Getting More Customers – Using Partners

Partnering With Other Companies

With partners, you are partnering with other companies to get customers where both partners get something out of the deal.

These are the different forms partnering can take:

Regular Partnerships – Two companies work together to give better benefits to the consumer by having the products work together.

Joint Ventures – Two companies work together to create a new product.

Licensing – One company wants to hook up with a bigger well known company to take advantage of the bigger company’s well known brand.

Distribution Deals – One party distributes a product through a company that has customers  that could use the original company’s product.

Supply partnerships – This helps a company that needs a source for a key input (ingredient or component) to their product while the supplying company needs to move the product they are supplying.

For partnerships to work effectively, each party needs to have a clear understanding of each other’s objectives.  You want a mutually beneficial relationship with each party having an incentive for it to work.  You want metrics to see if it is working and set goals for the metrics with timeframes and volumes expected.  You should have a way out if it does not go as planned.

To get going, you need to identify some potential partners and ask yourself these questions:

What does the partner need to be more successful?

Will my product or service meet that need?

How can a deal be structured to make both parties happy?

With the above questions answered, you are ready to make your pitch. Then you need to identify who in the potential partner’s organization would be the right person to make your pitch to.  Then go for it!

One last point, work on several partnership deals at the same time as lead times can be long and you want a fallback position that does not take too long to come to fruition.  This way if the first potential partner walks away or offers you a deal that does not make sense for you but by that time have become desperate and need any deal, you have a backup plan.  So consider using partnerships as part of your marketing plan.

If America’s Economy Is Winner-Take-All, Why Are Some Smaller Businesses Thriving?

Niche Marketing

This article discusses how the retail landscape has changed over the last 30 years.  However, it points out that margins have increased and that many small businesses are thriving by providing a better customer experience, a niche product or serving a hard to serve market, points that I make every day to my clients.

See the complete article at https://hbr.org/2017/09/if-americas-economy-is-winner-take-all-why-are-some-smaller-businesses-thriving?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+harvardbusiness+%28HBR.org%29

Getting More Customers – Using Viral Marketing

Viral Marketing

Viral Marketing is the process of motivating your existing customers to refer others to your products or services in large numbers.  In the startup world, going viral means that every customer you acquire brings with them through referral at least one other customer.  When you get there, you have exponential growth!  Just be sure you have scaled your product or service for this level of growth before you get there.  See my page on scaling at http://apollogr.com/scale-processes-and-technology-to-support-growth/.  I have worked with lots of companies that called me after they rapidly expanded, then fell back because they could not scale up to meet that demand properly.  Not only does this damage your reputation but can leave you with too much fixed cost and too little revenue.  Now we can be talking turnarounds.  You can see my page on this at http://apollogr.com/achieve-a-business-turnaround/ .

Viral marketing begins by creating a viral loop that works for your customers and then getting customers into the loop.  A basic loop can be as simple as (1) a customer is exposed to your product or service, (2) that customer tells other potential customers and (3) those potential customers are exposed and some portion buy from you.  Then the process continues with the new customers.  That’s the loop part.

There are different types of viral marketing:

Word of Mouth – This is the old fashion kind.  The product or service is so great that customers just want to tell all their friends.

Inherent – The customer only gets value by inviting others.  Think of Skype or Snapchat where the product is not useful until the people you want to communicate with are also customers.

Collaboration Based – The product may be useful for a single user but is much more useful when used in a group context.  Think Google docs or sheets where multiple people can edit at the same time and see each other’s changes.

Imbedded in Communications – This is where the use of the product makes others aware of the product.  Think about sending emails from your phone and having Sent from my iPhone or sent from Verizon appended to every message.

Incentivized – The customer gets an incentive to tell others.  Think about Airbnb, where you can get account credit for a referral.

Imbedded Buttons or Widgets – The supplier embeds buttons or widgets in the product that make it easy to share.  Think Facebook or Twitter.

Social Networked – The customer’s activities (including the use of a product) are broadcast to others.  Again, think Facebook.

So what does viral mean?  Well, if the number of others that each customer recommends who actually sign up is greater than 1, then you have viral growth.  That is, you get one or more additional new customers for each customer you acquire.  That is going to be really fast growth.  If you get one additional new customer for every two customers you acquire, that will be very helpful but not viral.

The other thing that affects your growth rate is the speed at which the loop occurs.  Your growth will be markedly different if the cycle time is 3 days or 3 months.  You will need to do everything you can to shorten the cycle time and to keep people from dropping out of the loop.

So to be effective using this channel, try to build a loop into your product or service.  Then make it easy (reduce friction) so people don’t drop out and make it as short as possible.

Getting More Customers – Using Search Engine Advertising

Search engine advertising (or search engine marketing-SEM) is the process of placing ads that show up depending on what keywords are being searched for.  They appear at both the top and bottom of the search page results bracketing the organic listings. This is also called pay per click (PPC) because the advertiser does not pay for the ad unless the customer clicks on the ad and is taken to a landing page associated with the ad.  So if you place an ad that you want displayed when someone types in “Business Consultant” and you bid enough for it, it can appear on the first page of Google.

To get started, you need to come up with keyword phrases that someone might use to find your product or service (in the same way you might do this for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) discussed last week).  Again, you can use Google Keyword Planner. The next step is to group keywords into groups of similar terms.  Using Google’s advertising platform AdWords, you write ads that will attract customers to click on them.  The ads need to have different ad copy that directly relates to the keywords in the group.  You can have has many groups of keywords and ads as you want.  You can relate various groups to a single campaign.  You then run the ads.  Potential customers click on the ads and are taken to your website and hopefully follow through with an inquiry or purchase.  To be most effective, the search keywords in the group need to directly relate to the ads which need to directly relate to the landing page.

AdWords measures the clicks you get as a percentage of the number of times the ad was shown.  This is called the click through rate.  When you set up the ad campaign, you decide on various bidding strategies as part of your ad budget and the maximum you want to pay per click for that ad.  When someone searches for your keyword, Google’s algorithm has the effect of having all people with the search term in their group bid against each other until the top three (for the top of the first page) have beat out everyone else because the bid went above all the other bidders max budgets.  You can see how advertisers with deep pockets have a big advantage here and can drive up the cost per click of the most popular search terms.

To be profitable for you, the cost per acquisition (CPA) of a sale (or customer) has to be less than the profit you are going to earn on that sale (or customer) in order to leave some profit for you.  The cost per acquisition is simply the cost per click divided by the conversion percentage.  So if you pay $5 per click, and every tenth person buys your product (i.e. you have a ten percent conversion rate) you need to have a gross profit of at least $50 on that sale because you will have paid for the ad to be clicked ten times before you get a sale ($5×10=$50).

The good thing about paid advertising is that you can bring in customers right away to get things going.  You also learn quickly about the keywords that customer’s use to find you which can inform all your other messaging and advertising.

There are a million things to learn about paid advertising to really optimize it but these are the basics.  I will write more in later posts.

Do you really need a Marketing Strategy?

Potential clients constantly ask me to develop a marketing plan for them that will really work and deliver more customers.  So, I ask them to describe their marketing strategy.  Mostly they cannot do this.  They just want more of any type of customers.  Just bring them in.  So I ask them what is unique about what they sell/do or unique about the way they do it?  After some discussion, they can usually tell me.  Often though, it is not very compelling.  So finally, I ask them who their customers are now?  Are they middle income or affluent?  Where do they live, why are they their customers?

Marketing is going to be ineffective until it is possible to describe a target set of customers, understand what they need and can delivery it in the way they want.  In short, that is what a marketing strategy is.

A marketing strategy is the framework by which a company increases sales and achieves a sustainable competitive advantage.  It is based on a company’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP) which requires a review of customer needs, competitors, opportunities, consideration of all of the internal and external environmental factors, identification of constraints (resource and other) and the evaluation of other factors including technological, economic, legal or political.

When you figure out what you are really selling, (e.g. convenience?), have a unique twist to doing it, and know who your target customer is, you have the outline of a marketing strategy.  Your special sauce, if you will, is best if it is difficult to imitate or it won’t work for long.  This is where the evaluation of your competitors and potential competitors come in.  It is also the place to understand what you do really well so you are building on your strengths not your aspirations.  This is where something like a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis comes in.  This helps you figure this out.

In any case, taking the time to develop a well thought out marketing strategy is time and money well spent, because without one, you will be wasting your money on developing and executing a marketing plan that just won’t work.

Getting More Customers

Every business owner wants to get more customers.  The question is how to get them.  Assuming that you already have both a marketing strategy and a unique selling proposition (i.e. the reason someone should buy from you), then the next step is to have a solid marketing plan.  A marketing plan lays out the actions to be taken to get more customers and more sales.  Of course, every company today needs a web site so customers can find them online and most companies need a presence on social media.  Both should offer compelling reasons why a prospective customer should want to do business with you.  If you are a company selling to consumers, you need to get customers’ attention and drive them to action.  This can be accomplished by a combination of online and offline activities. For companies selling to other businesses, I will cover this topic in another post.

Online activities can include running paid ads, search engine optimization, social media campaigns, email campaigns, text messages, etc.  Paid ads are ads that come up when a consumer takes a specific action on the web such as searches for something.  Search engine optimization strives to get your company to come up on the first page of Google (and other search engines) in the organic listings.  Organic listings are listings that are not paid for when customers search.  Social media campaigns can range from efforts to keep your brand top of mind, to company pages, other paid advertising, the use of influencers, etc.

Offline activities can include paid print, television, and radio advertising, direct mail, networking, expos, the use of a direct sales force, etc.  You are no doubt familiar with these.

To be most effective, you will need to coordinate these and have a comprehensive marketing plan.  Unfortunately, each of these methods is complicated and most require specialized skills.  I have seen companies spend a small fortune on both online and offline marketing with little or no return.  So be smart and understand each method or if you don’t have enough time available, get some help.