In 2009, West Coast transplant, entrepreneur Derek Cha, brought a California staple to the East Coast when he opened the first sweetFrog Premium Frozen Yogurt shop in the Short Pump subdivision of Richmond, VA.
Since then, the company has experienced significant growth. Just five short years later, sweetFrog has over 350 stores operating in 25 states, with international locations in the United Kingdom and the Dominican Republic. This rapid expansion led to Inc. Magazine naming sweetFrog the 22nd fastest growing company in the nation in its annual Inc. 500|5000 ranking.
No company can grow that quickly without having excellent frozen yogurt, and even better marketing and customer experience. So, we sat down with sweetFrog’s regional marketing coordinator, Ben Wachter, to discuss the exciting programs that are driving the company’s delicious success.
Here is what Ben had to say:
RS: First off, congratulations on being named #22 on the Inc.500|5000 list. sweetFrog has grown its revenue more than 10,000 percent over the course of the last three years. What do you attribute this growth to?
Ben Wachter: We attribute our growth to our sense of community. When we meet prospective franchisees and they tour our stores or visit stores in other areas, they are drawn to how much work we do with the community. Also, the appeal of a fun work environment doesn’t hurt either.
The large spurt last year was mostly due to our multiple store owners opening new locations and this, in turn, brings in new clients.
RS: I personally haven’t seen many sweetFrog advertisements in traditional media outlets. However, I understand that the company has a very large social media presence across many different social media platforms – including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. How has this online marketing strategy factored into the company’s incredible growth?
Ben Wachter: With a large concentration of stores along the Eastern Seaboard, we felt the time was not right to advertise on TV and traditional print media. We have run local TV and radio spots in the past in local markets but word of mouth and social media have been our best outlets for advertising and our strongest focus.
Our target customer base spends more time on social media outlets than watching TV or reading the newspaper. As we grow into a nationwide chain and brand we can then begin to look at TV and print as options.
RS: With so many online marketing platforms and online profiles, how does the company manage them all? What strategy do you have for ensuring that the same brand identity and customer experience are delivered across all of these platforms?
Ben Wachter: For social marketing on a large scale level, we are administrators on the corporate store Facebook pages as well as the store managers. This way we can push something out for every store at the same time while the local managers can post about the goings on at their stores.
Every store has at least a Facebook presence, and we have a Twitter and Instagram that is handled by the Corporate Office. You can follow us on both outlets @sweetfrog.
RS: How do you organize your content and create a content strategy for delivery across these many online platforms?
Ben Wachter: To keep everything organized, we try to schedule events or promotions months in advance. This way we can plan our corporate posting around the local posts to avoid oversaturation on media outlets. Instagram and Facebook are posts we make once a day, and Twitter we will post to three times a day.
This is a standard posting frame but is not always the case. I have avoided using social media posting sites where you can plan when a post is made to keep our social outreach more organic and natural.
RS: With many of these social media platforms, you have one voice communicating with many. How do you manage the influx of communication? How do you ensure that all customers get interacted with and feel engaged?
Ben Wachter: I check social outlets at least three times a day at a minimum, so we can reply and favorite/like posts in a timely fashion. I try to avoid posting a reply or liking something if it has been several days since the first post was made.
RS: sweetFrog has a very generous and engaging loyalty program that is run via a mobile application. What was the inspiration for the app? What benefits has it delivered to the company?
Ben Wachter: Moving to a mobile app has allowed us to see a tremendous amount of data and the habits of our customers. Before the app, we used the standard ‘Punch’ cards and saw a lot of fraud and customers complaining about losing a card or having multiple cards with several punches on each.
With the mobile app, we can reach customers with offers based on frequency of visit and see how often they visit in a period of time and which stores. This allows us to go into targeted marketing and reinforce the aspect of community we work toward in our branding and philosophy.