We recently went for a team lunch at Christian’s Bistro, which is part of Crimple Hall on the outskirts of Harrogate. Set up by local lad Christian Ogley when he was just 20 years old, it has grown from a small café within an antiques centre to a cosmopolitan ‘destination’ eatery that attracts locals and visitors alike.

Christian’s not only serves gorgeous food with great service but there is something about the atmosphere of the place that makes it really special – especially the fact that Christian himself is a very visible member of the team despite it now being in a much larger, busier space.

Christians cafe

Translating the personal customer relationship online

Being the marketing ‘nerds’ we are, we immediately took to social media to check out whether the well-executed offer was being maximised online. When we visited the website we were surprised and pleased to find that two of the main pages were ‘Our Story’ and ‘Our Team’, both featuring personal, storytelling content all about how the business had come about from Christian himself and giving a personal introduction to the people who work there. It is so easy for businesses like this who have direct contact with their customers on a daily basis and whose people are so fundamental to its success, to focus solely on their products and services when it comes to showcasing themselves online.

From past experience, we’re familiar with the awkward tone of voice some businesses adopt online – taking on a different ‘digital persona’ which isn’t a genuine reflection of the actual customer experience in the ‘real world’. But Christian’s has found a way of just being themselves – and it’s incredibly engaging. It creates a feeling of connection with the brand that will turn one-time visitors into loyal ambassadors.

Using personal relationships to engage customers is a strategy fit for a King (or Queen) of comms. Identifying that a lot of their customer base is repeat custom, Christian’s form relationships which seamlessly travel between online and real life encounters. They know what their audiences want to see, yummy pictures of homemade pizzas and lavish cakes, and they’re serving them up in an effortless Facebook post … what more could you want?

Owning your independent content

The one missing piece to this perfectly formed jigsaw would be a blog. Yes, I know I know it’s something we say all the time but it really would make a difference. Their captivating ‘taster’ style Facebook posts are lacking a link through to ‘richer’ content on their website where they can continue to build the relationship on their own terms (not according to Facebook’s advertising standards!)

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will have noticed that I seem to be spending a lot of my time at Barkers of Ilkley. Yes, it is ‘just a dog shop’, but the people who work there know it is so much more than that! Identifying their customer base and knowing what they want before they ask for it is something that Barkers excel at. I’ve had a dog for three years now (happy birthday Alba!), and on my first visit to Barkers I was given a list of all the doggy friendly places in and around Ilkley. This piece of useful, free content was the ‘offline’ equivalent of a blog that I returned to again and again.

Barkers Birthday tweet

Barkers aren’t positioning themselves as a place where you can pick up cheap food and canine essentials, they know they’re a luxury and therefore work extremely hard to get into both yours and your dog’s good books. Sharing posts that they’ve been tagged them in on Facebook puts the limelight onto their customers, instead of just talking about themselves.

The Barkers blog is a fountain of information for dog owners, from medical advice to new products on show, it’s a fantastic channel that I’m sure gets a heavy flow of online traffic. Everyone wants their website to be popular and a blog is a perfect opportunity to open the doors to the prospect of converting users into regular customers who value what you have to say. Your online strategy should be interwoven into what you do in real life, by giving me a printed sheet with doggy information on Barkers are positioning themselves as the go-to people for canine information online and off.

I realise that I couldn’t sound more like a fan-girl if I tried, but when you see independent businesses getting customer engagement right you have to give them kudos!

Want someone to fan-girl over your marketing? Drop me an email and we can have a chat about the missing piece to your jigsaw.