If your business has little competition, an entirely unique and relevant product and wide awareness among your target customers, this article will be of little use to you. For the rest of you, and that will be the vast majority (including me), the issue of how to keep your business top of mind with customers is of critical importance to its long-term success.
In this article I offer no quick fixes. No short cuts. No corners cut. But, with a little focus, hard work and smart thinking, you can provide your business with a better platform to remain salient and at the top of your customers’ mind when they come to buy.
Let’s start with the fundamentals. The key thing that will keep you at the front of your customers’ mind is to be relevant. This is all about how well your business meets your customers’ needs, be that through product or service superiority, value, performance, convenience, support, reliability or any other way of making your offering distinctive, different and memorable. You need to be clear about your proposition, be able to articulate it and do so at every opportunity.
As well as relevance, consumer awareness is of paramount importance in your customers’ heads. Advertising is and has been the main way companies have looked to create awareness in terms of expenditure and there certainly has been a proliferation of ways that money can be spent in proportion to the number of new media and communication channels available. But big, traditional advertising budgets are the preserve of large companies and so it’s about smart application of advertising with measurable ROI that is where the small business must focus.
Using digital advertising
One such example is Facebook advertising. Digital is grabbing an increasing amount of advertising budgets from large and small businesses alike. Social media, especially Facebook, provides a means of engaging with customers on their terms and can be a very useful way of remaining top of mind. Growing numbers of likes and followers allows your brand to become more salient to customers and retain awareness between purchases as well as encouraging higher frequency purchasing through offers, events, competitions and new product communications.
Facebook advertising is especially useful for businesses with a large proportion of locally-sourced sales. Leads can be ‘harvested’ from website visitors and existing customer database records and more specifically targeted by location and profile from the huge amount of data that Facebook holds. In this way, targeted advertising can be effective in building a database of customers’ Facebook accounts and convert customers into ‘likers’ and ultimately ‘followers’. The costs involved are not huge and results are measurable. There are plenty of third party social media marketing agencies that can manage the whole campaign for you.
Outside of advertising, database marketing in the form of email newsletters are a popular and inexpensive mechanism for reaching customers on a regular basis and to reinforce awareness and boost both relevance and sales. There are many pitfalls in this approach however, so you need to ensure that you get customer’s permission. This is to confirm that they actually welcome the communication you send and making sure they opt-in to your newsletter.
You need to carefully consider and if possible, research the frequency, type of message content and interests of your audience. This will allow you to develop a programme of communications that are effective in keeping your brand and business top of mind. Right at the cutting edge of new ways to deliver cost effective, highly targeted and engaging communications to enhance awareness are e-cards, delivered via targeted email to your customer database. Currently the main use of e-cards in the corporate world is for delivering animated, customised and interactive Christmas greetings. This market has grown largely because of the benefits e-cards offer over traditional paper cards in terms of cost, time, effort, environmental responsibility, ability to create an impact and ability to present a modern brand image.
Very recently, however, new commercial e-card products have become available for use in year-round communications. These corporate communication e-cards are able to convey any type of corporate announcement from the appointment of a new partner or key staff member to sales and promotional messages with links to websites or specific landing pages. At the more personal end of the spectrum, person-to-person business e-cards can be used to better engage with customers by simply thanking them for their business in an unusual and eye-catching way, thereby strengthening everyday customer relationships and increasing salience.
Chris Rowson is managing director of eCO2 Greetings.