When you first started, you may have gotten your first customers by word of mouth, through your personal network or walk-ins to your store.
You may now be experiencing a lull in your business, or you managed to catch your breath and are ready to grow to the next level.
The next level, though, requires a strategy — a strategy for gaining new customers.
A strategy doesn’t need to be complicated or take long to create.
The best strategies are simple and actionable.
You will generally have a sales and a marketing effort that goes into gaining new customers. These should be intricately linked to maximize the value to the company.
In large businesses, we sometimes find that a salesperson will be going out on their own, perhaps calling potential clients from their personal black book. At the same time, the marketing team is focused on some social media ads and the two are entirely disconnected.
In a small business, all these jobs may be yours. Even so, sales and marketing are the two primary tools to gain new customers.
They need to work together to turn a stranger into a customer.
Three categories of customers
Potential customers can be broken down into three distinct categories.
The first are those that don’t know about you. The obvious solution is that you want them to find out about your business. This will primarily be a marketing effort, whether through new media or traditional advertising.
The second group are those that are aware of your business, and your job is to get them to make a purchase. This is where you or your salesmen need to close the deal.
The third are those that bought from you before. Your job with this group is to get them to buy from you again. This is achieved by a combination of your salesman getting them to buy more with each purchase and your marketing bringing them back again from more.
Sales and marketing need to work a one-two punch throughout this process to land more sales.
In terms of difficulty, it’s hardest to get those that are unaware of you to buy from you. It’s also easiest to get those that bought from you before to buy from you again.
Most of the time, businesses are using the same marketing and sales techniques for all three categories. Instead, they need to target them uniquely.
There are also those businesses that overthink strategy. They endlessly split each category into many other sub-categories.
Overcomplicating the strategy will make it more challenging to execute. A simple plan well executed is better than a brilliant plan unexecuted.
For most of us, simpler is better.
Let’s break down the three categories and look at how to approach them individually.
The “who-are-you” group
If this is an entirely new business, everyone will fall into the “who are you” group.
Your only goal here is to get people who are unaware of your business to know about your business.
At this stage, you will find that you have the lowest return on investment. You will have to tell a lot of people about your business before you make any sales. The majority of people out there will not buy your product or service.
Because of this low hit rate, your number one priority is to target the right audience. You want to limit as much as possible, wasting advertising on people that will never be your customer.
For example, some 10% of people identify as vegetarians. If you are selling a vegetarian product, you may realize 90% of your money would be wasted advertising to everyone.
You need to figure out how to reach your target 10% and not waste your money on the other 90%. If you are selling to businesses, this may be a little easier, but you will still need to create awareness of your product in the market.
Today’s digital advertising is a massive boon to small businesses. They can now easily target people based on preferences and locations.
Your main goal is to improve your targeting so that more people who may consider your product become aware of it.
Ideally, you want to collect the contact details of those that show interest in your business so that you can keep communicating with them. However, this may not always be possible.
The “Why-you” group
The next step is to convince those that are interested in your business to make a purchase. You may now have a bank of email addresses, phone numbers or followers if you ran an online campaign.
If you handed out flyers, people would now be walking into your store.
Those who shared their contact details or walked into your store have signalled interest in your product. They now know about you, but they need to be convinced to make a purchase.
The best way to convert an interested customer is through education.
When a customer walks onto a showroom floor, he wants to know about the cars you have for sale. When she clicked the link on your social media ad, she wanted to learn more about your product.
The biggest reason a customer won’t make a purchase is because he fears that he will make the wrong purchase. Your role is to allay those fears by educating him.
If you are selling second-hand cars, you need to make him understand the checks you put in place to ensure that the vehicles you sell are of high quality. He needs to know about the warranty you offer.
If you are an online business, they need to know that it’s better to buy it online than in the store. Tell them about your free shipping or money-back guarantee if the shoes don’t fit.
If you are selling to other businesses, you need to ensure the client that his boss won’t be angry if they buy from you.
Once their fears have dissipated, they will make a purchase.
Get them coming back for more
This is one where many businesses fail miserably. They spend so much time and effort getting new customers that they forget that the best customers are repeat customers.
They already know about you, and they have already shown that they are willing to buy from you.
All you have to do is get them to do it again and again. This is far easier than starting right from the beginning, where you had to get customers who were not aware of you to make their first purchase
You have to get some contact information if you are going to communicate with your repeat customers.
If you can’t communicate with your customers, you will miss out on one of the richest sources of revenue – repeat business.
If you have a physical store, the easiest way is to start a simple loyalty program. These used to be expensive, but you can now easily and cheaply buy one off the shelf for your retail business.
If you are not ready to do that, then at a minimum, create a reason why they need to give you their email address or mobile number.
You can now send them specials and information on new products to keep them coming back. You already know these customers are willing to buy from you, so you will see the most significant return on your advertising from them.
Text messages that cost a few cents are a great return, especially for small and local businesses.
It doesn’t have to be complicated at all.
Simpler is better
The three groups are like the three legs of a stool.
The best revenue return is from repeat customers, but you can’t get repeat customers if they don’t choose you in the first place. They can’t choose you in the first place if they are not aware of you.
If you spend all your money on trying to get people to become aware, you will miss out on turning them into customers.
Keeping a healthy mix of the three is the key to developing healthy growth in both customers and revenue.
If you are a small business, you should be able to sit down for less than an hour and create a basic strategy to increase customers.
A simple strategy is easy to understand. If we spent weeks creating a strategy, we feel like sticking to it even if it’s not working because we put so much time and effort into it.
Most of the time, we tend to overcomplicate these things. The more complicated the strategy, the more likely it is to fail.
A simple strategy is easy to execute and easy to change if it’s not working.