As you look into marketing tips for your new business, you’ll probably see references to “touchpoints.” What are they, and what role do they play in a successful small business marketing strategy?
Consider this blog your personal Touchpoints 101 class. We’ll cover the basics of how to identify touchpoints, create positive ones, and use them to build your business.
What are touchpoints, anyway?
Generally speaking, a touchpoint is any point of contact between a business and its audience of customers and potential customers. Every time your audience interacts with your brand, there’s an opportunity to strengthen (or undermine) your relationship.
Let’s say Snappy’s Crawfish Pies buys a booth space at a community fair and co-sponsors the event.
Every event flier and social media post that goes out with Snappy’s listed as a co-sponsor is a touchpoint. Local folks see the message and see that Snappy’s is contributing to the event. That’s a positive touchpoint because it shows support for the community—and it lets potential fairgoers know that they can enjoy a hot crawfish pie while they’re at the event. At the fair, the experience of buying a pie from Snappy’s booth is a touchpoint that informs their view of the brand. Social media posts, visits to Snappy’s website, and contacts with customer service are all touchpoints, too.
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Why are touchpoints so important?
Taken together, your company’s touchpoints define your audience’s experience with your brand. The more positive each touchpoint is, the better the overall customer experience.
Using our hypothetical crawfish pie company, Snappy’s will want to make sure customers get a friendly greeting and fast service when they order in person, clear ordering information and easy checkout when they order online, and satisfying responses to any questions they ask of Snappy’s customer service department.
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Who creates your company’s customer touchpoints?
It might seem like touchpoint creation is entirely up to you as the business owner, but that’s not always the case.
When a customer reaches out to your business, they’re creating a touchpoint. Maybe they check your website to see your business hours, or they call your customer service line to see about returning a purchase. Consumers set these touchpoints in motion, and your business needs to be ready to make them positive and productive.
Third parties can create touchpoints, too.
Say one of your customers sees a review of your business in their social media feed that reinforces their view of your business as awesome. That’s a touchpoint.
If your business gets media coverage – good, bad, or indifferent – that’s a touchpoint for the customers and members of your audience who see it.
Even bank and credit card statements can serve as touchpoints for your brand, when your customers see your business name in their transaction list. (If they see an unfamiliar charge with a confusing description and have to call their bank to find out it’s your business, that’s a touchpoint you’d rather not have. Choose your descriptor lines carefully!)
Where do touchpoints appear?
For most small, home-based businesses, touchpoints mainly appear on your company’s website, in email, on social media, and on your product packaging. If your business is brand new and you’re just getting started, these are the areas to focus on first.
If your business has a physical location or has booths at local events, in-person interactions with customers are touchpoints too. That includes everything from signage and employee greetings to product display and ease of checkout.
As mentioned above, touchpoints can also take the form of media coverage and sponsorship of community events as well as direct mail, print and digital advertising, and post-sale customer surveys.
Any time a customer or potential shopper contacts your business, that’s a touchpoint.
When do touchpoints matter most?
McKinsey recommends thinking about the entire customer journey and the touchpoints they’ll encounter along the way. In particular, think about what customers will want to know before they buy from you, how they’ll buy, and what follow-up information they’ll need before they buy again. Based on that recommendation, Snappy’s Crawfish Pies might outline its customer journey and touchpoints like this:
- Pre-purchase: Customers may want to know if the recipe is authentic, what the ingredients are, what to serve as sides, and where to buy.
- Purchase: Can they order online for home delivery? If so, does someone need to be home when it arrives? Can they pick up in store? Where does Snappy’s ship?
- Post-purchase: Can we freeze the leftovers? How long will a Snappy’s pie stay fresh in the fridge? Can we schedule regular deliveries?
Touchpoints are also important for reaching audience members who aren’t ready to buy just yet. The trick with these folks (and with your current customers, too) is to pace your social media, email, and advertising touchpoints so your audience doesn’t forget who you are but don’t feel stalked across the internet by your brand. As with email campaigns, you’ll have to monitor the responses to your touchpoints to learn how to pace them.
How can you use touchpoints to build your small business brand?
Regardless of the platform you’re using to interact with your audience, following these three simple guidelines can help you get the most value from each touchpoint you create.
Be consistent in your messaging. Choose a logo, a tagline, and a color scheme and stick with them. Many small businesses overlook the importance of visual branding and a simple written message. They end up turning out a jumble of touchpoints that indirectly portray the business as disorganized and unprofessional.
Be positive, and strive to turn any neutral or negative touchpoints into positives. This is especially important on social media, where a post by your business may generate questions or customer service inquiries in a public forum. Remember that these situations are touchpoints not only for the customer involved but for everyone who’s following along, so show your customer satisfaction and communication skills in their best light.
Track your touchpoints to see what generates clicks, sales, and referrals and do more of that. Refine or eliminate touchpoints that don’t yield positive results so you’re not wasting time and money on low-return processes.
Marketing touchpoints can be a big part of small business success.
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Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.