Customers are the lifeblood of business. The more you have, the better off your business will be, generally speaking. But reeling in new customers and wooing them away from your competitors is the tricky part.
Here are four strategies to help you attract more customers and grow your business:
1. Provide introductory offers
Giving new customers a deal — such as a nice discount on your product or service — can help generate more business and potentially attract new long-term customers. Many people won’t try something new without some type of incentive.
Keep in mind that introductory offers are not always an advantage for the business. Now-defunct cleaning service Homejoy offered new customers a very steep discount. But only a few of those first-time customers booked again because their experience wasn’t exemplary and Homejoy’s regular prices were higher than many could afford, according to Ellen Huet of Forbes.
The lesson: An introductory deal will only create lasting customers if the experience is better than the competition’s — and your regular prices are reasonable.
2. Host fun or informative events
Giving people another reason to come to your business beyond just spending money can be a good way to engender goodwill in your community and generate awareness. A bike shop might host a seminar on how to maintain bikes, while an accounting firm might host a catered meet-and-greet in its neighborhood or a seminar on a timely tax issue facing small business owners.
Stephanie Lanier, founder of Lanier Property Group, a real estate firm in Wilmington, N.C., writes on Inman News that her company hosts many events. It’s a good way to show client appreciation while also gathering the email addresses of new prospective clients.
“In the past, we’ve done neighborhood pop-up parties with an ice cream truck, a champagne hour to celebrate a print marketing unveiling, luncheons to celebrate other awesome real estate agents, gratitude brunch for our clients … business book club, training classes for using iPads in business and, finally, an Easter egg hunt for kids of all abilities," Lanier says.
3. Start a customer-referral program
Ask your best customers to recommend your business to others — and give them incentive to do so. But running a successful customer referral program takes some planning and follow-through, writes Yaniv Masjedi, vice president of marketing for cloud-based communications provider Nextiva, on Forbes.
It’s important to reward both the customer making the referral and the referred customer. This will make everyone feel special. You might try out different types of rewards, such as discounts or free gifts, as well as various methods of communicating the referral program, whether through your website or blog, in person or via email.
“Asking for a referral is a little like asking for a sale,” Masjedi writes. “In both cases, timing is everything. Don’t ask for a referral the same day a customer signs up. Instead, wait until you’ve developed a relationship with your customer before approaching the topic.”
4. Use creative marketing
There are more ways than ever to get the word out about a business. It could be sponsoring or attending local community events, building a large social media fan base, asking customers to leave positive reviews on sites like Yelp or Angie’s List, using daily deal sites like Groupon or LivingSocial, or old-fashioned networking at conferences and events. What works best for your business will depend on your strengths and the type of business you have.
As you actively pursue new customers, don’t forget the importance of treating your current loyal customers like gold. After all, you’ve already won them over, and the last thing you want to do is lose them.
About the Author
Kelly Spors is a freelance writer and editor based in Minneapolis. She previously worked as a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal, covering small business and entrepreneurship.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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