Even the most successful brands need new customers if they want to grow their business, or stay profitable. And while there are more places, and ways, than ever to find prospective customers, you can waste a lot of time and money by choosing the wrong customer acquisition strategy.
So what are some of the best, most cost-effective ways to attract shoppers to your products or services? Dozens of marketing and sales experts share their top seven low-cost strategies for new customer acquisition.
1. Have a great website. “It’s so important to have a good foundation [website] that is well branded, engaging and user friendly,” says Maciej Fita, managing director, Brandignity, a digital marketing agency. “Your website is typically the first and last thing people see connected to your business, and you have less than 5 seconds to really grasp their attention. Make it stand out [by having great content and design].”
And while you can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a website, you needn’t to make it stand out. Most ecommerce solution providers offer attractive customizable templates as part of their hosting service. You can also find plenty of free or low-cost templates online that you or a designer can customize for a few thousand dollars (or less).
2. Provide helpful information on social media sites. A great way to attract people to your product or service is by “answering people’s questions and talking about your company and product [on sites like Quora],” says Dylan Osborn, founder and CEO, NiLi, a nightlife app. “Quota is great because it allows you to answer people’s questions related to what you are doing, so you can be an expert in the field.”
Similarly, join Twitter discussions and LinkedIn Groups that pertain to your industry, and provide thoughtful, helpful answers to questions.
To find out who and what to follow on Twitter, search for keywords, such as “your company name, your product or service’s name, and keywords related to your product or service and your competitor’s company and product names,” says Mark Thabit, CMO, Cision, a provider of PR, marketing and media relations software and services. Looking “for these keywords will allow you to identify potential leads, with the understanding that not every lead will convert into a client.”
Facebook groups are also a good place to find prospective customers.
“No matter your niche or vertical there is a Facebook group that you can contribute to,” says Bryan Clayton, CEO, GreenPal, a lawncare service provider. “We have found this tactic [joining in Facebook conversations and answering questions] to be very effective for our marketplace. We monitor local groups and neighborhood groups, and when anyone is asking for a recommendation on a lawncare service, we kindly let them know about the GreenPal community,” he adds. “We tracked [our] success, and 60 percent of the time we make a recommendation, people sign up for our service.”
3. Showcase your products on Pinterest and Instagram. “For companies selling products with a strong visual component, Pinterest is a huge opportunity,” says Leeyen Rogers, vice president, marketing, JotForm, an online form builder. “Pins should feature high-quality images with easy-to-read text. Optimize your pins’ reach by pinning them at peak times [times when your target audience is likely to be online],” she advises. “If you'd like to pin content like blog posts, make sure that the title is attention grabbing and representative of what the customer should expect to read about. Tips and advice are particularly popular on Pinterest.”
Similarly, post lifestyle and inspirational photos of your products on Instagram, which has a community of over 400 million members, along with a link to where to find items or find out more.
4. Invest in targeted advertising. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising continues to be a revenue generator for many businesses looking to attract new customers.
“Target followers of brands similar to yours using Facebook, Twitter and Google ads using specific, [well-researched] keywords,” says Tracey Wallace, managing editor, Bigcommerce. “Then measure, repeat and optimize. Discover which channels provide the highest ROI –– not just clicks to site, but actual conversions and sales –– and then double your spend on the best performing channels.”
“Another great option is to send ads through targeted newsletters,” says Osborn. “For example, I send flyers through the Happy Hour newsletters of other companies, having them share my app with their customers as a great resource for nightlife,” he explains. “These are highly effective because they are sent as emails and aren’t banner ads that will go unnoticed. You also gain the trust of the customer more easily because you come as a recommendation.”
5. Ask customers, family members and friends for referrals. “Create a customer referral program and incentivize your customers to refer their friends and family with personalized coupons and promo codes,” suggests Jerry Lee, founder, Story Leather. “When customers are happy with your offering, they will want to share their experience with their friends. Offering these existing customers personalized coupons that they can share with their friends further encourages them to share.”
6. Consider affiliate marketing. “An affiliate earns a commission by referring their visitors to your business,” explains Jessie Adamczyk, marketing services manager at Cleverbridge, a global ecommerce and subscription provider. “For example, if you make and sell an antivirus software program, you [could] partner with blogs that review antivirus programs. Ideally, you will gain free users from people who discover your program while visiting your affiliates' blogs.”
7. Ask influential bloggers to review your products and services. “Securing consumer reviews and high-quality social media followers are both effective ways to expand your brand advocacy and awareness,” says Hannah Haworth, marketing lead, Nublue, a business hosting provider. “Approach trusted bloggers who are seen as independent authorities in your market to review your products and services on their blogs. While you have no control over independent bloggers’ opinions on your products and services, you can control the quality and value of your products and services, effectively optimizing what your reviewers are going to say about you.”