When we reached our first 1000 active installs of WCFM Marketplace plugin, we were elated! It felt like a major achievement for us. And that’s why we know how you would feel when you see your customer count reaching the four digit number for the first time.
Acquiring a thousand customers for a marketplace might not look like a monumental count, but is quite a milestone for any new startup. It might as well pay your bills in the initial few days of your marketplace journey! Nevertheless, it also gives that much needed leverage for further customer influx which ultimately seals the success of the business. And it all comes down to how effectively you make your brand reach your audience.
In this blog, we’re going to give you 8 solid marketing techniques that will help your brand get discovered easily and allow you to grab your first big volume of customers real quick.
Use your personal network
Let’s start with the most obvious one. The first thing that almost everyone does after launching their startup is asking their near and dear ones to try out their concept. That’s the most inexpensive network you can try in your initial days.
According to a Nielsen report, 92% of customers trust their friends and families’ recommendations. Therefore, the traditional word-of-mouth method is still pretty effective and there’s no harm in pestering your friends and family to spread the word. Even if your product is of no significant use to them, they can definitely pass it down to those who might feel interested.
Find the target social media channel
When Roomi, a housing and room-mate finding platform started, they wanted to target people who were looking for house or room partners in New York. They realized that people most likely to be interested in their app were college goers, specifically those who moved to New York for graduation. So they tapped into Twitter and identified tweets where people were actively searching for room-mates in New York. They shared the available Roomi postings with the interested audience and people started responding to the requests. Within six months, they managed to reach the bulk of their first thousand customers.
The bottom line is go where your customers are. Identify where your target customers interact the most and get involved in those interactions. Analyze your demographics thoroughly and strategize a smart promotion plan in order to pierce through the right audience.
With over 3.9 billions social media users around the world, there’s hardly anyone left who doesn’t have any connection with the networking world. Therefore, social media is a great platform for spreading your solution. A great social media campaign can easily bring your first lot of customers, so try utilizing it to the fullest.
When it comes to popularizing your marketplace, don’t forget the offline methods. Before digital media became the holy grail of marketing, people attracted their first customers through first-hand methods.
Print media is still a good way to widen your identity. 82% of e-consumers still trust print ads for their purchase decisions. Sending direct mails or pamphlets could fan out your brand identity pretty quickly. If your business is local, consider local print and tv media for advertisement. Press conferences also help spread awareness of your unique product/service to the media and your potential customers.
Thales Teixeira, former Associate Professor at Harvard explained how Etsy took a cool step to acquire customers offline. In their initial days, they visited various craft fairs and events to scour customers as well as artisans to join their site. This not only brought in more customers but also helped them register the first-tier of sellers – thereby, solving the infamous “egg-chicken problem” is an easy way. So, consider offline marketing as a major part of your marketing strategy.
Emphasize on Blogging and Content marketing
Ask any marketing specialist and he would swear by blogging and content marketing for a good customer acquisition strategy. With over 60% of internet users reading blogs frequently, 70% of them learn about a company from blog posts. That indicates how much blogging is crucial for those early phases of discovery.
Search engines identify websites with blogs as valuable sources of information and, therefore, try to rank them in higher positions of the search results. By improving your website’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO), blogging and content marketing can drive around 55% more traffic to your website through organic search results.
Customer oriented content that is inclined on solving problems not only connects well with readers but also has the potential for better conversion. Enhance your website with a variety of content categories like client stories and recommendations, case studies, general articles and infographics. Carefully select your keywords and content and make your blogs SEO-friendly. Remember, your blog posts should add value to your company and shouldn’t be a mere over-hyped sales pitch. Follow these tips that Neil Patel has shared in order to write a killer blogpost for your website.
Try Online Advertising
When it comes to procuring the first lot of customers, online advertising could work wonders. Search advertising is the most used form of digital advertising with Google Ads dominating 91.56% of global market share of digital marketing. Due to its wide reach, more than 80% of companies opt for Google Ads. Moreover, Google Ads provide immediate results and is, therefore, a surefire way to draw more potential customers.
Play with keywords that are relevant to your website and have the potential to get triggered when people think about the problem you’re solving. Make sure your landing pages are in tandem with your ad objective. Start with a low budget and gradually raise if needed. Your aim should be to keep high volume keywords at lower bids. Keep tracking your ad performance and optimize them for desirable results.
Along with Google Ads, you can also try advertising on Facebook. We already know how effective social media promotions can be for brand recognition. So, don’t miss out on Facebook ads as it also provides pin-point targeting and great results.
Promote through influencers
Influencers are the new buzz on the internet. More and more companies are joining hands with popular faces who would “influence” customers to buy their products.
When a popular personality suggests or promotes a product, people immediately connect with them and get easily convinced. That is the reason why popular brands endorse their products via celebrities or influencers. By the way, did you know that 49% of customers trust influencers recommendations when they consider buying a product online? And the fact that influencer marketing has one of the best ROI, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t try this out.
According to a study, businesses can earn up to $5.78 for every dollar spent on influencers. That’s 5X of your investment! Also, influencer marketing on social media is a quick method of promotion. So, if you want your marketplace to get queued up with customers faster, influencer marketing is your thing.
However, you shouldn’t just ask any influencer to advertise for you. Credibility is the keyword here; it is important that the influencer resonates with your brand and his/her followers align with your target customers. For instance, If you’re a SaaS company, a fashion influencer wouldn’t be able to connect with your tech-savvy audience. A SaaS expert such as Dan Martell praising your product would be more effective for the case. So, if you choose your brand advocates wisely and are able to promote through them effectively, you’ll be able to gather your first thousand customers in no time!
Set out Affiliate and Referral programs
Similar to influencer marketing, the importance of affiliate marketing for any marketplace is indispensable. If done properly, it can contribute to upto 30% of your total revenue. Once you set up an affiliate program, start inviting bloggers, influencers and other marketers to join your program. As they promote your marketplace on various channels, you’ll start experiencing a greater influx of new customers.
Affiliate marketing is one of the most cost-convenient marketing techniques as you pay commission to the affiliates only when there is a successful sale against their affiliate URL. It is proven to increase discovery and garner prolific traffic to the website. That’s the reason why businesses allocate around 10% of their marketing budget just for affiliate marketing.
By the way, did you know you could also turn your existing customer base into magnets to grab newer customers? 83% of customers are willing to refer to others if they have had a good shopping experience previously. If your customers are satisfied with your products or services, chances are they will ask others to try your business too. With your first few (maybe hundred) customers in hand, you may set up a referral program for your existing customers. Ask them to share their referral links or promo codes to others in exchange for exciting offers or freebies on their next purchase. According to a Nielsen study, people are 4x more likely to buy your products/services if their close ones refer them the same. Fiverr, Envato and Etsy get a huge share of customers solely through referrals from other users. Now, that’s a clever way to let your customers do the work for you!
Spread user-generated content
Talking about low-cost customer acquisition techniques, utilizing user-generated content literally costs you nothing but could steer customers towards your marketplace in no time. User-generated content is basically posts, photos, reviews, ratings, unboxing videos, and experiences shared by your existing customers. All you need to do is share such content to your social media handles and even on your website.
Throwing spotlight on user-generated content can facilitate trust and credibility, thereby encouraging new visitors and potential customers to try out your products/services. Customers believe user reviews 12 times more than direct marketing from brands. This accounts for Amazon’s highest reviewed and rated products also being the bestselling ones.
Another smart thing that Amazon does is that they record data about items that are being wishlisted by various customers. They identify the most popular ones and tag them as “Amazon Most Wished For” items. This triggers a kind of FOMO in customers and boosts sales.
Throw out challenges and competition in return for prizes or deals in order to encourage your customers to share their experience on your social media. This will not only promote your brand and attract more customers but will also help in customer retention.
Keeping the basics right
You cannot build your tower on weak foundations. And that’s why, even before you start investing your time and efforts on advertising your marketplace, you should make sure that your basics are strong. While acing the above marketing hacks would surely help you drive the bulk of your customers, your marketplace’s essential elements should be solid enough to hold your customers. Here are a few pointers related to your business that you should be taking care of along with your marketing game:
Provide a solution
The idea of building a marketplace just for the sake of business should be dropped right in the beginning. Period. If your marketplace doesn’t solve someone’s problem, it won’t run long – let alone be successful.
Successful marketplaces know how to touch the pain points of their target customers and have conceptualized their products/services in order to alleviate the pain. For example, Uber has given the convenience of getting a taxi wherever they are, even at midnight, without the pain of searching or harking at them. With just a tap on their smartphone, people could easily get a ride to their desired destination.
If you have a marketplace idea in mind, don’t forget to validate it in the first place. Your aim should be to cater to your customers’ needs as well as build a foundation that is sustainable in the long run.
Mind your website aesthetics
Exhaustive marketing strategies won’t keep your customers pouring in if your website looks shabby and inefficient. For most users, the first impression is the last impression and that holds true for your website as well. 48% of users decide on the business’ credibility simply by judging the website’s design. Therefore, a clean, easy to navigate and visually appealing website should be your first priority.
Your website should reflect your business’ value and USP and your homepage should give a glimpse of what you offer. A well-organized products page that lets your visitors navigate easily through your products and services is also important. Optimize your website to reduce load time. Also, make sure your website is mobile efficient as most of the shopping today is done through smartphones. It only takes 3 seconds for a visitor to leave your site if it doesn’t appease them, so do take care of your website.
Set customer-friendly store policies
Before purchasing a product, about 93% of customers compare prices online. And not just prices, they also check for other store policies and then choose what suits the best for their needs. Therefore, your marketplace pricing as well as store policies like shipping, return and refund plays an important role in customer acquisition.
While high prices can drive away your customers, inexplicably low prices could question the credibility of your marketplace. Maintaining an ideal pricing is crucial and that should be on your priority list.
Free shipping is another big hook for any shopper and is one of the top reasons why marketplace giants like Amazon continue to flourish. Did you know that 73% of customers buy from a certain marketplace solely due to free shipping? If you don’t have a free shipping policy for your store, chances are you’re already missing out on your customers’ interest.
Talking about easy returns and refunds, 58% of buyers prefer “no-question asked” free return and refund policy. A lot of people check the returns page before purchase and if they find an inconvenient return or refund policy like partial refund, charged shipping for returns, etc., they would probably never return to your site. Therefore, if you’re thinking about customer acquisition, set your return/refund policies straight.
Provide steal-worthy offers
In marketplace business, competition is always neck-to-neck. Providing attractive offers to your customers would give you an edge above your competitors. Not only helpful in acquiring new customers, but discounts and deals have proven to enhance customer retention also.
Tailor-make your offers for your customers keeping in mind what they’re looking for. A good way to do that is to note their wish lists and customize the deals accordingly. In this way, your visitors will feel valued and would turn into loyal buyers. Make sure you promote the offers in order to let potential customers discover and get interested in your products/services.
Better customer service
While good customer service keeps your customers loyal to you, it could also help in bringing more customers. As we’ve already discussed, your customers can attract new customers to your marketplace through their reviews and recommendations. If you keep them satisfied with your customer service, they’ll pass on the fact to others and suggest your service to them. Prompt replies to customer queries, providing effective solutions and cultivating a positive experience for customers will take you a long way. So, get your customer support strong and see how it elevates your customer acquisition rate.
Customer procurement could be a challenging task for startups, but atleast is easier (maybe) than building an aircraft! While you maintain the essentials of your business properly, the above mentioned marketing techniques would definitely help you pull your first 1000 customers. It might not be necessary to apply all of the above ideas; in fact, some of the ideas might not even suit your business. If you churn out the right techniques, half your job is done. However, these techniques are tried and tested and are proven to give results, provided applied the right way.
Oh! And congratulations, in advance, for reaching 1K+ customers! All the very best for your marketplaces’ success! 🙂