Finding new customers is a recurring challenge small business owners face. As many as 76 percent of business owners experience marketing challenges, and 41 percent specifically list identifying and attracting new customer prospects as a main concern. At the same time, there’s only so much room in the budget for expensive advertising.
Smart, low-cost strategies to promote your business keep new customers coming in the door without draining your resources. But what are these strategies? Read on for tips for effectively finding new customers that won't break the bank!
Update Your Website
Your website is often the first impression of your business customers get. A Google survey found that four out of five consumers used a search engine to find local businesses. Of those, 50 percent of people who searched on their smartphone visited the business within a day, versus 34 percent of people who used a computer or tablet.
Make sure your website has up-to-date information on your address, hours, products and any special promotions. Double-check that the page format is mobile-friendly, so that smartphone users have just as good of a browsing experience as computer users.
Ask for Referrals
Sometimes, the best solution is right under your nose — or standing on the other side of the cash register. Customers who are already fans of your business are a valuable resource. The key is to ask for their help.
Offering a small incentive for referrals can spur customers to take action. Clothing subscription company Stitch Fix offers a $25 credit for customers who get a friend to sign up. Media company theSkimm offers prizes like T-shirts or tote bags for users who rack up 10 referrals. Pick a thank-you offer that is appealing to your customer base, but also a reasonable cost to you. And start asking your loyal customers to spread the word!
Request Online Reviews
As many as 70 percent of customers will leave a review online if you ask them to, according to BrightLocal's 2016 Local Consumer Review Survey. If you already have a handful of glowing reviews, publicize that praise. Hang a sign in the window or by the register encouraging customers to check you out and leave a review on Yelp. BrightLocal also noted that about two-thirds of customers form an opinion about a business after reading between one and six online reviews. So you don’t need a mountain of reviews to win customers over! Showing that you’re confident about what people have to say about your business can also be an encouraging sign to passers-by, even if they don’t open a browser to read reviews right away.
Find a Business Ally
A detailed customer profile can help you discover opportunities to partner with other businesses. If you run an upscale women's shoe boutique, for example, you know more about your target customer than her shoe size. You can probably imagine what other clothing and accessories she finds attractive, the car she might drive, and how likely she is to patronize a local massage studio or eatery. (If customers enter your store with other shopping bags on their arms, they're basically starting the process for you!)
Creating a detailed list of lifestyle choices and hobbies that appeal to your hypothetical "dream customer" gives you insight into which other local businesses cater to the customer as well. You can then begin to discuss the possibility of cross-advertising with these businesses or developing a host-beneficiary agreement.
In a host-beneficiary business relationship, the hosting business offers a gift to customers from the beneficiary, which attracts new customers to the beneficiary. For example, you might offer a discount voucher on a pair of heels for customers who buy diamond earrings at a nearby jewelry store. When customers come in to redeem their savings, they may fall in love with a pair of strappy sandals as well.
Offer New-Customer Promotions
Introductory offers or discounts can entice new customers to try your products and services. Surveys of e-commerce customers suggest that 68 percent of consumers are more likely to be loyal to online stores offering promotions, and to refer their friends as well. Somewhat surprisingly, half of consumers also said they'd be more likely to buy full-price items at stores that offer coupons or codes.
If you used the host-beneficiary alliance, sweetening the pot with a coupon when customers redeem their gift can generate repeat business. The trick is finding an offer that impresses customers without hurting your profits, and concentrating efforts on new customers you’re trying to convert into loyal, repeat buyers.
Improve Your Networking Plan
Too often, small business owners attend networking events without a clear plan beyond, “Meet like-minded business owners.” Having a more specific goal, including how you hope to help other businesses, is a better use of your time.
Thinking about your customer profile is a good place to start. Build connections with businesses your customers patronize to lay the foundation for potential alliances or cross-promotion. Networking events are also a great opportunity to learn about community events, charity outreach and other ways for you to get your name out there by supporting a worthy cause.
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Do you have experience winning clients with these tips, or have an inexpensive marketing strategy you count on? Share your success in the comments, we'd love to hear from you!