Winning a new customer is far more expensive than selling more to your existing clients. Knowing who your best customers are can help you improve customer satisfaction and also help you sell more to those existing customers.
Gaining new clientele is one of the most difficult aspects of running a business, so it is important to retain and look after the ones you already have, and sell more to them, but at the same time still looking for new customers.
This guide explains how to get to know your customers and understand your market so you can increase sales and develop your business. It gives you details on how to use sales data, customer care systems and your databases to develop a strategy for keeping customers.
It also shows how to identify your most valuable customers, and how to maximize this value.
How to build your customer base
Every business needs a solid customer base in order to be successful. It’s important because customers provide you with revenue. Not only that, but they give you the essential feedback which helps you continually improve your offers and services, and they spread the word to other people about your business and what you do.
None of this happens by accident. Building a dependable customer base takes time and effort. If you want to build your business up on a solid foundation, you need to pay close attention to who your customers are and try to understand what motivates them to buy from you.
Who and where are your customers?
The very first step in building a customer base is to know: Who your customers are, and where you can find them. Once you have this information you can manage your customer relationships by engaging with them more effectively. This will have the effect of increasing sales to these existing customers as well as attracting new ones.
Customer profiling: What you should know about your customers
Knowing your customer’s key characteristics will help you decide where, when and how to communicate with them.
If you have been in business for a number of years, or you sell to a specific niche audience, no doubt you will already have a good idea about your customer’s general age, location and gender, but there is a lot more information that could be helpful to you.
• Do you know the websites your customers visit and what kind of publications they read?
• What other products and services do they buy?
• Why do they buy from you and when?
• What type of customer spends most with you?
If you have just a few customers you could add specific personal information to your customer profiles, such as a buyer’s particular interests.
If your customer base is large and diverse you need to segment them into groups that share similar characteristics and think about the best way to target each group.
Profiling customers this way enables you to better communicate with existing customers and target new customers more accurately. Getting this kind of information could be a simple matter of picking up a telephone and speaking to them. Or it might require a more formal approach such as running a survey in your newsletter or online survey program (we can help you with both of these if you don’t publish an online newsletter or don’t know how to create an online survey.
Why you should concentrate on looking after your most profitable customers
There is good reason to concentrate on looking after your most profitable customers: In general 80% of sales come from just 20% of your customers. Figures also prove it costs around 5 times more to get new customers as it does to sell to existing ones.
So it makes absolute perfect business sense to identify your most profitable customers. By making sure you provide them with excellent customer service, you are ensuring they will remain loyal and to maximize your profits.
Not only that, but they will be far more likely to recommend you to others. Your most profitable customers are the ones who will provide the foundation for the growth of your company. You can increase your profits further. Knowing the characteristics of these clients makes it easier for you to identify and target prospective customers who share similar characteristics.
Derek Williams, chief executive of The WOW! Awards for Customer Service, highlighted how important it was for businesses to identify profitable customers. He said: “The secret to growth is to have more customers of the type you want to have, to increase your average sale value and to get them to buy more often.”
Building good relationships with existing customers
Communication and good customer service is central to strengthening and building your customer base, but where do you start?
The golden rule of marketing is: Go where your customers are. You could have the greatest idea in the world, but you have to get people to see you. After all, you need to have customers before you start worrying about profits.
For the majority of small businesses, being visible today means having a presence on the internet.
It is well worth doing your homework to find out what channels you should be using to target your customers. A simple way is to ask your customers where they go online. It is also worth looking to see what your competitors are doing.
Continue to engage with your customers – even after the sale
A common trap many businesses fall into is they only communicating with customers to make a sale offer. Take time to engage and build a relationship with them first. That way, when your customers are ready to buy, they will think of you first.
There are so many ways that you can do this. For example, social media and email newsletters are excellent for maintaining regular contact. Many small business owners comment successfully to local media via a press release to build their profile. You can even use face-to-face networking as a very effective way of getting to know your customers.
Make it a rule to always offer something of value whenever you have contact with your customers. This could simply be answering questions about your products or services.
If you are a niche business, you probably already share your client’s passion for your product or service. Make sure that passion shines through.
Use Social Media
70% of Internet users use social media
36% of small businesses use Facebook to engage with customers
More than 1 in 3 social media users talk about brands online
1 in 3 small businesses sell online and made over 130bn sales in 2012
Acquiring new customers
When it comes to increasing the size of your customer base, the first people you should look to are your most loyal customers. They are your best salespeople because they are more likely to recommend your business to others.
However, if you take the time to learn about them through profiling and communication this will help to tell you who you should be targeting next. Ideally, you should aim to get more customers that are just like the best customers that you already have.
Customer loyalty: How to generate repeat business
It’s always a great feeling to get a sale and though one-off sales are fine, the chances are you will want every customer to buy from you again and again. The most obvious way to achieve this is to provide a good product or service at a good price, along with excellent customer service. It has never been more important to treat your customers well, since almost half of all consumers now put more importance on customer service since the start of the recession.
Customers love being valued and treated like VIPs. Many shoppers today will not stand for a poor retail experience.
An ‘Insites Study’ revealed 36% would not give a business a second chance if they didn’t feel it was up to scratch.
But generating customer loyalty goes well beyond service at the point of sale.
“If you really want to stand out from your competition, build a community around your customer that adds value in a unique way,” says Derek Williams.
Take time to find out what customers really value about your business – and give it to them. Involve them in your business. You can even do this by letting them get involved in helping you develop new products and services.
There is always a market for anything that saves people time or money, makes their lives easier, or simpler or cheaper. When providing something like this, make sure your costs are very competitive and you are giving customers exactly what they want, rather than trying to tell them what you think they want. You have to be absolutely focused on delivering something of real value to them.
You will find that when you are marketing well to your existing customers, you will very quickly start to pick up new ones. To get to this stage, you will have had to learn not only who your customers are but where they are. You will also have discovered what they like about your product or services, when they buy and what communications channels they use.
You then use this exact same information to deliberately target fresh customers through offers and promotions and through generating referrals from existing customers.
How – and when – to run special offers and promotions
Potential customers are much more likely to take the plunge and buy from you if you offer good incentives for them to do so. The classic ‘Buy-one-get-one-free’ is great if you have unsold stock to shift.
However there are many other incentives you can use, and understanding customer preferences is crucial when making offers and promotions.
• Offering a product or service at a discounted rate when a customer buys a popular related product or service will increase your average sale value.
• Selecting popular products as prizes for competitions and challenges will increase engagement and referrals, particularly online.
Getting the timing right is equally important. When do your customers most likely want to hear what you are offering? Seasonal sales and external events such as national holidays can offer good hooks for promotions. So, too, can the release of a new and improved product or service.
Don’t just do it randomly: Have a reason to make the offer and stress the value and benefits your customer will gain by taking this offer up.
Use your customers themselves to increase your customer base
Nobody knows the other players in the marketplace better than your existing customers so find ways to get your customers to promote what you do, such as a financial incentive in order to find you new business. Companies like Amazon do this very well by creating an affiliate program; individuals promote your products and get paid a commission on every sale.
Referrals are always a really effective way of getting new customers. 76% of consumers cite word of mouth as their main influence when deciding on which product to buy.
The internet makes it particularly easy for businesses to find get referrals because more than a third of social media users have talked about brands online, and four out of five online retailers reported increased sales after adding comment features on their websites and product pages.
If you are selling or marketing online it makes sense to enable ‘social sharing’ on your website landing pages. You can even ask customers to leave a testimonial if you advertize in online directories.
Your aim is to be certain that wherever new customers are likely to encounter you – online or offline – they are able to read something positive about your business that’s been said by another customer.
To encourage feedback offer customers incentive schemes to refer you. For example you could offer a discount when someone introduces a new customer or an invitation to a product launch. Some businesses now use group buying as a way of encouraging people to share discounts with friends and family on social media sites.
There is always something you can offer your customers as a reward for helping you grow your customer base.
Ten Steps to Growing Your Customer Base
1. Focus on the right customers. Just because you might have a small business don’t just think you can only sell to other small businesses.
2. Stay connected with your customers. Engage with them. Build a solid relationship with them. The internet and social media marketing makes this extremely easy to do.
3. Offer extra value. Always try to over-deliver so your customers will stay loyal to you and keep coming back for more.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals and testimonials.
5. Understand and address your customer’s key frustrations.
6. Keep communicating with your customers. Don’t let them forget about you. You can do this via online newsletters, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook etc. Provide offers and information which may be of value to them.
7. Make it your aim to get to know your customers. Find out as much as you can about them. Get to know their interests, their partners names, how many children they have, what pets they have, what car they drive etc.
8. Improve your customer service skills. This includes how you communicate with them, how you answer the phone to them and how you present yourself and your business. Whatever contact your customers have with you, it should always be a positive experience.
9. Ask customers how you can do things better. No company is perfect but if you allow your customers to give you feedback you will keep them on side and loyal to your business.
10. Create forums or Facebook groups where customers can share information and ideas. Create a community for them to be a part of. It all helps with the engagement and keeping them loyal to you.
We have many more marketing ideas that will help to take your business to another level. To find out more about how we can help your company and give you a solid online marketing strategy please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Even though this video is from almost 10 years ago – the message still rings true today.
CNBC’s talk show “The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch”, which ended in 2008, talked to successful businessmen and women about their histories and philosophies. Many of these talksended up providing some sound advice for would-be entrepreneurs.
One show in particular had Robert Greenberg (the CEO of Sketchers) discusses what distinguishes successful businesses from unsuccessful ventures. Greenberg’s answer is simple – Persistence – “If you start down any road, there’s always going to be a left or right turn. You just can’t see it from the starting line,” Greenberg says. “Just don’t ever stop trying.”
14 ways to maximise the exposure of a small business to new clients without having to spend thousands on extensive marketing campaigns and expensive advertising.
Most businesses are on a tight budget, especially when it comes to marketing. Many companies are finding that they don’t have a lot of money to invest on advertising and marketing. The irony is, not marketing your business will have a detrimental effect on your business. One local business owner called Tom, who owns a fireplace store, has just put a closing down sign in his store window because nobody is visiting his store and he says he can’t afford to advertise any more.
This year alone he has spent over $6000 on advertising in his local newspaper with expensive one time ads and it was a total waste of time and money. Although it is sadly too late for Tom, the good news for other companies who are still in business is that online marketing is not only much cheaper but it is far more effective than traditional methods of marketing. Plus, you can easily track the success of each marketing campaign that you launch.
Here are some big marketing ideas for businesses on a small marketing budget:
1. Optimise Your Website for the Search Engines:
This is one of the first things you need to put on your ‘to-do’ list. Why? Because Google is not only the most popular search engine on the Internet but it is also your business’ best friend. Google and the search engines want you to rank high in the search results. If their clients are searching for a product or service that provide, it is Google’s job is to tell them about your business. However, you have to make it easy for them by optimising your site. This does not have to be expensive at all and yet will one be of the best investments that you could ever make. The return will be phenomenal as customers far and wide discover your company online.
2. Google Plus Local
While we are on the subject of Google, we can’t miss out Google+ Local. As mentioned in the previous marketing tip, Google really is on your side and it wants to help your business to be found. They make sure that if potential customers are looking for a product or service that you provide, Google wants to make sure that its results are totally relevant and your company appears in the listings. As a result, search results are becoming much more local and personalised meaning that companies who claim their Google Plus Local Page and optimise it properly get the best rewards.
3. Start a Blog
No matter what type of business you are in, you can still have a blog. If you don’t know what a blog is, it basically stands for ’web log’ andthey’re effectively online diaries for your business. If you are going to create a blog for your company you need to do the following: Host the blog on your own domain. E.g. YourBusinessWeb-site.com/blog Anyone can set one up, that’s the easy part. Thinking of something interesting to say each time you blog is the tricky bit. You need to be able to write good content that will be interesting for your visitors and customers. People won’t thank you if it’s just going to be one long sales pitch. Create a community and make your visitors feel part of it by responding to each blog comment. If you do, the more people will be inclined to read and comment on your blog more often.
4. Social Networking
Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus are all popular sites that you can’t ignore. By creating a profile on each of these sites, you will not only create new opportunities for potential clients to find you but they will also be excellent sources of traffic. Local businesses that use social media sites, almost always see a significant increase in monthly traffic. The part that excites them the most is the fact that it is completely free. All it costs is a little of their time but the results are well worth it. By investing a bit of time and effort providing good content that is relevant to your audience and interacting with your followers you will soon build a loyal following. This will raise your online company profile and make your site easier to find in the search engines.
5. Case Studies and Testimonials
If you already have happy customers who love your product or service why not get a testimonial or case study from them? Case studies and testimonials are a perfect way to get brand new customers because they build credibility and give the potential customers the confidence to try your product or service knowing that other people like it. They will be less inclined to buy if they don’t see any testimonials or reviews. The secret is to get your customer to talk about your product or service, how they used it, and they results that they got. Most customers will be happy to do this if you ask them. You could also provide feedback forms on your website. Online customers are used to and conditioned to leaving reviews. They are a great way to get more people interested in what you have to offer.
6. Write A Free ‘Beginners Guide’ for Customers to Download
No matter what kind of business you are in, you can get a lot more business by writing a free Beginners Guide. It is an excellent marketing technique. They are an excellent way to get a lot of traffic to your site and increase the interest in your product or service.
– Beginners Guide to Choosing a Fishing Rod
– Beginners Guide to Setting Up an iPhone 5
– How to Choose a New Bathroom Suite
– Choosing the Right Spectacles for You
– Beginners Guide to Tiling
These kinds of free reports rank highly in the search engines and do a superb job of up-selling your products and services, as well as making you an ‘authority’ in your field. Customers will see that you know exactly what you are talking about and will decide to buy from you instead of your competitors.
7. Start An Affiliate Program
This is possibly the best marketing tip for any business on a tight budget. By having a team of affiliates (individuals and companies who promote your products on their websites for a commission on each sale that they get) you get people marketing your product for free. There is absolutely no limit to the number of people that you can have promoting your services. In fact the more you have, the more likely you will make many more sales. There are a lot of third party applications and plug-ins out there which make setting up an affiliate program easier. They will handle all of your sales and commissions. Feel free to contact us for more information and we will get you up and running in no time.
8. Answer Questions Relating to Your Product or Service
The internet is the first place people look to for answers if they have a question about a particular product or service. They post their questions on discussion forums and question and answer sites like Yahoo Answers. If you can provide the answers to their questions relating to your products or services, you can attract a ton of brand new customers. It is a perfect free way to get more visitors to your website and gain credibility.
9. Go To Networking Events
Networking events are a great place to find new clients and all businesses should make it a practise to attend networking events if possible. These are generally arranged by The Chamber of Commerce or global organisations such as BNI (Business Networking International). A quick search online will reveal a number of networking events in your area. They work because you will always meet somebody you can form a business relationship with. This will either be as a customer or as a useful contact to give your referrals or joint venture with.
10. Ask For Referrals
It is surprising how many companies don’t ask their customers for referrals. Why not? If you have satisfied and happy customers, you really should be asking for referrals as it a very effective way of getting even more happy customers. Some people feel shy about asking and are afraid that the customer will turn them down. However, you will be surprised at how few customers actually will say no. If a large proportion of customers do refuse to introduce you to others, it might be a sign that you are doing something wrong and could be doing a much better job of making them happy, giving you something to work on. For a pain-free way of asking for referrals, why not try this method; Look up your current customers on LinkedIn and see who they are connected with. If you think someone that they know can personally benefit from your product or service, ask them for an introduction. Most, if not all will say yes, especially if you return the favour.
11. Harness the Power of YouTube
Companies are latching on to the importance of YouTube in their marketing campaigns. Not only do videos now appear in the search results, but you can also use videos to show how good your product or services actually are. If, for example, you create stunning cakes, why not show a video of you making and icing the cake. Or if you are a painter and decorator, create a video showing the transformation of the room with a before, during and after video. Do you provide a lawn care service? If so, again, video the results. There is no end to the things that you could video relating to your company. Even a tour around your company premises could be interesting to your customers.
12. Provide Exceptionally Good Customer Service
The best way to keep a customer for life and to get them to tell others about your company is by providing exceptionally good customer service. By doing so, not only will customers be happy with their purchase but they will spend more of their hard earned money on your product or services in the future. There has never been a more important time for your company to provide excellent customer service, especially as customers are more willing to tell others about their shopping experiences on their social networking sites and by leaving reviews, good or bad. You want them to tell all of their friends about the great experience they had using your company.
13. Do Some Online PR
As you know, getting some good PR is a great free way to get people talking about your company. The more they talk about you, the more people will come to your website and check out what you are offering. Most people think of PR coming from major media outlets such as radio and television. While this would be fantastic, it is not easy to get that sort of attention. However, there are easier ways to get PR online which can be just as effective, especially if you have a targeted customer group. Getting the attention of blog owners is one way of doing this, especially if it is a popular and attracts the sort of readers that you want to target. You can email the blog owner, asking if they would like to interview you. As they are constantly looking for new topics to write about, many will be happy to interview you, especially if it is something that they think their readers will benefit from.
14. A Crafty Twitter Technique
If you want more customers, here is a great suggestion to encourage people to promote your business for free AND build up a huge mailing list at the same time.
Here is the plan:
Offer a free downloadable report, or set up an exclusive password protected VIP Loyalty Group on your website or Facebook page where you will have special offers and discounts not available to anybody else.
People can get access to the report or VIP area by Tweeting about your product or service.
Once they have sent the Tweet, they notify you and you give them access to their prize.
This is an incredibly powerful way to not only spread the word about your company and website but also to build your online mailing list (if you are giving them the report) or group of followers on Twitter and Facebook.
This means you can keep in touch with these people and build a relationship with them. It will be good for your branding and for your internet presence.
As a variation, you can do this by asking for ‘Likes’ on Facebook or any other social site.
If just 10 people do this per day and they each have a following of 100 friends and family, you can see how quickly word will spread about your business.
How We Can Help
If you found these tips helpful then you are going to love all of the other ideas and suggestions we have that are guaranteed to promote your business online and get so many more online sales.
We are a local online marketing company, incredibly friendly with a wealth of experience in online marketing. We have a number of services and packages to suit your business perfectly and give you a strong online presence, which will attract thousands of extra visitors and customers to your website.
If you don’t have the time or confidence to get started online then please give us a call or email us. You will be so glad that you did. We are not pushy but you will love our enthusiasm and will be very excited to learn what we can do for your business.
Software tools that help marketers pop up every single year, and now at a far more rapid pace than ever before. Luckily more and more of these tools are taking on a freemium approach, meaning that marketers have access to better tools without spending much (or anything at all!).
Let’s take a look at some of the tools you can be using for free, right now, to boost your business.
Canva – an incredible free design software that purports to make anyone a designer. To be fair, it’s not far from the truth; Canva is a drag and drop editor filled with thousands of free images, backgrounds, and elements that you can piece together, resize, and recolor, along with text elements, in order to make some seriously snazzy logos, content images, and more.
You can use premium elements for $1 each in any design, but it’s fairly easy to create professional looking images without ever using a paid element. Plus, Canva allows you to upload your own photos and incorporate them into your designs, further eliminating the need to pony up any cash for your design needs.
Unsplash.com – In need of stock images? This site is one of the best royalty free, no BS sites you can find for stock images that are actually free to be used for any purpose â€“ even commercial! Unsplash uploads a limited number of new images each week, but it’s been around for a while so there’s a healthy batch of material up there at this point.
Unsplash doesn’t have everything, however, and you might have trouble finding images of people in various scenarios (though there are many useable office/work environment type photos). Where Unsplash really shines is in environmental, landscape, and architectural images, so if those will work into your material, you’re definitely in luck!
Infogr.am – Inforgram allows you to quickly and easily create infographics for your business. You’ll be able to create a number of free infographics per account, and then you have to pay to create more. If you’re really strapped for cash, you could theoretically create more than one account to garner more free creations.
Infographics are a hugely popular information consumption format right now, and it’s no wonder why: Infographics are able to quickly and easily demonstrate complex concepts and figures visually. Because so much of the world learns well from visual input, and infographics keep people from having to skim through writing and research to pull out statistics and talking points, infographics can get shared like crazy.
Buffer – For many delving into social media for the first time for their brands, their barrier to entry is either not wanting to pay for software to manage many platforms, or for not having the time to even manage a couple on their own. Buffer is a platform that allows you to schedule social media posts across multiple channels at once, and you’ll be able to do it all for free if you’re only managing a few different platform. If you’re looking to manage a whole bunch of channels at once, however, you’ll need to pay a monthly subscription.
When Google launched its’ Penguin and Panda updates to its search engine algorithm, it became pretty obvious that the gig was up when it came to using backlinks to improve an individual web page’s site ranking. For years, black hat IMers had been packing their pages with inorganic backlines because – up until the updates, anyway – having tons of backlinks in general could land you on the front page for your keywords. And if you included links from authoritative sites – such as About.com or Wikipedia – you had a very good chance of landing in the top spot!
Panda/Penguin was a response to that flaw in the system. But there’s still been a lingering belief among Internet marketers that backlinks were still important, regardless of what Google said. And because Google keeps the details of how its algorithm work so hush-hush, no one ever knew for sure.
I mean, backlinks couldn’t hurt, right?
At least that’s the impression John Mueller, Google’s Webmaster Trends analyst, gave during a Google+ Hangout session on February 13. Googlle hinted that if you bet all the ranch on backlinks to improve your web rankings, you’re in for a rude awakening.
‘I’d Try to Avoid That’
When asked by a Hangouts participant whether backlinks had any value for improving rankings, Mueller quickly replied, “In general I’d try to avoid that.”
Loose lips sink ships and Google has protected the inner workings of its search engine algorithm as if they were state secrets (and given the recent revelations from the NSA, they may actually be!). But Mueller may have tipped the Internet giant’s hand slightly – either by accident or on purpose – by revealing what may be the first glimpse inside the inner workings of the search engine.
Straight from the Horse’s Mouth?
Here’s the full text of Mueller’s answer:
“So that you are really sure that your content kind of stands on its own and make it possible for other people, of course, to link to your content,” Mueller continued. “Make it easy, maybe, put a little widget on your page, ‘If you like this, this is how you can link to it.’ Make sure that the URLs on your web site are easy to copy and paste. All of those things make it a little bit easier
“We do use links as part of our algorithm,” he said. “But we use lots and lots of other factors as well. So only focusing on links is probably going to cause more problems for your web site than actually helps.”
This could be the clue that marketers have been hoping for about the way the Google search engine actually works. It certainly will have aftershocks for those people still selling automatic link-building software.
It’s not often that a Google executive lets something as revealing as this drop. And it’s going to be interesting to watch the consequences among top Internet marketers. The most logical interpretation of Mueller’s remarks is that too much link building – such as stuffing your blog or web pages with links or including inorganic links that are truly relevant to your content – eventually will be sniffed out by the Google algorithm. But that’s something we already knew, or at least suspected.
But the bottom line is that if, in fact, link building does actually cause your rankings to tumble, you probably will just have to wait a few more months before Googles’ next rumored search engine algorithm drops.
If there’s one thing Google’s successful at – other than owning the Internet’s most important search engine – it’s keeping people guessing on how to outsmart it.