Perhaps you’ve read the story of how Australia’s national science agency turned a 7-year-old’s earnest request to “make a dragon for me” into a global public relations coup? In a nutshell, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s response last month to a letter from a girl named Sophie — a potential future scientist — cleverly apologized for its insufficient R&D in the field.
Its lighthearted yet realistic approach demonstrates how any organization, including a U.S. small business, can use public interest to expand its audience, increase customer engagement, and build brand loyalty.
Expanding Your Audience
The Australian researchers at CSIRO could have easily ignored Sophie’s letter. They could have dismissed her request as childish, but instead they took it (and her) seriously. They seized the opportunity to educate the public about what the CSIRO does and doesn’t do. And, by responding publicly, the national organization garnered international attention: Stories about the little girl and her desire for a dragon appeared in TIME, The Independent, The Huffington Post, Yahoo Shine, and elsewhere.
Similarly, you can use customer inquiries and feedback to increase your brand’s visibility.
With social media taking such a prominent position in the online marketing world, real human interaction really resonates with people.
Think of all the times a customer has commented and received a personal note via social media from a company that went beyond corporate rhetoric. Providing a funny or thoughtful reply can gain a lot more traction than a standard canned response.
Boosting Customer Engagement
CSIRO isn’t in the business of making dragons, but the organization still took time to address a little girl’s concerns about the winged creatures. Why? It gave researchers a chance to connect with members of the public — and increase their engagement in its work. The positive mainstream media coverage it received will likely help to generate greater interest in (and perhaps even increase funding for) the agency going forward.
Any extra steps you take to engage your customers and prospects and build real relationships with them are worth the effort. For instance, My Little Jules, a girl’s clothing boutique, put together a Facebook community that encourages customers to provide feedback and interact with the retailer and one another. This drives further interest in the brand and boosts sales.
Building Brand Loyalty
A lovely byproduct of building engagement is word of mouth, which creates brand loyalty. After the CSIRO told Sophie that dragons could be a source of fuel, she told all of her friends about the potential for dragon’s breath to act as an energy source. “All her friends are now saying they want to be a scientist, and Sophie says she now wants to work in the CSIRO,” Sophie’s mother told The Canberra Times.
What an endorsement! By doing something relatively simple, the CSIRO created vocal supporters who may be loyal to its organization for life. (It also may be cultivating young talent to be recruited later on.)
Going the extra mile can pay off similarly for small businesses. Showing a human face, empathy, compassion, and not being afraid to have a little fun can turn one-time customers into loyal customers. And, thanks to social media, they can become powerful brand advocates.