You want to make it as easy as possible for customers to find your business online. Beyond that, you want to be able to proactively reach out to potential customers who may need your products and services.
This is where digital channels come in. Different channels have different purposes and audiences. Depending on what your business is and what you’re trying to accomplish, how you engage with customers can have a big impact on sales, retention, and brand awareness.
Most businesses should use more than one channel, although the exact number depends on the type and maturity of your business. Many businesses start small when it comes to channels, both in terms of how many and how they’re used, and then expand as they hone their marketing skills and find their niche.
A florist may use an online store, email marketing, and Facebook when they open their business. Then, six months down the road, they may add Instagram as an additional social media channel, turn infrequent marketing email into a weekly newsletter, and expand the number of products they offer online.
Here is an overview of the different types of channels to help you pick the right combination for your business.
For most eCommerce businesses, building an online store should be a top priority. While it’s possible to sell products using online checkout links, an online store gives you credibility and builds SEO for your business.
With an online store, you can showcase your products, take payments securely, and acquire data to help you grow your business. Online eCommerce platforms, such as Square, provide you with the tools you need to run your business so you can focus on providing great customer service.
Even if you don’t have technical skills, you can easily set up an online store. When building your online store, create a site that represents your company. Add your company logo, design the store using your business colors, and write the text in the tone you use to communicate with customers. You’ll also want to carefully lay out your store to make it easy for customers to find and quickly purchase products. Use multiple high-quality photos of each product so customers can clearly see them when making their purchasing decisions.
Social media gives you the ability to communicate with current and potential customers while building a brand. Because people can share your posts on their own social media channels, your posts can reach a broad audience. Customers expect businesses to be on social media, which makes this channel a requirement for most, if not all, businesses, regardless of size or industry.
Many businesses mistakenly focus their social media posts only on their business and products. In addition to information like new products, specials, and modified hours, share information and articles that will be of interest to your customers. And be sure to encourage people to engage with your business through these channels. Remember, building a business in today’s landscape is about building relationships with your customers. You can also use social media posts to connect to your store and directly sell products. By using Shoppable Instagram posts and including checkout links in Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts, you can let customers can purchase right from a post.
To drive engagement, you’ll want to consistently post on all the channels your business is active on, starting with the channels where your customers hang out. You can stretch yourself too thin if you attempt to be on too many different channels simultaneously, especially when launching your business. Many businesses start with one or two channels and then expand into others as their business grows. You should also consider the best time to post for your customers and the channel. For example, from noon to 4 p.m. is the best time for Facebook posts.
Businesses that sell products and services directly to other businesses should prioritize LinkedIn. If you want to target consumers, most of them will expect you to maintain an active Facebook business page. Because consumers often check reviews on a business, focus on getting customer reviews on Facebook.
Many businesses also stay active on Instagram because they can showcase visually appealing products or services. The platform also allows people to purchase products directly from a post. Twitter can work for all types of businesses, but it can be more challenging for small businesses to gain traction because of large brands on the platform already competing for attention. Rather than add to the noise, you can focus on turning your small business Twitter account into a customer service channel, or showcase shoppers who have bought your products. You can also use Twitter Polls to let your customers weigh in on which products or services they want to see from your brand, which drives engagement.
Twitter is ultimately about connecting with people and growing a community. Understand where your brand’s perspective can add to the conversation and build a dialogue.
You want your customers to have trust in your company, and that starts with building their trust in your expertise. A blog is a great way to accomplish this.
Many small business owners start a blog to provide educational content to their current and potential customers. A specialty food eCommerce store, for example, could write a post with ideas for having a socially distanced BBQ, or share recipe ideas using their products. When you publish your blog posts, be sure to share them on your social media channels to drive more traffic to your blog.
Additionally, blogs that are on the same website as your online store help improve your search ranking, meaning it’s easier for people to find you. The key is to write about topics that are useful for people who would be interested in your products.
The specialty food store may carry a large line of German food products. By writing about German cooking and hosting parties that celebrate German culture, the store makes it easier for people who are interested in German foods to find their website.
Because blogs and educational topics are more relevant to certain businesses, carefully consider whether a blog would drive traffic to your site and improve your search ranking. You should only launch a blog if your team has the expertise and time to create well-written and interesting posts, or if you can hire someone with the time and skills to do it for you. While an interesting blog can help drive sales, a blog that is not given proper attention can cause you to lose customers.
With email, you have the ability to directly connect with every customer. You are not dependent on who sees the information on their social media page, or customers searching for a specific keyword. With email marketing, you control the timing, messaging, and format. McKinsey research found that email marketing is 40 times more effective for landing new customers than Facebook and Twitter combined. All online businesses regardless of type, industry, or size should use email marketing to connect with customers.
While it may feel overwhelming to send messages when you first launch your business, you should at least collect email addresses to begin building your distribution list. If you use an eCommerce platform, such as Square, you can automatically begin building your list with your first sale.
Consider sending out an email newsletter on a regular basis, weekly or biweekly, for example, as well as communications when you want customers to know something right away, like a change in hours or a new product you’re offering.
By using segmentation and targeting, you can increase your email marketing success. Make sure your emails provide value to your customers and don’t simply talk about your business. Take active steps to keep your email out of spam folders by avoiding spam trigger words, purging inactive email addresses from your list, and using a simple layout. Consider including discount codes, tips for using your products, and announcements for contests with prizes. Create subject lines that increase open rates and entice customers to read your emails.
While it’s tempting to jump into many channels in an attempt to connect with the most customers, you should carefully choose the right channels for your business. By focusing on a few channels and creating consistent, valuable content for them, you can more effectively connect and engage with your customers.
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