Ever pondered this 18th-century conundrum: “If a tree falls in the woods and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Well, here’s a new version of the question, restated for folks who work for themselves: “If you’re open for business but no one’s buying, are you actually in business?”
Rather than think too hard on this brain-straining riddle, we’re here to offer up some strategies to ensure a steady stream of satisfied buyers are keeping your business not just open but booming. Now you’re ready to explore the next level of ideas and actions around growing and expanding your customer base.
Fact: A repeat customer is your cheapest (and best!) customer
Did you know you’ll spend five times more money attracting a new customer than you would satisfying an existing one? It’s not rocket science to figure out customer retention is far more cost-effective than customer acquisition. Not only that, says Todd Eby, customer success expert and founder of SuccessHacker, marketing only to new customers is risky. “If you solely focus on acquisition, you’re going to find it harder and harder to acquire new business as you saturate your market and pluck all the low hanging fruit.”
A smarter strategy, says Todd, is aiming for repeat business from the get-go. You’ll save money in the long run, since investing in ever-more creative ways to reach new customers adds up quickly. You’ll also fast track your business growth thanks to this fundamental truth: Repeat customers are happy customers. Happy customers say great things about a business. A business with a rock-star reputation naturally attracts new customers.
A final thought from Todd: When retention is top of mind, “you’ll start exploring what else you can offer and how you can become more "sticky.” You move beyond being just a vendor and become a trusted advisor.”
Armed with these important insights, let’s explore tactics for turning one-time clients into dedicated and loyal buyers.
1. Give your goods and services away for free
Yes, you read that right! You’ll score brownie points with both existing and potential customers when you share select product or services with no strings attached. Note the word “select.” You should think carefully and strategically about what you’re offering gratis – and why. The following insights might steer you in the right direction.
Selling services? Establish yourself as a thought leader or industry expert. If you’re a web designer, a marketing consultant, an accountant or a personal trainer (or something else entirely), you’re selling a service or an expertise. Creating and sharing relevant information about your industry solidifies your reputation as a leader in your field, which, in turn, helps you build and grow your audience. Here are some knowledge-sharing strategies from our QB Community members:
“I teach free classes about non-profits at our public library. In my experience, it can take a year or two of running a monthly class or a regular meet-up before people realize the value. The media wants us to believe success happens overnight. It doesn’t. But if you keep building personal connections, you will create a following.” -- Dawn Brown, CPA and founder of AZ Business Consulting
“Identify relevant topics and blog about them. Blogs are a great way to stay engaged with clients while remaining relevant and top of mind. This is particularly true if you are helping solve day-to-day problems related to the service that you offer. The key thing is building trust and fostering the belief that you’re a knowledgeable expert who can help when it’s time to engage on a project or make a purchase.” – Todd Eby, customer success expert and founder of SuccessHacker
Selling products? Find a creative approach to freebies that works for you.
Product giveaways let you reward existing customers and motivate potential buyers. Of course, determining what your freebie will be takes careful consideration and a dash of creativity. One QB Community member offers this guidance: “Rewards work when properly implemented. Just remember that they can set expectations. A reward should never eat into your operational costs. They should be a percentage of your margins. Labor, product and operating expenses should always be covered. Otherwise, your profits are negative, and the rewards are a loss to your business.”
Let’s see how other folks who work for themselves approach product giveaways.
“I offer a taste-test of what I'm selling (breads in a jar and other items). I joke that it’s "food for thought" until next time.” – Baked goods guru and active QB Community member since 2016
“Stamp cards are awesome tools fo me. Ten stamps fill a card, and you get a freebie upon redemption. It's incentive for people to keep coming back for more. It's also a way of saying "Thank you" to customers who do business with me.” – Entrepreneur and QB Community member since 2016
Other out-of-the-box freebies to consider:
Offer a surprise gift with a minimum purchase.
Provide no-charge delivery for a minimum order or for any referral.
Create a challenge or contest, and reward the winner with a goodie bag packed with your products.
(Want more ideas? Check out this post.)
2. Beyond cat videos: Go deep with targeted demographics on social media
These days, social media platforms are packed with a lot more than just adorable pet videos. In fact, they offer an incredible wealth of information about your current and prospective target audience. Facebook, in particular, let’s you specify all manner of demographics about viewers you want your post to reach, from gender and age to hobbies, profession, physical location and much, much more. (Is your ideal customer a 26-year-old woman who eats gluten-free, lives in the Midwest and loves tattoos, hot air balloons and knitting? No problem. You’ll find her!)
Analyzing and then leveraging insights gleaned from highly targeted online posts and campaigns gives you a huge leg-up on identifying and reaching your audience.
“Facebook is a solid platform for exploring “persuasion marketing ” or “neuromarketing.” My advice: understand as much as you can about why people buy something – and why they don’t. What catches someone’s attention and motivates them to go from cold (no action) to hot (taking action)? When it comes to social media, I’m a “maximizer,” which means I’m very good at leveraging things in different ways. For example, I post inspirational photographs and messages on Instagram and then make those items available as calendars and notecards. I’m doing everything I can to build a “top of mind” brand presence.”– Keith Engelhardt, founder of NeuroYoga Zone
“Social media is without doubt the most important marketing tool I've used so far. My target demographic spends more time consuming information via social media than they do watching TV or reading magazines. There isn't a day that goes by when I'm not uploading a new tutorial, adding images to my online portfolio, engaging with my followers or updating my paid ads. I think the key to a successful social media campaign is to constantly be on top of the action.” – Lottie Hadwen, founder of Makeup by Lottie
“Our biggest marketing efforts go into social media, because that's where we see the best potential. For example, when someone comments on one of our Instagram photos, we use the direct message feature to send them a coupon code. It makes them feel special! We've also tried running targeted