A comprehensive small business marketing plan is one of the most valuable tools for Oregon entrepreneurs. Why is marketing so critical to your business’ success? Without potential customers having an awareness of your offerings, even the best product or best service will languish.
The key to expanding any small business is to grow your customer base. Your customer base is the group of customers who repeatedly buy from your business. They are customers whose purchase history proves that your company provides a product or service that appeals to them. Over time, they become loyal customers.
But building a customer base takes time, as it means not just attracting new customers but also maintaining their loyalty for the long term. Below are seven strategies that can help you increase your customer base, whether you’re an entrepreneur launching a startup or already have an established small business.
1. Provide Excellent Customer Service.
Providing a great customer experience goes beyond the quality of your products and services. It’s getting customers to engage with your brand, offering outstanding customer support, and promoting a positive shopping experience that encourages customers to return and buy more.
If you have a brick-and-mortar store, ensure that your staff is trained on making shoppers feel taken care of.
If you sell online, make it easy for customers to contact your company. Some people prefer to reach out via phone. Others prefer instant messaging or email. So to ensure customer satisfaction, be sure you offer multiple communication channels.
2. Offer Something for Free to Grow Your Customer Base.
Freebies are an effective way to attract potential customers and can be used as a way to build your email marketing list with new contacts. If you sell products, this could be providing a free sample in exchange for a testimonial or product review. If you sell a service, you could offer a free trial or consultation.
Complimentary offers help build brand awareness. Even if those people don’t buy from you right away, you have their contact information, so they can be targeted in your marketing efforts to drive future purchases.
3. Create a Customer Loyalty Program.
Having a customer loyalty program is a wonderful way to build customer retention. You can reward loyal customers for repeat purchases by offering a free or discounted product, service, or upgrade. This strategy effectively expands your customer base and incentivizes them to stay loyal to your business.
4. Grow Your Customer Base with Referrals and Reviews.
Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the best ways a small business can grow its customer base. You can encourage loyal customers to promote your business to others through referrals and ask them to leave online reviews. Then reward them for their endorsements with a percentage off their next purchase or a gift certificate.
5. Collect Customer Feedback.
Knowing what your existing customers like and don’t like about your business goes a long way in attracting new leads. Look at their positive feedback to identify current strengths and their negative feedback to learn what needs improvement.
You can gather customer feedback through surveys emailed after engaging with your business, either through a purchase or contact with your customer support team. Make the feedback forms quick and easy to fill out, like a 1-to-10 rating scale for responses with a prompt for customers to provide their own comments. This will give you quantitative data to analyze, along with qualitative feedback on customer satisfaction.
6. Expand Your Digital Footprint with Online Marketing.
Expanding your digital footprint means ensuring that your business has a presence across many online platforms and is searchable to potential leads. This includes:
- Business website: Your business website should inform customers of your products or services, hours of operation, and contact information.
- Google Business profile: If your business is local, create a Google Business profile, which is free and allows your business to show up on Google Maps. You can also customize it with photos, offers, posts, and more.
- Content marketing: Create blog articles and videos based on what your potential customers search for on Google, and incorporate relevant SEO keywords into your content. Then post your blogs and videos on your business’s website and social media. Sharing valuable information that is informative to your target market can build brand awareness, establish you as a trusted expert in your field, and help drive new business.
- Social media: Learn which social media networks your target customers use—whether Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok, or something else. Then make sure your business has a presence there. This way, you can interact with potential customers and promote your business with engaging and informative posts, comments, shares, and more. You can also consider running pay-per-click ads on these platforms to reach a broader audience of prospective leads.
For more tips on how to grow your customer base through various marketing efforts, check out our blog post on 5 Small Business Marketing Ideas & Strategies.
7. Expand Your Business into New Markets.
Expanding your small business into new markets not only grows your customer base and increases your sales channels, but it can also diversify your revenue and offset slower sales periods.
Another opportunity may be to expand your small business into international markets. If you decide to go global, it is a more complex process. The Oregon SBDC’s Global Trade Center helps small businesses assess their readiness, create an export plan, learn the benefits and trade-offs of reaching global customers, and understand how to get paid.
For more information on global expansion, read our blog post Tips on How to Expand Your Small Business Internationally , or connect with our Global Trade Center by clicking here.
Ready to Grow Your Customer Base?
Oregon SBDC Network Global Trade Center: Strengthening International Connections and Facilitating Trade Partnerships During World Trade Month
Original version first published by the Oregon SBDC Network here.
The Oregon Small Business Development Center Network is proud to honor Women’s History Month by inviting you to meet some of our inspiring and innovative Center directors serving Oregon’s small businesses. Today, let's meet PCC Small Business Development Center and Global Trade Center Director, Tammy Marquez-Oldham.
Tammy Marquez-Oldham, Director of the Portland Community College SBDC and OSBDCN Global Trade Center
With a background in the education, healthcare, software, and food industries, Tammy Marquez-Oldham pairs her extensive business acumen with a vision of providing the highest level of business education and advising possible for the Network’s clients as the director of the SBDC at Portland Community College. Through the years, Tammy has spearheaded several initiatives for the Oregon SBDC alongside various collaborators and partners including:
Pictured from left to right: Martin Golden, District Director, SBA; Tammy Marquez-Oldham, Director PCC SBDC and OSBDCN Global Trade Center; Mark Madrid, Associate Administrator for the Office of Entrepreneurial Development (OED); Michael Fong, Regional Administrator, SBA
CAPITAL ACCESS TEAM
Tammy co-founded the Oregon SBDC Network’s Capital Access Team (CAT) with Noah Brockman, who now leads the CAT as a regional and statewide service. The CAT helps small businesses identify the right source and use of capital through planning and loan package development. The CAT’s experienced advisers understand and leverage multiple forms and sources of capital, sometimes beyond traditional lending, in order to support the many small businesses they serve. The CAT celebrated its 10th year in 2022, and has helped more than 2,500 small businesses in Oregon successfully access more than $255 million in capital since its founding.
GLOBAL TRADE CENTER
The Oregon SBDC Network’s Global Trade Center is the only one of its kind in the state of Oregon and was co-founded by Tammy and Global Trade Center liaison and senior adviser David Kohl. An initiative that took 11 years to develop, the Center celebrated its fifth year in 2022. This NASBITE-accredited Center offers trade assistance and advising for new-to-export-level small businesses through two training programs: the Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP) and Buying and Selling Outside the U.S. for small businesses.
GETTING YOUR RECIPE TO MARKET
The Getting Your Recipe to Market program was founded in the fall of 2006 to help small-business food entrepreneurs learn how to take their food recipe or product from idea to commercial-ready prototype. Tammy co-founded this program with the then–executive director of the Food Innovation Center, Jill Beaman; OSU staff; and members of the Portland Community College SBDC team. In partnership with the Food Innovation Center and New Seasons Market, the program has supported the development of more than 450 food entrepreneurs over 15 years. Beaman leads the program today.
Tammy (center) pictured with Getting Your Recipe to Market alum Lisa Tran, SBA Associate Administrator Mark L. Madrid, SBA Pacific Northwest Regional Administrator Michael Fong, SBA District Director Martin Golden, Beaverton Area Chamber Of Commerce's Impact Director Robert L. Routhieaux, and Senior Outreach Coordinator Oscar Gustavo.
RESTAURANT BUSINESS BUILDERS
The Restaurant Business Builders program was designed to support the needs of restaurateurs in the early stage of development by providing participants with instruction from top chefs in Portland. The program was developed in tandem with Leslie Hildula and is currently led by Dr. Sean Harry with support from lead adviser and organizer Terry Long.
BUSINESS DESIGN SERIES & BUSINESS BUILDERS
The Business Design Series tailors a curriculum for businesses within their first year of operation, led by Jackie Babicky-Peterson. For businesses in their first through third years of operation, Business Builders provides specialized training and advising from Kim Allchurch-Flick. Together, they ensure that small businesses have the essential training, resources, and knowledge required for growing a healthy business.
ADVANCED SMALL BUSINESS MANAGEMENT PROGRAM
For business owners who are growing and expanding their businesses, the Advanced Small Business Management Program provides them with experienced subject matter expert trainers and advisers. This program, led by Dr. Sean Harry, has been sponsored by the Portland Business Alliance, funded by Bank of America for the past 10 years.
COLUMBIA COUNTY SBDC
One of the latest developments for the Oregon SBDC Network is the addition of its newest Center in Columbia County, which is the network’s 20th regional SBDC offering core business advising services and the 21st location in the state of Oregon.
The Columbia Economic Team, a private/public economic development organization serving Columbia County, initially launched the initiative to form the Business Resource Center and SBDC after filling grant-making and other small-business assistance gaps during the pandemic and economic downturn.
When Tammy was approached by Columbia Economic Team (CET) Executive Director Paul Vogel to support the initiative, she helped to provide the framework of the language and culture to the concept and resulting plan. With her guidance and the help of many state and local partners and investors, the Center was able to engage full local support in just nine months.
In addition to her leadership at the Portland Community College SBDC, the Centers and programs for which Tammy has helped to design and secure funding have impacted thousands of small-business clients throughout her 15 years of service at the Oregon SBDC Network.
Tammy attributes the success of the Center and its programs to the extraordinary team of program specialist Yevette Johnson, client service coordinator Sharon Quillen, business advisers, training facilitators, community partners, Portland Community College, and the Oregon SBDC Network.
“Together with Team is how we serve small businesses.” Tammy says. “Together we are stronger!”
Looking for business assistance?
The PCC Small Business Development Center is here to support you with no-cost business advising and comprehensive business training programs. Get started by requesting your first no-cost business advising session here.
Catalyst Trade believes that "coffee is a sacrament," inviting us to grab a cup and join them as they revolutionize the way coffee is traded. Co-owner Emily McIntyre was looking for help growing her international business when she found the Oregon SBDC Network Global Trade Center and participated in the Global Trade Management program in the spring of 2020. Faced with the challenges of building a business across multiple continents and cultures, compounded by a global pandemic, Emily was inspired by the class sessions on cultural competency taught by David Kohl. After years of preparation, Catalyst Trade is excited to finally launch their vertical integration in Ethiopia, along with introducing Kenya and Peru as new coffee origins. As Catalyst Trade continues to lean on the PCC SBDC to help them grow, Emily and her team work hard to transform the future of coffee.
Learn more about Emily's story below!
This month we interviewed Jeff Stell with Business Oregon who, after 26 years working at the Oregon Department of Human Services, decided to try something new. He enrolled at Portland State University in the Master of Public Administration program and simultaneously took a new position at Business Oregon as the Business Projects Incentives Coordinator where his job was to implement incentive programs that would strengthen the development of businesses, communities, and economies in Oregon. With that shift Jeff says he “encountered three career changing opportunities" that helped him discover that a great amount of import/export activity happening across the state, and exporting wasn’t getting the attention it needed at the state and local levels.
by Warren Banks
U.S. ports are slammed.
Why? Because of COVID-19, and stimulus payments, which have led to (among other things) a big spike in online orders. 8% of consumer disposable income used to go for air travel, hotels, movie theaters, plus other theater and entertainment in general. Much of this money is now going to buy goods from overseas and causing a shortage of supply, in addition to congestion.