Building your customer base
Tips and techniques to help your business attract more customers.
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Hi, I’m Tegan Jones for the Wells Fargo Business Insight Series. Today, we’re discussing tips and techniques business owners can use to build their customer base. Joining me is Melinda Emerson, the SmallBizLady and author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months. Thanks for joining me, Melinda.
I’m so happy to be here with you today.
Melinda, I know one of the biggest challenges small business owners face is finding successful ways to get customers in the door. In your opinion, where should business owners begin looking for customers?
I think the first thing that small business owners should do is figure out exactly who their customer is. So many times, I see small business owners chase anybody that they think has money. But the thing that every small business owner does have is limited time and limited resources, so it’s really important to focus in on a specific target customer. I always say, “You’ve got to niche to get rich.”
So, what do you mean by “niche to get rich?”
When you are a small business, particularly in today's economy, you have to be a specialist. People want to hire people that specialize in solving their problem, every day. Everyone wants to feel special. And so by you becoming a niche-focused business, that’s how you’re going to be able to better stand out in the crowd, and you’re going to be able to better use your marketing dollars. You cannot chase five different verticals for business. You need to know exactly who your customer is so your marketing efforts can be far more targeted.
So, once business owners have identified their customers, how can they connect with them?
I believe email is still king. You know, you've got to get people's contact information and really use that information to communicate helpful stuff to them. And if you position yourself as a resource, they will think of you when they have a need.
The second thing you want to consider — particularly if you're a local retailer or even a professional service business — is direct mail is making a big comeback. You know, years ago, people used to open their direct mail over the trashcan. Well, that's how people open their email now, so direct mail — if you've got a really good, targeted list — could be very effective for a small business.
The third thing you want to consider is mobile web advertising. You want to make sure that you have permission to communicate with them this way, but mobile is really making a big push right now, and it's something that every small business may want to consider.
Social media is never going away. As a matter of fact, it is a must; it's not a maybe anymore. So, you want to make sure that you figure out where your best target customer is hanging out online, and be a part of that conversation. Every small business does not need to be doing every social media networking site, but every small business owner needs to have all of the accounts claimed, so that they can protect their brand. Figure out where your best target customer is hanging online, and dominate using that specific social media account. I’m the SmallBizLady on Twitter, and that’s where I have my biggest presence online.
Lastly, look at QR codes. QR codes are great, because you can bridge your online and offline marketing efforts. When your stores close, you should have a sign outside with a QR code with a link to your menu, to your pricing, to your special coupon, if they use the QR code. And those are the top five ways I think that small businesses can communicate with their potential customer base.
And when you communicate with them, what types of things should you be sharing with your customers?
Well, the number one rule with communicating with your customers is you better not be wasting their time. So, the first thing you should communicate is an article that you think might be of interest to them. The second thing you want to communicate is coupons and discounts, right? Everybody loves free stuff. You can always let them know how they can come in and take advantage of a “buy one, get one” or 10 percent off or a lunch special or something like that.
If you have a new product or service, by all means, let your customers know. Do not assume that they know all the ways that they can do business with you. If you refresh your website or finally launch a Facebook fan page, let them know. You know, social media, and you know, anything you do new to your business is always a great way to communicate with your customers.
Invite them to an event. You can have an open house or a holiday party in your business, or you could buy some tickets to the local chamber breakfast and invite some targeted clients to come as your guest. Or buy a box at the local sporting event and invite some targeted clients to come as your guests. Those are great ways to build even deeper personal relationships and close business.
And lastly, and probably the most important way, within seven to ten days after someone does business with you, they need to hear from you. You need to ask them for feedback and use that opportunity to ask them for a recommendation. If you're really smart, you put the link to LinkedIn or your Yelp page right in the email when you're asking them for their feedback. Nine times out of ten, they were thrilled. If you make it easy for them, they will give you a recommendation, and that’ll make them an unpaid sales force to your small business.
Yeah, I know that word-of-mouth marketing is such an important thing for small business owners, especially when they're just getting started.
Absolutely. It's very important that you manage what your customers are saying about you, and if they like you, make it easy for them to tell others.
Fantastic. That's really great advice. Thanks so much for your time today, Melinda.
You're welcome. It was my pleasure.
And thank you for joining us for this segment of the Wells Fargo Business Insight Series. To learn more about how Wells Fargo Business Banking can help you, visit wellsfargo.com/biz. In the meantime, we wish you continued success.