A customer: this is how Wikipedia defined her – ‘’a customer (sometimes known as client, buyer, purchaser) is the recipient of a good, service, product or an idea – obtained from a seller, vendor, or supplier via a financial transaction or exchange for money or some other valuable consideration’’
Businessdictionary.com has this definition – ‘’A party that receives or consumes products (goods or services) and has the ability to choose between different products and suppliers’’
My goods friends at investopedia.com have their own definition – ‘’A customer is an individual or business that purchases the goods or services produced by a business’’
Yea, they are what they are – definitions – but my issue with them is that if you take them at face value, you may have a false or weak knowledge of who your customer is.
I love keeping this kind matter as simple as possible without the confusion of English language semantics.
Simply put, if you own a business or your income comes from a business – then the customer whether big or small, is that man that brings the money you use in running ‘’the business’’, he is the one that brings the money for paying salaries, he is the one that brings the money for paying school fees and house rent, he is the one that brings the money for buying food for your family, even that new car or new house you are planning to acquire, you are making the plans on the customer’s ‘’head’’, if he does not bring the money, there will be no new car or house.
Breaking News: The customer and NOT your business is the one that brings all the money you spend (your business only makes or provides the products and services).
If your business provides the best product or service in town and you can’t find the customers to pay for them, after a while you will be forced to shut down that business and maybe go look for a job. But if a business provides the most stupid product or service in town and that business is smart enough to find the right customers that are willing to pay, then that business is in real business – see the difference?
Am very convinced that by now you know exactly who that dude we all refer to as a ‘’customer’’ is, how powerful he is and the need to watch him very closely and know where he is at any point in time. Do you know that even beggars and not-for-profit organizations have customers and they know their customers and where they are?
Newsflash: Without that fellow called ‘’customer’’ what you call ‘’mine business’’ will be DEAD and buried.
Where Customers Used To Be
There is a town called Outbound Marketing, that is where you, your customers and your prospective customers have been residing for a long while (for over a century now), until the others moved last week. And am sure you haven’t noticed yet.
Let’s talk briefly about this town – Outbound Marketing – where ‘’your business’’ is still residing.
Outbound marketing is the traditional marketing that a lot of businesses used to do (and are still doing) to market their products and services. Some of the things they do here include: TV commercials, billboards, radio commercials, print advertisements (newspaper ads, magazine ads, flyers, brochures, catalogues, etc., Purchasing email addresses and sending unsolicited emails to them.
Look at some of the culprits here
Outbound marketing casts a wide net with the hope of catching a few customers from a sea of loosely targeted consumers.
Like this one
The common thread in all the above marketing methods is that the prospective customer never asked for any of it. You may be wondering, is there any other way to market? Yes there is a more efficient way, the ‘’way’’ that is used where your customers ‘’moved to’’.
For small businesses, this way of marketing has proven to be inefficient for the following reasons:
- High cost (small businesses may not even afford them)
- Low yield
- You go about looking for customers that are not looking for you
- Difficulty in tracking return on investment (ROI)
Where Customers Have Moved To
Now to this place your customers and prospects have moved to – Inbound Marketing – yes that is what happens there.
Inbound Marketing is the marketing method where businesses promote their product/service to a crowd that has already expressed interest in the same or similar products.
Most of the conventional marketing approaches are too expensive or unwieldy for small businesses and start-ups to successfully employ. That’s why inbound marketing, and its various techniques, make sense for any business — but especially for start-ups and small businesses.
Few examples of inbound marketing include:
- Social Media Marketing: Remains one of the most effective strategies for generating new visibility. You have the power to engage with almost anyone in the world through social media, gradually building up a loyal audience (as long as you’re consistently providing valuable insights and material).
- Opt-in Email List: When ‘’leads’’ willingly give you their email addresses, with the knowledge that they would be added to your list and receive emails from you. (this can be implemented on your websites or blogs but best on a landing page)
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Process of increasing the visibility of your website or other online contents so that people can easily find you. E.g. when they do Google search.
- Content Marketing: New contents drive new readers (leads) to your site; it keeps your existing readers and customers engaged with your brand, allowing you to maximize client retention. But you’ll have to provide highly detailed, original and valuable content. Content marketing can be achieved through blogs, like the one you are reading now.
- Public Speaking: Convince an audience that you know what you are talking about, and have knowledge, skills and expertise that can help them with their problems, and that can easily result in business leads for you. Some of the people may need your services now or in the future, or they may know other people who do, that they can refer to your business.
Please patiently watch all the pictures in the slide show and notice what they all have in common.
From the slides you can see that your customers and target customers are all on digital mobile devices, and laptops, they are on Google search, they are on social media. They are now technology aware and are flowing with the times. They have gone generally ‘’online’’.
Do me a favor, the next time you drive and carrying people, take a peek at the passenger and back seats, chances are that they are all looking at their phones. Even the drivers sometimes do it. So you see, those bill boards on the streets don’t stand any chance again. Then imagine what will happen when our self-driving cars finally come.
At home, either they are ‘’pressing’’ or staring at their phones or are on their laptops doing ‘’stuff’’. The TV’s are largely ignored most times, except maybe for TeleMundo and Zworld. (Even pastors sometimes are ignored – they ‘’press’’ phones and ipads in church too)
In the office they are perpetually staring at the screen of their laptops. You will think some of them are working. No you are wrong; they are browsing the web or the social media and sometime sending or updating their CV’s online.
Breaking News: The people (customers) that will and should bring money into your business have ‘’moved’’ to the Internet
So you should take your business there too but hey don’t just go there and start ‘’faffing’’ around. Go there, create a strategy and use some inbound marketing techniques to turn them into your customers.
Leverage on inbound marketing strategies and grow your business and save money.
Time for Action
Now this is an inbound marketing strategy you can try:
Strategy is simply a plan of action, designed to achieve a defined goal
Let’s assume that you are a small business that build and supply software to hotels and your goal is to generate at least 30 leads every month.
Note: You may have a different business and goal, so just apply this same framework in order to backtrack from your goal, to an activity plan.
Do these 5 steps
Identify Your Audience
Your probable audience will be hotel owners and generally people in the hotel business.
Identify Where Your Audience Lives Online
Once you know who your audience is and what your goal is, you need to locate your audience. Where are they online? You’ll want to look at social media, blogs, websites, and forums. Make a big list! Here’s what I might do if I were looking for leads here.
First I’d dive into social media. LinkedIn is better for B2B (business to business), so I head there first. There are tons of various groups, so I started searching for groups full of my audience (I try to make my search, location specific). I did a search and got this:
Next I’ll explore other social media options and also spend some time on Google searching for forums and blogs and related sites where my audience might be (also check communities on Google+). I will make a list of all I found and their links probably on an excel sheet.
Identify Pains, Problems, Questions
As you’re doing your research and visiting groups, websites and blogs listen to the problems that your audience is expressing. Write down the questions they are asking. Write down the things they are complaining about, discussions, questions, comments on blogs, or frustrations. You want to be able to speak their language. You will use these questions, pains and problems in your content and messaging.
Create a Content Calendar
Basically, now that you’ve got a sense of what your audience is dealing with, you can brainstorm some effective blog titles, maybe some webinar topics and definitely some e-book ideas. If you think back to your goal of 30 leads per month, you might be asking, “How many blog articles should I be writing?” or “How many lead generation offers, like e-books, do I need?” have a plan and a calendar for all of them.
Create a Promotions Plan
Your promotions plan is just as important, if not more important that your content plan and calendar. Most people feel like once they hit “publish”, it’s time to start working on the next piece. Not true! Once you hit publish, it’s time to go to work promoting that article.
Creating your promotional plan will be much easier now that you’ve got a master list of where your audience lives. You’ll be able to share your blog articles as discussions in exactly the right groups and forums.
You’ll be able to comment on other websites and blogs and reference your content in a super relevant fashion because you know exactly what your audiences’ challenges are. You’ll be able to craft blog titles that are irrestible to your audience brcause you studied their problems and pains.
Your promotions plan should basically be the time you spend promoting your article to all the places on your master list.
Phew! There’s a lot of work there, but you can do it… and you can do it in less than 24 hours! Obviously, it would be a long work day to push through these activities, but you’ll be setting yourself up for success over the next several months, if not years. If you can’t block off an entire day to do this, spend a couple of hours each day for a week and you’ll be all set.
Did you find this article helpful? Then kindly drop me a comment and also spread the love by sharing, so that others can benefit too.