Marketing: The Best Way to Find Customers

By Alexander Hiam

An important aspect of your customer focus is deciding whether you want to emphasize attracting new customers or retaining and growing existing customers. One or the other may need to dominate your marketing program, or perhaps you need to balance the two.

Marketing to new prospects is usually a different sort of challenge from working with existing customers, so knowing which goal is most important helps you improve the focus of your marketing.

A periodical survey of managers of successful businesses asks them about their marketing practices. The first and most revealing question is, “What’s your best way to attract customers?” Here are some of the most common answers — things that marketers often say are most effective at bringing them customers:

  • Referrals: Your customers may be willing to help you sell your product.

  • Social media: Your presence as a provider of helpful or interesting content can’t be underestimated in its potential impact on brand development and as a source of customer leads, so try to get ever more comfortable with blogging, Twitter, Facebook, and similar options.

  • Trade shows and professional association meetings: Making contacts and being visible in the right professional venue may be a powerful way to build your business.

  • Sales calls: Salespeople sell products, so make more calls yourself, or find a way to put commissioned salespeople or sales representatives to work for you.

  • Advertising: Advertising sells the product, but only if you do it consistently and frequently, whether in print, on radio and TV, outdoors, or on the web.

  • Product demonstrations, trial coupons, or distribution of free samples: If your product is impressive, let it sell itself.

  • Placement and appearance of buildings/stores: Location is still one of the simplest and best formulas for marketing success.

As the preceding list indicates, every business has a different optimal formula for attracting customers. However, in every case, successful businesses report that one or two methods work best. Their programs are therefore dominated by one or two effective ways of attracting customers.

They put between one-third and two-thirds of their marketing resources into their primary way of attracting customers and then use other marketing methods to support their most effective method.

To find your business’s most effective way of reaching out to customers, you need to ask yourself this important question: What’s my best way to attract customers, and how can I focus my marketing program to take fuller advantage of it?

You can’t look the answer up in a book, but you can take heart from the fact that, with persistence, you’ll eventually work out what your winning formula is, and then you may have to make only minor changes from year to year to keep your program working well.

When you answer this question, you’re taking yet another important step toward a highly focused marketing program that leverages your resources as much as possible. Your marketing program can probably be divided into four tiers of activities:

  • Major impact

  • Helpful; secondary impact

  • Minor impact

  • Money loser; very low impact

If you reorganize last year’s budget into these categories, you may find that your spending isn’t concentrated near the top of your list. If that’s the case, then you can try to move up your focus and spending. Cut the bottom tier, where your marketing effort and spending isn’t paying off. Reduce the next level of spending and shift your spending to one or two activities with the biggest impact.

This is the marketing pyramid, and you can challenge yourself to try to move your spending up the pyramid so their marketing resources are concentrated near the top (which reflects the most effective activities). Ideally, the pyramid gets turned upside down, with most of the spending on the top floor rather than the bottom.

What does your marketing pyramid look like? Can you move up it by shifting resources and investments to higher-impact marketing activities? Ideally, your marketing pyramid should have clear distinctions between the primary, secondary, and tertiary activities so you know where to concentrate your resources for best effect.

If you haven’t done much marketing yet, go forth and ask nosey questions. Find marketers who sell something at least remotely similar to what you plan to sell, and ask them what activities bring them customers.

First, draw out a list of at least six different things they do to find or close customers. Then ask them which are the most and least effective. Combine all this data into a speculative marketing pyramid, and begin to get quotes on and experiment with the methods yourself.

Hopefully, the benchmark information you gathered will get you closer to an effective program the first time around, but plan on testing and refining your methods. Each marketer’s winning formula is unique. There is no one sure-fire marketing plan that everybody can use.