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Why Small Businesses Can Forget About Omnichannel Marketing

Why Small Businesses Can Forget About Omnichannel Marketing

If you follow any sort of marketing news at all, you’ve at least heard about omnichannel marketing. This gold standard of marketing is often touted as a must-do strategy for any business that wants to crush its goals. The problem is, the omnichannel approach is simply out of reach for millions—maybe even the majority—of businesses in the United States.

What is Omnichannel Marketing?

You can Google the term “omnichannel marketing” and receive tons of dry definitions, but that’s not why you’re here! To be frank: omnichannel marketing is when a company is all up in your business. You get a text message about a sale from Banana Republic while you’re in their store. You receive an abandoned cart email an hour after you decided not to buy those shoes. And those damn Amazon ads follow you EVERYWHERE online.

With so many devices connected to us these days, companies can identify and target us in many ways. If it all feels a bit big brother, that’s because it is! Add in the power and trackability of the internet, and you’ve got a massive amount of data that tells the story of you.

From your hobbies to your brand preferences and everything in between, it’s recorded into databases. This data creates a profile of who you are and, subsequently, how to sell you stuff. Grocery stores have been doing this for years through their “value cards.” They track everything we buy under the guise of offering discounts and then sell us out to manufacturers. Offering us coupons to buy the manufacturers’ competitors’ products is not a coincidence.

Why Omnichannel Marketing Won’t Work for Small Businesses

Let’s face it—omnichannel marketing is not a viable option for small businesses. True omnichannel marketing relies on data, and the analysis of large amounts of data requires the use of AI. Most small businesses can’t afford to invest in the platforms using this kind of AI technology. Not to mention, you have to pay to access the databases that are collecting the information in the first place. Big data is not the playground of even the largest family-owned business or non-tech startup.

Even if you had the money to invest in this kind of AI, would it make sense to? Even if you have a brick-and-mortar storefront or shop, how much foot traffic do you get on the average day? A massive chain store can use the power of AI to target thousands of people across the nation anytime they come in. But if you’re a single store or even a local chain, you just won’t have the numbers to make that investment pay off.

So what’s a small business owner to do?

Use Multichannel Marketing To Its Fullest

Now being villified by marketing snobs, multichannel marketing was the previous gold standard. This strategy delivers the company’s message on multiple channels—like social media, email marketing, direct mail, etc.—to reach as many people as possible. Being present on many channels makes sense, as not every person is present on every channel. The problem comes when people are lazy with their messaging (or just time-strapped).

Multichannel marketing campaigns aren’t inherently bad. Reaching your customers—consistently—where they are is always a good thing. You just have to build a strategy on how to best deliver your message to your audience using the channels and tools available to you. Strengthening and being strategic with your multichannel marketing can create impressive results.

In the past, multichannel marketing was a lengthy, manual process. Because of the time it took, companies often distributed the same content on every channel. The lack of true strategy around what message is delivered on which platform equated to a “spray and pray” method. There was no consideration for the content an Instagram user is most likely to view and engage with versus the content that works best via email.

Now, there are social scheduling tools that not only help you plan content in advance, but help you tailor your posts on each platform. On Hootsuite, for example, you can include hashtags on Instagram posts but remove them from LinkedIn. Email marketing tools have also come a long way, with some even offering workflow builders to automate sequences and follow up.

Using an all-in-one tool like Hubspot can be expensive, but it’s usually still WAY cheaper than trying to use an omnichannel AI platform. With Hubspot and others like it, you can trigger emails from website actions, build automated workflows, and use your database to its fullest. (I’m not a Hubspot rep—it’s just the product I have the most experience with!)

Side note: A marketing audit can help tailor your multichannel strategy and point you in the right direction. For example, if you’re posting consistently on Instagram but your target audience isn’t there, you’re wasting time and resources! You can either try to audit on your own or work with a professional who specializes in audits and strategy.

Fake Omnichannel Marketing With a Little Manual Labor

You also should think outside the box and develop ways to use the data you keep on your customers and prospects. If you’re an oil change service, pull a list of everyone who came in 3-4 months ago. Then send them a personalized email with a $20 coupon. If you’re a wedding photographer, send a text message to all clients within the past year and offer them a referral bonus.

The trick is to really look at the data you have access to and brainstorm ways to use it to your advantage. (P.S. Please don’t ever sell this data to outside companies. That’s a sure way to tank your reputation.)

If you’re one of the millions of small business owners in the U.S. and you want the best marketing you can get, I have one thing for you to remember. One man’s treasure is another man’s trash! Meaning: the gold standard for the Fortune 500 isn’t going to do you any good. Build your strategy, focus on your own business goals, and you’ll be on the right track!

18 Marketing Activities to Promote Your Small Business

18 Marketing Activities to Promote Your Small Business

How do you promote your small business? Some of the items on this list might seem like no-brainers, while others may be truly enlightening. Even if you already know about these activities, this list is a good reminder of all the ways to drive marketing for small businesses. It’s broken out by category for easier perusing. Enjoy!

Web/SEO

1. Establish a web presence with clear, concise copy. Speak to your target audience and talk about the problems you solve for them.

2. Publish SEO optimized content consistently. For most businesses, this would be in the form of blog posts.

3. Show social proof of the solutions you offer. Publishing testimonials (with permission!) is a great way to do so.

Social Media

4. Develop a content repurposing strategy. Break your long form content into digestible chunks for social posts in various formats.

5. Post consistently. Create a content calendar and use scheduling tools so that you can create content in batches when you have time.

6. Engage, tag, comment, and respond! Social media is just that—social—so you should be engaging with your network.

7. Use video (like Reels) and live feeds to humanize your brand. People like people, so show the faces behind your company’s name.

8. Join groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, then be active. Post your own content, ask questions, and comment on others’ posts.

Email

9. The first step is to actually collect email addresses! Set up ways to obtain this information—new customer forms, surveys, digital giveaways (aka lead magnets), etc.

10. Deploy an email newsletter with helpful content. This should be information of value to your target audience, so minimal selling!

Sales Collateral

11. Print (yes print!) business cards. Include a QR code on them to drive traffic to your website for more information.

12. Create direct mail campaigns to take grab people’s attention. You’ll catch their eye a lot easier in their mailbox than in their inbox, where there is a LOT more competition.

Local Marketing

12. Set up a Google My Business page. Millions of people are searching for your services, so make sure you can be easily found!

13. Be active in your community. Attend local networking events and join the Chamber of Commerce in your area.

14. Support local organizations that align with your brand values and sponsor their events.

Public Relations

15. Create a referral program so that your customers can market for you.

16. Submit guest posts to blogs that your audience reads. Look to partner with other businesses that share your target audience.

17. Appear on a podcast. Again, focus on interviews that your target audience will hear.

Customer Experience

18. Provide expert, white glove service to each customer. Solve any problems quickly and express your gratitude for their support. A happy customer is the best salesperson!

Small Business? Here’s How to Build Your Marketing Team

Small Business? Here’s How to Build Your Marketing Team

Just like marketing in general, it’s good to have a strategy when it comes to building your marketing team. You need to be purposeful when deciding who to hire—if your team is unbalanced you’ll have a difficult time getting all tasks completed. Even if you decide to outsource some or all of your marketing activities, this guide should help you identify the best partner.

Determining the Structure of Your Marketing Team

The exact structure of your team will depend on your business goals. For example, if you’re primarily focused on lead generation, you’ll want more resources devoted to content creation. This includes blogs, video content, ebooks, checklists, etc). You also need to maintain your digital presence, including your website and regular posting on your social media accounts. Another content focus should be developing lead magnet activities like email marketing sequences and value-driven webinars.

On the other hand, if your main goal is branding (aka getting your name out there), youll have different priorities. You still want to maintain your online presence but you’ll also want to have resources focused on tactics that engage the community. This could include event sponsorship (local or virtual), public relations, and thought leadership. Thought leadership is particularly effective if you want to build your brand’s reputation as a leading expert.

It’s easy to imagine that each priority will have a different person responsible. Yet for most small and even midsized businesses this just isn’t possible. Not only for the obvious financial reasons, but also because each responsibility isn’t typically a full 40 hour per week job. A better way to structure the team is by grouping tasks based on the skills needed to complete them – like graphic design or analysis. Most people are skilled in multiple areas, so your designer might also be tech-savvy and lead your webinars. Or a writer might also be adept at creating and managing campaign schedules.

The Types of People You Need On Your Marketing Team

Someone who makes decisions. If you’re building the team, this is likely one of your roles. Having one person in charge of the department is important to operations. Someone needs to be the final say on what needs to be done and who is going to do it. It’s also helpful for others in the organization to have a single point of contact for all department communications. In a small business, the decision maker for marketing might even be the President or CEO! Just remember that unless your background is in marketing, you should hire well so that you can listen to and trust your team’s recommendations.

Someone who loves planning and organization. This trait is extremely important in marketing because we’re responsible for so many tasks and have a lot of balls in the air. There’s no point in developing well thought-out campaigns if you blow the deadlines. This person is a great candidate to learn all about your tech stack – the software and programs that assist your marketing activities. Maybe you use a social media scheduler and build campaign schedules in Airtable. Whatever way you track all your marketing tasks, someone needs to be aware of the daily to-do list and keep things running smoothly.

Someone who writes well. Writing is a critical skill that applies to every single touchpoint of your marketing. It’s hard enough to write clear copy that engages your audience, but throwing SEO optimization into the mix challenges even the most seasoned cooywriter. Even if creating long form content isnt a priority, you shouldnt ignore the power of communication. It’s just as challenging (if not more so) to craft short yet compelling copy for an ad as it is to draft a 1,500 word blog post. Being able to write well is my top most desired skill when interviewing marketing staff because its not something thats easy to teach on the fly.

Someone with design skills. I’m a believer that you either have an eye for design or you don’t. I’m not talking about classically trained skills – some people just know what looks good and what doesn’t. Specific programs like the Adobe Creative Suite can be taught (and there’s always Canva). But without someone who has a basic eye for design, you’ll struggle a LOT when creating pleasing social posts or presentations for clients. As a side note, if you’re just starting out and need a brand identity suite (including a logo), you should consider hiring a professional. That’s usually not a task for an entry-level designer.

Someone who is tech-savvy. This person doesn’t necessarily have to be on your marketing team if you have an IT department. But as previously mentioned, there are so many martech tools available and someone should be able to figure out which ones to use and how best to use them. Not to mention navigating all the different social media platforms and the backend of your website, which can be a beast all on its own! Again, unless you’re building the most basic website, I recommend engaging with a professional web design company to develop your site and get it done right. Your staff can then make updates and maintain the site once the structure is built.

Someone who is analytical. Not all marketers are right-brained creative types! It takes a logical mind to analyze the myriad data available from marketing activities and determine what it all means. Each social media platform will give you analytics on your posts, the audience you’re reaching, your engagement, and more. You’ll have similar analytics from your website and email marketing platforms. And then there are more manual activities, like tracking exposure from event sponsorship or media mentions. The best analysts will be able to draw conclusions from all this data and use that information to direct your future activities.

General Traits All Marketers Should Have

To me, the top desired traits in a marketing team member are innovation and creativity. Both are indicators of someone who is able to think outside the box and come up with unique solutions. Along this path of thinking, you should look for someone who has initiative and is willing to take risks. Once they’re trained and have an understanding of how the department and company operate, they will be able to suggest new ideas and implement those ideas (with your approval). If they are a naturally risk-averse person, they might not be open-minded enough to truly innovate. You need someone who is willing to suggest big moves that lead to big payoffs.

Other helpful traits I’ve identified over the years include an interest in watching industry trends, good research skills, and a commitment to learning more and improving their skills. And of course the traits that apply to all positions – organization, attention to detail, time management, punctuality, and a generally good attitude – are valued in marketing as well!

Even if you’re hiring for an entry level position, you should look for candidates with work experience. Before you get up in arms about that statement, I don’t mean required industry experience! Entry level should mean exactly that. But candidates who have prior experience in retail, food service, and other customer service positions will already have some of the skills necessary to be great in marketing. If a candidate has a marketing internship on their resume, definitely snatch them up! This is golden experience that built on their education and opened their eyes to real-world marketing operations.

What If I Can’t Afford a Marketing Team?

If your business is very small or you’re just starting out, you might not be able to hire multiple people for marketing activities. I’m sure it’s tempting to try to do it yourself, but again, unless your background is in marketing, don’t fall into this trap! Marketing is more than just posting on Instagram and calling it a day. You need a strategy that is aligned with your business goals and tactics that bring the strategy to fruition. And even if your background IS in marketing, you have many other business tasks that only you, as the owner, can take care of. It’s best to invest in staff that are solely devoted to marketing.

If you can’t afford an entire team, you can start with just one full-time marketing hire. Look for someone with the organizational skills and initiative necessary to keep everything on task. Content creation, like writing and design, can be outsourced easily. You can even outsource your marketing strategy by partnering with a fractional CMO—an expert whose time you pay for only as much as you need it. This person should work to learn as much about your business and your goals as possible. Then they can craft a strategic marketing plan and work as an extension of your business to guide your marketing efforts.

If you’re tempted to skip marketing altogether to save money, I’ll simply wish you luck on your venture. You’re gonna need it!

The Secret to Building Customer Loyalty

The Secret to Building Customer Loyalty

How strong is your customer loyalty? Do your customers return to you as soon as they need your services or products? Or do they shop around for the lowest price or most convenient path?

If you know me at all, you know that I am a Coca-Cola fanatic. I will not drink Pepsi. If a restaurant doesn’t serve Coke, I drink water. But a little-known fact about me is that I used to drink Pepsi! When I was in high school, there were only Pepsi machines around the campus and I was fine substituting while on campus.

Since then, I’ve been choosing to drink Coke. I’ve convinced myself that anything less is just worthless (even Coke Zero). Psychologically, I just know that Coke is the best. What led to me becoming so loyal to Coke?

Short answer: consistency.

Using Consistency to Build Customer Loyalty

The secret to building customer loyalty is being consistent. Not just in any one area, but in ALL touchpoints.

1. Visual branding

Coca-Cola was the most common consistency example cited in my printing classes. It’s the brand that was always used to emphasize the importance of reproducing an exact color on any and every substrate. From cardboard boxes to magazine ads to aluminum cans, Coke red is always consistent. They even had their own PMS color created just for them!

Beyond the color, Coke has had the same font for their logo since 1886. It’s been tweaked slightly over the years, but the script has remained largely the same for almost 140 years. This type of consistency means that the image is instantly recognizable to consumers.

2. Brand Reputation and Values

Reputation is difficult to control in a lot of ways. It’s the expression of what a collective thinking is about your brand, and it can be incredibly challenging to change a bad reputation. However, reputation is strongly tied to your brand’s values.

Continuing the Coke example, their values include bringing people together. Ads are always about sharing a Coke with someone and use emotional marketing to resonate with consumers. The name campaign (where they printed names on bottles) was an innovative way to encourage people to buy and share Coke. Yet it fit right into their desire to bring people together.

When people know what you stand for and you’re consistent about representing your brand, they’re more likely to feel good about supporting you.

3. Product or Service Quality

No matter where you travel in the world, you can find a Coke. It’s always refreshing and always delicious!

This is not to say that it’s the same formula everywhere you go. Just like McDonald’s has different menu items to better serve customers in other cultures and countries, Coke has slight differences depending on where you go. (For example, Mexican Coke is renowned for its use of real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.)

But the point remains that, regional differences aside, you always know what to expect. I can buy a Coke at my local grocery store and get the same taste as I’d get from a gas station in Colorado. That’s consistency, and the guarantee of getting what I want every single time has cemented my customer loyalty.

Products aren’t the only thing that can be consistent. Service providers should also strive for consistent quality through every experience. If your maid service is sometimes fantastic and other times lackluster, you’re more likely to explore other options. But if they’re on top of things every single time they visit, you’ll be so happy that you’ll have no need to see what else is out there.

4. Product Placement

If your company is a B2C business serving consumers, you need to be consistent in where they can find you. I know that I can go into pretty much any retail establishment in the United States and find a Coke. Even if you’re a niche business that crafts vegan hemp dog collars, you should have your product always available where your customers expect you. If you sell on your website, you’d better make sure your site doesn’t go down. If you sell at a retailer, you should have a stocking schedule that allows for representation. Nothing is more disappointing than expecting to get what you want and having it be unavailable.

5. Customer Experience

This is your area to shine! The experience is paramount to building customer loyalty. Consider your buyer’s journey and the decisions they make that lead them to your product or service. Then look at every touchpoint between the decision to purchase and the transaction being complete. Have you provided excellent service? Have you delighted the customer with little details? Do these things every time and for every interaction, and you’ll have a customer for life.

When people know what to expect and know they’ll get it every time, you’ll build a loyal following who call you first when they need you. Better yet, you’re their ONLY call because nothing else compares. Build customer loyalty with consistency and you’ll win every time!

7 Customer Appreciation Tactics to Show Gratitude Year-round

7 Customer Appreciation Tactics to Show Gratitude Year-round

This post was contributed by Sadie Aram for Silverbrook Marketing.

Celebrating gratitude is one of the most fulfilling parts of the holiday season. Although it’s fun giving gifts during the holidays, remember that appreciation should happen year-round—especially when it comes to your customers. After all, they play a crucial role in your company’s success. No matter the size of your business, implementing a strong customer appreciation strategy can set you apart from your competitors.

Think of going the extra mile for your customers like a chain reaction. When you openly recognize a customer’s value, they become more loyal to your business, increasing your customer retention. Loyal customers are also more likely to refer your business to their friends and family (and referrals are also likely to be star customers).

If customer appreciation isn’t on your radar, it could be one reason you’re losing customers. Almost 70% of buyers abandon a company because they believe the company doesn’t care about them, compared to less than 15% of buyers who abandon a company due to product or service dissatisfaction. Fortunately, upgrading your customer appreciation efforts can start with these 7 tips.

1. Handwrite thank you notes.

In a world where commerce is highly digital, showing authentic gratitude can go a long way. Sending a personalized letter is a great approach! It shows your customer that there’s a human behind the company that wants to form a connection. If you’re short on time, try drafting automated emails for specific occasions instead. You could thank customers for recent purchases or even celebrate milestones like their “customer-versary.”

2. Spotlight loyal clients.

Promoting customers or businesses on social media and via email can be equally fun and productive. You do this by posting a customer’s story, highlighting a rave review, or grabbing an existing bio if your clients are other businesses. By consistently featuring supporters, you make customers feel good while also creating content for your company.

3. Give discounts and freebies.

Gifts of any size are sure to flatter your customers. It can be as small as a coupon for their next order, a free sample with their purchase, or branded swag like a t-shirt or a mug. If you’re feeling extra gracious, offer an upgrade to their current service or send them their favorite product free of charge. Remember to be thoughtful; consider sending your handwritten note with the gift to deliver the full package.

4. Build a loyalty program.

Loyalty programs are an effective way to express your gratitude to your most supportive customers. Discounts on future purchases, early access to new products, and other perks are sure to keep your customers happy and coming back for more. Programs can be based on different tiers of membership, points earned from each purchase, or a simple “punch card” approach.

5. Encourage (and reward) referrals.

Incorporating a referral program is one of the most highly praised marketing methods, as it generates several quality leads per customer. Like a loyalty program, a referral program is beneficial to both your customers and your business. As mentioned before, regular clients are likely to recommend your company to others. Since that helps your business, why not reward both parties for it? Cash back and free service offers are foolproof ways to encourage customers to refer a contact to your company.

6. Correct your mistakes.

Since there are humans behind every business, occasional mistakes are inevitable. While you can’t go back in time to prevent the mistake, you can control how you take accountability and apologize. In fact, 78% of customers will forgive a mistake if their customer experience is excellent. You can quickly turn a customer’s poor experience around by promptly fixing the problem and going beyond what was initially asked.

7. Give back to a cause close to your customers.

Free stuff can be the way to some people’s hearts, but customer loyalty runs much deeper to others. Show your consumer base that you care by donating to a charity that aligns with their values. You could even consider making a few small donations in each client’s honor to show that they played a role in the support. Having a consistent corporate social responsibility initiative can also contribute to a strong brand identity.

These tactics are a great way to foster beneficial relationships with your clients, but they’re not a “one-and-done” deal. Practice gratitude frequently and genuinely to send the right message to your customers.