What are the best ways for a small business to communicate with customers?
In addition to being an author, I’ve been a freelance copywriter for seven years and I own an run a creative writing club. I may not have premises or staff, but nevertheless, I am a small business owner and as such, must ensure I keep in contact with my customers.
In many ways, it is more difficult being a one-man-band, as you have to do everything yourself. You are not only running the business from the perspective of your particular expertise, but you also have to be fluent in the ways of marketing, sales, accounting, and the rest. It is a constant learning process, but one thing I do know from working freelance for all these years is that the simplest way forward is always the most preferable. At the end of the day, you want to get on with what you love doing the most, not be bogged down by the daily toil of running your business.
No small business can afford not to be on social media, but when it comes to choosing which platform is right for you, this really depends on what your business is.
I run two Facebook business pages and a private group. I get a lot of engagement from Facebook, but I also find it frustrating because not everyone who follows me sees my posts. This is due to the Facebook algorithm, based on, amongst many other things, the level of engagement you get from your followers. This means they have to engage with you in order to see your posts, which isn’t so great if you want to engage with them in the first place! Unfortunately, you have to pay Facebook if you want to do that.
Instagram and Pinterest are both visual platforms, therefore great if you can come up with ways of making your business visually interesting. Have you noticed how many Pinterest posts come up when you search for something? In terms of visibility and SEO, Pinterest is worth investing some time in.
When it comes to Twitter, this is a great place for connecting with people, but it is very fast and again, easy for people to miss your posts unless they engage with you. Twitter has changed in recent years and like Instagram also, will show you the posts it thinks you are interested in based on what you have previously viewed and engaged with. You might notice, therefore, that you never see some of the posts from people you follow. This is when engaging with and reaching out to new customers becomes a little more difficult.
Time-saving on social media
Cross-posting as a means of increasing your reach
I have my blogs set up so they automatically post to all my social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I also cross-post onto Medium, an online publishing platform. I always include a featured image and excerpt on my blogs, so both these appear on my posts. This saves time posting to each individual platform.
With Instagram (not included in my blog social sharing), I make separate posts, which are set up to go automatically to Facebook and Twitter.
I’ll admit to not having time to make separate posts for each of my platforms. This just wouldn’t make good use of my time. I would need to hire a social media manager for that!
Sending out newsletters
Email marketing is still a powerful tool and you can read all about why your business should have an email newsletter on this previous post I wrote.
You may have noticed when you visit this blog that you see a pop-up inviting you to join my mailing list. As annoying as pop-ups can be, they are one of the best ways of getting the attention of visitors to your site.
I offer a free copy of an ebook story as a thank you for signing up and I don’t spam my followers, but I do try to keep in touch with updates of my latest blog post and any book news I may have.
Over the years, I’ve tried a number of different email marketing platforms, including Sign-Up.To and MailChimp. Both are free up to a certain number of recipients and offer a very similar experience in terms of templates and analytics. I have struggled with MailChimp recently though. It wasn’t sending emails to everyone on my list and I couldn’t work out why. I knew the emails were fine because I had used them individually and had a response, yet MailChimp didn’t seem to like them.
Concerned I would miss out on vital contact with my customers, I ended up returning to old-fashioned emailing and BCC’ing everyone. That way, I thought at least I would know if they bounced or didn’t get through. The only problem with doing it this way, though, is you can’t individualise the email and you also can’t offer an option to unsubscribe, which is important in the wake of GDPR (don’t forget that you can’t send emails without permission either).
When I was contacted recently, asking if I would be prepared to try out Campaign Monitor, another email marketing platform, I was keen to give it a go. Whilst there is very little difference in the way you put your email campaign together between all of these platforms, I actually found Campaign Monitor one of the simplest and easiest to use. I created and sent a newsletter within ten minutes. There aren’t as many templates to choose from compared to MailChimp, but this meant I spent less time picking one and could get on with writing and sending it out and I see this as a good thing.
I was impressed with the campaign report, as I found it simple, straightforward and informative. I’m not big on analytics and although I know I should be more informed about who is visiting my sites and when, I find this so time-consuming. The easier it is for me to find out the most basic of information, the better. With Campaign Monitor, I could see instantly who had opened and when, who had clicked on what and at what times. I was also relieved that all the emails were delivered.
Is Campaign Monitor worth paying for?
The downside to Campaign Monitor is that it is not a free platform like MailChimp. The minimum payment is £9 ($9) per month and I’m not entirely sure what you get for this as a one-man band with a small number of subscribers to communicate with. For me, Campaign Monitor was useful for its simplicity. Using this platform save me so much time and I think, in itself, this is something worth paying for if it frees you up to do other things.
Communicating by email is important to my business because it allows me to keep in touch with those who are genuinely interested in what I do. In the past, I have also found people have shared my email with their friends, which increases my reach and helps to spread the word about what I do. I also think that despite the number of emails we receive, you can control what you get in your inbox, particularly after GDPR. If you’ve subscribed to something, it is because you want to and email inboxes allow you to save or file an email. It won’t be there one minute and gone the next, as a social media post might.
Are you a small business owner? How do you communicate with your customers and what have you found works best for your business?