emphasis on benefits customers and followers will get by engaging with them, and it works!
Focus on what can be done with the product
Marvelous Molds chose to help customers by showing them how to use their products.
When you visit their page, the first board features video tutorials. This is a perfect example of how they focus on having useful content.
Not every product can create something but there will always be a benefit for your customers to use your product.
All you need to do to gather more engagement is to focus on this benefit.
For Marvelous Molds, it means focusing on posting pictures of awesome looking cakes.
For a clothing company, it might be helping customers pair different pieces of clothing.
In both cases, share your knowledge and expertise with customers to make sure their project is a success. By doing that, your brand will end up being a success!
What can we learn from them?
- focus on helping your customers succeed
- always show how your product can be used
- create partnerships with other professionals in your niche
Get inspired and inspire your followers
Few words about Vinyl Impression:
Vinyl Impression is a creative hub of design that crafts and produces large format vinyl wall graphics, murals, decals and wall art stickers.
They specialize in office branding, which is the process where they take a blank and bland office space and transform any and all surfaces into bright and engaging visual interior design features.
Using Pinterest for inspiration
I have to admit, I really love Vinyl Impression’s story.
They are a highly visual company, so their Pinterest’s usage grew organically.
As many users, they started on the network pinning all sort of images they were inspired by.
I remember speaking with a friend of mine who’s a designer. Turns out he’s using Pinterest exactly the same way!
Like Vinyl Impression, there’s a great deal of people on Pinterest creating moodboards and pinning to get inspired.
Which means you can also pin to inspire people.
Vinyl Impression even has a board called “Inspiring your Kids”.
Turns out they help you inspire other people. I don’t know about you, but that really resonates with me!
Today Vinyl Impression went from looking for inspiration to inspiring potential customers by posting great ideas for office and house design.
Celebrate every customers’ project as if it was your own
I think Vinyl Impression’s experience really spoke to me because I love great design in general.
But, that wasn’t all of it.
I’ve been in the customer service industry for few months know and I read about good practices everyday.
That’s why I had a big smile on my face when I read how people at Vinyl Impression treat their customers.
Here’s what they told me:
“We have built a culture across all of our customer access points that emphasizes our genuine interest in each and every project, irrespective of size.”
We so often see companies treating big clients like kings and forgetting about small ones.
It was refreshing to read about a company that genuinely cares about every project they help realizing.
This mindset allows them to collect snaps of offices around the world featuring their design. Photos they can then post across their social media channels.
What can we learn from them?
- build inspiration boards
- show customers you genuinely care about them
- focus on a wider context rather than on your product alone
Build an emotional connection with customers
Few words aboutProject Repat:
Nathan Rothstein and Ross Lohr created Project Repat to upcycle old t-shirts.
The average American has about 70lbs of textiles in their closet. They wanted to find an original way to reuse those old textiles and came up with the idea to turn them into a quilt.
Today, they keep t-shirts out of the landfield, help saving textile jobs in the US and most importantly allow people to preserve old memories.
Preserving customers memories
The product Project Repat sells is really personal which makes it crucial for them to earn customers’ trust.
As we can all imagine, earning a stranger’s trust on the internet is not an easy mission, especially when you choose to offer competitive prices like Project Repat.
When customers go and purchase an item in a supermarket, they already have the finished product in their hands when they make the decision to buy it.
With personalized items like Project Repat’s quilts, the product doesn’t exist when you purchase it.
In other words, you a purchasing a promise of a product.
Project Repat use pictures posted on Pinterest to earn customers’ trust.
By showing finished products made for other clients, they are bringing a tangible proof of what they can do.
It’s all about emotions
The product in itself is emotional.
People order t-shirt quilts to celebrate events and preserve memories.
The t-shirt used belong to the customer, therefore making the quilt a very unique and personal product.
A lot of customers are for example using Project Repat to put together all their college t-shirts.
Whether it is then offered as a graduation gift or just kept as a souvenir, those quilts are holding a huge emotional value before they’re even being made.
By posting pictures on Pinterest, Project Repat not only offers a reason for customers to trust them.
They also create emotional connections with potential customers who might have gone to the same school or like the same rock band as a previous customers.
What can we learn from them?
- create emotions
- use pictures to gain customers’ trust
It has been a great pleasure to get to know a bit more those 8 companies and to discover so many different ways to use Pinterest.
If you had to remember anything from the article, just focus on the fact that your company is unique and so are your customers.
Giving a strong personality to your brand by pinning about general subject that aren’t directly related to your product helps building deeper relationships with customers.
Keep in mind that we all respond strongly to emotions and you should always have part of your content appealing to those emotions.
On Pinterest, this means having boards that will particularly resonate with your audience.
Here are few ideas to help you get started:
- a board about the city you are located in
- a board about things that inspire you
- a DIY board related to your product
- a “quotes” board
- a board featuring cute animals
and as a not-so-emotional bonus: an infographics board (I’ve just seen that work really well across all industries, and it’s really easy to curate).
Building a strong Pinterest presence is only half the work
Once you’ve gathered followers, and managed to increase traffic, you still have a lot of work ahead to convert those potential customers.
Pinterest is a great way to engage with customers visually and get their attention but the majority of companies I interviewed agreed it is still not the best way to have a conversation with your customers.
The network is improving but not yet built to encourage discussion.
That’s were a strong customer oriented website can help.
If you are dealing with emotional unique items like Project Repat or Vinyl Impression, a lot of customers will need to be reassured about who you are and how you work.
If you are working with more complex products like Marvelous Molds, people will need explanations.
Who better than you to provide this little extra that will convert them into loyal customers?
That’s where live chat usually comes in handy
Selling is still a long process, especially is you are a rather small company and customers don’t know your name.
With big companies, they trust the brand. With small ones, they trust the people.
We always advise web owners (clients or not) to make it easy for customers to reach them.
This might be by providing a toll free phone number, by answering questions on twitter or with the use of live chat. The important thing is to be accessible and ready to have one-on-one conversations with clients.
The main advantage with live chat is that it’s free for all customers wherever they live and it doesn’t require them to even leave your website.
On to you: Share your own Pinterest adventure with us in the comments! How do you visually connect with clients?
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