Getting more leads and conversions is a top priority for almost every business based in retail and ecommerce, but growing your customer base isn't as easy as it sounds.
After a while, you may be able to benefit from loyalty and word-of-mouth bonuses shared through positive customer reviews, similar to how Northsail has built up trust by continuing to provide our clients with projects on-time, on-spec, and on-budget.
However, for new business owners that are just starting out, or who are struggling to get the attention of enough potential customers to begin their growth/scalability strategies, you may need to spend some time thinking about your target market and how best to reach those people.
With that in mind, we've put together some useful tips that you can use to start growing your customer base. Before we get to that, let's talk a bit about what a customer base is, the types of customers you might encounter, and the benefits of customer engagement.
This is anyone in your target market that could be a potential customer.
Whether that's because your customer service options appeal to them, they're looking for your specific type of customer experience, or they fit into the demographics your brand is trying to reach, they're all part of your potential customer base.
The real challenge is trying to find a way to stand out against your biggest competitors, create a clear, concise sales funnel for your business, and monitor these factors on a regular basis to ensure you're always following industry trends.
Industries and consumers do change over time, and it's up to you to keep providing engaging, fresh content to keep people coming back for more.
Before we jump into some of the more common customers you'll encounter in the wild, it's important to understand the differences between the two major types of customers: internal and external.
Internal Customers: These are customers within your actual organization. For example, if you're running a manufacturing plant, and you transfer some of the parts that you're creating in-house to another location/business for the purpose of assembly, these assemblers could be considered an internal customer.
External Customers: These are anyone outside your organization that could be a customer, which in many cases, are the various forms of customers that more retail/ecommerce businesses think of when they talk about 'customers'.
For the purpose of this page, we're going to focus on the various forms of external customers that you'll come across.
You probably already know this, but not every person that walks through your door is going to have the same goals or mentality. What you may not know is that each of these potential consumers need to be handled differently - at least, if you're hoping that their visit will end in a conversion.
The five most common forms of customers you'll encounter include:
This is one of the most important factors that can make or break a small business.
Customer engagement is the ability to grab the attention of your customers, hold it, and then guide them towards your sales funnel.
A strong engagement rate will mean higher purchase frequency, less customer churn rate, and potentially even additional purchases above what they were actually looking for.
Poor engagement leads to poor customer interactions, less customer confidence, and ultimately, lower customer acquisition rates, because they may end up choosing a competitor over you.
There are tons of ways to create customer engagement, but they all take time and effort to implement. If you think you can just open your doors to customers and expect engagement, you're going to be in for an unpleasant surprise.
Loyalty programs are for more than just loyal customers. Yes, your longtime customers are sure to benefit and appreciate you instituting an effective loyalty program, but these programs can actually be a fantastic way to grab the attention of a new percentage of customers, who want more long-term value than individual sales can provide.
Combined with amazing customer service, these types of programs can add a ton of value for both your potential and loyal customer bases. Done properly, it gives customers a reason to want to buy more from you, and to do it more often.
Consider building in a tiered system, which allows for a range of benefits for both consumers that purchase large amounts from you frequently, as well as those customers that return repeatedly, but only visit periodically or have smaller basket sizes.
Loyalty programs are one of those marketing strategies that offer a lot of potential benefits, and if you can make the benefits of joining exciting, it can help create a steady stream of new clientele for your business.
In the digital age we're living in, there are lots of ways to get strong social proof from your customers, such as implementing social media campaigns to increase engagement.
Customer feedback is one of the most valuable forms of social proof, especially when your client base is praising your customer service teams, your sales process, or your dynamic content.
Online reviews are just as good, if not better, than paper surveys you can ask visitors to fill out in-store, because these testimonials can easily be included in your marketing materials for future use.
Everyone wants to know that other people have had good experiences in the places we're considering shopping, and customer advocates speaking out to share positive experiences can provide that extra bit of credibility you need to stand out against competitors.
Plus, customer feedback may help you reach a wider customer base; through engaging dormant customers, as well as grabbing the attention of new potential clients.
Creating a strong long-term relationship with consumers is challenging, and in some cases, it's good to consider trying not to go it alone. Including industry experts as customer advocates can add a substantial amount of credibility to your brand and your business.
Even if you don't have experts or influencers to lean on for support, you can still find business success through the use of in-store and online educational tools that can help a percentage of customers see the value in choosing your business.
Customers are savvier than ever, and in many industries, an educational revolution is taking shape. Consumers don't just want to buy products, they want to know more about the products, and the specific ways that they can help them solve problems or improve their daily quality of life.
Combined with the growing volume of competition in virtually every industry (thanks to the rise of e-commerce businesses), just having good products/services may not be enough to hold the loyalty of your existing clientele.
Think about the common questions that your business receives, and then build your educational tools around creating easy, engaging answers to use when these issues are addressed. Not only will it make it easier to teach customers, but it will help solidify your brand/employees as experts in your respective market.
Successful businesses don't just put the good reviews front and center on their social media and website, they also take the time to showcase customer issues when they arise. This way, they can show how seriously they take these issues, and that they can find reasonable solutions to resolve these problems.
In fact, customer complaints can actually be one of the most powerful marketing tools that you can incorporate in your future campaigns. How?
Think about it this way: let's say Susan has an issue in-store, where she came into the location to purchase a specific product, but unfortunately, they were out of stock for that item.
Susan leaves in a huff and goes home to write a frustrated Google or Facebook review on that company's page. She expresses her irritation at leaving empty-handed, when she expressly made the trip to purchase that specific item.
How would you handle this scenario?
One tactic could be to explain to Susan in a public response that you're very sorry her selected item was out of stock. Based on her location, you could then inform her when the next shipment will arrive and offer to hold one of the products for her, so that she doesn't miss out on it again.
For her trouble, you could even offer a small discount code on the item (announced publicly, then given in private), which will keep her happy but not ruin your gross margins.
In many cases, this would be enough to satisfy the customer. They will likely thank you for your candor and then privately arrange a time to come and pick up their item.
For every other person following this thread, they can see that you care about customer satisfaction, you were honest and accommodating (despite Susan's frustration), and you even offered her a bonus for the inconvenience.
Not only have you built a productive relationship with Susan, but every other consumer can see your genuine attempt to provide an angry person with a 5-star shopping experience.
No anger directed back. No excuses. Just solutions.
We've talked about email marketing before, and although some marketers believe this is an outdated form of customer communication, we would disagree.
We're not talking about using boring template emails just to poke at your email list, either. We're talking about developing unique, creative email campaigns that will grab and hold the attention of people.
There are a few different ways you can accomplish this, but it almost always needs to start with an attention-grabbing subject line for the email. Apart from your business' email address, it's the one thing that almost every email user will look at to decide whether or not to even open your email.
Also, be tactful about how you plan your campaigns. Don't send follow-up emails every 24 hours. Even if you can engage them with the first email, you're going to irritate them with an excess of contact that they don't want.
Consider doing a weekly follow-up or even bi-weekly depending on your industry. Think about how often you'd like to be contacted if you were in your customers' shoes, as well as what value your actual emails are offering them each time.
If you can't think of any way that they're creating value for your consumers, you may need to slow down and go back to the drawing board.
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