Probably the most common question asked by new start-up businesses is “How do I build my customer base?” Often, businesses get over-excited and start running before they can walk, meaning they rush into decisions that end up costing their business dearly.
This blog is split up into two sections. Don’t begin sinking hours of time into implementing the tasks found in part 2 before you’ve done substantial work on the part 1 tasks. Doing so could mean you’re wasting time, money and effort!
Part 1 – Building your customer base
Know your target audience
Quick question, would you drive your car blindfolded to get somewhere? Obviously not, but this is what marketing without audience research is like. You start driving forward and before you know it, you miss your destination.
It’s essential that you research who your key target audience members are. How old are they? What are some of their habits? How do they interact with social media? What sort of messaging resonates well with them? What sort of messaging doesn’t resonate at all with them?
It’s by answering these questions that you’ll start building a picture about what you should and shouldn’t do in regard to your marketing strategy moving forward.
Create a new angle
Take some time to look at your competitors. Research into their marketing strategy i.e. what sort of content are they producing? How are they promoting it? What sort of messages are they using?
Soon enough you’ll know what is already available to your target audience, leaving you with the task of creating something new. Something niche. Something that will grab your audience’s attention rather than appearing like another carbon copy of something else.
Chances are you’ll have competitors offering the same services as you. That’s okay. In this scenario it’s about focusing on creating a new marketing strategy. A great example of this is a company called Blendtec. 12 years ago, blenders were advertised in quite a mundane fashion. Enter Blendtec’s ‘Will It Blend’ video series consisting of blending everyday objects. The first video in the series results in some marbles being essentially reduced to sand. The fascinating concept grabbed audience’s attention and in no time at all it had gone viral with a huge majority of their videos currently accrewing over 1million views on YouTube.
Create meaningful and relevant content
With that said, you need to make sure that the content that you do produce is meaningful and relevant to what your target audience wants and needs. If you’re a design company then don’t write a blog about a new local chip shop opening up around the corner. Chances are your audiences don’t care. They would want design related content!
Social media connectivity
Most businesses will want some sort of social media presence online. It gives your audience a sign that your business is still alive and ticking along nicely. That said, the emphasis you put on this action depends on your target audience. If it’s an older audience then they might not use social media as much, so there is no point wasting time and effort on a pointless exercise. However, if your audience is on the younger side then social media will be crucial in grabbing their attention.
Keep it honest and respectful
As a growing business whose main goal is to get their brand noticed, it can be extremely tempting to use misleading or ‘clickbait’ titles in your marketing. This could be in the content you produce or in the emails you send out to potential clients/customers.People don’t like to be lied to and cheated into wasting their time on something that is fake. This is not the best first impression you want to make, and as all first impressions go - they can be hard to shake off!
Other activities to boost exposure
If you are looking to maximise your business/brand exposure, here are few more extra activities you can do to get noticed.
If your target audience uses social media regularly then doing some paid post boosts might be a great way to get your company noticed. However, don’t rush into this. Take some time to learn the best way to utilise this tool!
Think back to your target audience and if there are some appropriate advertising spots that could boost your company’s exposure. If the answer is yes, then this might be a marketing avenue worth exploring further.
Getting your content in publications
If you have some top-quality blogs or articles, then look for some publications that could include your content. Some online publications are great for this, Huffington Post being a prime example.
If you have valuable knowledge that could help your target audience, then you could consider doing speaking events. This (quite literally) gives you a platform to show off your knowledge and expertise which is something that (if done well) won’t go unnoticed!
Part 2 – Maintaining your customers
By this point you have built and grown a decent customer base. However, the hard work doesn’t stop there! You never want to stop growing this customer following, and the next big challenge is making them all stick around for the long haul.
Consistent content releases
Avoid being sporadic in your content releases and try to keep a steady schedule going. Leaving large gaps between releases could mean your audience end up bored of waiting, think that you’ve stopped publishing content, or forgotten you even exist altogether. Having that consistent presence on their social media wall, email inbox or ‘recent article’ list in other publications means your audience are reminded frequently that you are alive and kicking.
Consistent content quality
If you’re struggling to keep up with your current content release schedule, then don’t rush out content that isn’t up to standard. It’s far better to keep the content in the oven for a couple more days rather than push it out the doors with all sorts of problems.
If you find yourself constantly under pressure to get content out on time, then change your schedule. Give yourself some breathing room with it!
Branch out to new content streams
Once you have established a decent following, it might be a good idea to work on new content streams that can help you reach more potential customers. Things like podcasts and video series are two great examples of content you could extend into.
Stay active on social media
Similar to being consistent with your content releases, it’s also important to keep active on social media. If you reduce your activity on social media, then your customers might not pick up on your posts and could forget about you. Or if you suddenly go radio silent on all your channels then your customers might think you’ve shut up shop for good.
Create a social media schedule and try and stick to it. Again, if you can’t keep up with the output then give yourself some breathing room. It’s far better to be a bit slower but consistent, rather than nothing at all!
Produce newsletters for consistent communication
Email marketing can be very rewarding for your company. The downside is it is an extremely competitive space. All sorts of different companies are fighting for the customer’s attention in that tiny little email inbox.
That’s not to say it’s a fight not worth fighting. It’s about being clever with it! Here are a few quick tips to make some great newsletters.
Keep the newsletters concise. Don’t waffle! Make it easy for the audience to glance at and then be drawn into the content
Avoid spam words. The spam filter is your worst enemy and it’s a sensitive bit of kit. Check out this list and try to avoid using as many of these words as possible in your newsletters – https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/30684/the-ultimate-list-of-email-spam-trigger-words.aspx
Don’t overload your emails with images. Remember that your email has to actually load on your customer’s desktop or phone. Images take time to load!
Once you’ve established a good newsletter audience and click-through rate, you might want to start thinking about segmenting your newsletter mailing list. As your audience grows it’s natural to expect that not everything you publish will appeal to everyone. Producing newsletters that cater to specific segments of your audience does take a little bit of extra effort, but it will help maximise your customer engagement rates.
Review your customer journey/continue adapting your strategy
Now you have some steady content streams, a good social media presence (target audience dependent) and a respectable newsletter strategy – you still need to keep working at it!
It’s essential that you regularly review your marketing efforts to make sure that you are reaching your customers. This might include reviewing your customer journey to pinpoint if any new issues are stopping your customers getting through your physical or digital doors. With this knowledge you can adapt your marketing strategy to remedy the situation.
If you don’t do regular reviews of all your marketing channels then you might be wasting money, time and effort on outdated marketing tools that are yielding less than spectacular results.