Much like discovering the love of your life, finding (and wooing) your ideal customers can sometimes seem a daunting, formidable task.
Finding the perfect customers for your small business – the kind who are loyal, committed and ready to put a ring on it – often feels like there aren’t near enough fish in the sea.
But you may just be swimming at all the wrong beaches.
Just like you don’t want to promise for better or worse with any ol’ guy or gal, your goal shouldn’t just be finding customers. You need to put all your attention into finding the RIGHT customer.
Never fear – just as there are experts around to help single folks find Mr. or Ms. Right – there are plenty of small business experts out there ready and waiting to help you find your perfect (customer) match.
5 lessons your small business can learn from the dating game
Cast a true love spell
“He will hear my call a mile away. He will whistle my favorite song. He can ride a pony backwards. He can flip pancakes in the air. He'll be marvelously kind. And his favorite shape will be a star. And he'll have one green eye and one blue."
In Practical Magic, Sandra Bullock casts an Amas Veritas – a true love spell. Granted, she’s created a man she doesn’t think exists in order to save herself from a family curse – rather than tried to convince her ideal client to subscribe to her email list – but a basic truth remains:
You are far more likely to attract someone with a particular set of qualities or attributes if you’ve defined exactly what those are. From age, gender and marital status to interest and shopping habits, the more you know about what you want, the easier it will be to find.
When it comes to tracking down that perfect client, tall, dark and handsome won’t cut it – you need to get specific. Your magic skills may be rusty, but taking the time to create detailed buyer personas will go a long way in helping you find exactly what you’re looking for.
1. Online dating: Feel the fear and do it anyway.
(Organic Social Media: It’s better than spending your nights with YouTube cat videos)
I have a confession: I once made an online dating profile. And then I deleted it after about 30 seconds. I scrolled through all those faces and profiles and felt incredibly vulnerable and totally overwhelmed.
Yes – my fear got in the way of making a potential connection.
For many small business owners, social media can feel just as intimidating as searching for a soulmate on Match.com. However, just as there is potential for finding lasting love in the much larger pool on an online dating site, social media offers unparalleled access to your ideal clients.
Jen Smith, a social media trainer from the UK, has these three tips for social media success.
1) Talk to your existing or ideal customers and ask them where they spend most of their time online. Don’t just consider the major social networks; include blogs, groups and forums on your list of considerations.
2) Check out the competition. Which platforms are getting your competitors and the most engagement?
3) Embrace trial and error. Focus on one network first, see what works and what doesn't. Tweak your efforts and test again. Then add in another network and repeat the process.
"Organic social is like navigating the world of online dating sites. If you don't know your ideal partner and which sites he or she frequents, you could end up wasting your time, frustrated with the lack of response. Worse, you may find yourself batting off unwanted attention from weirdoes and resorting to watching cat videos on YouTube for solace."
2. This guy walks into a bar….
(Small Business Networking – like the club scene, but with better free drinks)
If you think online dating is intimidating, then an in-person event created for the sole purpose of helping you find Mr. or Ms. Right is downright petrifying.
Petrifying, but potentially worth it: Old-school face-to-face networking with potential clients and business peers works. The secret here is to take the slow and steady approach to making lasting connections.
Networking Mentor Marsha Shandur gives some great advice:
“If you were at a singles night, would you walk up to a stranger and say, ‘Hi! I’d make an amazing girlfriend. Let’s get married next week!’? No, you would not.
So don’t walk up to potential clients, collaborators or employers and try and sell yourself to them. Get to know them first, see if you like each other and build a relationship.”
Her suggestions for making the most of your next networking opportunity:
1. Stop thinking about it as ”networking” and start thinking about it as “making industry friends.” When you walk into an event, don't think, “Who should I be networking with?” Rather, think, “Who would I be friends with?”
2. Ask interesting questions. A great way to initiate those friendship-like conversations is to ask questions more interesting than "What do you do?” Try, "How's your week been so far? What's been the best bit?"
A focus on making real connections will help you create relationships that will help you grow your business. Beyond expanding your circle of potential clients, the network you create will provide you with invaluable connections and inspiration. Bonus: you won’t have to worry about that suspicious-looking guy who wants to buy you a beer.
3. The Small Business Blind Date
(Referrals: Far less risky than coffee with your Aunt Martha’s dentist’s son.)
Many a blissful romance has begun with one friend saying to the other:
“You and my friend Dave/Susan/Bob/Lucy would be PERFECT for each other. He/She/They like obscure French movies and Twizzlers and have an unnatural obsession with color coding their bookshelves – JUST LIKE YOU!”
(Of course, many an excruciatingly awkward evening has been begun exactly the same way, but I digress.)
Website creator and digital strategist Laura Husson shares these three tips for scoring the referrals that drive new business:
1. Be helpful in a public way. When people see you giving help freely, they note you as the expert. When they have their own situation that needs input you can bet your name will be flash through their mind quicker than they can Google.
2. Give your clients the VIP treatment. When your clients have an incredible experience with you, they shout about it from the rooftops. Invest in those relationships and watch the referrals flood in.
3. Buddy Factor it up. Got friends in high places? I'm not talking government offices, but people you're connected to who have a high online profile. Mention them in your blogs and let them know you've name-dropped them. If you're lucky, they'll share the heck out of that stuff and you'll be on the radar of everyone in their networks in no time.
“Your current (or past) clients are your best promo tools. They have a special blend of interests in that they know all of your best bits AND they want their friends to have a great experience. When they play matchmaker and set you up on blind dates, you can bet the magic will unfold.”
4. You are what you wear
(Branding 101: Does this website make my biz look big?)
Who among us has not stood in front of their closet before a really important date changing clothes multiple times and checking their reflection from every angle?
(Come on. Fess up, men, you guys know you do it too.)
When finding your ideal client, your first date outfit is your business brand.
Self-styled branding provocateur Timothi Graham shares three essential small business branding secrets that will help you make a great first impression.
Nobody wants a wallflower. Whether you’re going for organic reach or plunking down your hard earned dough to get some paid action, you need to work it out.
Here are three tips to dressing up your brand so you won’t fade into the woodwork:
1. Provoke, don’t manipulate. Provocative branding comes from a place of truth, whereas manipulation comes from a place of telling people what they want to hear. People can always smell the difference. So bust out the Chanel No. 5 and show some skin.
2. Make sure your imagery is engaging. I’m talking lusty. People are motivated by desire and will always click on something that presses their buttons. Know what makes your audience drool and hit it. I’m talking thigh-highs people.
3. Don’t give away the store; be demure. Keep it short and sweet. Sometimes the little black dress says it all. So leave the sequins, tassels and animal prints at home. Always keep ‘em wondering and begging for more. We all love the feel of a good chase!
“You wouldn’t show up for a date in your I’m-going-to-run-out-and-grab-some-toilet-paper-outfit. So why would you be so laissez-faire online? This is your date with destiny. Personal Branding is not something you try on when the spirit moves you, it’s a 24-hour gig. It requires commitment and needs to be ever-present in the myriad of ways you present yourself and your work.”
5. Matchmaker, matchmaker
(Or, paying someone to put you in front of the right people)
When you need to reach a specific kind of person, there’s a huge relief knowing you don’t have to physically go and find them yourself – you can pay someone to do that.
In this case, that someone wouldn’t be a matchmaker, but a social media platform. Jen Smith (no, she and the above Jen Smith are not clones – perhaps doppelgangers?) of Jen Smith Social shares these paid social ad tips:
- Identify WHO you want to target
- Determine your monthly budget
- Align your messaging with your audience - make it specific
- Test 3-4 different images
- Test your copy
- Review your ads after 1 week to determine performance and make changes to ads that aren't performing
- Aim for a 2% CTR or higher
- Track your conversions so you can determine ROI
- Rinse and repeat
"When you pay to advertise on social you get to show your ads to EXACTLY the right customers. Not only do you choose the right demographics such as male or female, 20s or 40s, but you also get to target based on interests and behaviors. Getting this targeted makes your advertising dollars more effective and makes sure your message is getting to the right audience."
Finding your customers might be a love story that never ends, but once you’ve enhanced your search strategy, commitment should come a little easier than a marriage proposal.