February 17, 2016

Small Business Advice - Reach New Customers

Three Ideas To Reach New Customers
Beware of the “Me and all my friends” mentality. In order to have a successful business, you must look outside your own circle of connections.  I have about 3,000 friends on Facebook… about 200 I know in town… but there is no way my circle of friends can sustain a business. Yours either.

Yes, I know… you have a network of friends and folks who frequent your business are considered friends as well… but that still isn’t enough to call your business a success. Unless you sell something that is needed frequently (food products for instance) you can’t count on the same people coming by week after week. And even if you do have a steady stream of regulars, you can’t count on them forever. If some of your regulars don’t make it in that month… you shouldn’t feel the sting on your bottom line. If you do… you’re not being smart about your business.
Jewelry booth at the Kyle Fair & Music Festival (2007)

As a small business, you should ALWAYS be looking for new customers. The best way to reach new customers is by being a good, solid business that people WANT to check out.  Make sure your house is in order. Do you make sure you provide a positive experience to each and every person who comes through your door? Do they WANT to come back? Would they tell others to swing by when asked if they know a place to get the product you sell?

The question remains, how do you reach people you don’t know? Where do you find new customers? Here’s three places you are likely to find new folks.

Word of Mouth

Cost: Free

This is the most powerful kind of promotion and it’s also sometimes the most dangerous. It’s powerful because people ask their trusted connections for advice on where to buy things. If your circle of friends tells their circle of friends about you… and then they tell their friends… you’ve got a good thing going.

How is this dangerous? Two reasons. First, People tend not to share good experiences and/or recommend things to others. Secondly, negative news travels faster than anything I’ve ever seen along the information highway. Want to test it? Post something positive about a local business on social media. You will likely get 4-5 replies and a handful of “likes.” Now, post about a negative experience on the same page…. And watch it BLOW UP.

As a journalist, I’ve written stories and features on a variety of subjects and also kept a personal blog. I have a rule that I guide myself by and that is to only talk positive. Personally, there is so much negativity in the world that I don’t believe I need to add to it. But, every now and then I have what I call “soapbox moments” or something I feel so strongly about that I feel I need to let the world know.  In 2009 I had an issue with a contact lens company that wouldn’t honor my coupon. I blogged about it. I have over 2,000 hits on it and 7 comments.  That was without posting it past my personal social media. It’s my 4th most read post on my blog of 11 years (467 blog posts.. this will be 468).  

The point is…. Bad news travels MUCH faster than good news. So, make sure each customer walks out with good news to share. And there’s no fault in asking people to share about your business… and invite their friends to swing by.

Participate In Events

Cost: Moderate

Is there a 5k happening in your area? How about a Farmer’s Market? A festival or celebration? Community gathering? Events at schools or businesses that allow vendors? Be there. Especially if it’s free or has a low cost of entry to reach a great amount of people. Especially if you have a product that you can set up in a booth and sell.

But here’s the deal with events. They can be a great experience or a horrible waste of time. There’s a little “luck of the draw” when you participate. Make no mistake, though… they are what YOU make of it. If you sit in a chair and let people walk by you and when they stop you shrug and say “grab a flier if you want” you’re likely not going to have a positive experience… but it may not be the fault of the event… it may be because of your attitude.  On the other hand, if something is poorly attended and you are a shining light of positivity and have fun and make sure that everyone is aware of you and your product, you might gain a good amount of interest in your product and people may talk about you. 


Cost: Medium - Heavy

Every facet of your business is advertising. Your storefront is advertising, your product labeling is advertising, the signs you post, the sticker you have on your car, the shirts you and/or your employees wear… all advertising.

But I’m more talking about the outward advertising here. I posted a recent blog with five ideas to promote your business for free – link – so I’ll stick to some that have a price tag to them.  Now… let’s note that you MUST have a strong message and action to go with your advertising or it doesn’t matter what you’re selling.

On a small scale, having fliers and cards to hand out is a good idea. ALWAYS have some handy. Make sure people you talk to about your business walk away with something in their hand that enables them to reach you and/or find your store when they’re ready to purchase something. Advertising collateral is key to marketing yourself.

Are you in a niche market? Is there a trade show for your product? If you sell pet products, there’s a Global Pet Expo coming up (link). If you sell decks, there are several woodworking trade shows coming up (link). If your product is perfect for a wedding party, check out the Bridal Shows coming up (link). There is likely a Trade Show on a scale you can afford to match your business and help you get introduced to new customers. Google “your business” and Trade Show to see if there’s something there for you. Oh, and make sure you have advertising collateral.

Do you have a commercial? You can either do it yourself or (I recommend) hire a professional to shoot a video about your product. Once you have a 15-second, 30-second, and 1-minute commercial shot, you can post it up to YouTube and share it via the Internet. Also, you have something you can take to Internet shows, websites, television stations and even radio (audio only of course) to help promote yourself. Dealing with buying media is a slippery slope though, so having someone who knows how to deal with salespeople in these positions is key to get the best deal possible for your money. 

This is a commercial for a small, local business in the town where I live. Lone Star Delights.

These three things are not the only way to get your word out and meet new customers, but they are all good starting points. This article is just an aide to hopefully get you to thinking outside your network of friends and into the world. Thanks for reading.

 About The Author:
Sean Claes has worked with Mom and Pop shops, International Corporations and the Music Industry on their branding, marketing, events and communications for more than 15 years. This article is just a sample of the observations he's made over the course of that time. For more information or to see how he might be able to help grow your business, contact him at seanclaesATseanclaesDOTcom.
Read more Small Business Advice via his Small Business Marketing page - link.

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