You are thinking about launching your own business. You have a very good business idea for a market niche that isn’t filled yet. Or you want to build something known and solid and you know that there is just always a need for it.
Independent of what kind of business you are about to launch at some point you will have to ask yourself how you will make money. In order to make money, you need customers buying your product or service or at least consuming what you produce.
Unfortunately, it’s rarely the case that somebody opens up a new business and the next day customers are queueing down the road to buy the product. Instead, people probably don’t even know that your business exists.
So what can you do to reach customers?
Step 1: Create your presence
Start by making it easy for those customers who do want to find you. Set up a homepage and describe the basic information about your business. Designing a homepage on WordPress is very simple and looks good. You do not need to be a programmer, designer or very tech savvy, it’s really simple. I’ll dig into further detail on my next blogpost. Do not forget to include contact information and your address to allow customers to find you.
Step 2: Find out who your customers are
You do not want to just wait until your customers potentially come to find you. Instead, you want to speed things up and go to find them. In order to identify where they are it helps to have a better understanding of your typical customer. Write down the main characteristics of your typical customer. Try to be as precise as possible and really go into the detail. Include information concerning age, education, gender, material status, employment, hobbies, places they visit and what’s important to them. Specify what they read, listen to and watch.
If you already have some customers I recommend you to build a focus group. Approach some of your early loyal customers and ask them for more details about themselves in order to refine your definition of a typical customer.
Once you have a solid profile of your existing and potential customers, you should also ask them detailed questions about your product. It’s your goal to find out what’s good and what’s missing or what could be improved.
A good starting point can also be your personal network. Your friends and family are the first who want the best for you and are happy to help making your business a smash hit. So make sure you use this valuable resource.
Step 3: Go where your customers are
Now that you have a detailed description of your future typical customer you already have a fairly solid idea what they do and where they go. And that’s where you should be going, too! Join your customers’ Business Associations and get to know them in person. Nothing creates more trust than a face-to-face conversation. You don’t even have to be very pushy in terms of pitching your product. Instead, work on building a sound relationship and people will buy from you effortless over time. And once they bought from you and are satisfied they will turn into loyal customers with a very high probability. They will spread the word and help you to grow your business. What it does take though is time and a constant effort.
In addition to seeing people physically, consider using the power of the web. Get listed in Google My Business and open an account with a social media channel where your customers are looking for information. Facebook is tremendously popular if you are more consumer oriented whereas LinkedIn has more of a professional touch and is a perfect fit if you are selling to businesses. If your business is in the niche of food, fashion, furniture or anything similar that has a strong reference to visual appearance, consider using Pinterest.
Step 4: Make noise and advertise
Now that you know who your customers are and where you can meet them it’s time to turn on the ghetto blaster and make some noise!
When you are starting a new business you have probably limited financial resources. Therefore, it’s important to spend the money wisely. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket and spend all your money with one ad. Instead, try a few things and see what is working out best.
Here are some options:
- TV advertising: that’s the most expensive solution. You can reach a huge number of people, but a very small fraction of these will probably be potential buyers. That means it’s mostly ineffective. So unless you intend to contact a small, local TV station I recommend not to spend your money on TV ads.
- Radio advertising: advertising on the radio is very similar to TV. What could be an option is to sponsor an ad just before the weather report of a local radio station. Do that if your potential customers match the typical audience of that radio station.
- Social Media: the potential of social media is enormous. The sheer number of possibilities within social media alone is overwhelming and exceeds this post by far. Use your selected social media channel(s) to talk about your products as a starting point. Use pictures and videos. And ask people to share.
- Samples: think about giving away some of your product for free so people can taste the flavour of it. If they like it, they will talk about it. Ask them to share their view. It might sound weird, but people are significantly more willing so share if you ask them to. So dare to ask. This does also apply to social media mentioned above.
- Personal network: you can surely find some of your biggest fans in your personal network. They will talk about you and your business to other people in their network and act like a salesforce of yours. So make sure your biggest fans know your product.
- Leave your business card and flyer: put your business name, website and phone number on anything you can. Make sure you leave some business cards and flyers at places you visit so people can see it and find you. Don’t leave any hairdresser, co-working space, restaurant, waiting room or airport lounge without placing your material.
- Google AdWords: test Pay-Per-Click advertising services such as Google AdWords. It allows you to clearly define your target group, set a daily spend limit and test several ads to see which one is the most successful.
- Referrals: ask your customers to make referrals. A friend of mine informed all his customers that they receive a 10% discount off their next order if a new customer mentioned his/her name when placing their first order. This turned some of his loyal customers into his sales force. It was a huge success for both, him and his customers and he gained a significant number of new customers.
- Testimonials: ask some loyal customers whether you could publish their opinion about the product on your website. This could be a written comment with a picture of them or even a short video. Testimonials are a very powerful way of promoting your product. They emphasise the value of your product and add credibility and trust to your brand.
- Team up: get together with a supplier of the same customer group. Get in that newsletter and add a voucher for a discount at the end. For example an attorney could team up with an accountant. An exclusive fashion store could work with a front desk service provider. Be creative!
- Newsletters: update your customers and enthusiasts about the latest concerning your business. It helps staying in people’s heads, build authority and promote new and existing products.
Step 5: Repeat, Refine and Follow-up
What applies to all of these options is that trying them once will not be enough. Giving away samples once and placing a facebook entry once will have a very limited effect. It takes consistency, repetition and patience to grow a brand.
All these options can be overwhelming. What’s important to know is that no learned man has fallen from heaven yet. Just start somewhere and take it from there. It’s crucial that you keep your learning curve steep. Stop doing what didn’t work and keep refining your approach to what was successful. And what’s key in my view is: celebrate success!
Please share and let me know what worked out best for you!