If you struggle to make and retain new customers, you're hardly alone.
In fact, acquiring new customers is often named as one of biggest challenges facing SMEs.
And it's no surprise. In a digital world, growing your customer base often requires a diverse range of expertise, skills, and resources. And, for smaller organisations, this can all be more than a little overwhelming.
But one of the most positive changes you can make when it comes to getting more customers is a simple shift of mindset.
In a recent article for Entrepreneur.com, Brad Sugars wrote that, what most people call getting new customers, he refers to as "buying" new customers. And "buying" is a good choice of word, since it implies that one needs to invest something - whether that's time, effort, or money - in order to get more consumers making purchases.
In short, what Brad's saying is that new customers aren't simply going to come to you. You're going to have to do something to get them. And that's the state of mind you need to be in if you're serious about expanding your customer base.
In this article, I'll run though some of the most crucial aspects of getting new customers so that you can get more people buying from you.
Don't Put Customers Off
Before you think about getting more customers, you need to make sure that all your ducks are in a row. Little things put customers off and, with so much global competition, you need to make sure that nothing about your organization will set off alarm bells in customers' heads.
For many businesses, their first point of contact with consumers is their website. As such, an effective site is absolutely essential if you want to attract new customers. You probably put a lot of effort into getting eyes on your site, and a poorly designed, difficult to navigate website may mean that all those efforts go to waste.
Research suggests that most of us decide whether a website is beautiful or not in just a fraction of a second, so, with so much competition out there, you need to make sure that yours is judged well.
There's no one template for what makes a good website. And the specifics of your business (your industry, your target audience, your product/service, etc.) will guide everything from color choices and how many pages you have, to content and copy tone.
That said, there are a few things that almost all good websites have in common.
- Fast load times, because nothing is more off-putting to internet users than a site which takes eons to load (bear in mind that an eon in internet time is anything over five seconds - in fact 40 percent of consumers will abandon a page if it takes more than three seconds to load).
- Mobile Optimization, because, whether with a responsively designed page or a separate mobile site, all businesses need to cater for mobile users; after all, there are a whopping 41.27 million of them in the UK alone (with the rise of mobile users being the driving force behind "Mobilegeddon" - Google's prioritizing mobile optimized sites - earlier this year)
- Being up to date, because outdated design and content makes it look as though you don't care - unfortunately, websites need to be consistently maintained and improved; they're not a one off investment.
Having a strong brand is also crucial for getting new customers on board.
That doesn't mean having hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, it means creating an image that people will want to buy into and remain loyal to. In fact, it's much better to have a smaller, more engaged audience, than a huge, uninterested one.
In order to create a strong brand, you need to:
- Take a holistic approach, because a brand is more than a name or a logo; it's a message to your customers about who you are, who they are, and what you can do for them. Your brand message needs to be simple and presented consistently.
- Be original, because, if someone else has done it, it's not likely to work again; differentiation is what you should be aiming for, not imitation.
- Be disruptive, because the brands people remember are those which upset a market, offer something new, or provide new innovations or experiences.
If you're on the lookout for new customers, you need to be confident that you have everything in place to treat them well.
Customer service is about more than just being polite. It's about being professional, expedient, and competent. In theory, there are three traits that should help you ensure a good level of customer service:
But what counts as empathetic, appreciative, and helpful will, of course, change depending on your target market, their medium which a customer contacts you through, and the nature of the customer's enquiry (on social media, for example, a quick reply matters - a lot). You'll have to use your common sense on this front.
From your point of view, good customer service results in either a happier customer or getting a customer to pursue a certain course of action. Interestingly, researchers at UC Riverside found that that, if people are given some bad news, followed by some good news, they were more likely to feel happy. However, if they were given some good news, followed by some bad news, they were more likely to act. Just something to keep in mind.
With all this in place, you're now in a position to actively seek some new customers.
Getting new customers takes time. You'll need to generate leads, manage them, distribute content, administer analytics, and more. Failing to allocate sufficient time and resources to this will undoubtedly lead to poor customer acquisition performance.
As always, planning is key. You need to decide what your approach will be to getting new customers (e.g., social media driven, email driven, telesales driven, etc.) and you need to make sure that you're capable of following this through, which brings us on to...
...Getting the Right Tools
Luckily, there exist some great tools that can give you all the tools you need to attract new customers. Solutions such as Salesforce, Hootsuite, Mailchimp, ZenDesk, Trello, and more can be combined and used together in order to create the infrastructure required to get new customers.
But if the idea of combining numerous different tools doesn't appeal to you, there also exists some great one-stop-shops for customer acquisition.
SunZu, for example, is an all-in-one tool that has been developed specifically to help businesses create customers. The software package can help you create landing pages, manage leads, distribute content, view real-time analytics, and more.
Acquiring new customers will always be a challenge. But, so long as you approach the task with the right mind-set, and make sure that you're proactive and well-placed to gain new customers, there's no reason why you can't. I hope this article has been helpful and has given you some ideas for how to grow your customer base.
Did we miss something? Is there something essential to acquiring new customers that we've missed out? Or do you have a question or query about anything I've written? If so, let me know with a comment.
Main image via Shutterstock