Now that your business is up and running, it’s time to grow sales. That means it’s time to bring in customers! As mentioned in our last article, Start Your Business in 4 Steps, “it is not always true that if you build it, they will come.” It’s often even less true that they will come when your business is built online and not a street-front store that customers walk by. Therefore, you will need to create a Marketing strategy and Customer Acquisition plan to reach customers and grow sales. Here are 4 critical Marketing Essentials to consider for Customer Acquisition.
Before we get into these 4 essentials, make sure that you have a website set up that clearly communicates to your customers who you are and what you offer. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be done. Check out this article if you are just getting started with your website: Guide to Starting Your Own Website. Once you have your website set up, you will also want to set up a Business listing on Google My Business. These are two critical steps to ensure customers can find you once you start to expend resources on marketing efforts.
1. Customer Marketing: More Important Than Ever
Customer Marketing refers to any marketing activity directed at existing customers. In the past, this meant that you were marketing to customers that had already purchased your product or service. The goal with targeting them again was to drive repeat purchase. However, today it can also include a different type of ‘customer’. These are potential customers that have subscribed to an email list or follow you through social media channels, but may not have actually purchased anything from you yet. Let’s take a look at both, since they are both likely to be opportunities.
Once someone buys your product or service, you can invite them into your business community. This may be through email subscription, social media communities, or mailing lists. Activities targeted to this group are designed to drive retention, loyalty, and advocacy. As the saying goes, it costs less to keep a current customer than it does to gain a new customer. As you build a customer base, be sure to nurture them. Consistent communication keeps your brand top of mind and helps create loyalty.
With the growth of online businesses and social media, potential customers can be acquired before they become actual customers. In other words, potential customers can opt in to receive on-going communication from you either through email or by following you on social media. This is a HUGE opportunity because you’ve already crossed the awareness barrier and can focus on conversion. Your communication can target persuading them that you have the perfect solution to solve their problem or meet their needs.
If you have not yet started to collect subscribers for an email list, providers such as Hubspot.com can help to get you started. Hubspot can give you tools to collect subscribers on your website, it can house your email list, allow you to segment the list, and email subscribers as often as you want.
Where to Send Customers
Finally, make sure that you have somewhere to send customers, whether that is an email, a website, or a phone number. If you give them a phone number, a Virtual Receptionist is a great way to ensure those customers and potential customers get a professional and friendly response to their inquiry! Quality Customer Service can be the difference between a happy customer that buys from you and one that walks away disappointed.
2. Promotions Can be Quick-Wins for Customer Acquisition
Promotional marketing is traditionally any activities that are not advertising, sales, or PR. Promotions can take on such a wide varieties of activities ranging from discounts, contests, referrals, partnerships, freebies, giveaways, and so much more. They can also take place in a variety of mediums, such as in person, online, through email, social media, direct mail, or more traditional media channels, such as TV Or radio. Here we review just a few of the marketing promotions that work best for gaining new customers.
Referrals – tell everyone, but then have them tell everyone too!
Referrals are when a new customer is acquired through a recommendation from another person, business, or entity. If you want to shorten the sales funnel, a referral is a great way to do that. Referrals give confidence and lower risk in your product or service. For new businesses, some of your best referrals will come from networking. So, tell everyone you know about your new business! Once you have customers, you can also do a customer referral program where existing customers get a discount on their next purchase when they refer a new customer.
After your business is a bit more established, affiliate programs could be an opportunity for your business. Affiliate programs are when other individuals or businesses sign up to refer your business in exchange for a commission. Organizations, such as Share a Sale are a great place to start with setting up an affiliate program as they can manage it for you.
Discounts are cost savings offers that you pass on to your customers. They are typically limited in one of two ways. They may be contingent upon another action, such as buy this and get that at 50% off. Or they may be available only for a limited time. Offering a discount is a great way to create energy around your business by giving you something exciting to talk about that benefits customers. It’s also a great way to create some urgency around purchasing. Discounts can be offered to segments of your customer target as well. For example, you can offer only those on your email list an exclusive discount. Of perhaps a special offer on social media.
Social media has been touched on several times so far, but warrants specifically calling out for promotions. The reason is that you can run unique types of promotions exclusively on Instagram or Facebook for example. One popular type of social media promotion is to offer a giveaway in exchange for following or commenting or tagging friends. It’s a great way to generate excitement, gain followers, and promote your business and brand.
3. Public Relations Drives Credibility for Customers
Public Relations (PR) is the publicity that your business or brand obtains in any type of media. Media can be across TV, radio, podcasts, print, or online. If you have a public interest story, unique proposition, or story that would be of interest to anyone, then you have PR opportunities! You can reach out to news channels, bloggers, publications, podcasts, or other online websites. Just be sure that you are aiming for audiences that include your customer target. It’s usually best to start local first. Once you gain interest locally or within your network, then it becomes easier to gain exposure more broadly.
4. Advertising for Awareness and Trial
Advertising is the action of calling attention to your business, brand, or product/service with the goal of driving either awareness or sales. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what advertising is and depending on the stage of life your business is in, whether it’s right for you. Generally, advertising is paid marketing activity that can take place in different media, including television, print, radio, or online. TV, print, and radio can be cost-prohibitive for new businesses and generally speaking drive more awareness vs. trial. But there are big opportunities with online ads.
There are many different forms of advertising online to consider. You can go through ad networks to produce banner ads on a multitude of sites based on your target market. Working directly with websites to advertise to their customers is another option. There are very targeted opportunities to can purchase ads on social media. You can also advertise on search engines. There is a price tag to each of these of course, so you will need to analyze the Return on Investment (ROI) to determine which option is best for your business.
5. Customer Acquisition Through a Sales Team
Hiring sales people to help you reach new clients or customers can be a critical strategy for some businesses. This is especially true if your business with a more complex sales funnel. Some examples are: business with a product needing to gain distribution through retail, a product or service with a high cost, if your business requires extensive customization, or other businesses that need more of a one-on-one approach. As an entrepreneur, you juggle a great deal of responsibilities, so hiring and training someone in sales can help. A sales person or team can scout potential customers and sell your products or services for you can be a big opportunity for customer acquisition.
If you decide that you need to build a Sales Team, managing that team virtually may be your best option. Be sure to read the article, Effectively Build and Manage Virtual Teams. A virtual office with coworking spaces is a great option for managing teams like this that may be located across the country – or even the world.
What Comes Next?
Check out these articles for what comes after you have a growing business: