Whether you’re with her, he’s with you, or you’re just not interested, there is no denying that 2016 is a heated election year here in the US. It seems as though every time we turn on the television, scroll through Facebook feeds, peruse Twitter, or flip through a magazine we see commentary and outrage pointed toward the presidential candidates. Many business owners and employees alike try to keep political opinions to themselves, not wanting to stir the pot, or upset customers with viewpoints contrary to theirs. However, with all the media buzz surrounding the election, it isn’t crazy to want a slice of the hot-topic pie. Mixing politics and business can be tricky. However, it is possible to leverage the presidential election to excite your clients without revealing who you want in the Oval Office this November… Come on, who wouldn’t vote for that!?
Did I win you over? Great! Here are four simple ways you can use the presidential election to benefit your local business.
1) Give your tip jar some personality
We’ve all seen the tip jar.
While the regular tip cup is acceptably bland, it can’t hurt to shake things up for election season by giving your jar a bit of a twist.
Intrigued? Here’s how to do it.
Create a small sign to put near the register beneath the jars, asking consumers to vote (using their tips). Get two jars and give each one a different label. You can stick with the election theme and have each candidate’s’ name on the jars or you can have even more fun with it and ask customers to choose between two non-political characters. Stumped? Here are some ideas:
Best Superhero: Batman or Superman
Best TV Show: Stranger Things or Game of Thrones
Best Ice Cream: Rum Raisin or Chocolate (you have permission to judge anyone who picks Rum Raisin)
Something as simple as this is a great way to play up the voting aspect, without asking your customers to give any sort of hint as to their political affiliation.
Tell your customers that the results will be posted the next morning, along with a new poll. You can announce the winner in a few different ways depending on where your marketing efforts are lacking.
If you are trying to get more customers to interact with your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram page consider announcing the winner on one of those channels.
If you need more repeat business, let them know you will be displaying the winner in-store the following day (or at the end of the week, depending on how long you want to keep the votes going).
If you want to drum up excitement both in store and online, run one poll in store and another on your social channels.
This way, customers will not only applaud your creativity and be compelled to vote, but they will also be more inclined to return the next day, or at the very least, check out your social feed to see if they cast a winning vote.
Does your business have a no-tip policy? Consider using this as an opportunity to support a local charity, using the tip cups as donation jars, sending the proceeds to a new charity each week. Customers will be excited to participate in the poll, happy that their spare change went to such a good cause.
Gamifying something as simple as a tip jar is a great way for your business to show some personality, play up a current event, and encourage your customers to interact with your business both in person and online.
2) Tickle Their Funny Bone
Even the most passionate political aficionado can find humor in the current race to the White House. When the candidates latest gaffes and goofs take the media by storm ride the craze by turning the mishap into a caption contest. Post a funny picture of the candidate and post it to your social media channels, asking followers to write their best caption for the photo. Pick the funniest comment (or top 3 depending on comment volume) and send these winners a prize such as a gift card, some swag, or, if their sentiment is particularly hilarious, a full sized sample of your product or a gift basket full of goodies. These type of prizes will help encourage followers to participate and will allow you to get samples of your products to prospects in a creative and engaging way.
Tip: As you can imagine, these comments can get out of hand, so if you have a fairly sensitive audience it’s OK to add a disclaimer asking your audience to keep it appropriate and/or avoid profanity.
Caption contests not your cup of tea? You could have a Q/A contest, posting a question about the candidates, politics, or the U.S. government with multiple choice answers and instructing followers to comment with their answer. Then, you could select winners randomly if there are multiple followers who get the question right. Want to make this even harder? Instead of giving multiple choice answers, do a fill in the blank contest where followers have to decide the correct answer in the sentence.
3) Throw A Results Party!
You might have already thrown a Superbowl party, holiday party, or St. Patrick’s day bash… why not add a results party to the list. If you don’t own a restaurant or bar, don’t fret, no matter the industry you will be able to participate in some capacity on November 8th. Consider partnering with another local business, maybe even one on Alignable.
Here are some ideas:
Restaurant/Bar: Offer discounted beers, shake up some specialty cocktails, whip up an election themed menu (perhaps a plate of winner winner chicken dinner or slices of humble pie), and turn the television to a national news station so diners can keep up with the latest predictions and talleys.
Retailer: Host an all day event, with product special, discounts, and free gift with purchase for any customers who have their “I voted” sticker or a ballot receipt.
Salon or Spa: Throw a post-results party, offering complementary extended hand, foot, or head massages(for mani/pedis/hair services) or discounted full body massage gift certificates for clients who need some extra stress relief after the results from the night before.
Gym: As a fitness professional, you probably don’t want to bring in donuts and beers to celebrate election day but you can still partake in the presidential fun. Offer a free open house with a special election day rate or discounted class pass to clients who sign up on November 8. This is perfect timing for the customers who need to work off the extra calories they are bound to “stress eat” as the results roll in.
4) Give The People What They Want
This tip is less about fun customer interaction and marketing techniques and more about getting to know your customers so that you can continue to delight them in the future. A criticism voters often have of politicians is that they aren’t in tune with the needs, wants, and struggles of the people. As a business owner, you don’t want your customers to experience those same frustrations. The only way to truly know what your customers and prospects want is to ask them and then, once you’ve asked them, follow up down the road to see how you are doing. Continue to repeat this process for as long as you are in business. Over time, your clients needs will change, so you want to make sure you are continually taking their feedback into account and working to make things better.
So, how can you do this? Poll your customers about their experiences working with you. Make it anonymous and encourage clients not to hold back. This will help you get a better understanding of what you are doing well and where you need to improve. Have fun with the poll. Create a ballot box and some signage letting individuals know that as valued customers they can vote and voice their opinions. If you don’t have a storefront, send an email with some fun visuals to get them excited about participating.
Ask customers and prospects what goods and services they would like to see you offer. Are there products they wish you sold? Is there a particular flavor, scent, color, or they wish you would carry? These types Poll your current customers about their customer service experience so that you get a better understanding of where your customers think you need to improve. Ask your prospects and customers what goods or services they would like to see you offer, create, or carry in-store.
If you typically have a new special or discount every month, ask your customers what they would like that special to be. Give them a few options and let them choose.
Here are some examples:
Nail Salon: Ask patrons if they would prefer a discount on pedicures this month or a free extended calf massage with purchase.
Carpet Store: Ask shoppers if sports themed area rugs or more festive holiday offerings would help them more quickly check off their shopping list.
Fitness Studio: Would your members prefer a spin class added to the schedule on Tuesday mornings or Wednesday nights.
Have them voice their opinions on paper, via email, or through social media. Whatever the question, your clients will be delighted that you took their opinions, desires, or schedules into consideration.
Taking the extra step to make your return policy less of a hassle or create a really delicious pumpkin gelato requested by all of the pumpkin spice lovers will delight your customers and make them appreciate you even more. Customers shop at local businesses for a reason… the customer experience! Where else can you actually talk to the owner? How many big businesses actually read the request for more fall flavors or extended returns and actually put things in place to grant those wishes? Make the experience of shopping at your store unforgettable and make your customers feel appreciated and listened to. This attention to detail will not only make them more likely to come back, but will also get them talking about your business to their friends and family
There you have it! Some fun, simple ways to leverage the media attention around the 2016 race to the White House for your local business.