If your business isn't actively seeking new customers, you are part of a very select group. You're either an enormous business that attracts new customers naturally, or you've taken on all the business you can handle. Yet even the latter group should still be seeking new customers, because business can dip at any point. At the same time that finding new customers is a crucial task, it is also an incredibly difficult one. Small businesses in particular can spend significant time and money in the pursuit of new customers.
No list of ideas and tactics will make the task of acquiring new customers an easy one. But there are new ideas that can help small businesses get on the right track. All of these ideas will involve considerable time investment and monetary outlay, but so do all customer acqusition tactics. The difference is that these take advantage of new (or newish) technologies to help keep costs and time investment under control, while still exposing the business to a new set of customers.
Search for intent
When searching for new customers, it would help to understand which customers are more likely to buy. In the past this was nearly impossible. Companies could target certain niches, but finding the specific customers who were ready to make a purchase? Fat chance. The best you could hope for was for a direct response campaign that happen to find its way to a willing prospect. Today, though, we possess technology that allows us to not only discover intent, but advertise directly to those who display it.
When people type a query into Google, they signal intent. Oftentimes that intent is to research or purchase a certain type of product. You can conduct keyword research to understand what types of queries people enter when they are ready to make a purchase. As every saleman and marketer knows, reaching a customer during this window when she intents to make a purchase is a crucial part of the process. Search advertising is modern marketing's most effecitve means of finding this type of prospect.
There are two ways of finding customers who might be open to purchasing your product. The first, and most common, is search engine optimisation (SEO). By using various tactics, companies can build up their websites so they rank well for these signaling terms. In recent years, though, Google has made it more difficult for small businesses to rank for the most lucrative search terms. That is largely because of the other option they offer, pay per click (PPC), in which companies buy ads that sit on top of search queries. That can be akin to buying a No. 1 ranking, though ranking No. 1 through organic SEO means is often more valuable.
For companies that have a decent marketing budget, PPC can provide leads that are ready to convert. Modern SEO is more of a long-focus strategy, in which the company can find longtail search terms and build a presence on many of those searches. They might not get the sheer volume of the most lucrative keywords, but if they can place PPC ads on those and rank organically for less common, but still signaling, keywords, they can make the most of their marketing budgets.
Create a physical presence
While it might seem to be the case, not everyone buys things on the internet. For some it's unfamiliarity. For others it's distrust. Still more prefer the physical shopping experience, wherein they can see and touch what they're buying. Whatever the reason, there is still an opportunity for small businesses to get their products in front of customers, even if they don't have a regular physical outlet. The key is taking advantage of modern payment systems and temporary retail space.
Conferences and trade shows present companies with great opportunties to get their products in front of relevant audiences. Purchasing exhibition floor space can be costly, but can also return plenty of value if the right people get their eyes and hands on the product. Then again, this is relevant mostly for business-to-business transactions. Business-to-consumer companies have to try a different tack.
Kiosks present those opportunities. Typically located within larger amenities, such as big box retailers or shopping malls, kiosks present small businesses with flexibility. They need only rent the kiosk space for short lengths of time, thereby avoiding potentially crippling commitments. They also take advantage of established foot traffic -- foot traffic that is likely ready to buy, given their presence in a retail environment.
Temporary retail space also gives companies a chance to capitalize on preexisting foot traffic. While this retail space might not be connected to other retail outlets, sometimes they can in the case of shopping malls. Other opportunities include retail space on city blocks, which can be great for physical presence and foot traffic.
One big concern for these small businesses is how to take orders. In the past it proved quite difficult. Companies would have to either invest hundreds, maybe thousands, of dollars in POS terminals. Using an online form to complete a purchase is not really an option, either. The process can take far too long for consumers. Keeping records by hand can lead to inaccuracies at best, and fraud at worst. New innovations, such as a virtual termanal solution, allow companies to use their computers, or even smartphones, as POS terminals with little setup effort. It's a cheap and easy way for companies to set up a physical presence when they operate mostly online, according to POSQuote.Com
Build business partnerships
You probably don't want to refer business to your direct competitors, and they don't want to refer business to you. In this rough and tumble world, its every company for itself. On the other hand, not every business in your field and your niche is a direct competitor. Perhaps you share some offerings, but chances are you can find many related businesses that cater to a different audience. Therein lie huge opportuntiies for your business.
Today, more than ever, we're seeing business practice the art of the referral. Perhaps you know someone who works for a company that handles large-scale clients, but you handle smaller-scale clients. Creating a relationship with the company that handles larger clients and gaining referrals for customers that they won't take can mean added business. Of course, you'll have to offer the other company something in return, perhaps a referral fee or referrals of your own. But there are certianly opportunities for businesses small and large to send referrals to each other.
The mindset of referrals is something that each company must cultivate. Again, we are past the age when a company can be everything to everyone. A few of those companies might still exist, but most don't have that luxury. If you can identify companies that might turn away certain types of customers, you have an opportunity. If you can trade referrals, all the better. That means new business for both companies, and a new relationship to boot.