Building a Customer Base

With the move from high street to virtual markets and the consequent loss of physical profile to advertise your business, it has become increasingly important to focus on how to reach your target market. Obtaining cost-effective and results-driven business support can be key to your success. Balancing outlay and return is important, so a small business, particularly one in start-up, may find itself limited by available capital. Optimising available opportunities for raising the profile of your business is essential; as are having clear strategies in place to reach your target market and expand your customer base.

Who are Your Customers?

Unless you have identified which sector of the market you are aiming your products or service at, you cannot tailor your business profile to that demographic. Conducting market research is very useful in establishing the size of your potential market, the possible competition and what those prospective customers are looking for.

Approaching market research in a structured way is vital to obtaining accurate and helpful information. Your questionnaire should include an initial screening section to ensure that you filter out those sectors you know you are not aiming at. Remember that simple questions make for simpler answers and that answers to open questions will require far more processing to extract the core information. You can start the survey by asking general questions about the field your business is in and then change the focus to the specifics of your products. Ask the more personal questions you want answers to towards the end of the survey; people are more likely to respond positively to a request for personal data at this point than at the outset.

There are plenty of free or inexpensive online facilities for conducting market research. Once you have collected enough data, you will need to analyse this data and the most effective method to extract the core information you are looking for is to use frequency tables and cross tabulations. This may already be done for you as part of the package you sign up to and it is worth checking out whether this facility is included before you choose the product you go with. Once you have conducted your market research and compiled a market profile, you have the information you need to target your prospective customers. It is important to remember to take the results of your market research into consideration, even when they differ from any preconceptions you may have, as the concepts you are working with are only as good as the information you may have had to hand at the time they were formulated.

Your Online Presence

At the very least you will need to promote your business via the many online directories and social media available to you.

Business listings can win you many customers and cost you nothing. It is commonplace for people to use online searches to locate products and services they need, so making sure that you join as many listings as possible will help to raise your profile. If for instance you are a translator, then a search for translation services will bring up your name in the results. The number of results will obviously depend on how much competition you have in the local area. Some searches will list results by geographical location to a postcode, while others will list results alphabetically within a given radius of the search location. When starting up a new business, alphabetical listing should be taken into consideration during the naming process.

Promoting your business on social media: facebook; twitter; LinkedIn; to name but a few of the dozens out there will help spread the message about your products further. Anything which raises your profile is good; whether that is by having a profile page or perhaps by using online marketing such as Google Adwords to advertise within the budget you have set yourself.

Whether you choose to pay a web designer to build you a site and arrange hosting or opt for a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) design package through a web registration company with their own servers, a website will give you a distinct advantage over any competition locally which has not invested in a web presence.

For your website to perform well, you need to ensure that some solid guidelines are followed. Keeping your content fresh will mean that the search engines will rank your website higher in search ratings. Changing some of the home page content on at least a weekly basis will help promote the site. The design of your website should take into consideration your target audience. You need to catch the eye and the interest of anyone landing on your site and you will only have a very limited amount of time to do this. Your web page needs to be browser friendly and fast loading: making your home page too data heavy will slow down loading time and you can lose prospective customers who want to be able to enter your site instantly. Home page content should be written to include plenty of keywords which relate directly to the service or products you are offering. These keywords correspond to those words or phrases which people will use when searching online.

The new kid on the block, with a rapidly growing market which is forecast to almost double in 2013, is the UK mobile advertising market. Britain has the highest smartphone usage anywhere in the world, with the biggest market players such as Google, Twitter and Facebook mining the industry. The meteoric rise of mobiles as a new marketplace for advertising should be taken into consideration by businesses intent on expanding their share of the market. British consumers are adapting to smartphone and tablet use far more quickly than the industry anticipated and as they spend more time on their phones, the opportunities for advertisers increases exponentially.

Customer Focus

No matter how good your website and advertising, to build a customer base you have to encourage your customers to return to you. Excellent customer service is one of the prime ways to ensure that you stand out from the competition. A satisfied customer will recommend you to others who want your products or services. An unhappy customer, particularly if you are reliant upon local trade, can put you out of business quite quickly. Being pleasant, courteous and helpful on the telephone is a must, as is returning calls and answering emails. When you get a customer who for whatever reason is not happy, your attitude to dealing with their complaint is paramount. Deal with the issue well and you will keep your customer and your reputation. They will still recommend you based on the fact that you dealt with their complaint properly and put matters right.



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