Getting More Customers Guide
There are very few things more important or harder than finding new customers, find below the best 9 tips we’ve found:
1. Spend more time selling and less time planning
It is all too easy to sit at home planning and organising all the exciting things you 'could be' doing for your business, but planning won’t help to pay the bills and it’s all too easy to find something else to do rather than cold calling and pounding the streets.
Be pro-active and knuckle down, sales is difficult and it may mean you ‘banging away’ on the telephone, arranging free lunchtime seminars to companies or doing leaflet drops – sales is anything but glamorous – but it will come as no surprise that most businesses fail due to insufficient sales rather than insufficient planning. There are literally hundreds of things you can do and many don’t cost a penny – see point 9 for some of our most effective suggestions of generating more business for FREE.
2. Lower your expectations of just how effective marketing and advertising is
The common misconception for any company is that by advertising you will automatically get more business…if it were that easy every company would have enough business - Marketing is an art and it's quite hard.
Most Advertising is very ineffective and costly in both time and money. There are literally thousands of sales people out there waiting to sell you dreams of how their company will help you achieve your sales goal, when in reality it will mainly help them achieve their sales target goals. Your challenge is to try and establish which ones are the ‘real deal’ and which ones will leave you with an empty wallet.
Before committing to an advert /costly marketing campaign think about the following:
- To be able to make an informed decision you’ll need to research the market – after all if you were going to buy a new pair of shoes you wouldn’t buy the first pair you saw no matter how great the discount. Do your research and find out all of the advertisers competitors.
- Rank the company selling you something amongst their peers e.g. compare their readership/database and make sure it' made up of people who might become your clients.
- Call other non competing advertisers and ask them if their advert yielded any clients or was it a waste of time.
- Compare advertising prices and advertising options and compare them with their peers.
- Could you do a free test offering to pay them a commission for each new client you sign. This makes the risk the same for both parties i.e. you and the company selling you something. If the advert works the company selling you advertising receives money and you receive clients. rather than if you pay for your advert and it doesn’t work you’re left with nothing and they still have your money –hardly a win-win relationship. And don’t be fobbed off with claims of ‘brand awareness’ brand awareness won’t pay the bills. Then if the test works, negotiate on price and drive the hardest bargain you can.
And remember even good adverts/marketing campaigns yield very low results, you’d be very lucky to place an advert and see your telephone ringing off the hook.
3. Know your competitors
Use the below checklist to ensure you’ve covered all essential questions:
- What are their unique selling points?
- Who are their target customers?
- How much do they charge for their goods/services?
- What sources do they use to market their business? - Industry magazines, trade fairs and industry events, Facebook etc. However, don’t blindly think just because they advertise somewhere it must be working, you’d be surprised at the number of companies who advertise in the same place week/month after month having no idea if the advert actually works.
- Where is their service most commonly found? Online, magazines, trade shows.
- Find out from discussion sites what current customers think of them, is there a key element they are not doing correctly that you could do?
Use this information to improve what you offer and how/where you market.
4. Develop a great website
Even if you don’t sell something, people will check you out online, prospect customers may still review your site to see how credible you are.
Remember the following when creating your site.
- Content is King – Regularly upload new content to the website, the more content and relevant information loaded the easier Google will be able to find your website.
- Use keywords in you headings – If your website does not contain keywords relevant to your business, people won’t be able to find your website. Think about what people will type, ask yourself what would you type if looking for your service?
- Think about your URL (the web address at the top of the page) and Meta words (these are the special words and phrases behind your pages that help search engines like Google find you)– Any pages uploaded to your website will require a URL, make sure you include keywords (as discussed above) and a search term you believe people will use to find the page. For your meta description you need to include a brief over-view on what the page is about, think will the content included make people click on the page?
- Website design – Flashy website's are not always the way to go, think about who you want to visit the website, you’re goal isn’t to win a design award it’s to build a site that gets found easily and helps people to decide that you are the right company for them.
5. Generate a buzz on forums and networking sites
One of the most popular ways of finding new businesses is by posting comments on discussion groups on networks such as LinkedIn and on forums such as ContractorUK.com and FreelanceUK.com.
An advantage of registering with a forum or discussion group is you can promote your business in a non salesey way, simply by helping people with their questions, you're company name will get around. Then when readers to the site want a service/product like the one you offer, they'll hopefully think of you.
6. Social media
Social media sites (or as some people say Social Business) are free resources that 'could' help promote your business, however the success of these channels must be weighed up by the effort and time taken to update them. Also remember these sites, like any business networking channels are mainly frequented by sellers, there are far more people trying to sell something, than there are buyers wanting to buy something. Ask yourself if you were a buyer of what you’re selling, would you look on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn for a supplier?
Despite the above we do however encourage all businesses to sign-up to the following sites, but just don’t spend all your time on them:
7. Word of mouth
Yes surely the best way to get business in – word of mouth. Everyone will tell you that the best way to get business is by word of mouth referrals (really...we bet you never thought of that before) but how can you get word of mouth referrals when you don’t have any clients?
Sure you can tell everybody you know about your business however you’ll soon run out of people.
Word of mouth referrals are great if you have lots of clients, if you don’t this channel may be limited. One way of getting more WOM referrals is to see and speak to more people, for ways of doing this visit: how to find work as a sole trader.
8. Think outside the box
If you know your main competitors are targeting a specific niche change direction and target an area that has less competition. Think of a niche of customers that would still benefit from your products/service but aren’t necessarily the most obvious to sources in your sector.
For example if you are a photographer looking for work, instead of targeting the most obvious places such as bridal/wedding stores, look into companies and social clubs such as: windsurfing, scuba diving, karate, fencing, swimming clubs etc they all have trophy/award ceremonies and will have a requirement for a photographer, Garden Centres and pet special days, Corporates – most companies at some stage will have a requirement for a photographer and may not have a regular person, even things like slimming club meetings - they are all about celebrating stars who have achieved their ideal weight and many will want pro pictures taking.
9. Offer something free
How will this make you money? It won’t, but it might make you memorable and being memorable means that when a prospect client is looking for a supplier, your name will be in their mind.
Consider the following…
- Free seminars – Free seminars are all about getting your face in front of people and offering them advice. For example if you are a freelance physiotherapist why not offer to run lunchtime seminars in local companies providing hints and tips on how to have better posture, demonstrate some techniques to relieve back tension.
- Free demonstration – Offer to demonstrate your services for free, again a great way for you to promote yourself.
For more advice on this visit 'find work as a freelancer'.
Hopefully the above tips have given you a clearer idea on what areas to focus on, on how to get customers for your business.
If you'd like to chat with Easy Accountancy about your small business call us on 0500 234 111 / 01442 275 767.
You may also find our other Free Business Guides useful:
- How to advertise your business
- How to market your company for (almost) free!
- Is freelancing for me?
- What will an accountant do for me?
- How to be number one on Google
- Benefits of an Accountant
- Do I need an accountant as a Freelancer?
- Top Tips to getting more Customers
- Creating a website for your business
- Choosing and Registering a company name
- Do I need a business plan?
- Choosing a small business accountant