2008 was a year of near economic collapse in the United States. Americans in some sectors are still reeling from the great slump in the housing market, the widespread loss of jobs, and the ongoing outsourcing of work overseas, among other catastrophes. When it comes to our economy, unrest and uncertainty seem to be its calling cards. In such a climate, it’s easy for us entrepreneurs to focus on the negatives, mostly that consumers don’t have any money to spend on our goods and services.
But what about focusing on the positives?
- Kiplinger reported at the end of last year that “Consumers are finally loosening the purse strings.”
- Time magazine announced in January that 2012 is “The year of the entrepreneur.”
In fact, entrepreneurialism is at an all-time high. And that means that businesses, especially targeted, niche businesses, are continuing to push ahead, finding a steady stream of customers for their products and services. If you’ve been convinced by all the talk about the bad economy, you may be missing what’s right in front of you: money, ready to be picked up off the table, and leads and prospects who want to work with you. Eventually, if you do things right, they will give you their money.
If you shift your focus a little bit, you can close the gap between your prospects, patrons, and profits.
Your Prospects: Are They Visible?
Let’s face it, when it comes to doing business online, it’s all about traffic. If you watch your analytics, you want to see people coming to your site, spending time, and taking action. You want to hear that bell on your shop door, jingling away. In fact, all of your efforts in social media, blogging, search engine optimization, advertising, link building, and article writing have the same two goals:
- To get more qualified website traffic.
- To get site visitors to take action.
This is stuff that you need to see happening on your website. If visitors are not ready to buy immediately, you need them to take action by opting-in to a list, usually for a free giveaway, giving you permission to contact them with future marketing messages.
If you are not actively collecting your prospects’ information for future marketing – in other words, if your prospects remain a vague idea and not a visible reality — you are squandering an opportunity to convert someone who wants to work with you into a customer.
Your Prospects: Have You Truly Captured Them?
Once you can see the fruits of your labor converted to healthy website traffic flow and action, you have another responsibility. A prospect who has opted-in to your list is basically saying to you, “I am interested in what you are offering, and may spend my money with you.”
This is your time to shine, and you can do it with confidence:
- You know they want to hear from you.
- You know they want to know more.
- You know they see your work as valuable.
So don’t forget the fact that those opt-ins are qualified leads! By keeping in touch with them regularly through marketing that combines relevant, personal, and valuable information with a killer call-to-action, you are holding their attention, and you are preparing them to take further action in the future. Only by holding onto them will your rates of conversion from lead to customer truly skyrocket.
Your Patrons: Are They Your Priority?
Yes, you always need to be scouting for and engaging future customers. But as you do, you can’t forget those who matter most — your current customers, or your patrons. Your patrons have already committed to you, invested in you, and begun a relationship with you. Now it is up to you to nurture and cultivate that relationship further. Your time and money were spent to convert that prospect into a patron.
The worst fate would be that they purchase from you once and have a great experience, but never buy again because they forgot about you!
Here are some ways you can use your marketing to make your present patrons a priority:
- Show your appreciation! Send handwritten messages on branded note cards, small gifts around a holiday, branded bookmarks, or special customer-only discounts on services or products. Show them how special they are to you.
- Give them props in your social media chatter, remembering that it helps your business, too, to give a shout out and link to their websites on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
- Promote their businesses on your blog and website with articles, case-studies, and testimonials–and include links to their websites as you do.
- Solicit customer feedback with a form on your website. Once you collect feedback, take action on it. By taking visible action on suggestions, you prove to your customers that they matter to you.
Your Profits: Closing the Gap
You can bridge the gaps, from prospects to patrons, and from patrons to ongoing profits, by ensuring your prospects are visible and, once visible, engaged; and by fulfilling your promise to your patrons, and keeping them among your top priorities.
Do all of this, and your profits will bridge the gap, and come to you.