Whether you’re launching a consultancy, a bakery or a plumbing business, finding your first customers can be a daunting prospect. Here are six cost-effective ideas to help you secure those all-important initial clients and get your new business off to a profitable start.
Know your customer
When launching a new business, it’s important that you have a clear understanding of who will want to purchase your products or services. By outlining what you offer and how your business adds value, you can build a profile of your ideal customer.
Creating customer profiles can help you find the best way to connect with your target audience and give your marketing efforts direction. Customer profiles can also help you to align what you’re offering to the needs of your potential clients - and keep them coming back.
Network like a pro
One of the best ways to secure your first customers is through word of mouth. You need to use your existing network and meet new people, so you can spread the word about your new venture. Do your research to find relevant industry events where you stand the best chance of meeting prospective customers. For example, if you’re launching a hairdressing salon, local beauty events will be more useful than large national conferences.
Make the most of the events you attend by doing some advance preparation. You want to avoid feeling tongue-tied on the day, so prepare a short pitch that shows the best of your business and think about the kinds of questions people may ask. After the event, make a list of contacts to follow up with. This’ll keep you at the forefront of their minds and let them know that they’re important to you.
Don’t forget your existing network either, as you likely already have positive relationships with these people. Seek out existing connections that fit your ideal customer profile and reach out to them with the details of your business. As well as helping to secure customers, your network can be a useful way of getting early feedback on your offering.
Research and outreach
Once you’ve exhausted your existing network of contacts, you should approach potential customers directly. This is where your customer profiles will come in - you already know who your ideal customers are and what they do. Now, you can look for matches online through Google Business Profiles or on networking platforms such as LinkedIn.
This research can then be used to create lists of prospects that you can contact directly. Phoning them is often the most effective option - hearing your voice adds a personal touch - but emailing is a great backup if they don’t pick up the phone.
If your new business is aimed at individuals, not other businesses, you may wish to consider where your potential customers spend their time online. For example, by sharing the details of your business in online forums or local community Facebook groups, you may be able to connect with multiple potential customers at once. With more people than ever wishing to shop local, you’ll have an interested audience nearby.
Build brand partnerships
Once you’ve established who your target customers are, you can also look at building brand partnerships with businesses that share your key demographics. Partnerships can be mutually beneficial and help you scale your small business.
Start by identifying like-minded brands that complement your offering and get in touch to see if you might be able to work together. You could offer discounts if customers use both businesses, or exchange flyers to add to each other's product shipments. For example, a wedding cake designer could partner with a florist to support each other to find new bridal clients.
Make sure you’re easy to find
In the early days of a new business, it’s likely that you’ll have to do most of the heavy lifting when securing new customers. However, if people are looking for you or the services you offer, it’s important that they can find you easily. Whether your business sells designer footwear or offers financial advice, most of your customers are likely to start their journey online, so it’s essential that your company has a digital presence.
A well-designed website and an SEO strategy can put you right in front of your target audience and provide potential clients with all the information they need to reach you. For some businesses, social media accounts can attract a new audience and give them more information about your products and services. These six social media tips for small business success will give you a great starting point.
Make every customer an advocate
Every customer has the potential to be a valuable ambassador for your business. From recommending a mortgage advisor to raving about a local restaurant, word-of-mouth marketing can be one of the most effective tools in growing your client base.
Encourage your first customers to share their experience through online reviews or social media posts to boost awareness and build the credibility of your business. You may even wish to incentivise clients to recommend your products or services through a dedicated referral scheme that rewards their loyalty with additional discounts or payments.
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