Whether you have a product or service to sell, it is crucial that you are clear about your potential customer base. While what you are offering may have wide appeal, you don’t want to spread yourself too thinly with your PR and marketing so narrow down your audiences by identifying who is most likely to buy from you and target those groups.
By doing your research at the outset you could save yourself a lot of time and money and will build up a stronger customer base that proves to be more valuable in the long run. The question is: when thinking quality not quantity, what sort of things should you be taking into consideration?
There are all sorts of ways of generating customer insight, from market data and demographic studies to industry reports and trends. The best bet is to start with the internet and check out relevant industry bodies, which host a wealth of useful information that can inform activity. Always speak directly to those you think would be interested in what you have to offer, either on a one-to-one basis or via focus groups - people are often very willing to share their views and you’ll soon know whether your product or service is of interest or whether you need to go back to the drawing board.
Essentially, any product or service is there to solve a problem so ask some key questions. What challenges are your potential customers facing? What are their priorities? How can you help? By knowing the answers to these, you can build up a set of reasons as to why potential customers should be talking to you and not your competitors. Compelling messaging and differentiation is vital to a successful marketing strategy.
Think about particular times of the year when your product or service might be more in demand. For example, seasonality could be significant for consumer products, while professional services such as accountancy will probably see a surge around tax deadlines or financial year ends. All of this should be reflected in your marketing activity, directing exactly what you say to whom, why, when and how.
Once you have identified your customers, target them in the most effective way possible. A scattergun approach will rarely yield great results so instead examine the range of tactics available and decide on a handful which will offer the best return and make the most of your budget and resource.
Some things you might want to think about include advertising (although this can be costly), networking, conferences and exhibitions, PR, direct mail, cold calling, sponsorship and social media. All have different merits and a combination of these will probably be most effective but you must ensure that you allocate an appropriate budget and dedicate the time needed to get the most from your efforts.
Look at other creative means to reach new customers. Is somebody offering a complimentary product or service that you could team up with to cross-sell? Perhaps consider an incentive to attract new customers, such as a discount off a first purchase, an introductory trial of your service, product sampling or other competitions and promotions to get people to try your product. Think about a referral scheme to encourage existing customers to recommend you to others.
Whatever tactics you opt for, make sure that you have some means by which to measure their effectiveness. A balance is needed between giving things time to work and knowing when to switch direction and try something new. Get feedback from new enquirers about how they heard about you and use this information to channel your efforts into the activities which are bearing the most fruit and drop the least effective ones.
Always remember, it is much harder to gain new customers than it is to get repeat business from existing ones so whilst it is essential that you continually attract fresh clientele, look after your current customers. They deserve to be rewarded for their loyalty and the extra effort will have been well worth your while when you look back at the end of the financial year.