Customer recruitment has always been a big challenge for retailers even before the internet came along. It is one thing to have a loyal community of customers who bring you business regularly week after week. But no retailer can rest on that community for two important reasons. The first reason is that you have to grow as a business in order to reach your financial goals each year. You are not in business just to get by. You are business to succeed and that means growth and that means getting new customers all the time.
The second reason is you cannot count on your existing customer base staying stable indefinitely. Customer communities are have a living quality so they are always changing. Customers move away or take their services elsewhere. You face new competition and other market forces help and hurt your customer base from year to year. So to assure the ongoing health of your business both online and outside of the internet, you have to always be thinking about getting new customers.
For much of the early life of the internet, the standard way to go out and find new customers was through mass email mailing campaigns. These kinds of marketing efforts were organized by email management companies who promised to send out your marketing email to thousands of valid email addresses. So you signed on for 10,000 or 100,000 emails and the service flooded the internet with your message. The hope was that from that huge mailing you would harvest a few hundred or a few dozen new customers to add to your customer community to keep our base of revenue fresh and growing.
But it was the mass mailing phenomenon that brought us another phenomenon that has caused huge problems with using email as a marketing tool. And that phenomenon is spam. Because spam has become such an ominous problem for users, ISPs and individual internet citizens have invested heavily in spam control software which intercepts mass mailings and stops them before they reach the inbox of the customer. The outcome are email delivery problems for you, the online merchant, that are very difficult to resolve.
The good news that the era of interactive internet communities and viral marketing has opened a whole new and far more effective way for you to recruit new customers. It is a method of bringing new customers to you that has been well known to being far superior than any direct marketing strategy you could every hope to design. It is the strategy of letting your existing customer base bring new customers to you. And you seed that process to set the wheels in motion through viral marketing methods such as give aways and downloads that existing customers are encouraged to share freely with their friends.
There is a basic aspect of human psychology that viral marketing methods exploit heavily and that is people love to tell other people exciting things. So if you have loyal customers already, you don’t have to “recruit” them directly to spread the news about your web site and your online goods and services. You just have to excite them about a give away or some upcoming event. Suppose, for example, that you are going to have a famous speaker give an online symposium on a given date. By notifying your existing customers, you create a momentum of excitement that will spread in a viral fashion from those customers to others of similar interests. By making sure they know how to direct their friends and loved ones to the symposium, you can “pack out” the event and use the opportunity to recruit new customers by the dozens or by the hundreds.
This is a far more effective technique than the old mass mailing approach to customer recruitment. Getting customers through viral marketing generates excitement and capitalizes on the natural trust between friends as customers bring you new customers. And above all, you are not generating spam and you are not wresting with email delivery problems.