Almost every business has been affected by the pandemic and forced to adapt in order to survive. Research from Goldman Sachs paints a picture of positives and negatives: nearly two-thirds of small businesses saw their revenues decrease, but 62% have continued trading without interruption. 44% have cut jobs, but for every two businesses that made redundancies, another has increased the number of people it employs.
Being agile and adapting to the crisis have both been crucial during this time. This extends to your marketing and communications efforts too, especially when you consider how much communicating with customers has changed over the last 12 months.
With that in mind, Dean Standing of data insights company REaD Group shares a few small changes you can make to your 2021 marketing and communications strategy to help keep your business in the green:
1. Communicate at the appropriate frequency
During the first lockdown, the aim was to communicate as much as possible with customers during uncertain times. But quality engagement is not the same as frequency of contact, and frequency of contact doesn’t necessarily lead to engagement.
Research shows that email send volumes soared in the first few weeks of the pandemic and have remained high ever since. It also shows that companies became less discriminatory about mailing lists, with companies new to email trying untested or dormant lists. Meanwhile, more experienced email marketers blasted Covid-related communications to their entire database, leading to a rise in spam, errors, and consumer complaints.
The good news is that customer engagement also spiked. However, with a larger number of companies using email than ever before, cutting through the noise has been even harder. As difficult as it might be, try not to overcommunicate. Analyse contact frequency, and which campaigns have garnered the most engagement, then build a comms program accordingly.
2. Consider other channels
Engagement shouldn’t rely solely on email. While it is valuable, it can be a real challenge to make your voice heard. And the challenge isn’t just constrained to how to stand out in a crowded inbox, but also how to get there in time.
During November’s Cyber Week, email service providers struggled to deliver on time, with time-sensitive offers not reaching inboxes until after the incentive had expired. Meanwhile, other channels such as direct mail (DM) and SMS are quietly exceeding expectations, helping businesses surpass ROI targets.
While it might require a bigger overhead to execute, if you understand your customer profile, the results can far outweigh email, delivering clients with much larger lifetime value. Using other channels brings a balanced approach and a consistent message. You should also analyse engagement vs. activity: sometimes less (activity) equals more (engagement).
3. Get personal
Engagement is important because it helps to generate loyalty: something which is built over time by consistently being relevant and personal. Every communication should be about the individual. The more you know about them, the more relevant and personalized your communications can be, and the better the engagement.
As a business, you should take time to focus on understanding your customers. Increase the amount of first-party data you collect, combine it with third party data to enhance it, and build the best possible view of an individual: what they like and dislike, how they like to hear from you and when. This will also help you to avoid spamming or contacting consumers or prospects in error. Then use all that knowledge to develop and perfect your communications strategy for the year.
4. Discount wisely
Discounting is a powerful tool, especially given the current need to inject quick sales and reduce surplus stock. But persistent discounting can be problematic in the long term. Once you start continuously discounting, it’s very difficult to change consumer perceptions and return to full price.
There is a correct way to discount; partner with an analytics agency that specializes in discount management, as they can tell you how and when to reduce prices without impacting sale volumes. Discounting requires a defined strategy, examining factors like product velocity and discount type. In short, discounting produces quick wins, but is a slippery slope that doesn’t always lead to engagement, so make sure you assess short term gains with long term returns.
About the Author
Dean Standing is the Client Services Director at REaD Group, now renamed as Sagacity, a marketing data and insight company that uses its unrivalled data products, insight and expertise to help its clients get closer to their customers. It provides market-leading data quality and cleaning solutions and trusted marketing data.