It’s pretty obvious that without customers, you don’t have a business. But customers won’t just appear out of thin air – you have to find ways to reach them, draw them in, and keep them coming back for more. Your business needs a marketing plan that addresses how to attract customers and increase sales.
A “marketing plan” can sound a little intimidating, but don’t worry! The good news is you don’t need a team of MBAs to bring in new customers. These 5 affordable, easy-to-implement strategies will help you build a marketing plan that works for your business.
1. Identify Your Ideal New Customers
One of the most common tenets of any effective sales marketing campaign is knowing the customer. The first question is, “Who is your ideal new customer?” The second question is, “What does your ideal new customer want from your business?”
It’s far easier to develop an effective marketing strategy for one person than for every person – not every person will want the exact same thing, so you have to cast a huge net to draw mass attention. Some giant corporations can do that – Amazon, for example, or Target. They have the infrastructure and market power to pull customers from nearly every demographic. But even those giant companies put special emphasis on certain demographics that are likely to be good customers. So, the first step is to clearly define your client base.
This step will take some internet research, getting out there and talking to different demographics, and some good old-fashioned brainstorming. Think about the kinds of people that will be attracted to your product or service. You can start with really general categories – does your business cater toward men, women, or both, for example. You can also break it down by age, income, and location, to name a few. The trick is to get to a target that’s specific enough to be worth targeting but not so specific that you’re cutting out potential customers.
For example, contrast two niche groups: “women aged 30-50″ versus “women aged 30-50 who like yoga, own dogs, and Iive within 10 miles of our shop.” See how much easier it would be to craft a specific target message to the latter group? Maybe you’re selling athletic wear – you could set up a Twilight Yoga and Yappy Hour (e.g, bring your dogs) event at a local dog park to entice new customers to try your products. The more you know about your customer, the happier you can make them with your direct, just for them (or so it seems!) marketing, events, and products.
2. Use Direct Response Marketing to Attract Customers
Direct response marketing is a popular tactic where you ask your customers to engage in a call to action; usually this involves responding to an email or opting into your email marketing group. The benefit of this type of marketing is that you’re creating a roster of interested customers that you can reach out to with sales, events, newsletters, and other reminders to keep your brand in the front of their minds.
Direct marketing works best when you craft intriguing compelling messages designed to attract customers and peak their collective interest. Some brands do it by offering rewards for signing up. For example, say you’re running a bakery. You could allow people to enter a drawing for a free cake in exchange for signing up for your newsletter. Others offer a discount on the next purchase after signing up for the email list, and still others simply heavily emphasize their email marketing and frequently prompt people to sign up. Make sure to include calls to action on your website and in your brick-and-mortar store – let people know that they might be missing out on great opportunities with your business.
Of course, in order to attract new customers and increase sales, you’ll have to actually keep up with the emails. Send out regular newsletters with updates about new products, promotions, news about your business, and whatever else your customers may want to know. As with any marketing materials, make sure your newsletter fits your brand – the same logo, messaging, and tone as you use online and in-store. You can use a service like MailChimp to customize a design template and send emails to your whole list at once, which makes it look professional.
3. Give Something Away to Entice New Customers
Handing out free stuff may not seem like the most logical business plan for a small business, especially when you’re starting out on a lean budget. But this is one instance when it pays to sink a little upfront money into making more money later.
Giving away free or discounted products can bring customers through your doors. For example, you can offer a discount for first-time customers – maybe they get 10% off on their first purchase. You can also offer incentives for your current customers to refer new customers – like offering them $5 off for every new customer they bring in. Then you have new customers coming in and your original customer will come back to take advantage of the discount. It’s worth shaving off that $5 to increase sales overall.
Some business experts recommend pairing with a partner to offer a free product. For example, a tax prep company can pair with a computer store to offer an hour of free service. A salon can offer free travel-sized hair products or a certificate for discounts on future salon services for those who spend a certain amount at a neighboring boutique. The key to making this tactic work is to align with a prospective partner who shares the same ideal niche customer.
4. Give Your Business a Face Lift to Increase Sales
If your business is housed in a brick and mortar shop, then it’s important to pay attention to the message the exterior of your shop sends to those passing by. Does it fit your brand? Does it fit the area? Is it in good shape or does it look like it’s falling apart?
You want your business to put its best foot forward right from the start. Rather than neglecting your storefront, give it a critical look and assess your shop as though you were a brand-new customer. Is it clean and well-lit? Is your signage in good shape? Is it visible from the road? By the same token, the inside of your shop should be clean, in good repair, and designed to fit your brand’s image and your target customers’ tastes. You should also consider the physical layout – is it easy for customers to move through the shop? Are there bottlenecks or cramped areas that you could rearrange? Maybe you can move displays around to make it easy for customers to linger a little longer and see a few more of your products as they move through the store.
The same is true of online businesses. Try to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and take a look at your website. Does it look professional? Does it fit your brand, with appropriate logos and messaging? Once you’re past the immediate aesthetics, make sure the site works. Every link should take you to the right place, all of the information should be correct, and the shopping and payment mechanisms should work smoothly. It should also be easy to use – you want it to be as simple as possible to get from shopping to checkout.
Making your business look good is a great way to increase sales, with the added benefit of pleasing your current customers.
5. Get The (Right) Word Out
Above all, the best thing you can do to attract new customers is to spread the word as far and wide as possible about your business. Depending on your target demographic, that may mean advertising online, in newspapers, or even on billboards. If your budget is too tight for that kind of expenditure, social media offers a great way to reach lots of consumers for free.
These days, word-of-mouth advertising is really word-of-internet. Reach out to your personal social networks and let them know about your business. Ask them to follow your business on social media and spread the word to their friends and beyond. Keep up an active social media presence and use it to stay in touch with your customers.
In a similar vein, keep an eye on review sites like Yelp. Encourage your customers to leave good reviews to boost your ratings. You should also address any negative reviews; that may involve apologizing or offering a refund or a free product or service as compensation. That shows them and everyone else on the site that you care about your customers.
The first step to drawing a new customer in is simply making sure they know your business exists. Everything else follows from there.
The Bottom Line
Figuring out how to attract customers is a matter of a bit of PR savvy, common sense, and some tactical business moves. It’s also a matter of elbow grease – keeping up with email campaigns, social media, and review sites takes work. Budgeting for promotions and samples takes work, too. But all of that will pay off as your customer base grows. Just remember to be flexible – try things out and see what works for your business. When you hit on a winning strategy, your bottom line will show it.