Six ways a small business can get new customers
Does social media work for you?
The seemingly omnipresent rise of Facebook and Twitter means social media is being heralded as the silver bullet for building business. They’re effective channels, but the performance will depend on your businesses offering.
Both sites have made major innovations over the past two years to help small businesses, with Facebook launching its Ads Manager and Twitter bringing out ‘quick promote‘ in the last few weeks.
The great thing is it’s cheap and easy to experiment. Experts recommend starting with a small amount of money to see what works. Google’s URL builder plugs straight into Analytics and will let you track different social media posts and adverts. It’s worth playing around with different images, wording and calls to action to see what works best for particular products.
The level of depth these platforms offer in terms of identifying audiences is fantastic, whether it’s based on things they like, location or age, and it’s even possible to target your competitors’ social media audiences.
Tell everybody you know
You already know your biggest fans; the friends and family who can’t wait to hear about the latest development in your new business venture. There’s nothing wrong with tapping into this network and they can really help get that crucial first bit of traction, whether it’s trying to promote a crowdfunding campaign or making sure a new restaurant looks busy and full of people.
The key is to think about this on two levels; tell everyone to make sure possible future dinner party-type referrals happen and ask them to do specific tasks.
People telling each other about your business is incredibly powerful and almost every time I’m looking for anything from a plumber to a priest the first thing I do is ask around. In the second instance, it’s about tapping this network to promote specific campaigns. This could mean taking samples of a new tea product into work or telling the members of a maternity class about your baby sitting service or getting yourself listed on a big business directory website.
Think about signage
I stumbled across my absolute favourite sign in north London a few years ago. It simply read: “We make the best coffee in London”. Okay, this particular example might lead to a ‘Probably the best beer in the world’-type advertising issue that caused Carlsberg to adopt the slogan, but it does show how creative you can get.
Another example is Bean Stall in Birmingham, which put out a sign saying: “Great fresh coffee from your tax paying local indy” at a time when the furore about Starbucks not paying tax was at its peak. It generated a little social media buzz and no doubt won a few new customers from the audience that walked past the stall.
Network with local businesses
Those who have worked in incubators, hot desked or just shared an office with other small businesses will know how powerful these connections can be. It often helps to discuss suppliers and business techniques, but there’s also the opportunity to sell your wares or work together to pitch bigger clients.
Here in Bristol these relationships have been formalised into several really powerful networks. This includes Creative Bristol, which curates events and promotes local small traders, and Bristol Food Network, which carries out a similar function for small businesses related to sustainable food. Is there something similar in your city?
In England, Local Enterprise Partnerships run regular networking gatherings and FindNetworkingEvents.com is a good place to track down events across the UK.
Run launch events
Running a promotion for a new product or service can be incredibly effective way to galvanise attention for your business and win new customers.
The BusinessZone office was a hot mess earlier in the week when Chomp, the cafe across the road offered free bacon rolls to promote its new breakfast offering. It’s not just that this cheap-to-produce promotion got us talking and made us aware of the business, but we many of us will be counted among their new customers.
Organising a launch event is a great way to network with prospective customers and building up rapport to a point where it may lead to sales in the future is much easier and more fun than cold calling.
Referrals are a great way to build business and can mean your customers do the hard work for you! It’s often possible to build this into services that are used regularly, offering existing customers a discount or bonus on everything from gym membership to low-priced cocktails.
This is quite a common approach for retail customers. What gets more complicated is looking at the potential for business-to-business sales to incentivise referrals through cash payments. For example, if you’re a web site developer you could offer clients a £100 voucher or payment if they refer another company.
In the end, a lot of these processes happen organically as a business grows and the entrepreneurs behind it promote their offering. That said, it’s worth pushing yourself to make sure you’re utilising all of these avenues and our Reach for the Clouds contestants will be sharing their experiences over the next few weeks.