Have you ever noticed how sometimes the things you want most are right in front of you? The same is true for growing your business — there are new customers everywhere. And you don’t even need a website to find them (although it helps). The key to customer acquisition is knowing how to look. Luckily, there are tons of great tools — including Google keyword planner and Google Trends — to help.
Check out my strategies for tapping into consumer trends to find new customers. Then keep reading to learn how to use that info to reel them in using online listings and directories, maps, and search engine optimization (SEO).
Read between the lines of news reports
Let’s say you’re a California electrician and you read that Tesla’s new Model 3 electric car, not due out for two years, has already attracted 400,000 reservations at $1,000 a pop. “Hmmm,” you say to yourself, “every one of those new owners will need a 220v outlet in their garage.”
Or maybe you own a construction company in Florida. You hear a news report saying Americans older than 55 are showing an interest in aging in place. That’s a big group, you think, Boomers being the largest generation in U.S. history. They’ll need exterior ramps installed in their homes, doors widened to admit walkers, and curbless showers with benches and grab bars put in. They’ll need you.
Spy on social media
Another great way to find customers is to check out the social media sites where they spend their time. For example, a travel advisor might go to Twitter and type “hiking vacations” into the search bar to learn about the latest industry trends. She could go to Pinterest.com and do the same. This would show her what other travel advisors are offering.
Use what you learn to create theme packages, price your services – even create your own Facebook or Twitter ads.
Ask the All-Seeing One with Google Trends
But before you throw money into advertising, let’s do a little research. And where better to start than Google? Since 2003, Google has answered 450 billion – that’s right, billion – separate searches. Each request travels an average of 1,500 miles on its way back to you. All in a matter of seconds.
More to the point, though, Google is used by three times as many people as the second most-popular search engine. When it comes to absolute authorities on how the world looks for info on the internet, Google is pretty much it.
So go to Google.com/trends and, in the box at the top, type in the words you think people looking for your business might use (e.g. 240 volt NEMA 14-50). Which keywords should you use? Try Google Keyword Planner to come up with a list of six to 10 words or phrases. Then paste each one into the search box at the top of Google Trends to see how popular it is.
Right below the search box, you’ll find a couple of ways to focus your findings. Click on the little downward-facing arrow next to “Worldwide” and select your region to narrow your results to your part of the world. Click the arrow next to “All categories” and select “Autos & Vehicles” for more clarity.
As you can see from this graphic, web searches for this term have been rising since 2012. Searches have spiked recently, too, which means there are lots of people out there looking for an electrician like you.
Use trends for customer acquisition
Now you know who and where your future customers are — and it’s time to reel them in. What you do next depends on whether or not you have a website.
If you DO have a website
Before you can bring new customers to it, you first have to make sure Google sees your website. Google crawls the web 24/7, indexing the words on every single website (mind-boggling, right?).
To increase the chances that it will appear near the top of the results, your site has to contain the right words. This includes both the words that visitors see as well as other aspects of the page. This is what’s called search engine optimization (SEO).
Remember our earlier research? Sprinkle the six most popular search words or phrases throughout your website, adding them to the meta tags as well. Website visitors can’t see these tags, but search engines can.
Why bother?, you might ask. Because if Google doesn’t index your website, or indexes it for the wrong words, new customers simply won’t find it. The vast majority of web users research products and services on Google before they buy. So in order to be found by new customers looking for you on the web, you first have to be seen by Google. The closer to the top of the search results page your site appears, the more clicks — and therefore, customers — you’ll get.
Here you have some options:
Do it yourself. There are lots of how-to guides on the web to walk you through the process. One of the most trusted and comprehensive is Moz’s “The Beginners Guide to SEO” — the resource the Wizard of Moz himself recommends in this video. Yes, optimizing your website takes a little time, but it’s worth every minute you spend doing it. I have optimized my friends’ websites and am not super tech-savvy. You can do it, too.
Let someone else do the work for you. Don’t have the time or interest in doing SEO yourself? Hire a GoDaddy expert to optimize your website for you. In just a couple of months, you could see your search listing move from page 10 to the only place that counts: page one.
If you DON’T have a website
Haven’t taken the plunge yet? You can still use the web to drum up more business through directories, maps and reviews. Not only are they free, they work. An estimated 90 percent of consumers read online reviews before purchasing, with the star rating being the single most influential factor in their decision to use that business or not.
Create business listings
Step one is to go to Google My Business and follow the directions to create a listing for your business — or correct the one that’s already there. Then ask your most loyal customers to submit reviews to your Google listing. This will cost you exactly nothing but will pay off in more customers. Do the same with other top directories.
Remember, if you move or your hours change, you’ll have to go back and correct your listing.
If that sounds like too much trouble, you could use a product like Get Found to manage your information across a variety of online listings. Google, Bing, Yelp, TripAdvisor, YP, Foursquare, Citysearch – Get Found allows you to manage them all from one dashboard. Update your listing once, and the change appears across all sites.
Try online advertising
Use Google Trends to pick keywords for your test ads.
Facebook also offers paid advertising. Like Google, Facebook knows just about all there is to know about its customers and will use that info to get your ad in front of those most likely to buy from you. In any given second, there are 20,000 people on Facebook, so it’s a pretty big group of potential customers.
The more you know …
Finding new customers is easier than it looks — they are literally all around you. Using Google Trends and other tools, you can pretty quickly identify the people who are looking for you right now. And while the web is a big, busy place, all it takes is a little know-how to make it work for you. Go forth and conquer.
Also published on Medium.