In business, acquiring new customers is 5 times more costly than retaining and maintaining your existing customer base. Big businesses can still rack up money for promotions, but it’s the small businesses that operate on a tight budget.
In an atmosphere of cut-throat competition and ever expanding marketing budgets, how can a small enterprise increase its customer base and sales, and rank better? The answer is; by following the footsteps of those who’ve pulled it off successfully. Every business is initially a startup and as a startup there’s no better way to learn something new than by following trusted and proven business methods.
There are quite a few marketing techniques being used that successfully convert a lead into a loyal customer. Let’s take a look at the strategies big businesses use to increase their customer base and how you can do it too:
- Attracting visitors:
In this area, small businesses can do the following things to attract new customers:
- SEO: No SEO means that no visitors are coming to your website from the search engine. No visitors from search engine means that your business website is not on the internet map. Search engines can’t recognize your keywords and don’t put you in rankings.
Thanks to SEO, as a small business you can still rank better than bigger competitors by creating unique content that resonates with your target audience. You just need to understand that the newer your website, the more patient you have to be to see it on page one of Google.
Big businesses mostly use Pay Per Click (PPC) ads that bring traffic straight to their sites. It can be very costly, but very effective at the same time, though many small businesses cannot afford the luxury. So the key to good SEO is good content through and through.
- Speaking at Conferences: If you find using PPC advertising expensive and can’t afford it, the best way around this is to become an advertiser yourself, and speak at conferences to direct traffic to your website, since word of mouth spreads fast and has an impact on people. The best way to start off at conferences is to listen to key leaders in your field first, understand the pain points of your industry and then see how you can address those in your talk.
You can also speak at educational events about your small business as that will also do good to bring traffic to your site. You can take help from resources like LANYRD (search event by date, year or topic), CONFERENSUM (search database for upcoming conferences and webinar on any topic) and PLANCAST (gives people a list of things to do by arranging parties, events, etc).
You can always hit up Google and search for ‘call for speakers’ at events to get a pass to an event. If you want to speak about your niche, look for people that need a speaker in your area. For example, if a conference needs a speaker on medical equipment, you can go join them and talk about your medical equipment business. To learn more about how to do this better, here’s a piece I found to be brilliant; 17 ways to find business opportunities.
- Product reviews: Online product reviews are a must for businesses, especially small ones. Not only do they provide key insights into what customers think about your business, but also get you new customers. You need to understand that just because you exist online doesn’t mean you will also get reviews and more customers. Here are some popular review sites to help you get started.
- Yelp: Yelp is a customer review website that gets 132 million users per month. If your business is not there yet, you’re missing out on potential opportunities. Yelp helps give you a business voice and makes your site skyrocket on search results. You can even turn a negative comment into profit by Yelp. Let’s suppose a customer leaves 2 stars to your business and gives you a bad review. You can take the public forum opportunity and directly reply to the customer to solve their issue. Good customer service is always good for a small business. Let others see how much you care about your customers.
- Google+ Local: A combination of Google Places and Google+ Business, Google+ Local is a platform to find local businesses with good reviews. So if you want to be found, be there. Google’s brilliant integration joins all your Google info in one place. From maps to reviews, customers can thoroughly go through your information. You can get started on Google+ The information is then used by Google to put you in search results with everything from your hours of operation to special deals by your business.
- Angie’s List: More than 2 million customers leave reviews on Angie’s List every month. If you are a service based small business, its a great ideal for you. It’s not a free service so only serious buyers and business owners can interact here. And that’s even better because users are paying to view and try your services. You can setup an account at Angie’s List to get a better idea about it. Like Yelp, Angie’s also gives you a chance to interact with the customers directly when they leave a comment or review.
- Yahoo! Local: Yahoo! Local is like a single platform of Google+ Local. Not only can you control how your business looks by adding photos and descriptions, you can also list rates and sales/discounts to attract customers. It provides three plans. One simple free plan, one Enhanced Business plan and Yahoo! LocalWorks. The more expensive your plan the better, but you can always switch. Learn more about registering to Yahoo! Local here.
- OpenTable: A very convenient website that saves customer’s time when deciding on where to dine. You don’t have to waste time skimming through Google pages, just list your food business on Open Table to get customers. It’s an online restaurant reservation service which only chooses the best places location-wise. It targets customers on their dining preferences and also has a good email marketing system that has a 60% click rate. One can also reserve a table by their Twitter and Facebook profiles. For contacting or signing up, follow these instructions.
- Guest blogging: Ever wondered how some businesses are just media darlings? You might think customers love them or that they’ve a lot of money to throw at promotions. But that’s not entirely true. They use guest blogging to get all that attention, and your small business needs it the most. Popular sites like Huffington Post and Forbes can be contacted via a sales pitch, and if they like it, you write a catchy article for them and get a link directly to your website! These sites are happy to promote your small business if you write for them as guest on a ‘how to’ topic. You don’t have to send them a press release. You can click here to view the strategy guide of Huffington Post about guest blogging and review writing.
- Turning visitors into leads
Once you get visitors to your site, you need to make them stay and turn them into ideal leads. Today 98% visitors leave a site after one visit. To make them stay and interact, there are many tools available. Here’s what you can do:
- Sending trigger-based emails: A trigger-based email is an email sent to match the time your subscriber wants or needs what you are offering. You can send these mails at peak holiday season, or whenever your customer is sure to check them out. These mails get you good customer views if done efficiently.
- Offer something free: This always works. If you are in the product industry you can send free samples to your visitors, and in the service industry you can offer free service for a limited time period with a deal. It always encourages a potential customer to try out your product or service, and help you gain honest visitors/customers. In the end, a happy customer could become a buyer for life.
- Use a pop-up or slide-in: To increase your audience conversion by at least 3-4% you can use a pop-up software like SleekNote that use pop-ups of email subscriptions through the exit intent technology. Exit intent monitors sense when a user is going to leave the site and present a pop-up at the right time to keep the user engaged and interested for longer. Mercer Smith-Looper of Campaign Monitor wrote the best blog post about how to convert a visitor into lead by using slide-ins and pop-ups.
- Converting leads into customers:
Big businesses grow big mostly because they know how to convert a large number of their leads into paying customers. The key here is to make a visitor a customer (on your trial service/ or enjoying the product sample you just sent them) and once they are satisfied with your service, they might consider coming back. Your strategies have worked, congratulations! Now how to turn these leads into paying customers?
Just think of a sales process methodology.
- First you need to understand the human psychology of associating pain and pleasure. A customer brought at point A needs to be taken to point Z and then asked for purchase. If your business plans weddings, you have to understand your target market’s psychology by telling them about the importance of this day in their lives. This is the point where you will also show them how you can make the entire planning process hassle-free by providing the best services at a very reasonable cost.
- An iPad is surely not a need. Still, people flock to Apple stores to buy them and the sales skyrocket whenever a new version is released. A big player like Apple has identified that we associate their product with our sense of pleasure and luxury and therefore want to buy it. First, we wanted an iPad, and now also an iPad mini.
- Tell your leads why you are here to solve a problem. Tell them why you are better than your competitor. A customer is always comparing prices and always will. If you start off with a good price and make loyal customers, you will be able to retain them and maybe they will bring in new customers via word of mouth. Or if your business caters to a class where money isn’t an issue, but the quality of service matters then see how you can go the extra mile to satisfy your customers. See how your product stands out from the rest and make sure to focus on your customer service. Gaining new customers is key, but maintaining ones you already have is ideal for businesses, especially for smaller enterprises.
- Tell them a compelling story about your business and turn them into customers.
- Turn your visitors into social followers. Many software ask a user to follow their Facebook or Twitter, or do it using API. Users don’t want to leave the page to go to a separate page and follow your social media accounts, therefore doing it with a pop-up box saves you a visitor/customer and you can thank them later by sending a thank you note. Running intelligent and engaging social media campaigns will keep your followers updated about your future deals.
- Sense of novelty keeps a customer coming back. Luxury brands may make the most use of it, but it can be applied by most businesses. No matter how tight-budgeted you are, you can still brag about how your item will totally revamp the customer’s life. That sense of novelty brings in people who want to look and feel different/ important. Startups and small businesses have much potential to benefit from this trick.
- Call or email leads using the prospect’s data. Use a brilliant marketing automation software like GetResponse as it will provide detailed information about your prospect’s persona and give you a better idea on how he can be nurtured over time. All of this increases your chances of converting leads into paying customers.
- Build anticipation about your business and offer a mystery that has to be solved. Since human mind is always curious, a person will be compelled to buy what you are selling. Many brands start their campaigns with slogans like; ‘something exciting is coming’ to build the hype, then launch the product in the market with an already anxious audience waiting to buy.
Big businesses have massive facilities, complex supply chains and large equipment to take care of. It is harder to keep track of so many operations in a day. Guess what, same is the case with small businesses where business owners have to wear multiple hats at the same time. All of this is never easy, so take a look at these 5 strategies small businesses can use to grow their customers.
- Turning customers into brand advocates:
Once you have loyal customers who have trusted you in the past and been dealing with you, one important tip you can get from big businesses is to make your customers your brand advocates.
- Be vocal about their choices and their trust in your product. Cultivating brand advocates is a low-cost and high-return strategy that always works.
- Advertising is expensive. Try to send a product to popular bloggers in your niche who can review and advertise it in one post for maximum exposure.
- Send your products to key influencers. It will always make your customers happy and write and say good things about you. Some nice stationery and post cards look pretty and elevate your status in your customer’s eye.
Forbes published a cool list of ideas to make your customers your brand advocates. There’s plenty of information online for small business owners and a very helpful Startup Collective which helps entrepreneurs all over the world communicate virtually about their experiences.