Find out how you can acquire customers, whether you’re looking for your first or your ten thousandth customer
By Ka Wing LI
A business is nothing if it does not have customers. The only way a business can earn revenue, survive, and succeed is through its customers. Your startup may be based on an ingenious idea and have a stellar product or service, but it cannot possibly survive if no one is paying for it.
But acquiring customers, especially the first few, can be a daunting task. And it is not just important to find customers, but also to retain them. A business with a very high customer churn rate is unsustainable.
Besides, you have to spend money to acquire each new customer, referred to as Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC). This could include costs to test your product, provide samples, marketing costs, and more. If you spend money to acquire a customer who does not return, in the long term, your business is going to lose money. So, it is quintessential that you have a customer acquisition journey planned.
As Vince Lombardi’s famous quote goes, ‘It takes months to find a customer and only seconds to lose one.’ We understand how difficult and puzzling it can be to acquire and retain customers. So here are eight ways to get more customers for your startup.
1. Utilize your network
When you are just launching a product or service or trying to test it out in the market, it can be difficult to find the first few customers. People are not familiar with your product or service or even your brand name. Therefore, it is always helpful to reach out to your existing network when looking for initial customers.
Start with your close contacts – your family members, friends, or former colleagues. It is the easiest way to introduce your product or service and to build a loyal customer base. Not only can you test out your products, services, or ideas, but you can also gain valuable user insights from customer feedback that can eventually help you improve.
Moreover, you can ask your network for introductions to other potential customers or ask them to refer people to your business – let word-of-mouth work its magic. You never know how far the network connections can lead.
2. Target customers where they hang out
The most effective way to gain customer attention is to be where your target customers are. In the digital age, information flows around and the internet links numerous pages on every subject to each other, and most importantly, to people. There must be a place where your potential customers are discussing your products, industry, or niche.
You could look for these online communities and forums where people are specifically searching for products in your field or asking questions about issues where your products can be useful. Join their discussion and gain the attention of potential customers.
This is an important tactic that helps companies connect especially with Gen Z customers who have a shorter attention span than millennials and also spend more time online. They usually prefer to purchase products from social media, making them the perfect target customers to chase online.
3. Give out products for free
This might sound counter-intuitive, but giving out free products and offering a free trial or using freemium models can be a potent tool for attracting new customers. One of the most successful examples of this strategy is the music streaming platform Spotify.
Providing your products or part of your products or services for free allows more people to try it and familiarize themselves with it. They may return as customers or recommend your products to others. This strategy allows you to acquire a large base of users although the conversion rate usually falls between 2% to 5%. So, although this strategy can help you quickly gain free users, converting them into paying users can be a daunting challenge.
4. Enter new markets
After you have operated in a market for some time, the rate at which you acquire new customers starts to stagnate. When your market is close to saturation, explore new markets to expand your customer base.
New markets could mean international expansion into other countries, further penetration into the domestic market, or even targeting a new segment of customers. For example, you can use diverse sales and marketing channels like online and offline platforms to attract different segments of customers.
5. Collaborate with different brands
There is an increasing trend of brand collaborations across segments and markets. Collaborating with a brand allows you to gain recognition among a different customer base. You can partner up with a company that complements your brand. Using product bundling, you can sell your existing products with several products or services from other brands as a single combined package.
You can also do a crossover with brands in another field. For instance, U.S.- based Cola-Cola and South Korean makeup brand Face Shop have developed a lipstick together which smells like the fizzy drink. Several other brands have also adopted the tactic.
This strategy allows your company to connect with a broader group of consumers and can generate great traction. For example, the Shanghai cosmetics maker Maxam launched a lip balm in collaboration with White Rabbit creamy candy, a childhood favorite of many. The limited-edition stock for pre-sale was sold out within seconds on Tmall, the Alibaba-backed online retail platform.
6. Interact through social media platforms
Social media is the latest battleground for companies to attract customers and the space is quickly getting crowded. To stand out, your company has to be different and use engaging tactics. The power of interactive content, such as votes and polls on Instagram stories, can be used to attract and engage more people to take notice of your brand.
The goal is to drive customer engagement and to create a conversation among your potential customers about your brand. People no longer want to be fed one-sided information but want to be part of the conversation. Besides, the social media algorithms make it even more efficient to get potential buyers to notice your products or services with higher hit rates and engagements.
7. Create awareness through social media influencers
Advertising on social media is not enough – you need to engage your customers effectively through attention marketing. In other words, you need to ensure your marketing efforts grab your customers’ attention who typically spend eight seconds or less on any post.
Advertisements in collaboration with well-known industry influencers can help your brand acquire the right customers. Social media influencers have a considerable amount of followers, so their endorsements and product mentions can help your brand reach a larger pool of audience, grow a social following, and increase site traffic.
In Hong Kong, social media influencers are often called “key opinion leaders” (KOLs). These influencers hold a lot of sway when it comes to brand recommendations. They are called ‘influencers’ and ‘opinion leaders’ for a reason—they influence their followers’ purchase decisions, brand preferences, and more. According to data from MuseFind, 92% of consumers trust an influencer more than an advertisement or traditional celebrity endorsement. So, if an influencer recommends your product or service, chances are that their followers will turn into your loyal customers.
8. Blog about your business
Business blogging has become very common. You can use your company blog to provide information about your products and services, tell your company story, or generate content for marketing. This could increase your online searchability at low costs. Data suggests that 70% of customers would rather read about a company in an article than any advertisement while 60% are inspired to seek out a product after reading about it.
Besides, we are living in the experience age where consumers are interested in being connected with experiences, rather than just receiving information as a bystander. Blogging about your business gives you the opportunity to provide the emotional quotient customers are looking for.
At the end of the day, the above strategies are just mediums to gain positive reactions from potential customers who matter to your business. The most important thing is to know who your target customers are, finding out where they shop and what they want, and devising a marketing and sales strategy to cater to this want. Because different customers behave and shop differently, your customer acquisition strategy also needs to adapt to each new market and segment of customers.
Header image by andrii_symonenko on freepik