10 Ways for Small Businesses to Get More New Customers

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We all want to get more new customers (while keeping the ones we’ve got), and it turns out there are plenty of ways to do that.

You might think you need to pour money into advertisements and hire new people, but you don’t.

Each of the strategies below has been tested by other small businesses like yours and proven to work - without breaking the bank or changing staff. So, how can small businesses get more new customers? Keep reading to find out.

1. Create landing pages for specific or niche markets.

If you service a large area or several industries, the information on your website might be too general. This can keep you from ranking high in Google search results, and keep your site from feeling relevant to viewers.

To fix this, and to get more new customers, you need to be more specific. Here’s an example from Gene Caballero, co-founder of GreenPal:

We create landing pages for smaller markets outside of the larger markets we already serve. For example, in addition to landing pages for large metro areas like Atlanta, GA, we also create them for specific towns in that area like Marietta, Alpharetta, Decatur, etc. This ensures that Google’s algorithm can detect our keywords in that specific location, and helps expand our business to a new city by ranking higher in search results. Our business has improved by 10% by launching this practice.

The key here is relevance. To a Marietta resident, web pages focusing on Marietta are more relevant than web pages focusing on the general Atlanta area. Google picks up on this, and ranks them higher in search results. This turns into more traffic and more customers (see chart below).

Advance Web Ranking Click Through Rate Chart

PC: AdvancedWebRanking

Action Step: Create landing pages for smaller, specific, or niche markets. If you’re a local business serving a geographic area, follow the example above. If you target an industry, break that industry into segments. Instead of saying “healthcare,” create landing pages for dental offices, family practices, hospitals, pharmacies, etc., and describe specifically how you serve each niche.

2. Turn your packaging into a viral event.

Every interaction with a customer is a chance to create a sharable experience. If your business goes above and beyond in the little things, your customers will share their experiences with anyone willing to listen.

Before long, these shared experiences will turn into new customers, and create a virtuous cycle, where one new customer brings in another new customer, and so on. For most, that's the dream.

HIMYM That's the Dream GIF

The question is: What small thing can you turn into an event worth talking about? Scott Marquart, founder of Stringjoy Guitar Strings, did this:

The biggest customer acquisition lever we ever pulled was when we took all of our packaging up a notch. Instead of shipping a plain set of guitar strings in an envelope, we started including vinyl stickers, pin-back buttons, picks, the occasional koozie, and a handwritten note from our staff. Once receiving a package from us became an event, our customers started posting their package contents on Instagram. We get dozens of posts tagging us every day, and our customers’ friends come to purchase from us since they helped spread the word in such an authentic, authoritative way.

Stringjoy took something most customers find boring, and made it something to talk about. Customers were surprised and delighted by the experience, so they told others about it, which brought in more new customers.

How Your Audience Grows by Shares Chart

Action Step: Pick an everyday customer interaction, and do everything you can to make it worth talking about. That could be rewarding people for giving you feedback, turning new purchases into a celebration, or anything that makes a relatively dull moment exciting.

3. Piggyback on someone else’s traffic.

Many businesses need traffic to excel, but it can be difficult to create and build your own traffic - not to mention expensive.

Other businesses have already done it, though. They’ve already invested the resources to bring in more people. What if you could get some of their traffic? Well, you can. Here’s what Brandon Chopp of iHeartRaves did:

As an ecommerce brand, it used to be difficult for us to vend physical products at physical locations. We overcame this by opening LUX Rave, a 10,000 sq. ft. pop up store at the Luxor Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The Electric Daisy Carnival is hosted in Las Vegas every year, and brings in hundreds of thousands of attendees. By partnering with Luxor, we created a destination for customers to shop before the festival. We also had tons of activities during the three-day event, including our EDM Trivia launch party, music, light shows, an EDC Week Nightclub pre-game, and a meet-and-greet session. We were selling over $25,000 of products per hour at this pop up store.

The carnival brought in iHeartRaves’ target customers, and they took advantage of that traffic by opening a pop-up store where many of the attendees were staying.

Restaurants at mall food courts and writers who contribute to larger publishers follow this same principle. They’re going where the people are, which makes it easier for them to get more traffic without spending more on sales and marketing.

Action Step: Analyze your target customers, then look around for places that already have lots of the same people. These could be websites, platforms, “anchor stores,” events, and more. Take advantage of the work someone else has done so that you can get more customers more easily.

4. Make referring others super easy (and profitable).

Studies show that customer word of mouth generates twice as many sales as paid advertising. In fact, it’s noted that successful startups get about 80% of their customers from personal referrals.

So how do you use your current customers to get more new customers?

Consumer Word of Mouth Compared to Paid Advertising

PC: Referral Candy

Simple. You provide a great experience, then you make it easy (and enticing) for customers to refer you. Here’s an example from Jake Lane at Press:

Every time a user has a friend try our service, they’ll both receive $10 in Press credit. From in-app texting (add your contacts to the app and text your code at the tap of a button) to a custom referral page, we’ve made it almost too easy to share your code. Happy customers are the best marketing tool you have, so we try to make every experience as effortless as possible, from our service to the ability to refer a friend.

Press provides a great experience, and then makes it easy for their customers to share that experience with others. They also provide incentive for both existing and new customers, which makes the program more effective. All that’s needed is a little nudge asking people to share.

Action Step: Provide an amazing experience for customers, ask them to share that experience with others, and give them some reason why they should (e.g. "this will help us help you," "we'll give you a gift card," etc.).

If you offer incentives (like gift cards or entry into a raffle drawing), be sure to review the FTC’s guidelines for compensation.

5. Crank up the online reviews.

Did you know that 90% of consumers say online reviews influence their buying decisions? Or that 86% of consumers say an online review means just as much as a personal referral? In short, reviews produce results. Take it from Ron Yates, owner of Titanium Jewelry:

What we found has worked very well for us acquiring new customers is online reviews. Granted, this isn’t unique, but many small businesses neglect this, or are not proactive in trying to get their customers to write reviews. Most new customers we acquire tell us they came into our store because of the amount of good reviews they read. It is simple for us. When we got more reviews than our competitors, our business increased.

When you think about it (or see the research), it makes a lot of sense.

Customer Reviews Statistics

PC: Neil Patel

Most of us want to avoid bad experiences, and instead have good experiences. Online reviews help people understand whether they’ll have a good or bad experience with your business, and whether it will be better or worse than working with a competitor. The more people voting in your favor, the better.

Action Step: Read our guide, How to Get More 5-Star Online Reviews, then make sure you follow four steps:

  1. Determine where your target customers are most likely to come across your business (Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc.).
  2. Provide a great experience that customers will want to talk about (see strategy #2).
  3. Actually ask customers for reviews.
  4. Keep up with your reviews, and respond to them as they come in.

6. Slash prices (and “anchor” them).

It’s easy to think that customers want products to be cheaper, but that’s not necessarily true. What people really want is to feel like they’re getting a lot of value - a lot of “bang for their buck.”

The value people assign to products is relative, too. If you say something is $1,000, that might sound like a lot of money or very little. But if you say it used to be $1,300 and now it’s only $1,000, it all of a sudden looks like a great deal.

Here’s how Bob Ellis, CEO of Massage Tables Now, has used this psychological principle to get more new customers:

One strategy that has helped us convert more customers has been price markdowns on our website. These products have the regular price and sale price listed. This helps customers visualize how much money they will be saving. In psychology, the strategy is called ‘anchoring.’ Anchoring works because people are influenced greatly by the first piece of information they receive. A product seems more like a bargain when you compare it to the older, more expensive price.

Retail companies have used anchoring successfully for years, and the concept works for just about everyone selling a product or service.

Action Step: As applicable, offer discounts on your products or services, and be sure to include the original price next to the sale price. When customers realize they’re getting a better deal, they’ll be more likely to purchase.

7. Offer something for free.

There are several ways to give away something for free and get more paying customers because of it. Here’s how Max Robinson, owner of FishTankBank, did it:

We provided customers with free consultations to help ensure that their fish were healthy. By doing this, we showed we were knowledgeable about the topic, and many customers returned to us when they needed more advice or products.

They offered free expertise to get potential customers in the door. Many of these people became paying customers because that expertise proved the company’s value.

Giving away something for free also works because of the law of reciprocity. Charles Dugan of American Image Displays explains:

People are more inclined to do business with you if they have been given something without having to make a purchase. It’s a powerful part of psychology and persuasion. When you give a customer a free product sample, they feel a sense of indebtedness. Of course, it also helps them to get to test out your product or service as well.

This is echoed in research. As many as 68.8% of software free trials convert into paying accounts. Another good example is free content. Many online businesses offer free content (like ebooks, reports, or templates) in exchange for your email address, which they use to follow up with you. Free samples are also a popular option for restaurants and retail products.

MarketinCharts, Recurly Free Trial Subscription Conversions

PC: MarketingCharts

Action Step: Determine what you could offer potential customers for free, then offer it to everyone. If you can spare a consultation, a small product, or a month of service, you will most likely be able to turn those freebies into paying customers.

8. Go on your own listening tour.

Steve Jobs famously said “Start with the customer experience and work backwards.” There’s a lot of wisdom in those words, especially since 42% of new businesses fail because people don’t want to use their products.

Whether you’re in construction, accounting, retail, software, or any other industry, it is paramount to understand what your customers want. But how can you meet and exceed expectations without talking to your customers?

Steve Jobs Start with Customer Experience and Work Backwards Quote

Here’s what Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder of Mavens & Moguls did:

I found new customers by going on a listening tour. Politicians do it all the time, but it works for businesses, too. All it takes is a few open-ended questions over coffee or a meal, a pad and pen, and just let them talk. It’s amazing what you can learn, the themes that emerge, and ways you can follow up to help.

Action Step: Sit down with a few customers - or a few people who haven’t worked with you yet - and ask questions like:

  • What kind of problems or inconveniences do you experience day-to-day?
  • What would you expect from using a product or service like ours?
  • What would you want to get out of working with someone like us?
  • What could a business do to exceed those expectations?
  • If you’ve used products or services like ours before, what did you like or dislike?

Asking these questions shows that you care, and builds trust with (potential) customers. It also gives you first hand insight into how to improve.

9. Create your own online forum (and keep up with it).

People have questions (about everything), so they turn to the internet for answers. One of the best ways to answer these questions is through good old fashioned conversations. Here’s an example from Neil McLaren, founder of Vaping.com:

We operate one of the largest online forums in our industry. Through this, we are able to engage with consumers consistently, and find out what matters to them most. We speak with them often, answer their questions, and as a result, members of the community build a deep trust in us. While this method takes a great deal of time and effort, it does not take any financial resources, and builds our brand’s authority more than every other marketing technique we have tried.

They started a forum away from their own website where they could be an active and authoritative voice in their industry. People with questions came to the forum. Conversations took off, and many of those people with questions became customers.

You can follow this same strategy using platforms like Reddit, Quora, Twitter, and others. You can also create and be active in a Comments section on your own website’s blog posts. By actively engaging your target audience, you’ll get people’s attention, gain their trust, and get more new customers.

Action Step: Determine whether you want to create a separate forum, open up comments on your own website, or become heavily involved in someone else’s forum. Then start conversations and help people learn as often as you can.

10. Make your website more interactive.

If someone has a question while viewing your website, you need to be able to address it immediately. If you can’t interact with viewers when they need you, they’ll move on to the next business. Take it from Stefanie Parks, founder of Derm Warehouse:

Since we’ve added LiveChat to our site, we’ve seen a huge uptick in sales, and our conversion rate has gone up a ton. People ask us questions about everything from the best type of products for their skin type to how to use certain products to where to find things on our site to the status of their order. LiveChat enables us to answer them right then and there.

There are countless live chat tools available, and most of them make it easy for your website to interact with viewers, and vice versa. So long as an employee is able to man the conversations, these tools help you create better experiences for viewers, which results in more new customers.

Texting is another option to accomplish the same goal. For instance, with Text Request’s Click-to-Text feature, mobile viewers can just click a button to start a text conversation with you. It’s been proven to increase conversions, and also works with your Google business listing (along with others).

A third option is to add pop-ups or exit intent forms to your website. These might include coupons, discount codes, or something free (in exchange for an email address) - anything to address viewers’ concerns, and nudge them to take a next step.

Action Step: Instead of using your website as a stagnant ad for your business, insert a tool (or several) that also reaches out to viewers. These interactions will help you create more conversations and interest to propel your sales forward.

Final Step

We all want to get more new customers, and there are plenty of ways to do that. In fact, there might be too many! How do you know which one is best for your business, or which few?

Start with one.

Reading through this article and the examples within it, which strategy seems to fit most closely with what you’re already doing? In other words, which do you think might be easiest for your business to implement ASAP?

Start with that strategy. You can bookmark this page, and, once you feel comfortable with the one you’ve chosen, come back to pick a second, and so on. Keep that going, and you’ll create several effective channels all working to bring your business more new customers!

Related: 7 Unique Mobile Engagements Tips to Increase Conversions