The last 12 months has seen a huge shift in the working environment. As a nation, we’ve experienced sweeping changes from redundancies and job shortages through to working from home and furlough. Many of us have reflected on the direction of our lives and one blog post from Enterprise Nation reported a record number of start-ups in 2020 (13.25% up on the previous year, and that was just those registered at Companies House).
But quitting your job and launching your dream business is only half the battle. The Business Village has supported enough start-up and small businesses over the years to know that no matter what product or service they’re providing, every new business owner has the same burning question:
“How do I find customers?”
So, whether you’re just starting out or looking to grow your business, we’ve listed eight strategies to help you find and attract new customers.
Talk to your family and friends
You may think your Mum or best friend are unlikely to buy from you so wonder why you should give them information about your business. However, it’s possible they will know someone who IS your ideal customer and the more people who can pass on your details, the better. To make life easy for yourself, draft a simple email explaining what you do (and who you’re doing it for) then send to family and friends, asking them to share with others who may be interested. You could also offer a limited friends and family discount as a tempter.
Work your network
When you include old colleagues, school or university classmates, previous bosses, teachers, clients, customers, other local businesses and social media connections, you’ll suddenly find your network is much larger than initially thought. Contacting some of your older connections on the list may need a little investigation, but social media platforms such as LinkedIn or Facebook are a good place to start. However, remember to connect and chat before asking for favours.
List your potential customers
During your market research, you’ll already have identified who your target customers are, so list those businesses or people you think will buy from you, along with anyone else you’ve met along the way who could be interested. Start getting in touch to share more about your products or services and tell them what makes you different to the competition.
Spread the word on social media
Love it or hate it, social media is a great way to reach new people. You can either pay for advertising which targets your dream customers or go with an organic (unpaid) approach to share your messages. Joining Facebook groups is another great way to connect with a wider audience, but make sure you engage and share helpful information rather than just selling. Also remember to post on your personal accounts and share updates with closer connections.
These days, most people will want to check your website and social media accounts before buying from you, so it’s good to have an online presence even if it’s just a simple website. Search engine optimisation (SEO) takes time but can help your website to appear higher in search results. Blog posts are a great way to boost your SEO ranking and help attract people to your website whilst also giving you something to share on social media. If you want to make things happen a little faster, you can pay to target the search terms people are using via PPC (pay per click) marketing.
Attend industry events
Once Covid-19 restrictions lift and in-person events resume, exhibiting at relevant trade shows or attending conferences and other events are good ways to meet new people. Another strategy is giving talks at events, sharing helpful information. This also positions you as an industry expert. Make sure you have business cards and marketing leaflets to hand and remember to focus on making connections and building relationships which can then be followed up when you’re back in the office.
Team up with other business owners
Linking with business owners offering complementary products and services can help both of you reach a wider audience. For example, a wedding photographer and florist can share each other’s business cards with new clients. Whilst it may seem counter intuitive to reach out to your competitors, it could be a good strategy and lead to new opportunities such as taking on surplus work which they’re too busy to handle or collaborating on a project which is bigger than either of you could manage alone.
Get involved in your community
Remember that people tend to do business with people they like and trust. Meeting people when supporting your local community (eg. the kids swimming club or voluntary organisations) and business community can help get your name known in the area. One business advisor always said that if you’re having a slow business day, check what local events are happening, even if it’s just an open garden event, as you could get chatting with someone who knows someone else needing exactly what you’re selling!
Finding new clients is likely to be a combination of several strategies, so pick more than one! Treat your customers well, especially your first, and ensure they’re satisfied with your product or service. Building a relationship and history with your customers will turn them into brand advocates, helping you attract more customers via testimonials and social sharing.
Business Village tenant, Kat Derbyshire, ‘works with business owners who are motivated to create a business that provides a fantastic service to clients and generates a regular, consistent income for them’. She reiterates that when starting out in business, one of the most common worries is how to find clients. Her top tip is to “get crystal clear about what the problems are that your potential clients face and how your services will resolve them”.