To find a customers is one of the most difficult challenges for startup and established small businesses. Having a great product or service that you are sure many people will need isn’t good enough. Customers won’t find you, your store, your website or your Facebook page just because you start a business. You have to go out and find potential customers and clients.
In fact, customer acquisition needs to be an ongoing focus for most businesses. Even successful businesses will have customers or clients who stop buying for one reason or another. Those customers have to be replaced just to keep your business on an even keel.
The practice is especially important for new business owners who tend to not only have more limited means, but also don’t generally register a profit from a new customer until the fifth of sixth purchase.
And without a stable of customers to tap for repeat purchases, being more careful about where you ply your limited resources can only serve you.
1. Networking and referrals.
Landing referrals from networking or past business associations isn’t just a cheap way to pick up new business. It’s also a way to pick up customers with the highest retention rates. What’s more, referral customers tend to purchase more over time and in turn become a source of additional referrals.
How do you find referrals? Beyond having a product or service that’s in demand, you must have a clear idea of who your “perfect” or “ideal” customer is.
That way, you can communicate to others in your network what type of customer you’re looking for. You can also focus your own products or services to meet the needs, wants or desires of that very specific profile.
Then, you need to ask for referrals from satisfied customers. Be sure to also find ways to continually thank your sources for their ongoing advocacy of your business.
The key to find a new customers is advertising,Advertising your business, products on Google ads and Facebook Ads would generate promising leads in exchange for the money you spend.
To do so,it helps to offer a message that not only hits on your target customers, but also showcases the value you can offer them.
Take television, for example. In general, TV will be your most expensive option. But targeting based on programming instead of channels or networks — that is, placing ads on “Cooking with Joe” versus a campaign on a cooking network — offers a more specific outlet for your resources.
Radio also allows you to selectively target formats and programming. And even in large metro areas, you can often score inexpensive sponsorships of weather or traffic reports.
And though newspaper subscribership has dwindled in recent years, depending on your market, they’re still a worthy option for attracting new customers.
If your target market is, say, people aged 55 or older, you may want to consider community papers or niche publications as older consumers still rely on them for information.
But even older people are increasingly turning to the Web — making it a definite jumping off point for any advertising strategy.
To tap into this medium, your first step is to establish a Web presence if you don’t have one already. Then, depending on your target customer — consumers at large or other businesses — pick your Web channel. LinkedIn, for instance, is a mainstay among businesses, CEOs and other owners and entrepreneurs, while Facebook remains wildly popular among consumers.
3. Be sure your website and social media pages make it easy for visitors to know how to reach you.
Better yet, give them a reason to give you their contact information. An offer of a free newsletter, a free guide to something related to your industry, or a coupon can all be good devices to use for lead capture. Then follow up regularly on those leads.
4. Strateg Alliances.
You might take that partnership a step further and form what’s known in the industry as a “strategic alliance.” While a host beneficiary relationship is generally a one-time or short-term commitment, strategic alliances can sometimes last for many years. For instance, a Web designer and an ad agency might send each other referrals for clients who need added services.
As long as there’s continued value to the shared audience, strategic alliances produce streams of referral business, which is ultimately what will benefit you most over time.
5. Sponsor Events.
Events that may bring your potential market together. Look for fliers about the event at local networking group meetings. Or, call and ask the organizers if there are sponsorship opportunities available.
Local events can be quite inexpensive to sponsor. Or if the sponsorship cost is high, they may have a “Friends” of the event option that will give you the right to have fliers at the event for a very small fee.
6. Attend meetings and seminars that your prospects might attend.
If you’ve been doing that and haven’t made contacts that could lead to sales, try new networking groups. Look in the newspapers to see what other organizations hold events that might attract your target market and attend some of those meetings.
7. Follow up after meetings.
Contact the people you’ve met to see if they may be prospects. If they say they don’t need your services now, ask when a good time to call them back would be, or if they have business associates who could use what you sell now.
8. Give a little to get a lot.
To acquire new customers, you need to build trust. And one of the best ways to do that is to give away free samples of your product and ask the recipients to tell their friends if they are pleased. Or, if you are a consultant, give away some free advice.
This could be in the form of a newsletter with that contains news or tips and hints, or it could be a free consultation during which you provide just enough information to help the client scope out their project and know that you have the ability to handle it.
9. Work your personal network.
Ask your friends if they know of people who can use your services, or people who may know others who could use your services. If your pricing structure will allow it, offer friends and business associates a finders’ fee for referrals that turn into jobs.
10. Put your business name, phone number and website address on anything that you can.
If you are in a service business that uses vans or trucks, your name should be on all your vehicles, so that people who see you servicing others in their neighborhood can quickly spot how to contact you.
It should be on any products and/or labels on your products (whichever is practical). Have magnets made up with your name and phone number and attach them to appliances you repair, or hand out to customers and prospects.
The more people who have your name and contact, the more customers you can acquire.
11. Study your successful competitors.
Where do they advertise? Where do they network? What tactics do they use? What works for them may work just as well for you.
12. Use multiple small ads instead of one big one.
If most people in your type of business advertise in print to bring in customers, you should do the same. But don’t plan on making a big splash with one large ad. Plan smaller ads to run over a long time in the same publications that your competitors advertise in.
13. Test pay-per-click (PPC) and other online advertising.
To keep costs down, target your ads so they reach people who are similar to your most likely prospects, and target them so they only show up in the geographic region you service.
(Example: women between the age of 40 and 55 who live in Boulder, CO.) Set daily budgets and monthly budgets, and check your account frequently the first few days you set it up.
14. Claim your place in Google My Business.
While you’re at it, be sure to list yourself (and make sure your website address is correct) in any directories you qualify for. Chambers of commerce, and other local business groups often have member directories in which you can list contact information and website url.
15. Ask for feedback when prospects don’t buy.
Did they find a product that better served their needs? Did they decide they don’t need the product at all? Did they just postpone their buying decision?
Did they find it difficult to place an order on your web site? Use what you learn to make needed changes and watch your sales start to grow.
16. Realize there is no one path to success.
Sales often happen because prospective customers hear about your products and services in several different ways and from several different sources. The more often they hear about you, the more likely they are to consider what you have to offer when they are ready to buy.
17. Research Your Competitors And Find Out Who Their Customers Are.
An easy way to find out which kind of marketing campaign works and which don’t is by researching competitors in your industry.
Not only will this inexpensive effort give you some ideas to follow for your own campaigns, this research will also reveal dark spots in your competitor’s process and present new directions for you to take your own marketing strategy.
After all, just by going into business in the same industry, you’ll be going after some of your competitor’s target market — you might as well use their example to make your service and product better for their customers.
Post Relevant Content On Blogs.
Keeping a practice of continually and diligently publishing relevant and original blog content not only helps keep your company shining in the warm Google sun, but it also helps potential customers truly get to know your company and where it’s coming from.
The content doesn’t have to be self-promotional (and shouldn’t be), but it should offer context into why your product or service is important, suggest the best ways to solve industry-related problems that arise in the everyday lives of your target demographic, impart some valuable wisdom, and generally inspire people to share your point of view.
If you don’t have enough resources or writers on staff to keep rolling out a constant stream of content for your blog, enlist the help of a content marketing platform like Content.ly or a virtual communications platform like Commeta.