MT Expert - Innovation: Get more customers

Acquiring more customers relies on getting to know your existing ones first, says Andy Reid.

by Andy Reid
Last Updated: 03 Jun 2011
This month’s CBI Business Summit promises to explore the path to prosperity by looking at opportunities for economic growth. Whilst the spotlight is very much on the need for financial investment – as seen by recent initiatives like the launch of the Business Growth Fund – for many businesses there’s a much more basic driver for growth staring them right in the face: get more customers.

New customers are the oxygen every business needs to grow. But customer acquisition remains an enigma to many business owners and managers: they just don’t know where to start when it comes to finding new customers. The problem many find is that they exhaust their contact base and then struggle with where to go next. Friends, family and word of mouth will only take you so far. You need a strategic approach.

Getting new customers actually relies on understanding your existing ones first. Only then, once you fully understand your audience, once you’ve drilled down into your customer's real motivation, can you embark on acquisition. And that’s where many businesses go wrong. They’re so busy looking on the horizon for new prospects they forget to analyse existing relationships. So understand your existing customer genetics: what are their buying patterns, what marketing campaigns have resonated well, what behaviour influences their relationship with you? Understanding what makes them tick will inform your knowledge of the target market. Try putting yourself in the mindset of the customer; how you would go about finding your own business - what sales message would you want to hear? Use that to get the message right in communications.
 
And getting that message right is key. Get it wrong and you risk killing off leads. Effective acquisition requires ‘right time, right place’ messaging, so approach targets at the right time by understanding their behaviour; don’t kill them off because you haven’t done it right. You need to avoid letting data alone make your decisions, it needs the human touch to connect the dots to draw the right insights and conclusions.

When it comes to targeting prospects, the good news is that marketers today have access to so much information to accurately direct their media budgets rather than just see what sticks. So target your prospects via the channels they frequent. You can make limited budgets work harder with digital tools like Google AdWords where you can target people looking for products or services like yours by street, town, city or country. Because you only pay for visitors to your website you not only make budgets work harder but can also track conversion and manage traffic at the same time.

Whatever tools you use, acquisition needs joined-up thinking, so make sure the entire organisation buys in to your vision. You don’t want prospects receiving mixed messages; if they’ve been promised ‘x’ in stage 1 of the sales process, but get ‘y’ in stage 2, they won’t convert. You need to deliver happy, satisfied customers, not a prospect who feels let down or mis-sold.

Acquisition is more than just generating and targeting a lead; it’s about identifying a prospect and taking them on the complete journey to create a satisfied customer. Of course it’s rarely easy but by looking through the customer lens and analysing their genetics you are better placed to find your next customer, wherever they come from.

Andy Reid is MD of acquisition agency Strange & Dawson

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