Was customer acquisition on your list of resolutions for 2021? Perhaps you've fallen behind and have no idea where to begin. Conversely, you may be having difficulty differentiating between customer acquisition strategy (the long game of attracting customers) and customer acquisition tactics, the shorter-term efforts, like one-time promotions, that build on the infrastructure your strategy has put into place. Haven't got that infrastructure? You've come to the right place. For Cain & Company, that kind of strategic thinking for manufacturer marketing is our stock in trade.
We've written before about the importance of understanding the customer journey to shore up your various touchpoints. We suggest reading it and taking its lessons to heart, but to summarize: one of the most important things you can do in the development of any customer acquisition strategy is to begin with a thorough understanding of your customers. Everything else below will be viewed through, targeted to, and revisited in light of, that understanding. Market research that builds a valid customer avatar is the backbone of all that follows. Luckily, much like marketing automation, there are several machine learning and AI tools that make this task both easier and more accurate than ever before.
There are multiple channels, and not every prospect will be present on every channel (social media marketing alone is atomized to a nigh-ridiculous degree). For some companies, whose products are highly specialized and whose market is much narrower, this may not make as much of a difference. But for other companies, it's a real and urgent challenge.
Take Caterpillar as an example. Product offerings for Caterpillar range from power generation equipment to marine engines to construction, demolition, earthmoving, and mining equipment. If your business, like theirs, covers multiple markets and verticals, it's vital to tailor your marketing approach, your print and digital outreach, and the channels on which that message will be sent. A message that tries to be all things to all customers is likely to disappear into the void.
First, the good news: there are more channels than ever before to boost brand awareness and customer engagement. But now, the bad news: there are more channels than ever before to boost brand awareness and customer engagement. One reason among many to identify and understand your ideal customer is to understand their motivations, needs, and desires. But another, which is equally important, is to understand where they are so you can bring a laser-like focus to your marketing and ensure that your message goes out over the right channels to reach the right decision-makers.
"But I already have a website!" Good. But is it doing all it could for your business? A good website design for manufacturing isn't just attractive graphics and a handful of spec sheets. It's a vehicle for getting your message out to your customers, which requires a site that's easy to navigate, SEO-friendly, and compliant with the latest performance and accessibility standards. No matter how well you've done with the other items on this list, if your website isn't up to snuff, you're sunk.
Contrary to the doomsayers, email marketing isn't dead. An email list that's been carefully built, maintained, and leveraged for carefully targeted campaigns, is still extremely effective. Both ends of your email funnel should be tailored for acquiring and qualifying leads that convert.
Up to this point, we've talked about channels that are completely under your control. A Facebook algorithm change, an ill-timed Twitter blackout, or a segment of your audience leaving Machinery Trader for some other platform can be serious blows to your business if that's all you've got. So, it's important to have a presence that's under your control and nobody else's.
That said, it's also important that your customers can find that presence, and since your competitors are taking many of the same steps you're taking, search engine optimization (SEO) ensures you stand out from the pack, especially since your prospects and customers are likely to be looking for answers to questions ("Where can I get a worn mold re-tooled?") rather than searching for you by name.
Not every social media channel will be equally effective for every market segment. But in much the same way that having your website makes you easier to find and a bit more credible, maintaining presences on the right social media sites (and, just as importantly, tailoring your content marketing in ways that are appropriate to each platform) still matters.
Earlier, we mentioned both your customers' tendency to search through questions and the importance of building your brand's authority as the place to look for answers. Your possibilities here are practically endless, from PDFs that combine specifications with use cases and case studies, eBooks that build awareness and credibility, and much more. It's useful to remember that images convert faster than stills, and video holds attention better than an unbroken wall of text. An effective infographic or a video that says more faster than an eBook can should not be overlooked.
Recent years have seen user-generated content (UGC) gain more traction as a marketing tool. It's exactly what it sounds like: giving your customers a voice in your marketing, whether through brand storytelling that reinforces the benefits they've found in your products, reviews and testimonials that remind prospective customers of your unique selling proposition, or even using their own words as a jumping-off point for white papers, testimonials, and other forms of marketing collateral.
It's one thing to blow your own horn; a prospect's reaction to that is, "Well, of course they'd say that!" But when you're giving your customers time in the spotlight to play a few bars, you're validating your value in someone else's words, and that kind of social proof has a high value in converting leads.
Thus far, we've mostly examined the "how" more than the "why" of customer acquisition. The motivation behind a good customer acquisition strategy is twofold. Half the equation is obvious: you need customers. The less-obvious part? Customer acquisition costs are high, and getting higher with every passing year, especially for B2B marketing. But experience has taught us that the early work put into developing a solid strategy, in addition to the ongoing work of understanding customers' needs and behavior to optimize that strategy, pays off. Not coincidentally, it also spreads that cost out over time versus the alternative of throwing everything at the wall in a panic, hoping—often in vain—that something sticks. We'll help you at every step in the process, customizing a strategy that's as unique as your business and the clients it serves.
So, what have we learned? Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. No matter how much changes, it's often the same fundamentals in new clothes. And there's a good reason for that: buyer psychology and customer needs remain consistent no matter how much else seems in flux. And no matter what approach you choose to customer acquisition, Cain & Company is here to help you find your way.