Keeping your customers close – even from a distance

A lady sat down using a smart phone to contact her customers

Your doors may be closed due to the coronavirus pandemic but your customers are still out there and they would love to support you. If you're a small business trying to stay afloat, keeping in touch with your customers is more important than ever

If you've got a loyal band of customers that come to your high street business, shop or cafe on a regular basis, you probably won't be in the habit of contacting them by email or text. But your regulars are undoubtedly missing you as much as you are missing them; they want to know how you and your staff are doing and they would love to keep on supporting you.

The current coronavirus lockdown measures don't mean you have to stop engaging with your customers. It's true that some people find emails or text messages from businesses intrusive. But local shops and cafes are the very businesses that people do want to hear from at the moment. If you run a local business, customers will see you more as friends or family than a corporate entity.

The other key issue is that you need to tell people about any services you are offering right now, whether that is reduced opening hours, takeaways or a delivery service. Because people are not out and about as much, they won't know what your business is up to.

Keeping in touch is also about make meaningful connections and showing your customers that your heart is in the right place – let them know you care and show how you are offering support to them and others including your own team.

So now's the perfect time to create an email newsletter and start using text messaging to keep in touch with customers.

Ten steps to creating great customer emails

  1. Use a reputable email service provider (ESP) that can manage your mailing list, deliver the emails and track responses. Free ESPs include Gmail and Zoho Mail.
  2. The first thing people look at in their inbox is who an email is from. Don't use a cryptic from address; your business name is best.
  3. Create a simple design that reflects your brand and includes strong images, compelling headings and engaging text. Less is more – recipients won't want to wade through too many words. Using HTML for your design will look more professional but it's not essential.
  4. Get the content and tone of voice right. Your emails should be tailored to your audience. Don't forget subject lines – an interesting and relevant subject line will lift your open rates.
  5. Avoid using spam terms in your subject lines – such as £££, cash or even FREE – because the emails may go straight to the junk folder and won't be seen.
  6. Include a call to action in your emails and make it easy for customers to take the next steps – links should be easy to spot and landing pages should be relevant to the call to action.
  7. Check your customer details are correct; everyone you contact should have given you permission to get in touch.
  8. Always offer recipients the chance to unsubscribe; at the same time, advertise your email newsletter on your website and via social media and make signing up easy.
  9. Establish regular emailing habits – weekly is often best – but don't bombard customers with emails. Try sending your emails at different times to find out when your customers are most likely to open your email. Most ESPs allow you to automate email sends.
  10. Check out your email analytics to see how many people opened your emails and clicked on links. Monitoring the data over time can help you improve your results.

How to use text marketing to keep in touch with your customers

Despite – or maybe because of - the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are in regular contact with family, friends and neighbours more than ever before.

Now people of all ages are using their phones to reach out, offer tips and share funny clips – especially on WhatsApp. In other words, we're all glued to our phones. And research tells us that 98% of texts get read. So, now's a great time to keep in touch with your customers by text message.

Here are five key ways to make text marketing work for your business:

  1. Keep it short and simple - make sure recipients can easily understand what you are offering and how they can benefit.
  2. Include a call to action and a link.
  3. Insert names, appointment times or other details into your messages to make them personal and relevant.
  4. Make sure all recipients have opted in to receive your messages and always offer a simple opt-out option.
  5. Don't be annoying - target your texts, don't bombard people with messages and avoid too many images and video.

How to spread the word if you don't have many customer contact details

  • Update your website and give visitors the chance to sign up for emails and texts;
  • Ask anyone you do contact to pass on your messages to their friends and neighbours;
  • Use social media to reach out to individuals and groups in your area;
  • Post information about your business in your shop window;
  • Tell your local paper or radio station if you are offering any new services such as takeaways or home deliveries.

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