6 Easy and Cost-Effective Steps To Start Acquiring Customers for Your Small Business

6 Easy and Cost-Effective Steps To Start Acquiring Customers for Your Small Business
September 8, 2016 Carolina

6 Easy and Cost-Effective Steps To Start Acquiring Customers for Your Small Business

In my first year at LiveNinja, I spent a lot of time building our inbound marketing strategy. We created tons of videos, landing pages, blog articles, ran press announcements and paid social ads, as well as Google Adwords campaigns. These initiatives proved to be useful, and most importantly resulted in landing us some major clients.

If you’re ready to take the next step in your business and begin scaling your marketing efforts, you may also be considering ramping up your inbound strategy. This includes writing more content, creating a more consistent social presence, running paid Google Ad campaigns, etc. All of these require significant time, testing, and more often than not, a hefty budget.

While all of these practices should certainly be an important part of your marketing strategy as you begin to grow, they will require significant time to produce results.

It took me too long to realize that inbound marketing is just one piece of the marketing puzzle.

I learned that if we really wanted to grow our customer base, we needed to put ourselves out there and initiate the conversation; ie. do outbound activities. Here are 6 really easy ways you can start acquiring customers with an outbound strategy:

Step 1: Pick one super specific market

Clear focus is key in growing your business. It’s even more important when it comes to developing an outbound strategy. While you may have customers that span different segments and industries, choose one that has the largest potential. Once you do, everything else is a distraction.

To determine your market, it’s important to be as specific as possible. Ask yourself the following questions to start:

What’s your most successful use case?
Where do you see the biggest opportunity?

Then narrow it down from there. If your focus is in retail, for example, you can specify further:

E-commerce
Fashion E-commerce
Fashion E-commerce sites built with Shopify
Miami-based Fashion E-commerce sites built with Shopify

This gives you a clear direction as you navigate how to reach your audience.

Keep in mind that in order to maximize your efficiency, you need to reach these businesses at scale. Once you’ve identified your market, this criteria will help to quickly build out your list.

Step 2: Do research on it

Once your target market is identified, start learning about the recent trends and pain points they face. There are a few ways you can go about this. I encourage you to do the following:

  1. Reach out to friends, existing customers, or even potential customers within that market. Treat them to coffee and begin to ask them about their business. Listen closely and take notes. It’s probably best to come prepared with questions, as long as you leave room for them to open up.
  2. Create a Twitter list with the name of your industry and begin following the most popular publications and blogs in your target audience. You can do a quick google search to find out which publications you should be keeping up with.
  3. Research your competitors. Take what they’ve discovered about their own customer demographic and apply the most relevant lessons to your business. The best way to do this is by reading their blog content, looking into their customers, and even doing some undercover work to gather more specific questions about their products or services.

Spending time researching the industry will help you validate whether or not this audience is a fit for your product or service, as well as give you clarity on how to approach your potential customers.

Step 3: Identify a list of companies that fit your market

At this point, you know your market and you’re ready to start acquiring customers. The first thing you should do is compile a list of companies that fall under your target audience.

We’ve leveraged some awesome tools to help us do this. For the past few months, Pipetop has been our go-to; it has a great filtering system. We are able to filter by the number of unique visitors, e-commerce tech, social presence, payment tech, you name it. For $50/mo you can get up to 1,000 company exports.

SimilarTech also has a robust filtering system, but it is more expensive. If you’re not looking to spend money on this, LinkedIn search works well.

Step 4: Go out and find the contact information for the individual you want to reach at that company

Armed with a targeted list of companies, you must now determine the individual within the company that you’d like to target. Think about your existing customers — who was the decision maker for the sale?

Let’s say it’s the VP of Marketing. You have a clear action plan: find the contact info for the VP of Marketing in these 2,650 companies.

Depending on the kind of business, email may or may not be the best way to reach your target. If it is, here are some great tools you can use:

  • Voila Norbert is free but can only be used to look up emails for one contact at a time.
  • Getemail.io is still pretty new to me, but they seem pretty useful thus far. You can install their plug-in and pull emails directly from LinkedIn. You can get 300 contacts for $50/month.
  • Zenprospect is great too. We previously only used them for emails, but it’s looks like they have grown into a full-service platform where you can pretty much do everything from building a list, identifying the contact, and pull their contact info.
  • Findthat is a tool that acts like the yellow pages of email. I’m just learning about all the different ways you can prospect within it. Their platform integrates with Salesforce, MailChimp and other known solutions. Findthat doesn’t use any publicly available data, so you can expect high accuracy.

Sourcing these emails can take significant amount of time, so I would recommend to get some interns on board to help with this. Another affordable option is to hire mechanical turk or someone on upwork.com to do this for you.

Step 5: Send out a mass email

If you have over 20 emails, it is probably best if you send them out in a mass email. While personalized emails are better, if you really want to scale your business, you will not have the time to write each email.

To do this effectively, your message should be straightforward, concise, and have a simple ask. Over the last year, we’ve tested a variety of copy to see which yields the most replies. Here’s the winner:

Hi {!FIRST},

Hope you’re doing well!

Would you mind introducing me to the person at {!COMPANY} that’s responsible for your online marketing? I’d love to run an opportunity by them.

Thanks so much!

Once you know who the person is that you’re looking for, be sure to be as specific as possible when you ask for the introduction. The trick here is to directly reach out to the person who you believe is responsible for this role. That way, your responses are most typically :“That would be me. Tell me more about your product.”

The best way to send out mass emails is to use a tool like Outreach.io that allows you to upload your list and easily send out emails with personalized fields and scheduled follow-up emails for those who don’t respond. We usually send out a total of 7 stages for each email we send out. This means we prepare follow-up emails typically within 2-3 days after one another that get sent to those who have not yet replied. That way, your chance for a reply is significantly higher.

Step 6: Reply then repeat!

Once the emails are out, make sure you set aside time to respond. Hopefully the replies are coming in and you’re either getting connected to the appropriate person, or directly setting up a time to chat with the individual you reached out to. If you use a service like Calend.ly to schedule your calls, it will significantly decrease the time it takes to get a meeting setup.

As you begin to figure out what’s working, you can increase the number of emails you send, direct emails to the appropriate individuals, and use the message variation that’s been the most effective more often. The only way you can accelerate on what’s working is by making sure you are tracking every step in the process.

To help you do this, I’ve setup a simple tracking system on a google spreadsheet that you can use to help you keep up with all of your outbound activity. You can download it by simply submitting your email address below. You’ll then receive an email with a link to download. Hope you find it useful!