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.
At its most basic level, search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of enhancing and promoting a website in an effort to boost the number of visitors coming through from the search engines. The majority of your visitors are expected to arrive via the popular search engines and SEO configuration helps to boost visibility when users search for your particular product or brand.
SEO comes in many forms, and there are relevant factors such as the words used on your page or the way other websites link to you: in some cases SEO simply means the designing and structuring of a website in a way that search engines can understand.
But in addition to discovering specific phrases and terms for the engines and building proper links, SEO isn’t just focused on the engines; it’s also about making sure the sites are better for people.
If you’re trying to figure out the whole SEO thing but find yourself more confused, don’t stress, you’re not alone. Hopefully we can help you to understand SEO better and how it will result in more profits for your business.
Why Does My Site Need SEO?
As we mentioned earlier, the majority of web traffic originates from a search query in the search engines.
What makes search engines so unique is the fact that they can provide targeted traffic, which means that you can directly draw in people who are specifically looking for what you offer. Once you understand that search engines are the roadway that facilitates all this, and learn how to make sure your site is found by popular search engines, you won’t miss out on the many marketing opportunities made possible by search.
A search query is the phrase a user types into a search box in order to find information about something, so your website needs to be configured in a way that its anchor text aligns with relevant search queries. For example if your website sells wedding dresses then it would be very important to make sure your website gets displayed on the search results when someone types in a query relating to wedding dresses.
When site owners invest in SEO, it leads to an impressive return on investment. It really does have the potential to significantly boost your rate of return when compared to other forms of promotion and marketing.
Is it true that search engines can’t “see” my website without SEO?
Modern search engines are pretty sophisticated and use advanced algorithms to search for sites when queried but they still need assistance in order to crawl the web more deeply and provide users with the best results for each query. Remember that while there are proven SEO strategies to make sure your site gets thousands of visitors every month, the wrong SEO can get your site buried deep in the search results where no user will ever come across it.
Aside from making sure content is available to search engines, good SEO also enhances site rankings in order to make sure content is placed only where common searches will locate it. You might have noticed how competitive SEO marketing is, and companies that invest in SEO will have a huge advantage over their peers.
How do I do SEO for myself?
SEO is fairly complex but once you understand the basics, it makes a huge difference. There is a lot of information about SEO available on the Internet and it can be accessed for free.
Depending on the time you have for learning this information and the type and complexity of your website, you may find you need an expert to handle things more smoothly. There are hundreds of experienced firms such as ours out there practicing SEO. We assist many local businesses just like yours and will be delighted to provide an SEO solution for your business.
How much time should I invest in learning SEO?
If you are serious about improving your search rankings and be familiar with SEO then it would be advisable to put in time and effort into it. There are three main factors you need to pay attention to:
• On the page SEO
• Off the page SEO
As you will learn, within each group exist subgroups and each of these subgroups contains individualized SEO factors that you as a site owner should pay attention to.
Effective SEO factors have to work in combination. No single factor will be successful so it wouldn’t make sense to focus on creating a great HTML title if the content on the page is low quality. Likewise having hundreds of links can boost rankings significantly but that only works if they are quality links. Establishing multiple factors can increase the chances of success just as negative factors make it harder to achieve success.
On the page ranking factors
On-page search ranking factors are those types of factors that fall under the publisher’s control. Consider the type of content you publish, perhaps you provide a number of HTML clues that make it easier for people and the search engines to ‘see’ your website, and perhaps you’ve spent time creating effective site architecture to help the search engines. All these factors fall under on-page rankings and are within your control.
Off the page ranking factors
These are the factors that publishers do not directly control. A long time ago search engine developers learned that relying entirely on publisher controlled signals wouldn’t work so in order to yield the best results they had to gain more control. For example, some publishers may try to make themselves appear more relevant that they actually are.
Due to the high number of web pages in existence, search engines cannot rely on ‘on the page’ clues. The engines need to go through more signals in order to yield the perfect result for any specific search.
Violations and penalties
Understand that search engines want publishers to perform SEO on their pages because it can improve their search results. Major search engines such as Google provide assistance in the form of simple guidelines, videos and how-to posts as a way to encourage good SEO practice and make it easier for their users to find your site.
But despite all of this training, some publishers still engage in “black hat” techniques as a way to get to the front of the line and for this they get punished. Engaging in spam or black hat SEO tricks can get your pages penalized and the ranking dropped; in some cases the website can get banned from the search engine entirely.
These violations are basically little tricks that web developers use to exploit search engines into giving a higher ranking, usually by manipulating the search engine’s understanding of true authority and relevancy.
It sounds very confusing. I need time to think about it.
Although it sounds daunting at first it can be learnt, but most businesses simply don’t have the time to do this as they are too busy running their businesses. However, we need to stress that businesses can’t afford to snooze when it comes to perfecting their SEO strategy. This is not meant to scare your into action, it is just a simple fact. It needs to be done if you want your business to stay ahead of the competition.
However, because if it so important we can understand if a business is sometimes reluctant to hire an outside company to handle their SEO strategy. You might not want to give up direct control of this critical component of digital marketing, or you may be looking to reduce your costs.
However, there are even more compelling reasons you should outsource your SEO rather than keep it in-house (or even worse, decide not to do it altogether). Outsourcing has five main advantages that make it an appealing option for businesses:
1. No More Waiting
When it comes to running a business, there are a lot of items that take priority over SEO on your to-do list. Due to its complexity and ever-changing nature, many businesses put SEO off until the company has the time and resources to handle it properly. But the longer you wait to handle it, the further you’ll fall behind your competitors. They will be getting the sales that might otherwise have gone to you. Outsourcing SEO can help push up the timetable without sacrificing other projects.
2. Keeping up With SEO’s Constant Evolution
Unfortunately, SEO isn’t something you can just set and forget. Google makes hundreds of changes to its algorithm each year and if your company lacks the resources to stay on top of it, then it will prove ineffective or even damaging in the long run.
For example, when Google changed its algorithm to crack down on SEO tricks focused on short-term results, one company lost 20 percent of its search visibility overnight. If it had hired experts to follow these announced changes and implement above-the-board SEO strategies, the company could have maintained its search market share and even used the algorithm change to its advantage.
3. Making More Money
Perhaps like many businesses, you worry that paying someone else to do something for you is going to end up costing more money than just handling it internally. In reality, it’s different for each company.
To put things in perspective, what are the costs of doing it on your own, and what are the results you expect? Where are you positioned in search engines today, and what is that ranking costing you in new sales?
While it may cost more in the short term to hire externally, the ROI from increased traffic will often put you ahead.
4. Gaining Built-in Expertise
While your company may have employees who know their way around SEO, it’s unlikely that they’re as experienced and knowledgeable as people whose companies like ours do it for a living. SEO agencies have clients in diverse markets, with deeper and wider exposure to the impacts of algorithm changes and other search-centric issues. They’re also paid to stay on top of every change and trend in the search business. Spending your resources training employees to be experts internally, rather than outsourcing, can waste both time and money.
5. Focusing on the Big Picture
How can good SEO benefit your business? By letting someone else handle the details of SEO, it frees you up to concentrate on the results and how they can contribute to the growth of your business. SEO agencies live and die by the results they return, so their goal is to deliver the results you want so they can stay in business.
While you still might decide to handle SEO internally, it’s important to consider both options and choose the approach that works best for your business. Assess where you are in the SEO game, and determine whether you need help.
Do you have technical SEO issues? Are you suffering from content issues? Do you have a bad backlink profile? Is the way your website is set up actually harming your SEO?
You may not have the answers to these kinds of questions yet, but you can start to wrap your head around the problems you might have by hiring a partner to audit your strategy. This is also a good way to vet an SEO agency without committing to anything for an extended period. You need to know that the company understands your business and knows what kind of results you want.
How Not to Harm Your Rankings and Lose Sales
Remember, SEO is not a short-term game. You have to be in it for the long haul. That is why we are so keen to work with you. Our focus is on strategy, not on quick results and easy guarantees that is offered by other companies, which actually harm your ranking in the long term. We can help put you ahead of your competitors, both online and off. Don’t put it off. Act today. We look forward to working with you.
With the holiday season right around the corner, it’s a great time to take advantage of some targeting with your email marketing campaigns. Even if you’re so lazy that you simply write “Happy Holidays!” in the signature, it would behoove you to make some effort to bring your customers into the “spending” mind frame that the holiday season always denotes.
Five Ho-Ho-Holiday Email Tips that Will Sleigh Them!
With that said, here are some simple and not-so simple adjustments, additions and marketing strategies you can add to your email marketing campaigns this holiday season to capture a little bit of that holiday magic…right in your wallet.
1. Use Holiday Language. Did you see how clever our h2 subtitle was? Okay, maybe it is too cutesy for what you are doing, but don’t be afraid to throw in some “tasty savings” or “stuffed with deals” type language for Thanksgiving sales. Go as far or as subtle as you want, but remember: most people enjoy the holidays and are put in a better mood by people who are enjoying them too!
2. Offer Big Discounts. You already know how much people love to spend during the holidays, but they love to save even more. Use a big deal to get them onto the site and then offer package deals or side items to even out your profits. Remember, the point here is to get the emails open, the click-thrus up and not only give them a deal, but raise your brand or website’s awareness. Even if you break even on a deal, the fact that the customer will remember you in the future and possibly open more emails or buy more products makes the initial investment worth it. Chalk it up to cost of acquisition.
3. Early Bird Specials. Every year we see Target, Walmart and Toys R Us competing with each other on opening hours. Now, we’re to the point where Black Friday sales start on Thanksgiving or even before. The bottom line is that there are no more limitations. Your “Pre-Pre Black Friday Blowout” could be a great way to get traffic to your site. Having an opt-in will allow only those who want to received early bird specials, to receive them, leaving the core of your list unbothered and thus, unsubscribes down.
4. Get Creative. Holidays are all about reindeer games and having fun, so play along with your list. Have a holiday trivia contest where the first ten people to answer correctly on your site get 10% off or a free gift. Keep the games light, airy, holiday-themed and reward incentive. You want people to play along and have fun, but you also don’t want to pester them and have them hit the unsubscribe.
5. Real Time Emails. A great email marketing campaign that is underused is the hourly deals. While this won’t really work year-round, it’s perfect for Black Friday and Cyber Monday because people are constantly checking in for updates on emails. You can either have an opt-in (which would compartmentalize and further qualify your list) or have real-time content that you can update in the body of the email as soon as the customer opens it.
As you can see, holiday email marketing is a fine line to walk between taking advantage of the willingness of your list to get more emails and not bombarding them with so many that you tick them off.
So let’s open up with the assumption that you have some people on your email list and these people are in your target demographic. Let’s add to it a simple premise: the people that they know are either also in your target audience, or very similar to them. Why? Because they are friends, peers and family members of your existing clients. Now, with those few little bits of information, you can build an enormous mailing list simply by giving something really cool away. Want to know how?
Incentive Plus Internet Equals Growth
So here’s how you do it. First, you need something cool to give away. Let’s say that the product that you’re selling is super cool. Or maybe it’s something else. Either way, it needs to be something that is at least “fairly related” to what you are doing (i.e. don’t give away an X-box if you are selling stocks the blind) and something that people are going to want.
A great example of a perfect giveaway is premium-marketing software. Let’s say that I am selling MLM marketing software in my downstream and I have a small but targeted customer base. I see that I have fifteen people that are using the basic version of the software and I know that they’ve at least considered upgrading to the premium software due to the fact they’ve put it in their shopping cart and left it there, have emailed me about it, whatever.
The point is, I know these people want the premium software and for whatever reason (money, time, forgetfulness) they don’t have it. So, I send them an email and I say that I’m giving the premium software away. All they have to do is enter the contest. How? Simple, click this button.
Getting the List to Build Itself
So, they click the button and I have an autoresponder that says something along the lines of, “Congratulations! You have entered the contest 1 time. You can enter a total of 3 more times in the next 8:00:00 hours (of course this is counting down at this point) simply by getting a friend to enter. Click here (here you have social widgets, email forwarders, etc.) to share with your friends and when they enter, you get a second entry!”
Of course, they want another entry because that increases their odds at winning the premium software, something that they want. So, they share it on Facebook, they email it to someone they were talking to about the software, whatever. The point is that they share the giveaway and when they do, the next person only has to (no, not click the button) enter their email address to be entered in the contest!
Then, that person gets the email saying how they’ve entered once and if they want to enter again, etc. etc. You get the picture here, the list is building itself. It’s an automated viral listbuilder and all it’s costing you is a few free giveaways. The timer is creating a sense of urgency so the sharing will happen quickly.
In a short time, you’ll not only be able to gauge the interest in your premium software, but you’ll also build up a list of people who are interested in your products. I don’t have to tell you what that’s worth, but certainly more than some free software giveaways. Using this system, you can build a targeted email list for virtually nothing and not really have to do much work.
Social media apps and sites popup with alarming frequency. Also alarming, is the rate at which these platforms seem to overtake each other in traffic and popularity. While you can’t go wrong growing your influence at the top of the food chain where a couple of massive entities still dominate, you can sure as heck get innovative and ride the wave on newer trends to quickly become a standout resource for potential followers. With that in mind, here are a couple of platforms most marketers aren’t taking adequate advantage of.
Pinterest – Pinterest is the iceberg of social media platforms: Unless you’ve spent some time exploring, it might seem like not that much is going on over there, but you’d be dead wrong. When measured in monthly unique visitors, Pinterest is actually the 4th most visited social network on the English-speaking planet; it trails only Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Yep, it even beats out heavyweights like Tumblr and Instagram.
The nature of Pinterest, which is all about quickly sharing images, whether original or curated, makes it such a great opportunity for brands. On Pinterest, “boards” can be created within a theme, so a board may consist of “nature scenes,” for example. Your business can take advantage of this unique tagging system, no matter what niche you’re in, and grant itself massive exposure. Let’s say you were working with an offline client who was a construction contractor, for example. You could create an account for them and start adding images of their stellar work to boards on houses, architecture, even remodeling. And, yes, those all exist.
With unique monthly hits in the hundreds of millions per month, don’t pass up on this opportunity to turn your brand, site, or niche expertise into a visual, sharable commodity.
Periscope – “Peri-what?!” you might say (especially if you’re not on the cutting edge of social media already). Periscope is a new app that allows individuals to livestream what their phone camera is seeing to the internet. In turn, users can follow their stream and comment and chat in real time. The concept of livestreaming is years old, but Periscope seem to have finally been able to popularize it on mobile. Since that’s where most people are spending their time these days anyways, it’s started to really take off.
The whole point of Periscope is to teleport users to another location, lifestyle, or adventure. Savvy social media marketers have taken to announcing that the most interesting parts of their day will be streamed – and you’d be surprised at what really seems to hit home for people! Make a live Q&A session happen during your lunch break, show off your daily work ritual that really gets you in the zone. Even if the majority of your day involves sitting at a computer, you can find a way to deliver some livestreamed value to people out there who are in the same boat or who are trying to follow in your footsteps.
Of course, these are far from the only social hangouts you should be working on, but they’re good places to start. Depending on the needs and demographics of your niche, you may also find certain platforms make a lot more sense for content presentation, so don’t be afraid to deviate when it makes sense.