Ensure your business is growing and earning customers by experimenting with new marketing methods. On this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” Steve Strauss shares his top three tips to attract new customers and get your business in front of new eyes.
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Gregg Stebben: Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” brought to you by ForbesBooks and Bank of America. Steve Strauss joins us with a few quick tips for attracting new customers. Steve is USA Today's small business columnist. He's the author of 17 books, including the best-selling Small Business Bible. Steve, thanks for joining us.
Steve Strauss: Gregg, great to be here.
Gregg Stebben: Steve, you own a small business, and in your capacity as USA Today's small business columnist, and also as a Small Business Community influencer for Bank of America, you also talk with a lot of small business owners. They must ask you all the time, "What can I do to get more new customers?" So what's the number one tip you offer when someone asks?
Steve Strauss: My number one tip is also my number two tip and my number three tip. And that is this: market your business, and then market it some more, and then market it some more. Look, we go into business. We have a marketing idea. It works. It keeps us around for a little while. We get some customers. The problem that so many small business owners have is they learn one trick or two tricks and that's it. They don't expand beyond that.
But if you're going to really grow your business, then what you really need to do is get your business in front of new people. New eyeballs. New ears. So the way you do that is by marketing your business in all sorts of different ways. Instead of doing the same thing that you've done for years and years, whether it's a stall at the Saturday market or an advertising campaign that works. What I would suggest is you come up with three or five different kinds of things that you can do. Find some guerilla marketing strategies that make sense to you and implement those. What that is going to do is get your business in front of new people.
If you get in front of enough new people, some new people are going to become your customers. You do your job great, you offer great service, you offer great prices, great customer service, and then those new people will become regulars. That's exactly what we want.
Gregg Stebben: Steve, I want to mention here. You use the term guerilla marketing, and I want to make sure everyone listening is aware that that's actually a series of books by a gentleman by the name of Jay Conrad Levinson. And it is actually - in addition to Steve's book, The Small Business Bible- Guerilla Marketing, that book series is a great place to go and get ideas for things to try you have not tried before. And to break down that barrier of thinking, "Oh, well what I've done in the past has worked. Now it's time for me to do something else."
I want to move on to tip number two, Steve, because as you alluded to, it's easy to keep doing the same thing over and over again, although in reality those things tend to lose their potency over time. And at the same time, the world around us and technology is changing so fast. How do I keep up, so I know I'm going to where my new customers are, even if it's, for instance, some new social media website that I've never even heard of before? How do I make sure I've heard of it so I know that I should be using it?
Steve Strauss: Let me preface this, Gregg, with saying I've lived this. My first business was my own law firm back when I practiced law. The way I got my customers was that I would put on seminars to the public. I would advertise them in the newspaper, to really date myself, and then people would come in to the Holiday Inn for the day and then for the next six months I would have customers. And that worked for me for years and years, until one day it stopped working. And you know why? It was because it was what you said. It just wasn't fresh anymore. People had seen it. It was stale. So I had to start trying some new things. And that's what I think any smart business has to do.
The great news is, it doesn't cost you a lot these days to market your business. Technology is amazing, and one of the amazing things for small business insofar as technology goes, is that there are all sorts of tools out there that allow us to market our business, to get in front of these new eyeballs that I mentioned, without spending a whole lot of money. So it could be content marketing. You create some articles or videos related to your business with a link to your website. People find it, see it, share it. You're getting people that way.
Or what if it's a pay per click? You create a little Google ad or an ad on Facebook and someone sees a nice little ad. People who don't know your business but loves your ad, they'll click on it. And what's great about that is you don't pay for that ad until they click on it. So that's really beautiful.
Or search engine optimization. SEO it's called. You create some webpages on your website that are specifically designed to sell whatever your product is, and then you get it out there. And that's going to be almost free customers, because SEO builds and builds over time. It could be your social. It can be your e-newsletter. The point is there are lots of different ways to do this marketing that I mentioned up front. So the good news is there are just so many ways now to do this marketing that I suggested up front, and none of them really cost you a whole lot of money. They'll take a little time, but they're going to pay out big in the end.
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Gregg Stebben: Steve, I want to ask about one last thing. And that is, it seems to me that one thing we have not talked about here is if you want to reach new customers, one way to know who they are and where they go is to talk to your existing customers. Where do they go? What do they do? Who do they know? And how can I motivate them to actually become my sales force for me?
Steve Strauss: Well, word of mouth. You are preaching to the choir, my brother. I grew up in a small business family and my dad owned at one point 20 carpet stores. Then eventually went down to one giant carpet warehouse. He really had a lot of experience. And in that carpet warehouse he had a banner that said, "Our word of mouth advertising starts with you." That was the essence of his 20 years of experience as a very successful entrepreneur. So word of mouth works, because it is people talking to people about something, an experience they had that's good, hopefully, and that's what people trust.
But these days, word of mouth really is word of click. I've been talking about all these digital ideas. When someone retweets your tweet, well that's word of mouth. Isn't it? It's word of click. When someone likes your Facebook page, that's word of mouth. It's someone saying to the rest of the world, "Hey, this is a valuable thing that I like that you should like."
When someone takes your e-newsletter and forwards it on to someone else, that, again, is word of click and word of mouth. So today it's not just one person talking to one person. It's one person talking to a thousand. And for small business people, that's an incredible opportunity.
One thing I would suggest is ask for it. Ask people to retweet, and ask people to give you a good review. Ask people to give you a like. People want to be nice. People will do it, and if you do your job right, they'll help you. You're going to get a lot of word of mouth and a lot more business as a result.
Gregg Stebben: Really well said. Okay, I want to recap what Steve said here. We're talking about ways to find new customers for your small business. Tip number one, Steve said market, market some more, market some more, market some more. Try new things. Don't just keep doing the same things you've been doing over and over again, because eventually those things are going to go stale. Meanwhile, there's all kinds of new avenues for you to try and succeed with.
Number two is to think about digital marketing. Using things like SEO, pay per click, e-newsletters. And I think part of what you're suggesting, Steve, is experiment and just try things to find out what works.
Steve Strauss: Absolutely. Yep.
Gregg Stebben: And number three. Never forget about word of mouth marketing, or as Steve called it, word of click. Don't forget about the power of your existing customers. Where do they go? What do they do? These are good clues for where to get new customers. And ask them to help you market your business. If they're satisfied, they should love sharing information about your business with their friends and family.
Steve, these are great tips. Where can our listeners go to find out more about you and to get more of your great advice for small businesses?
Steve Strauss: You can go to USAtoday.com and find my column, Ask an Expert. You can go to my website which is mrallbiz.com. Or I would really suggest go to the Bank of America Small Business Community. I write there. There's a lot of other influencers who create some great content there. Articles, videos, podcasts like this. And you can find anything you need to take your business to the next level.
Gregg Stebben: Steve just mentioned Bank of America's online Small Business Community. It's at bankofamerica.com/SBC. Steve, thanks for joining us.
Steve Strauss: Gregg, keep up the great work. Thanks so much for having me.