It doesn’t matter how good a product or service is, without customers, a business will fail. This truth is the reason business owners lie awake at night trying to figure out how to find, engage, and win over more customers.
In the past, launching a massive but passive marketing effort and hoping it would attract the right audience was the best you could do. Targeting the right customers with the right message is no longer a pipe dream, but indeed a very possible pipeline.
The right customers: Know who you're targeting
As a small business owner, marketing dollars are at a premium so knowing your niche is key. How do you identify the people who could benefit most from your product or service? Looking at your current customers is a smart place to start. Who buys from your brick-and-mortar location? Who buys from your website? Who clicks through the most on your email campaigns and digital advertising?
Targeting the right customers with the right message in the right place is no longer a pipe dream, but indeed a very possible pipeline.
Answering these questions requires market research, a process which ranges from very simple qualitative research to in-depth quantitative analysis. An easy, inexpensive approach is sending surveys to your existing customers using one of the many online survey tools, like SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang.
Logically, your products or services will appeal to some customers more than others, so get to know your customers and segment your market with cold, hard, facts:
- Demographics: statistical data including income levels, age, location.
- Psychographics: the attitudes of a certain demographic.
- Buying habits: how, what and where customers purchase products and services.
Take your market research offline, too, to get another perspective. Talk to your customers in person and ask them what they like and dislike about what you offer and how you offer it. Network with local small businesses at events and talk about how they identify and reach their customer bases.
The right technology: Tools to help you connect with and keep Customers
Not sure how or where your customers talk about your brand? Or how your customers feel about your product or service? The following tools are proven workhorses to help small business get organized, deliver messaging, engage effectively, listen for social feedback, and measure results:
It’s effective, it’s simple, and most importantly, it’s FREE! Google Alerts lets you set up search criteria for specific topics. When the search pops up, you get a notification and a link to the search result. It’s is a great way to find the hotspots where potential customers are spending their time. This can help you focus your efforts to those areas.
One of the most commonly used social listening tools, Hootsuite allows you to monitor conversations about your brand across all of your social media platforms. Simply add your streams and input keywords for real time feedback on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and more. Sharing the relevant conversations you discover with others in your company is easy. Free, pro and enterprise versions are available.
Sprout Social lets you see all of your profiles on a dashboard, track followers, schedule/publish posts and run reports. It even organizes upcoming tasks. Any intimidation about diving into social media to engage customers is alleviated by ease of use. Once you’ve decided your company’s value proposition and are ready to test messaging, Sprout Social keeps analysis and message delivery simple.
A leader in customer relationship management, Salesforce enables you to support every step of your sales pipeline from marketing to customer service. Emails, live chat, social media management and other customer-facing features are housed in a central cloud-based application which means you can take your customer support with you to the gym. With pricing geared toward startups and Fortune 500 companies alike, Salesforce allows you to customize their offering to fit your needs.
So you’re pretty responsive to customers already but want to improve customer experience? Nimble helps you sort through and respond to overwhelming customer emails while integrating contacts, social media, and your calendar in a convenient portal. It integrates with other software and familiar tools like Gmail to make your life even easier. Flexible pricing and a free trial make trying this tool on for size easy.
Do you really know the people browsing your website? Sure, Google Analytics is pretty awesome, but what if you could fine-tune it to tell you more. Meet KISSmetrics. Greet visitors based on how they arrived at your site, whether it was via your marketing or a referral source. Encourage them along the way with prompts based on their behaviors. You can even offer a buyer stalled in the shopping cart a special offer to nudge them into conversion. Tiered pricing makes it easy to see the value at an investment that’s comfortable and a free trial will feed your curiosity with real life experience.
The right thinking: Growth hacks
So now that you know your target inside and out, and you have tools in place to find and engage them, it’s time to craft a message that compels this audience. Accomplishing this demands ingenuity and the willingness to explore new territory. Sean Ellis, a key marketing contributor at big deals like Dropbox, Eventbrite, LogMeIn, Lookout and Uproar, coined the term “growth hacker.” In short, growth hacking involves rethinking how and why your business is relevant to consumers and engaging them on a human level.
Here are three keys for thinking like a growth hacker:
GOOD CONTENT = CUSTOMER CONNECTION.
What do your goods and services offer that will make a customer’s life easier, better or more fulfilling? Produce or curate content that shows that you get it. Make sure the articles, blog entries, infographics, and videos you post speak to your customers’ needs and express the value you provide without being too salesy.
YOUR VALUE IS BEING VALUABLE.
Target your social media efforts to prospects and current customers thoughtfully. Pushing your message is much less tasteful than serving up solutions. Education efforts and meaningful social interactions can go a long way in solidifying your value proposition in your audience’s mind.
TRACK AND TEST. DON’T GUESS.
Test different platforms like a sales lead channel, a social network or email. Utilize technology tools to create a dashboard that allows you to see the response each message you deliver receives. Use the results of your testing to decide what works best for your business. For example, you may get more click-throughs to your website via messaging on Twitter versus email or Facebook ads. Learn from your less successful trials and adjust your trajectory accordingly.
An accurate picture of your target customers, solid intel on their digital whereabouts and means of targeting those locations, and a solid messaging proposition can put your small business in a position to reach greatness. Staying on top of your company’s social media mentions keep you connected with real time conversations, understand how customers perceive you, and allow you to adapt your messaging and model. Now your only decision is whether to maintain the status quo or make your business connection-worthy for the people who matter most – your customers.