It’s a tough world out there. Millions of products and services and many millions of vendors scrambling for the consumer’s attention. If you’re a new business, it’s easy to burn through your marketing budget very quickly for minimal impact.  No cash, no splash as the saying goes! Even existing businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to gain and retain new customers. But there are exceptionally cost effective ways to grow your customer base and, far more importantly, keep them buying. As you read this article, lock one thought into your mind above all others:

The best customer you are ever going to have is the customer you’ve already got!

Yes, far too many businesses focus creativity and budgets on getting new business from new customers. But it is far, FAR more cost effective to get more business from your existing customers. I’ll address the many ways to do that in a separate post. But loving your existing customers doesn’t mean you don’t need to chase new ones. Of course you do. Even with the best products and service, customer attrition occurs. So let’s look at how you can maximise those marketing dollars…

Put the shotgun to use before wasting your bullets!

How many times have you heard or read that you shouldn’t use the shotgun approach? That you need to use a rifle instead? It’s a great strategy. But there’s one problem with it… most new businesses and very few small businesses can accurately profile their customers. How can you use a rifle if you’re not sure what your target is? And to continue the shotgun/rifle analogy, shotguns have another advantage over rifles… they can typically only hold one or two cartridges before needing to be reloaded. It takes a lot longer to go through all your ammunition!

A shotgun approach is designed to get your audience to identify themselves. They’re the ones who acknowledge that you’ve hit their pain point. Now comes the hard part. Save your remaining ammunition and find out what these new customers have in common. Demographics may or may not be important but psychographics definitely will be. What traits do these customers share? Interests, attitudes, values and lifestyles?

Test, test and test again!

Once you’ve identified commonality, you need to find more of the same types. Refine your message to address them. Test and review. Were the results better and more cost effective than your initial blast? If yes, rinse and repeat. Analyse the results. Build your customer profile. Refine your message further. Test again.

But what if the results were the same or even worse? Load the shotgun and fire another shot, this time in a different direction! Don’t change who you are – your brand. After all, that’s what you’re selling. But use a different angle. It’s a method called A/B testing that is typically used to determine which headline works best. In this instance, you’re using it to get future customers to respond.

Now you have results from two tests and you’ve only used two cartridges. Again, find commonality by profiling your customers. Test, analyze, refine! Rinse and repeat.

How can you profile new customers?

This step is far easier than you may think. It’s a fact that people love to know you care about their opinions and values. All you have to do is ask! If you’re selling a service, you might only have a handful of clients. Call them and tell them that you respect them, their opinions and that you value their business very highly. Tell them you would like to know more about why they chose to do business with you. Offer to buy them a coffee or better still, take a cake and coffees to their office where they are going to feel most comfortable. Be honest. Tell them you would like to find more clients of their quality. They will usually fall over themselves to help!

If you are selling a product that makes it hard to call every customer, at least call a few. And then email or mail the rest with a similar request. Say the same things… that you truly value their custom; that you would like to understand what made them choose your product. If you feel you need to offer an incentive, do it in the form of a value add to their existing purchase or a discount code off a future purchase. You can even use a ‘one for them, one for a friend’ offer since we all tend to associate with people who hold similar values to what we do.

There has never been a better opportunity to do it right!

We’re now living in an age where anyone can start a business. Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google, Amazon, AliExpress and others have opened up opportunities unimaginable just 10 years ago. I can’t tell you which advertising, marketing or distribution system is best for your business. What I can do is help you to identify the best options:

Social Media

Let’s face it, when we say ‘social media’ 99% of us see the Facebook logo. Facebook may be right for you but more businesses waste advertising dollars on Facebook than profit – at least financially – from the experience. The same can be said of other social media sites. That’s why it’s essential to have that customer profile.

If you know who your customer is, you can choose the right medium to find more of them. Use social media to build your brand. Give, give and give again. Give genuine news, give reports, give ways to get better value from your product or service, give customers and potential customers the opportunity to review your offering – whether positive or negative. Respond positively to both and take the opportunity to turn an unhappy customer around while showing the rest of the world that you care!

Only back your Social Media winners!

Imagine being a gambler who knows, before the race is run or the cards are dealt, that your odds are much, much better than everyone else. It’s not only possible, astute marketers do it every day. Let me give you an example:

One of the FB pages I am involved with typically achieves a reach of between 30 and 40 per post. Each post is really a shotgun blast since I can’t be sure how people will react. Last week a new post quickly reached 70 people. That’s about twice the normal reaction in the same time-frame. In other words, that post effectively put up its hand and said, “I’m a winner”. I made a decision to ‘bet’ on that post by paying the grand total of $15 to promote it. That $15 bought me a further paid reach of 2,354 but as you can see from this FB report, the post has now been seen by 97, 829 people! That’s about 65 views for every cent invested!

The key was knowing that the post had an appealing message before spending to promote it. I had already decided that if the post ‘ran’, I’d spend a further $15 and then ‘rinse and repeat’, until the return diminished to the point where I felt it was unprofitable to promote it further. But I didn’t have to because the post went viral. A few of those 2,354 paid viewers decided to share the post. Some of their friends shared it again until eventually it started to lose impact.

The page in the above example is a community type page where the return on investment is branding. Had it involved the sale of a product or service, the decisions would have been similar… did the promoted cost sell sufficient product/generate sufficient leads etc., to warrant a further investment? If ‘yes’, invest a further $15. If ‘no’, stop and analyze what worked and what didn’t.

Exactly the same principle applies to all social media sites. But what about Google Adwords and/or Bing|Yahoo?

Taking your winners to Adwords…

The wonderful thing about LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and every other social media site is that you can do your initial testing – your post, for free! If your audience doesn’t react, all you’ve lost is time and maybe a little ego. But when the post does ‘work’, you have the opportunity to learn and earn! If it worked as a social media post, how can you adapt that post to an Adwords placement? What’s the minimum spend to test it? Do an A/B split. Spend $10 or $20 on each. Analyze, refine, test again. Rinse and repeat.

Make email your best buddy!

Email is incredibly cheap. It’s also incredibly effective if used properly. Properly means that you must have your receivers’ permission to mail them. Properly also means ensuring that what you send has true value. If your emails only ever contain a sales message, expect your unsubscribe rate to skyrocket. Give until it hurts! Ideas on how to use your products, case studies and testimonials from other users/clients, news on relevant legislation or new products that can enhance their experience even if they are not your products! Make them want to open your emails!

Traditional media in the digital age…

I come from an advertising and marketing background. In a past life I’ve spent millions of client dollars on ‘mainstream media’ – print and broadcast – using the same test, analyze, refine and repeat formula. But times and audiences have changed. Audiences have become far more fragmented but because of that, they have become far more identifiable and approachable. We’re in the digital age and that applies as much to us as marketers as it does to us as consumers. The massive decline in print readership and viewing audiences tells its own story. IF, and only if, you are able to demonstrate that your target audience is accessible in reasonable numbers and at a viable cost, consider using traditional media. The broader the appeal of your product or service, the more logical it is to spend on these alternatives. If you’re selling a domestic washing powder, TV is probably a good option. But if you’re selling a commercial washing powder aimed at hotels and laundromats, go digital young man!

Got questions? I promise to answer them. Just use the comments box below. Thanks for sticking with me this far!