One of the biggest challenges when you are a business owner is how to find new customers. This is true whether you are a new start-up or an existing business, which has slowed down or wants to expand.
Here are some practical suggestions that I picked up many years ago on a Yellow Pages sales training course. They have served as a useful checklist ever since and I hope that they help you too.
As every new business knows all too well, advertising salespeople are always keen to part you from your hard earned cash with the promise of attracting new business. However, before you succumb to their charms, can I suggest that you think about creating a more comprehensive marketing strategy (that may or may not include their fantastic opportunity!)?
Areas to consider are:
3. Soliciting (not as in the oldest profession!)
4. Passers by
5. Former customers
Recommendations are often the most effective and cost-effective leads.
Do any of your existing/former customers know of anyone who needs your services?
Is there an incentive or discount that you could offer to encourage co-operation? One year, we offered a Christmas hamper for every recommendation and this worked extremely well. The total value of the goods was far less than the perceived worth and certainly much less than if we had offered a cash incentive.
ACTION: Contact customers and ask the question!
We live in the age of communication and there have never been such a mind-boggling variety of channels to advertising your business. The biggest problem is knowing which are likely to work best and, even more importantly, be cost effective. (Even professional marketers struggle with this as a famous quote testifies: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I dont know which half.")
You can focus your attention if you know as much about your potential customers as possible and then think where are they most likely to look when they need your services?
ACTION: Imagine you are a potential customer - where would you look for your service?
The term has taken on many meanings during its lifetime but in this context, we mean contact customers. This can include e-mails (but beware of privacy rules and low response rates), mailshots, telephone calls and personal visits. Cold calling or door-knocking has received its fair share of bad press and many business owners are afraid of even trying. As sensitive beings, most of us do not like the idea of rejection and possibly the embarrassment of making a new connection. However, the more people who are aware of what you offer, the more chance you will have of attracting new customers.
To take the sting out of this prospect, make your initial target to simply raise awareness rather than come away with an order immediately. Even if you can leave a leaflet/flyer/card and show potential customers that you are a nice person to do business with, this will ultimately do far more good than sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring.
ACTION: Make a list of potential customers and make sure that they know that you are keen to work with them
4. Passers By
If you have premises, what can passers-by learn about your business? Is there enough incentive for them to come in, make an enquiry or consider making a purchase?
ACTION: Review signage, posters, A-Boards - is there anything that you can improve to convert passing strangers into paying customers?
5. Former customers
Former customers (assuming that they had a good experience) may well buy again and it is definitely worth keeping the connection warm. Do you have an offer or any other reason to contact them? Are they likely to replace/renew whatever they previously purchased or is there anything else that they may consider?
Amazon are a great example of how this can work - once you buy a book from them, they then regularly suggest other similar titles or new books by your favorite author.
ACTION: Review your list of previous customers and make contact.
The hunt for new customers should be an ongoing process and I hope that these few ideas will help!
All the best
Start Your Own Business Ltd.