If you own a business, new customers are like gold. But as any prospecting expert will tell you, finding those customers is hard work says Paul Haarman. It takes time and money to set up effective marketing campaigns. And if your advertising isn’t producing the results you want, it can be tempting to stop spending on ads altogether.

This blog post is about doing the opposite of giving up. It’s about using free, online resources to get new customers for your business–and keep them coming back for more.

Here are 7 tactics used by top digital marketers (many of whom I interviewed while writing my book Cracking the Sales Management Code) that will help you get started.

1. Successful Marketers Know Their Customers

What better way to find new customers than to know exactly who they are? The best marketing is highly targeted, so always start with a buyer persona: a profile of your average customer, including age range, income level, location and interests/hobbies. Online resources like Survata can help you gather this information quickly. For example, let’s say you own a dog grooming shop. You might create a buyer persona for “dog owner, 30 – 40 years old, lives within 25 miles of your store and is very active on social media.”

2. Successful Marketers Know Their Industry

No matter how large or small your industry may be (and it probably isn’t as big as you think), chances are there’s an association that represents it. For example, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) assists companies in the outdoor power equipment industry with market research and product development, among other things explains Paul Haarman. So if you’re selling gasoline-powered lawnmowers (like my company does), OPEI can help you make smarter decisions about where to spend your marketing dollars and what kinds of products to introduce.

3. Successful Marketers Know Their Competition

You don’t have to be a marketing genius to figure out who you’re up against, but it can certainly help to learn what they’re doing and where their marketing dollars are going. Again, the best place to start is an industry association or group—like OPEI for lawn mower companies or the National Grocers Association for grocery stores. In addition, sites like Owler have built massive databases of information on just about every company in any given space–and all you’ve got to do is type in your competitor’s name and hit enter (it’s free).

4. Successful Marketers Run Tests

Running tests isn’t as hard as it sounds: Get creative with your ads (try using different images, for example), run split tests (see if targeting certain demographics gets you better results) and pay attention to which ad networks are performing the best. Is Facebook working better than Twitter? Are sponsored posts generating more leads than Google Adwords? Keep track of these things in a spreadsheet or on an Excel document so that, when it comes time to create your next round of ads, you’re armed with the data you need to succeed says Paul Haarman.

5. Successful Marketers Use Reputable Research

While there’s no shortage of so-called “studies” conducted by business schools or think tanks out there, only the ones conducted by industry associations–like this report put out Mintel about consumer packaged goods–are designed to be industry-specific. If you’re looking for stats about your space, these are the reports you want.

6. Successful Marketers Cross Promote

Send customers of one product or service on an email list over to another one of your products or services if it makes sense for both parties–for example, are they are all part of the same industry? A recent study by Ascend2 found that cross-promotion can increase customer acquisition rates by 168%. It’s also a great way to make use of your most loyal followers and fans, who’ve already given you their email addresses in exchange for something else (like free shipping).

7. Successful Marketers Experience Your Product Themselves

When I was launching my business, I sent out a mailer to more than 1 million prospective customers. It generated some interest—200 people ended up buying something—but that didn’t matter: Not one of them was the right customer, and we all know it. Would we have been better off if we had tested our product with real customers before investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct mail marketing? Of course we would! Would this mean you need to fly to China and personally make each lawn mower by hand? Nope. But there’s no substitute for actually experiencing your product or service yourself. So if at all possible go through the entire customer journey yourself. Before you invest in any kind of marketing whatsoever–including bringing on employees.

Conclusion:

Successful marketers are always learning, testing and refining their approach to bring in more customers says Paul Haarman. Hopefully, these tips will help you do just that–and if you have any questions or additional suggestions. About how successful marketers keep themselves sharp, I’d love to hear it!