Top 15 Ways To Get More Customers While Spending Less Money
The marketing game is continuously changing. Customers have more access to information and have become savvier in the way they make purchases. The days of marketing practices of fast talking and high pressure sales are long gone. Those tactics no longer take home the biggest results. Neither, does the company with the biggest marketing budget gets the most customers. Unfortunately some businesses didn’t get the memo and are stuck in the marketing practices of yesteryear and are wondering why they are struggling.
The potential for success in today’s business world is mind blowing. The ability to enter the market has never been easier. We are still at the beginning of this new type of industrial revolution. Just like any wave that starts to rise, the longer you wait to take advantage of it the more difficult it will becomes to ride it. Can you image what it would take to start an automobile company? In the future many people will be saying the same thing about the new industries of today. At the moment most people don’t realize how relatively easy and inexpensive it is to start a business today. You can literally start a business this instant without spending a dime. Even if you never had a business in your life. How? Look around you. Choose something you have that you really like, but could live without. Put a value to it. Take a good looking picture of it. Write an effective description. List it on craigslist or some other free listing or auction site. Sold! You just had your first business transaction. How difficult is that?
Technology has leveled the playing field. The startup can now compete with big business for market share. When it comes to reaching an audience, never in the history of business could a startup business reach just as many potential customers as a well established, well run, and well funded company. In some cases the small businesses or individuals have an advantage. They have the ability to shift and correct much faster than many of the larger companies. They have no committees to get approval from or departments to approve any funding requirements. There are very few if any layers between their product or service and the consumer.
Technology also has raised the bar for customer service and understanding your market niche. A company can no longer take advantage of a customer and no one finding out about it. One bad encounter can instantly be sent to 100s or even 100s of thousands instantly. The way and place in which consumers make buying choices has directly been influenced by technology. Many customers won’t purchase an item until they read or watch the reviews first. Customer feedback is now available for all the world to see. A company that provides great customer service and a great product can ride the social media wave to great heights. There are still companies that are debating whether they should have a web presence. It’s not a choice. Even if you don’t directly create a web presence (website, Facebook page, or twitter account) your customers will indirectly create one for you. They will comment, blog, or tweet about the experience or product they received from you. Therefore it is to your advantage to get out in front and create the image that you want to display and not leave it to chance. There are many paid and free website services available. Many provide free hosting with the purchase of a domain name.
Your competition has changed. The traditional brick and mortar believe their biggest competition is the business down the street that sells the same thing. The online marketer believes it’s the other website that sales the same thing. They are correct in the traditional sense that those are their competition, but those businesses or websites are not their biggest competition. Their biggest competition is not caused by the product or service but by the processes. What do I mean by that? The businesses that are stuck in the past don’t understand that they are competing for two things. First is the consumer’s TIME and second is the shopping experience. Since neither of these are tied to a specific product or service, those who you compete with has changed.
When it comes to competing for their time, here are some stats to take into consideration. Every 60 seconds there are 200 million emails, 2.8 million Youtube views, 2.1 million Google searches, 5.6 million texts, 275 thousand texts, and 1.7 Million Facebook posts. These are only the online attention getters. There are countless distractions and interruption that clamor for attention. This has caused the amount of time a business has to capture and hold the attention of a potential customer down to just seconds. If you haven’t gotten their attention in those first few seconds they move on to the next option. If the business is fortunate enough to get and hold the consumer’s attention, the second phase is the shopping experience. If the process is not simple, convenient and enjoyable off they go and possibly never to return.
With time and buying experience being so important it becomes clear why the product we sell has moved down on the priority list in terms of who our competition is. Therefore we must rethink our game plan when it comes to reaching and servicing our market niche. As the customer is becoming savvier in their buying decisions so must entrepreneurs become in their marketing. If you don’t believe it, look what is happening to the Best Buy chain of retail stores. Consumers go into the store just to touch and see the quality of an item. They then search online for the best price and order it. Best Buy has turned into the “Display Case” for the online retailers.
How can we as entrepreneurs improve our customer acquisition rate? First understand that people buy from people and not from companies. Second, we have to remember the three most important letters in marketing: K.L.T.
- The K is for Know.
- The L is for Like.
- The T is for Trust.
People buy from people they know, like, and trust. How do we get them to know, like and trust us? We first must operate from a position that is worthy of trust. Then we focus on improving our Contact Points. The contact points are all the ways in which we come in contact with our potential customers. The following is a list of the top 15 contact points. You may be using just a few of them, all of them or even more. Some are used for first contact to get people to know about you. Some are used to get people to know you better. Some are used to get people to like you and some are used to help people to trust you. When I’m saying “you”, I’m referring to you and your business.
- Website – The first place customers look to find info about you and your business. It doesn’t matter if you are an online business, a brick and mortar that does some business online or you do no business online and have just an informational site. This contact point works for you 24 hours/day, 7 days/week. State your features, but sell your benefits. Make sure your website tell the visitor what you do and who you are within the first few seconds. Always have an opt-In form to collect contact information. Offer something of value for free in exchange for their contact information.
- Social Media – This is where you get the opportunity to communicate and add value to your community and future customers. This is not the place to do hard selling. Show them that you care for them as people not as a transaction. People don’t care how much you know until they know that you care. Let them get to know you and your brand. How would you communicate if you held a company pick nick? Communicate that way on your social media site.
- Blog Posts – This is the place where you will develop a strong relationship through common interests. Those who follow your blog posts will share a common interest or you will be providing solutions to a common problem. Here is where you develop relationships and loyalty. This is where you can establish yourself as an industry leader. Offer tips, tricks, and techniques to further solve your customer problems.
- Emails (Campaigns /Thank Yous) – Emails lists give you direct access to a warm market that already has an interest in your product or service. More importantly, it allows you to create a deeper connection with your supporters. These would be the people standing in line of a brick and mortar waiting for the doors to open. It’s O.K. to send an honest “Thank You” email and not just after the sale. How about weeks afterwards, when the newness of your product or service has warn off. Do you think this will bring you back to the forefront of their mind? A genuine thank you goes a long way. Avoid becoming an “Email Stalker”and flooding with emails. They will ignore, delete and unsubscribe from your list.
- Phone Greetings How the phone is answered and if the phone is answered speaks volumes about your business. Not answering the phone or answering it as if the caller is an interruption is throwing your marketing dollars down the drain. I can’t tell you how many companies spend thousands of dollars in advertising and have an unfriendly voice answering the phone. The person answering the phone creates an image in the callers mind, what type of company you are and if they want to spend their money with you. Spend time thinking about how the phone should be answered and the attitude in which it is done. Never leave this to chance. If you are not the one answering your phones, inspect what you expect. Call your office number, or have a friend call and pretend you are a potential customer. If it’s not being done correctly, do the necessary training or replacement. Also spend time thinking about what should happen if it is not answered. What information should the caller get when you are closed? Do you direct them to your website? Is it in more than one language? Do you promote any specials? Professional outsourcing is also available.
- Business Cards – Your mini billboard. I often refer to them as your baby’s pictures and your business is your baby. The pride a parent has in showing their newborn baby pictures is the pride you should have handing out your business cards. They should not be balled up, written on, or stained. DO NOT use your printer to create business cards. At companies such as Vistaprint, you can get quality cards very cheap. Practice the three feet rule. Anyone within three feet of you should be getting a card. This is done, after you have built rapport with them. How many cards have been handed to you that you never really looked at and threw them in the trash because that person did not build rapport with you? In my “Fighting the B.E.A.R.” training series I discuss a marketing technique called “Hunting where the BEARs eat.” An example would be a construction worker meeting a potential customer outside a home improvement store and giving them a business card.
- 30 Sec, 3 Min, 5 Min, 15 Min Commercial. – This is also known as the elevator speech or pitch. Although it is called a commercial, speech, or pitch, It should not sound like neither. It should come across as a natural part of your conversation. How can you do this? Practice. Practice. Practice. Once you have it memorized, relax, speak, and think from a position of wanting to help and not from one of wanting to get. You should never want money from a client you can’t truly help. The reason for the different lengths is for different situations. You may have an opportunity to speak from 3 minutes up to 15 minutes about your business. Remember Success is when the lines of opportunity and preparedness cross. Get prepared and the opportunity will appear.
- Logo (Color/Black and White) – This helps with your brand recognition. A picture is worth a thousand words. A recognizable brand is priceless. The reason for having a black and white version also is that it makes it easy to put your logo on and in various print and fabric medias. The logo could be the name in a specific font like Coke or something as simple as the Nike swish. Remember many successful companies have modified their logos over time. So if you already have one, it still can be improved. Try to create a positive emotional connection to your logo.
- Brochures/Flyers/Ads – These tradition methods of advertising are still very effective. Print media allows you to highlight your features, benefits and satisfy the need many people have to take something with them. They can review the information at their own pace and leisure. It allows them the interaction of cutting out coupons and redeeming them for real value. It also allow them to share your information the way you want it presented. Finally print ads allows the future customer to hold on to your information until they are ready or able to take advantage of what you have to offer.
- Commercials (audio/video) – These types of contacts that appear on traditional marketing outlets like radio, television and new medias like online streaming to your computer or cell phone, can be the most expensive types. They have great impact because they tend to address captive audiences like motorists during peak drive times or television watchers during peak viewing hours. I’m not going to discuss these in depth because the expense can go up into the Millions of dollars for a 30 second commercial. Just keep in mind that audios and videos can be added to websites and hosted online on at places such as Youtube and Itunes at no cost.
- Confirmation/Check ins – These types of contact points can improves the customer experience resulting in a higher like and trust levels. If you can save someone time, the new competition, you are freeing them to have more life enjoying moments. An example of this is a dentist office sending text messages reminding you of an appointment and all you have to do is send “C” to confirm the appointment. Let’s say you’re a hair dresser. You send a text message to your next appoint 15 minutes before you finish with your current appointment. Instead of having your customer sitting in your salon for hours, you give them a discount coupon to one of the local retailers where you are an affiliate. They get great discount, the other retailer gets additional traffic flow, and you get an additional revenue stream. This process can be automated for any business that has clients checking in to reduce or eliminate lines. There are countless branding techniques that can also be used with these contact points. Let your imagination run wild. You’ll be surprised at what you come up with.
- Payment Processes – Many customers and businesses view this process as the most painful process of all business processes. In my opinion closing your doors or shutting down your site would be the most painful process. The latter two will happen if the first one doesn’t. The payment process should be the most exciting part. This is where the customer is voting that you should stay in business and they now can take advantage of what you are offering. They should be so excited that they can’t wait to tell someone about it. This is equivalent to saying “I do” on your wedding day. This should be the beginning. Everyday afterwards you work on understanding the needs and how you can provide a solution to help improve their lives. The process should be simple and have as few steps as possible. It also should be convenient. Accepting several options and methods of payment. Try to avoid “Convenience Fees”. There is nothing convenient about them.
- Public Speaking – This is where you really get an opportunity to shine. Depending on the success or nature of your business you may be asked to speak publicly. I know many entrepreneurs begin to shake in their boots at the thought of public speaking. There are several techniques to help you overcome some if not all of that fear. The purpose of this writing is not to go into details about the how’s, what’s and whys of public speaking. But, for those who are new to it or not getting the results they want I would like to give you these two golden nuggets. First, don’t speak to people, talk with each person. People must first buy you before they buy what you are saying or selling. Second, change your perspective on public speaking. Most fear of public speaking is caused by us believing we are under a magnifying lens and will be rejected due to an inadequacy. In other words the fear is because we are focused on ourselves and not the audience. Instead, change your focus to presenting the audience with something that can truly benefit them. Here’s another golden nugget: Become the Glass. Imagine bringing a person a glass of water who hasn’t had water for 3 days. Do you think they would be paying attention to the glass or the water? They would hold on to the glass until they had drank every drop. Let your message be the water and you become the glass. Bring so much value to your audience that it will cause them to ignore the glass, you and focus on the water, your message. It’s very important that you prepare. Prepare, prepare and prepare some more. The more you prepare the more confident and relaxed you will be. How well you prepare when you are alone will show when you are in front of others.
- Trade Shows – Trade shows allows you to set up a remote location of your business to sell and market your products or services. Here is a golden nugget for the trade show. Eliminate the barriers between you and your potential customers. These barriers include tables, counters or even products . Would you talk to a friend from opposite sides of the door or would you invite them inside? Then invite your customers into your booth/area. Always bring SAL your PAL with you to all trade shows. SAL is Smile, Ask, and Listen. Smile as you great your customer. Ask questions to find out about the person and their needs relative to what you are selling. Listen for the response to evaluate the fit. The letter P in PAL is for Presentation. Make sure materials and products are presented in an organized, easy to understand, clean and neat manner. In retail this is referred to as merchandising. The A is for Appearance. This is the overall look. Create depth, height, and add colors that will welcome people in. Step away from your booth/area and look at it from the customer’s point of view. Is it a place you would stop? Take a look at the vendors with heavy traffic and see how their booths/areas are laid out and see what ideas you can use in yours. You may even ask their advice on how to improve yours. Finally, the L is for Life and Leave. Your area should be exciting and full of life. The saddest sight to see is that a vendor has spent money to reserve an area, spent time and energy to set it up only to have someone sitting, reading a book and ignoring people as they walk by. Everyone wants to be where there is life, and excitement. Your booth/area may be the only excitement they had all month. The other meaning of L, leave, means to leave them with something they can take with them. If they say they don’t need or want what you have to sell, it doesn’t mean forever. It just means not at the moment. What you give them is up to you. Get creative.
- Network Mixers – This is the place you gather allies and build peer relationships. What does this have to do with gathering customers? Plenty. There is nothing more valuable than a personal endorsement. Even if the people you are meeting have no need for what you have to offer, they probably know someone who does. As you build relationships with others inside and outside of your industry your circle of influence and the people you may be able to help grows greatly. Remember to bring SAL your PAL to these events as well. Always Smile, Ask questions about their business and listen for ways you may be able to send them customers. In this environment your booth/area becomes you. Make sure you verbally present your business well. That why we practiced our 30 second commercial until it becomes a conversation. Your Appearance should visually represent your business. This should be mentally and physically. Avoid contradictions. Don’t say you’re a personal trainer but your out of shape. Everyone in your industry is not your competition. I have often referred customers who were not a good fit for my product or service to someone else in my industry. I’ve even done work for companies who might appear to be my competition. These gestures have grown my businesses and had a direct positive impact on my bottom line. There are many techniques for establishing and building relationships at these types of events. The most effective are just be friendly and genuinely interested in learning about the other person and their business. Always remember, your net worth will be determined by your network.
All these processes begins with K.L.T. They must be done in the exact K.L.T. order. First a person must come to know you. Based on their experience with you will determine if they like you. This doesn’t mean like to the point of inviting you over for a family dinner. I mean like you enough not to avoid you if they see you again. If you’re consistent in your message and delivery they will eventually come to trust you. This could take a few minutes or a few months. Each encounter varies. The result will be their first purchase or referral. After that it is up to you to maintain them or lose them. Although you and your business are awesome not everyone will like you or your business regardless of how great of an experience you provide.
The more you are able to improve your contact points the better. This doesn’t mean trying to start them all at once. It means working on the one that gets the most contact first. Improve it, then move to the next one. Repeat this processes until you have as many as you can effectively manage. Once you’re done, start the process from the first one again. Try to keep your eyes and ears open for changes in technology or techniques to improve the efficiency of the process.
Please subscribe. If you have any questions, comments or a topic you would like me to discuss, please leave a comment. I will get back to you and possibly feature your comment in a future post.
Dewong Lucas, Sr.