Turn insights into action: How your small business can reach and engage customers

4 minute read

This is the second of two articles focused on changing consumer preferences and how small businesses like yours can use the latest insights to reach the next level of success. Explore more insights and advice in the first article, “Turn insights into action: Online selling trends for your small business.”

Let’s start with the big picture: the dramatic shift for most Canadians to a more home-based lifestyle. This trend impacts virtually every aspect of our lives, from how we work to how we interact with family and friends.

Not surprisingly, it’s also affecting how we receive and engage with marketing messages.

Key findings from our recent consumer research

Canada Post recently conducted extensive research on consumer marketing preferences since the start of the pandemic. The results suggest that every business should take a closer look at the channels they use to communicate with consumers. Here are our key discoveries:

Integrated marketing works

Digital and social channels are obvious choices for small businesses. They’re here to stay. But integrating other channels into your business’s marketing mix may open the door to new customers, help you connect directly with your most loyal customers and even help you reconnect with ones you’ve lost.

How to apply an integrated marketing strategy

No business should rely on one marketing channel to get its message out there. So, take an integrated marketing approach by using two or more channels to reach and engage current and potential customers. Channels can include social and digital channels, direct mail, flyer distribution and email. For small businesses with larger budgets, there are also local newspapers, outdoor and transit posters and broadcast options such as radio and television.

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Example: Integrated marketing in action

Let’s say you operate a neighbourhood restaurant. Your social channels can help you communicate with current customers (since they’re the most likely to follow you) while a strategic distribution of flyers or menus to select neighbourhoods around your restaurant could reach hundreds, if not thousands, of new ones.

Geotargeting like this can also reduce waste – you’re only reaching out to consumers within close proximity of your restaurant. To further increase awareness, you may want to add transit posters to your integrated marketing mix – but again, only in select areas.

Now you may be thinking, “A restaurant will have a large potential customer base because everybody’s got to eat. But what about my toy store? I need to find consumers with kids.” Targeted data has come a long way in the last two decades. You can easily find and speak directly to the customers you’re looking for.

In a nutshell: look at how you’re communicating right now and ask yourself, what new channels will reach people who are most likely to buy from me?

Now that you know you should integrate your marketing channels, let’s get into some of the most interesting findings from the survey:

Mail isn’t old news

Well, this is a surprise. Younger generations, raised on digital, appreciate and look forward to receiving mail. To them, it’s a fresh alternative to screen time. Our survey revealed that:

  • Younger generations are more excited to see what’s in their mailbox – 51 per cent of Gen Zers and 45 per cent of Millennials reported this sentiment.
  • 39 per cent think mail is a good way for online stores to advertise themselves.

But direct mail’s appeal isn’t limited to the young:

  • More than half of all respondents say they will be opening and reading advertisements they receive in the mail in the next 6-8 months.

People engage with direct mail

Research suggests that consumer engagement with direct mail is high. Almost three in four of those surveyed say that, while they may not look at every piece of mail received in detail, they always flip through their mail looking for anything relevant or interesting.

Are you a retailer? More good news: 38 per cent say that mail is a good way to find out about stores they’ve never heard of.

How to benefit from direct mail in your marketing mix

With an abundance of digital ads and increased screen time, direct mail is the new-old channel. It can grab your customers’ attention while helping you stand out from the competition.

Direct mail can complement other channels to communicate any number of messages:

  • Availability of curbside pickup
  • Store opening or expansion
  • New product lines
  • Money-saving coupons (another nugget from the research: 60 per cent of Canadians like receiving coupons in their mailbox)
  • Special events or webinars
  • Promotion of a website or social channels
  • Refer-a-friend or get-a-friend promotions

Do you have lost customers you would love to reconnect with? If you have their home or business addresses, consider mailing a customized message to win them back.

Enhance your message with an exclusive offer or promotion – such as free shipping, BOGO or a discount. It’s even more incentive to come back.

Take a new approach to your marketing

The pandemic has changed so many rules – why not change yours? It’s a great time to rethink the ways you reach new audiences. Reconnect with customers you’ve lost track of. Test a new channel in your integrated marketing mix. Monitor your results and then aim to optimize them next time. This is the time to seize new opportunities. It starts with a new approach to marketing.

Canada Post. 2020 Fall Survey, 20-2014, October 2020.

Learn how to choose the right marketing mix for your small business.

The right marketing mix can help you connect with new customers and build stronger, more profitable relationships with your existing customer base.

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