One of the things I have noticed business owners struggle with is making money from their startups in as short a time as possible. Because if the business is not making money, it is likely to sink in debt and when bills can’t be paid, the business is likely to die.
But how do you make money from your business?
The answer to that is simple. By attracting a good number of buyers/customers/clients. A good number of customers can be anything from 100 to 10,000 depending on the product you are selling.
However, one thing I have noticed is that a lot of business owners set 1000 sales of their products/services as a milestone. For the purposes of this article I will presume a 1000 sales means purchases from a 1000 customers.
So how do you get 1000 customers?
The answer to this is not so simple, nor is it straight-forward. Customers are the lifeblood of any business. Research has shown that a satisfied customer is 60-70% more likely to buy from you again, while a new prospect is 5-20% likely to buy a thing from you.
For instance let’s say you run an eCommerce website that specializes in custom-made shoes. You have a new batch of shoes and announced it on your Facebook page. Let’s assume that two sets of shoe-addicts saw it: Abigail and Dagrin. Now Abigail has bought one of your shoes in the past and she loved it while Dagrin stumbled on your announcement.
Who do you think will immediately click the link with the intention to check it out and purchase it?
If you guessed Abigail, you are right. Because of the pleasant experience of her last purchase, Abigail will buy anything from you, once she likes it.
Dagrin, on the other hand, would be skeptical. First he has to be sure your website is legit, then he has to be sure the shoe really looks good, then he has to be sure you will deliver his shoes, then he has to be cajoled into parting with his money.
But if your business is new, then you will have to know how to convert Dagrins into Abigails. To help you with this, I will explain how to build your customer base then show you a practical case study after that. Ready? let’s delve in.
How to build your customer base
1. Determine what you will sell
In this article, I will assume that you already know who your ideal customer is. I will also assume that you already have a website or blog. Next you have to determine what you will sell on your blog. There are many ways to make money from blogging but the most popular ones are:
- Through Affiliate sales
- Through Ad placement
- Through sponsored posts and reviews
- Through selling your own physical products
- Through selling your own training courses/ ebooks
- Through selling your services
The model you use will greatly depend on the type of business you ventured into. For instance if you are a catering company, your revenue will most likely come from selling your own meals or outdoor catering services or training courses on how to cook spectacular meals. CrockPot Restaurant is an example of this as shown below:
But if you are a food enthusiast who just loves to write and talk about food, then majority of your revenue will come from affiliate sales and Ad placement. For instance Jenn Segal of OnceUponAChef uses adverts in multiple sections of her site to monetize her site’s traffic
2. Set a realistic goal
Often times I see newbie entrepreneurs hoping to break even and start making a healthy profit within a month or two. Not only is this hard to achieve, such expectations can quickly dampen your spirits when you fail to meet them.
For instance, if you started a photography blog, do not expect to get 10,000 unique visitors within a month of starting that blog. Many 3-year-old blogs can not boast of half of that traffic.
According to Shanelle Mullin, Director of Marketing at Onboardly, “The key to setting achievable marketing goals is to spend time evaluating your current position. Many startups set lofty, unattainable goals and end up discouraged, which can be detrimental in the early days. On the other hand, some startups set easy, insignificant goals and end up missing out on growth potential.”
So it is important to balance it out. Don’t set goals that are too difficult to reach and don’t set goals that are not challenging.
3. Build a robust marketing plan
“Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.”
– David Packard, co-founder, Hewlett-Packard
And David is right. No matter how good your website looks or how terrific your content is, you must actively promote it. Do not expect your customers to find you. Go out and hunt them down! When Noah Kagan, founder of Appsumo and the OkDork blog, launched a new product, How To Make A $1,000 A Month Business course, he knew he had to develop a spectacular marketing plan. His target was to sell 3,333 memberships to the course within 12 months. He reached his target in 10 months!
How did he achieve this?
By breaking down his big goal of 3,333 memberships into monthly goals. Each monthly goal is further broken into daily goals. So each day, he had a benchmark to reach.
According to Noah, “Overall there’s no ‘right’ goal; you want something that isn’t easily achievable but also something that’s realistic so you don’t feel overwhelmed.We break our goal into a daily target so––even if our goal is a billion––we know on a specific day if we are on track; for example, in January when we had to be at 10,000 uniques a day.
A key thing with goals that I learned from Facebook is to only have one goal for a specific period of time. It helps with saying no to other distractions you will face during the year.”
Noah reveals a lot of the marketing strategies he used to achieve most of the stellar successes Appsumo has experienced in this article: Create Your First Marketing Plan
4. Always Act this: “Customers come first”:
Customers determine how fast or slow your business grows, so they should be treated like royalty. This treatment might involve tweaking your marketing plans to accommodate the needs of a vast majority of your customer base. Do not be rigid. Happy customers lead to a thriving business.
Carry out frequent surveys of your customers to find out what they want and develop strategies or modify your products/services to suit them.
For instance if you planned to sell a course on “Starting a Photography Business” to your customer base but found that 80% of your email list need to know “How to take a spectacular photo” then you now know you must change your original course to the one your customers need.
If you wanted to create an ebook on “How to prepare delicious African Delicacies” but your survey revealed that your email list needs video tutorials, not an ebook, then you have to adapt your original plan to what your email list wants.
If you run a fashion eCommerce store and from your stats, found that most of your eCommerce visitors navigate to the ‘dresses’ section or ask for ‘fashionable, formal outfits’ then you know what to stock up on to increase your sales.
Also do not make your prospective customers uncomfortable in any way. According to Neil Patel in this article on Kissmetrics, ways you can make your prospective customers uncomfortable include:
- Unexpected Shipping charges
- Forcing prospective customers to create an account before they can complete a purchase
- Being too stingy to offer discounts
Now its all good and well to state what people should do to grow their businesses. But many atimes, practical examples are the best ways to demonstrate this. For my case study I will tackle an interesting field: Fashion Blogging
How to get 1000 customers as a Fashion Blogger:
1. Have an idea of products you can offer on your blog:
As a fashion blogger, you can make money from any of these avenues:
- Being a fashion consultant and offering your services on your blog
- Writing and selling a fashion ebook
- Making money from Ads
- Making money from subscription services
- Making money from Affiliate sales
2. Set a realistic goal:
Your blog will only make money if you have a good amount of traffic. To get 1000 customers, you need traffic of at least 10,000 email subscribers. To get 10,000 email subscribers you need a minimum traffic of 100,000 annually. Now if you are a newbie fashion blogger, there is no way you can hit 100,000 website visitors in a month, unless you are well-connected in the fashion blogsphere. First break down 100,000 into achievable monthly amounts.
100,000/12 = 8333
Now we have a more manageable number. Do not fret if you don’t hit this number in your first two or three months. Simply subtract, then stack up the remaining months with the leftover.
Example: January you got 100 visitors
that’s 100,000 – 100 = 99,900 visitors
Divide by the number of remaining months
How many months left: 11 months
therefore your new monthly target is: 99,900/11
= 9081 visitors
So how do you meet your monthly target? You need a marketing plan
3. Marketing plan for a fashion blogger:
As a fashion blogger (or any type of blogger) your marketing plan must first tackle how you will attract targeted traffic to your site. Then when you do that you have to convert this traffic to subscribers. When you achieve that milestone, you will then be able to reach out to these subscribers as many times as you want and hence have many more opportunities to convert them to customer.
So first how will you hunt down your prospective customers and entice them to your site?
Follow these guidelines:
- Who is your ideal customer? Who would you love to visit your blog?
- Where does your ideal customer hang out? This would include Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and other popular fashion sites. Build a list of these popular fashion sites.
- Start blog commenting on these sites. To attract traffic from these sites use the name of your site as your name. A few newbie bloggers do link-spamming or link bombing as shown in the image below: While this can be effective, many website owners frown on it and will delete your comment immediately.
- Build a Facebook fan page
- Join active fashion groups on Facebook. Be active on these groups and post links to your latest blog posts here. I have found Facebook groups to be a highly effective and cheap source of driving traffic to a website. I use them personally. The trick is to be active on these groups. Don’t be selfish and post only your links. Build relationships by commenting on other people’s updates too. This way the group administrator will not be forced to block you from the group.
- Run a giveaway.
- Make sure your website design is good. Your website is your fresh impression online. The better that impression, the more likely your website visitors will stay and check out other articles.
- Make sure you have an email marketing plan in place. This involves signing up for companies like Madmimi or MailChimp. I use madmimi and love their customer support, so I recommend you try them out. To understand how powerful email marketing is, check out this post by Dan Shewan on Wordstream titled “Is Email Marketing Effective? Three Examples That Prove It Is”
- Make sure your email optin forms are super visible.
- Offer a better bait than “free weekly updates” for your email optin. Consider something like “15 ways to rock a skater dress from work to party on a tight budget“
- Make every new email subscriber love you. How? Ask every new subscriber what their pain point in fashion is. You can do this with an autoresponder. This way you know what future articles to write and what future products to create. Also make sure that when anybody tells you their problem, you answer that email immediately with a solution. Sue of successfulblogging.com does this for every new subscriber she gets:
- Keep delivering super, quality content that is shareable. How do you know shareable topics? Head over to Buzzsumo, then copy and paste the link of one of the top fashion blogs you compiled. The more shareable your content, the more eyeballs you can attract to your website and the closer you will be to hitting your target.
- Make your website interactive through quizzes and comments. Kamdora uses quizzes as shown in the image below: Encourage people to comment on your articles by responding to each comment. Then if you are having trouble getting comments, consider partnering with fellow fashion bloggers to trade comments on each others sites. Read all about this technique in Neil Patel’s article:The Day After: 11 Things to Do After You Publish a Post
When you have reached your milestone of the number of monthly visitors, you should take a critical look at your email sign-up rate. Typical industry averages are: 3% to 11%. Anything higher than 11% is stellar. That means for every 100 people that visit your blog, 3 to 11 are likely to signup for your newsletter.
Then next take a critical look at the problems most of your email signups complained about. Is there a common problem complained about by most of your email subscribers? Write articles packed with solutions for these problems. Are these articles widely successful? Or more popular than any other articles on your blog? Then you have identified a pain point. You can cash in on this pain point in the following ways:
- Find already existing solution-providers and become an affiliate for them: this is the easiest way to cash in
- Find already existing solution-providers and write sponsored posts or reviews for them
- Find already exiting solution-providers and pitch an advert space on your blog to them.
- Start offering a consultancy service that solves this problem: This means you will develop a solution and sell it to your email list.
- You can setup a subscription service like the one Kamdora did, where your subs have to pay a minimal amount weekly/monthly to access your best advice. (Did you also notice that Kamdora is running a giveaway?)
And when you start hitting your monthly goal, you can start displaying google ads on your site. I normally advice new bloggers to forget about using google ads on their site until the site is 3 months or older. Because without a great quality of traffic, google ads is useless on your site. In the article, “How to build a profitable blog” Kay Rockley shows us that Huffington post makes $2,330,000 from just ads. When adopting the ads model, your ‘customer’ is anybody who visits your blog regularly.
When adopting the affiliate sales model, your customer is anybody who buys through your affiliate links. Pat Flynn made up to $123,853 from mostly affiliate marketing.
When writing sponsored posts or reviews, your customer is any company that pays you to write the sponsored post or review. Enstine Muki makes a killing from this model of revenue generation as seen in this post. He also makes a killing by selling advert space to specific solution-providers.
When offering subscription services, your customer is any person that pays for this subscription service.
When selling an ebook, your customer is any person who buys the ebook from you.
4. Remember Customers come first:
As you try out each type of money-making model on your blog, be attentive. What do your customers like? Which model do they prefer? Which model is reaping the most returns for you? Your objective is to ensure you make money, get more customers and not repel your present customers in the process.
To achieve I suggest you carry out surveys on your email list to find out what they really want so that you can provide it. I normally use Google Forms to do this because there is no limit to number of responses I can receive. I recommend you use this. But if you want a more robust survey system, then use Survey Monkey. I also use surveys as a medium to ask, “What can I improve to serve you better?” and “What is the one thing you don’t like about my blog?”
Watch your ads stats: What is your average Click-Through-Rate (CTR)
Observe the number of email subscribers who eventually buy your products and those who abandon the cart. Then find out from those who abandoned the cart why they did and see if a discount will help in closing that sale.
Another thing you must consider is what you can do to turn your current customers into your ambassadors. Your current customer turns into your ambassador when she shares your posts on her social media accounts and when she recommends your service to her friends and family. This is where embedded social media share buttons, running giveaways or customer reward programs become highly effective.
But first you must satisfy that customer before providing means for her to spread the word about you.
Setting a milestone for your business is necessary. Depending on your type of business, a milestone of 1000 customers in 12 months is advisable. To achieve this milestone, you should know who your ideal customer is. Then you should have a website too.
One way of getting 1000 customers is to diversify your revenue-generation models. Do not be fixated on one type. Develop a robust but flexible marketing plan as well. Your marketing plan should focus on how to get targeted traffic to your site, then how to convert this traffic to subscribers so that you can have the opportunity to reach out to them and turn them to customers. Then test and try as many revenue-generation models (advertising, affiliate sales, coaching e.t.c) to see which one works perfectly for you.
Whatever you do, do not sideline your customers. They fuel your business so do as much as you can to keep them happy. Also to ensure you hit your milestone sooner, try converting your customers to your brand ambassadors by making it easy for them to share your content or by offering them mouth-watering rewards for every friend they refer.
Over to you. Tell me your greatest challenge in meeting the 1000 customers milestone in the comments below and I will answer right back with actionable tips you can try.