Attracting new customers in your same target market is not just a communications challenge. A little “reinventing yourself” is needed! After all, you’ve been operating in their neighborhood for years, but they haven’t chosen you! Why not? How are they meeting their needs without you? Did your message not reach them, or did they hear it but decide not to be interested?
You don’t control these growth levers like you control your price and your costs. You don’t have a relationship with these prospects, so you cannot build on it as if they were current customers. You cannot make these folks want to do business with you. Instead, you must first get them to notice you, and then get them to appreciate the benefits of your offer. This courtship takes time, perhaps three to twelve months. It’s a serious effort!
First, Find Out Why
First you need to know why they haven’t bought from you already. Do some research:
- Are they aware of your company? If not, how do you reach them?
- What media do they use? How could your offer stand out in that media?
- What search arguments would they enter into Google? Do your site’s “keywords” match what they would enter?
- Are they aware but not interested? Why not? Do they not feel the need for your solution, or do they feel the need but believe another provider has a better offer?
- Maybe they feel that buying from you is riskier than continuing to use their current provider.
Second, Change Something!
If they have not bought thus far, whatever you are doing is not working for them. Don’t expect different results from doing more of the same thing!
- Is your offer different enough to make them want to start solving their problem, or switch solution providers?
- Consider your differentiation, your benefits statement (positioning), your product offer, your pricing, your accessibility, and your communications of all these.
- Remember that your benefits statement or positioning addresses the value to the customer of your solution. Express it in customer value terms.
- For example, “a customer might say ‘I want to protect my family if I die, but my financial circumstances change a lot and I need flexibility.’ Few customers would say ‘I need a universal life policy with a no lapse guarantee rider.’ Source: Find and Enter New Markets
- One technique is to select a subset of prospects who share the same need/application of your product (“segment”), and target all the changes at them. For example, a special offer for seniors, or families with students, or people with older homes. You could address one new segment every six months. For more, see below.
- Once you have a great offer, consider your credibility. Why should they take the risk of dealing with a new provider?
- Build your credibility with a guarantee, testimonials, referrals, free or discounted samples, trials and introductory offers, and being visible helping people in your market area.
- Visibility tactics include press releases, participation in community associations and their events, and local sponsorships. These build networks and relationships. It’s just natural to feel that “the company I know is less risky than one I don’t know.”
- The final step to get them to listen is (naturally) communications.
- Find out what media they pay attention to, and when, and be there then.
- Make your message stand out from the clutter. Deliver the message using a person they can identify with, solving a problem they share. Use color. Use the Web. Engage them with something interactive, like a free online evaluation, a contest, a video, or humor.
- Invite a response. Your message must include a call to action. A limited time offer is a good trigger, but it must motivate them to take some kind of action: call, reply mail, email, website visit, free consultation, etc.
- The final step to get them to buy is their experience when they reach out to meet you, come to your shop, visit your website, or call for information.
- Take special care to design this experience especially for the new customer with that special need. Design the process and the tools, and train your people to use them well.
- Build in a feedback loop. Ask them what made them decide to try out your company. Store that in your customer database, and tweak your offer and your communications to do more of what works!
Serious Efforts Take Serious Time
New relationships are a courtship. This is not speed-dating! You must choose the target, get to know them, modify your offer, and then find a way for them to get to know you. Expect to take three to twelve months to see the results.
Help our readers! Share your story – how long did it take you?
Tom Gray helps owners save and grow their companies. He is a management consultant focused on small business and telecom, a Certified Turnaround Professional (CTP), a Certified Business Development Advisor, and a Certified SCORE Mentor. He can be reached at 630-512-0406 or firstname.lastname@example.org. See www.tom-gray.com