This month I sat down with Denise Goldstein, Digital Marketing Guru, at SMRT Systems to talk about what marketing tactics she’s excited about in 2024. From SMS campaigns to emails, Denise sheds light on what we should focus on this year and how to measure success. (FYI: Google My Business reviews are still really important.)
You’re the ‘Digital Marketing Guru’ at SMRT Marketing. Talk to me about what got you interested in marketing?
I’ve always been interested in verbal and visual communication. I like the mix of psychology and creativity – for example, thinking about what customers want and designing impactful messages to fit those needs.
At the start of the new year a lot of people like to create a marketing plan. Some experts say you map out a year in advance, others say to do it quarterly. What are your thoughts?
I think monthly or quarterly check-ins are most important. Set yourself a calendar reminder to check your KPIs, ad responses, or whatever you use to track your marketing results. At SMRT, we rely on automation to take the pressure off planning. Our marketing tools are made to operate smoothly on an ongoing basis. From our perspective, the more you can automate, the better. Of course, you should plan with seasonality in mind, such as launching specific campaigns for winterwear promotions or holiday sales ahead of time. Because they’re predictable, you can map these out far in advance.
Ah, automation – I need to figure out how to automate more of my life! In your opinion, what’s one thing we should be adding to our marketing plan in 2024?
Reviews are a no-brainer. Every business, no matter its size, should be requesting feedback from customers and asking them to write a public review. I always tell our clients to prioritize staying in touch with their customers. I used a car wash app a few months back and have yet to get a reminder from them for my next wash. Now I can’t remember the name of the app to reschedule with them! I wish they had a monthly reminder set up. Your customers may feel the same way. Video is also a good tool. I tell clients to not over complicate the creation process. A video doesn’t have to be polished or professional. People love seeing the behind-the-scenes of your operation. It’s fun to see real people in action – especially doing something unusual or ‘secret’.
Okay, so on the note of reviews, we can confirm that reviews continue to be important?
Reviews are a must. People are less trusting of a business if they don’t have online social proof of that business’s reputation. They think, “If this business is so great, why aren’t people talking about it?” A good digital reputation is a powerful tool to ‘woo’ potential customers and remind them that you truly provide a great service.
Okay, so I have a question about this, because it seems the crazy customers always go to Yelp! Is Google the ‘be all and end all’, or should we be focusing on other review sites like Yelp and Facebook?
Historically, Google has been the go-to for reviews. Whether or not we like it, it’s where most people go to find information about everything, including local businesses. I actually like Yelp, but they haven’t made it easy to integrate with them. It’s not that we don’t want to send customers there, we just don’t have a way to do it because they have proprietary software. Younger customers are using Google, so that’s your best bet right now.
I’m sorry, trust me, I don’t think you’re crazy! At Gibson’s, we just seem to have bad luck with Yelp! We use SMRT reviews at Gibson’s, but can you share how it works for those who are unfamiliar?
SMRT reviews automate requests for feedback via email and SMS following customer interactions with your business. People who have a positive experience are invited to share their feedback on Google. People with a negative experience are asked to give direct feedback … that way you can mitigate and resolve issues privately. It’s a great system for making your customers feel heard. We’ve also enabled AI in the platform to generate replies to reviews customers leave for your business. I find it saves time and helps get past writer’s block.
Love the summary! Okay, another big component of marketing, especially in our industry, is SMS or text campaigns and email. Do you prefer one over the other?
We get this question often! The answer is – it depends – because both are useful. Text-based marketing is going to get immediate attention. At the same time, they need to be kept short and to the point, so you can’t share an entire message or images. Emails, on the other hand, can reinforce branding and tell a story.
Let’s dive a bit deeper into emails. What should we be measuring when it comes to an email campaign?
Open rates (the percentage of an email that is opened by an audience) and click rates (the percentage of those who open an email and click on a link) are important. At SMRT we set up KPIs in the POS for our clients to track their coupon usage so it’s clear how many people are using them. Our SMRT Email Campaign tool triggers email based on a certain client action. Our system knows your customers’ patterns and what they spend on, so we can target different customers with different campaigns.
What about SMS campaigns – what should we be looking at to measure success?
That’s harder to track because we don’t see open rates. I would suggest running a test. Run just an SMS or text campaign and see how the results compare to email. You can also run a campaign using email AND text to see if that increases usability.
Okay, wrapping it up here. What would you say to a business that’s JUST starting out with marketing … do you have any advice?
I have three answers!
Figure out what your goals are and find marketing to fit those goals. Are you looking to gain new customers? Run reviews. Want to grow your routes or department-specific revenue? Run targeted messaging.
Start collecting emails and mobile numbers for your customers. Without this information you can’t do any digital marketing!
Reviews are probably the easiest thing to start with. Use an automated system to text or email the request for feedback so you don’t have to think about it (these are several options out there – including at SMRT).
Is there something you’re specifically excited about marketing-wise in 2024?
It’s not new for 2024, but being more playful and humorous in marketing seems like a good idea for this year. We are all so inundated with visuals, messages and ads, not to mention serious news items. We all need more humanity these days!
I love it! Yes, humour is so important, especially right now. Okay, so what’s on the horizon over at SMRT marketing?
SMRT Sites is our newest product where we design business websites. Each website includes ‘rotating content’ where content switches in and out to keep things fresh. We also have exciting changes coming but I can’t share them yet. Sorry! It will be big but it’s still a secret. All I can say is the SMRT POS will become even more powerful than it already is!
Linley McConnell is the sales and marketing manager of Gibson's Cleaners in Toronto. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She writes on industry issues from a Third Generation perspective.