Businesses need customers to run, make a profit, and grow. This is straightforward and obvious but growing your customer base isn’t always as straightforward. Even if you have worked hard at building a loyal core clientele, without active pursuit of new customers you risk stagnating as a business or worse. Repeat customers are not a guarantee and betting on them may be a risk your business can’t take.
Thankfully, there are tried and tested methods to build your local customer base. You also don’t need to rely on flyers and local advertising. What you do need to know is who you are targeting, what advertising medium is best for them, and how you will specifically go about putting a marketing strategy in place to reach determined and attainable goals.
How do small businesses get new customers?
Depending on the type of business you own, the way you go about getting new customers will change. Popular and generally reliable methods include:
Getting recommendations and referrals from existing customers
Running competitions that increase visibility
Increasing social media presence and strategically using content and tags
Traditional advertising in print and media
Utilising underused tools such as Google my Business
Making sure your website is easy to find and navigate
Creating a persona for your small business – many small businesses have found increased success when there is a face behind the business doing social media updates and offering a personal presence
Revamping your storefront
Starting a customer loyalty program
Offering exceptional after-sales services
Offering freebies – even free online courses or printables which drive engagement up will get people interested and excited and cost you very little
Realistically, the primary tools for getting new customers to small businesses are no different to the tools big businesses use. The biggest difference is that small businesses have the benefit of being more specific and targeted.
Where a big business will have to cater to a more general market or spend much more time and money on targeted marketing, small businesses have a better grasp of their market and the market needs. This means that as a small business owner you can tailor your advertising more closely to your target market and make your product more appealing.
What are 4 ways to attract customers?
Attracting new customers to your business should be seen as an investment. So although you should be looking for ways to maintain a healthy bottom-line and decrease expenses, you should also be ready to put in the necessary capital for marketing. Not all marketing strategies are going to cost, but be aware that not all strategies will work for all businesses either.
The four main strategies to consider are: advertising, networking, collaboration, and long-term alliances.
No matter the strategy you choose, you will need to put a lot of time, effort, and possibly funds, into making it work. Be sure to understand what your goals are and how your chosen method works. Properly preparing before starting a new marketing campaign or approach will win you half the battle.
Advertising is usually the first thing people think of when they start to consider widening their customer base. There are several different forms of advertising, all targeting different markets and costing businesses different amounts depending on the extent of the market. If you are wanting to build your business through straightforward marketing then you will need to carefully consider your product or service, target market, and the best advertising match. Television advertising, for instance, usually has a very different approach and target market from Tik-Tok advertising.
Some of the typical ways you might advertise are:
Podcast advertising, including sponsored content and paid promotions
Physical mail or flyering
Social media advertising (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest)
Display advertisements in print such as Newspapers
Display advertisement in digital such as on websites
Outdoor advertising such as billboards
Radio advertising, including sponsored content
Knowing your target audience is vital to a good advertising campaign. If your target demographic is over 55, then community newspapers are a good place to advertise. However, if your product is aimed at young professionals, well positioned podcast advertising or social media advertising might be your best option.
Keep in mind that more and more people are also becoming tech-savvy and using the internet for daily tasks. Recent global events have triggered a mass move to online shopping and interaction. Take advantage of this active marketplace by ensuring you have a web presence. Market yourself on sites like LinkedIn to reach professionals, or Facebook to reach consumers.
Your web presence could make or break your advertising campaign though, so make sure your company website and social media channels are well curated and maintained. User experience should be easy and all the information your potential customers need should be easy to find and understand. Websites should be kept up to date with current events, products, and news. Social Media should be monitored frequently as more and more customers are interacting with businesses through their social media accounts.
Networking and referrals can be a much cheaper option of broadening your customer base. Studies have shown that customers gained through referrals are more likely to be repeat customers. Referral customers also fall into the bracket of people likely to refer others. This means that if you can properly network and gain referrals from the right group of people, you may be able to gain a perpetual loop of new customers through ongoing referral.
To get referrals right requires careful thought. You will need to understand your target market well and have a product that competes with everything else on the market. Your product or service doesn’t necessarily need to be unique, but it must have something to commend it. Are you hoping to draw in customers for the quality of your product or service, your after-sales approach, your company ethos, or your unique approach? Know what will drive the referrals.
Referrals can come through social media contests (follow, like, and share to win), online referral sites (TripAdviser and Google Reviews), word of mouth, or business networking. Think about what method works best for your business.
Don’t forget to thank your customers for good referrals. Incentives can often go a long way in getting word out about your business.
Short term collaborations with similar brands or businesses can be beneficial to other businesses and if you market yourself correctly, can cut costs. Find another business with a similar target market and use their reach to extend your own. This works both ways, so make sure your existing customers will appreciate seeing the products or services offered by the other business.
Collaborations work well if both businesses can offer incentives for new customers. Incentives could include gift vouchers or discounts for new customers, or prizes for people who utilise both businesses’ services.
You could also attract other businesses to work with you by offering the business incentives if they already have a wide market and are not interested in advertising to your customers. Options include things like offering commission on sales through their contacts, or offering bespoke goods and services that your business specialises in.
Short-term collaborations can be ramped up to long-term alliances if you find that they work well for you. “Strategic alliances” are formed when businesses recognise the benefits of working together. A hairdresser may go into a long-term alliance with a makeup artist, with both businesses able to share premises and customers. Likewise, a web designer might team up with a graphic designer and the two could send referrals to each other.
Customer needs often overlap, looking at where the overlap is and who you can strategically place yourself alongside can be hugely profitable for both you and the other business.
If you haven’t worked with the business before, be sure to have a trial period before committing to anything long-term. You should also revisit the alliance frequently to make sure you are still achieving your marketing goals and purposes.
Ultimately, a long-term alliance could save you a lot of money, especially if you are able to share expenses with the other business. Sharing in office or retail space, or advertising can both help you to increase your profits and decrease overall expenditure.
How do you target new customers?
The first step of gaining new customers is understanding them so you can target them. If this is the step where you find yourself getting stuck, start slow and follow some simple steps:
Survey your existing customers to find out what they are like and how they were initially drawn to your business
Research your local area and the kind of person living there
Read your reviews to better understand what your customers appreciate and what they still want from you
Read competitor reviews to find out what they are offering that you are not
Use your social media and online presence to identify what content your customers resonate with the most.
Once you have done your research, it is easy to target your new customers. You will know where they live, what they value, what they choose to spend money on, and how they engage with other brands. All of this information can be leveraged in your market extension through matching the target market with the marketing strategy.