Finding new customers is a challenge, especially when you’re a small team or working with a limited budget. But it’s also one of the most important things any business owner has to do. After all, without customers, it’s just you and your tools — all dressed up with nowhere to go. Luckily, that doesn’t have to be the case. Here’s what other small business pros are doing to connect with the clients their business needs.
Do some thinking — who is your ideal client?
Narrow your focus to figure out exactly which demographics your service appeal to (whether that’s based on age, gender, income, interests). The more specific you get, the better you’ll be able to tailor your products or services to meet their needs. It also helps you create appropriate messaging and get it in front of customers who will respond.
Don’t be shy. Ask for referrals.
People tend to trust the opinions of their friends and acquaintances more than any other source — even in this internet age. A referral is powerful. It’s an independent assessment from someone who paid for your products or services, which, for most people, holds a lot of weight.
In general, happy people want to help others and happy customers want to see a small business succeed. If you have a client who is pleased with your work, one of the easiest things you can do is ask them leave a review or testimonial on whichever site makes the most sense for your business. It’s not a direct referral, but studies have shown most people trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations from friends. Just think of an online review as one more version of “word of mouth.”
Taper your marketing plan to meet your customers where they are — literally.
You’ve taken the time to identify your target market, which means you should have a good idea about where they spend their time both online and off. Now all you need to do is join them there. Figure out which social media sites they use, which blogs they read, and who they follow online. If you’re not sure, ask your current customers.
Every business is going to connect with customers on social differently, but a couple of popular options are running targeted ads, creating valuable content, advertising offers and giveaways, and engaging influencers who can become brand advocates. The key is to figure out a way to stay engaged, but not have it take up too much of your time. If you don’t understand how to create and maintain a social presence, consider hiring someone who does.
And while over 80 percent of the U.S. population has a social networking profile, people do hang out offline as well — and nothing beats an in-person connection. Use a site like Meetup.com to find groups with interests that align with those of your business and start going to events. Don’t go to the events to market yourself or to hand out your business card though. Go to make real connections, learn more about what people want, and hopefully figure out how your product or service would benefit them. After a while, it will only be natural to talk about your business, and then you can take it from from there.
Create a beautiful website (or update your existing one).
If you’re not on the internet, a lot of people who want to give you business are never going to find you. Your website should be beautiful, useful, and optimized for search engines. If you aren’t sure how to do this on your own, hire someone who does.
Team up. Partner with another business.
Find a business that complements yours to create a promotional strategy that benefits both of you. You can do this by becoming co-sponsors of a charitable cause, promoting each other in newsletters or on social media, or by offering specials that incentivize customers to shop both of your services.
Get involved in your community.
Find meaningful ways to help out in your community. Whether it’s volunteering, sponsoring a team, or offering your services for an auction, there are tons of ways to make a positive impact while also getting your business name out there. It’s a great way to connect with people on a meaningful level and building goodwill with the public, including potential customers.
Network. Network. Network.
Take every opportunity you can to meet and build relationships with people who can help you grow your business. That might be at trade shows, the chamber of commerce, conferences, or a number of other outlets. Start by checking out what’s going on in your local business groups and build from there.
Follow up with the customers you have.
If you want to turn new contacts into connections or customers, you have to keep the conversation going. Reach out via email within a day or two of meeting them, remind them of your conversation, and then, in order to get them to respond, either ask a specific question or provide something of interest. It’s easy to drift apart. But if you don’t, you may very well gain a new, loyal customer.
What are your tips for finding new customers? Share in the comments.