One of the constant struggles in business is trying to engage new customers, and catch them when they need you. Businesses are constantly trying to come up with clever ideas to remain in the potential customer’s mind at all moments so that when you suddenly think “I need a quote for car insurance” that brand is right at the front of your mind.
So, I’ve had a thought. Why can’t we turn this around and have customers advertise to us?
Small businesses don’t have the budget of large supermarkets or insurance companies – so they have to employ guerilla tactics to gain a new customer’s attention.
A classic way to do this is by joining a business network. By doing this, you’re exposing yourself to other businesses and potentially the customers and clients that they have. As a member of the Thanet Business Network, I’ve found that a referral scheme is great because if you have a good relationship with a customer, then you could potentially become their “go to” guy for many things.
There’s Always A But
The only problem is that we’re still trying to catch them at the right moment. We can’t depend on future customers to visit business network websites or call the computer guy because they are urgently looking for a plumber.
Our expectation (which is, in fact, a hope) is that our potential customer will make the effort to find out about the business cooperative and then work out who they need to email or call. And THEN make the phone call.
I’m sure that you can see the problem here. We want people who don’t know us from Adam to do the leg work and FIND us. Unless I know of a business by word of mouth, I’m going to be loathe to look much beyond the local paper or yellow pages.
Build It, and They Will Come
When Kevin Costner built his baseball stadium, he was appealing to a niche market of ghost baseball stars. We want our customers to come to us with anything that they need.
We work on the assumption that we want our customers to contact our business. If this is what you think, then you’re wrong.
This is the clever bit: We shouldn’t be asking potential customers to come to us, we should be lavishing our attention on them. When they need us. In this day of social communication, all of the tools are here right now.
The trick is that we need our customers to let us know exactly what they need. By saying this, I don’t mean “I need a plumber.” I’m talking even more basic than this. You want your potential customer to tell you “I have no hot water in my house.”
The job of the business network or cooperative is then to distribute that need to everyone within the network. Technology can do this for you, either through the network website, Facebook, Twitter or email.
The businesses within the network can then decide if they need to call the potential customer and offer their services.
All the customer did is express a need, and now they have someone responding in the most appropriate manner to their want. They didn’t have to do any leg work. It’s easy, and they are happy.
Let’s See it in Action
So, in a real world scenario:
- A woman turns on her computer and finds that it wont start.
- She remembers that there is a local service on Twitter to fix all her problems
- She tweets @allbusinesshelp My computer wont start
- Minutes later she has a reply from a local computer company that has an email address and local phone number.
- She calls the number and the computer is fixed fast.
In this example, she has to call back because Twitter is inherently a public service, in Facebook or email the business could ask for her number and offer to call her directly.
The woman in question has not had to worry about tracking someone down, making a call and hoping to be called back or even look through a list of businesses. She simply expressed something she needed.
There’s Still Work to be Done
So you saw the catch in Step 2 above, eh? Of course, you need to get this service out there and let your community of potential customers know about it. There is still the leg work, BUT your providing ONE solution to MANY problems.
It may sound like a tendering service, but this is more direct and it will be free to the customer. Your network is now offering an answer to every specific need.
When a car goes bang, a window breaks, or you need a babysitter fast – surely this one stop shop would be life-changing? I just wish there was a service like this to get me a new TV!