In the world of business, you may have the big idea that will revolutionize the world, but your idea is only as valuable as your ability to make people aware of it. Sales, therefore, are an integral part of raising your awareness, but they come with a cost of their own. You have to hire sales staff, invest in marketing/promotional materials, as well as customer service staff to manage the transaction and customer experience.
These costs can add up and as a startup, you may need to find cost efficient methods to achieve these same ends. Here are 8 to get you started:
1. K.I.S.S. – or, as the 1960’s American Navy would say — “Keep it Simple, Stupid.” Sometimes the biggest obstacle between a curious and spending company is you. The more complex you make any aspect of the relationship, the more people are likely to lose interest. Keeping things simple means removing confusion, doubt and uncertainty from the buying process.
Keep your “buy now” buttons in plain sight, clearly mark prices and discounts, avoid hidden catches and surprise fees. You want the buying experience to be as frictionless as possible.
2. Social Media – Social media is a powerful tool for connecting you to your target audience, perhaps even the most powerful today. You can build up your following with content marketing, which usually involves demonstrating your own expertise, distributing interesting and view-catching media, the encouragement of community interaction and every once in a while mentioning your business or your products.
3. Get Referrals – People will listen and trust their friends more than you, that’s just a fact of life. As a business with happy customers, you can facilitate that conversation as needed.
Create a rewards system where the referrer benefits in proportion to the number of her friends that she successfully refers to you. Provide them conversation starter trinkets such as buttons, bracelets or similar wearable billboards that will spawn conversations that lead to a referral. Lastly, just ask them for one. If you’re customers like your work, they’ll be happy to share, but maybe the idea hasn’t popped into their head yet. You can change that.
4. Efficient Purchasing – An offshoot from the K.I.S.S. method, you want the act of purchasing itself to be user friendly. If you’re not setup to take transactions online (why not?), or maybe your store just needs some improvements, then you can use ready made purchase orders.
Several companies offer ready-to-go templates right through their websites that can easily be placed on your purchasing page, or wherever you feel is most convenient.
5. Upsell – If you’re not upselling, then you’re leaving money on the table. If your industry is retail, there are warranties, store credit cards, accessories. If you provide a service, you can charge one rate for the basic service, and offer additional services as an add-on.
When people already have their wallets out, it’s much easier to justify the extra purchase. If you wait for them to see the need on their own and then come back to you for more, you’ll likely be kept waiting.
6. Use Testimonials – The stories of your satisfied customers can be a huge selling point, while at the same time adding credibility to your business. While there is enough natural skepticism about the veracity of “official” testimonials, when combined with your overall brand reputation, they still serve as an external voice confirming to the customer that you are trustworthy and will deliver satisfaction.
7. Ask Your Customers – Next to your staff, who will know your shortcomings better than your customers themselves?
You can include surveys with your final bill, or perhaps even draw some insight during your typical customer interaction. Take note of complaints, as well as ineffective strategies, weigh them against your own goals and values as a business, and then adjust accordingly.
8. Be Visible – The whole idea of marketing is to put you in front of the eyes of your future customers. You don’t always know where specific people are looking, but you can know the most common places people might search when looking for a business like yours. Creating listings on Yelp or Foursquare, ensuring your address shows up on Google Maps, your local directories — all of these things contribute to make sure people find you. Once you’ve met them, you can even ask how they found you and further judge and refine the way you’re reaching out.
Nick Rojas is a writer from Chicago who has spent 20 years helping businesses develop and grow. His passion for writing led him to a degree in journalism, which he uses to teach more than just the companies he works directly with. He loves pizza, kayaking, and connecting with others. Reach out on Twitter @nickarojas.