How to find new customers has been haunting businesses of all sizes for years. As a small business owner and entrepreneur, I have witnessed a slow and painful transition as the customer acquisition tactics that were used twenty years ago migrate to new social media strategies.
Dialing for Dollars and Email Blasts
Years ago when I was growing a tech company, there were a handful of ways to acquire new customers. We employed banks of cold callers, we called them CSRs. Customer Service Reps were in the business of customer acquisition. The idea was to use a cold calling script to introduce the company, service or product to a potential new customer. We called it “dialing for dollars.”
Once contact was made the prospect was added into our database and sent to a junior sales rep to call in an effort to qualify the customer. Once qualified, notes were added to the database, and a series of emails and calls were scheduled to capture the customer.
Email blasts were used with product specials to entice the prospect into a buying decision. It was a saturation approach. The idea was to “touch” the prospect as many times as possible until he became a customer. We also used direct mail, but that is another story altogether.
Fast Forward to 2016
Social media and the proliferation of the Internet have radically changed the customer acquisition landscape, at least for some of us. One of the most interesting things I have noticed in the last few years is the stubbornness of many organizations, especially small businesses, to embrace the value of social media as a customer acquisition tool.
Which brings us back to, “How do I find new customers in 2016?” It’s a daily question at many small businesses. Meetings upon meetings take place across the globe each day trying to solve the problem of customer acquisition. The complexity of the problem for small business is more than just defining a strategy. It is also a budget, personnel, and ROI issue. Marketing dollars are always at a premium in small business. It is a chicken and egg scenario. We can’t afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars on marketing but if we don’t expand our customer base we are going to slowly go out of business.
Push Back-Turn Back
So, in 2016 business owners around the globe are turning back the hands of time. They are opting for tried and true tactics that are outdated and ineffective. They are hiring staff or outsourcing cold calling and following up with email blast campaigns. Their efforts are mildly targeted, offer minimal analytics, and often offend their potential prospects. It’s not that they don’t see the possibilities of social media marketing, they just don’t understand it. And let’s face it, when we don’t understand something it really hard to make a decision to invest in it.
It’s a Mystery!
As I was having lunch with a colleague the other day and discussing how to find new customers, she said to me, “Social media marketing is a young person’s game. They get it! They were raised with it. It’s a mystery to me!” And she was correct. It is a mystery to her, a generational and lifestyle mystery. Social media marketing and all that goes with it is more than strategies, platforms, and applications, it is a lifestyle that has been fostered by a generation that has been raised connected. Besides that, it’s complicated!
Understanding What Being Social Means Today
As an older business person, surrounded by Gen-Xers and Millennials, I have come to understand some of the problems mature business people have when it comes to social media marketing. First, don’t be offended when I say mature business people. Mature in terms of social media marketing is a forties thing. Ouch, I know. I guess it’s kind of being like a professional athlete.
Here are a few things to help you better understand how this all works.
- It’s social! This seems silly, but it is an absolute premise you must understand about social media marketing. It’s social! Yeah, I know you think you are being social by posting on Facebook, but there is much more to being social than having friends on Facebook. However it is a great place to start! Understand that younger people grew up being social on the Internet. It’s second nature to them. It’s how they make friends, meet new people, share ideas, learn, explore, and connect. It is the foundation of their social being. They don’t think of being social in any other way. Herein lays our confusion as older people. We were raised in physical social interactive communities. For us making connections means going to networking events, talking to people one on one, shaking hands over a deal, being part of a physical team etc. It is not intuitive for us to be social without being physically present.
- Think of being social on the Internet the same as you think of being social in your physical world. If you wanted to meet someone, introduce a business service, or go to a networking event, how would you prepare? Take the same steps in the virtual world. Put your best foot forward. Be prepared. Know your subject matter. Know your audience. Prepare your elevator pitch. Define your talking points. Be conversational, warm, engaging, and personable. Be yourself and be confident. The same traits that make you successful in the physical world will work for you in the on-line world.
- What does being social on the Internet mean? It means that you are interested in reading what others have to say. You are responding with “likes” and comments. You are engaged. You are joining groups. You are participating in forums. You are looking for people with similar interests. You are following people you find have interesting things to say. You are publishing your own thoughts and ideas. You are being interactive. You are open to opinions and are sharing with others. You are doing the same things on-line that you would do off-line.
- Work on developing your on-line presence and persona. Let your personality shine. Connect with people on different platforms. If you are comfortable with Facebook, take the next step and learn about Twitter. Build a personal network on Linkedin. Check out Pinterest and Tumblr. Find new ways to reach more people. Don’t try to do it all at once. Give it time. Each social platform is a little different. They all appeal to different people in different ways. Learn one at a time and don’t worry about making mistakes. You fell off your bike in the beginning right? You got back on until you learned to ride. Same thing. Just keep getting back on!
- Facebook has been a great starting point for most of us. It has opened our eyes to the possibilities and value of reaching out on-line. When you take the time to be social on other platforms you will begin to see the value in those as well. Remember, you can reach infinitely more people on-line than you can in your physical world. The possibilities are endless.
That brings us back to, how do I find new customers in 2016. Be social!
You can still use your beloved email and calling strategies. You just need to be social first.
Here is what I mean. When you are social on-line you begin to build connections and relationships. You gain on-line credibility and reputation. (Be careful what you say on-line, especially if it is a business account, it’s out there forever and you are representing your company.) You can leverage those connections and credibility to use social media marketing tools to find new customers. Once you begin to learn how to use the Internet as a tool, you begin to understand that social media marketing is more subtle than other forms of marketing. Social media marketing influences prospects by offering them content that helps them save time, energy, and money. It also helps them learn, grow and be more effective.
Blogs Aren’t Just Blogs Anymore, They Are Serious Customer Acquisition Tools
Blogs and blogging are a great example of how to leverage your new found on-line social experience together with your knowledge of email and calling strategies. Blogs have been around since the 1990s. (If you are interested in blogging for personal or business use check out my eBook on how to get started blogging. It is a step by step entry level guide to setting up and getting started blogging.) They have grown and come into their own as social media marketing has developed. Blogs are a great sales tool for all businesses but are perfect for small businesses that want to broadcast helpful information or pull back the curtain (so to speak) to their business brand.
Blogs tell your story or deliver a message about your service or product while they inform and educate. A blog is not a direct selling tool. Remember we are being social not hard selling a product. Blogs influence decisions through quality content. They capture your company’s voice and tone. They are targeted at your audience and contain influencers and keywords that allow you to benefit in a host of ways. Blogs work for you 24/7/365 with no cost for ad space. Sound good?
How do we use a Blog to Capture New Customers?
Here is a snap shot of how it works.
Your goal is find new customers for your service or product. You can’t afford a traditional marketing agency, ad space is way too expensive, and so you decide to write a series of blogs that will reach your target audience. (There are services available to provide content for you, but be careful and make sure the content you receive is 100% original.)You decide on a topic, choose some platforms that cater to your demographic, set up a schedule and start to blog. Once your blog is published you wait to see how many people have read it, liked it, or shared it. (If you want some tips on how to create more traffic for your blog check out this link.)
Now, you have been blogging for a couple of months, following your goal to be social and connect on as many platforms as possible, and your blog begins to gain traction. Your likes are going up, comments start coming in, and your audience begins to expand. You have a following. So, how do you reach your ultimate goal? How do you capture new customers and monetize your blog?
The beauty of social media marketing is that it offers a wide range of tools to monitor, track, and analyze almost every aspect of your blog. You can see who looked at it, where they came from, what time they read it, if they shared it and so on. With all of this data you now have a very clear picture of what your audience likes.
Let’s Capture Some Prospects
While you’ve been blogging, you’ve been including a link (or form-fill) for prospects to enter their email and sign up to receive your enewsletter. Here is where you’ve been capturing your prospects. Now you are in your comfort zone. Breakout an email campaign or have a sales person give him a call. You have influenced them through your blog by sharing your company’s voice and tone, subject credibility, and expertise.
You just solved the mystery of how to find new customers in 2016. Be social and close!
If you would like more information on how to be more social and solve the mystery of customer acquisition in 2016, you can contact the author directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.