How to Find New Customers for an Old Product

Q: I have a legacy product that my customers love. How do I keep its promotion fresh in order to drum up new excitement and new customers? — Brad, Gainesville, Fla.

Businesses can learn a lot about marketing relevancy from Arnold Schwarzenegger. I’ve worked closely with the bodybuilder turned actor turned governor for nearly 10 years, and I’m continually amazed by the way that, at 72 years old, he can charm a room of aging gym buffs — then post a video on TikTok and have 20 million teenagers laughing.

It’s a master class in satisfying the old and intriguing the new. To replicate it, any entrepreneur must understand when to create excitement and when to double down on the familiar.

Related: 4 Steps to Growing Your Business Now

We’re conditioned to believe that new things generate the most interest, excitement, and, as a result, sales. But there’s a twist. Stanford University neuro­scientist Robert Sapolsky has famously studied when we form our tastes, and he found some useful patterns. In our 20s, we’re most into new ideas. As we pro­gress into our 30s, we start to desire familiarity instead of novelty. If you think about it, this makes sense: When we’re young, new triggers excitement. As we age, consistency creates comfort. (Just think about the evolution of your taste in music.)

Knowing this alone, of course, isn’t enough to help your business succeed. But it is a reminder that understanding your customer can help unlock opportunity.

Much of what makes something cool isn’t how long it’s been around — it’s how effectively it makes people feel. “Reason might reveal why we should believe a certain truth,” writes Jason Harris, CEO of creative agency Mekanism, in his book The Soulful Art of Persuasion. “But a well-told story does something even better: It transports us to a place where we can see or experience that truth for ourselves.”

To keep your company fresh, focus on telling its story and determine how you want that story to spread. You don’t need something new to have value; you just need your value to be top of mind.

Related: How to Deliver More Authentic Customer Experiences

Consider the following questions: Why does my company exist? Why is it more relevant today than ever? Who is aware of my story, and how has it changed over time? What part of my story speaks to my current customers, and what part do new customers need to hear? Where is it best for customers to hear these messages?

You might need some insight to answer those questions. Ask current customers for feedback, and offer rewards for their time and help. Ask new audiences for their time as well, and offer something simple like an Amazon gift card in return. (After all, you first need their insights; their business can come later.)

Once you have clarity, you can tackle the hardest part: deciding how, and where, to tell your story.

Related: How to Find the Holy Grail of Product-Market Fit

To engage your current audience —­ especially if you have a direct line of communication like email — you could encourage them to tell your story for you. A referral campaign, for example, can turn them into even stronger advocates and amplify your message.

To reach a new audience, revisit those earlier questions: Where do they consume information, and how will they be influenced? Depending on the age and interests of your target audience, consider anything from paid social ads and influencers to podcasts or traditional TV ads.

Just remember, if you and your legacy product are still around, it’s a competitive advantage. Don’t try to be like the new, flashy companies — most of them will fade. Your promise can be reliability: When customers need you, you’ll be there. That trust and security will help you say “Hasta la vista” to the competition.

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