This article was written by Kayleigh Alexandra. A writer and small business owner, Kayleigh is an expert in all things content, freelance, marketing and commercial strategy.
Allow me to horribly adapt the opening of A Tale of Two Cities: It’s the best of times for small businesses, and it’s the worst of times for small businesses. Never before have there been such rich opportunities for the ambitious among us to helm their own operations, with technological tools aplenty and a digital landscape still teeming with possibilities—but it’s not all good.
Where’s the misfortune? Well, unfortunately enough, all those opportunities are available to everyone: That means crowded niches, frantic scrambling for investment and a discouraging percentage of startups falling at the first hurdle. Getting into the small business world is one thing, but surviving or even thriving in it calls for something exceptional.
As a small business owner, you already know the daily grind of trying to stay ahead of the game, knowing that competitors lurking in the background are just waiting to profit at your expense. What’s the solution to this thorny problem? If that sounds rhetorical, then I positioned it correctly, because I’m leading up to something: going multichannel.
Implementing a multichannel strategy won’t turn your business into the industry leader, but it will go a long way to solving some of your biggest small business woes. Here’s how:
It can reach a much broader audience.
There can be value in making a specific channel your company’s main priority (such as turning it into a unique stylistic element), but it also fundamentally limits your reach, regardless of how broad that channel may technically be.
Take Facebook, for instance—the social media leader with well over 2 billion active monthly users by now. Someone who has a Facebook account might only use it to communicate with friends, or might only follow certain types of brands for whatever reason. The takeaway is that you can’t rely on reaching a Facebook user through Facebook itself.
You might, however, be able to reach them through Twitter and if you expand your approach to include Twitter, you’ll also be able to reach people who use Twitter but not Facebook. The more people you reach, the more chances you get to drive sales. It’s a simple calculation.
It can cover complex marketing routes.
The modern marketing funnel is remarkably complex if you factor in all the possible routes to meaningful brand exposure (some now call it a loop). One customer might see a PPC ad, click on it and place an order. Another might see your brand name noticed on Twitter, read your Wikipedia page, get distracted, wait a couple of weeks, see one of your ads, head to your Instagram page, have a short chat with your social media manager and finally click a link to your business website.
Of course, that second route can only take place if you have all of those things in place: if you’ve taken the time to look at everywhere someone might find you and put something to push them along their journey. We just looked at audience breadth, but this goes beyond that. This is about how the channels work together—how their effects compound.
This kind of complex approach is standard at the enterprise level, where big businesses invest a lot of time in multichannel marketing and a lot of money in ecomm systems designed to natively support social selling, but it’s much rarer at the small business level where merchants generally specialize because they expect it to keep costs down. In essence, you have a chance to really steal a march on your competitors by acting like a bigger company.
It can help you handle customer service.
When a problem goes unaddressed, it festers, and that can easily happen in the business world. It often means that a company is at fault though: Sometimes a disgruntled customer will express their frustration with a situation to their social media followers, assuming (accurately or inaccurately) that reaching out to the company wouldn’t help.
When this happens, that negative sentiment sticks around, and by the time that customer does reach out directly, they might well be ready to be dissatisfied with anything you offer—likely feeling that you should have noticed the issue and sorted it without them needing to mention it.
By paying attention to multiple channels using a tool like Agorapulse, you can flag up potential brand issues while they’re fresh, and take action to address them. Given the impact a single social media incident can have on the reputation of a small business, finding a solid resolution for a mentioned problem can not only protect you but even earn you plaudits for proactivity.
It can make content production easier.
This might sound counterintuitive. After all, if you’re having a tough time keeping up with content demand while using just one channel for marketing, sales and support, then how would adding to that channel (and increasingly the content demand) help? It’s actually extremely simple: by reducing the amount you need to produce while increasing the exposure you get.
This isn’t a convoluted riddle—we’re simply talking about content recycling and reworking. You can write the kernel of a piece with no particular format in mind, then adapt it to suit numerous platforms: break it into tweets, compress it into a Facebook post, expand it into a blog post, record it in front of a camera to create a video and a podcast, etc.
And when you work on your landing pages, you can create one expansive original that you adapt to suit different referral sources. So even though you put less work into making content, you effectively end up with much more, and certainly yield vastly more exposure. Since it’s common for a small business to struggle with this aspect of marketing, it’s something you should seriously consider trying.
Even if you adopt multichannel marketing, sales and support, it won’t serve as a magic bullet solution for making your small business all it can be—but it will do a lot to expand your audience, support more complex brand discovery routes, bolster your customer service and boost your content marketing efforts.