Small businesses were forced to adapt to a dramatically altered landscape when the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the world in 2020. Combined with a conscious push by consumers to support local businesses in their communities, many small businesses saw staggering success, but sustaining that momentum is a different challenge entirely.
As the pandemic has worn on, Constant Contact research has revealed an “if it ain’t broke” level of confidence that could be preventing small businesses from capturing the totality of their market possibility. Our Small Business Now report indicates that 84% of small businesses are “very” or “extremely” confident that they know what their customers are looking for, which is fantastic if you’re set up to make the most out of that knowledge. However, many of these same businesses are making common marketing mistakes that could be eroding customer loyalty and impeding their own operational efficiencies.
SMBs don’t need to be told to work harder. But there is a clear opportunity to make small adjustments in their strategies to meet the digital moment we find ourselves in. Here are a few ways small business leaders can employ email marketing to understand what matters most to their customers and keep them coming back for more.
A social disconnect
It’s hard to imagine running a business without a social media presence, but many SMBs are overly reliant on social media when it comes to marketing for conversion. Posting on platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram was a cheap and easy way to get the word out early in the pandemic, and with the explosion in device usage since the pandemic began, that made sense. But, while a flashy post or story can catch their attention, more often than not, it’s not leading them to buy.
Think about how you use social media: to catch up on friends, news and memes, to “unplug” or wind down. Social media advertising, while affordable, may have become the new banner ad – effective for brand stickiness, but low-converting.
What is clear, however, is that emails still convert, and consumers look for them. Instead of relying on platforms that are designed for drive-by scrolling, why not use a high-performing medium like email to leverage your social media following and turn them into customers? Your social following immediately becomes more valuable if you can use both channels to pull users into a memorable, branded experience and show them why they should stick around.
What you say, how you say it
More direct, personalized outreach is far more likely to capture attention, and email marketing is the best channel for enabling that type of engagement. Consumers that participated in our research said that text messages and emails were most likely to influence a purchase, and the reasoning behind that is fairly intuitive.
Parsing through unread emails or messages demands more attention than mobile scrolling, so effective campaigns in these channels are less likely to be overlooked. If customers are curious enough to open an email, chances are they’ll at least entertain the thought of a purchase.
That said, the content of that email marketing is just as important. Our report showed that small businesses see wellness check-ups and business updates as purchase drivers, consumers are looking for businesses to demonstrate value before they buy. Over two-thirds of them said that an email offering a discount or coupon would lead to a purchase, with other messaging angles lagging way behind.
It makes sense that these incentives would be effective, and while small businesses might not be eager to thin their margins, increased sales volume is a net positive at the right discount. Satisfying customer needs is always a great way to build deeper brand loyalty, and the earlier it happens in that relationship, the better.
Success is a habit
Proactivity is key to email marketing, and a passive or stagnant strategy is a sure way to fall behind. Staying competitive regardless of industry demands that SMBs stay agile and open to change. Data collection and analysis can help, offering a consistent inflow of information that can tell you which communication channels are most effective.
Simple things like A/B testing can be useful for this sort of maintenance research, and strategic change doesn’t have to be abrupt or dramatic. The most successful small businesses will recognize the nuance that exists in their respective customers and gradually tailor their strategies accordingly.
The fact is, there is no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all strategy for small businesses in today’s marketplace. What’s critical is avoiding complacency no matter the scale of one’s marketing strategy, because what works today is never guaranteed to work tomorrow – particularly as consumer behavior continues to evolve. Fortunately, email marketing offers small business leaders a number of ways to engage their customers, convert them into loyal fans, and drive results for the business.
Whatever route you take, it must be informed by data that stems from observed customer behaviors and preferences – take marketing queues from the signals they send, because, after all, they are the audience you serve.