Entrepreneurs often waste their time on the wrong things like:
- Worrying about vanity metrics.
- Working on an administrative task that could be easily outsourced.
- Spending more money on things that won’t help to grow their business.
- Micromanage employees.
- Putting out fires instead of working on the bigger goals.
- Repeat doing the same things over-and-over instead of creating systems.
- Getting new business cards designed.
- Trying to perfect things. Obsessing over using the right font or the shade of background color on their website.
- Checking Twitter and Facebook more than once a day.
Instead of focusing on what matters little, they should focus on what matters the most.
You can’t blame entrepreneurs for wanting to waste their time on less important things. Improving marketing is hard wasting time is easy.
Another huge mistake entrepreneurs make when starting a business is that they want to hire a “marketing superstar”. Read job posts for marketing people. You can smell the desperation. Instead of hoping for a miracle worker you need a marketing system.
Take the following steps to get more customers for your business:
1. Define your ideal customer.
The key here is to be specific. Middle-aged men or small business owner is not a target audience. You have to do better than that.
To build the correct business to consumer (B2C) profile you have to include:
- Age (range like 35-50 years old)
- Where do they shop for similar products to yours?
- Where and how they research products?
- What is their problem you are solving?
- How do they make buying decisions?
- What competing products do they buy?
- Who else would influence their buying decisions?
To build the correct business to business (B2B) profile you have to include:
- Business industry.
- The size of business in terms of revenue.
- A total number of employees.
- What is important to them, cost, reliability, speed, etc.?
- What pains are you solving?
- What competing products do they buy?
- How frequently do they buy?
- How much do they pay?
- Where do they turn for advice?
- Who is the decision maker within the organization?
2. Study the competition.
Who is currently selling to your target audience? What competing products do they buy? Why do they buy those products? How satisfied are they with the products? What do they like and dislike about the competing products?
Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, admitted to hiring investigators to go through the trash of a Washington group he suspected of being a Microsoft front.
Even though I don’t recommend you go through other peoples’ trash, research your competition the following ways:
- Where do they advertise? Use services like Spyfu or Whatrunswhere and learn about their most profitable keywords and ads for paid and organic search.
- Set Google Alerts. It also makes sense to monitor your own brand with Google Alerts.
- Watch Google Trends. It helps you to stay on top of the latest within your own industry.
- Read studies that included your competitors.
- Ask their customers. You can locate your competitor’s customers through reviews, forums, and social media.
- Attend conferences, trade shows, and networking events your competitors attend.
- Reach out to your competitors’ suppliers.
- Hire their employees.
- Check out their press releases and news coverage.
- Call them. The phone is a simple and fast way to get answers.
- Sign up for their newsletters and email marketing channels.
- Like their Facebook pages and follow them on Twitter and other social networks.
3. Differentiate your business from the competition.
Once you have a clear understanding of your competition you are ready to differentiate your business.
Before we get into the specifics of differentiation, think about the following questions:
- What makes your business different from competitors?
- Why would your target audience care about your differentiators?
Here are some of the most common differentiators:
- Unique technology – Patentable technology is a clear differentiator.
- Exceptional customer service – Everyone says that they have it, but very few companies actually do. Great customer service is easy to say, but one of the most difficult things to achieve.
- Price – It is easy to compete on price. All you need to do is lower your prices. Guess what, all your competitors need to do is to lower their prices. You see how easy it is? Price is important, but you can’t differentiate on price only.
- Selection – People want choices. Too many choices can actually hurt your conversions, so don’t go crazy there.
- Fast response – In service businesses, especially, prompt service is an excellent differentiator.
- Reputation – If you have happy customers, tell the world about them to set you apart from the competition.
- Specialization – If you are a web designer, for example, focus on certain verticals like biotech or construction. Specialization gives you the right focus to offer superior service.
- Focus on business size – Offer services for a specific size of business. If you are a business attorney, for example, you could specialize on startup businesses.
- Team – Your team could be the most experienced or with the highest level of education or possess the most professional certifications, etc. You could also hire or partner with the biggest experts in your field.
- Improved business model – Everyone in your industry might charge by the hour, but you could introduce a model with a flat fee. Many IT companies have moved to the flat fee model from the hourly model.
- Geography – For the most part geography is not a very strong differentiator anymore.
- Use your network – For example, a startup attorney could use his angel and VC connections as a differentiator.
- Impress by a client – Use your current and past client list to distinguish your business.
- Partnerships – Strategic partnerships can be a big asset to you and your potential customers.
- Maturity – Years in business is hard to compete against.
- Accomplishments – Your company might have been the first to do something or the last to do something else. Focus on some major accomplishments.
- Be different – Look and act differently from your competitors. Doing things differently is risky, but it will help you stand out.
4. Develop strategic partnerships.
Forming strategic partnerships to get more customers is what compound interest is to wealth building. Small and large companies depend on distribution channels to sell products and services. Selling through strategic partners other than a direct sales team provides businesses with the opportunity to grow and increase market share, expand into new verticals, and capture new customers.
Finding the right strategic partners requires the same scrutiny as finding a co-founder. You’ll be working closely together and the wrong partner could hurt your business. It is important to establish clear objectives from the start. Understand what you want from the partnership and make sure you understand your partner’s goals too. Before you enter into an agreement be realistic about your own limitations.
Do your research about potential partners. Reach out to other companies that have partnered with your potential partner. Find out what went well and what didn’t go so well. Also, reach out to customers of your potential partner. You can learn more from customers than any other source. If you have questions or concerns keep communicating. Maintain contact with frequent check-ins to quickly resolve any problems.
5. Ask your customers for referrals.
Your best source of new leads and prospects should originate from your own customers. Give incentives to existing customers.
Here are a few examples of successful referral incentives:
- Dropbox had done a great job with offering extra storage space for referrals.
- Paypal paid cash. Referrals helped Paypal achieve 7 to 10% daily growth.
- Airbnb offered travel credit. It nearly doubled their customers.
- Uber’s referral program lets you give discounted first rides.
- World of Warcraft’s referral program rewards with exclusive in-game items.
You can ask your customers for referrals several ways:
- When you hear a compliment.
- At the close of sale.
- At the completion of a project.
- Social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, etc.
- Organize an event for your customers. – Encourage your customer to bring a friend.