You’ve tried all the traditional methods- running ads, asking for referrals, and attending those dreaded networking events. Sometimes these traditional tactics worked, most times it didn’t. Or you just couldn’t measure it properly to know if these efforts worked.
First a disclaimer: before you start engaging potential customers, make sure you are engaging the right ones. There is nothing more fruitless than trying to sell a prospect on something they aren’t interested in. Understanding WHO to talk to is just as important as WHAT you will say.
Being more creative and strategic in how you get new customers can make all the difference. With some planning and consistency, using some of these methods can be very effective and won’t break your marketing budget.
For now, we’ll assume you’ve done the homework on what your target market is and who your ideal customer is. Now that you’re armed with a focus and a message, you can try any of these ideas and you’ll be talking to new prospects and closing deals in just a few weeks. Here are 7 tips to jump-start your effort!
1. Leverage your base – Just asking for a referral isn’t enough anymore. If your clients are happy with your service or widget they will do this naturally. To electrify this process, put some “what’s in it for me” into it. Incentivize your current clients to refer. Come up with a program where after so many referrals that result in new sales for you, they get their service or product at a discount for an extended period of time. No one wants to give their widget or service away for free. Instead, think about the cost of bringing on another salesperson. If you can incentivize someone to sell for you for less than what it costs you to bring on a salesperson, then it’s a winning idea. Your program should include these elements:
- A “code” for tracking. Some type of customer code, discount coupon, or you can use the current customer’s name. Have something to track for them, if they have to track it themselves, it’s too much work and interest in your program will fizzle.
- Automate the process so you’re not adding extra work on your end. Tools like Zapier or basic notifications in your email or on your website can help you eliminate some of the administrative work.
- Shout it out! Announce the small victories to your other customers. ie “ABC Company got 10% off their invoice this year, you can too!” None of us want to miss out on a deal or something free, so hang the carrot on the stick and talk about whom gets it.
2. Engage and network online– There isn’t a networking event in your local area where you can walk in the room and a potential prospect is on a microphone asking the entire room “Where can I find a good xyz?” ( you happen to sell xyz). A few minutes a day commenting, answering, and advising, will eventually put you right in front of your prospects- daily. You can do this while standing in line at the grocery store, waiting for your daughter’s dance class to end, or while having your morning coffee. The ROI can be significant. We have three clients getting more than 85% of their business from online communities and referrals from them.
3. Take a class with your prospects or meet them where they are at–
For instance, a home improvement contractor might attend a “Do it Yourself” class at the Home Depot or an HVAC service provider might take building safety certification classes. There are tremendous benefits in this strategy and a great way to find new customers.
- It will help you understand the nuances of your current customer’s environment.
- You will be able to identify what’s important to prospects with laser focus.
- You’ll be presented with all kinds of problems to solve, because typically in an interactive class, people talk about their challenges.
- It’s an opportunity to network. What a great introduction you have: “I’m taking this class because I want to better understand my customer’s challenges.” “We provide xyz to companies like yours.”
4. Give a class – A landscaper might offer a free gardening class at a local community center. A personal trainer might offer a free nutrition class at the local gym. The key to this is never to sell your service or product at these events- the purpose of these classes are to position yourself as an expert by showing what you know. As an expert, you gain trust- when people trust you, they do business with you. Your name and business will be on the printed material and you’ll have a postcard for attendees to fill out that will qualify them as prospects.
5. Partner Up – If you’re a wedding photographer, partner up with a DJ, decorator and caterer to offer a package. A software reseller might partner up with a network security company and refer to each other. This gives all involved a force multiplier in the effort of finding new customers. Your business gets exposed to their customers and visa versa. Think outside the box here- it doesn’t always have to be completing services, it can be offering a service in another area of the customer journey. For example- An IT service provider might partner up with a business consultant to offer software audits or technology workflow audits. How can this apply to your industry?
6. Find some big coattails to ride on– If you’re small fish in a big pond, then be a bottom feeder. Yep, you’ll have to eat a little humble pie here. Call on those market leaders and ask them to outsource work to you during their peak business times. Every company runs into times when project deadlines are at risk because the workload is overwhelming. It makes much more sense for these companies to outsource rather than increase headcount. You might get the work they don’t want to do, however, its work you didn’t have before. Be sure to have an NDA and Non-Compete to offer so they know you can be trusted and they will be protected.
6. White label your services– Promotion companies do this all the time, they sell products with other businesses’ logos on them. Offer your services to other businesses (in your customer’s journey) and allow them to put their label on it. You’re providing a way for them to expand their product line without a large investment into acquiring the skill and knowledge. For instance, if you’re a content designer, you might want to approach a local printer to see if they want to expand their service offering. The printer has an opportunity to gain more of the customer journey and you get the work. Again, offer the NDA and the Non-Compete, or have a white label agreement. With this idea you may have to rethink what a new “customer” is, nevertheless, it’s a way to get more business.
Try just one of these ideas at a time and make sure you have a way to measure the success. It’s common to ask a new customer how they found you, go further, and assign internal customer codes according to how you acquired them. You’ll be able to analyze the effort at the end of the year.