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With his extensive marketing education and experience, Choi realizes the importance of reaching customers through non-traditional means, especially social media. Every Tweet and Facebook posting is responded to at the corporate level in a timely manner so that the company is seen as a “friend, rather than just a corporate entity” or the “800-pound gorilla,” he said.
“We have 75,000 followers on Twitter and Facebook and they get immediate responses,” he said. “Not a lot of brands do that and that makes it so much more of a personal relationship.”
Choi illustrates his company’s responsiveness to customers by telling a story about the first 16 Handles store in Brooklyn. The local population did not like the sign, which they felt was not in keeping with the neighborhood ambience. Corporate talked with the franchisee who decided to design a new sign with input from the public.
“It was really ‘the customer speaks’ and we want to be the people’s brand,” Choi said. “We want to be a fabric of the community.”
Like sweetFrog, Menchie’s, and other industry leaders, 16 Handles also realizes the importance of store merchandise, such as its own brand of bottled water, as both a marketing tool and an additional revenue stream for franchisees.
Cakes and Treats
As another revenue stream, 16 Handles is also positioning itself as a frozen dessert brand, not just frozen yogurt. Choi said the very first franchisee suggested increasing sales of signature cakes, frozen yogurt sandwiches, cupcakes, and other novelties. The company invested in equipment such as reach-in freezers for its stores and in designing customized cakes. To promote the items, the company’s marketing arm delivered to media representatives boxes that contained party hats, plates, and napkins and invited them to come in and try a cake on their birthdays.
Through its loyalty program, 16 Handles also loads $5 on the Reward Cards of its customers to come in and enjoy a treat on their birthdays.