Where are your customers?

Filed in MY BEST POSTS, PPC Advertising, Social Media by Matt McGee on June 26, 2006 1 Comment

I’m on vacation at the moment, and yesterday we paid a visit to the March Airfield Museum, a great place to see old military aircraft and learn about history.

As we were walking out, I noticed 3-4 display racks with tourist-related information — hotel coupons and things like that. And I thought, “That’s pretty smart. These businesses are putting themselves where their potential customers are — in a facility geared to attract out-of-towners who could be in an immediate position to become customers.” Sure, it’s a pretty obvious thing to do (like all those tourist activity brochures you find in hotel lobbies), and maybe your small business is already doing things like this.

But are you doing it online? How much time and effort have you devoted to finding where potential customers are “hanging out” online, and reaching out to them? I suspect many small businesses aren’t doing this, perhaps due to lack of time and lack of knowledge on where to go to find potential customers. Here are a couple quick and dirty ways to do it.

1) Most obviously: PPC advertising. You know what terms customers might use when searching on Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc. So open up an advertising account already, and sponsor those terms — get yourself in front of searchers’ eyes.

2) Potential customers aren’t only using search engines; they’re quite likely also reading blogs or forums related to the products/services you offer. Use Google Blog Search, Ask.com Blog Search, or Bloglines — any sites like this — to find blogs where your customers might be writing and/or reading.

(Quick tip: if you have a small business that sells to a sports-minded audience, try Sportsblogs.org.)

3) Use Yahoo Groups and Google Groups to find mailing list and message board-style communities where your customers might be.

4) Look for other community-style sites, such as Flickr or MySpace, for potential customers.

Nos. 2, 3, and 4 above are what I’d call Participation Marketing — finding a community of potential customers and participating in that community. When you do this, be careful not to go overboard with the hard-sell tactics. The soft-sell ideas I mentioned in the How to Market on Flickr article apply in any community setting.

There are a lot of opportunities on the web to reach out and find customers rather than waiting for them to find you. Be creative and be proactive.

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