How to get more customers: the top 22 things that will help grow your business
13 July, 2019
Not every tip on this list will apply to every type of business. After all, some of you out there are already getting enough sleep, safe in the knowledge that your website is fully optimised and you're maxing out your ROI from every available marketing channel. Most companies already have a Google My Business profile. Some of you will be less concerned about things like a LinkedIn profile because the nature of your business means your target audience is too young to notice. But this is the kind of list I would have liked to have seen when I started my business two years ago and hopefully there's a tip or two for everyone here.
1. Understand your customer.
How much do you really know about the complex individuals within your target audience? Find out everything you can about your customer: who they are, what their needs are, how they shop, how they're likely to engage with you, and what's going to persuade them to buy from you. What are the main reasons why people don't buy from you - and what are you going to do about it? It's often helpful to segment your target audience into different "personas" based on key character and behaviour traits - then position your products, services and marketing to meet the needs of all personas.
2. Build relationships
Some people are amazing networkers - if that's you, you should look up the British Chamber of Commerce, BNI or the FSB. Some people hate the idea of networking - often because they imagine this means pimping themselves out at an event full of strangers. Think of it more as building relationships. Reconnect with former colleagues. Get interested in what people do for a living when you meet them at social events. Ask your Accountant or Hairdresser or Mechanic etc if they can introduce you to anyone who needs your product/service. Don't be scared of contacting similar local businesses - in my experience some of them are all too happy to share their experiences and even pass you work if it's not right for them, or if they're too busy. So far, I've never regretted an interaction or an attempt to connect.
3. Get a quality, kick-ass website.
Make it simple, add some personality and warmth, make it easy for people to see what you do and how to contact you. Ensure you have strong "Calls to Action" throughout your website to signpost your content, products and contact information. Publish customer reviews and testimonials so you've got an authentic, credible voice up there. Get some video content to showcase your products/services. And measure how your site performs. Your website will never be perfect but, if you use a structured, data-led approach, you can get more from online by continuously improving your website.
4. Focus on the *niche* words that your target audience is searching for.
The more specific the better. You might not rank anywhere near the first page of Google for "cakes". But you might be able to rank in the top 10 results when people in your local area search for "Princess cake maker". Make sure your website naturally incorporates the keywords you want to be famous for. You'll need to get interested in things like page titles, page descriptions and image alt tags. (Ask us about this.) If you're any good at writing, create articles/blog posts that focus on your keywords and the topics you know your audience is interested in; if you can't write, get someone to do it for you. There isn't an exact science to ranking higher on search engines like Google, but spending time on this could be massively beneficial - especially when you consider that most people don't look beyond page 1 of their search results.
5. Create a complete business profile in Google My Business.
You've already listed your company on Google My Business, right? No? Go and do it now. Do it properly, add pictures and some decent descriptions of what you do and why you're great at what you do. And start asking customers for reviews. You should aim for at least five reviews by the time I next see you. If you're already up there, check everything is up to date. What else can you post to show the world you're awesome? People do notice the local results on Google, you know.
6. Create a full LinkedIn Profile.
What does your profile say about you and/or your company? Make sure it's at least accurate and up-to-date for anyone doing their research on you and your business.
7. Offer something for first-time customers.
A free sample, a discount, free delivery - this can go a long way to persuading someone to enquire or even make a purchase decision.
No-one wants to work with a grumpy ******. Plus, being a positive force for good is just the first step in building a company that stands for more than just making money. The old adage that "people buy from people" is not accepted by everyone - but, particularly for small businesses, it's often true that if people like you, they're more likely to do business with you. (See also point 15.)
9. Do things for people.
There's a difference between (A) doing something for someone (B) doing something for someone only because you're expecting something in return. You won't always get something back, at least not immediately, nor should you necessarily expect it. If you're preoccupied with getting something in return, you'll ultimately be frustrated. Now and again, something unexpected may come out of it. I once did a free website review for someone I met at a party. The following week they recommended me to the parents of one of the kids attending their club, which (unexpectedly) led to a piece of work and a fabulous review.
10. Do something different.
Get feedback from people you trust, especially customers. What could you do differently? What do people like and dislike about your company/product/service/staff? Is there something about your sales pitch or presentations that could be improved? How can you create a better impression when you speak to prospects? Are your product/service descriptions and photography up to scratch? If you've never offered a free product or service, think about how you could start doing so. If you've never been to your local small business get-together, find out when and where they next meet and go along. If you've never spoken to Optimise Digital about how we can help, get in touch. Be creative. Test some new stuff and learn quickly what works for your business.
That's right: you need to go way beyond the expectations of your customers. Surprise and delight them. Make them feel valued. Give them the sort of service that they'll tell their friends and family about. Because that right there is the point: when you go above and beyond, your customers will do your marketing for you. These walking, talking evangelists are not only going to come back to you next time they need your product or service, they're also highly likely to recommend you to people you wouldn't otherwise have reached. (It works the other way as well: in fact your customers who have a bad experience with you will tell more people about it than the ones who have a good experience.)
12. Check out your competition.
What are your competitors doing differently to you and how can you (a) match them (b) do it even better? Which campaigns are working for them and what can you learn from this? And what aren't they doing that you could do to add unique value for your customers and prospects? Work out what you're really good at - and make sure this is a point of differentiation for your marketing and sales process.
13. Go to free business or trade-related events.
Speak to people. Engage with companies and individuals. Look at how other companies market themselves. Step away from the day job and open your mind to different ways of working.
14. Get organised.
If you don't already feel in control of your customer and prospect data, you'd do well to find a system that keeps everything organised. We recommend the free version of HubSpot as a good starting point. Even the free version allows you to keep track of potential deals at every stage and integrates with your email so you can keep track of conversations with everyone on your contact list.
15. Stay positive in the face of rejection and keep trying.
Depending on the nature of your business, you may find that your sales techniques are not paying off as often as you'd like. Don't let this disappointment register in your behaviour for one second. It's a guaranteed turn-off for future prospects. I've put in countless hours pulling together presentations and free website reviews, only for the prospect to turn me down. It sucks but it's all part and parcel of getting new customers. If you go into your next meeting or sales opportunity looking all forlorn and reeking of desperation you're unlikely to send out the right signals.
16. Do not keep banging your head against the same marketing brick wall.
If you're disappointed with how things are going, maybe it's time to do things a little differently. If you've been buying advertising in your local magazine for the last six months and haven't generated any leads or customers, maybe you should redirect your budget to another publication, or to digital channels like Google AdWords or Facebook (see point 22). Or you could sponsor an event. There's no point persisting with a channel if it's not working for you - be ruthless and use the budget elsewhere.
17. Find the social media channels that work for your business - not necessarily the ones you use yourself.
Gaining likes on Facebook and Instagram is all very well, but unless it leads to customers it might not give you much value. Try to understand where your target demographic is hanging out online - and what's useful or interesting to them. Then publish different content and offers that are likely to appeal to your audience. But if you're not getting much traction, the rule is to fail fast and move on.
18. Review your approach to email marketing.
Have you segmented your contacts list based on what you know about them: purchase history (or not), demographic, products/services they're interested in? Have you analysed open rates, click throughs and conversion? Have you tested subject lines and content? Are you capturing email addresses from visitors to your website? And do you send follow up emails to customers who have abandoned your website just before the point of purchase? These are just some of the questions you could ask of your email marketing. If the answer to most of these questions is "no", chances are you should also investigate an automated system for managing and sending emails - which doesn't necessarily have to be expensive (see MailChimp for example). Note: the answer here is not to send more emails: it's about sending quality, targeted and timely emails to relevant people.
19. Don't be too proud to ask for help.
Which of your friends is likely to have a connection that could lead to new business? Who have you worked with that might be a useful sounding board to you? Do you know someone who is a good representation of your target customer, who you could ask for feedback (what do they think of your business, and do they have any thoughts about what would make them buy from you)? If it's only pride holding you back, swallow it down for the sake of moving forward and using your network.
20. Get enough sleep.
This is the key to improving your performance and lowering stress levels, allowing you to pursue opportunities with clarity and purpose. There's been enough quality stuff published on this topic, but in a nutshell, everyone has their own optimum amount of sleep that makes them tick (some people need far more than others) - and getting that optimum amount is absolutely key to your well-being and success.
21. Get away from your desk - ideally to get some regular exercise.
Some of your best ideas will come to you when you're not sat at a desk, straining to pop out an idea or solution. Plus, keeping fit and healthy has a positive affect on your outlook and well-being which is likely to reflect in your professional life too.
22. Throw (a small amount of) money at the problem.
If you haven't already tried online advertising channels like Google AdWords and Bing Ads, a small spend here might represent a solid investment. If you're starting slowly and managing your ads carefully, this form of advertising need not cost more than about £50 a month - you can stay in control of how much you pay and the exact keywords you want to bid for. Depending on your target audience, you may also feel that advertising on Social Media platforms like Facebook and Instagram would be worth a shot. I've met local business owners who generate the majority of their new leads using this approach. If you're already doing this, make sure you know 100% that you're getting the most possible value from these online channels. And if you're not sure, invest time working out how to do things better - or get some help.
Here at Optimise Digital, we're not experts in all the things listed above. We don't get enough sleep but we're working on it. We drink too much tea, but we're replacing the odd cup with extra water. We ARE very good at helping businesses get the most from their website - or even building them a shiny new one that's more engaging, simpler for their audience and far more likely to bring in leads and sales. We CAN help create an approach to digital that's right for you. And in the last two years we've had plenty of success helping our clients get more customers through Google - both natural search results and via paid advertising.
If you'd like to know more about how we can help, please get in touch.