find new customers

Small Business Week 2016

small business week

Don’t miss yesterday’s Small Business Week post, “Where to Find Qualified Employees for Your Business.”

Whether you’re a startup entrepreneur or a business veteran, all small business owners share the same number-one concern: to find new customers. The first step to finding new customers is having a clear idea of your target customers—who they are, where they are, what they care about and what they’re looking for from companies like yours.

If you’re just starting out, doing some market research will help you create a profile of your target customer. If you’ve been in business for a while, don’t assume your target customer has stayed the same. Regularly survey your customers so you can track how they’re changing — this will inform how your marketing needs to change to find new customers.

Once you’ve got a grip on your target customers, here are six ways to reach them:

  1. Start with a website. If you don’t already have a website for your small business, get one — stat. These days, every small business needs a website simply to be found. After all, without a website, where will your online reviews, marketing emails, and social media accounts lead back to? Creating a website doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. Find out how to get a business website.
  2. Tap into local search marketing. If your business targets a local clientele, such as a restaurant, retail store or salon, local search directories are the new Yellow Pages. It’s easy to take advantage of this marketing tool: Just visit local search directories, such as Google, Bing, Yellow Pages and Yelp, and “claim” your listing. Fill in the basic information people need to know to decide whether to do business with you: your business address, phone number, hours of operation, directions and photos. Write a description of your company, being sure to use keywords that potential customers might use in searching for your business.
  3. Use social media. Social media is how consumers and businesses share information and find out new things — like how great your business is. Before choosing which social media channel/s to use, do some research to find out where your target customers spend most of their time. For example, if you’re targeting 30-something moms, you’d probably want to use Facebook and Pinterest. If you’re targeting businesses, LinkedIn is the place to be. Set up your accounts, share information about your business (including photos and videos — these are highly popular), and share other people’s posts as well. The goal: Share information that’s useful to your target customer base.
  4. Get referrals from satisfied customers. As soon as you have a few satisfied customers under your belt, you can use them to start getting referrals to new prospects. Set up a system for obtaining referrals from customers, whether that’s a follow-up call after a B2B sale is made, or a form that shoppers at your retail store can fill out to be entered into a prize drawing. People trust businesses that their family and friends refer them to, so referrals are highly valuable source of new customers.
  5. Get active in the community. For businesses seeking local customers, being visible and involved in the community can help you attract prospects. Get involved in local business networking groups. Sponsor local events or sports teams. Hold events at your business to attract the public, and participate in events relevant to your customer base, whether that’s a “Taste Of” restaurant fair or a health expo.
  6. Co-market with other businesses. Many small business owners don’t think to try this tactic, but it’s highly effective. Find a complementary (not competitive) business in your area and co-market each other’s businesses. For example, if you own a pet grooming salon, you could co-market with a pet store, pet sitter or doggie daycare. Put flyers, brochures and business cards from each other’s businesses in your locations, and include links to each other’s websites in your marketing emails and on social media. By co-marketing, you can build on the trust that your co–marketing partners have built with their customers, and vice versa.

What’s been the most effective tactic for you to find new customers? Share your tips in the comments—and check back tomorrow at SmallBizDaily, when I’ll share my 8 favorite productivity hacks.