More than 50% of the UK’s population own a Smartphone, and that figure is on the rise. As a result, consumer behaviour and expectations have changed. Customers seek value for money and regularly compare prices, but they also want instant access to new experiences and information on the move.
Digital can provide this. However, while many businesses jump on the digital bandwagon to keep up with customer demands, they need to remember that more traditional marketing methods shouldn’t be left behind – after all not every customer is the same.
We recently questioned over 300 SME owners from around the country and found that, while online and mobile channels are key growth areas, businesses are also going back to basics. Almost three quarters (67%) will focus on building more direct, face to face engagement to improve their service. I’m a great supporter of this! it’s a good way to encourage people to directly engage with your brand.
While face-to-face communication is prioritised, other traditional marketing methods are being put to one side. Our research found that 26% plan to cut back on local directory inclusions, while 24% will reduce local advertising activity including billboards and posters. Furthermore, 20% plan to cut down on sponsorship in favour of digital channels including m-commerce and email marketing.
Multi-channel marketing that combines old with new has its benefits, as you can tailor your communications depending on the individual or the situation. However, it can be hard to strike the right balance. From our experience of working with and advising SMEs, here are the top tips for success:
Demonstrate your expertise by teaching at local events. Depending on your business this can range from seminars and workshops to running master classes at fetes and markets. You can also host or sponsor events and invite customers to attend.
If you’re tight on space, offer your time instead; look at what’s going on around you in your community and get involved! This also helps generate local awareness.
Take the time to get to know your customers better by finding out their needs and preferences. By speaking with them regularly and gaining feedback (from more traditional phone conversations and feedback surveys to emails and Twitter interactions), you can use this information to gain valuable insight to make sure you’re delivering what they want via their preferred channel.
You should also aim to build strong relationships by frequently interacting, which will encourage repeat custom and enhance loyalty.
Your customers will be bombarded with messages and information from a huge variety of sources, so, as a small business, it can be hard to stand out. You need to make sure you have a clear message in the first place – what will people get by coming to you? – and communicate that through channels that they’re most likely to be using.
Your website is a great portal to make people aware of where else they can go to get information about you – from signing up to an email newsletter or following your blog to liking your Facebook page. You can ramp this up and down as needed – if you’ve got an event, for example, you can use a hashtag so you and your customers can follow the conversation.
It’s easy to get carried away with social media and spend a lot of time on it for not much gain. It’s important to get the right mix and only look at activity that will really help your business. You have to carefully think about what you want to achieve from such initiatives and which channels will work best for you.
For small businesses to survive and remain competitive, getting the right balance between interacting in person and using alternative channels is essential. You need to understand each customer and their preferences, particularly those that are local to your business.
Targeting customers at the right time with tailored content, offers and promotions will make them feel they are valued and getting an exclusive experience that they couldn’t get elsewhere. That can be done in store, online or using partners such as Groupon.