All businesses need exposure, but even more than that, you need paying customers and you need the cost to acquire a customer to be less than the lifetime value of that customer, so you can profitably scale your business.
Exposure is a start, but really you are aiming for new customer acquisition, repeat purchases and referrals. Think about customer acquisition and loyalty in everything from your marketing to your product and operations.
Think about how you are going to deserve the sale, the repeat and the referral, every time.
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Here are three ways to gain exposure – and hopefully gain customers.
1. Make your product viral, or worthy of word-of-mouth marketing.
It’s much better to invest a dollar creating a customer experience so fine that an actual customer will authentically want to refer your business to others, than it is to spend a dollar on paid advertising. Is your unique product of such design and quality, the delivery so delightfully swift, the packaging so irresistible, the overall experience of your product so good, the instructions so funny that people can’t help but tell a friend?
Whether you get formal about it and actually measure your net promoter score (it’s not hard, Google it and then use SurveyMonkey), or you simply know that when surveyed, your customers said they found out about your company from a friend, you should be doing some sort of test to see if in fact your product or service has a viral factor to it.
If it doesn't, focus on continuous improvement of the customer experience until you create a word-of-mouth machine.
2. Be the chief sales officer.
If you are pre-launch, don’t focus on product too long before simply launching and refining based on real customer feedback. You can forever ask yourself, am I market ready? Shouldn’t I just finesse the product more? No. Go get real, paying customers.
I have met many early stage entrepreneurs that are essentially procrastinating sales by focusing on marketing or product past the point of productivity. It’s human nature to actually want to avoid going out and talking to people to avoid rejection. It’s easy for an engineer to simply say, "I’m an engineer, not a sales person, so I just want to make the app and keep adding features, then I’ll think about getting users." However, you are not just an engineer anymore. You are an entrepreneur, and thus, you are also the chief sales officer. As an entrepreneur you need to be confidently and consistently sharing your product or service with your intended target market as early as possible. Find them, talk to them, get feedback, iterate to improve, repeat. The best mentor you will ever have is your prospective customer.
3. Get savvy on social media.
This is probably obvious to most people but the key is to do it well and adopt a true growth hacker mindset, rather than celebrating every meaningless Facebook like. Identify and engage with the key influencers of your target customers. Keep in mind it’s not more complicated than this: the best way to spread the word to potential customers is to go spread the word to potential customers.