Some advice for small businesses as they learn to take advantage of  modern marketing

There is a digital divide that exists with every small business owner, despite that the first two decades of the 21st century brought about digital transformations in sales and marketing. Too many SMB’s still look at their customer buying experience from an out of date perspective.

Across many different industries, SMB’s had begun investing in digital foundations, but many were not prepared to adopt technology platforms as part of their daily operations.

Smart, forward-thinking SMB’s immediately moved to enhance the digital customer experience through:
• Better website experience (UX);
• Improvements in digital retailing and product messaging
• The use of interactive consumer experiences, such as built-in messaging platform and video chat platforms

And while there have been technology solutions and resources available, it took a global pandemic to stimulate many SMB’s to reevaluate their use of non-traditional aspects of their sales and marketing functions.

People are Visual Learners

The study of behavior has shown that people have preferences for how they like to learn. However, study after study illustrates that the majority of people are visual learners, supporting the argument for increased use of video in the prospecting and engagement processes.

Since the onset of COVID restrictions in March, video platforms have gone from a rarely used, expensive communication tactic to a high-performance tactic that can directly impact the bottom line of virtually every SMB. The ability to visually demonstrate a product, show the use of a product, or the installation of a product, is enormously beneficial to getting a purchase decision by a consumer. It can also build tremendous engagement and loyalty. Equally important are video testimonials, which can now be done remotely and privately thanks to mainstream acceptance of social networks.

Chat to the Bot

Most of us have dealt with chatbots; they aren’t a new phenomenon. Yet the last couple years have ushered in a new wave of chatbot functionality and brought the costs inline with SMB sensibilities.

Many SMBs are operating with reduced staff and offset this with a more significant application of technology. Tools like chatbots can play a vital role, and if you are a small-business owner interested in streamlining marketing or customer service, then using a chatbot is worth exploring.

The essential benefits of chatbots for small businesses include:

  • Revenue Growth – Chatbots enable small businesses to find leads, convert customers, and provide customer service.
  • Less Time/Less Money – Chatbots provide an excellent customer experience. Plus, they don’t pull employees off of tasks and have become more affordable.
  • Cheap/Easy – Hiring a developer to build a basic bot doesn’t have to be complicated or costly.
  • Simple Interface – Chatbots are easy for customers to use. Design yours with a simple interface to make interaction simple and straightforward.
  • Stay at the Forefront– There’s no denying that Chatbots are going to be an online business standard in the next few years.
  • Perhaps the most accessible and most popular use of chatbots for a small business is to answer basic customer questions. A chatbot loaded with FAQs is an effective way to provide sufficient answers to customer queries. Use a chatbot to filter out basic customer questions before directing customers to a live representative.

What? Me Worry?

Many SMB’s tell us they worry about losing the face-to-face, the person-to-person feeling of customer interactions. And it is a valid concern. For small businesses, building an authentic brand and creating robust relationships with an audience is paramount. We do not intend to let chatbots take away from that, and you will not have to.

Developing a standard “question, reply, question, reply” chatbot uploaded with the most common customer questions is simple, affordable, and useful.

For example: Instead of just answering introductory questions, the auto industry is now empowering chatbots to answer secondary and tertiary questions with information before transferring a prospective customer to a representative.

What secondary and tertiary questions are chatbots answering?

1. Trade-in worth for vehicles
2. Qualification for discounts (veterans and first responders, for example)
3. Rebate inquiries

The chatbots’ answers are leading to improved revenue and streamlined customer experience.

digital divide / marketing automation

Marketing Automation

Automate your email marketing, and marketing automation in general, are two of those terms that are often an intertwined mistaken notion, depending on who is shouting it and who is the receiver. If a MA salesperson speaks to a Fortune 1000 company, it means one thing. To a small, local store owner, it may say something completely different.

So, let me share with you what Forrester Research says about the definition of Marketing Automation.

“Marketing Automation is defined as processes that help generate new business opportunities, manage volumes of business inquiries, improve potential buyers’ propensity to purchase, and increase alignment between marketing activities and sales results.”

That means that not only email is automated, but a CRM system is integrated into multiple lead generation platforms like social media, email, direct advertising, direct mail, inbound phone inquiry systems, etc., etc. That is a lot to pay for if you are a shop owner in your local community. It’s also a lot to pay for if you already use a CRM. It’s a lot to learn, too.

Marketing Automation Graph 1

Here are some statistics that might surprise you about email marketing. having it automated, and closing the digital divide:

  • McKinsey states that email is almost 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined for acquiring new customers.
  • Marketing Sherpa goes on record with the statement that 91% of US adults like to receive promotional emails from those they do business.
  • Email has a 6% open rate overall, BUT, when you consider that all the email that floods inboxes by rogue marketers dilutes the percentages of interested parties opening and responding to targeted emails.
  • Email is the best way to communicate with customers on an affordable basis, with conversations seeing an 11% improvement year over year.
  • Email is currently being utilized worldwide by more than 3 Billion people by 2020.

There are many other information points in the original post, which you can read by clicking here.

SMB’s Close the Digital Divide

An SMB study done by Microsoft® found that 78 percent of small businesses report planning to adapt to cloud computing by 2020. No doubt, many providers of your human resources, payroll, and accounting processes have pushed you there already. See, you’re already closing the divide.

And we haven’t gotten to the discussion of leveraging social networking or implementing customer journeys into an SMB marketing plan. A future post will explore those SMB opportunities.

How is your small business narrowing its digital divide?