NASE News

7 Ways To Get New Customers

Whether you’re launching a new venture or already have an established customer base, the key to growing your small business is winning new customers.

The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) offers seven proven techniques for reaching new customers. These methods are used by businesses large and small, but most cost little beyond a commitment to their implementation and sustained practice.

Used in combination, the techniques are guaranteed to help expose your small business to a wider market segment and new potential customers.

1. Create client profiles.
All effective sales campaigns begin with research. Your existing customers are a rich source of information into the psychology and buying habits of potential customers out there.

Select five to ten of your best customers — how you define “best” is up to you. These may be people who are the most loyal, easiest to work with, most dependable about payments, or those who advocate within their networks on behalf of your business.

Now create composite profiles based on a few of their stories. Do they share demographics in common? Who are they? How did you win them? Did they have a particular problem your business helped them solve? The composite profiles should include what they do, where you made initial contact with them, and what challenges they face.

You may want to conduct interviews with some of your clients to get insights about their purchasing decisions. Marketing agency Hubspot has suggestions for the kinds of questions most useful to ask clients in business-to-business relationships.

In general, the best way to extract insights from your existing customers is to focus on how they make decisions, what their problems and goals are, communications preferences, and demographics including their locations online and off.

Such information enables you to hone in on a pool of other potential customers by tailoring marketing to your client profile. You’ll have a better idea of how your ideal customer makes purchasing decisions, what they search for, how they find solutions to their problems, and what it takes to close a sale with them. Based on that knowledge, you’ll be better positioned to pitch effectively to each type of customer.

2. Optimize search results.
In the past decade, search engine optimization (SEO) has grown into a sophisticated technique businesses can use to rank higher in Google, Bing or other search engine results. This is a free way to raise your website and business profile in the list of links potential customers see when they search for particular keywords.

To maximize your SEO, research what terms people use when they search for services and products like yours. Then make sure that your website and social media profiles use those keywords and phrases.

Keep in mind that SEO is more than keyword relevancy. Google also privileges websites that are mobile-optimized, how long a website has been online, and more.

One of the most important optimization options is local SEO. Local SEO links your business to the geographic region you serve, allowing your business to come up on the map in searches by potential customers in your area.

Verify your physical address and maintain up-to-date hours of operation on Google and Facebook to show those searching for your services that you are a convenient and available option, and you’ll be positioned to win new business through local searches.

Learn more about SEO and Search Engine Marketing, a paid search results option, from NASE.

3. Sell through every channel.
In some ways, the internet makes it easier than ever to reach new customers. Search engines, websites, and social media afford unprecedented opportunities to put your business out there to anyone searching for your services.

But for the very same reason, the challenges of winning potential customers over may be trickier. Why? Potential customers can appraise you outside of your active sales pitch. Your small business profile is out there, along with whatever anyone else says about it, all year round.

Because of that, small business owners must take ownership of their online profile and control their brands, reputations, and customer experiences as much as possible across all channels. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming: Small businesses can combine the maintenance of their Facebook, Twitter, and other social profiles with a tool like Hootsuite, keeping their messaging synchronized with their website updates and consistent across the internet.

Online and off, the optimum sales channels depend on your optimum customers. For some, social media marketing may be more effective than traditional advertising such as radio or direct mail. For others, traditional ads may still reach your customer base better than social media. In many cases, a combination of traditional and new online ad techniques is best.

Underutilized social tools:
One overlooked online channel for customer exposure is LinkedIn. Particularly for business-to-business sales, LinkedIn groups are a great way to network and engage with professionals. LinkedIn has also made it easy to publish articles on business topics that can help you establish yourself as an expert.

Another social media option that you might not have considered is a Twitter chat. Chats are public conversations that take place at a prescheduled time, linked by a common dedicated hashtag and structured around numbered questions. Chats can boost engagement with your followers and broaden your exposure. Hootsuite offers tips on promoting and hosting a successful public chat.

If you’re not ready to hold your own, you can also join Twitter chats hosted by others and participate there. Engaging in the discussion is a great way to make connections with new people. Research the participants’ profiles to determine if they could be potential future customers.

4. Tap into your existing customers.
Referrals by your existing customers are the most powerful lead generators you have. A satisfied customer will share their good experiences with their friends, families, and the world at large.

Create referral incentives through discounts and free gifts. Encourage customers to tell their friends about your business by offering them a reward for their advocacy.

Many people will spontaneously post positive reviews of a business that helped them on social media, and new potential customers are much more likely to give an untested business a try when they trust the source of a recommendation.

Studies indicate one satisfied customer will tell 2-3 people about their experience.

The opposite is true, too: when we hear negative reviews from our friends about a business, it impacts our own attitude toward it. In fact, a dissatisfied customer is likely to share their poor experience with 8-10 people — all the more reason to go out of your way to honor your most loyal customers and incentivize their referrals!

5. Offer different versions of your product.
Potential customers looking over all your services may not be ready to commit to the full suite and the costs associated with it.

Consider alternative pricing. Small businesses can successfully overcome the “all-in” hesitancy by offering new customers a “lite version” or a la carte option of services at a lower price point.

Collect interested leads. Another incentive attractive to potential customers who may be looking at your website is an exit-intent coupon. This pop-up form offers a discount on a first purchase in exchange for an email. A discount may be a decisive factor in convincing a curious lurker on your page into giving your business a try.

6. Network with other business people.
Are you active in your local business community? Attend small business luncheons and other in-person networking events in your area and form alliances with those who work in similar industries.

Networking is a chance to meet other small business owners and entrepreneurs. It’s more than shaking hands and handing out business cards: You are developing a genuine and lasting rapport with other local business owners. “Understand why you’re there — to begin relationships — not to sell,” says business advisor Kevin Stirtz. “Networking is the first step in a long dance. Don’t rush.”

Even (or especially) when other business owners work in areas different than your own, these connections can be valuable for lead generations. Learn about their services, collect their contact information, and let them know you’ll refer people to them. They will often reciprocate the favor.

The NASE Small Business Locator is a member directory where you can generate leads and network with other small businesses.

7. Get involved in your community.
Community involvement is a way to raise your business profile in the best light. Contact local charities and civic organizations about local initiatives and ask how you can help. Businesses that participate in beautification projects, fundraising walks, and other activities in the community get the attention of many people at once.

Volunteering services or setting up a table at a public event are great reputation and visibility builders. It’s also a boon for self-promotion. Take pictures of the event and highlight your presence there, and you’ve generated sharable online content that will reach still more potential customers in your community.

Create your own events. Another way to contribute to the local community is hosting special events like open houses or seminars. Seminars, how-tos, and roundtable discussions — which can be free with registration — are an opportunity to invite current clients and have them bring additional guests. These can be done in coordination with other small business owners who draw their own clients in, bringing you another pool of new potential customers.

Contact local news media about your community events and outreach. Offer to write a guest column or appear in a news segment as an expert on a topic relevant to your business. Positive news coverage is yet another free multiplier of your visibility and reputation.