Being great at your core business and being great at promoting and growing your business are not synonymous. Market research shows that up to 20% of SMEs fail in their first year and up to 50% by their fifth year.
While it’s easy to blame the economy and local regulations and even moments of crisis for these failures, the reality is that these statistics are consistent over time. The core reasons in most cases include not having an effective customer acquisition plan in place, not understanding the cost of doing business, no clear long-term marketing plan, and a poor online presence.
Here are 3 building blocks of customer acquisition strategies that will ensure the future of your business.
1. The basics of effective customer acquisition
Business is business. Whether you are a graphic designer, a carpenter, a tattoo artist, or you’re selling pre-owned vehicles, it’s important that you become comfortable with the facts – this means that customer acquisition should be your primary focus.
Without an ongoing stream of new leads, there is no interest in your product or service. And without interest, there’s no income, and without income you cannot keep doing what you are passionate about.
To determine who your customers are you need to answer the following questions:
- Who is your ideal customer? – Create customer personas, detailing features such as age, gender, type of job, budget, and most importantly, why they are rabid fans of what you do? Use photos or avatars to create a visual representation of your ideal customer.
- Who is your 2nd tier customer? – This is a profile much like the above, but it focuses on other businesses who already deal with your Ideal Customer and how you can work with them to sell your products or services.
- What are your Unique Selling Points? – Now that you know who you want to reach and who could help you reach them; you need to be able to clearly communicate the Why Us? to these parties.
Now you need to find the right person for the job. While you may be very passionate about your core business, not all business owners are skilled at closing the deal. Bring in experts at sales and marketing, creating email templates, writing effective sales copy, or working in other key areas to support your customer acquisition plans.
2. Market research is easier than you think
Market research can be really challenging, especially since business owners are often experts on their products and have the internalised benefit of their passion for what they do. While these are great in ensuring you have the drive to see the business through whatever comes its way, it can create false faith in an “if I build it they will come” approach.
Sadly, thousands of small and micro businesses fail each year in South Africa or worse, they barely survive dragging their owners down a path of debt and frustration that could have been avoided had they understood their customers and their market better.
- Get to know your customer – In order to build a profile of your ideal customer you need to get to know the facts about the people who will spend money on your product or service.
- Get to know the market – Not all businesses work in all places and at all price points. Take the time to understand the buying behaviours of various socio-economic groups and how this relates to where you should promote your business.
South Africa is uniquely challenging and rewarding in that while we do have a very wealthy market segment, our middle and low-income groups are enormous. Selling to each of these groups presents its own challenges and its own strategies and can be very lucrative for informed and well-prepared business owners.
3. Creating Your Own 360° Marketing Strategy
Recognising your ideal customer, how your product meets their needs, and having a clear understanding of the marketplace, allows you to effectively create a holistic marketing plan.
This plan needs to cover business fundamentals such as:
- Reaching your target audience – Which advertising channels will reach your ideal customer at the lowest cost? This could mean advertising online using Facebook, LinkedIn, or even Instagram. Offline advertising could, for example, include tradeshows, radio spots, or print advertising.
- Retaining your customers – Once you’ve acquired your highly valuable customer you need to keep them engaged with your product or service and your brand. These strategies can include incentives for repeat sales and new customer recommendations, loyalty programs, or even a VIP customer program.
- Communication plan – Out of sight is out of mind, and out of pocket for a business relationship. Create an ongoing but non-invasive communication strategy for staying present in your customers’ lives.
- Be visible online – No matter how niche or widespread your industry is, customers want to see that you have an online presence in order for you to really be considered as a legitimate business.
When you choose to see these as digital storefronts and marketing opportunities, they will become core parts of your overall marketing strategy.
By following these simple steps you’ll be positioning your business for success and in the process, you’ll be able to move customers from complete strangers, who have no connection to your brand, through the sales funnel to the point where they become brand advocates. A good loyalty program is one surefire way to keep the customers you’ve acquired engaged and coming back for more. Learn more about why customers want loyalty programs and how they’ll benefit your business in our recent article.