Do you need more customers in order to grow your business without spending a lot of money on advertising? In this article, I’ll show you how.
I will warn you, though, there is some work involved. But if you put forth right kind of effort in a consistent way, you will see results.
Struggling to Get More Customers
Many small businesses struggle to get enough customers. Their product or service is excellent, and they have some customers. But they don’t have a good way to let more people know about what they offer.
Advertising would help more customers find them. But because they don’t have many customers, they can’t afford to set aside money for advertising.
It’s a bit of a catch-22. But there is a solution.
If you’ve been in business a while, you likely have a quite a bit of experience and expertise in what you do.
You know what works. You know what the pitfalls and challenges are. You understand the surrounding industry.
You know the mistakes that beginners often make. You understand the nuances of how to do certain things just right . . . and what happens when you don’t.
Instead of investing in advertising, you can use your experience to find more customers, or more accurately, you can use it to help customers find you.
You may or may not view yourself as someone who’s qualified to teach on these things, but you’re way ahead of someone who’s just starting out. You have skills and knowledge that most of your customers don’t have in your line of work.
What Does This Have to Do With Finding Customers?
You may wonder how any of that knowledge and experience helps when what you really need is more customers in order to get more cash flow into your business.
Here’s how it can help. You’ll need to do the following things, which I’ll go into in more detail in a moment.
- Write or produce content that your customer is interested in and that’s closely related to the products and services that you offer. This begins to get your customer’s attention.
- Share that content. Put it in front of your audience, in front of the people who need your products and services.
- Take small steps. Don’t require a huge leap of trust from your customers. Someone who has just found out about you may not be all that ready to plunk down $5,000 on a kitchen remodel. At least not until they get to know you and talk to you a little.
- Build trust gradually. Trust isn’t just a measure of how honest you are and how well you convey that (although that’s important, too). It’s something that develops over time. Your customers need to not only trust you as a person but also trust that you can deliver what you say you can.
- Show your customers what you can do for them.
- Repeat consistently.
Let’s look at all this in more detail.
Write or Produce Content
In the words of one marketer, content is anything that your customers can read, watch or listen to. It’s a form of communication from you to your customers and prospective customers. In essence, that’s all it is.
Emails, web pages, brochures, blog articles, podcasts, eBooks, videos, online training courses are all content. Just in different forms.
Now, you don’t want to just produce lots and lots of content. There has to be a reason and direction for it. It’s got to fit in with a larger purpose and be carefully connected with that purpose. Lots and lots of content without a plan and purpose ends up being lots of noise. It just gets in the way and confuses your customers. And when customers are confused, they aren’t likely to buy.
You want content that’s directly related to what you do for people – directly related to the products or services that you provide.
Here are a few examples:
- A beekeeper who teaches classes and offers live honey bee removal services – his content might be centered around topics like “Why keep bees?” and “How to get started keeping bees?” along with “How to keep bees from reinfesting the eaves of your house?”
- An electrician – his content might tell people how they can save money on their electrical bill, or how to avoid overloading circuits, which could be dangerous and lead to costly repairs.
- Someone who services septic tanks – he might have content that shows people how to prolong the life of their system and how to maintain it properly, or even what types of cleaners not to flush down the drain.
- A landscaper – he might have content on how to care for the lawn, shrubs and trees, or how much water to use, or the dangers of overwatering or overfertilizing.
- Someone who builds and installs rainwater collection systems – he might have content that shows people some of the problems that can arise from an improperly designed system, or from a system that isn’t properly maintained. Or perhaps content on what to look for in a well-designed rainwater harvesting system. Or a guide on how to properly maintain your system.
This part is pretty straightforward. You want to give people content that’s related to why they are on your website or talking to you in the first place. These are just a few examples, but your goal should be to produce a significant amount of content over time. If you publish weekly, you could produce 50 articles, and that can produce significant results.
You may be wondering, what specific types of content should I write? What topics should I write about?
The best place to start is by writing down the main problems that your customers face. What types of things do they call you about? What troubles them? What stresses them the most?
List those problems. Those are the some of the main issues that your customers want to know how to solve, so that’s a good place to start. If you can give your customers some direction, their trust in you and your business will begin to deepen.
Once you have a list of problems, look over it and pick the biggest problem on the list. The one that’s the most stressful to your customers. Write out your solution to the problem in a way that your customer will easily understand it. Writ it as if you were writing for an 8th grader. (You’re not talking down to your customer, but you’re respecting the fact they they are busy, and they aren’t as interested in fully understanding every detail about what you do as you are, so you’re respecting their time and making your content easy for them to digest.)
Then just write out a solution to the problem.
Call to Action
Next, be sure to end your article with a call to action. In other words, tell your customer what the next step is that he should take. This is essential, and too often, people leave this out.
Since you’ve chosen to write on a topic that’s closely related to one of your products or services, go ahead and mention that product or service in your call to action. Make sure it’s closely related. Don’t spend a lot of time trying to “sell” it or describe it in a lot of detail. Instead, just mention it. And make it easy for your customers to find out more if they want to.
There’s more you can do in your article and your call to action, but this is enough to start with. This is a good foundation that you can build on later.
Now that your article is complete, publish it on your website.
Put Content in Front of Your Audience
Now it’s time to get your content in front of potential customers.
There are many ways to do this. You’ll have to choose what works for you, and that may be a little different that what works well for someone else. Choose what fits well for you.
A few things that you can do to promote your content and get it in front of people are:
- Email it to someone you know. Someone it would be useful to. If you’ve written about a problem that many of your customers have faced, you may want to email it to those customers, particularly if it’s a recurring problem.
- Find someone else in your industry who’s not in competition with your business, and email it to them as something that might be of interest for them to share with their customers. An electrician might have HVAC friends whose customers would benefit, for example.
- You can share it on social media: Facebook, LinkedIn Twitter, for example. Facebook groups are another possibility. Aim for high relevance. In other words, share it in a place where it’s likely to be useful to most of the people there.
- If you know of an influencer in your industry, and particularly if you linked to their website in your content, consider sending them a link. Invite them to review and comment on your article. Sometimes they will share it with their audience, even without you asking. And it’s best not to ask. Instead, just let them know that you mentioned them in the article and you’d like to get their feedback on it.
The important thing with all of this is to be relevant. If you’re sending people content that they aren’t interested, it gets to be annoying, and soon they will start to ignore you. But if you send relevant, extremely useful content to people, content that solves their problems and truly helps them, then they will likely be interested enough to take a look. And they may share it with other people.
There are lots of other approaches you can try, but these are some basics to get you started.
Purchasing a high-dollar service or product is risky. Customers recognize the risk that’s involved, and they look for ways to know that they’re making the right choice before they buy. They want to know they can trust you before they buy from you.
The piece of content that you wrote is a good first step. If they read that, then they’ll begin to know you and trust you more.
But there’s another approach you should also consider. That is to make the step smaller. Start with a smaller commitment. Before asking someone to invest several thousand dollars in something, offer them read a free or inexpensive booklet, for example. Or invite them to a free 15-minute consultation over the phone.
Think about where the customer is right now and where they need to be in order to make a purchase. Consider what the smallest step is between point A and point B, and provide a way for them to take that small step.
A customer may not immediately trust you enough that he would give you $3,000 to repair his roof, but he may trust you enough to give you his email address so that you can communicate with him more. And once you communicate with him more, he may trust you enough for that larger purchase.
The point of all this is to give customers what they’re ready for. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Put yourself in their shoes. Map out the purchase journey, the obstacles, the questions, the risks and concerns. Then address those one-by-one in an order that makes sense.
This gives you a straightforward plan for additional content to write in order to get more customers. To keep things simple, you can link to another article in your “Next Steps” section for now.
Show Your Customers What You Can Do for Them
As mentioned earlier, in your call to action, mention what you can do for your customers. Don’t mention everything. You don’t want to overload or distract them. Instead, mention just the thing that you offer that directly ties in with what you initially wrote about.
Repeat Again and Again
Now that you have one piece of content and you’ve begun sharing it with people, keep doing this. Repeat this again and again.
Depending on the topics you choose and who you share them with and how often you publish, you will start to get new customers through this. Customers will start hearing about you and finding you. The key is consistency.
Pick a schedule you can keep up with. Weekly publishing is ideal. Monthly is about a minimum, I wouldn’t go less than that.
This isn’t a fast process. It may take a year and a half or longer to see significant results from this approach alone. If you need faster results (and most of us do) there are ways you can accelerate things.
Tips and Challenges
Writing content like this is challenging, and there are a few pitfalls to watch out for. Here are some tips to make it go more smoothly.
- Set aside time every day to work on this. The best way to find time for writing content is to make time for it. Schedule it and then do it.
- Use a content pipeline. Don’t try to write and publish on the same day. Spread out the work. For example: come up with content ideas on Monday, write an outline for one idea on Tuesday, write about it on Wednesday, do some research to fill in any gaps on Thursday, read back over it on Friday, add photos and publish it on Monday. There are lots of different schedules that can work. The important thing is to find an approach that works well for you. A pipeline involves having several articles going at once, so you might have one article you’re editing, one you’re writing a rough draft for, and one you’re finalizing and adding photos to at any given time. That keeps it interesting and keeps things moving forward.
- Don’t just write about things that are interesting to you. Many business owners have difficulty writing from the perspective of their customers. To write things that will resonate with your customers, you have to put on their shoes. Always be asking questions like: How will this help my customer? Did I write this in a way that my customers will understand it? Will they be able to relate to this? This is one reason why it’s important to get to know your customers.
- Get ahead and pre-schedule. Once you’ve written your first article, start on the next one. Write faster than you publish. When you finish writing your second article, instead of publishing it right away, schedule it so that it gets published a day or two later. Continue to do this, and eventually, you will have 3-4 weeks of articles scheduled ahead of time. That gives you some breathing room, but at the same time, your customers can still look forward to weekly articles.
- Learn from it. As you publish and promote your content you’ll get feedback. Some of it will be good. Some of it will not be so good. Learn from it. Make adjustments. You don’t necessarily have to bend your content to anyone else’s expectations, but at least make the effort to understand what brought on the negative comment. What you learn from the feedback will immensely improve your content writing skills over time. Ideally, find someone you trust to read over it before you publish.
- Don’t expect immediate results. But at the same time, be open to some pleasant surprises. I recently got an unsolicited email from someone who offered to share some of my content with their subscribers.
Do this for a while. Work it into your daily and weekly schedule.
Once you have a few pieces published and are starting to get more visitors to your website, there are more things you can do to improve your results. Look for future articles from us on that.