At long last, small businesses across the country are reopening. And while many have embraced the opportunity to welcome people back through their doors, some may not see customers arrive in the numbers they were hoping for. Although certain industries (like hospitality) have seen sales boom post-lockdown, others, like gyms and entertainment, are reporting a slower return.
Meanwhile, with entrepreneurialism having thrived during lockdown, many Australians have started new ventures and are looking to establish themselves in the market. For small businesses old and new, winning the hearts and minds of customers can be one of the trickiest parts of operating – but is also the most crucial. So where to start?
We’ve pulled together a guide sharing the basics of customer acquisition, detailing what you can do now to attract customers and keep them coming back. Here’s what we suggest:
First, consider what customers want right now
After months of lockdown, people are looking for two things – reassurance and human connection. Be mindful that, as excited as your customers are, they want to know they are in safe hands. As we are still living with COVID-19, they’ll be looking for reassurance that you are taking the right precautions – like confirming QR check ins, respecting capacity limits and sanitising and cleaning regularly. Where possible, make this visible, like sharing details of your post-lockdown hygiene protocols in-store and online.
More than anything, though, customers are looking for a sense of community. Smiles are free and they are more important than ever. Consider adding a personal touch where you can, whether that’s greeting customers by name when they walk in the door or giving regulars a sneak peek of new products. It’s these human moments that help people feel seen and will keep them coming back.
Review the stages of your marketing funnel
Think of winning over customers as getting them to pass through a series of gates, also known as the marketing funnel. Each stage progresses them closer to building a relationship with your brand.
- The first gate is awareness. If no one knows you exist then they’ll never even make it to your front door. Think about simple advertising methods, from your logo and word of mouth, to shop front signage and merchandising, and online methods like advertising on social media or search engine optimisation (SEO). Consider setting up a customer referral system to attract new people.
- Once you have built awareness, think about what you want your business to be known for. This is the consideration stage and is where you identify how your business stands out from the crowd – your point of difference. It can be quality, service, product offering, or even location. For example, a gym can set themselves apart with their variety of classes or extra amenities, such as high end beauty products in the change rooms. Make sure that this is clear anywhere your business is represented (online or in person).
- The final gate is the fulfilment process – the last hurdle between you and the sale. How quickly and smoothly are you able to help your customers book in, buy or visit? Customer experience is critical here. If offering services online, consider how you can use technology to make this easier, like website booking technology instead of having to call or wait in person. And again, can you add a personal touch that leaves the customer feeling great about choosing your small business.
Remember, the opportunity doesn’t stop once you’ve won a customer. The most cost effective marketing is repeat business and word of mouth. Make it easy for your happiest customers to spread the good word; for example, you can follow up with an invitation to add a Google review or encourage them to follow you on social media.
It’s harder and more expensive to win new customers than it is to keep existing ones returning and spending with you. Take advantage of the opportunity to keep your customer base interested and engaged with your business. Some great cost effective ways to do this include email and social media, where you can run regular campaigns and interact directly with customers.
Streamline and scale your marketing operations
Once your marketing approach is up and running, consider how you can streamline your systems and processes. This can help you keep up with demand as customer acquisition strategies pay off. Are there tools that can support you? Can you consider bringing on extra resources to get through a peak period?
Marketing technology is helpful as you scale. It can automate processes and provide valuable data to help you make your next move. Some tools to consider include:
- Google Analytics to measure website traffic and the rate of investment (ROI) of online advertising
- Facebook Business to create and manage social media campaigns
- Canva or other design tools for designing beautiful assets to promote your business
- Email marketing software for creating eDMs to prospects or existing customers
- Customer relationship management (CRM) software to track and improve how you interact with your customers
Finally, marketing needs a test and learn approach. Start small and iterate as you go – tools and technology will provide information on what’s working and what isn’t. From there, you can isolate acquisition channels (like social media, website, or in person) and track how they’re performing to get an idea of their impact – like where you are getting the most engagement and customer enquiries.
Customer acquisition takes time, but building a strong foundation will create connections that last – helping you to win customers’ hearts and minds well into the future.