When Indochino Inc. first began doing cross-country popup shows in November 2011, it wanted to reach out to a very specific group of people – young professional men who are interested in pairing plaid and pinstripes with scarves and bowties.

The Vancouver-based e-commerce operation, which sells tailored menswear catering to the young and professional set, has been using Facebook to tell its customers when it’ll be arriving in their city – and building up a lot of buzz along the way.

Facebook Inc. did a revamp of its Facebook for Business site in June 2012, aiming to reach out to small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs). As part of its SMB play, it gave potential advertisers how-tos and walkthroughs on how to gain new customers using the social network.

Sarah Wallis, COO of Indochino, shared her thoughts on how her company leveraged Facebook to reach customers and boost sales – making for some great tip fodder for SMBs looking to replicate Indochino’s success.

1. Know what your goals are.

For Indochino, using Facebook was a handy way of interacting with customers. However, the company wanted to make a plan for its social media use, outlining some of its goals ahead of time – something all SMBs should be doing, Wallis says.

And while she says she doesn’t feel it’s possible to peg success to any particular campaign or interaction, using Facebook and interacting with customers is a great way to collect information on what customers want, she says.

“I would encourage SMBs to really get crisp and clear on what their goals and objectives are. Is it to drive sales, is it to build relationships? And for each goal, do they know what their metrics are?” she says. “That way, they’re seeing a return on both their time and investment.”

2. Take advantage of Facebook’s geolocation tools through tools like Custom Audiences and Lookalikes.

As part of Indochino’s selling strategy, it will go on tours across Canada, setting up temporary shops to serve customers in different cities.

That’s because it sells full suits, shirts, and accessories online, but it also tailors them according to the measurements its customers provide. For customers who are less sure of their numbers, Indochino has step-by-step video guides, but what works even better is to do the measurements at popup events, Wallis says.

Still, to ensure people knew about their events, they used Facebook’s Custom Audiences tool to advertise to likely customers by location. That means they only target customers living in the cities they would be visiting. Some of the biggest turnouts to these events have been because of successful Facebook campaigns, Wallis says.

“When we go into Vancouver, we want to make sure we’re paying to run ads to people in Vancouver,” she says. “On Facebook, we want to know, who do we know in a market?”

Then there’s Lookalikes, another tool for marketers. Instead of reaching out to people who are already fans of Indochino on Facebook, it allows Indochino’s team to predict which Facebook users might be interested in their product based on their past ‘likes’ and behaviours. Using this tool allows Indochino to grow its fan base, Wallis says.

3. Don’t just sell to your customers – try to engage them with fun activities.

While Indochino has used Facebook pretty extensively to engage with its customers, it’s not the only way it’s been reaching out, Wallis says. The company also does digital advertising in other forms, like email, banner ads, through bloggers, and so on.

So Facebook shouldn’t be seen solely as a platform to sell products, she says. Instead, the company tries to do fun things around the social network. For example, the company has also gotten customers to vote on the suit Steve Nash should wear on the opening night of the NBA season.

Still, the most important thing in using social networks like Facebook is to remember why customers use Facebook in the first place, Wallis points out.

“Customers are behaving as people on Facebook, and it’s important to respect that. Facebook users are not going to Facebook to get information about things to buy,” she says. “If you come at it as another place to put up a billboard, it’s not going to be successful.”

Instead, SMBs and marketers alike should try to hold onto a consumer point of view when they log on to Facebook, Wallis says – making it easier for them to know what their customers want to see.

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  • Indochino really excels at online marketing at the moment. And it all makes sense too – get the customers to experience the product first hand and then have them reorder online.