Cost-effective marketing channels to grow your customer base
“Where is my next customer coming from?” has always been a fundamental question for fledgling and established businesses alike. But, after the year we’ve just had, the pressure to attract and retain customers under a tighter budget has arguably intensified.
Now that the world is starting to open back up again, many businesses, particularly those hit hardest by the pandemic, will need cost-effective ways to bring in more customers to undo the impact of the last year and help trade their way out of the downturn.
Adopting a new marketing initiative may seem like a time-consuming or expensive solution, but many channels can provide quick results for little cost and won’t require any special training or knowledge to get started.
Below, we’ve highlighted six different strategies and channels that anyone can master to grow their customer base.
Are you using them all to their full potential?
A strong network can be a fruitful and endless source of new customers, and often costs nothing but your time.
Of course, the pandemic has drastically changed the way that we network. Lockdown restrictions and social distancing have caused many events to be cancelled or hosted virtually instead.
But, whether the networking is done in person or online, the benefits remain the same.
People in your network can be a great source of referrals, brand champions and potential customers. Make sure that they are clear about what you do, engage with them regularly and try and demonstrate your expertise to them in a useful way.
When networking with a new group of people, it’s important to know who you are talking to, so that you can tailor your conversation to them.
Choose the events you attend carefully based on the type of clients you want to attract and take the time to have a conversation with people before you talk about your business. If they don’t seem interested, don’t push it. You don’t want to come across as pushy or put them off reaching out to you in the future.
It’s also worth remembering that not all networking is done at events. LinkedIn, for example, is a great way to build your professional network and make positive connections in your industry. The great thing about networking online is that you’re not limited to your local area. You can easily establish meaningful relationships all over the globe.
If your networking efforts don’t result in a new customer right away, don’t be discouraged. The most important thing is to get people talking about your business and let word of mouth do the rest.
2. Social Media
Another great way to build a community of prospective customers is through social media. While most companies already have a presence, not all of them use these free channels to their full potential.
As a general guide, if you offer B2B services, you should focus more on LinkedIn, whereas B2C services may garner more results from Facebook and Instagram – or even TikTok and Snapchat.
If your service has a visual component, for example you sell customised merchandise or you create bespoke furniture, you could consider image-based platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest or TikTok to showcase your work.
If your business centres around selling yourself or your employees as a solution, such as a consultancy-based service, consider a platform like Twitter or Quora where you can demonstrate your expertise.
On every platform, consistent and relevant engagement is key. Try and post things that your audience will find useful and avoid spamming them with sales content.
You should aim to share useful content such as blogs, video guides, eBooks etc, and these should be a mixture of your own and curated content. It’s also important to engage with followers by asking and answering questions and interacting with other posts, starting debates, joining or creating relevant groups and replying to comments.
3. Cost-Per-Click Advertising (CPC)
Although this is probably the costliest channel on our list, it can still be incredibly cost-effective if done well and is the most likely to deliver fast results.
You can pay for advertising on many channels including search engines like Google and Bing, social platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn and during videos and apps.
There are also several ways you can present these ads. Search ads, display ads and video ads are some of the most popular. Search ads, for instance, allow you to appear high up on search engines when a user enters a certain keyword, while display and video ads enable you to appear on different websites based on the content of the user’s demographic and interests.
Again, the way you choose to implement CPC advertising will probably depend on several factors such as budget and the type of services you offer. The one thing that will help to determine the success of your ads no matter where they are located will be your targeting.
If you have not taken the time to get your targeting right, then you will find yourself spending money on clicks from people who are irrelevant to your business and will never convert.
There are many different targeting options on different platforms, ranging from location, gender and job title to household income, personal interests and company size. Creating a detailed persona of your ideal customer before you set up your ads will help you to direct them towards the right people.
You should also pay attention to where your ads are sending people to. If the page they land on is irrelevant or not clear many people may leave the site before they convert.
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4. Email Marketing
Although many people may think that email marketing has become too competitive or has limited results, if done well it can still be a cheap way to find new customers and boost your brand.
Before you start thinking about what your emails might look like, you will need to consider who you’re sending them to.
When building or auditing your list make sure that all your contacts are relevant, you are authorised to contact them, and they do not have an existing relationship with your business that would affect the communications you want them to receive.
You will also want to consider how you will be sending your emails. Will you be sending from a personal or business account? Will you use an email management platform (MailChimp, Outreach etc) or simply your regular email provider and a spreadsheet to manage contacts?
Make sure this is all in place before you begin, as changing halfway may be confusing, give clients a bad impression or cause your contact data to become messy.
Once you have the ‘who’ and ‘how’ in place you can begin to think about the ‘what’. You could send a regular newsletter to warm up prospects, a more chatty, informal email discussing industry news and linking to new content or you could take a more salesy approach, sending out offers, discounts and promotions.
For a less time-consuming approach, consider setting up automated email sequences. They will take more time and effort to set up, but once working well should continue to produce results with little interference.
Whichever approach you choose, just be sure to brush up on GDPR and PECR regulations, which dictate who, when and how you can send your emails to!
5. Content marketing
Content marketing can often be viewed as time consuming and difficult to get right, but when done well it can drive some of the best results in engagement and conversions.
Keep a broad mind when it comes to creating content. You may think that you will struggle to create certain types of content, such as video, but there are plenty of useful and free tools that can help you. Lumen5 is an example of a great online tool that lets you convert blogs into videos. These tend to do well on social. But so do short pieces to camera that get across your personality, which can easily be recorded and uploaded from your phone.
It is also important to remember that content can be reused by being shared across multiple platforms and being worked into different campaigns. You should try and create content that is evergreen and answers a direct need for your customer.
Larger pieces of content, such as eBooks, may take more time or money to create, but remain relevant for longer, and can be broken down and repurposed, for example as blogs, infographics etc.
Whether you have the capacity to take on a larger project or want to stick to a blog where you can produce regular content on your own schedule, keep in mind that the distribution of your content is just as important as the topic. If you have created something that will be useful, make sure people know about it.
Hubspot offers some great tips and guides to help you develop and maintain your content marketing strategy. You can browse their blog and resource centre or take part in their free courses and certifications.
6. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
SEO often takes longer to show results than other forms of marketing, but, if you already have a website, it doesn’t cost anything and can provide some quick wins.
The main purpose of SEO is to help search engines like Google understand the content on your site and judge how relevant it is to users. By optimising your website, you can appear in the organic (ie not paid for) listings on search results when potential customers search for terms related to your business.
Site structure and internal links can provide a quick win. A clear structure and the ability to move around your site easily will help improve SEO, user experience and conversions.
External backlinks (links to your site from other sites) also improve your SEO and drive referral traffic.
One way to build backlinks is to search for articles that are relevant to your business. For example, someone may have written an article titled “Top 10 places to buy travel insurance”. If you sell travel insurance, this is exactly the sort of article you want to appear in. Reach out to the author with genuine feedback about the article and ask them to consider including your business too.
You may also find places that your company has been mentioned but they have not included a link (try a tool like Mention or Google Alerts to help you find these). In these instances, you can email the author thanking them for the mention and ask them to link back to your website in the text.
Google offers a range of free learning content designed to help you improve your skills.
Are you planning on trying any of these new marketing channels? Let us know how you get on and what other useful marketing strategies you’ve found in the comments below!