How to Acquire or Market to New Customers

I haven’t posted in a little while, and just tripped across an answer that I posted for someone on Quora a while ago, but I though that I would share it here.

The question was asking how a small customer facing business could market to or acquire new customers. You can read the original post here.

The following was my response:

There are numerous means of acquiring new traffic to a brick and mortar store, many of which are inexpensive and some of which are free.

Keep in mind it costs less to keep an existing customer than it does to find new customers. Ensure that the customers you do have are having their expectations exceeded. This will result in repeat business and word of mouth that is invaluable.

Methods of delivery:
Online Presence
– Start a blog about your business that demonstrates your expertise in your field. For a restaurant it might be posts about locally sourced food, special preparations, etc. For a spa, maybe a new product line or ways to extend the benefits of a treatment.
– Twitter and Facebook can both help with getting your name out. Essentially ask your existing clientele to “like” you (Facebook) or ‘follow” you on Twitter. As you post interesting content, they will share their content with people in their social network.
– Sign up for MailChimp or a similar service and mail a newsletter at regular intervals. While this doesn’t necessarily bring in new customers, it may bring your existing customers back more often. 
– Some companies have had success with Groupon and similar sites. Between the discounted pricing and the site’s fees, this may or may not be a wise channel to market your business.

Traditional Marketing
– Ads in a local weekly paper can be purchased relatively cheap and the price can be further reduced if you purchase numerous ads in advance.
– Donate to worthy causes. Silent auctions and the like are often in need of items and services to help raise money. You get a new customer and some exposure.
– Flyers. You can often receive flyer distribution quite inexpensively and targeted by postal/zip code. This makes it easy to test the return on investment.
– Sponsorship of local events (music festivals, art shows, etc) can provide visibility.
– Radio, television and newspapers – getting into a greater expense, so I won’t expand on these.

And the number one way to increase traffic flow? 
Ensure that your front line staff are engaged with each and every one of your customers. As an owner or manager, make it your goal to talk to ever single person that comes through your doors, even if only to extend a warm “hello”.

Remember that a great experience is without explanation a good thing, a terrible experience will result in a complaint allowing you to turn it into a great experience and the worst is a mediocre experience. Any customer that is not angry (and then wowed) or wowed from the start is not going to sing your praises and help you grow your business.

Things to deliver:
Ensure you have a solid offering to present when choosing your methods above. A flyer campaign is not going to do much good without some kind of offer to compel people to visit you. This does not mean that you have to offer a 50% discount, but rather have a call to action that results in customers paying you money for something of value.
– Ask your staff for things are lacking or could be improved and act on their advice.
– Ask your customers what would improve their experience and what would make them return more often.
– If you setup Facebook, Twitter and/or a blog, tell your customers about it and provide the links so they can sign up
– Be creative in your marketing. If you send an email newsletter, try a discount for bringing a friend with you, or a deal on an additional service, etc.
– As each customer leaves, ensure that someone has invited them back. “Thanks for coming in today Susan. Please come back and see us soon” goes a long way.

This is fairly long, and I could go on for a while. Depending on the business, location, management and a host of other factors, the strategy will change. Don’t afraid to be creative in your customer acquisition, but be sure to evaluate the return on investment and measure the success of each method. If one method fails, move on. If a method works, keep it in your arsenal and keep trying new things.

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