5 Cost-Effective Ways Small Businesses Can Stay Top-of-Mind With Their Customers

May 26, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdown have been hard on small businesses across Texas. With stores closed, consumers shopping almost exclusively from their digital devices, and uncertainty clouding the future, the competitive landscape has altered significantly. But one thing has not changed: regardless of their size and the products or services they have to offer, businesses that want to thrive still need to retain their current customers and acquire new ones.

Doing just that has traditionally been the responsibility of marketers. In a time of tight budgets, however, it can be hard to justify the expense associated with marketing. As a small business owner, you need to know that your marketing efforts will deliver a measurable return on investment (ROI) without costing an arm and a leg.

Luckily, expert marketers also understand the low-hanging fruit principle. They know how to seize opportunities that don’t require as much effort to produce satisfactory results. In marketing, that increasingly means applying relatively easy — and affordable — digital fixes.

Read on to learn about five cost-effective digital marketing strategies that can help your small business achieve greater brand awareness, cultivate positive sentiment, and grow its customer base.

1) Make a great first impression on social media.

Meet your customers where they are: it’s one of the first rules of marketing. Because of COVID-19, people are spending more time online than ever before. Usage of social media alone is up more than 60 percent since March 2020. And social media is among the cost-effective options you have for building brand awareness, both within your industry and with potential customers.

If your business has not yet established a presence on social media, now is the perfect time to lay that foundation. And, if your business is already active on social media, now is the perfect time to step up its activity.

As the most business-oriented of all social media platforms, LinkedIn is a particularly valuable marketing channel. It's 303 million monthly active users are in the right mindset to discuss market trends, learn about new products, or discover your industry insights. To reach those LinkedIn users, make sure to follow these best practices.

  • Think of your LinkedIn Page as a digital storefront. It should be eye-catching, welcoming, and informative. High-quality photos paired with captivating copy that tells your story will give your Page legitimacy to visitors wanting to learn more about your business.
  • LinkedIn’s networking strength lies in its ability to connect you with new companies and people in your industry through the people you already know. Connect with as many real-world colleagues you can find, and then start exploring who they know to find other potential clients or customers.
  • Because its audiences are already interested in doing business, LinkedIn is a perfect place to share your research, products, and insights. Create content that covers everything from new products to your opinions about rising trends. Post this content consistently, and at those times when readership on the channel is most active. Your audience’s engagement with your posts can tell you what topics are of most interest to them. Focus on your high-performing content and continue to discuss those topics on this channel.

2) Personalize your communications.

Crises feed the news cycle. Information flows more quickly, and there’s more of it to process. In other words, crises are noisy. And that creates challenges for small businesses wishing to send a clear signal to their customers.

Applying a personal touch helps. Start by reviewing your lists of email and direct mail contacts. Remember: by merely sharing their contact information, these individuals have already let you know they are interested in hearing from you. As such, they should be receptive to your message — provided you can make it relevant to them. Addressing them by name and referencing specific relationship milestones (e.g., acknowledging that the recipient has been a loyal customer for five years) in the body of your email are just two relatively easy ways to optimize your communications.

Here are a few other ways you can make your personalized communications stand out.

  • Think proactively. Communicating with you customers now means that, when it’s time to announce how you’ll be reopening, you’ll have built an audience primed to receive that all-important message.
  • Regularly schedule and send your emails. If you send three emails in a week only to go radio silent the next week, it could confuse your readers.
  • Provide value beyond what you have to sell. Maybe your emails take the form of a “Letter from the CEO.” Maybe you share valuable information about your industry or direct recipients to your blog or LinkedIn page. Whatever you decide to do, do more than simply showcase your products.
  • Be candid and transparent. Open dialogue builds trust. Tell your audiences how your operations have changed due to COVID-19, let them know of the challenges you’re facing, and tell them about the solutions you’re employing. Reassure them that you are taking steps to protect the health and safety of your employees, your customers, and the surrounding community.
  • Use your communications to listen and learn. Because the audiences for your emails are already knowledgeable about your company, now is the perfect time to include a survey or two. Ask these engaged customers about their interests, desires, needs, expectations for the future, etc. This information can help you uncover untapped opportunities.

3) Optimize your website for discoverability.

Search engines can only return the information you’ve provided them. But, unless your customers have bookmarked your website, chances are they are using a search engine to find you online.

If those search results are burying your website under a long list of irrelevant links, that can significantly impair your ability to attract new business. Worse, if Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. are displaying incorrect information about your hours of operation or physical location(s), it can give customers the impression that the lights are on but nobody’s home.

Whether you know how to code or not, you can take a DIY approach to renovating your business’ online presence. Here are a few tips for doing so.

  • Check your Google My Business listing and update your hours, status, and contact information as necessary. You can also post any COVID-19-related updates about your business to this listing. If you don’t currently use Google My Business, consider setting up an account.
  • Similarly, update any business listing information on social media, especially Facebook.
  • Learn from your own searches. Use the many free tools available to you — such as Google Trends, AlsoAsked, QuestionDB, Quora, and Answer The Public — to find out how people on the internet are talking about topics related to your business. Use this intelligence to help you revise or otherwise update any relevant content on your website.
  • Create a “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) page on your website. Google’s algorithms now prioritize natural language queries. The more your website’s content can anticipate — and answer — actual customer questions, the higher it should rank in Google’s search results for topics relevant to your business.
  • Eliminate pages on your site that duplicate content, consolidating them into single pages where appropriate.
  • Invest in high-quality content. Google prefers what they call EAT content — content that shines a spotlight on your business’ expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. Start a company blog or step up your current blogging efforts. Share this blog content on social media as well, forging stronger connections with your followers there and giving them additional incentive to visit your website.

4) Help your customers express their support for your business.

Stay-at-home orders may have forced your business to shut down, reduce its hours of operation, or cut back on certain services. But that doesn’t mean you still don’t have salaries as well as bills to pay.

Your customers may understand this reality in the abstract, but they may not appreciate what it means for your business unless you provide specifics. When communicating those specifics, also present solutions to those customers who can’t buy from you or visit you in person right now but who still want to award you their business.

Gift cards are a great way to generate revenue while ensuring that your customers remain your customers once you reopen. Encourage gift card purchases on your site, through social media, and via email. Again, messaging is critical — tell your customers how they can use gift cards and how their purchase makes a material difference for your business.

Even though consumers aren’t spending as much on non-essential services or goods at the moment, they can still be enticed with discounts. Be strategic with your pricing. Where can you sacrifice some profit margin to drive sales? If you offer subscriptions or memberships, now is the time to reduce rates. As an extra benefit, by advertising these products, you are asking your customers to look hopefully toward a less uncertain future. Finally, give yourself the tools you need to measure success on an incremental basis. Remember the lifetime value of a loyal — that is, return — customer.

5) Demonstrate leadership by serving others.

The pandemic has been hard on everyone. But it has brought out the best in many of us. Over the past three months, we’ve witnessed acts of exceptional courage, generosity, and selflessness. And businesses, both large and small, have been heavily involved in helping those individuals and communities most negatively impacted by COVID-19.

If your small business has been involved in charitable or philanthropic activity, let your customers know about it. Sharing that news isn’t about patting yourself on the back. It’s about bringing greater attention to the worthy causes you support and sharing uplifting stories with your customers.

Should your brand earn positive attention on social media or accrue goodwill in the process, consider it a bonus. Moreover, resist the temptation to capitalize on that goodwill right away. Stay in the moment. Doing so is the key to remaining humble, grateful, and compassionate — all qualities demonstrated by servant leaders.      

If you’re looking for opportunities to demonstrate that your business cares and is committed to helping others, start by asking yourself the following questions.

  • Do you have resources that would otherwise go to waste while your business is temporarily closed or limiting its operations? Who might benefit from a donation of those resources?
  • What does authenticity mean for your brand? How can you align your values with your business goals in selecting a cause to support?
  • How can your business demonstrate that it is a good neighbor? COVID-19 may be a global issue, but your customers are thinking locally. The more you can get involved at the grassroots level, the better.
  • Are you listening to your employees and customers? Chances are they have a cause dear to their heart or an excellent idea for showing support for your community. Empower them by following their lead.
  • How can you behave like a marketing partner for the cause you choose to support? How can you amplify their message, inspire your customers to lend their support, and strengthen bonds within your community?

Looking for more advice on how to run a small business? Be sure to check out these other “News” articles.

Have a question or concern about your business checking or savings account, our treasury management services, or our small business loans? Reach out to a Guaranty Bank & Trust banker today at (888) 572-9881.

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