In the world of business, paid advertising and marketing often seem like the most obvious paths to boosting your company’s success. However, these are not the ONLY ways to grow your business. Paid advertising can quickly become expensive and if you have not taken the time to fully research your customers shopping habits and thoroughly build the foundations of your brand, you can end up wasting a lot of time and money with very little return on your investment.

Before heading the paid advertising route, consider these alternative steps for exponentially growing your business.

  1. Define Your People. Dig deep into your target customers’ shopping habits. Where are they shopping and reading reviews? Is it online, in stores, on their mobile phone or desktop, via social media? Find out where they are making purchases of products and services like yours and then focus your time and money only on where they would be shopping. Your goal is to become the standout leader in your market on each of their dominant marketing channels, focusing first on maximizing all free advertising.
  2. Be a Pioneering Brand. Define your product offering in a brave and clear way that speaks your client’s language and tells them how you will improve their life. Strategically position your brand and adjust all of your marketing to hone in on your unique offering and answer the “why” for your customers:  Why are you unique, a market leader, and the best fit for your client’s needs? Know who the competitors are in your space and study their products or services as well as their own messaging so that you can do a side-by-side comparison and ensure your product stands out as the winner.
  3. Ride the Wave of Social Proof. This leads me to my next tip– social proof is a psychological and social phenomenon where people will essentially follow the actions of the masses. The idea is that since so many other people behave the same way, it must be the correct behavior. There are a couple of ways to take advantage of social proof when it comes to marketing your brand.

On average, 95% of customers read reviews before making a purchase, so use the power of other people’s opinions to drive new business. Leverage positive reviews on your website, in your newsletters, on your social channels, or any printed marketing collateral.  Make sure the key portions of your reviews are not missed by highlighting them with bold colors that pop.

You’ll also want to make sure you “claim your page” on reviews sites such as Yelp, Google Business, and your Facebook business page. When you claim these pages, you’re able to respond to customer reviews, engage with an audience who is already interested in your business, and you can make sure the page provides updated information like hours of operation, links to new products, updated photos, etc.

  1. Hire Your Customers to Market for You. This may be an obvious one, but an important one that must not be missed. Word-of-mouth marketing is sort of the original “social media” platform. You chat with your friends and learn about new products they’ve tried and loved and then your interest is piqued enough to check it out for yourself. This is why building an effective referral system is so important. If you have current clients who love your product or service, offer them either a discount or a “friends and family” kickback reward that will incentivize them to tell their networks about you. You’re essentially “hiring” your current clients as your best marketing asset, and they are worth every dollar.
  2. Go Above and Beyond in Every Way. Our customers want to be seen as a unique individual. They want to be heard, to feel special, and to have their specific needs addressed. Are you delivering a truly personalized product for each individual? Brain Chesky, the co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, shared recently in an interview that you need to offer the “11-star” experience in order to make sure you leave an ‘above and beyond’ impression that’ll guarantee your customers will be back. So how do you do this? Annually vision the plan for your customers’ ULTIMATE experience and then plan for upgrades in the upcoming years. Understand your customers as individuals— then assess their complete needs, roadblocks or pain points in order to best address their needs.  Yes, this may take more time. But the tremendous boost in quality and results will be a powerful differentiator for you and your business.’

Billy Polson, BS, CSCS, is a nationally recognized performance coach, fitness entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and the founder/co-owner of DIAKADI. As a fitness performance coach, he was named by Men’s Journal Magazine as one of the Top 100 Trainers in America, as well as one of the Top 10 Trainers in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Chronicle and Haute Magazine. Peers and other fitness professionals look to Billy as a fitness advisor and business coach. In 2015, with the intention of helping fitness entrepreneurs advance their skills as business owners, Billy co-founded DIAKADI’s Business Movement, which continues to assist hundreds of fitness professionals worldwide with building and growing their most successful fitness businesses.

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