How You Narrate Your Small Business Story May Feel A Little Different in 2021

small business local marketing

Well, that happened! 2020 is over and believe it or not, your small business is still standing. You may be a bit battered and bruised but at least you're still in the fight! Well done by you! To paraphrase the renowned poet, philosopher Taylor Swift, 2020 is done. Time to shake it off.

Admittedly, the Coronavirus isn't making that easy.  But vaccines are finally being pushed out around the globe, so in theory, this wrecking ball of a pandemic is on its way out and something resembling normal is on the way in.

But to tell you the truth, I gave up on the idea of getting my old normal back a long time ago.  I want to know what “post-pandemic normal” is going to look like and when exactly will it get here?

I don't think we'll ever get a straight answer to that one.  I think, the change will be so gradual that we'll be knee deep before we notice the shift.  What I do know is that how you're going to manage your small business' narrative going into 2021 should have a slightly different flavor than it did going into 2020. Here are a few ideas to percolate on…

Attention Small Business Owners! You Really Should Start Focusing on Customer Retention

Small Business Common Knowledge: It takes dollars to find new customers. It takes pennies to hold on to a current one.  That should be old news.  And that's even more important now because your “regulars” have picked up new pandemic buying habits. 

If you're relying on them to continue to wander back for that next purchase in 2021, the same way they did before the world wet on lock-down, you may be in for an ugly surprise. 

This is the absolute best time to shift your efforts and few of those marketing dollars from finding new faces to keeping the conversation going with old friends.

It's absolutely worth the effort to reach out to your clientele with special deals or to put on your storyteller's hat just to keep them up to speed on the latest with you and your small business. 

You may feel the same and your regulars may seem to be the same. But over the last 12 months, how they go about getting a lot of the stuff they need has changed.  Being on lock down will do that to you.

You should be spending much of this year reinforcing your favorable position in their mental space while all of that is sorting itself out.  Nothing does that like communicating.

small business local marketing

Small Business Automation Is One Train You Should Be Riding in 2021

Which brings me around to a drum I've been banging for a while.  Automation.  If you haven't thought about it in a while, now is the right time to reach into that marketing toolbox and dust off your social media and email.  They're the bee's knees when it comes to customer retention.

Turns out I'm not the only one preaching from that particular pulpit.

According to Instapages, by this time last year, 51 percent of small businesses they surveyed were already using some form of marketing automation.  That's one of those cool stats that looks nice but doesn't really say much.  What you want to know is why are so many companies riding this train?

According to a GetResponse survey, the three main reasons are to save time, generate more leads, and increase your revenue.

small business local marketing chart
Biggest benefits of marketing automation – chart from Email Marketing and Marketing Automation Excellence 2018

I think the increased revenue comes from the saving time and generating more leads thing, but since they pull in $60 million a year in revenue, I doubt they'll care much about me nit-picking one of their surveys.

But let's break this down to street level.  What are we actually talking about.  For most of my crew, the core of marketing automation is going to consist of chatbots or SMS and email autoresponders.  They're effective and pretty easy on the budget.

Most importantly, they allow you to have the conversation your customers want to have when they want to have it.

If you're one of my local marketing coaching clients, remember that an email/SMS autoresponder is part of the package.  All we need to do is add in the conversation you want to have with your customers and fire the thing up.  Just let me know when you want to get started. 

Let the Games Begin

A major trend coming up in 2021 is small businesses leaning into using interactive content to engage their customers while sliding in a little value at the same time.  The technical term is “Gamification,” which is one of those words you can pull out on “big word Thursday” to amaze and delight your friends. 

There's a long, Poindexter definition I could hit you with but suffice it to say that interactive content is a way of getting your message across without being boring. 

If you've ever used an online loan calculator then you've had a taste of interactive content.  Other examples of interactive content include quizzes, questionnaires, games, polls or interactive videos. I pulled interactive videos from the online store last year, but I plan to reintroduce them in 2021. They can be simple or complex and they're a great way to take your audience on am entertaining guided tour of your brand or brand message.

Perhaps the best thing about interactive content is the hidden benefit your get when you add them to your marketing mix. The fact that they're fun and engaging is a great benefit for your website visitors and the added time they spend on your website is excellent from a SEO stand point. However, when crafted correctly, instead of just being entertaining, interactive content can give you insights into what your visitors prefer. This goes a long way towards helping you fine-tune your marketing message so you can increase new conversions and customer retention.

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Voice Search Is Only Getting Bigger

Late last year we touched on how to avoid scammers pushing fake Alexa optimization.  What wasn't part of that conversation was the fact that there were scammers in the space in the first place. Scammers show up when a new major trend is emerging that they can make a quick buck off of.

While researching this article I found an interesting set of stats compiled by online sales portal that might put this trend in perspective.

  • eMarketer – One third of the US population uses voice search. That's north of 111 million people turning to Siri and Alexa to start their online searches.
  • Price Waterhouse Coopers – Voice search is more popular than typing.  Seven out of ten consumers prefer to use voice searches over traditional methods of typing
  • Navar – More than half of all online shoppers in the US use voice assistance to help them research products, while over a third use it to add new items to their shopping list.

Going into 2021, if search engine optimization makes up any part of how you reach potential new customers, you will be leaving cheddar on the table if you don't at least knock out the basic steps to optimize for voice search.

I know I just hit you with a whole lot of blah, blah blah, but it's significant blah, blah, blah.  It means you need to adjust your online footprint at least a little. I've touched on this before on the YouTube Channel so I won't do the deep dive here, but here's a bullet point todo list.

  • Claim and optimize your listings on the major review sites.
  • Claim and optimize your profiles on Google My Business and Bing Places for Business.
  • Makes sure your small business is registered on Google Maps, Apple Maps and Mapquest.
  • In addition to the usual short keywords and keyword phrases, build your content around the questions found on and the People Also Ask section on the Google Search Engine Results pages (SERPs).


Small businesses are traditionally much more agile than large corporate behemoths. In 2021 that agility will come into play in a big way as we adapt to the new digital marketing playing field. As the Don Rumsfeld once said. There are known unknowns and there are unknown unknowns. I'm pretty sure 2021 is going to be chock full of unknown unknowns. But by remaining flexible and adaptable you'll have the best chance for continued growth and success.

If you're want to take a look at your current digital marketing campaigns and see where they can be optimized for the new reality, or if you just need a little help getting the dance steps straight when you optimize your small business for voice search, use my scheduling app to schedule a phone call or Zoom meeting.

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