We’ve heard this phrase so many times it’s almost lost its effect. But it is comforting to view this phrase in relation to your consumer base and the efforts that go into increasing brand awareness.
Think about the first "business" you started - the lemonade stand from your childhood. The first hurdle to overcome was convincing your parents to let you use their day off to profit $12 in the heat. Next, you had to procure the right resources and perfect your formula to create something worth buying. Dad had to drag a couple of wooden slats out of the garage to construct a makeshift table. Mom found a sheet that was raggedy enough to become covered in lemonade, but clean enough to not scare away customers.
After these initial start-up steps came the waiting. In busier neighborhoods on a warm-weather day, customers show up quickly, looking for a quick refreshment on their afternoon walk. In more remote areas, the day is long and customers are few. Ice melts, turning the lemonade into lemon-water, but you don’t let your parents pack it up.
This is the lemonade business, baby! You’re determined to learn the ins and outs of your buyers, remember the busiest times of day, and note your failures. This is, after all, how we grow and do better next time.
If only these young entrepreneurs had access to the same tools and tactics modern business owners and employers are capable of utilizing. It’s much more effective to obtain consumer attention through outreach than with sitting-duck tactics.
If you’re a small-business owner or freelancer hoping to grow your consumer base, hopefully, you’ve familiarized yourself with the best strategies for customer acquisition. If so, you know that some of the main keys to growth are making your business available digitally through learning how to make a website for your business, active social media pages, and some email marketing.
But now that you’ve built it, will they come? In this article, we discuss some in-depth methods to grow your customer base quickly. You have the website, the social media pages, and the email contact form, but what now?
How to grow a customer base
Instead of sitting at your stand and waiting for neighbors to notice your lovely setup, you should have more of a Girl Scout mentality, digitally going door-to-door to show your community exactly what you have to offer.
According to BigCommerce, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Snapchat are the most effective social networks for e-commerce advertising in 2018. BigCommerce argues that social media affects your business more quickly than content marketing and influencer marketing, as ROI is immediate.
Social media is indeed one of the quickest ways to reach a large consumer base. You have the ability to form direct connections with your target audience. Following people on Instagram and Twitter sends those users a notification, leading them to check out your profile and engage with your brand, if even for a moment.
If you’ve just created your business’s social profiles, don’t be afraid to go on a following spree. If you don’t personally know the person, don’t worry. Today’s digital age has normalized virtual connections. Consider people in your area, competing or partner companies, and anyone who may qualify as part of your intended market. Following your competitors won't grow an audience base, but seeing who your competitors follow will.
Social media can be used to engage with users based on various filters such as age, location, relationship status, interests, education level, gender, and language. Using such filters will increase the odds that more relevant users will not only see your posts but also feel compelled to engage with them.
For example, if a boutique tags its photo in Chicago, it’s more likely that post will show up in my personal explore page, since I live here as well. Once it comes to my attention that this boutique is just down the street from my favorite coffee shop, my plans to visit have made themselves.
Another growth strategy unique to social media is product giveaways. By giving away a product, you show consumers you value them enough to give a little something back, while also increasing your social reach. (Make sure you abide by the various rules and regulations for terms and conditions that accompany giveaways to avoid legal trouble. These will vary across platforms.)
Determine a compelling product that doesn’t exclude any of your target market. If your retail store caters to both men and women, perhaps offer a gift card, or the opportunity to choose between prizes. Set standards for the winner such as, “Entrants must be following our brand on Facebook and Instagram.”
To maximize reach, ask entrants to share the giveaway with their own networks, and offer an extra entry for every friend they tag in the post. These tactics cost nothing for the entrant, but the exposure is everything for your business.
Another style of competition is to ask followers to create and share their own content. This format is similar to how you would administer an essay contest, except the medium is images posted to social media. Participants can follow a set list of guidelines to qualify, and administrators/business owners – differentiated because some laws require an unbiased third-party to judge the competition – choose a winner.
This style of competition has potential customers not only engaging with your content, but also sharing your brand and giveaway on their personal profiles. These posts are usually pronounced with a brand-determined hashtag, and participants are often required to tag the brand in their image. This makes them easily searchable by your brand, also steers their followers to check out your profiles and giveaways.
Tools to consider: Social media marketing software can help you manage profiles and grow your business’s social reach. You can choose a tool for analytics, influencer marketing, social media monitoring, or any of the other social media categories on G2 Crowd.
An email newsletter
If you’re at the point where you’re looking to increase your customer base, you should already have a professional-looking, functioning website.
Ideally, your website contains a contact form for consumers to submit their burning questions and sign up for your newsletter. These forms grab contact information for your growing network, allowing you to follow-up with business updates, new seasonal products, sales, and giveaway notifications.
Newsletters and general email outreach are great tools for content curation and growth marketing. Whether for professional or personal reasons, people are checking their inboxes multiple times a day. If you’re looking to increase your consumer base quickly at the beginning of your business’s timeline, invest in an email marketing solution and use it to create pleasing messages that consumers not only want to read but also share.
Make your emails interesting, either with engaging visuals or compelling content. Make your emails something consumers can look forward to receiving, something that provides value. I’ve remained an email subscriber to a few different organizations because they frequently offer discounts to their email list only. Other newsletters send me articles on subjects that peak my curiosity, keeping me subscribed for fear of otherwise missing out.
If the newsletter subscriptions are slow-going, take another opportunity to incentivize traction. Many organizations offer a discount for subscribing, or send visitors an ebook or other valuable content in exchange for their contact information.
Tools to consider: Email marketing software help you with contact management and newsletter development. These tools are customizable with templates and simple editing solutions to help even amateur email marketers compete on par with the pros. Aside from email marketing, there are other tools to help with lead capture and contact info once people actually subscribe.
If your business is local and community-focused, it would be wise to hone in on some face-to-face marketing. We are experiential creatures, and seeing a business tent or speaking to a representative in person is bound to make a lasting impression.
Consider taking business cards or fliers to a busy town center or local college campus. Passing these handouts out in-person will help create personalization and build relationships between you and your consumers. (Again, make sure you are following local laws as to where you are allowed to hand out such materials or set up shop. Certain locations may have rules limiting who can pass out what materials and at what time, etc.)
Include a call-to-action at your business’s table or booth, such as “spin a wheel for a deal,” or have a physical contact form that visitors can fill out for a chance to enter a raffle. This is also a great time to ask people to follow your pages on social media.
Another form of face-to-face marketing to consider is a guerrilla marketing campaign. Guerrilla marketing is a street marketing campaign for experimental and creative brands that can be low cost, yet time consuming.
These instant opportunities could help grow your consumer base quickly, as people are being engaged in group settings. When done right, this face-to-face marketing
In Conclusion - Growing a customer base will take time
Continued consumer growth will take time. Three days is not long enough to effectively reach out to every possible customer community, but it’s a great window of time to hit the ground running and start building up. There are some steps you can take in three days, but an ongoing strategy is what will really build your base.
You’ve come to our site because you believe you have a quality product or service that is worthy of investment. Take these tips and run with them, building out that ongoing strategy over time to market your new store, product, or service. The best part of marketing is that it looks different for every organization, meaning the possibilities are endless.
We look forward to seeing what your unique creative perspective is able to accomplish with the right tools and support.
Grace Pinegar is a lifelong storyteller with an extensive background in various forms such as acting, journalism, improv, research, and content marketing. She was raised in Texas, educated in Missouri, worked in Chicago, and is now a proud New Yorker. (she/her/hers)