By Carol Roth
Ask a small business owner what his or her top challenge is and most will rank "getting new customers" amongst their top issues. With customers more distracted and so many options to choose from, this can be even more of a challenge nowadays. Below, find four tips on how to generate more leads and customers in efficient ways that won't break the bank.
Leverage Your Existing Customers: There's no better way to garner more business than directly and indirectly from customers that are already having an amazing experience with your business. Directly, talk to your customers about how you can earn more of their business, either through increased purchasing frequency, increased size of purchases or by meeting more of their needs with additional goods and services.
Additionally, customers tend to spend time with other individuals or businesses that look a lot like them. That means that your customers are likely a connection point to other ideal customers for your business. Incentivize your customers to make referrals. For example, if you own a spa, tell customers that you will give them a 25% discount for them and a friend or a free product for both if they come in together. And at a minimum, leverage testimonials as a way to take the words of those who love you and make them pay off.
Go to Where the Action is: Can you surprise a potential customer with a sample of your product in an unexpected venue? Are there locales that you frequent where you are missing a marketing opportunity? There is a costume designer who designs concert gear for Britney Spears, Rihanna and many others who used to attend parties with fabric and a sewing machine. He would set up in a corner and make garments on the fly during those parties. That's how he caught the eye of those who mattered, those who he would have had a hard time getting in front of otherwise. That gave him his big break.
Think about where you can show off your products and services, from charity benefits to perhaps partnering with other business owners that target a similar customer. Make the most of every opportunity to spread the word about your valuable products and services.
Let Technology Help-Not Hinder- You: Have an online presence that is findable and accessible. This means that you should have a website that can be found with relevant keywords (for example, if you have a bakery in Chicago, you should be in the top search results for Chicago bakery and Chicago bakeries). This means investing money in SEO (search engine optimization). Since search algorithms change frequently, you will want to use a professional to help you manage this on an ongoing basis. Also, make sure that you have a mobile version of your website. Smart phones are accounting for more and more web traffic and a sure way to lose a sale is when a customer comes to your site to make a purchase or gather information and they can't do so easily from their phone. (Link to options....)
Maintain a Sterling Reputation: It may sound cliché, but customers do business with people and organizations that they know, like and trust. If they don't know you and don't trust you, then the next order of business for them will be to do some research to get the opinions of others. This means that having a great reputation online can be the difference between converting a potential customer into an actual customer. However, with so many websites out there, this can be difficult and time consuming to monitor. Use a tool like the Yahoo! Marketing Dashboard to help ease the legwork. The Yahoo! Marketing Dashboard will help you monitor conversations on thousands of sites online all in one convenient location so that you can promptly address any possible issues before they have an impact on your sales.
Carol Roth is a business strategist, content producer, deal maker, former investment banker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. Carol has worked with hundreds of companies, ranging from a single entrepreneur with an idea to Fortune 500 businesses, on all aspects of business and financial strategy. Collectively, she has helped her clients raise more than $1 billion in capital, complete $750+ million in mergers and acquisitions, secure high-profile licensing and partnership deals and create 7-figure brand loyalty programs.