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Low-Cost Ways to Acquire Customers

Posted by: Rod Kurtz on November 5, 2009

Customers are the lifeblood of any successful business. In fact, according to a recent PartnerUp survey of more than 800 small business owners, customer acquisition was seen as a top priority for those looking to grow their businesses. Yet for many small business owners who have been crippled by the sluggish economy, traditional methods to acquire new customers may be too pricey and don’t guarantee return on income.

Here are some tips designed to help maximize customer acquisition and revenue growth.

1. Create a solid brand. A well-conceived brand that includes corporate ID elements such as Web site, logo, and company name speaks volumes about your company. In fact, it will often be the single most important factor in determining whether a prospective customer believes that you are trustworthy, reputable, reliable, and established. As the first impression a prospective customer receives of your company, your brand can either win them over or lose them completely. But before you hire an expensive advertising agency or branding research firm, try an online logo or Web site design service.

2. Promotional products are more effective than ever. With all of the clutter and noise on the Web today, many marketers seem to have forgotten the power of "touch and feel." Stand out against your competition with good old-fashioned giveaways, sending current and prospective customers branded USB fobs, beach balls, coffee mugs, and other useful items. After all, what’s more powerful than having potential customers see one of your branded promo products sitting on their desks every day?

3. Treat your social media-minded customers well and ask for referrals. Word-of-mouth is powerful stuff. According to consulting giant McKinsey, about two-thirds of all economic activity in the US is influenced by word-of-mouth opinions about a product, brand, or service. So when a happy customer tells three friends about your business and then they each tell three friends, you’ve got some traction. Now imagine that customer is involved in social media and instead of telling three friends about your business, he or she hops on Twitter or Facebook and sends out a post that reaches 300 people. Then each of those 300 people (obviously also involved in social media) repost your message. That’s viral marketing.

4. Consider cost-per-action advertising. In addition to the well-known CPC and CPM advertising models, CPA allows you to target your ads just as effectively while only paying when a customer is acquired or an action generated, such as filling out an application or signing up for a newsletter.

Steve Nielsen
Shoreview, Minn.

Reader Comments

Paul Castain

November 7, 2009 12:24 PM

An informative post Steve. Thank you!

I would add that giving value, upfront and unconditionally offers huge returns on investment.

Things like blogging, writing informative articles like this one, participating in Linkedin discussions, serving as a matchmaker to people in your network, sending along articles and resources to your customers and prospects.

These are all proven ways to enhance your personal brand and build your business . . . all for the low, low price of free.

Thanks again for sharing your expertise.

Paul Castain

Ken Peters

November 9, 2009 11:48 AM

You had me until the last sentence of point #1. Suggesting the use of online design services is, frankly, damaging advice.

Design is a process as much as an end result. Online resources remove the process and only provide a generic result. If anything about your brand is generic you've wasted your money.

Design and branding should not be viewed as an expense, but rather a capital investment. Make the investment in working with a qualified, professional designer or agency. Generic online sources might save you pennies up front, but they'll cost you a lot more in the long run.

Bad, cheap and generic design is like a tattoo... once you get it, you're forever branded with it.

"The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten" ~ Benjamin Franklin

Eric Christenson

November 11, 2009 11:55 AM

re KenP commnt, online design is damaging advice. Spoken like the guy who runs a design firm.

I appreciate what you are saying. But having just been through the process of hiring a web design firm, there are good ones and bad ones out there both in one's neighborhood and on line. The best advice is to do your homework up front and check references. All on-line services aren't bad, so I wouldn't paint them all with such a broad brush -- there are some who are actually quite good.


May 3, 2010 5:10 PM

Thank you, Steve.

To your point #4 I would add:

- discover new CPA models that result in full cycle conversions, such as Pay Per Deal ad model that we have recently launched.

Alex Grachev,

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