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Marketing Research: How a Small Business Can Increase its Clientele Base
This essay details the necessary steps for small businesses to attract new clientele. These steps include understanding their target customers, leveraging pre-existing relationships, improving their websites, harnessing client ratings, offering discounts and premium promotions, and participating in community events. The essay goes into detail on how these steps help attract new clients for small businesses.
Nowadays, the competition is even fiercer, with larger companies harnessing advanced technologies, such as AI, to inform their marketing strategies. Although small businesses likely do not have access to advanced technologies, there are a variety of simple ways for them to attract new customers. This essay explores the most cost-effective ways small businesses can increase their client base.
Ways For Small Businesses To Expand Client Base
A business cannot exist without its customers. Customers are the main source of revenue for small businesses. Thus, businesses need a constant in-flow of customers to stay afloat and compete in the market. Furthermore, small businesses need to constantly attract new customers to sustain the inflow of revenue as well as replace any lost clientele.
Understanding The Target Market
The first step to attracting new clientele is first understanding the target customers. The common practice for this step is to conduct market research. Market research is the process of collecting information about a product’s potential market. Small business owners may utilize surveys—online or offline—or interviews that ask about personal information and their potential interest in a product. Market research may extend to gathering demographic, psychographic, and ethnographic information, as well as buying habits, of current customers. Information about current customers also sheds light on the type of customers who may be interested in a product. From market research, small business owners will form a clear picture of their target customers, which will inform their efforts for finding and attracting new customers.
Leverage Pre-existing Relationships
Larger companies usually have the technology and a large army of people to cold-call leads or follow up on interested prospects. However, small businesses may not have the resources for this. Thus, the second step for them is to leverage their network as a source of sales leads—their family, friends, neighbors, and even business associates. This is most effective once the business is aware of the type of customers they target. Existing customers are another effective way to attract new customers since they likely know people that fit the business’s target demographic. Aside from staying in constant contact with existing customers to encourage them to repeat their purchases, small businesses may also encourage them to refer their friends and families through both covert and overt methods. Some of the subtler ways to ask clients to refer new clients are through giving them free samples and convincing them to share it with others, asking them to post reviews on their social media accounts, as well as promotions that encourage them to tag or bring in a friend. More overt methods, meanwhile, include promotions or rewards when they recommend a client or outright asking them to recommend the company if they are satisfied with a product or service. While these tactics encourage existing clients to bring in new clients, it also encourages them to return and become loyal customers.
Improve Your Website
Because small businesses are often locally based, they often neglect their online presence. However, statistics show that 93% of consumers use the Internet to find a local business and 87% read online reviews for small businesses before deciding on a purchase (Murphy 2020). Thus, small businesses should use their website as well as social media to attract new clients. This is just another benefit of incorporating an online presence in their marketing plan.
For small businesses, simply improving the content of their website through better write-ups and its overall look, as well as updating their details increase their legitimacy, which directly increases their chances of attracting customers from search engines. Leads that find a business’s website through search engines are already interested in the type of product or service offered by the business and are in the consideration stage (Kelly, Johnston & Danheiser 2017), so they likely need only some more encouragement to become customers. Small businesses can usher prospects toward the end of the buyer journey through updated information about their business and useful information about their products and services.
Take Advantage Of Online Ratings
Online ratings are directly related to the previous discussion on the importance of online presence in attracting new clients. Online ratings, whether posted on a business’s website, social media page, Google My Business, or some other review site (e.g., Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.), improve a business’s presence and legitimacy online and offline (Gulsoy 2015). As mentioned, since most consumers search for businesses online before making a purchase, having positive ratings from previous clients would not only guarantee that they are a legitimate business but that they are a trustworthy one.
Small businesses can take advantage of this tactic by encouraging both online and offline customers to leave a review. Posting signs around a shop prompting customers to post a review or tag the store on social media are also ways to gather ratings. Likewise, sending a follow-up e-mail after a purchase asking customers what they think of a recent purchase are effective ways to get ratings.
Offer Discounts and Promotions To New Customers
Some customers in the latter stages of the buyer journey may only need additional incentives to convince them to make their purchase with one business instead of another. Small businesses can offer discounts and premium promotions, such as free shipping or vouchers, to first-time customers. The better a discount or promotion is the higher the chances of a potential customer becoming an actual customer (Foubert et al. 2017). Although tactics like these cost a small business, they can easily regain these costs when they acquire new clients. This tactic could also extend to old customers who have returned to the business after their purchase (Foubert et al. 2017). Businesses could offer premium promotions to entice previous customers to buy again or try new products.
Participate In Community Events
Small businesses are often closely tied to the community around them. They can, thus, attract new customers by simply participating in community events . In this last step, small businesses can join in exhibits, host seminars, or sponsor community events like sports events. Community events are another opportunity to network, but also a way to showcase the business’s values and offerings to potential customers. Social responsibility has been found to be attractive to modern consumers because they prefer products and services that support a cause (Liu et al. 2020). These will increase the business’s visibility in the community, give locals a chance to inquire and try out products or services, and improve its reputation in the community.
Acquiring new customers is important for small businesses to continue expanding. Although major companies expend substantial resources to attract new customers, small businesses do not need to spend the same amount. They can use their limited resources to form a smart but cost-effective marketing plan to attract new customers. Furthermore, small businesses should direct their efforts to retain customers as well because this drives the acquisition of new customers. This is evident in a few of the tactics discussed earlier, specifically leveraging existing relationships or networking, online ratings, and participating in community events. It’s worth noting that these steps do not have to be strictly followed in a linear fashion. Businesses may find that they need to go back and forth between different steps to create a more comprehensive strategy. More importantly, small businesses should not neglect the quality of their products and services since good quality is a comparative advantage that is sure to differentiate a business from the crowd, and is sure to attract and retain clients with minimal effort.
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Foubert, B, Breugelmans, E, Gedenk, K, & Rolef, C 2017, ‘Something free or something off? A comparative study of the purchase effects of premiums and price cuts’, Journal of Retailing, vol. 94, no. 1, doi: 10.1016/j.jretai.2017.11.001
Gulsoy, TY 2015, ‘Does social media marketing improve business performance?’ doi: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8125-5.ch023
Liu F, Meng L, Zhao Y, & Duan S, 2020, ‘The influence of the corporate social responsibility disclosures on consumer brand attitudes under the impact of COVID-19’, Frontiers of Business Research in China, vol. 14.
Murphy, R 2020, ‘Local consumer review survey 2020’, Bright Local , viewed 9 September 2021, https://www.brightlocal.com/research/local-consumer-review-survey/
White, T 2017, ‘Why community involvement is good for your business and your town’, Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center, viewed 9 September 2021, https://asbtdc.org/why-community-involvement-is-good-for-your-business-and-your-town/