No customers, no business. A simple and obvious fact, which leads new business owners to ask the question “How do I get customers to see and buy from my business?” The first question to ask yourself is: Who are your customers and how do they like to buy the kind of products you’re selling? You want to be able to see the “face” of your primary customer. Is it a child, teenager, senior citizen, a techie, “do-it-yourself” person, a woman, a man, or some other demographic? If your target customer is Hispanic, it would not make much sense to advertise your product in an Irish magazine or Jewish website. Knowing your target customer lets you tailor your message to who’s buying.
Is your business a “brick and mortar” storefront? Online? Industry specific? Are you selling pizza, hats or doing software consulting? Your approach to creating “buzz” for your enterprise will vary in each case. If I am selling pizzas, I’ll advertise locally via the web and direct mail to announce specials, offer coupons, and give great friendly service. This business is built on the perception of competitive value-pricing, tasty meals, and ease of ordering on-line or by phone. Your likely customer will be within a few miles of your store and wants quick pick-up or available local delivery. Specials will get new customers in the door, but quality, value and taste will bring them back and get them to tell their friends. Having an online presence is important because it makes it easier for customers to order and to see all of your menu items.
If you are selling hats, you have several marketing options. You can offer hats online showing a variety of styles, perhaps with a buy-one get-one 50% off and free shipping. Consider partnering with local women’s organizations on fashion show fundraisers where you offer a discount on the hats shown. Or you can partner with a local boutique to help them accessorize their outfits — with special prices on your hats.
If you are developing a software consulting business you must position your business carefully. How unique are your programming skills? How much demand is there for what you know? Is a business built on reputation, contacts, networking or SEO? You must have a very targeted audience. You might start by creating a website and brochure outlining your skills and experience and distribute it to your network of contacts online and offline. Look through Information Technology magazine want ads to look for good matches to your qualifications. Sometimes a company looking for an employee might be willing to outsource the services to a company instead.
The underlying philosophy in getting new customers is trying to get them to buy when they have a need or are “in market.” We are “in market” for groceries when we run out of food, or for a new washing machine when the old one finally breaks down, or for another car when the cost to fix our current car is just not worth it anymore. The key is the right offer at the right time to increase the chances that customers will call or come in ready to make a purchase. Some offers must have a seasonal flavor, you don’t sell snow shovels in July, some are timed to days of the week – 30% off on Tuesday or after 3pm, restaurant deals for slow mid-week periods geared to seniors for example. It is also true that sometimes a customer being “in market “ is dependent on future plans for example a home renovation, creating a web site, deciding to plant a garden, to join a gym, or take a vacation. All of these activities typically mean that money is going to be spent and not surprisingly, cost-conscious customers still want that great deal. Now that we have covered the framework for getting new customers, Part 2 of this series will get into specifics of attracting new customers. Remember, choosing your best customer acquisition strategy will be driven by why your customer is buying, their purchase frequency, and how they get their purchase information.
Do you have any ideas to share about how to get new customers?
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Melinda F. Emerson, known as SmallBizLady is one of America’s leading small business experts. As a seasoned entrepreneur, professional speaker, and small business coach, she develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. As CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. Forbes Magazine named her #1 woman for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com Melinda is also bestseller author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works.