How to Find Customers

Three Parts:PlanningAdvertisingNetworking

Finding customers can be one of the hardest parts of starting and maintaining a business. You'll need to accurately identify your target customer type, then figure out how to reach prospective customers in places they can already be found at.

Part 1

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    Build a plan but keep an open mind. Construct a thorough marketing plan before you actively start your search for customers. Follow your plan closely, but don't be afraid to make changes along the way as you learn more about what works and what doesn't work.
    • Among other things, you need to determine an advertising budget. Figure out how much you can afford to spend on marketing before you consider which forms of advertising to use.
    • Once you determine how much you can spend, you'll need to figure out the best way to use that money to reach the maximum number of potential customers in your customer base.
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    Diversify. Don't invest too much time and money in a single aspect of your marketing plan. Instead of working on one major advertisement, a better option would be to create multiple smaller advertisements that range across a variety of marketing mediums.[1]
    • Using multiple forms of advertisement allows you to reach a greater number of people. For instance, someone who doesn't live in your area may not see an ad posted to a local bulletin board, but he or she might see one posted online.
    • Additionally, when prospective customers hear about you from more than one source, they tend to become more curious and more likely to check into your business.
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    Define your ideal customer. Create a detailed image your mind of who your “ideal” customer would be. Ask yourself what type of person would be the most likely to purchase your product and support your company.[2]
    • Try to identify at least five characteristics of your customer base. Common attributes to consider include age, gender, marital status, number of children (if any), location, career field, and special interests.
    • If you have current customers, think about a handful of your most loyal ones. Ask yourself which characteristics they share to help build your ideal customer profile.
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    Ask yourself where your customers gather. If you want to find your ideal customers, you'll need to reach them at physical and digital locations where they typically gather without your influence.
    • Try to think of three to five places your customers may gather. For example, if your customer base consists mainly of single college students, you might find them on nearby campuses, in coffee shops, and in libraries.
    • Brainstorm different ways to reach your ideal customer at these locations. Using the same example, you might consider posting a flier on a free community bulletin board at any of the locations you identified.
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    Study the competition. Identify a few successful competitors and watch how they attract your customer base. Analyze their market strategies and determine which aspects might also work for your own company.
    • Since your competitors probably won't be willing to share their secrets with you, you'll need to do the research yourself instead of asking them about it.
    • Look at the type of advertisements they use and where they post them. Try to trace the professional network they use. Even if you can't find exact figures and statistics, a little research can at least give you an idea of where to start.

Part 2

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    Advertise online. As society steadily continues to move further into the digital realm, online advertisements will become even more important than they already are. In particular, check into different advertisements you can make with the help of social media and professional ad services.
    • If you haven't created a digital presence already, do so now. Websites, blogs, and social media accounts for your business all increase your visibility, making it easier for prospective customers to stumble across your business.
    • Additionally, you can also create ads for your business online. Research opportunities like pay-per-click advertising, Google Adsense, and Facebook ads.
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    Consider print advertisements. Print advertisements are a relatively inexpensive way to break out of the digital realm and into the real world. You can send out print advertisements on small scale and large scales.
    • Newspapers are on the large scale side of print advertisement. Since newspaper subscriptions are declining, however, you'll want to do your research and make sure that your target audience actually reads the paper you plan to print an ad in.
    • Fliers, posters, postcards, and mailings are other options worth considering. These tend to be fairly affordable, but you'll need to figure out the best way to post or send these print ads so that they can reach people in your target market.
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    Research television and radio. TV and radio commercials are both popular forms of conventional advertisement, but they also tend to be fairly expensive. Nonetheless, you might be able to attract customers through the use of commercials depending on your product and ideal customer base.
    • Note that between the two, television commercials tend to be the most expensive option.
    • If you choose to use these forms of advertisement, familiarize yourself with the programming on the channel or station you wish to advertise with. Instead of doing a broad marketing campaign, focus your campaign on one or two specific shows that are most likely to appeal to your target customer.
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    Sponsor related events. If it's in your budget, host an event that allows you to showcase your product to prospective customers. To encourage people to show up at the event, you'll need to focus on planning something enjoyable instead of fixating only on your sales pitch.
    • For example, if you want to sell catering services, offer to cater a well-attended event or encourage local businesses to start a new event you could cater. For instance, you could encourage local craftsmen and artisans to host a craft show, and you could do the catering for the show.
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    Attend related events. Watch for news of trade shows and other events connected to your product. Attend these events and use them as a way to meet prospective customers who are already interested in your field.
    • Look for local groups and organizations who might be interested in your product or service and watch for events they host. For example, if you sell books, you might want to attend events hosted by local book groups and writing groups.
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    Provide samples. A good way to demonstrate the value and quality of your product is to provide a small sample of it to prospective customers you come into contact with. If a person likes the sample well enough, he or she may return to purchase a greater quantity or better version.
    • Cosmetic companies, perfume companies, and food manufacturers are well-known for their use of this practice. Small cards containing a sample of perfume can encourage potential customers to invest in a full bottle. A free sample of candy can encourage customers to buy a full box of the same variety.
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    Draw potential customers in using special offers. Send out coupons, vouchers, or other special offers to groups who match your ideal customer base. When someone comes to you to redeem the offer, use the opportunity to pitch your product and transform him or her into a repeat customer.
    • For example, if you're a coffee shop giving away a free coffee with the use of a special voucher, try to encourage the people who redeem the offer to purchase a baked good or sandwich to go with the coffee. Alternatively, present them with a free "frequent shopper" card that allows them to get another free coffee after the purchase of ten more.
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    Follow up. If you directly communicate with a new prospective customer, consider placing a follow-up phone call or writing a follow-up e-mail to check in on that individual and his or her interest in doing business with you.
    • Be polite yet direct.
    • Remind the individual of who you are and what you sell, and ask if he or she is still interested in supporting your business.
    • If your contact is not currently interested, don't discard the contact information yet. Ask if he or she might be interested in a later date or know someone who would be.

Part 3

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    Turn to friends and family. Your personal network can actually be a good resource to use when building your professional network. Even if the people closest to you aren't interested in the product you make, they might be able to direct you to others who would be.
    • Your family and friends can also serve as a form of cheap advertising. If they try your product and actually like it, they'll be more likely to recommend you to other people they run across. The personal connection they have to you will usually enhance their desire to see you thrive.
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    Reach out to current customers. Get to know your current customers a little better. Find out what drew them to your company and what they currently like and dislike about it. Adapt your marketing plan based on your general findings.[3]
    • Keep in mind that everyone is different, so one customer's experiences may not precisely match with another customer's experiences. Instead of trying to alter your marketing campaign to better address everyone's peculiarities, focus only on the points that most customers have in common.
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    Set up a referral program. Encourage current customers to send new customers your way by offering rewards for referrals. For most referral programs, both the customer doing the referring and the customer getting referred to you will receive a reward of some type.[4]
    • For instance, you might offer existing customers 10 percent off their next purchase with each referral, while new customers they refer may receive a 5 percent discount.
    • Another option would be to provide a small gift or gift card for each referral. Make sure that you choose something your target customer base will likely enjoy or use, though.
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    Team up with other businesses. Find businesses that attract your ideal customer base without directly competing with you. Pitch an arrangement between you and them that would allow both of you to benefit from advertising one another's products or services.[5]
    • For example, if you sell cosmetics, your customers are likely to gather at places like hair salons, clothing stores, perfume shops, and jewelry stores. These stores are related to your business through your customer base, but since they do not sell your product (cosmetics), they are not direct competitors.
    • Try to arrange a deal with one or more of these businesses. Offer a discounted or free product to customers of that business with the understanding that those customers must visit your business to redeem the offer. Offer to refer your customers to that business in return, making the deal mutually beneficial.
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    Seek feedback. Throughout each part of the process, seek feedback from customers, prospective customers, employees, and business associates. Analyze the feedback carefully and use it to determine if you need to make any changes.
    • Feedback is especially important when a prospective customer chooses not to buy from you. Learn why that individual decided not to make the purchase so that you can improve upon the features that are generally disliked.

Article Info

Categories: Buying & Forming a Business