If you are thinking of setting up in business, how are you going to get your first, and on-going, customers?
STRATEGIES FOR FINDING YOUR FIRST CUSTOMERS
Below are some suggested strategies for getting initial and on-going, new, customers.
A lot of business can come from referrals, however, in order to get a referral you need to have someone to recommend you. By joining a networking group you can get to know other local business people, and once they get to know you and the service you are offering they may become your customer or they will start to recommend you to businesses they know or to their customers. A networking group can also offer support, but many require a subscription and regular commitment, so research those available in your area; most will allow you to attend one or two meetings free to find out if it is the right group for you, and on average you will need to allow a minimum of three months to build up the trust of other members before you start to receive referrals. There are also many on-line networking groups.
To entice new customers consider offering an initial service to new customers free of charge or at reduced cost. Once customers have experienced your unique selling point, some of these customers will become regular clients. Reward them further by giving them money off a further product or service, or maybe giving them a gift voucher, if they recommend new customers.
Advertising can get your name known amongst potential customers, but research which is the best option for your business – what publication are potential customers likely to read? Trade journals can be the best option if you are targeting a specific trade area. Local newspapers can get your name known in the local area, but circulation numbers are falling and free papers are not always delivered to all homes, plus there is no guarantee that the paper or advert will be looked at. This form of advertising can also prove expensive.
A PR article can get a greater response than advertising, providing the article is not written overtly as an advert, but if written in general terms you can explain how the product or service you are offering can benefit potential customers, including your company details only in the last section of the article, maybe with an offer. Remember that any article has to be of interest to the publications readers.
Lastly, but definitely not least, is on-line promotion through a website or advertising. Many business or product searches are now carried out on-line, so a web presence is becoming increasingly important, but just having a website is not the only answer. High search engine rankings are also important as only 40% of searches continue beyond page one of the search engines. To achieve this, paid advertising can be used, but the majority of people do not trust companies using paid adverts, so a website needs to have and maintain search engine optimisation, or else a good, and usually cheaper, alternative is to use a business directory. Again, a trade specific directory can be the best option depending upon your business, but look at your customer base and pick a directory relevant to them, for example, if the majority of your customers are local use a locally based directory which will optimise any listing for the area you are based in. Using a business directory can also mean that you will have a web presence without having a website, so that you can reduce your initial start-up costs.
The advantage of having a web presence rather than general advertising, is the latter is a scatter gun effect, where you hope your advert is see by someone who might be looking for the product, whereas on-line, searches are carried out by individuals looking for a particular business, product or service, usually in a specific location.
Finally, remember that advertising and business promotion has to be on-going – on average it takes seven exposures of your business name before it becomes known and recognised, so ensure that you account for this in your business planning, both financially and in time, and maybe consider using third parties to take on areas where you do not have the expertise. Although this may appear expensive, you will probably save time and get the work done properly - this may work out to be the most cost effective method, especially as it will leave you free to concentrate on your business.