Whether you’re a startup or an ongoing business, all small business owners share the same universal concern.  This universal concern is to find new customers so they can stay in business or even grow their business. But how do you find new customers?  The first step that we always suggest to clients is to create a customer profile of their ideal target customer.  A way to get a clear picture of this target customer is to ask who they are, where they are, what they care about and what they’re looking for from companies like yours.  These key questions will give you the answers that will be useful in projects like creating marketing copy on your website and social media or creating sales materials.

If you’re just starting out, doing some small market research will also help you create a profile of your target customer. This could be done by yourself or through third-party companies that specialize in this area of business.  If you’ve been in business for a while, don’t assume your target customer has stayed the same. Regularly survey your customers and track your social and web analytics so you can see how they might be changing.  These metrics will help you understand if changes are needed to your marketing deliverables to find new customers.

Once you’ve got a handle on your target customers, here are six simple ways to reach them:

 

  1. Start with a website (or audit your existing one). If you don’t already have a website for your small business, what decade are you living in? It is an unspoken rule that a small business needs a website simply to be found. After all, without a website, where will your online reviews, marketing emails, and social media accounts lead back to? Creating a website doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. Services like Wix or Squarespace have made designing a beautiful and mobile-optimized website a relatively easy task.  If you already have a company website, you need to take a hard look at the “marketing copy” and design to make sure it meets the needs of your ideal target customer.
  2. Tap into the new Yellow Pages. If your business targets a local clientele, such as a gym or a retail store, local search directories are the new Yellow Pages. It’s easy to take advantage of this marketing tool: Just visit local search directories, such as Google, Bing,Yellow Pages and Yelp, and “claim” your listing. Fill in the basic information people need to know and write a description of your company, being sure to use keywords that potential customers might use in searching for your business.  If your company ideals to a larger population of customers, you should look into digital advertising to make sure you are seen at the top of the search results for keywords that describe your business or product.
  3. Get Social. Recent studies suggest that social media is actually the first introduction a customer has with your business.  It is how consumers and businesses now primarily share information because it can be made up to the minute to stay parallel with the world around it.  Since you already created a customer profile, you should understand which platforms your customers are absorbing information on the most.  For example, if you’re targeting 30-something moms, you’d probably want to use Facebook and Pinterest. If you’re targeting businesses, LinkedIn or marketplaces like UpWork are great. After setting up your accounts, come up with some strategies on how and when you will be posting the most engaging content to reach your ideal target customers.  A mistake many businesses make is posting content just because they think they have to and it dilutes the brand.  Always use a content schedule so you can ensure you are hitting your ideal target customer.
  4. Referral Marketing is still King. As soon as you have a few satisfied customers under your belt, you can use them to start getting referrals to new prospects. Set up a system for obtaining referrals from customers. People trust businesses that their family and friends refer them to, so referrals are highly valuable source of new customers.
  5. Get active in the community. For businesses seeking local customers, being visible and involved in the community can help you attract prospects. Get involved in local business networking groups or sponsor local events or sports youth teams. Hold events at your business to attract new customers, and participate in events relevant to your customer base.  These could be “restaurant week” or a health expo.
  6. Strategic Partnerships. This is the biggest strategy overlooked by small business owners. There are two strategic partnerships that should be looked into; traditional and disruptive.  Traditional strategic partnerships are the easiest because you are finding complementary businesses in your area and work with the business to co-market each other. For example, if you own a gym, you could co-market with a smoothie bar or fitness apparel boutique.  Work on a comprehensive strategy where the two businesses promote each other on social media and pass out physical marketing materials to their existing customers.  This type of partnership has the same effect as referral marketing.  The more difficult strategic partnership to attain is a disruptive partnership.  Using the same example of a gym, you could search out local businesses to host a weekend or lunch time “boot camp” style workout for free so you could get new customers to try out your product.  It usually takes some sweat equity to get these partnerships off the ground but they can be transformative to your customer pipeline.