Are you looking for ways to increase sales without blowing through all of the advertising money? Have you explored every opportunity to extract the most value from your current contacts and customers?
Here are five suggestions that will get us where we want with less cash outlay.
If every customer referred one person to you, your business would double. Most businesses say they rely on “word of mouth”, but very few have a system in place to generate those referrals. Do not assume that customers are reluctant to make referrals. Your customers like you, trust you, and believe you provide quality and value, exceeding that offered by your competitors. Otherwise they’d be using someone else! But you have to make it easy and rewarding to refer others to you, (they won’t always be thinking of you; it is your responsibility to remind them).
The best way, is to just ask them for referrals. Identify your good customers and tell them you appreciate their business and want more loyal customers like them. Most people will be flattered and only too keen to help. Give them a voucher to give away, and another one to keep for themselves. It’s a great way to generate low-cost advertising and increase your sales: your customers send visitors and earn a small reward (or receive a small percentage of every sale), then those new customers refer their friends, who refer their friends, and so on!
Another idea, is to invite your best customers to a Customer Appreciation evening, (whether it be in person or virtually) and ask them to bring one or two friends along. This must be an event that provides genuine value. Make it all about them, not you. Do not make it a sales pitch.
Before long, you can have an army of loyal customers actively promoting your business – with every new referral, you exponentially increase the chance of getting more customers. And all for the price of a small commission on each sale or some other loyalty reward.
If your advertising or lead-generation ideas have failed in the past, it’s very likely to have arisen because you have targeted “cold” prospects, i.e. people who don’t know you and/or have never bought from you before. But you will achieve much better results, (300-400% better results) if you seek leads/referrals through your existing database. This is because you have an existing relationship with these people. They know you, trust you and are more likely to act on any offer you make – compared with people who haven’t dealt with you before. Also don’t be afraid to re-target your historical database of either closed or lost opportunities, you never know, they may be in the market for your product again.
But you don’t want to limit your marketing efforts to your existing customers only. There are thousands of new prospects out there to target. But how can you tap into this lucrative market, without approaching them cold? Easy – by approaching them through someone else, who has a pre-existing relationship with them. It’s called “joint venture marketing”, and in my opinion, it is the most exciting and under-utilised form of marketing. Here’s how it works …
Who do you know locally, (a friend, family member or customer) who owns a business with lots of customers that fit your target market profile; and someone who really looks after their customers? Imagine how great it would be, if they were to tell their customers about you.
But very few, if any, business owners will help you, if it takes too much time, effort or money; or if there is no benefit to them, in doing so. Therefore, I suggest you print out vouchers or referral cards, for the other business owner to give away to their customers. If done properly, it can make them look like a hero to their customers.
I know of a mechanic who works with a panel beater. He gives the panel beater the following vouchers to give away to customers, (with a short note to say nice things about the mechanic):
- A free set of wiper blades (fitted);
- A free WOF;
- A free engine steam clean;
- A half price service;
- A free safety check.
The more generous that your offer is, the more likely it is the prospect will take up the offer. The cost of the offer is your investment to gain a new customer.
Let me finish by saying, that this tool has the ability to return tens of thousands of dollars in extra business, especially when you consider the lifetime value of a customer. It costs very little to implement and will set you apart from all your competitors – how many of them are doing this?
Here is what you need to do:
- Find a joint venture partner, whose customers fit your target market;
- Develop a special offer or giveaway, that would appeal to those customers (low cost to you; high value to them);
- Create the offer as a voucher, flyer, letter etc;
- Approach the other business owner and sell the benefit of the idea, in terms of their interests, not yours.
Note that joint advertising is rarely an equal proposition: one party almost always pays more than the other, as they stand to gain more from the advertising or bring less to the combined project. Be flexible and ready to compromise.
Most relevant advertising medium
Choosing the most relevant advertising channel is absolutely critical in decreasing your advertising costs. You’ll have to do thorough demographical research, or invest a little money in trial-and-error learning to figure out the best medium for your business.
For example, television and radio offer a massive return on investment for some companies, but if your business targets young adults who spend the majority of their time online, they may be a bad choice. You would almost certainly be better off investing in a combined multi-channel approach using online advertising and running a social media campaign as normally no single advertising channel provides the magic bullet.
It is often said that it is more expensive to get a new customer than to keep an existing one. For this reason, it is important that you strive to build a relationship with your customers. Answer queries quickly, make sure complaints are dealt with swiftly and always try to exceed their expectations. This will ensure that you build a positive, rewarding relationship with your clients, and allow you to decrease your advertising costs in the long run.
Also, if you want customers to keep coming back, give them a reason to do so. They have already bought from you, so it doesn’t take as much effort to get them to make subsequent purchases. Cafés know how powerful this is, because they offer their coffee cards, e.g. buy 10 coffees and receive your next one free. They know that the free coffee only costs them less than a dollar.
This strategy works well for businesses who offer products and services that customers buy on a regular basis, as opposed to items they buy rarely.
Don’t forget the real world
Depending on your target market, “real world” advertising – as opposed to online, virtual adverts – can still be the best choice. For example, flyers and leaflets can be a very successful, yet inexpensive, form of advertising. The important thing is to ensure that your ads reach the right audience.
For example, if your target market is women, you should distribute your flyers or leaflets in areas frequented predominantly by them. Ideal areas are near beauty stores, clothes shops, hairdressers, and gymnasiums. This will help ensure that your flyers are reaching the right audience, and are therefore more effective.
Most successful businesses spend a large chunk of their money on advertising, so it is critical that you get the best possible returns. Don’t just assume that throwing money at an ad campaign will make it work better: research the best medium, consider all the options, then run tests to figure out where and how to invest most effectively.
Want to know more on how you can grow sales? I have the answer in my new book Starting a Business, Growing A Business.
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