social media

Marketing: Social & Mobile Marketing: Don’t Get Caught Up in the Hype of the Next Big Thing

I was honored to write a guest blog for GasBuddy’s sister company, OpenStore Loyalty this month. I was the keynote speaker for their conference in Las Vegas & was happy to give a glimpse into was discussed. 


There is no question that marketing as we know it is changing. Every. Single. Day.

We’ve all seen the statistics: 75% of the population brings their phones into the bathroom with them; and 90% of 18-29 year olds have trouble sleeping because – you guessed it – they’re busy texting, online shopping or surfing social sites until the sun comes up.

I’ve seen the results: 4000% product sales increase, 200% return on investment in the first few months and increased store foot traffic and loyalty.

Mobile and social marketing are relevant, but you know that. That’s why you’re here. You’re just not sure that the hype is real; or maybe you’re not sold on the best way to approach social and mobile marketing. That’s ok – you’re not alone.

Over the course of my stint with WilcoHess, Hess Retail and Speedway, I oversaw the conception and managed the development of 3 C-store mobile apps and 3 C-store websites in under 3 years that netted over 250,000 downloads and 5M+ views, over 22% above industry benchmarks. I did so with a customer-centric, multi-channel marketing strategy that was targeted and relevant to the customer. Easy enough, right?!

Broken down, there are five key things to think about when planning your digital marketing strategy:

1. Integrate your traditional methods

Don’t abandon ship! What has worked for you over the last 10 years doesn’t have to be scrapped. I find that this is the biggest misconception amongst my clients. Use what you’ve done in the past, but tailor it to resonate online and digitally. In actuality, when your mobile marketing strategy lives as its own entity – you’re doing a disservice to such a powerful tool. Use hashtags on POS signage to promote the app (then use the hashtag in a contest!). Use your employees to upsell the download! Then, use the app to promote your products. Why use the valuable upsell to promote the app rather than a special? Longevity and loyalty. Think about the end game; would you rather have one upsell opportunity or endless?

2. Target your message and keep it brief.

Getting the customer download is the first step, but retaining them is the hardest. Your messages have to be targeted and not in the “by age and gender” kind of way. It’s the world we live in. Your customers are more attached to experiences and lifestyles than products; and as a result, brands become a byproduct of the lifestyle they’re selling. How does this correlate to a C-store? Customers from state X shouldn’t be treated like customers from state Y. Big football state? Talk about game day and tie in chips and drinks. Bring the rivalry into the conversation, sponsor a tailgate package – get people talking about it while subconsciously talking about your brand, too. Big entertainment state? Talk about the award show. Send a push notification to these customers asking them to tweet who they think will win. “Award” them with a product.

3. Listen to your customers.

They’re always right. No, really. Gone are the days of the 1-800 # and faceless organizations. Your customer craves transparency and dialog. When running my first successful mobile app one of the biggest strategies in my digital business plan was to listen to the customer and react quickly. When receiving a suggestion through the app’s messaging system – I quickly found out the logistics of how to make their request work (more spins on the Spin and Win game, cheaper fountain drinks, etc.) and always responded regardless of the answer. Sometimes YES! Sometimes no. I found that our response rate and willingness to listen was one of our biggest success factors in growing the app. People became brand advocates because we cared.

4. Stay relevant.

Don’t get caught up in the hype of “the next big thing.” Augmented reality may be the newest trend in the digital blogs, but does it mean your customer is going to care? Maybe, but probably not. Customers, to some degree, like consistency, reliability and relevance. They don’t care that you’re trying to impress the industry by being a first-mover, unless it is executed flawlessly and provides them with additional value they couldn’t get elsewhere. By staying relevant to the industry you’re in, it allows you to focus on the factors that matter most to your customers. In a C-store people want to get in and out (if they go in at all!). So, don’t create a strategy that will have them running around the store searching for a clue that will ultimately lead them to a product. Create a strategy that will simply encourage them to come in, the first step to a sale.

5. Stay top of mind.

As a convenience store this isn’t an easy one, or so I thought. Who wants to talk to a “gas station” every day? No one… unless you give them a reason to. Games. When developing our GasBuddy app for WilcoHess we fully integrated the Spin and Win concept. It gave customers a reason to come to our app every day and we weren’t giving anything away to get them there! Our daily allowance of spins kept people coming back, our gameboard kept people talking and our “big win” was landing on our logo. Talk about a subconscious brand plug. Years later, when I speak at industry conferences, it never fails – there’s always someone in the crowd who comes up to me and tells me how much they miss our old app’s Spin and Win or Bubble Pop game.
Take it from someone who knows what it’s like to be on both sides: an award-winning marketer and your company’s target consumer. Social and mobile marketing strategies are necessary, but they’re not one-size-fits-all. The newest fad? It doesn’t mean a thing to your customer. Your approach should be different from your competitors, relevant to your industry and deeply rooted in the premise of customer service.


Let’s talk about your mobile & social marketing strategy! Get Started!