No matter how big or small your company might be, running it is inevitably going to be a balancing act – especially where client relations are concerned.
A vast majority of startups and young businesses tend to reach a market plateau relatively early on within their lifecycles. They have gained enough customers to establish modest success, but are having trouble breaking out of their comfort circle. In order to burst that bubble and expose your company to new customers and clients, you’ve got to take drastic action.
But how? Here are five simple strategies to help you foster new client relationships and send your company sales soaring:
1. Introduce a new marketing strategy
Even virgin entrepreneurs tend to have some sort of idea how they would like to market their products. These basic strategies tend to bear fruit and bring in customers, and so most business owners would like to avoid making big changes. After all, if it’s not broken, why fix it?
But the truth is simple: if your customer base has begun to stagnate, your marketing strategy is broken. So, let’s fix it.
In order to do that, you must first sit down and have a serious think about your target audience, who you’re trying to sell to and where you’re likely to reach them. This will take a bit of market research. Check out your industry competitors, and develop a list of how they are marketing their products. How does their key message differ from that of your company? Where are they trying to engage with customers, and what sort of success do they appear to be having through that engagement?
After you’ve assessed the competition, it’s time to think about how you could improve upon the marketing strategies they are using – as well as the strategy you’ve been following. To get you started, here are a couple of ideas that might expose your company to a new client base:
- Go traditional: Produce flyers and distribute them in local shops, cafes and bars. If your business operates in a residential area, place flyers through letterboxes. It seems a bit old-fashioned in this day and age, but a lot of your customers might be easier to reach offline.
- Lure in the bargain hunters: You could use a regular sales event as a loss leader in order to attract new customers to try your products at a discounted price. This is also a fantastic way to trial a new product to your existing customers.
- Hold a special event: This is a great way to bring people together in a friendly, informal setting. Offer some refreshments, and chat to people about what you have to offer and why they really need to try your products.
- Offer incentives: Try offering a gift, voucher or discount to individuals that share your social media posts. Better yet, launch a small giveaway contest to create a bit of online and in-store buzz.
- Unlikely advertisements: Nowadays, more and more companies are turning from traditional advertisement platforms in favour of dynamic web adverts. Based upon your market research, what sort of other websites are your customers most likely to be spending time on? Find out, get in touch with that company and draft an advert arrangement.
When implementing these or any other new marketing strategy ideas, you should bear in mind how they may impact your current customer base. When you begin a strategic shift, always do your best to ensure that your new strategy retains key elements of the ideology that started winning you customers to begin with.
2. Offer a new product or service
Sometimes, your company might find itself unable to attract new customers simply because your current product line-up does not appeal to anyone else. If that’s the case, it’s time to diversify your list of products and services.
Launching a new product will not only broaden the appeal of your business, but it should lead to new sales, increased word of mouth and more money in your pocket. But how are you meant to come up with brilliant ideas for those new products?
Stephen Key, author and co-founder of inventRight, reckons the brainstorming process boils down to a few key points:
- Study the competition: What do leaders in your sector have planned for the future? Where is the industry headed? Take a look at the products that other companies are rolling out, and think about how you could develop and improve upon those ideas.
- Study product reviews: Read through customer reviews of your current products or services. Are there any recurring complaints or requests that you could be taking on board? If you can think of a new product that fills gaps in the current market, you should already have a built-in customer base from the point of launch.
- Chat with retailers: It’s also worth nipping into retail shops and having a chat with managers and employees during quiet periods. Ask them about what sort of issues customers are having, what is selling and what isn’t.
- Google it: No matter what type of industry you’re operating in, there will be at least two dozen bloggers devoting a lot of time and effort towards criticising the market and everything about it. Read their insights, and take their ideas into consideration.
Once you’ve found a gap in the market, it’s time to get developing. Then, so long as you’re marketing your new products or services in the right place, you should be able to expand your client base drastically.
3. Strengthen your online presence
If your company is not online, you might as well give up now. Like it or not, you’ve got to develop a strong digital profile in order to grow your business – and the best place to do that is via social media.
According to the Pew Research Center, nearly three out of every four internet users are logged on to social media networks like Facebook and Twitter at any given second. Every single one of those users are customers; all you’ve got to do is engage with them. In a recent study from GroupM Search, experts found that customers who are first exposed to a company through social media are around 180% more likely to search for that company later on a search engine.
There are a number of different social media sites that cater to a wide variety of users; however they’ve all got a few things in common.
First and foremost, the base content your company should be posting on each site will not vary drastically from one to the next. Nobody should be firing off rubbish just for the sake of appearing active. What you should be posting is news and information about your business, products and upcoming events. If you maintain a company blog on your website, social media networks are the ideal place in order to share your market insights.
That being said, the way you share this sort of content will differ relatively significantly on each platform. For example, micro-blog site Twitter limits its users to just 140 characters per post; therefore, you’ve got to hook your audience into clicking through to your content by using just one or two sentences. On Facebook, you are not limited by the number of characters you can post – yet with over 30m companies marketing on the site, it’s exceedingly difficult for your company to stand out. The best way to do that is by producing and posting a short company video.
Hugely aesthetic networks like Instagram and Pinterest rely exclusively upon engaging imagery. So, if you want users to share and consume your web content, you must attract them on these networks through striking photos. Or, if you’re focusing on B2B interaction to find clients, LinkedIn provides the ideal, professional platform.
As previously stated, there’s a network for everyone and everything. If you want to engage users on multiple sites, you’ve simply got to do your homework. What types of posts are your competitors publishing? What seems to earn the highest engagement levels? Find what works and try it out for yourself.
It’s important to remember that social media is not all about you and your company. The multichannel nature of this type of marketing means that you will not be successful unless you are interacting directly with your followers. Ask for their opinions on developing industry stories or new ideas. Encourage them to share photos of themselves trying out your products. Respond swiftly and fairly to negative reviews.
Social media is the ultimate weapon in the war on improved customer service. Use it wisely.
4. Create a great website
When in doubt, a website is the first place customers will turn in order to learn more about your company, products and services. Your company website is the single-greatest asset you have to market your products, spread brand awareness and generate sales leads. Bearing that in mind, you can’t afford to turn people off with poor usability or shoddy graphics. But what makes a great website?
As always, quality is in the eye of the beholder. Yet according to Abidemi Sanusi, founder of Ready Writer Copywriting, there are several key elements your website should definitely incorporate if you would like it to appeal to new clients and customers:
- Answer questions: If you want to transform the casual web user into a loyal client, you’ve got to start by visualising exactly who that person is and what they need. More importantly, what do they want to know? Your website is the perfect place to answer questions that may be preventing customers from making their first purchase.
- Good copywriting: When it comes to the internet, content is king. Consequently, your website will go completely unnoticed by the masses unless you are producing engaging copy on your website. Web users are fickle, and silly spelling mistakes or a lack of voice will usually be enough to drive them away from your website. Think long and hard about the copy you’re placing on the web, and do your best to make an impact.
- Use basic SEO: Search Engine Optimisation is a constantly changing field; however, there are hundreds of tried-and-tested methods you can utilise in order to make sure your website is coming out on top of search results pages. Have a think about keywords, metadata and try to build organic links between other like-minded websites.
If you decide to change vital branding or design elements on your website in order to draw in new clients, you should always test it before you make the changes permanent. Depending upon how your website is hosted, there should be simple online plugins that will allow you to conduct a quick A/B test that shows different versions of the same page to users simultaneously. That way, you can run basic analytics in order to assess which website designs garner the best reactions.
5. Seek referrals
Even in this modern age of SEO and social media, word-of-mouth is still the strongest marketing tool out there. After all, new customers are far more likely to try a product if it’s been recommended by a friend. When real customers talk about your company, real customers are going to listen; therefore, one of the simplest ways to earn new clients is by tallying up positive reviews. But how?
According to Kern Lewis, a marketing consultant with GrowthFocus, there are several key strategies you must implement in order to start earning positive referrals for your business:
- Never stop asking: The primary reason that most small business owners fail to get customer referrals is painfully simple: they forget to ask. The best time to request a review is towards the end of a transaction, when excellent service has been delivered, but your company is still actively involved with the client. Don’t be shy.
- Teach customers how to refer you: Another reason that companies fail to win a referral is by forgetting to let customers know where and how to do it. For example, if your primary review platform is Trustpilot, give outgoing customers a quick, three-bullet-point manual on how to share and review your company through the site.
- Make it easy: Even the most loyal customer will not devote hours of their time just to promote your business. If you want to them to submit a good review, you’re going to have to make it easy. For example, add direct links to a couple of the review platforms on which you are present and include a brief call to action. Even if you are present on two dozen review sites, never post more than a couple of links. You don’t want to overwhelm or pressure clients.
- Remind customers: You should be doing your best to keep up with current and former clients, and do not be afraid to inject a casual referral reminder into the conversation. After all, just because you’ve asked them to refer you in the past and they haven’t does not mean they don’t want to. A lot of your clients are busy people, and it’s probably just slipped their minds.
- Say thank you: The most crucial aspect of any referral is to express your thanks. A simple handshake or email will usually suffice; however, if your business relies heavily upon referrals in order to win new clients, you could try to incentivise the process. For example, you could offer small discounts or a free product sample for each friend referred.
Either way, you simply cannot go wrong by asking for referrals. So long as your customers appear happy with the goods and services your company is providing, they will only have nice things to say. Just ensure that your customer service is top-notch before you launch a new referral campaign – or the entire scheme could end up losing you clients instead of gaining new ones.
The bottom line
Like it or not, your company is nothing without happy clients; therefore, if you want to find business success, you’ve got to get out there and make a few friends. The good news is that it’s not terribly difficult to win new clients – it’s simply a matter of developing a strategy.
Whether you’re in need of new product development, a new website or simply a bit more referral-power, there are tonnes of solutions with which to bolster your customer base. Just remember: building a decent list of clients takes a lot of time and energy, and it’s a task that’s never-ending. Don’t get disheartened if your efforts do not generate an immediate ROI. Simply stick with it and do your utmost to continue delivering superior customer service to your current clients.
So long as you remain committed, success is all but inevitable.