by Juan Robin II
Marketing your business is expensive. Coming up with customer acquisition strategies that won’t break the bank can be a challenge.
But you can get new customers without having to spend much money.
Using your existing customers to help bring in new business is one of my favorite ways to do this. It may sound complex, but it’s much easier than you might think.
It’s all about getting creative. Coming up with an acquisition strategy that also promotes retention is a win-win scenario for everyone involved.
Don’t underestimate the power of a recommendation. Research shows 83% of consumers say they trust recommendations from family and friends. When your brand gets recommended to someone, they are likely to give it a shot.
But the key here is getting that initial recommendation. How do you do it?
If you’ve never tried to incorporate this strategy into your marketing plan before, don’t worry. I’ll give you some insight into how you can proceed.
Here’s what you need to know.
Provide friendly customer service
Before you launch any new marketing campaigns, analyze your company’s culture. Start with your customer service.
Recent studies showed that customers who had a friendly interaction with a company were likely to recommend that company to others. The majority of people who experienced unfriendly service would not recommend a brand.
Being friendly costs you nothing.
Just make sure your managers and customer service representatives are all on the same page. If you’re dealing with customers face-to-face, you need to train your staff to smile.
Be genuine. Ask the customer how their day is going. Try to have real connections with your customers.
Even if you’re talking to people over the phone or online, the tone of your voice will convey your attitude.
Don’t sigh or take deep breaths of frustration. Don’t be monotone or standoffish. Speak in a friendly voice that’s welcoming and energetic.
Even smiling when you’re talking on the phone can help make the tone of your voice sound more positive.
Employing this strategy is a no-brainer. This isn’t something you can measure, but when your existing customers have a positive experience with your company, they’ll be happy to tell their friends and family about it.
Before you know it, new customers will be walking through your doors. If you treat them the same way, they’ll recommend your brand to others as well.
Respond to customer inquiries as fast as possible
Let’s continue talking about customer service. In addition to providing friendly care during daily interactions, your support team needs to go the extra mile when customers have questions or problems.
It’s easy to get frustrated with a disgruntled customer. Even if you think they are in the wrong, treat them with respect, and make them feel as though they are right.
Don’t make customers wait to hear back from a customer service representative. This is something you need to keep in mind no matter where you’re conducting business.
If you have a brick-and-mortar location, don’t make your customers wait to speak to a manager. Get someone right away. When taking calls over the phone, don’t put your customers on hold for too long.
Even if you’re taking customer inquiries online through your website’s platform or via email, put emphasis on responding right away.
Take a look at these numbers, and just let that sink in for a moment.
Customers who received a fast but ineffective response were more likely to recommend a brand than customers who received a slow but adequate solution.
Just because you solve a customer’s problem doesn’t mean they’ll recommend you to other people if you took too long to do it.
But if you provide a speedy response, customers are still willing to recommend your brand even if you didn’t provide a solution.
Come up with a referral program
Some people will be willing to recommend your brand only if they can get something in return. Can you blame them?
Customers love getting discounts and free stuff. Come up with a customer referral program that rewards your current customers for spreading the word about your company.
One of the best customer referral programs I’ve seen is from Uber.
Here’s how their program works. The customer who sends the referral gets a credit, and the new customer also gets a credit.
The rewards vary depending on the city and time, but here’s an example of a $20 program:
It’s a major success.
With this example, the customer acquisition cost is $40. Uber is paying $20 to two customers.
So in less than two months, the customer acquisition cost already pays for itself. It’s a great strategy and increases the lifetime value of a customer.
Once a new customer joins, they are likely to refer their own friends as well to try to keep getting discounts. It may seem like a lot of money, but as you can see from the numbers I just went through, it’s well worth it.
If your referral program is worth only a few bucks, it won’t get your customers excited. How much effort do you expect them to put into a referral if you’re just giving them something like $5 or maybe 10% in return?
Same goes for the new customer who is receiving the recommendation. But offering a $20 credit could be enough to get a free product or, in the case with Uber, a free ride.
Find a way to apply this concept to your company. Based on Uber’s rapid growth since inception, I’m sure it will work for you as well.
Celebrate milestones with your customers
It’s important to get to know your customers. Don’t treat them as nameless and faceless people.
Talk to them. Find out why they are spending money at your store. For example, let’s say you own a restaurant. When a customer comes in and places a huge order, ask them if it’s for a special occasion.
Go the extra mile to make them feel like you really care. Maybe they’re celebrating a birthday party or an anniversary. If the order is big enough, you could try to offer a free delivery or give them a discount.
Half of the customers who talk about brands on social media when posting about a life milestone do so to recommend the brand to others.
I realize it’s not always easy to find out information about milestones in a customer’s life, especially if you’re operating an ecommerce business.
But whenever it’s applicable, try your best to get as much information about the purchase as possible. This also relates back to the discussion about friendly customer service.
The importance and relevance of this marketing aspect will depend on the industry, of course. But you can still come up with clever ways to incorporate this marketing strategy into your business.
For example, let’s say you sell clothing. A group of women comes into your store and starts trying on expensive dresses. Train your sales team to ask,
“Is this for a special occasion?”
If you discover one of the women just got engaged, do whatever you can to make them feel special without compromising your profit margins.
Based on the data I just showed you, this will increase the chances of those customers recommending your brand to people on social media.
Even if they don’t officially recommend your business, look at some of the other top responses on that list:
- thank the brand
- show brand preference
- receive discounts.
All these posts are still positive exposure for your company. As a result, their friends will be more likely to try your products or services.
Here are some of the most popular life milestones that cause customers to recommend a brand on social media:
Be aware of this if you’re in an industry where these types of events are relevant to your business.
Promote user-generated content (UGC)
Now, it’s time to think outside the box and get creative.
Running promotions that encourage user-generated content is a great way to grow your business.
It won’t cost you much money to achieve this. UGC won’t take too much time on your end, and it requires very minimal effort.
But the results can be very rewarding.
With UGC, your customers won’t officially be recommending your business. However, the brand exposure you’ll be generating is just as effective as a recommendation.
Take a look at how UGC influences online shoppers:
There are lots of ways you can approach this. One of my favorites is running contests on social media.
Use Instagram or Facebook as a marketing channel to run one of these contests. Have your customers upload photos and videos that promote your products or services.
At a specified deadline, pick the post with the most likes or comments, and award them a prize. If you make the prize worth it, you’ll get a high participation rate from your followers.
As a result, your brand will be exposed to people who follow the customers participating in the contest. This indirectly recommends your brand to a new audience.
You can even dedicate a section of your website to UGC.
Let customers upload videos or share stories about their experiences with your company. It will help you get new customers in the door without crippling your marketing budget.
Encourage customers to review your business
You can promote your company in many different ways, including writing about your product or service. But nothing is viewed as trustworthy as an online review from a customer.
Obviously, you’ll tell people your business is great. Consumers know you won’t willingly reveal bad information about your brand.
Information on your website may not be enough for you to acquire a new customer. But customer reviews increase the chances of a new customer buying from your brand:
Make sure your company has a profile set up on as many review websites as possible. In addition to allowing reviews directly on your website, let your customers review your business on platforms like:
- Google Reviews
- Trip Advisor
The more platforms you’re on, the greater your exposure will be. Some customers trust reviews on some websites more than others.
Research shows the two most trusted review websites are Google and the Better Business Bureau. Just having an account on Yelp isn’t enough.
Now you need to find ways to get your existing customers to write reviews.
Ask them directly. After they complete a transaction, nicely ask them to write a review online.
Or you could go another route and give them an incentive. You can offer a discount or some kind of promotion if they write a review for your brand online.
Just make sure you’re not soliciting good reviews. Make it clear you’re just asking for a review, and hope it’s a good one.
To keep customer acquisition costs low, you need to come up with some creative marketing tactics.
Making subtle changes to the ways your business operates can get your existing customers to recommend your brand to others.
Start with simple things like customer service. Always be friendly, and respond to customer inquiries as fast as possible.
Create a customer referral program that rewards your current customers for recommending you as well as your new customers for trying your brand out.
Help your customers celebrate important milestones and events in their lives.
Encourage user-generated content, and make it easy for your customers to review your business online.
If you follow these tips, your current customers will be recommending your business to new ones, expanding your customer base.
How are you leveraging recommendations from your existing customers to keep your customer acquisition costs low?