The success of a young business relies on your ability to attract and win clients. Some personalities may find it easy — even natural — to go out and find new business. But the reality for many is different.
If the prospect of bringing in new business makes you nervous, you’re not alone. All entrepreneurs face their fears at some point in the life cycle of starting a new business. And customer acquisition is a big one for many of us.
We’re here with good news, though. Client acquisition is a skill you can work on — and even master.
Follow these best practices to build your funnel, fill it with qualified leads, and convert profitable clients for your business.
What is a customer funnel?
A customer funnel, otherwise referred to as a marketing funnel or sales funnel, refers to the complete customer journey with your business. There are 5 stages:
The “top of the funnel” refers to the first and second stages of the customer journey, awareness, and consideration. It represents the largest number of people since not all who are aware of or will consider your company will convert into customers.
As you move through the customer journey, the “bottom of the funnel” refers to the post-purchase activities that help a business retain customers and earn referrals. Since not all customers will typically become vocal advocates, it’s a smaller group than those at the top.
Each stage of the customer funnel builds upon the last, with the ultimate goal of increasing revenue and profitability for your company. Follow these best practices to help your team build a healthy funnel and enhance your new customer acquisition strategy.
Top of the funnel: Tips to attract new clients
Your top-of-the-funnel strategy must focus on building awareness, familiarity, and trust in your brand, products, and services. How you approach these activities should rely on your ideal customer profile and market analysis findings. Opt for the channels, content types, and messaging your ideal clients prefer.
Consider how these recommendations can help your team build a robust funnel of new prospects.
Create an approachable online persona
Social media networks, such as LinkedIn, provide significant opportunities for new business development. Since the LinkedIn content feed is global, entrepreneurs can leverage this free resource to gain significant reach without spending any money.
If you can position yourself as a go-to expert willing to provide advice and be helpful, it’ll help cultivate the awareness you’re seeking for your business. The key is to create posts that offer a valuable, timely perspective on issues relevant to your customers. Patience is also key — you also have to post consistently if you expect to build an audience.
Provide value to clients with educational content
Going hand-in-hand with the above, your platform must offer value. Creating educational content will help potential customers form a relationship with your company before making a purchase — and ensure they’ll think of you when it’s time to buy.
Consider the pressing questions that your customer might have — does your business have a solution to those questions? Can you contribute ideas that will help make their lives easier, more enjoyable, or more successful?
You also have to tailor your content to your audience’s media preferences. For example: are you a consumer brand trying to engage the 35 and under crowd? Short-form videos are the fastest-growing media today.
Perhaps you’re developing B2B relationships that take longer to close. Longer-form media, such as webinars or eBooks, may be your best bet.
Social media, webinars, and blog articles are all valid options — but no matter which format(s) you choose, go all in and do them well.
Support events that matter to your client base
Digital marketing and sales efforts are critical, but in-person opportunities are still incredibly valuable.
Events help you build brand awareness and develop close connections with new customers. If you can afford it, sponsorship is an excellent way to show your support for your industry and network.
Be sure to show up for more than just the exhibit hall portion of events. Get involved in speaking opportunities if you can, attend sessions, ask questions, and be present at networking gatherings to get the most from the experience.
Bottom of the funnel: Tactics to win and retain customers
Once you’ve got the attention of new customers, let’s make the most of all your hard work. It’s time to close deals and build long-term relationships.
Better yet, this is an opportunity to transform your customers into passionate advocates who share your offering with their families, friends, and networks.
Understand your clients’ needs
This advice is most relevant to B2B businesses pursuing customers for long-term contracts. Build a “discovery” period into your sales process to investigate a prospect’s challenges and evaluate whether you’re the best fit to meet their long-term needs.
If you have great communication channels between sales and customer service, the findings from the discovery period can also help you improve customer onboarding. Take note of what’s important to your customers, how they prefer to communicate, and what their goals are. Show clients you’re paying attention across every interaction. They’ll see you prioritize their needs — a major building block of customer loyalty.
Making your pricing clear and accessible on your website is usually a good idea.
But you can also go the extra mile when taking care of your customers, especially those writing in to ask questions or learn more about you. Offering personalized deals shows customers you’ve been paying attention, value their business, and want to work with them again.
When you can’t close — have a plan for long-term nurture
According to Marketo, half of your leads at any given time aren’t ready to buy yet. That doesn’t mean they’ll never be ready.
Don’t abandon the hard work you put into customers that have reached the bottom of the funnel. A long-term nurture program helps you continue being useful to future customers that need more time before finalizing their purchase. Offer similar content from the top of the funnel — education, tips, and best practices — to keep your business front of mind when they’re ready to commit.
You can use automation to support your long-term nurture program. A canned email campaign that distributes thought leadership resources on a monthly basis, for example, is a great way to stay engaged.
Conclusion: Resources to grow your Eastern Kentucky startup
SOAR Innovation — powered by Kentucky Innovation — created the Complete Guide to Entrepreneurship just for you. Download it for more tips on growing and improving your business.
Contact us to take part in our community of entrepreneurs. Sign up today for the next CO.STARTERS accelerator cohort, led and taught by the SOAR Innovation team and other small business experts.