It’s the view of our social media agency that social media has had a massive impact on the ways that small businesses attract new customers and market to their existing customer base. Let's have a look at a number of the ways social media has affected businesses – and how you can exploit these trends.
Before the arrival of social media, your small business may have attracted customers in a variety of ways such as:
- Attracting customers via localised advertisements, perhaps utilising area specific magazine space, business cards, or an invasive leafleting method.
- Skimping and relying on old-fashioned word of mouth. This not only required established customers, but also that their experience with your business was positive enough for them to recommend your services to others.
- Reliance on cold calling and an aggressive sales team to persistently "knock on doors"
Why Might A Local business Owner Now Look To Find Customers Using Social Media?
These dated approaches to winning customers have distinct drawbacks. With localised advertising the business is hostage to whether they've placed advertisements in the right places, whether that method of advertising is persuasive enough, and whether the target market is likely to respond to it– as well as have access to the places in which the adverts are running. The up-front cost of such advertising may or may not be modest – and if the business is still establishing their brand, it may not have the desired immediate effect.
Old-fashioned word of mouth, on the other-hand, is a more personal way of attracting your target audience, but is far from ideal for a young business looking to generate a large number of customers in a short amount of time. If you don't yet have a big pool of existing customers, you're ill placed to generate mass word of mouth unless using the multiplier effect of social media.
So how can a modern day small business owner attract their target audience using social media? How has the balance therefore changed?
Social Media Explored
Using sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+, a business is now able to:
- Research markets and find the ideal target market via social media so that you're aware of exactly who you're reaching out to, and where to find them.
- Directly approach potential customers via social media channels – bringing an element of direct and more personal marketing to the traditional advertising model.
- Influence customers through the sharing of updates on your services and/or products and business insights via social media.
- Share articles and images that are likely to attract your target audience to your social media pages. If you're a bakery, for example, sharing pictures of baked goods or updates on baking competitions will lead to more clicks. Ensure you have an active online presence, and maintain the momentum!
Social Media Has Created A Hybrid Approach
Social media has fundamentally transformed the methods in which we are able to find potential customers and its global and boundary-free nature ensures we have the ability to reach our target audience regardless of location. It has effectively created a hybrid approach to marketing that sits part way between mass market advertising and personalised individual outreach. In essence this approach allows better results to be achieved and for word-of-mouth referrals to be accelerated, whilst facilitating the A/B testing of your product messaging and calls to action.
Business owners not using social media to market themselves and build a pipeline of prospects are likely to put their companies at a competitive disadvantage; restricting their pool of customers to those who are already inclined to seek their business out, instead of the far broader pool of viable prospects who are out there waiting to be engaged.
Have you researched your sector recently to see how other local businesses have adapted their advertising strategies? Could be an exercise well worth undertaking …