Small businesses have had a tough go of it. The global economy shows few real signs of a big turnaround, while confidence in increased revenues and expectations for extra hiring remain . Yet at the same time small businesses are being told (by the media certainly, but more importantly by larger organizations that they are the saviors of the economy.
Why? Well, the cynical answer would be that the larger companies are creating this narrative simply to try to get their customers, who just so happen to be small businesses, to continue to buy from them. And although there may be truth in this, that would be missing the point, which is that small businesses not only represent the majority of all businesses but they are also growing in popularity. Consumers are increasingly looking to support local and sustainable initiatives, especially small businesses. There is opportunity for both parties.
And this is where hosts come in. Hosts have a unique advantage when it comes to small businesses as they are very often the first place new businesses turn to get set up. A company registers their domain with a host, then they might even setup their website with them, purchase an SSL certificate and get some other basic add-ons, but all too often this is where the relationship between small business and their host effectively ends.
But it shouldn’t end there. Hosts could offer much more to help their small business customers grow, and in doing so small businesses could actually have a partner in the host they choose who will be able to guide them through the growing pains onto a better path to success.
The question is, what more can hosts offer?
Small Businesses Require Efficient yet Personalized Communication
One of the key reasons why small businesses fail is that they aren’t able to get their message out to the right audience at the right time. It’s not like they don’t try, but often they’ll over spend on things like PPC and blow their annual marketing budget in a matter of months, without always get the results they’re looking for.
Many hosts have realized that small businesses need help with marketing and, because of this, they frequently offer SEO tools or email marketing, but are these fairly basic offerings enough to help small business customers succeed?
If you’re still reading this, then it’s likely you’re not convinced it is enough. Reaching out to new and repeat customers is essential for businesses to grow and maintain engaged customers. Studies show that businesses that regularly connect with their customers in a personalized way enjoy more and higher sales, as well as stronger customer loyalty. So how can hosts offer small businesses the ability to connect with their prospects and current customers in a simple yet meaningful way?
Although single solutions such as SEO or email marketing do have their place, the time of offering one-track marketing solutions for small businesses is over>. If hosts are truly going to help their small business customers grow (and help create a more caring narrative) they need to offer a robust and unified solution that features multiple tools and one which makes it simple and efficient for small businesses to communicate with their own customers and prospects.
The fact is, there are more touch points today across which businesses are both expected and required to communicate that robotic email responses from unmonitored accounts are no longer enough. Communication now encompasses not only emails, but also social media management, text messages, online surveys, even fax marketing and more. Those businesses which are most successful are those which not only offer the best solutions, but those which offer a well-rounded flow of communication to their customers. Organizations which interact with their customers through well-timed messages that are both relevant and based on their individual customer needs are those which are able to build the biggest user base.
How Hosts can Meet the Essential Needs of Small Businesses
Hosts have a unique opportunity to simplify their small business customers’ workday while also helping them to gain new leads and retain customers by offering robust marketing solutions to their customers. Communication touch points, in order to engage the customer effectively, should happen consistently and not only during a transaction. Businesses can set up multiple touch points that are triggered by dates or specific actions taken by customers.
Communication touch points help to create a sense of trust and personal interaction between businesses and customers. Consider some automated touch points that might be used by a small retail business:
“We see that you love Jane Austen. Who doesn’t? We have a 25 percent discount just for you on all Jane Austen books, redeemable online or in-store.”
“Here is a selection of articles we thought you might enjoy, based on your preferences. Please feel free to update your preferences by clicking this link.”
“You did not complete your checkout the last time you visited our online store. Would you like to continue adding to your shopping cart or start a new cart?”
“We always love hearing from you! Please let us know how we’re doing by filling out this three minute survey.”
“Happy Birthday! Enjoy this $10 coupon along with your cake.”
The messages may be simple, yet they appeal to the customer’s personal interests, purchase history, important dates and more. Rather than receiving generic messages, which do not get high engagement rates, customers receive personally tailored campaigns.
Currently it is mostly only larger companies like Amazon or Alibaba which use this type of messaging to its fullest potential, but this type of technology, despite its back-end complexity, is not only perfectly simple to deploy, but also now very affordable.
Creating ongoing communication touch points can take time if a business is using multiple communication solutions for their needs. By using a single solution to create and distribute their messages, businesses can save time and effort while making the most of their budget. Businesses can build up a strong and trusted reputation by maintaining a consistent brand look and feel among all their messages. This entails creating similar messages for email, social media, text messaging and more. With a strong website and consistently branded messages, businesses can gain new customers and expand their reach both online and offline.
Using a single solution also allows businesses to distribute messages simultaneously through multiple channels. A business can run a comprehensive campaign which involves Facebook posts, marketing emails and text messages all in one, to reach a wide range of customers, which was previously something a small business could only dream of being able to do.
Enabling Growth for the Future
Web hosts are in a position today to be able to offer these tools to their small business customers –tools which are actually proven to boost sales and increase customer interaction – before those businesses start looking elsewhere for such solutions. And they will. The marketing automation industry has been growing at over 50 percent each year since 2010 and shows no signs of slowing down, while small businesses continue to adopt such technologies with increasing frequency.
Of course, some hosts are looking into offering more robust marketing help for small businesses and should be commended for doing so, even if you are a cynic about their motives. The fact is, small businesses need all the help they can get and will be keenly aware of this when selecting which web host to go with. Those hosts who don’t recognize the benefit of offering real help will likely very soon not have the customer base they could once boast of having.
Those hosts that do have a vision and that see the big picture will not only help small businesses have a better chance of success, but will also increase their own revenues through a loyal, satisfied customer base. Perhaps these hosts will also give the cynics an answer and, more importantly, help give the economy a much-needed boost.
About the Author: Ariel Hopper is Director of Partnerships at SimplyCast.com. He works with web hosts and other global organizations to help enhance their customer loyalty levels and increase their competitive advantage. SimplyCast is cPanel integrated and a proud sponsor of HostingCon 2014.