Customers lurk in the funniest places – seven places to look for new customers as a start up
One of the hardest things once you’ve started your new company can be to find new customers. You may already have a base of clients, but growing that base into a steady flow of business is a must.
This is where simply having a great product or service simply isn’t good enough, as even the best known brands need to get the message out there when they launch a new product. That may be by word of mouth, and their audience may already be anticipating the launch and be quick on the take up, but much work will have been done building momentum and engagement before that.
So where should new start ups look to find new customers?
Networking events can be a great way to find new customers. But don’t go in expecting to get results from the very first meeting you go to. Networking needs working at, and the best results come from steadily built give and take relationships.
Take the time to choose your networking events – make sure they include the right people in terms of your own target audience, and do some research into whether others find them useful. It can be a good idea to take a taster of one of the meetings before signing up for a long term deal with a networking group, making sure it really is right for your business.
It’s also well worth taking some time to do a few favours for others in the group, building up a group of advocates as you go.
A day at the races
Perhaps not the races literally, but as well as specifically set up networking events, it’s well worth looking at other events in the calendar and whether there are any that suit your business. These will be as diverse as that day at the races, a golfing competition, or a charity ball. Of course, the events that you choose will very much depend on your target audience.
You could also choose to sponsor the event in some way, getting your brand more noticed and your name out there. Make sure to look into all packages in detail, and consider the return you’re likely to get on your investment, before you negotiate your deal and sign up.
Running your own launch event can seem daunting. Will people come? How many should I invite? What should I do to make it interesting? And where should I hold it? These are all commonly asked questions. The truth is, there is no one answer, but unless you jump in and do it, you’ll never know.
“I spent a long time waiting for the right time for my launch event” says Kate, who owns a business coaching consultancy. “The right time never came, so I jumped in with two feet – and my very capable marketing agency – and I’ve never looked back. The customers I gained at my launch event have stayed with me for the last two years now.”
From Facebook and Instagram for consumers through to Twitter and LinkedIn for business to business opportunities, social media presents some amazing opportunities to target certain groups, and is well worth considering.
Social media can also work to give you an online presence before your website has been populated, giving you a voice and allowing you to gain authority in the marketplace.
Melanie, a holistic therapist, says “I built a Facebook page while I was still setting up my business. I post regularly to it with relevant snippets, and my customer base has quickly multiplied. While I have now published a website, this is really just for positioning. I traded from my Facebook page alone for the first six months – it really worked for me.”
Press ads and PR
Getting to know the local press and talking with them regularly could take you a long way – much further than simply running an ad. The business to business team at your local paper will also have a black book full of useful business contacts and the insight to know who to put you in contact with.
Making sure your story is known with PR is also a good cost effective route to your target market.
While taking on an exhibition space at a trade show can be an expensive business, it can also be effective to go to a trade show with some business cards and a few brochures and talking to the people that you meet there. This can be a very well targeted experience, and can prove very fruitful.
Remember to do your homework before the event to work out who will be there and who you’d really like to talk to, and again afterwards to make sure you maximise your meetings with follow up contact.
Pop up shops
If your customers aren’t coming to you, take your trade to them. Consider a pop up shop in a local shopping centre for a limited time. This can work particularly well if you also promote an offer at the same time – whether that’s a free sample, a trial, or a discount.
Your pop up shop can also help you to gain invaluable insight into your target audience, and their motivations to buy.
Open up to new customers
You’ll find new customers in the funniest places. Whether you’re having a conversation in the queue at your local supermarket, watching your kids in their Saturday football team, or by the pool on your holidays, make sure you’re always open to conversation and telling others what you do. You could catch someone at that moment when they really do want to buy, or they may know someone else who does.
Published Wednesday January 2, 2013