Written by Rahna Barthelmess originally for Southworth Blog
No matter what business you are in, you need to purposefully, thoughtfully and carefully plan out ways to stay top-of-mind with your customer base. If you sell consumer packaged goods, you are likely to use television advertising to let people know about your great product. If you are a retailer, you might use radio or newspaper to remind people to come to your store. But if you are a small business owner, how do you choose the right media for your business?
Knowing your customers’ behaviors will help you choose the right media.
What do they do? How do they spend their day? What does a day in the life of your customer look like?
What TV shows do they watch and when do they watch them? Do they read books, newspapers, magazines, blogs? Do they spend time online? Where? Are they involved in online communities like Facebook or MySpace? Which email service do they use? Which search engine? Are they a part of a group, i.e., a book club, association, woman’s group, church, charitable organization, country club? Do they listen to the radio? Podcasts? Are they creating content for YouTube? With respect to your industry, what do they buy or use or create right now?
Understanding where they live and what they do on a day-to-day basis will help you in choosing the right media.
The key to marketing is to speak to the right person at the right time with the right message…simple, but not easy. Ideally, you would only need to advertise right when you know your customers are looking for what you have to offer. If you sell pumpkins for Halloween or Easter baskets in the spring, your timeframes for staying top-of-mind are much more targeted. But for most small businesses, you need to be out there talking about what you have to offer consistently, because you never know when someone is going to need your services.
That’s why I recommend developing different tactics for your marketing plan. You will want to mix it up a bit, using many different media to keep in touch with your customers. If you are a small business that sells business-to-business, it may be as simple as writing an email, then following up with a phone call, then sending them a letter, then commenting on something they said in social media (perhaps a comment on their blog or a re-tweet of their twitter posting) You can meet them at a trade show, send them a direct mail piece, schedule a meeting with them, then send another email, and then another letter. As you vary the approach, you will learn which forms of communication work best (or you will learn which to avoid in future!). It may be that the variety itself is what draws them in. You keep their interest by your variety of communication.
In all these communications, your goal should be to build engagement in a way that matches your brand statement. If you send an email, make sure that it is clear and concise and free of typos. If you make a phone call, be animated, respectful of their time, and have something important to say. If you send them a letter, you’ll want to make sure it is a personalized note on high-quality stationery that speaks to their critical business issues.
Make sure that your communications are relevant to them and speak to them about topics that matter to them. If you end up talking about your products/services, make sure to do it in a way that highlights how it helps them. Highlight blogs or articles you think might be of interest to them. This shows that you care about them and their business (and that you can become a trusted partner because you understand their world).
In today’s world, there is no excuse for not reaching out to your customers on a regular basis. Whether it’s an old-school tactic that always brings results, or a new digital technology that allows you to track your customer’s initial evaluation of your website, or a sophisticated affiliate marketing program, there are a myriad of ways to communicate. Which ones work best for you and why?