Keep Buying Local: How To Retain The Customers You Won During Lockdown

Local businesses got the chance to shine during the coronavirus lockdown by continuing to serve their communities while supply chains for major players ground to a halt.

From independent shops to farm stores, artisan producers to small breweries, these fantastic small businesses became a lifeline for many people.

This new customer boom was a welcome and wonderful silver lining during such a difficult time, but now things are gradually getting back up and running, it could fall away. So, if you are one of the many small businesses who won new customers during COVID-19, the big question is – how do you keep them? 

The key is communication. You need to communicate with your customers regularly with content that will engage them, create brand loyalty and motivate them to buy from you again. Of course, small local businesses don’t have the colossal marketing budgets that national or global companies are working with. So, once you identify a communication platform that works for your budget, you need to use it wisely.

Affordable email marketing packages suit many local businesses perfectly (for example, our Smart Messenger Lite plan starts from £10 per month, plus VAT). So, here’s five tips on how you can use your regular emails to develop a long-term relationship with your new customers.

A story of gratitude

If you want to inspire people and engage their emotions, tell them an uplifting story. If your business stepped in to help the local community during the lockdown, share that story. Begin from a place of gratitude, thanking everyone who has supported your business during the pandemic, then explain what happened.

Think about the ways you were able to reach customers who were shielding, vulnerable or would have been lost without you. Explain the challenges they faced and how you were able to help them overcome those difficulties. Talk about the community and how wonderful it’s been to meet more people, build new relationships and receive excellent feedback for the service you offer. Make the story of how you were there for the community when the big businesses failed to stick with them.

Create a showcase

There will be a few specific reasons why your most loyal customers choose to buy from you. It could be the quality of your product, that you create something unique or that you’ve got another USP. Tell people about these reasons in your email marketing. Always begin from the customer’s perspective - what’s the benefit for them if they buy from you.

This is the key marketing message for your entire brand. In every communication, you need to reinforce it. Maybe your product is slightly more expensive than a big brand equivalent, but is made more sustainably, or is higher quality, etc. Draw attention to all the specific and amazing things that make your business unique and matter most to your customers in every email.


Promote buying local

When you buy from local suppliers, it’s often a more ethical or sustainable choice. By supporting a local business, you put money back into the local economy. As a local business, you could talk about how you pay their custom forward by buying from local suppliers yourself. Perhaps the farm shop you run is stocked with produce from artisan bakers or nearby makers, for example.

More and more people care about where the things they buy come from. There is a real appetite for being more eco-friendly, ethical and conscious of where your money is going. If new customers have tried out your products in lockdown and know they like them, ask them to keep supporting your local business. Remind them that when things got tough, your business was there for them and that you will be again if another crisis happens.

Offers and loyalty plans 

Email marketing gives you a dedicated channel to share any offers or loyalty plans you may have with your email list. You can do blanket vouchers to all, create a loyalty scheme or send specific offers to different subsections of your email list.

In our home county of Norfolk, one local business has used Smart Messenger to send a voucher to new customers they won during the lockdown. Panther Brewery kept producing their award-winning beers from their North Norfolk micro-brewery throughout the pandemic and wanted to say thank you to new customers who’d ordered from them. The ‘thank you’ discount voucher they’ve sent to all those people has gone down a treat and brought in new sales.

As email marketing newcomers, we wanted to choose a service where we could rely on support throughout. Our Account Manger advised us on how best to structure our first campaign and what to offer our clients. The results were brilliant - we achieved a 68% open rate and a 42% click through rate! We’re absolutely delighted with the service.- Martin James, Owner & Head Brewer at Panther Brewery

Highlight change

Things are changing at speed right now, as the entire world tries to grapple with the future post-lockdown. If you want to ensure people keep buying from you, you need to explain that they can do so safely and securely. Sharing information about the safe ways they can buy from you is essential. It’s also important to share any things you are doing differently and what the benefit is for the customer.

One Smart Messenger client, Office Water Supplies, quickly diversified into sanitisation products when COVID-19 hit, and they’ve been able to share that with their customer base by using email marketing. Of course, there is a massive market for sanitisation supplies in corporate and home settings, so this smart move is timely. But if they hadn’t let their email list know, there could have been plenty of potential customers who never found out.

We learnt of Smart Messenger and their services via Norfolk Chamber of Commerce and the member training sessions. Further to the outbreak of Covid-19, we felt it was imperative we reached out to our network to keep them updated with new products and services that had become available. In addition, we wanted to reassure existing customers that we could continue to serve their requirements.

The feedback has been excellent, really clear decisive designs with minor alterations never issue and instant customer response. We look forward to continue working with the team at Smart Messenger moving forward.- Paul Mitchell, Business Partner at Office Water Supplies

There are so many ways in which you can use email marketing platforms, like Smart Messenger, to reach your new customers and retain them. Just remember, if you do decide to use our service, you’ll get a dedicated account manager to help you navigate the Smart Messenger system and make the most out of all its functionality. Sending professional, engaging emails is a great way to remain at the forefront of your new customers’ minds. Give them the chance to think twice and make a local choice when they are next in the market for your product or service.


If you’d like to learn more about how to use email marketing to promote your local business, give our friendly Smart Messenger team a call on 01603 858250.


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