by Steve Houston
“How do I get more customers?” is easily the most common question I’m asked by business owners these days. The sluggish economy has dampened earnings results for many small to medium sized businesses and there’s no real relief from external sources in sight. As a result, it becomes even more imperative for businesses to re-commit themselves to investing in their marketing programs, particularly as their competitors choose not to – which is a very dangerous mistake for them to make.
There are many ways to market one’s products and services to potential new clients, but you can break them down generally into two categories – offline and online. Each approach has its own merits and drawbacks, so it may make the most sense for the majority of business owners to look at implementing a balanced approach. Since there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution when you want to attract new customers, it’s important that all options are looked at and evaluated from the perspective of what approaches best fit one’s overall sales cycle.
So-called “offline marketing” methods include direct mail advertising, radio and TV ad buys, Yellow Page book ads, and ads placed in printed newsletters, newspapers, magazines, and other hardcopy media. The reach of these traditional channels and their associated costs vary widely, as do their ultimate effectiveness.
Consumers are quite familiar with receiving advertising postcards in the mailbox, listening to companies hawk their wares on the radio, and watching 30-second commercials on their televisions. These methods do work to varying degrees of effectiveness, so they’re all still viable options for many businesses who ask the age-old question “How do I get more customers?”
However, the world continues to change, as do buyers’ habits. Since the internet’s emergence during the 1990s as the most impactful game-changer in the world of business, new “online marketing” channels and mechanisms have been developed to leverage the internet’s vast and pervasive reach. It’s important for business owners who want to improve sales to recognize that their customers’ habits and preferences for engagement with them have changed, and that they need to exploit the marketing mediums that best resonate with their particular client base.
Online marketing tools and techniques include corporate websites, having a presence on social media sites, direct email and newsletter marketing, video marketing, mobile and SMS text marketing, search engine marketing, pay-per-click marketing, webinar and podcast marketing, and reputation marketing. It’s easy to see that a whole new world – albeit one that can be confusing and difficult to keep pace with – has opened up for business owners who choose to embrace these highly effective and lower cost marketing alternatives.
So when I hear the question asked “How do I get more customers for my business?”, that becomes the starting point for a discussion with business owners to, first, help them closely identify their client base. Armed with that understanding, it’s time to then start crafting an effective marketing program around them that includes all the appropriate channels, tools, and techniques that will best resonate with those potential clients. When done correctly, good marketing not only pays for itself through the continuous acquisition of new customers, but also sets that business up on a solid foundation that paves the way for higher profitability and sustained growth.