7 Non-Traditional Ways to Attract Customers

As traditional methods of finding qualified customers have become over saturated, many businesses have begun looking for alternative routes when trying to lure in new customers. Here are a few methods to get qualified consumers for your business:

Free Online Classifieds

In today's economy, many businesses have cut back on ad spending and turned to free advertising platforms (which have absolutely exploded in popularity). Sites like Craigslist.org and Backpage.com have become a main method some businesses use to attract warm leads. Online classifieds can be an exceptional way to attract new business because of the targeted format that enables users to connect with potential partners or customer leads, and the - reach that they can offer such businesses. In addition, many quality freelancers and other service based businesses thrive by utilizing the ads posted in the services sections of these sites.

Getting Started:

Understanding where to market oneself, or where to seek business through online classifieds is half the battle. Take a look at this article from Entrepreneur.com about marketing your business on Craigslist. A great place to start if you're looking to canvas larger areas of craigslist, or want to market to people in more than just one location is Search Tempest a Craigslist aggregation tool. If you're still not convinced about the hidden potential of online classifieds, take a look at this article from MarketingVox, that details the continued growth of online classifieds.

Online Network

Many small businesses completely neglect the opportunity to generate business by connecting with other local business owners or entrepreneurs. There are many resources available throughout the country to assist motivated people in connecting and forming strong business bonds that can be beneficial to both parties. Becoming a connector of people and businesses can be an extraordinary way of drumming up new business as well. The more you expose yourself and what you're selling to those that matter, the more you'll expand your reach and create opportunities for gaining hot leads and customers.

Getting Started:

Put yourself out there by researching and attending any meetings, groups, or networking organizations available within your town, city, county or major metropolitan area. A good place to start is with BNI, the largest local business networking organization in the world. Checking out your local Chamber of Commerce is also an excellent way of meeting likeminded business people with a penchant for business building and networking. Other resources like the Small Business Association have meetings or sponsored events and even have a local resource guide. Lastly, be sure to check out your local SCORE organization, a non-profit that pairs small business owners with free consulting an advice from professionals. Not only is this a great opportunity for business owners to get great business building knowledge, but many of the volunteers are business owners themselves, or people who are connected and can create opportunity.

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging can be a great way to get the word out about your company, yourself, or your product to a totally new audience. Bloggers are always looking for new and interesting content for their readers, and rarely turn down a free piece of quality content for their site. If you are providing content for other bloggers free of charge, most will have no problem with you briefly mentioning your company, product, or service at the end of a post. Guest blogging can expose yourself and your company to more people than would normally be possible in very specific niches. Guest blogging usually has a terrific ROI, especially if you manage to make a friend, or good contact through the venture.

Getting Started:

Becoming a guest blogger is usually a pretty simple process all that you need to do is ask! When looking for a blog to guest blog for, it is important to pick one that is related to your niche or industry that is popular. There is no sense if guest blogging for a blog with very few readers. Check their traffic stats using Compete.com or Quantcast.com.

Once you find a good blog, email the owner or webmaster directly with an idea about what you would like to write as your guest post. You may even want to write your guest blog post before approaching the blog owners. If your article is interesting, unique, and fits with the other content on their blog, there is a very good chance that they will publish what you have written. If you are having trouble finding good candidates to guest blog for, try using a blog search engine such as Technorati.

Meetup Groups

Meetup.com is a growing site that helps individuals with similar interests plan and execute meetings. Many meet up groups are based on leisure activities, but there is a good deal of these groups that are based around business. Group meetings are a terrific place to meet people and make connections with potential clients or partners. By starting your own meetup group, and offering education in your expertise to those who join, it is relatively easy to pick up more than a few new clients.

Getting Started:

Before starting your own Meetup group, spend a few days exploring the local meetups in your area. You can get a good feel for how active your area is by the size of groups and the frequency of their meetings. Investigate, or even join meetup groups that are similar to the one you might be starting. Meetup.com tries very hard to protect itself from becoming a sales platform, so any overt business advertising is forbidden. For this reason, if you do start a meetup group, be sure to provide information or education as a first priority. Talking about your services should happen only when asked (and they will ask). By creating a meetup group, you can easily establish yourself or your business as a local hub of information, making you the go to person in the minds of those who attend your meetups.

Meetup does an excellent job of helping you to get the word out about your meetup group. Here is an excellent guide for spreading the word once you create your own meetup group.

Teaching Adult and Continuing Education Classes

As seen with Meetup.com, positioning yourself as a definitive information resource in your community is an invaluable way to attract new customers and boost your brand awareness. Teaching an Adult Education or Continuing Education class can be an excellent way to do this. If you work in a business that uses skills that might be valuable to other business owners, or to individuals, teaching a local education class could singlehandedly fuel your business. Computer education, marketing education, physical education (yoga, massage), financial education (accountants, financial planners), health education, relationship education, and many other business industries can benefit from this sort of community outreach.

Getting Started:

Local community continuing education course booklets are typically mailed out to residents three times each year - spring, summer, and fall. If you are interested in teaching a course yourself, contact the program coordinator, who is usually listed in the course booklets. Alternatively, you may contact your local government offices, and they should be able to put you in contact with your local coordinator. Becoming a class teacher is usually not difficult, especially if you are interested in providing education on a subject not already offered, or one that sees more demand than can usually be accommodated.

Forum Marketing

There are tens of thousands of active forums online that cater to almost every conceivable interest, including a plethora of business topics. Forums can be a great place to connect with potential clients, consumers, or even business partners. It is important to note that participation in these communities is very important before you market or advertise any of your services. Trust is essential in these communities, and becoming an active member can pay large dividends.

Getting Started:

The first step in successful forum marketing is finding the best, and most active forum and Big-boards.com is a good place to start. Big-boards list forums by category, and allows you to sort forums by activity or number of users. Find 5 or 6 popular forums in your industry and join them. Spend some time reading each forum, and getting a feel for the goals and motivations of those who contribute. Narrow those 5 or 6 boards down to the best 2-3, and begin contributing to them on a regular basis. Get your reputation on the forum off to a good start by writing a post that others will find valuable. Many forums use point or reward systems, where users can earn quantifiable reputations. Through frequent activity, and quality posting, it is relatively easy to build up a good reputation on most forums. Many forums have sub-forums that are used for buying, selling, or trading goods and services. Use the reputation you have built to offer your services. You're good track record on the forum will speak volumes.

Trade Shows & Conferences of Tangentially Related Industries

It's obvious that many companies use trade shows and conferences to build their brand and attract new clients. What isn't so obvious is that attending trade shows of more tangentially related and complementary industries can have an even bigger impact on your bottom line. For some industries, there may be a need for your services at almost any type of trade show or conference. If you do print advertising, you will probably find more competition than clients at a print advertising show, but these ratios may be reversed at an E-commerce Expo.

Getting Started:

First, assess your industry. Do you provide services primarily to one industry that would also be useful to another with few changes to the way you do business? For instance, say you run a web development or web design business, try going to a restaurant equipment trade show. You would be surprised how many restaurateurs are in need of a website. Trade shows provide an excellent place for finding and networking with business owners. By offering a service to attendees, even if it's one they weren't expecting to find at the tradeshow, you will likely find a wealth of new clients. As a bonus, you are very unlikely to find a competitor, giving you an exclusive chance to interact with potential clients. A great place to find trade upcoming trade shows is tsnn.com, where you can search by industry, venue, or even vendor.

Footnotes
Intuit QuickBooks Enhanced Payroll requires a payroll subscription, Internet access, Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN), supported version of Windows QuickBooks Pro, Premier, or Enterprise Solutions (all sold separately) updated to the most current maintenance release, and valid debit/credit card on file for processing payroll. Not compatible with QuickBooks Online editions or QuickBooks for Mac. Check stock sold separately. Plus sales tax where applicable. Pricing varies depending on number of employees. State forms available for most states; see www.quickbooks.com/taxforms for complete list of supported forms. QuickBooks supports a maximum of 14,500 employees, customers, vendors and other names combined. However, performance may slow when processing files containing more than 100 employees. 24/7 access is subject to occasional downtime due to systems and servers maintenance. Terms and conditions, features, support, pricing, and service options subject to change without notice.
1 Direct deposit to W-2 employees is free, but additional fees apply for direct deposit to 1099 vendors.
2 File and e-pay features are available for federal and select state taxes. Please check availability at payroll.com/fileandpay. You may need to register with tax agencies in order to use e-file and e-pay features.
3 You will receive a 20% discount on your annual subscription fee for Intuit QuickBooks Enhanced Payroll. In each of the 12 months, you will be charged $2.00 a month for each employee you pay. After 12 months you will be charged at the then current annual rate for the service you have selected. Call us anytime at (800) 624-2106 to cancel your payroll subscription. This limited time offer is valid for new Intuit QuickBooks Enhanced Payroll subscribers only and cannot be combined with other offers.