• Business tools to bring local businesses and the people they serve closer together in 2020 Dec 4, 2019
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    Small, local businesses are all about minimizing overhead while satisfying customers' needs for a personalized touch. Customer retention is cheaper than acquisition, and just 5% of customer retention can lead to 25% higher profits. As a local business owner, that must sound like music to your ears.

    A huge factor in retaining customers is by having clear communication channels with them and to feel like your always available. However, doing this traditionally meant a dedicated customer rep or support team.

    Luckily, there are a vast number of tools that a small business can incorporate in their customer outreach arsenal. These products are competitively priced (some even have free trials or accounts) and can scale as your business grows.

    By using them wisely, you can offer a personalized touch and become a living, breathing part of your community.

    Customer review software
    Online customer reviews are still a powerful driver of sales. As many as 97% of people still read reviews for local businesses, while 90% say positive reviews affected their buying decision. Including them in your business is a sign of transparency, honesty, and trustworthiness:

    Getweave: Although Getweave is one of the view products here to include customer review software, they are also a fully loaded digital marketing solution with messaging, scheduling, analytics, and even payments solutions.

    Mention: Not precisely a customer review tool, but Mention allows you to monitor the web for mentions of your brand on forums, customer review sites, etc. to collect feedback.

    Trustpilot: Brands can upload their email lists to Trustpilot, inviting customers to write reviews about them. As an independent site, reviews on Trustpilot carry more clout than those on your own.

    A newsletter or email subscriber software
    Email marketing is still by far, the primary customer acquisition channel for small businesses. It's low-effort and cost-effective, and pretty much everyone has an email which means a limitless customer pool.

    MailChimp: With over a billion emails a day, MailChimp is the big daddy of email marketing software. It’s now evolved to become a complete digital marketing solution.

    Constant Contact: With affordable pricing and a 60-day free trial, it's a great all-round option for small businesses. Unfortunately, there isn't much automation yet, so it's best for smaller customer pools.

    ConvertKit: This platform still very much focuses on email marketing with powerful automation for more scalability.

    Chat software or chatbots
    Statistics show that most customers prefer to live chat and that it has the highest satisfaction rate. Few people today have the time or energy to wait for email responses, particularly if their money is at stake. Traditionally, live chat has been too resource-intensive for small businesses in which case a chatbot might be the better option:

    SendInBlue: While their main focus is still live chat, the SendInBlue suite also has marketing automation tools. A simple interface and a WordPress plugin make it easy to use.

    Zendesk: Zendesk is probably the most popular digital help desk support software package. They now offer live chat after acquiring Zopim.

    Snatchbot: SnatchBot is the complete chatbot out there with an easy setup process and a free plan.

    Scheduling and virtual meeting tools
    As a small local business, networking and getting to know your community is probably high on the list of priorities. However, taking the time to schedule meetings and organize them around your other activities can be time-consuming. These tools can make setting up meet-and-greets with customers or partners a breeze:

    Doodle: Doodle helps take all the hassle out of scheduling appointments with customers or clients. It integrates with calendars and allows you to create group meetings or open “time blocks.”

    Calendly: Calendly is a similar product with a stronger focus on Outlook integration and the ability to create simple rules.

    Loyalty programs
    Loyalty programs are an age-old and effective method to keep and reward loyal customers. There are now many digital loyalty program solutions, some of which even remove the dependence on a physical loyalty card:

    Social Spiral: Social Spiral allows businesses to communicate over SMS, and all user management is done using their smartphones.

    Candybar: This loyalty program platform functions as a digital punch card to reward repeat customers with freebies or discounts.

    LoyaltyLion: LoyaltyLion focusses on loyalty programs for e-commerce platforms, including customer referral programs.

    Close the gap between you and your customers
    These tools are just the tip of the iceberg, but they do represent some of the best solutions out there. Niche industries like restaurants, hotels, etc. will find tools specifically made for them and their unique customer relations needs.


    For example, Cake is aimed specifically at restaurants and includes seating management tools along with the usual customer outreach features.


    As a local business, proximity to your clientele is your main advantage, so use it to its max potential.
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