It takes time, money, effort, and more to bring a product or service from a faint idea lurking in the corner of one’s brain to a tangible business entity. Constant refinements and testing, improvements and iterations all in the effort to find the product/market fit. Everyone involved with the project knows it is great. The users who have been introduced to it love it and are thankful it exists. But how do you grow that user base? How do you go about acquiring new customers?
Know Your Audience
One of the biggest mistakes that a lot of startups make is not zeroing in on who their audience is. Taking the time to sort out the audience for your product can save a lot of time and money. Blasting your message to people who have no use or interest in your product or service is wasteful especially for cash and resource-strapped businesses.
Analyzing the information you have about your current customers is a good place to start. The next step is to create profiles for your ideal customers. Sit down and think about who would buy your product, and focus on the details of the person. As you build these personas, you’ll begin to develop a better idea of who you should be targeting and how.
Make a Plan
After you know your audience, take some time to define goals and determine how you can measure your success. Here’s a significant guide for creating a customer acquisition plan. It takes time and effort, but how can you possibly know if you’re achieving your goals if you aren’t defining them and measuring and analyzing the results. Putting forth the effort in the beginning to define a process doesn’t guarantee success. It guarantees that you’ll have a method for discovering the best ways to be successful. As well as a blueprint for future endeavors that can scale and adjust as your company grows.
Go to Where Your Audience Is
If it is an online service or product, it is safe to assume that most of your potential customers are hanging out somewhere on the internet. If your product isn’t necessarily reliant on technology or web interaction, there’s a good chance that a large swath of potential customers might not spend a lot of time online or might not have a Facebook account.
When you know your audience, you learn where the best places are to put your message, so it gets in front of them. Attention should always be given to the channels that can return the most customers for the time and money that were put into it. If your audience isn’t on Twitter, then you probably don’t need to be either. At least not right out of the gate. If there is a niche magazine dedicated to your audience, it would probably be a good idea to find a way into its pages.
Content Marketing: Become a Thought Leader
For those with limited budgets and resources, utilizing the online world is essential. While doing things right still requires time and money, the threshold for admission is fairly low. Creating a blog and social media accounts is a pretty straightforward process. Writing, organizing and promoting content sounds easier than it is, but it doesn’t take much to get started down the right path. The trick is doing it well.
Drawing people in with useful content is the heart of content marketing. Everything doesn’t have to be a sales pitch. Writing a helpful guide that your potential customers might find useful is standard practice. This course helps build a reputation of expertise and trust.
In the last year, people have jumped on the content marketing bandwagon. An already crowded internet is being flooded with more and more content. Simply posting more content will not work. Doing what everyone else has already done won’t work. Your content will have to be unique. It either needs to fill a gap that exists in the current knowledge, or builds on and improve what is already there.
And just because you post it and share it on social media doesn’t mean anything. An active effort needs to be taken to share it with people who will also help promote it. Word of mouth is still the most powerful form of customer acquisition.
SEO: The Answer to the Question
Over time, all of that content marketing can help build your SEO. As you establish a foundation of helpful content, you are creating a mass of resources potential customers will seek out. When people want to solve a problem, they head to the internet. If your product or service solves a problem or makes their life easier, your content should be answering the questions your potential audience would ask Google or Bing.
Don’t try to game the SEO system by stuffing everything you post full of as many keywords as you can. Algorithms are consistently being improved and adjusted. They are on the lookout for people trying to take advantage of any weak points. Is it important to do keyword analysis and include them in your posts? Of course, it is. But the best way to improve SEO through content is simply to write good content.
The Power of Email
Capturing customers once they get to your site is essential. And the best way to keep them in your orbit is with good old fashioned email. Building an email list is one of the best things you can do for your business. Here are some great tips on building a successful email list.
While email may seem outdated in today’s social media-driven world, don’t forget that it is a direct line to your customer or potential customer. Regardless of when you send it, it will arrive in their inbox, and they will more than likely see it. It doesn’t disappear into the abyss of their timeline, overpowered by baby pictures and political memes. If they’ve taken the time to sign up, that means they are interested in what you have to say. Make it worth their while.
Social media can be a very useful tool. But it isn’t easy and ever increasingly it isn’t free. Advertising and sales are becoming a larger component of all of the major social networking sites. While it is still beneficial to maximize the free tools available to you, taking the extra step to advertise on social networks is becoming essential. Check out our handy guide to driving growth through social media.
Leverage Your Current Customer Base
One of the central tenants of growth hacking is the focus on getting your current customer base to sell your product for you. Not, of course, but by word of mouth. Inviting and sharing with friends. Do you have a Dropbox account? Have you ever received extra storage for getting a friend to sign up? Have you ever invited a friend to join a social media service or receive a discount for inviting friends to use AirBnB? All of these are examples of users encouraging product adoption as an integral part of the application. Users don’t have to go out of their way to give a referral and often they are rewarded for the effort.
Utilizing referrals isn’t just limited to web services. Offering referral discounts to current customers, whether you mow lawns or sell specialty chocolates, has been a favored customer acquisition method for successful business owners for decades if not centuries.
Jump on Some Coattails
Building a relationship with a larger company that serves a similar audience to your business could open doors to a massive potential customer base. In his article The Fastest Way to Find New Customers, Brad Sugars states, “If you’re a startup, the fastest way to get the cash registers ringing is a little-used method that involves forming “host-beneficiary” relationships with established businesses that cater to a target audience similar to yours. Then you promote yourself to their database with a special offer presented as a gift from the older business.”
This is a very powerful idea. While it takes research and lots of relationship building, it could introduce your company to an eager audience.
Traditional Marketing and Advertising.
Despite the slew of online articles pronouncing that one particular avenue of traditional advertising or another is “dead”, things couldn’t be further from the truth. Despite the rise of video streaming services, television is enjoying some of its highest rates of viewership ever. Radio is still a part of many people’s lives despite streaming services such as Spotify or satellite radio. And while newspapers are suffering from a substantial decline in hard copy readership, there are many niche magazines and publications that continue to have a dedicated customer base.
When was the last time you received a well-designed sales piece in the mail? Direct mail is a pretty empty wasteland these days. Most companies have shifted their attention elsewhere. But it is a lot easier to stand out in an empty media channel than it is in a crowded one. Is it the right thing for your business? Only you can answer that. The important thing is that you consider all options.
Traditional media can be expensive, but like anything else, when used effectively it can work wonders. While it may fall under the prevue of the marketing department, growth is still the ultimate goal. It is important for the growth and marketing teams to work together. Crossovers and tie-ins are a large part of marketing and growth plans. Disjointed efforts can lead to waste and turmoil.
Test, Analyze, and Adjust
Growth is a never-ending process that requires constant experimentation and refinement. No matter which channels you use, you won’t get it right the first time. In fact, it will take a lot of trial and error to hone in on what works for you. And it isn’t just about refining the process of growing your customer base, but about the process of improving your product or service.
Customer acquisition is just one spoke in the wheel. Improving the product is critical to keeping customers and finding even more in the future. Fostering a culture of experimentation, analysis, and adjustment can pay dividends in many aspects of your business.