We all have limited time and resources, yet most of us have felt the need to update our content strategy to attract a new breed of post-pandemic consumers. Many business owners can bear witness to their customers migrating to different marketplaces, either in-person or online. A not-insignificant number of small business owners are trying to stay relevant…and solvent.
When there are thousands of choices to be made, it’s often best to step back and do your best to take in the view from 35,000 feet. From that vantage point, we can make four primary observations about today’s average consumer:
- An increasing number of consumers use their smartphones to buy stuff.
- Customers are demanding improved (and innovative) levels of service.
- The world of commerce now runs full steam around the clock, 24/7/365.
- We communicate primarily with visuals; supporting text is vital, but secondary.
Since these appear to be the predominant trends, what’s a small business owner with a limited budget to do? Listed below are suggested responses to these four trends, in order.
1. Welcome online customers with responsive web design.
Take a long, hard look at your online customer experience. For example, more than a few small business owners have been dismayed to see how their website looks and functions on an Android phone or Windows workstation. Turns out their developer was optimizing everything for display on their MacBook Pro laptop and iPhone.
This all-too-common scenario plays itself out repeatedly when companies with a modest marketing budget hire an inexperienced website developer at bargain-basement prices. Hoping to save money, these owners now get to pay for a fully operational website not once, but twice.
No one wants to shop in a run-down store that features dirty floors, fluorescent lighting that buzzes and blinks, and a wide array of unidentifiable smells. Yet this is exactly what we are asking today’s customers to tolerate when we slap together a poor online experience. When online customers get the idea that they are visiting a cut-rate website, they tend to bounce. Widespread fraud and identity theft have made a lasting impression on the mind of today’s smartphone-packing consumers.
If you can’t afford to launch a safe, reliable, and aesthetically pleasing online store, it might be best not to launch anything at all. Your first effort will create an indelible impression; if it’s not optimized for fast download or doesn’t feature an intuitive interface, you might be hurting your reputation more than anything else. When working with any developer, don’t be shy about asking for evidence of certifications, a list of satisfied customers, and other credentials. Competent developers will be pleased you asked, not offended.
Schedule regular times to review your online resources. This should be done at least once per quarter. Monthly is better. Check your website for responsiveness and functionality across the widest possible array of browsers, devices, and platforms. Be quick to address problems.
2. Ask what it looks like for your company to “go the extra mile.”
Seems like everyone has a hot take on changes in consumer behavior in the wake of the 2020 pandemic, but the fact is that many of those changes are here to stay. The consumer of the future might venture out on occasion to stroll up and down the aisles of your store but is far more likely to use a smartphone for the bulk of purchases. Forced to remain at home, consumers adapted quickly to online shopping for everything. Over time, they grew to like it.
Today’s customer no longer needs to walk out of your store and drive somewhere else. If they don’t like what you have to offer, they just swipe away to your competitor.
This reality is now pronounced enough that business owners are working overtime to deliver extra value. They hope to differentiate themselves from their competitors by saying “Yes” where others will not. Enhanced customer service is the name of the game…and customers know it.
As your business expands its list of the things you’ll do to win hearts and minds, don’t forget to use all of your new customer-focused efforts as fodder for your marketing content strategy. It’s great that you now offer an expanded area for home delivery! Just remember to update your website, social media footprint, email signatures, and in-store signage to say so.
Set up a wide variety of response mechanisms — online and in-person — for customers and employees. Allow for anonymity, but pay closer attention whenever someone puts their name to their complaint, compliment, or observation. Respond with a polite thank-you whenever possible, expressing your appreciation for their willingness to offer feedback.
3. Add artificial intelligence (AI) to your content strategy mix.
When many business owners hear the suggestion to add AI to their marketing content strategy, they might have visions of armed Terminator robots sweeping mercilessly through their warehouses. Quite frankly, these people might just be seeing too many sci-fi action films. The truth is that helpful AI is now an affordable alternative for businesses of just about every size.
If you find yourself or your team wasting time on dull, repetitive tasks, your business is a good candidate for improving efficiency through the use of AI. Unlike their human counterparts, AI-enabled chatbots don’t need to sleep or take any time away from work. Website chatbots provide just one example of an enhanced content strategy that takes advantage of AI. Other examples would be caller triage systems, upsell suggestions for returning customers, rapid response to cybersecurity threats, and the vetting of potential employees.
As the demand for AI tech has grown, development has intensified and prices have plummeted. Today, businesses of all sizes can take advantage of AI software at a price point that not only makes sense for their niche but also improves sales through noticeably better customer service. For business owners who are hyper-vigilant about ROI, AI might be a great place to start.
Look for outdated routines where you or your employees are spending valuable time on the mundane and repetitive. After you’ve identified a handful of “necessary evil” time-wasters, you’ll be in a much better position to leverage AI and machine learning at a price point that offers a quick return on your investment.
4. If you haven’t already done so, include video in your content strategy.
Many businesses make the mistake of thinking that their particular niche doesn’t really lend itself to the production of videos. This error is actually somewhat typical for business-to-business (B2B) operations since they aren’t trying to sell anything to the average consumer.
However, much of the reluctance to dive into video production isn’t because the company has nothing to say. Instead, it’s typically founded on an outdated bias from the days when planning and producing any type of video was prohibitively expensive.
Those days are gone. In the last few years, software and hardware developments in the realm of video production have made it possible for anyone with a smartphone and even a modicum of talent to create professional-looking videos. If you have a smartphone, you have an acceptably decent video camera. You also have templates, tools, and editing software that filmmakers could only dream about prior to 2000.
Start small and build. For example, what is the No. 1 most commonly asked question about your business? You might produce a short video that comprehensively and authoritatively answers that concern. Try to keep it less than 60 seconds in length, start to finish. Let your focus be on helping people get answers and only incidentally on your products and services.
There are many, many ways to go about freshen up a small business content strategy. The four listed above represent the most promising methods for leveraging recent developments in technology that have filtered down to affordability. Your small business might have a very tight budget for developing your content strategy, but that’s all the more reason to take another look at recent developments in software and tech.
Image provided by Judit Peter; Pexels