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How to attract new customers (and keep them!)

Marketing expert Angela Munroe shares eight tactics to win your customer’s approval

The process of attracting and maintaining customers is at the core of every business – customer approval is what turns a start-up into a high-growth business.

Winning new customers each day is the key to sustainability and growth, and these eight suggestions will help you do just that.

1. Know your audience

Businesses serve their customers – it’s not the other way around. Listen to your audience and understand the issues that your product or service must address.

Work out who needs you most and what you have to do to get on their radar. And poll regularly, so you remain in touch with what’s going on at ground level. Free survey tools such as Survey Monkey and Poll Perfect give you the data you need to sharpen both your targeting and your offer.

2. Research the competition

Get to grips with who you’re up against so you can properly differentiate your offer and play to both your strengths and their weaknesses. Apps such as Weave News Reader help you to keep tabs on your competitors.

3. Add value

One way to win customers is to be cheaper than the rest, but that’s not always realistic for a small business. Offer something more instead – quality of product or experience, or both – to stand out from the crowd. Be clear about your personality and purpose, and give people a reason to believe in you.

4. Tell stories

Stories are our most powerful, effective and repeatable means of communication and persuasion. Technology can help you tell them, and encourage your audience to engage with them. When people feel part of something, they are more likely to share your messages and help you to reach a wider audience.

5. Stay close

Take time to identify the media mix that’s most likely to engage with, and generate sales from, your audience.

Face-to-face conversations will always be important, but you no longer need to get out and about. Skype allows you to talk to consumers as if they were in front of you, and using Skype on your smartphone means you can be wherever you like, too.

Smartphones are a fast and effective way to reach consumers. More than 90% of mobile users have them close by 24/7, and many emails are now opened on mobiles – often outside of conventional business hours. Think about the timing of your messaging and how it appears on mobile devices.

Social media can deliver business results too. According to Salesforce, 78% of those who use social media for business outsell their peers.

6. Be responsive

In our always-on digital world, customers expect instant responses. If you want to compete, you need to get back to enquiries in record time. But don’t substitute quality with speed. It’s fine to say, “Let me have a think about that and get back to you. Would Tuesday be okay?”

We’ve all been frustrated by customer service reps who hide behind the scripts on their screens. Make sure your responses are appropriate.

7. Be honest

Evaluate yourself before your customers do. Put your hand up when you’re wrong and put things right. In some cases, fixing an issue can have a more positive effect on your reputation than if you’d got it right in the first place.

8. Say thank you

Once you’ve won a customer’s vote, keep them on board. It’s cheaper and easier to get more business from existing customers than it is to win new ones. Incentivise customers to stay with you and reward them for referrals. Word-of-mouth recommendations are great for business growth.

Do you have any advice on how to win the customer vote? I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences and share them with other small businesses. Please tweet me at @AngelaDMunroe

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