We are Elisa and Jill, instructors of the Getting Your Recipe to Market (GYRM) training program at the PCC SBDC. Today, we're sharing tips and tricks for getting your recipe onto the grocery shelves. Let's start with packaging. What are some things you can do to secure your space on the shelves and ultimately get into customers’ baskets?
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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?
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Since 1972, Derek’s Shoe Repair has been helping Portlanders keep their favorite shoes for longer. After purchasing the business in January 2022, Jessica Jones came to the PCC SBDC seeking assistance in transitioning into her role as business owner. After working through the Business Builders and Advanced Small Business Management training programs, Jessica has grown her business mindset and skillset, and remodeled the business to propel Derek's into its next phase of growth! This is her story.