Building a customer base is probably one of the most intimidating aspects of launching a business, yet it is absolutely the most crucial. We’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks to start building that base – and your confidence along with it.
1. Find Your Why
What is it about your product that gets people on board and, once they’re interested, how do you keep them? This can be the most challenging aspect of starting a new business, especially for anyone shy or timid. Find those customer leads and go at them, no holds barred. This is especially important if your business is in its initial growth phase. Going after new leads in this way is not meant to be a scalable process; it’s meant to help you discover what problems your solution can solve, and why people will pay for it. Think of this phase as a combination of market research and selling. Try offering a discount, money-back guarantee, or custom modifications to help you figure out what your product is worth. Sacrificing a little now can reap big rewards later.
One important thing to keep in mind, for this tip and others: keep customer service as your top priority. Treat each customer with respect and take appropriate action as needed. A happy customer is likely to tell at least three friends about a positive experience and great customer service leads to increased sales.
2. Keep Conversing
Now that you’re not afraid to lay it all on the line to keep those customers coming back for more, you need to up the ante. Set a goal to have one conversation with a customer every day. That’s 30-plus conversations per month. Simple conversations with no advertising or flashy gimmicks help you find out more about what your solution can do for your customer. And, if your goal is 30 connections in a month, you only have to close one-third of those deals to have your first 10 customers committed to nothing but your concept.
3. Focus On People Before Marketing
The sky is the limit when it comes to enticing customers to make commitments. But you need to know where to draw the line when it comes to investing in things like Search Engine Optimization, online ads, and email campaigns. At this point, you’re not focusing on scaling your business, you’re focusing on building it. Don’t waste your time on things that distract from your main objective of finding customers. Why focus on marketing if you don’t know who you’re marketing to?
Face-to-face conversations will prove far more valuable at this stage than any amount of money or time you could spend on broader marketing tactics. Your first 10 customers will prove the value of your product. Until you have that, nothing else matters. You don’t have to spend money or come up with a robust marketing strategy. You just have to hit the pavement to build those initial relationships.
4. Establish Your Customer Base
We know – this article is about building a customer base, so how on earth is this one of the tips? It sounds counterintuitive to narrow your focus when you want to broaden your client base, but finding your niche is the key to successfully expanding your business. Before you can diversify your services, you need to specialize.
This holds true for customers too. Figure out what demographic needs your service or products the most and target it. Start by creating marketing personas so you know the types of clients you’ll likely be working with, then cater your business and marketing efforts to them. Define your target audience as precisely as you can. “Women, 35 to 55” might be a start, but it’s not enough. Create a detailed profile of your target customer. The more segments you can identify, the more potential hosts you can approach. Starting small helps you build a stronger reputation among initial clients.
5. Ask For Feedback
Consider asking for feedback from previous clients to figure out your strengths and weaknesses. Clients will appreciate the follow-up as a means of touching base, as their feedback will help you identify any problem areas, as well as your company’s greatest strengths.
Before a web visitor leaves your website, for example, request that they complete a short survey. People are happy to express themselves and often enjoy telling you about their online and offline experiences. You can use a survey to conduct industry research, learn about customer experience, or measure satisfaction.
As part of the feedback process, ask clients if they are comfortable giving a testimonial that you can feature on your website. Eighty-eight percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. They help to humanize your brand. So let your past clients encourage potential buyers to join your client list.
6. Share Your Knowledge
Consider joining forces with another business. You don’t need to go it alone. Co-marketing with a non-competing business that has a similar customer profile means you share the efforts and the rewards. Stick with businesses that serve the same market segments. That way, your product will be shared with your desired audience by a business they already trust.
Develop a clear offer for each prospective partner. Come up with some perks you can provide with high-perceived value for the consumer and a low dollar cost for you. Depending on the nature of your business that could mean a white paper, product sample, or design template, anything that make sense and makes an impression. It could be as simple as a free email newsletter. Free is something that everyone can afford. When you offer a free newsletter, you are informing your potential customers that you are willing to provide free information from the start. Good content will teach customers about your business and get them invested in your brand. Reward those who follow you and educate them on what differentiates your business from your competition.
7. Reward Loyalty
While you might be focused on finding new leads to increase the size of your client list, don’t let it distract you from keeping your current customers happy. Sixty-six percent of customers begin using a competitor’s business because of poor service from the original business.
One sobering fact to keep in mind: the clients can always stop coming. Therefore, it is essential to reward the ones you have and encourage repeat business by offering perks like discounts, special deals, early access to new products, or whatever else it may be that reminds your clients that you care about them. Also, consider offering referral incentives. Incentives can include a discount of future products or services, gift certificates, or a discount for the client and referred individual.
8. Don’t Underestimate Email
Email newsletters are a marketing tool that has stood the test of time. The return on investment on email campaigns is higher than that of any other digital channel. So build an email list to keep in touch with your clients. Capitalize on potential interest by sending a welcome email immediately after they sign up to remind them of your company and what you offer. However, remember that your emails must be permission-based and include an unsubscribe link. And don’t forget to make your emails mobile-friendly!
Like with the direct mail campaigns of yesteryear, you’ll want to tailor your emails to the clients receiving them. Target a specific client group or geographic area, then email a solicitation that announces your new business and states why the recipient should consider your products or services. Include a call-to-action, like a new client coupon or a discount when you mention the email. Then track your method’s effectiveness. Check for statistics like how many people clicked your link or keep track of how many purchases were made using the coupon. Then use what works best in the future.
9. Help Those Who Help You
Give clients access to your network in order to gain access to theirs. One way to do this is by sharing a client’s product with your audience. Consider offering opportunities like hosting guest blog posts that offer clients the chance to share some of their expertise on relevant topics with your network. This can help your brand as well, giving you more content, and increasing your reach if they choose to share the post with their audience.
10. Network, Network, Network
You knew this one would make the list! In a world that is often dominated by online efforts, it’s important not to forget the time-honored tradition of networking. There is undeniable value in attending networking events and making a physical impression as you exchange contact information. One powerful way to introduce yourself to others is to volunteer to speak at business-related events.
BidSketch offers a few more tips on how to network successfully:
- Join a professional networking group. You and other professionals in your own, or other industries can help make referrals to one another.
- Search on event sites like Meetup.com or Eventbrite based on your location and keywords to find upcoming events to attend.
- Leave a message on the event if you can. Explain what you do and who you help to make a first impression before you meet anyone.
- Take note of those attending that match your perfect customer. Then, make sure you seek them out and engage with them at the event.