Building a costumer base online takes a lot of strategy. It’s not enough to have the right product, a cool-looking website, and a check-out cart on your front page. You need to figure out a way to reach the right people to let them know you’re selling something they need. Of course, having the right tools can help you determine what your customers want and satisfy that. But then, you also need to figure out a way to keep them coming back.
The great thing about building your brand online is the tools you need are often just a few clicks away. However, developing a clear strategy about how to use those tools to meet your specific goals is an equally important undertaking.
From the Mover’s Spotlight interviews, we collected strategies that have worked for the CEOs we spoke to. Here are four proven strategies for building a strong customer base.
Reach out to people who have a direct line to your customers.
Identify your target customer base and think outside the box about how you’re going to reach them.
Initially, you would want to reach the people who your product is meant for and grow your base from there. Take time to profile your target demographic – their age, their gender, their hobbies and interests. Some experts suggest prioritizing your marketing strategies. A focused messaging strategy reaches the people who are most likely to buy your product.
Online there is an abundance of tools to help you diversify and tailor your approach. You don’t have to throw your net blindly in order to catch the attention of your consumers.
One strategy is to find the people who have a direct line to your target consumers.
When David Czinn first put his product out on the market, he thought he had a pretty straightforward pitch. D’Vash Organic’s date syrup is a great alternative to honey and other traditional food sweeteners. Firstly, it’s vegan and contains 25% less sugar. Secondly, they use only the ugly produce of local date farms in California.
Yet Czinn admits that educating people about the product was one of the hardest things they had to do. Czinn and his co-founder Brian Finkel knew that they wanted to reach people who were into clean eating, and health and wellness. But not a lot of people knew what date syrup was.
So, what did they do?
They reached out to bartenders and chefs. Then, they contacted people who were most likely to to use sweeteners in their food, and who had 5,000 to 25,000 followers on Instagram.
“It gave us the opportunity to really communicate with people who are into a product like ours, who are genuinely happy to try it, and who have access to our markets,” explains Czinn.
Since then, D’Vash Organics has rolled out an entire Ambassador program. They’re working with people who not only have become real fans of their product, but who also create engaging and beautiful content with it. The company’s Instagram page has grown a 15,000-strong following.
“We’re proud of the fact that that growth is organic. We invested in partnerships and outreach, rather than traditional and costly advertising strategies, to generate awareness,” remarks Czinn.
Build networks that facilitate engagement
Building a strong customer base online does not come from just propping up a Facebook page. A successful and visible online presence is one that keeps its audience engaged. You have to keep the ball rolling, so to speak. Build a network of both partners and consumers through consistent engagement.
AKUA CEO Courtney Boyd Meyers built an online community of CPG founders that helped her grow her brand. The Facebook community, #OMGCPG, is a a successful space for sharing knowledge, discussing strategies, and connecting with the right people. The community stays engaged through relevant content and shared objectives.
Community engagement doesn’t only sustain interest. It can also propel your business to the next level.
According to CEO and Founder Frances Tang, Awkward Essentials got its dream start because of her network of Facebook communities. After designing the first batch of the dripstick, Tang built a website on Shopify and posted it on several groups on Facebook. When she woke up the next day, she discovered tons of messages and an unplanned debut on Huffington Post UK.
“I guess she was in one of the Facebook groups,” recalled Tang.
“When I woke up, I discovered that she had posted the articles. That same day, more and more articles came out. It was insane. We sold 8,000 sponges that first week. And we gained over 30 pieces of press coverage organically.”
If you have a good product, rally your community around it. Find ways to turn your strong customer base into an even stronger community through consistent and relevant engagement. The good relationships that will come out of it can pay off in the most valuable ways.
Meyers says that her Facebook community helped her seed money to bring the AKUA Kelp Burger to market.
“By participating in these community-driven initiatives, we are literally building an army of AKUA supporters who are all out there fighting in the world for us to succeed,” says Meyers.
Be a company that provides relevant and creative solutions to your community.
As businesses continue to locate their growth strategies online, ecommerce is only going to become even more crowded and competitive. Businesses have to think outside of the box when it comes to building a strong customer base.
Online, companies can explore a variety of ecommerce strategies in order to build stronger ties with their customer. It comes down to the type of audience they have and the platforms they use. But the underlying goal is to keep customers engaged by providing relevant and helpful content.
Chris Kirby, the CEO of hummus brand, Ithaca Hummus, started the Restaurant Revival Tour on Instagram. A former restaurant chef himself, Kirby invited fellow chefs affected by the pandemic to cook live and discuss how they were doing on the company’s Instagram.
“We drove engagement for that by telling our audience that for everyone who joined the live, we would donate to the restaurant employee fund,” said Kirby.
“There’s nothing wrong with simply writing a check and donating to someone. But if you can do it in a way that speaks to who you are, that tells your story a little bit and maximizes the impact, that’s best in class,”
A Shopify survey shows that 41.8% of consumers want brands to be socially responsible.
Good old community outreach is one strategy that never runs out of fashion.
And during the pandemic, there’s plenty of ways to commit your business to a valuable cause.
Kara Freedman, the CEO of Baked by Nature, a vegan oat-bite company based in New York, donated 1000 packs of her oat-bites to frontliners.
“I don’t have a medical background—I couldn’t be on the frontline, delivering packages or working in a grocery store. So, I felt like fueling the healthcare and frontline heroes with food was the best option,” Freedman said.
“I think New York really came together as a community during this really difficult and challenging time. And I knew that I wanted to contribute in a way that I could, and I felt that this was the best way.
Businesses can endear themselves to their customer base more strongly by providing them relevant and creative solutions. That can range from creating relevant and engaging online content to reaching out to the struggling parts of your community and collaborating to find solutions together. It helps to have a mindset that is rooted in engaging people, whether that’s online or off-screen.
Use appropriate tools to gather data to understand your customers better
Testing is key.
The great thing about doing business online is how easily you can measure the return of your advertising and marketing decisions. Most online channels provide you data analytics showing what works. Professional digital marketing specialists recommend using A/B Testing to measure different aspects of your online presence, including the way your website looks, your content look and substance, where you place certain information, the visual material you use, your email marketing strategy, your social ads, and so on.
Alli Owen, the CEO of keto-based pastry company Sweet Logic, took the opportunity to survey random people online to test their packaging design.
“We asked them a series of strategic questions about what they think of when they see the packaging in order for us to understand what is important not only to our consumers, but also to the wider, broader base of people,” explained Owen.
As the company expands into more grocery stores, Owen believes that the data they gather will help the company develop more effective messaging.
“Knowing what is important to them and how our products relate to our current consumers lays the foundation for our strategies,” added Owen.
There’s no real science to it, says Rana Lustyan. The CEO of Edoughble, says that it all comes down to the persistence of constantly testing everything and remembering not to get ahead of yourself. Building a strong customer base takes consistency.
“It takes a really long time and it costs a lot of money to really get there,” Lustyan revealed, “So, identify how you’re going to reach your customers and have that planned, and have it tested on a small scale to try to find what works and what doesn’t work before you really commit.”
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