In early 2020, as the Coronavirus swept through the country, small businesses discovered that the ability to inform customers of sudden changes to operations is a vital -- and often overlooked -- part of a marketing plan.

During that time, clients started calling PISTN for help with emails to let customers know that they were open and offering contactless services and online payments.

Since then, we’ve all adapted to the various Covid protocols with masking, social distancing, etc., so it’s easy to forget that the first several weeks were a whirlwind of changes for everyone.

No one knew exactly what to do. Business owners were scrambling; customers were confused.


woman business owner


This is a case study of one small-business owner’s email marketing lesson.

J.M., a small business owner in Southgate, Michigan had been adamant that she did not want to participate in an email marketing program.
She was uncomfortable asking customers for emails addresses and she didn’t want to risk annoying them by sending out emails.

Her business has 710 Google Reviews with a rating of 4.7 stars. She maintains an active Facebook page with over 2,800 followers. She’s built a strong personal connection to her customers and she just didn’t feel that emailing was necessary.

And then the Coronavirus hit.

To keep customers in the loop about changes related to the Coronavirus, she updated the home page of her website and posted on Facebook, but she knew she was still only reaching a fraction of her customers.

small business marketing idea


That’s when she reached out to PISTN for help.

We looked at her customer email database.

Even though she wasn’t actively working with email campaigns, a dozen or so people had found their way to the website and signed up for her mailing list anyway. To build that budding list quickly, she encouraged fans on Facebook to sign up for email updates on her website.

Within a few days her loyal, motivated customers had grown the database to more than 100 names. A few months later it had grown to more than 300 names, now almost 2 years later there are almost 700 names.

In spring of 2020, J.M. , like most business owners, made multiple changes to operations to maintain compliance with state and local mandates intended to slow the spread of the Coronavirus.


As she sent out email updates, she was surprised to discover that her customers were happy to hear from her. They liked knowing when she would be open and which services would be offered. It made doing business with her easier.

Her email database has become a powerful tool for keeping her business running profitably in a dramatically changing market.

Digital marketing tools like email, websites, Facebook and Google Ads provide flexibility that traditional media like newspaper ads and flyers never could. Changes can now be made in real-time to keep up with developments as they happen.

Though the recent Covid-19 crisis-level has diminished, you never know when something unexpected may come up. Maintaining a robust email marketing system will ensure you are prepared.

birds on a wire

How Can You Grow Your Database?

  1. Download your customer list from your Point of Sale system. (You have been collecting emails at checkout, right?)
  2. Put a sign-up sheet or fishbowl on the counter with slips of paper for entry blanks. Offer a prize or use PISTN’s “Register to Win” feature.
  3. Post a link on social media encouraging customers to sign up for emails through the link on your website.
  4. Add a message to bills or receipts with instructions for signing up for monthly emails.

If you’re a PISTN customer, your website system has a monthly email blast built in. You can choose your offers once for the whole year and it will take care of itself.

You can also send additional emails with offers or custom text and images. (Call us for a walk-through)

Customers usually welcome your communications if the message is relevant to them. Emails don’t necessarily have to be discounts. Share tips and reminders. Let them know about upcoming events or new products.

Now is the perfect time to start building your email database. If you need help call us.


BONUS! 3 Quick Tips for excellent email marketing

Frequency – Send emails at least 1/month minimum but not more than 1/week  maximum

Content – Make sure the information, updates, and offers you send are timely and directly relevant to the customer.

KISS – Keep it Short & Sweet. A picture and a few sentences that your customer can take in quickly can usually get the job done.


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Happy to help.

The PISTN Team is always here to help you with your marketing strategy. Please contact us with questions.

[email protected]