Attracting New Customers - Tips for Success
Let's face it every business want to attract new customers. But how can small business owners go about this without spending a fortune on advertising?
Below are a few tips for success which you may find useful.
Decide on Your Target Market
While some services and products may be suitable for everyone, they will undoubtedly have more appeal for certain segments of the market. So, start by deciding whether you are primarily a B2B or a B2C facing company and choose which to focus your attention on.
Next, decide which industries your products/services are best suited to.
For instance, businesses of all kinds tend to have training requirements, be they start-ups or established large multi-national corporations. However, their training requirements will not be the same and most, but not all, maybe industry-specific. So, if you are a training company it is pointless advertising training services that relate specifically to the oil industry in anything other than magazines and periodicals or on online websites that are specific to that industry. Alternatively, whilst you could always purchase a relevant mailing list, by far the best approach would be to target those specifically seeking the type of training you offer. In other words, why not contact them first by telephone.
Say you offer marketing training, then you could try targeting companies that actually advertise their products and services in local newspapers by writing to them with details and examples of your services, or attend local networking meetings and events.
If you are a micro SME you may wish to focus your marketing solely at a relevant local business to build up a strong local brand before branching out further afield. However, before restricting your target market to just the local area, first, consider whether the demographic of this area is large enough to generate sufficient business and how many competitors are out there.
A number of small businesses, whilst they understand the concept, do not target marketing effectively.
Understand your Customer
Make sure you really understand what your customer wants. Don't make the mistake of just promoting how wonderful your company is. You have to get them alongside by explaining how your product or service will benefit them so that they want to purchase from you. So put yourself in their shoes. Explain how this will:
- Make their business more money
- Help them work more efficiently
- Be cost-beneficial etc
Appeal to your customer's emotions and desires by letting them know what they can get from it rather than just the cold facts about the product or service.
Stand Out from Your Competitors
Once you know what your customer wants, you then have to convince them that they should buy the service or product from you rather than one of your competitors, irrespective of whether what you offer is cheaper or more expensive. Explain why they should choose you. Very few businesses make more than a token attempt to distinguish themselves from the competition.
Think about what added value they would benefit from by using you, rather than a competitor? This could be your after-sales care, assess to specialist material through your website or a special promotion you are running. However, to make you really stand out from the competition you need to think in terms of a USP, a Unique Selling Proposition, that they would benefit from that is not offered by the competition.
Develop a USP
If you really want to stand out from the crowd then you should seriously think about developing a Unique Selling Proposal, sometimes also referred to as a Unique Selling Point - your USP
Computer Graphics Training for example has two USPs. The first is all our trainers are industry experts that work daily with the software they teach to produce websites, marketing material, publications etc for their non-training clients, which include respected companies and organisations with business interests worldwide. Their knowledge, hints and tips are passed on to participants on our training courses. The second is that we provide unlimited post-course support.
If you already have a USP but it does not stand out from the crowd, then it is probably not Unique. To be truly a USP the proposition must be something that is not offered by your competitors. Sometimes, all it takes is a simple re-wording of part of the USP to stand out from your competitors and attract new customers, often at no additional advertising cost. Re-wording it, so that it grabs people's attention and explains in the first couple of sentences what they, the customer, benefit from may help from an advertising point of view but you will be just playing with words unless you also make the proposition different in some way.
Make sure you develop your USP around not only your strengths but also the weaknesses of your competitors so that it stands out. Generalities, such as better guarantee, lower prices etc will not make you stand out. Be more specific. A good example is John Lewis who have a free 5-year extended guarantee on televisions. They were one of the first to offer this and offer it on all televisions they sell.
You may find that you need to amend your USP as your competitors catch on. Keep an eye on what they are offering. For instance, we ourselves used to offer 60 days post-course support but we soon found that this became commonplace in the industry. So we then increased this to 90 days. Over the last few years, we noticed our competitors were meeting this, so we decided to take the drastic step of making post-course support by email unlimited.
One way of attracting new customers without spending a fortune on advertising is through offers. However, for an offer to be attractive it has to be compelling enough that the customer actually wants to make the purchase. How often have you been tempted by special offers in the papers and over the internet that only offer 10% off goods or services? Not very often, I'd bet. Besides which they are two a penny. Even 20% off these days may not get much reaction unless it is something everyone desires or is something that is not normally offered at discount prices.
What will attract more interest are those offers that are also accompanied by giving something away for free and not just free P& P! For example, a free gift worth £40 for all orders over £50. Or the offer of a free box of chocolates; a free pair of gloves; a free personal training session for every new customer etc. Much will depend on the nature of the products/services you sell and the likelihood of customers giving you repeat business. So make sure you work out the Lifetime Value of your customers first before rushing headfirst into making free offers.
Any special offers you make must:
- Represent good value
- Be capable of being fulfilled
- Be tailored to the right target audience- target customers who are only likely to use you again
- Accompanied by good customer service
- Followed up
Advertising a special offer and the being unable to fulfil it due to demand, especially if you have confirmed acceptance of the offer, will have an adverse effect. So, think about first restricting the offer to a set number of customers or the area in which it is advertised. Once you have fulfilled it you can then think about extending the offer to other customers/areas, if it was successful. Make sure you analyse the results and follow up customers who have purchased from you
Promote Your Offer
Think about ways in which you can promote your offer and target new markets. Some examples are:
- Through a joint venture with a related, not a conflicting business
- Through setting up a customer referral gift scheme
- Effective advertising that is compelling and encourages people to act on them, such as Editorial Style Ads
- Online Advertising
- and more
Unless you carry out comprehensive testing of every aspect of your marketing you will not know what works and what doesn't. So test everything comprehensively. Test new ideas out on a small scale first to avoid making costly mistakes. Go about this in a scientific manner. By this I mean to make one change at a time and keep experimenting until you find out what works and what does not. From a marketing point of view, it is equally important to note what does not work for your business, as that which does. Through comprehensive testing, you will find out the one approach that really works best for your business
Generate New Sales through Existing Customers
The majority of businesses fail to recognise that focusing on repeat custom can be a far more valuable and cost-effective marketing strategy in the long-term than chasing after the often elusive first-time customer. Most businesses assume that because an existing customer knows about them they will gain repeat business from them. That is a fallacy.
Existing customers are unlikely to know or remember all the products or services that you supply. Also, they are unlikely to take any notice of what is on offer out there until they actually need a product or service. There is, therefore, no reason why, if a marketing ploy was successful first time around, you should not repeat the identical offer to existing customers several times a year. As long as it still works, why change it? Customers who did not have the time to take up the offer when they saw it the first or second time around, may well decide to take it up when they see it the next time around. But don't inundate them and make sure that you include something that they will be interested in and benefit from receiving. This is why newsletters sent out, say once a month, can be such a successful marketing tool.
Newsletters should include original articles that will engage your customers, keep them in touch with the latest developments, new product launches, industry tips and suggestions, rather than just the usual sales literature. If you send out information that is of interest and value to your customers you are unlikely to get many unsubscribe requests. Again, however, monitor the response to your newsletters, including the unsubscribe requests per newsletter, so that you can identify what worked and what didn't.