Dealing with Pandemic Black Friday Sales as a Local Business

COVID-19 has caused retailers across the globe to shift to a heavier focus on digital sales. Lockdown restrictions may have eased, but the country is starting to see a resurgence of COVID cases. Small and local businesses have found ways to balance in-person sales with online throughout this year. But what happens when the busiest shopping day of the year rolls around during a pandemic?

There are a few marketing tactics that can be used to adapt to the pandemic and keep customers excited and ready to do business with you. Black Friday and the holiday season in general is something businesses don’t want to miss out on. And in a year that has been financially straining, these sales could be more important than ever.

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Most big box retail businesses like amazon and best buy and walmart are opting to host a sort of “black friday month” this year. They have planned out exclusive sales that either last the entire month, or have flash sales sprinkled throughout the month.  

A large number of retailers began their holiday season of discounts before Halloween even arrived. If you’re waiting until that usual last week of November, you’ll be way behind. Let customers know that your exclusive holiday discounts are already available and will be throughout the month.

Starting sales early is a great idea for small businesses, as it means customers won’t feel the need to all show up at your store at the same time. People are selective about when they go out this year, so if you have multiple dates in which customers can get access to your sales, your chances of getting their business go up.

Build a system for customer safety

Customers need to know that you’re being conscious of their safety during the holiday season. One thing you can do to make this clear is by offering appointment visits to your business. Naturally people will be hesitant to enter a store or office if they don’t know how many other customers might be there when they arrive. 

An appointment-only operation has the benefit of ensuring customer safety, while also making customers feel like they are being catered to specifically. A customer that came out to a business at a preset appointment is more likely to spend money than if they casually strolled into your building on a whim. You’re enabling a level of commitment. Make your customers think “well I bothered making an appointment, it would be a waste to leave without buying something.”

People need to also know that you are enforcing policies that will keep everyone safe. Post signs out front that clearly explain the rules for entering the establishment and be upfront about things like your cleaning procedures and social distancing systems. And most importantly, find a way to enforce whatever mask mandates that apply to your location.

Offer up exclusive digital discounts

It would also be wise to lean into online-exclusive offers this year. Encourage customers to give you their business through digital sales, and you’ll be opening up future business opportunities even when the world starts returning to normal.

Digital sales are also a great way to encourage financially hurting customers to opt for payment plans. These types of plans are becoming more and more commonplace for customers of any financial background.

Adopting contactless payment systems is great for in-store and online safe purchasing.

Making the online purchasing experience easy is also very important in 2020 and beyond. Set your website up with payment systems like Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, Amazon Pay, etc. 

You want to open the door for those less familiar with online purchasing systems. And as digital privacy becomes more and more important to consumers, you’ll want to avoid asking them to enter their credit card numbers into yet another website form. Systems like those mentioned above have safety nets for those who are concerned.

These systems can also be utilized for safer contactless in-store payment.

Get the word out through email

In years past, the strategy for informing customers about your holiday sales would be to plaster signs along your storefront. This is obviously different for each type of business, particularly those that don’t have a storefront and for businesses that sell services without the need for in-person stores and salespeople. But email messaging has already taken over for all kinds of businesses and is a key factor in pandemic marketing.

Getting people on board with your email marketing and keeping them engaged is your starting point, and you’ve hopefully been working on this over the recent years already. But once those emails are rolling into your customer’s inboxes, you need to make sure you are being transparent this season.

Being empathetic to your customers safety concerns is equally important in your emails as it is in your operational decisions. Truly showing customers that you’re caring for them means giving up something on your end. You can offer free shipping with the messaging of “we’ll throw in free shipping so you can stay safe at home and avoid the black friday crowds this year.”

Be empathetic in your marketing messaging

The perfect messaging balance in holiday 2020 will come from showing that you care about the customer’s finances and experiences. This doesn’t necessarily mean directly addressing COVID-19, but try to shift the message away from excitement and overjoyous hype. 

Think carefully about tonality and show sensitivity to how your product or service fits into the lives of customers living in a pandemic. Naturally, a direction to go with this is touting the affordable prices you’re offering. Let customers know that you’re bringing prices down for them out of respect for the mutual struggle that both customers and businesses are dealing with this year.

One way to avoid sounding salesy is to focus on informing customers. For example, if you’re in the business of selling office furniture, don’t point customers directly to product pages on your website. Instead, write a blog that helps them identify the right office chair for their home setup. Identify different issues that people might be individually facing in 2020. 

Don’t just scream “buy now!” at your clientele, offer to help them first. Your discounts will look even more attractive when the customer knows you’ve helped them find their exact, right product or service.

Highlights: Steeplechase of Charleston 2020

November 15, 2020, starts with sunshine and smog rolling over the hills of the Stono Ferry Racetrack. Clouds pushing through bringing soft rain throughout the morning as people trickle into place. The skies open up and give way to miraculous sunshine just in time for the races, leading to a gorgeous fall day at Steeplechase of Charleston.

With amazing sponsors and numerous tailgaters, Steeplechase of Charleston 2020 is one for the books.

The opening ceremonies kick off with a high note as Grammy award-winning artists Quiana Parler and Charlton Singleton from Ranky Tanky perform the National Anthem for Steeplechase of Charleston. All of which stream internationally on the National Steeplechase Association (NSA), Blood Horse, and Horse and Country TV! Click here to watch! 

As the riders begin to take off, Opening Ceremonies sponsor Hopkins Law Firm gave the first “Riders Up!” followed by Mark Peper of Peper Law Firm who also gave a “Riders Up!”

A Crowning Achievement!

Steeplechase of Charleston became the qualifier of NSA’s trainer and jockey of the year Hall of Fame

trainer,  Jonathan Sheppard, and jockey, Gerard Galligan, who both left with winnings from 4 out of 5 of the races, a total of $50,000 in purse money. Read more about the winners here.

Another big winner? James Schelb winning the first-place raffle prize, a trip to Haig Point on Daufuskie Island! Charlie Black coming in second-place winning the raffle prize of a unique equestrian bottle of Blanton’s Bourbon. The raffle overall raising $2,100 for Hollings Cancer Center. Fun for a good cause!

Vendor Village

Between the races, guests enjoy the opportunity to explore the vendor village. Whether it was holiday shopping for designer boots at Charleston Shoe Co., handmade jewelry from Georgia Jewels, or boutique handbags from Darling Clutch Co., the most extravagant gifts were found!

Then, come time for a recharge, guests stop for a snack at Flight food truck or nitro cold brew from Pourly Grounded Coffee.

A popular destination throughout the day: LuXe Mobile Cigar Lounge.  Guests found an immersive cigar experience and a moment to take in all of Steeplechase.

Enjoyed By All!

Even Southern Charm star Madison LeCroy and The Righteous Gemstones actor Danny McBride are spotted taking in all the excitement of Steeplechase 2020!

The volunteers and Steeplechase team pulled off a wonderful, safe event.

Thank You!

A huge thank you to all the vendors for providing both their time and their resources to enhance the Steeplechase experience. The day would not have been the same without these amazing businesses and organizations! View the full list of vendors and sponsors here.

 

Creating a Strong Email Onboarding Plan

Having a poor onboarding experience for your customers can pretty much kill your growth and potentially your business.

The first experience someone has as a potential customer sets the tone for your relationship. If the onboarding process is confusing or overwhelming, you risk driving the customer away permanently.

What is onboarding?

Customer onboarding is the process a new user goes through to become acclimated with your product. The onboarding process starts from the moment a new visitor begins your signup funnel. It continues as they tour your product for the first time and never truly ends. 

You should continue to use onboarding as you educate your user base about new product functionalities and features. No matter when it happens, great onboarding quickly and effortlessly answers several key questions for your customer.  

Why use email to onboard?

Email is a great supplemental onboarding tool that can further educate users about your product’s features and benefits. The process should always start with a welcome email, and can then go on to include emails with followup and additional information.

Welcome emails have four times the open rate of other types of emails, and are shown to perform even better when they include video. A good way to incorporate that is by using short looping videos in a welcome email. This adds interest and movement to an otherwise static experience.

You can use email in other ways to enhance your onboarding experience. Remind new users to access the product during their free trial. Dig deeper into product benefits. You can even share social proof to build value. 

What should the email series include?

An email onboarding plan can look different for every company. But time has shown that there are best practices for how many emails to send, and how much to space out the send dates.

Stephanie Dill
Stephanie Dill, The Post and Courier’s Digital Marketing Manager

Once you get the welcome email out to the customer’s inbox, what comes next? For additional insight into how the Post and Courier onboards its brand new subscribers, I spoke with Digital Marketing Manager Stephanie Dill.

“Currently our onboarding process is a series of 6 emails sent over 30 days,” Stephanie points out when asked how many emails and how often the company sends. 

“We start with a welcome letter from our Executive Editor, putting a human face behind the subscription, and then the following emails highlight different benefits you receive as a subscriber.” 

Explaining benefits that customers receive as patrons of your business is crucial to the email onboarding process. When customers walk through your store, or browse your catalog of products or services, they get the basic idea of what they’d be paying for.

Present exclusive customer benefits in your emails

The email onboarding process is your chance to present the deeper value of your business, outside of what the customer already knows on the surface.

“These [benefits] include newsletters, access to apps and our digital replica E-Paper, our podcasts, exclusive subscriber-only Facebook groups, etc.” 

For customers using the newspaper’s E-Paper service, videos have been made available to walk them through the service’s interface and show them how to navigate the digital newspaper replica.

Great onboarding can decrease your customer service requests. If you do a great job teaching new customers how to use your product, they’re less likely to have questions down the road. In fact, 47% of businesses say using video as an FAQ tool has helped them do just that. 

“The onboarding series is a way for us to help our new subscribers make the most of their subscription and form a relationship with them that we hope will last for a long time,” Stephanie said.

How often should you send emails?

Your business should decide whether it wants to send out a burst of many emails in a short period of time, or if it should send a series of fewer emails over a longer period of time. There can be ways to meet in the middle, but you should find the right balance for your business and its customers.

“I think a blend of the two is ideal for us,” Stephanie said. “Right away, we want people to know how to use their subscription, so we send quite a few emails in the first 10-12 days. After that we back off, giving more time between sends, but continuing to check in and have little touch points for the first 30 days or so.”

Adapting the plan to your business model

The message behind your onboarding emails can and should look different depending on how you sell your product or service. Are you a business that simply sells your goods, and then hopes customers return to pay you again? Or is your revenue built upon subscription services, or other forms of recurring payment over a long period of time? 

Stephanie gives valuable information for how the onboarding process should differ for these two business models.

“I think for an already paying subscriber, you already know they are committed to their purchase, and you are working to show them additional benefits to keep them long term,” Stephanie said. 

“For a marketing qualified lead, they haven’t made that commitment to your brand yet, so your relationship is in a different place. You are still building and nurturing the relationship, and it is still very sales focused. You are offering things they want and need, but trying not to overwhelm them.”

For these types of customer leads, you should offer them discounted access to your product. You already know they have shown interest in your brand. They just need a little extra push to dedicate their time and money to you.

Finding the right balance of email frequency and regular communication with customers is the key to keeping customers invested but not overwhelmed. You never want to drive anyone away if they feel their inbox is becoming cluttered. 

So always make sure your emails are valuable and informative. Treat your potential customer well, and talk to them like a person, not just a piggy bank.

Adapting to virtual events

Adapting to Virtual Events

Adapting to Virtual Events in 2020

A video blog discussion with our marketing team

The year of 2020 has brought many new challenges for businesses and uncharted territory as it pertains to virtual events. Word of the year for businesses has been "adapt". This year it has been essential to use innovative thinking to keep events scene alive. There are pros and cons to hosting an event virtually. Businesses are now faced with questions surrounding the logistics & promotional piece of successful virtual events.

Today I sat down with our Events Marketing Coordinator, Carlie Caliguri, to discuss the state of events during 2020 and how our teams have acclimated. Carlie has helped revise and run very important events for The Post and Courier including Inside Business LIVE, Pints & Politics, and our newest Kids Club series. Join us in our discussion below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Reasons why people unsubscribe from your email marketing

Why Are You Leaving Me?

5 Reasons why people unsubscribe from your email marketing

As you begin or continue an automated email marketing strategy, the fear of unsubscribe rates can be intimidating. Here’s the good news; when it comes to unsubscribes, it's inevitable. At some point in time, some people will ultimately unsubscribe from your emails and IT IS OKAY.  At least for now.

It is painful as an email marketer to see that someone reading your email scrolled through your content and decided it wasn’t for them. UNSUBSCRIBE. It seems so harsh, doesn’t it? This shouldn’t be taken personally - at least not yet. However, this doesn't mean that your unsubscribe rate doesn't matter. 

The overall goal of most email marketing strategies is to generate leads and identify qualified leads. If the recipient of your email is uninterested in your content, they most likely weren’t going to convert. At least, not via email. 

On average, the unsubscribe rate for emails across a variety of industries is 0.26% according to this Mailchimp article. In my previous article discussing important email marketing statistics from 2020, the importance of the unsubscribe rate is to determine how relevant the email is to your customer. Analyzing your unsubscribe rate can also tell you most directly that something in your strategy isn't working and changes need to be made, but should be used in conjunction with other important email statistics.

Let’s discuss today the main reasons why recipients unsubscribe from your emails, and methods in which you can measure & analyze your email performance to curb this number.

 

1. Sending too many emails

Although marketing email sends and open rates have steadily increased since Covid began, there’s still such a thing as too much. When determining your strategy, think about how you can consolidate your information into a newsletter to cut back on your marketing efforts. No one wants to be the spam in your clients’ inbox. Ensure that what you’re sending to the recipient is relevant and helpful.

 

2. The email looks like spam

Make sure that you take the time to format an email that helps you achieve a goal as a company. How do you want to funnel your clients? This goal should be top-of-mind when designing your content and user experience. 

 

3. Irrelevancy

To echo a common sentiment across this blog, content should be relevant and helpful to the recipient. This isn't always fool-proof. Data is complex, and you can only segment your lists depending on what type of information you currently have on each client. Do you have the data to segment an email list based off of interest, location, or industry?

What is segmentation? According to Campaign Monitor, segmentation is the division of an email list into smaller segments based on set criteria. Segmentation is a tactic used to ensure relevancy to your audience based on location, interests, purchase history, client activity, and more.

Marketers who use segmented campaigns note as much as a 760% increase in revenue. (HubSpot.com).

 

4. Privacy concerns

Doesn’t include when you’ve done business with someone and they have your email address. We’re talking about obviously purchased lists. This is unethical marketing. For the customer’s perspective: this is different from receiving emails from a company you’ve done business with that you’ve given your email address at some point - this is referencing the spam-like emails that make zero sense with a company you’ve never heard of.

Having an Unsubscribe link at the bottom of your emails is a legal requirement of all marketers. Learn more about GDPR here. 

 

5. Didn’t recall signing up

This is a likely occurrence if the recipient has zero idea how they’ve ended up on your email list. Make sure you’re funneling your customers logically. This, again, means ensuring relevance + resourcefulness of your content.

To avoid your recipients feeling like this, provide a statement at the bottom of your email that makes it easy for your recipients to manage their preferences + also explains why they’re receiving the email. 

 

To curb your unsubscribe rate:

Create an exit survey to gather more information on why a recipient unsubscribed from your emails. Clear communication is key - make sure that your readers understand what they’re unsubscribing from. 

Lastly, always expect a certain amount of people to unsubscribe from your emails. Similar to social media trends, where you see a fluctuation in followers daily. This is ok! The whole purpose of email marketing is to generate and nurture your leads, with the goal to funnel + convert them.