So you've decided you won't be advertising on TV during a major sporting event, or doing any television ads in the near future. Radio's out, too. In fact, your marketing budget is pretty much non-existent these days. But that doesn't mean you're out of luck when it comes to finding strategies for customer acquisition.
In fact, there are a number of strategies you may want to employ to bring in new clientele on the cheap. If you're looking for a few inexpensive ideas for finding new customers, you may want to follow in the footsteps of these small-business owners and marketing experts.
Customer Acquisition Tip #1: Ask for Referrals
You've probably heard it a million times, but some business owners go deeper than simply asking customers, friends and family to refer their business.
Take Kristen Fusaro-Pizzo for instance. Fusaro-Pizzo and her husband Frank own Bath, Body, and Candle Moments, a line of handcrafted products headquartered in Staten Island, New York. They have programs that reward their most loyal customers: Customers who refer friends and family accrue points they can redeem for free shipping or discounts.
"Even with the phenomenon of social media, nothing works quite like word-of-mouth, and this is the way to generate those sales," Fusaro-Pizzo says of offering rewards for referrals. Offering rewards points, a discount, a gift card or something along those lines may help you create a small army of brand ambassadors working to get your company's name out there.
But you can drill even deeper when it comes to referrals. Michael Maher, who has a real-estate firm called The Kansas City Home Team in Olathe, Kansas, says that it's smart to "help people first and receive later." He advocates getting in the habit of referring people to other people and hope that karma rewards you later.
"Eventually the people you recommend will start sending business your way. This works extremely well in real estate since just about [everyone] knows one to five people who are planning to move and buy or sell a home," Maher says, adding that it can work well for other businesses, too.
Customer Acquisition Tip #2: Offer Free Seminars
Dennis Theodorou, a vice president at the global executive search firm JMJ Phillip, knows a lot about looking for the right people. If it's feasible and you think you'd have a receptive audience, Theodorou suggests giving free seminars in places where you're likely to get leads on new customers.
"For example, if you’re a local computer business, you can give free seminars at local small-business groups and chambers of commerce on how to make technology useful for their business," Theodorou suggests. "If you own a plumbing business, hold a workshop showing others how to do some basics around their house. Yes, you will show them some things for free, but they will call you for the hard things, which bring in bigger billings and more referrals."
It's all about leveraging your knowledge to generate leads, Theodorou says.
Customer Acquisition Tip #3: Come Up With a Gimmick
It won't work for every business, but you might bring in business simply by coming up with a new product, one that gets everyone talking—including people who have never considering using your business before. Restaurants are especially adept at that, says Leigh Shirvan, the director of marketing for Uncle Sam's Burgers in New York City.
She points out the rise in food creations that restaurants are constantly concocting."To stay relevant, restaurants must develop new food creations that drive influencers and customers to take photos," Shirvan says.
That attention can be priceless. Take, for example, London's Honky Tonk restaurant, which debuted the Glamburger in 2014. The burger cost $1,768—its garnishes include lobster, caviar and a duck egg—and there likely wasn't much expectation that the masses would pour into the place and start ordering. But the Glamburger generated worldwide publicity.
Get people talking about your business, and it may help lead to new customers. It can be through creating a new product or service, or finding a new way to package your existing services. If you own a cleaning company, for instance, in this age of popular shows focusing on zombies, you might promise a 75 percent discount to anyone who has a house torn apart by zombies. You may end up not having to honor that discount, but it might get strangers to take a second look at you.
Customer Acquisition Tip #4: Provide Free Content
Similar to the free seminars, you could provide informative articles about your industry to the public. Christian Denmon, a founding partner with Florida-based criminal-defense law firm Denmon & Denmon, says that he often writes legal articles for influential blogs, including The Huffington Post.
"This only required my time and knowledge," Denmon says. "In return, I was able to get a massive amount of referral traffic back to my site, which actually led to nice referral business from other attorneys in Florida."
Milan Malivuk, marketing director of itracMarketer in Toronto, agrees.
"The most effective strategy is content marketing," Malivuk says, "where you create and publish the type of content that your target audience finds useful. Create guides, reports, best practice articles and case studies that serve your audience well. For example, a mortgage broker knows that if they publish a detailed breakdown on home ownership costs and how much to budget for the first home, the type of people searching for that content are a perfect fit for their offering."
For more insights on how to help effectively tell your business story, access this DIY Guide to Content Marketing.
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