Finding clients is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges in starting a business. Every young, eager entrepreneur will struggle during his first years on the market with establishing a few loyal customers at least. However, this isn’t solely a beginner’s issue, but it will recur as fresh as in the first day every time the business wants to spread its wings and fly to more variate horizons.
Getting new customers to knock at your virtual door is not a one man’s job and by no means does it have an expiration date. It actually involves constant marketing efforts, by all possible means and conducted by the entire team. This is why it is important to know how and when to use this time-tested strategies in order to drive new business to your company.
Here are a few suggestions you might use if you want to help customers find your business:
1. Understand and define your target audience
The first step on your way to finding new customers and increasing sales is to understand who your customer is, what your competition is offering and if and where there are gaps for a newcomer. What you need to do is an actual market research, afterwhich you should be able to create a detailed profile of your target audience.
Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls, a marketing consulting company which has among its clients Fortune 500 firms, as well as startup and emerging businesses says:
“Attracting more customers is really about listening to their needs, not being a solution looking for a problem.”
2. Get a clear idea of who your current customers are
During your market research, you will notice that certain products and services may appeal to one type of audience, but not to others, so it is essential to understand the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in your target market. You can get to know your customer quickly and inexpensively by sending surveys through the many online survey tools, such as SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang.
In order to get a clear picture of what you’re dealing with, this research can involve more extensive reviews and studies on how your target customers feel about your business, your products and services.
3. Define the market for your products and services
Based on the information gathered from your research you will start to have a better idea of what your market shapes up to be for your products and services. The most important item you need to identify is who are the gatekeepers in your business. Gatekeepers are those who influence decision makers.
Also, at this point, you need to determine which key messages, features and benefits are essential to each potential customer. Go to these customers and tell them how your company can answer their questions and improve their business.
4. Generate sales leads
Once you know who your existing customers are and who your new customers need to be, there are a bunch of ways in which you can generate sales leads. Here are the ones which, we believe, work best:
Networking can be looked upon as an old fashioned way to get clients. In fact it might just be the most efficient one, since it generates referrals and recommendations, which have been proven to bring the customers with the highest retention rates.
So it isn’t just at hand to go to trade shows, book clubs or other social functions, or just put together an easy to create Linkedin or Facebook list of potential customers; it’s also a trick that works.
- Business contacts
Since you have created a strong list of business contacts, use them to constantly attract reference and referrals. Their positive feedback and testimonials will weight more than a great marketing campaign and it will, most certainly, get to more interested people.
Word of mouth is a very powerful tool in this technique. But most importantly, you need to always give your pleased customers the information they (and you) need in order to pass it on to other — so keep in touch with all your contacts and keep thanking them for their help.
- Affiliation. Teaming up. Strategic alliances
Another way to put yourself out there is through different kinds of business alliances. One way to do this is through a host-beneficiary arrangement. This means basically that another business which has the same target customer — but is not competition for your services — will use their connections to promote your business. This will give customers a safe feeling of two companies joining forces and adding value to their choices.
A more extensive alternative to host-beneficiary relationship is the strategic alliance. Host-beneficiary is regularly a short-term thing, while strategic alliances can last years and involve a long-term, more complex commitment. For example, an IT company can team up with an advertising agency and they can recommend each other to customers who need Web apps for their business and, at the same time, an effective way to get promoted.
- Leverage your website
And since we’ve come to talk about websites, one thing you can do, if you want customers to find you more easily, is to leverage your website. The first thing that comes to mind, even for those who don’t know much on the topic, is SEO — search engine optimization. Through the use of keywords and other similar techniques, your website will appear on the first page of listings, which will drive more customers to you. A SEO consultant, for instance, can use these tricks to help you improve your search results. There are also websites, such as Search Engine Watch, which you can access if you want to try it yourself.
Also, in order to generate awareness for your website and company, you can use blog posting, podcasts and webinars. Constant writing about your business, your interest and goals, will attract people who are searching for the same things. Remember that a website is a dynamic tool, so keep it fresh with information, up to date and why not — reinvent yourself every now and then.
No matter the type of business you are promoting, advertising must be part of your marketing strategy. The financial efforts you invest into it will, however, depend on how large your company is. For early stage companies is all the more important to have their advertising targeted effectively. In order to do this, they will need to have their target market very clearly defined.
Lately, however, the Internet has emerged as the most powerful way to advertise for more and more categories. For instance, you can chose Linkedin if you’re going for entrepreneurs, business owners and CEOs, and Facebook if the target you want to hit is consumers.
5. Sell more to your existing customers
While more and more people reach for the top of the mountain, many others seem to forget about the low-hanging fruit. To explain the metaphor, many business people have become so hooked up on finding new customers that they have forgot about their existing ones.
Here’s an idea: every now and then do something special for your existing customers, something to motivate them to remain loyal and keep them purchasing your products, since they trust you already.
One common technique is called Give a little to get a lot and it includes free sample giving, either if it’s a palpable product or it comes in the form of advice or consultancy, bundle more products and offer a package discount or offer customer rewards, based on their loyalty and buying habits.
6. Numbers and figures
Search Engine Land has recently conducted a Local Consumer Review Survey, which analyzed the way consumer behaviour changed in the past few years. As mentioned above, the most interesting finding was that the most people who answered the questionnaire were as likely to search via Internet as to ask for a recommendation from someone they trust.
According to the survey, 72% of consumers give the same weight to online reviews as they do to personal recommendations.
7. Teach your employees the value of WOM
Some business owners take it as granted that their employees should broadcast out to the world what is great about your company. In reality, it is your mission to show them how to do this and reassure them with every occasion that their opinion is appreciated.
Your employees need to hear the message that word of mouth is essential repeatedly from YOU. They need to believe that YOU believe it!
8. Create easy ways for clients to share WOM
Beside creating great products that the customers will seek and use, it’s important to consciously develop initiatives to get them talking about the product. It is in your hands to make it easy for them to share their positive impressions.
To this purpose, you may send newsletters, ask your customers to give testimonials about their collaboration with you or even ask for referrals specifically, by calling them up, for instance, to check what they are doing these days and discreetly suggesting they could refer their peers to your business.
9. Conduct regular customer surveys
While this method is debated upon as not very reliable — since it doesn’t entail much effort or dedication from the business owner — it is something that you can to try at least once, to see if it fits your patterns and if it helps.
Surveys can help you discover what’s turning customers into raving fans and what’s chasing them away, and ultimately this will show you what you need to adjust and where you need to keep up the same work.
10. Attend meetings, conferences, sponsor events.
Being actively involved in meetings, conferences and events that bring potential market together can get new customers to notice you. So keep a close eye for such events, where you can offer your products for promotion, samples, or which you can even sponsor.
Also, after attending these events, you need to follow-up with the people you’ve met and contact them to see if they might be interested in a collaboration.
TRISOFT at SymfonyLive London 2014
Linking to number 10 above, TRISOFT is constantly striving to get more involved and be more active on the market. Last year, we attended and sponsored the 3rd edition of SymfonyLive in London, an event which is meant to bring together the sharpest minds in open source enterprise software development. The experience was awesome and we have returned more eager to put into practice the great advise and new techniques that we have witnessed throughout the 2 days spent in the company of Symfony and PHP developers, development managers, system administrators and many other IT professionals.
In our experience, clients found it the easiest to get to us through word of mouth, through the well-received recommendations from former collaborators and associates. Also, our SEO capabilities have really launched our website and brought our brand closer to our target audience. Our entire team is making individual and collective efforts as well so that our services respond to the needs of the most exigent clients.
It’s a great day for new customers!
In a nutshell, it just doesn’t suffice to have a product or service that you believe people will need. On top of that, clients won’t just start calling you or ask for your services because you have started selling that product. It will take more than that for your website to start producing results and your marketing strategy to start bringing you the much wanted customers.
In order to achieve the goal of successfully getting clients, to find and choose them, most entrepreneurs have to adventure on regular fishing trips to keep new business coming their way. So buckle up, it’s a great day to get yourself a new customer!