You’re new to the world of business. You’ve registered your company. You’ve had your business cards printed. You have a great product or service to sell. Now all you need is customers. But where do they come from? How do you compete with established brands with established reputations, which can generate business through their name alone? It’s a fundamental and basic question, but one which many start-up firms struggle with.
While it might be tempting to plow all of your money and resources into online marketing, that may not be the optimal route to success for one very simple reason; that’s what everyone else does already.
Some of the older methods of attracting business still work, and thinking outside the box will be your friend as you’re trying to get your name out there, too. Here are some practical but effective ideas for building your customer base.
Don’t Overlook Local Press
Unless your brand new business has been launched on a large scale, with millions of dollars worth of marketing and investment, it’s probably unlikely to attract the national press. Paying for advertising in the national press is also a fool’s errand; space comes at an expensive premium and is easily missed.
The local press is a different entity, though. They’re often looking for news to fill their pages or website with, and a new business launching is likely to be considered news to them. This is doubly true if you’re employing people from the area around you, as it counts as a ‘good news’ story because of job creation.
Statistics also indicate that adverts in local papers are significantly more likely to be trusted than adverts in their national equivalents.
Use Friends And Family
Some people don’t like to turn to friends and family when they’re launching a new business because they want to be seen as ‘doing it on their own.’ That’s a noble sentiment, but it might be costing you money. Your friends and family have other friends and family of their own. Each of them will have their own tiny network, which you need access to.
Ask everyone you know to promote your business on their social media, and also to keep you in mind any time they speak to someone who might need your services. Where possible, incentivize them. Could you pay them a small commission on each sale? If so, you might find some of your enterprising connections turn out to be excellent freelance introducers for you.
Go Door To Door
Once upon a time, this was seen as the most basic tool in any salesperson’s skillset – the ability to approach a stranger, promote your business and either obtain their contact details or at least ensure they have yours. It’s increasingly gone out of fashion, and in some quarters it’s even seen as desperate. In reality, it’s anything but.
If we were to borrow a metaphor from the world of gaming, there’s a slot game called ‘Chilli Heat’ at Amigo Slots, in which the symbols are represented by people, and they line up on opposite sides of the road. All of them contain bonus ‘wild’ qualities which can lead to large payouts, but you have no way of knowing that until you can get them to cross the road and engage in your game.
The same is true of real life – you have no way of knowing what potential riches exist in any person unless you interact with them.
Setting up a new business was a gamble, so carry on with that gamble. Approach people. Find out whether they could be of benefit to you, and you to them. Whether that’s going door to door, flyering in the street or approaching people to complete questionnaires, it’s the best way to get in front of people and tell them what you do.
Use Social Media Intelligently
There are better ways to find customers on social media than just paying to advertise there. Twitter, in particular, has a very useful search tool. When people are looking for recommendations, or want a specific service or product, chances are they’ll tweet about it.
Perform regular searches online to find out who’s looking for the product or service you sell, and tweet them about it. As the saying goes, see if you can ‘slide into their DMs.’
If you sell cars, search for ‘new car’ and filter through the tweets that appear. If you design websites, search for ‘need website.’ It really is as easy as that. Simply paying for adverts to appear is expecting people to see them and come to you. Flip the system on its head, and directly approach potential customers online.
Turn Customers Into Suppliers
We’re sure you provide excellent customer service, and that when you do make a sale, your customers are very happy with their purchase. They might even write a nice testimonial for your website if you’re lucky. Could they go further than that, though? Could they be persuaded to recommend you strongly to their friends – especially if they were incentivized to do so?
Customers are always looking for cash back, or something that makes it worth their while to do business with you, so give them something. Offer them a percentage of the sale value of any new customer they introduce to you. If you don’t want to offer them a percentage, offer them another tangible benefit. Amazon vouchers will probably do the trick.
The importance of offering incentives to employees is already well documented, but customers are people, too. They have broadly the same motivations. The best part of this is that when a customer introduces someone to you, that ‘someone’ will have further friends and connections of their own, and the process continues.
You’ll soon have a whole network of lead providers, and you only need to pay them when they generate a sale.
Those are just five easy-to-follow ideas for creating customers, and only the idea of advertising in the local press is likely to cost you money. If you can persuade the local media to treat the opening of your business as a newsworthy story as opposed to an advert, it may even cost you nothing at all.
If you don’t have the customer numbers you need right now, you have nothing to lose by trying all of the above. Make today the day you go out and do it.
Be lucky, and be successful!