How to find new customers for your small business
It’s always beneficial to seek new customers. When new competitors enter the market and try to steal market share or old customers no longer need your business, it’s important to draw upon a fresh customer base. Here are five strategies to win clients.
1. Look for New Customers in Your Existing Market
Chances are, there are several new customers in your existing market, they’re just hidden. Profile the best customers you have now. What do they look like? Where they are located? What do services or products do they utilize? Also include if they have any buying cycles, whether they attend conferences and what process they followed to become your customer.
Next, list how your best customers prefer to be contacted, and what worked when you originally marketed your business to them. Using the profiles of these ideal customers, find more that match. Set a marketing budget and develop a shortlist of targets that have potential for your business.
Don’t forget to ask for referrals. Your customers are likely to know other people just like them who could benefit from your products and services. Many customers are willing to refer your business if you ask.
2. Look for New Distribution Channels
To seek new ways to expand your customer base, identify other ways you could sell your products and services. Here are some strategies:
- Expand beyond your current market into different geographical locations by opening new locations, outlets, a franchise or a joint venture with other businesses.
- Go up or down the supply chain. If you’re a wholesaler, add a retail outlet—going up—or start importing direct—going down.
- Go online. You’ll be able to create a new avenue for your customers and widen your audience and therefore potential customers.
- Join contracting bids or open tendering opportunities in different markets.
- Consider any competitors or complementary businesses looking to exit. You might be able to buy them out to extend your reach and customer base.
- License what you do to similar businesses in other markets or countries. You own the intellectual property and they pay you a royalty.
3. Find New Markets
Define your market area or region, such as Hawaii or the Pacific, and then using local statistics or your industry knowledge, look for other areas, such as on the Mainland or overseas in Asia, to expand.
- Consider exporting: Overseas markets offer opportunities to expand your business. Conduct on-the-ground research in the countries you’re considering. Make sure to find out what regulations, tariffs and business risks are present in your new target market.
- Explore new market models: If you sell to consumers, consider if you can sell to businesses as well. Similarly, if you sell to businesses, find out if there is a way to sell to individuals.
- Look at nontraditional markets: The government or education sectors have opportunities worth exploring.
- Review your online strategy: While the internet offers a potential worldwide market, identify what’s practical for you to target. Otherwise your marketing efforts will be ineffective because your message is off-market or spread too thin.
4. Focus on Selling
Every local small business owner should be placing emphasis and budget into selling strategies. It may sound obvious, but if you don’t sell anything, you’re out of business fast. Assess your tactics and improve your sales success rate by:
- Host workshops, webinars or events to talk with customers directly and close the sale.
- Call or visit existing and potential customers at their business to direct sell.
- Offer discounted products or services to get new customers, and then up-sell and on-sell once they have signed up.
- Attend industry events and trade shows.
- Create content for new customers to download in exchange for their email addresses, and then add them into your email marketing campaign.
- Develop a sales plan, train and encourage everyone in your business to be a salesperson.
- Using direct marketing software or engaging third party companies to send you qualified leads.
To find new customers, you have to be creative. Sometimes that means seeking out strategic alliances and joint ventures with other businesses. Tapping into a complementary business’ database of customers and forming an alliance can uncover a new stream of customers.
- Form marketing partnerships: Jointly promote with another business. It’s even better if you can get in front of their customer base. Working together gives you instant credibility to their clients.
- Constantly network: Attend events, conferences or exhibitions your customers attend. Invest in any speaking opportunities to enhance your profile.
- Develop referral agreements: find complementary businesses and set up a referral network (which can be formal or informal) to lock in work. This is common in the trades, where a builder will refer or use their own plumbers, electricians etc to complete the work.
- Use social media: find like-minded business owners in the same industry and post, comment, participate and share information and resources to amplify your message.
Finding new customers is one of the most common growing pains for small business owners. Over time it’ll get easier, because you and your staff will know what sales and marketing methods work best for your business. It’s important to actively market to new customers on an ongoing basis to ensure your business never runs short of buyers.
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