Categories
Brand Management Business Concept Market & Economy News Marketing Communications

How to Build a Customer Base for Your Startup?

What is a customer base, and why is it important?

By Wikipedia’s definition, a customer base is the group of customers who repeatedly purchase the goods or services of a business. These customers are the main source of revenue for a company. The customer base may be considered the business’s target market, where customer behaviors are well understood through market research or past experience.

How to identify your customer base if you don’t know anything about your market?

Disclaimer: you should not start a business without knowing your ideal customer base. Successful startups and new companies typically enter the market with several years of experience and deep knowledge about the market, industry, or sector they will operate in.

Building a customer base should be a key element of your business strategy, and a precise action plan should be defined well before starting any business activity.

How to get started with defining your customer base? 

If you can’t afford proper market research, think about key characteristics of people likely to pay for your goods or services. Inc. magazine advises you should narrow your focus as tightly as possible to determine exactly who to target for marketing your business.

A more industry-standard way to determine your ideal customer base is to survey various segments and see which groups of people react the best to your business concept or brand in general. 

This can be done with our Business Concept Audit.

How to engage your customers?

The best way to engage people in your target customer segments is to start conversations with them. As a small business, you can do this on Reddit or Quora, on your company’s Facebook page, or even on YouTube. 

Share relevant content that brings value to them and demonstrates your expertise and brand values at the same time. Encourage people to ask questions, start a conversation and be as human as possible. People react very well to that.

Key things to remember to be engaging:

  • Don’t sound like a corporation
  • Ask often, make your content inclusive
  • Make it rewarding and exciting for people to engage
  • Don’t try to sell – forget your any promotional language

Develop your industry expert status and brand identity

It mostly depends on what is your industry, line of business, and audience. In general, you cannot go wrong with establishing an expert status for yourself or your brand – so people in your niche will develop trust.

Once you find a tone for your brand, keep communicating to people without selling them anything. You can make your products and services easily available for them, and make it look like the best option out there -> that combined with your established trust will make them choose you over other alternatives.

What are the key benefits of being an industry-expert?

  • Increased credibility
  • Customers will want to hear from you
  • Your content will be shared
  • It will feel like a privilige to work with you

Five proven techniques and tactics to grow your customer base

Depending on your business model and industry, there are various proven ways to grow the customer base of your company. 

1, Do an amazing job, be the best in what you do

This should go without saying. The best way to increase repeat business and retain customers, as well as to get referrals is doing an amazing job for your clients.

2, Referral and affiliate programs

Asking your happy customers to refer your company is a super cost-efficient, yet effective way to acquire new clients. With social proof and trust already developed when being referred, closing referral sales is significantly easier than warming up people who are entirely new to your brand.

3, Go strong on brand building campaigns

Ask any executives in large companies – their brand is among their biggest assets. Investing in your brand is not a short-term process. In order to grow your brand awareness, shape your brand perceptions and get into the mind of your customers, you will need extensive advertising campaigns running continuously.

4, Offer free services on your website

Offering simple yet useful services is a proven way to get new customers involved with your brand. Most startups do it by offering online tools with limited functionality – something that does not cost them nearly anything to deliver, yet brings value to potential customers.

This is a great way to offer a freed sample of your work and introduce new people to your brand experience. Not every one of them will become a buyer, but chances are high that they will refer you if your free stuff was impressive.

5, Do regular market research to connect with potential customers

When collecting feedback from potential customers, your brand is getting exposed to people who are very much in the market for your products and services. 

Not only this but asking a question about their opinions and preferences tells them that your company does care about their customers – and this typically makes a very good first impression.

This advantage of market research has been long recognized by leading international brands, which is another reason why they are continuously running market research campaigns.

Stay in touch with your customers, but don’t become annoying

Keep your customers involved. Send them product updates, do a simple survey from time to time, launch a referral program, anything that they will benefit from.

After some time, you will notice which communication channels work both for you and your community. Focus on 1 or 2 instead of trying hard to be present everywhere.

What to do when people do not buy or engage with your content?

If you face issues with getting traction converting or engaging customers then you should audit your brand, business concept, or marketing communications.

In most cases, customers will not connect with your brand because of major business concept issues, or branding problems that make it impossible for them to like or trust your company.

Do not make your customers feel that they are part of an automated system

Whatever you do, do not make your customers feel like that they are bombarded with communication. This is a big mistake many companies do – sending daily automated emails will alienate your potential buyers very fast.

Recent market research results confirm this:

  • 87% of regular online buyers said that receiving more than one email a week from a company is annoying
  • 64% of regular online customers said that they will unsubscribe from all communications of a company and ignore them if they receive too many emails

Similarly, do not try to force them into Facebook or LinkedIn groups, those things are uncool in most cases. The only reason you should invite people to groups is if your community there is already very active and your customers would benefit from being part of it. But asking them to join your group just to bombard them with discounts and offers is a big no-no.

In case you want to measure how people perceive your marketing communications, you can do a Marketing Communications Audit.

Just make it attractive to buy from you and be there for them afterward. Simple as that.

Categories
Brand Management Marketing Communications Partner Area Updates Resources

How to Do a Competitor Analysis With Competitor Analyzer?

As the name suggests, Competitor Analyzer is a competitor analysis tool that lets you reveal brand-related information about competitors, similar companies, or practically any organization.

The solution builds on the popular Brand Auditor system, with additional features streamlined for competitor analysis. Similar to all others tools by Market Sampler, Competitor Analyzer uses micro-surveys to collect feedback from targeted people.

In this post, we will show you step by step how to do a competitor analysis with Competitor Analyzer.

Step 1: specify your competitors or any companies you want to research about

The self-service research configurator tool will ask you about the types of organizations you would like to research. Choose what describes your target companies best.

The next step is to select how many competitors you would like to analyze. You start researching about up to 3 companies at one time. Simply enter the number of companies you want to research, followed by inputting the company names and their websites. That’s it.

Optionally, you can include your company in the analysis company for comparison purposes. The config form offers this option after specifying the other companies for your research.

Step 2: Select your audit scopes 

The competitor research tool will offer the following audit scopes:

  • Brand awareness
  • Brand acceptance
  • Brand perceptions
  • Brand and product presentation
  • Perceptual mapping
  • Marketing communications

Let’s see what insights these will get you:

Brand awareness

Based on the survey responses, the system will calculate the % of respondents who were aware of each brand you specified. Brand awareness is measured separately for each company. The interactive reporting dashboard will enable further in-depth analysis of this.

Brand acceptance

Similar to brand awareness, the system will calculate the % of respondents who like your specified companies. Brand acceptance is measured separately for each company.

Brand perceptions

This feature enables you to understand what target respondents think about the selected companies. You will need to enter a few characteristics that the survey will offer as response options. The best is to add between 10-15 response options, both negative and positive. Respondents will choose what comes into their mind when thinking about the specified companies, and results will be displayed on a tree-map chart.

Brand and product presentation

Selecting the brand and product presentation option will add a score rating chart to the competitor analysis survey. Target respondents will be able to rate the product presentation of each company on a 1 to 5 scale. Results will be displayed on the report. 

Perceptual mapping

A brand perceptual map is a chart specialized to visualize how your brand is perceived by target customers, and how it compares to similar companies.

You can choose two values as analysis dimensions. The most common perceptual analysis values are price/value and price/quality. Competitor Analyzer offers a lot more options.

Marketing communications

Selecting the marketing analysis option will add a score rating chart to the competitor analysis survey. Target respondents will be able to rate the marketing communication engagingness of each company on a 1 to 5 scale. Results will be displayed on the report.

Step 3: define the target respondents for your competitor analysis

To get the most relevant information, you want to make sure that you target the research to people who matter for your business.

Competitor Analyzer makes it easy by offering a wide range of respondent targeting options. You can define your target audiences by age, gender, location, highest education, interests, occupation and combine any of these for super-specific targeting.

Step 4: input your research budget

The last step before launching your competitor analysis is entering how much you will spend on the research. Simply enter your research budget it USD, and the system will calculate how many responses you will get. 

The response count and report delivery time are calculated in real-time, based on your budget and targeting criteria. The minimum research budget is $50 (USD)

That’s it! This is how you set up a competitor analysis research.

Using Competitor Analyzer and any other research tools by Market Sampler is transparent and straightforward.

Try it yourself:

Categories
B2B Brand Management Market & Economy News

Brand Management for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses: 7 Mistakes to Avoid

Here at Brand Auditor, we get new brand and marketing communication insights on a daily basis. Processing thousands of feedback data from the market research campaigns we do for our clients, we see that most poor brand performance is commonly related to seven shortcomings.

Regardless of the industry and line of business, personal brands, B2B companies, e-commerce stores, and all sorts of other brands have very similar issues. 

In this article we list those, explain why it is a problem, and discuss what to do to address those issues in order to improve the overall branding of your company.

Are you interested in what are the strengths and weaknesses of your brand? Choose from one of our brand audits, select what aspects of your brand you wish to evaluate, define the location and characteristics of your target customers and you are good to go. 

1. Poorly designed brand identity, lackluster brand experience

Classic mistake and the single biggest contributor to brand failure. Having a poorly designed brand experience tells your potential customers that your company does not have an eye for details and clearly doesn’t care to impress any potential buyers.

The harsh truth is that a poorly designed brand is similar to attend to date in inappropriate clothing, with bad hygiene, and without any effort to make a good impression on the person you meet. Maybe that is the real you, but in that case (sorry to say) you are not marketable.

In simple terms, a good brand looks tidy, easy to understand, and communicates values that are related to what you wish to sell. Be it fashion, science, luxury products, or software – branding is your tool to make your potential customers understand who you are, what you do and why is it beneficial for them.

Crafting a great customer experience consists of a great first impression, consistent communication of your qualities, and raising interest to find out more about what you do.

2. Confusing value proposition

Connected to brand identity, your core value proposition is an essential element of your brand. Should you fail to demonstrate what you can bring to your customers – they will lose interest and move on to discover the next alternative.

Right after you grab the attention of your customers with a great first impression experience, your next step in the process is to explain what your company does, and why your solution is the best for them.

The value proposition of your brand can be based on various items, such as pricing, status, quality, social responsibility, and a lot more – these have to be selected based on your target customers. Choosing relevant value propositions will make your potential buyers feel like “Oh, this is for me!” Failing to demonstrate relevant value propositions, or communicating them wrongly will make them say: “This is bullshit” and they will move on to the next one.

Few things to avoid:

  • Overuse of buzzwords like “best in class”, or “top-rated”
  • Vague terminology
  • Not communicating the problems you solve
  • Being too close to the “market standard” value proposition

Having a solid understanding of your target market is essential to be able to define the correct value propositions for your brand. This must be done based on research instead of guessing, or personal opinions.

3. Questionable credibility

One important aspect of a brand that can be a silent killer is credibility. This issue is quite common in the case of startups and small to medium businesses and there is no easy fix for this challenge.

The perceived credibility of your brand is the result of the following:

  • First impression experience
  • Ability to demonstrate your value proposition
  • Having clear evidence of required competencies
  • Reviews, testimonials, or case studies

Small businesses and first-time entrepreneurs obviously won’t be able to list too many references or reviews. In that case, their brand credibility will mostly depend on a concise, professional presentation of the value proposition and competencies.

In order to increase perceived credibility, an open and clear brand and marketing communication are required. Exclude anything from your brand and marketing communication that could backfire, such as fake clients, showing off “10,000+” happy customers, and other stuff that make your brand look fake.

Make your brand presentation and marketing communication open, transparent, clear and let your customers decide if your brand is the best option for them.

With so many unprofessional businesses, scams, and other low-quality stuff on the internet, being credible is a very solid way to make your brand stand out.

4. Not having, or not following any brand guidelines 

Do you remember our example about dating from the “brand identity” section? Success and failure in applying brand guidelines go hand in hand with that. 

Imagine that you meet with an exciting person who made a superb impression on you on the first date. Then when you meet the next time he acts and talks totally different. You would think “this guy is not consistent”. And you would be right.

Consistency is in brand management and marketing communications are important to build rapport with potential customers, with new people who follow your social media, and most importantly to establish credibility. Some of your potential buyers will become aware of your brand by seeing it somewhere online, but when they look you up next time they will wonder “Is this the same company?”

The purpose and following brand guidelines are to regulate your marketing communications. Our research data shows that the most important items your marketing and brand should be consistent about are:

  • Visuals: colors, photos, videos, and typography
  • Tone of voice
  • Brand personality
  • Communicated values

Our data clearly indicates that the biggest turn-off for potential customers is an inconsistent tone of voice – which causes a broken brand personality. This will be covered in a later section of this article.

5. Trying to please every customer

There is a very descriptive word to describe something that is good for everyone: generic. As a brand, you don’t want to be generic. If you aim to become a commodity business (which makes lots of sense in some markets) then it is a good idea to go with a generic approach but here we talk about branding.

Unfortunately, our brand audit data sets show that most brands fail to make a good first impression on potential customers because their presentation and marketing communications feel irrelevant. This happens when messaging and other means of communication are not tailored to the needs and wants of the target audience. 

Successful brands know their customers and choose their words carefully when communicating with them. Crafting value propositions, designing a wow first impression experience, and developing an overall brand experience for their particular groups of customers makes them relevant for their buyers.

Yes, crafting the brand for particular groups of customers will inevitably exclude people who will not like how the brand looks and what it stands for, but those are not the ideal customers for what you sell.

Polarizing brands that remain consistent with their identity are almost always the most successful ones. Apple is for people who don’t like the PC office culture” with boring stuff like Excel and Outlook. BMW is for the people who want a solid performance car with style. Mercedes used to be a high-status car brand but in the 90s they introduced new product lines like the C-class and A-class for the average buyers. They lost their status value at that point.

6. Neglecting the importance of brand personality 

The era of faceless giga-corporations is over. Since the 1990s, companies are actively embracing social responsibility and human-like features to establish a likable perception as well as goodwill and rapport.

Today, all big brands have a face. Tim Cook for Apple, Satya Nadella for Microsoft, and all actively participate in discussions about social issues, environmental responsibility, and other topics that will put them in a positive light. This is one crucial element of brand personality.

A more easily manageable aspect is the tone of voice and general visual style of content that the company produces. This loops back to the section of brand guidelines. For small and medium businesses, demonstrating a likable brand personality is critical to stand out and win the heart of their customers.

People buy from companies they would like to be associated with. They want to be proud of their choice and feel that their purchase contributes to a bigger goal.

What makes a poor brand personality? Our brand audit and market research statistics outline that some of the least-liked companies focus too much on:

  • Comparing themselves to competitors
  • Only talking about why to buy from them
  • Discounts
  • Upselling

7. Neglecting the public perception of your brand

Before we launched Brand Auditor in 2020, we conducted a number of surveys among small and medium-sized businesses regarding how often they collect feedback from their potential customers, and how they use those insights. 

Shockingly, less than 5 percent of businesses do regular audits and measurements for brand optimization purposes. And guess what? That 5% are the ones with the most successful brands.

Neglecting public perceptions is an amateur mistake for every company that wants to develop and maintain a great brand. Public perceptions are everything, as that gives the only valuable information regarding what people like and dislike about your brand.

In most cases, brand management decisions are made in the boardroom without any relevant data or insights. Brand managers and other stakeholders in the company try to use their “common sense”, “years of experience” and “market knowledge” to guess the right direction for their brand and marketing development. This is very similar to guessing which way to drive, without a map.

As a brand audit company, we can’t emphasize the importance of in-market customer feedback enough. Having real feedback-based insights from people from your target audience helps thunderously to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your brand. 

Categories
Brand Management Marketing Communications Partner Area Updates Resources

How to Validate a Business Idea Based on Target Customer Feedback? This Market Research Tool Will Do the Job.

How to validate a business idea based on target customer feedback? This market research tool will do the job.

If you read this article, then it means that you are among the 20% of potentially successful entrepreneurs who want to test their business ideas. 

Did you know?

  • Over 80% of business ideas never get tested?
  • Nearly 90% of untested business ideas fail within a year.
  • Around 60% of validated business concepts become successful for at least five years.

You probably know the classic business fail stats. 6.5 million companies launch every year. Startup failure rates continue to hover around 90%. This ratio shows fundamental shortcomings in how most new entrepreneurs approach their ventures. At the same time, these statistics confirm that business idea validation is a critical part of a business creation strategy.

How to validate a business idea?

If you have previously read other articles about business idea valuation, you will know that most writers talk about either internal or external techniques. External validation techniques are the ones to consider. Internal validation in an actual testing concept does not make sense unless you build the business to sell for yourself.

You need to test your business concept in a real-world environment as much as possible. There are various levels to this.

Large corporations like Coca-Cola, Mercedes or retail brands like Marks & Spencer have been investing in market research since their humble beginnings, which remained a key factor in their continuous growth. Most large corporations allocate millions of dollars in continuous market research and feedback analysis in each region they are active in.

For new businesses, the first step is comprehensive market research to understand customer pain points and untapped demands. Once the initial business concepts are ready, the concept testing process can start.

How do companies test business concepts?

Back in the early 2000s, online and e-commerce business ideas often got tested by launching sales campaigns for nonexistent concept products. This was done by simulating a website with product concepts only, without actual products. The best-performing products made it into production, while other ideas got scrapped. Customers got refunded in most cases.

In the late 2010s, online market research became available and affordable for small businesses, which enabled lots of then-startups and now-successful companies to navigate successful market entries and continuous growth since then. 

Today, the standard business validation tool is market research. Most investors require verified market research or concept test results from startups who apply for funding. Market Sampler’s Brand Auditor is a trusted business concept verification provider.

Business concept validation is all about collecting feedback data from target customers, and turning that data into information that either proves or disproves the analyzed business concept.

What is the best business validation method?

There are various methods to acquire consumer insights, but the most common is survey research. To conduct survey research with representative information value, you need to keep the following in mind:

Determine the required number of responses. A statistically significant sample size needs to have an approximate 95% confidence level, which is calculated based on the population or target market in the case of business research.

Define your target audience for your survey research, and do not settle with respondents that do not match your criteria. Market Sampler lets you target respondents by age, gender, interests, occupation, industry, education, career level, and a lot more. 

Get non-incentivized responses. Most survey platforms utilize paid survey networks that offer a small incentive for anyone who answers their survey. This business practice is fundamentally wrong, as incentivized survey networks attract fraudsters and people who attempt to abuse the network with answer-bots or deceive the system by creating fake profiles.

Market Sampler gets non-incentivized responses from completely public survey distribution that attracts respondents genuinely interested in giving feedback.

How much does business validation cost? Is it worth investing in business validation?

Opinions vary but remember the business failure statistics. Doing a business validation will not make a flawed idea successful, but it will save significant time, effort, and sunk costs by highlighting the likelihood of failure.

The good news is that business validation is an inexpensive process. Acquiring survey data to check your business concept will not require more than a few hundred dollars at most. 

Most entrepreneurs who use Market Sampler or Brand Auditor to validate a business idea invest between $100-$200 to acquire 150-350 responses from their target market. In most cases, this already gives a clear indication of whether a business idea will work or not.

What assets do you need to test a business idea with Market Sampler?

Your potential customers will need something to look at to provide feedback. Most of our clients already have a website or a landing page that describes the business idea clearly. 

If your company does not have a website yet, or you don’t even plan to have a website, then the following options are possible:

  • Upload a presentation
  • Upload a video
  • Link a video
  • Link a social media page

Conclusion

Practically this is all you need to know about business idea validation and business concept testing. To recap, you need to be able to demonstrate your concept and get a few hundred genuine survey respondents to provide feedback about it. 

Market Sampler offers all the tools needed to conduct a proper business idea valuation. Should you have any questions, or in case you are planning to do an analysis for your business, please do not hesitate to contact us.