How to Launch a Business – Part 4, Finding Customers

by Gil Zeimer on November 24, 2010
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If your new company is ready to work with customers, how do you find your first one? How do you find more? How do you keep your customers satisfied and telling their friends about you?

In this final article of our four-part series on how to launch a business, we’ve created a list of ten ways that you can find customers, and help them find you.

1) Launch a pilot program – Through your business plan mentioned in parts two and three of this series, you should know exactly who your target market is. Many companies offer generous discounts to their first customers as a pilot program to create a great customer experience. Try this and see how it works for you.

2) Success stories – Visitors to your website may love to read a success story or a testimonial about your new company. It validates your idea and almost always turns prospects into new customers. Some of the most persuasive words anyone can speak are, “I highly recommend this new product.”

3) Advertise – Create a relationship with your local newspaper rep and ask for a frequency discount for many small space ads vs. one expensive full-page blitz. Watch where your competitors are placing their ads and do the same. Be creative about how you use your ads – on t-shirts, in store windows, and on flyers. Promote a special offer coupon on your website that will expire in 30 days.

4) Publicize – Have a publicist write press releases for you or write your own, announcing new products, updates, or other news about your company. Always include who, what, where, why, and how. This can get your company’s name in the paper or on online news sites and help bring visitors to your door.

5) Network for referrals – A weekly Business Network International chapter is a proven way to build your customer base. Your local Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, Lions Club, and Rotary are also great networking groups. Don’t forget the soaring popularity of online social media sites like LinkedIn, Yahoo Groups, Facebook, and Twitter to spread your digital footprint and your network of potential customers.

6) Turn your customers into sales people – Create a referral rewards program so your customers sing your praises to their friends and family. In return, offer them a discount on a future purchase or a gift card reward of a nominal amount from $15 to $25 as a thank you.

7) Attend events – You can often find new customers at events and conferences. Volunteer to be a featured speaker at an event and the kind of customers you’re seeking will actually find you.

8) Give something away – If you have a product, consider giving away free samples and asking for immediate feedback from potential customers so you can make it better. If you offer a service, contact local schools and charities, offering to provide a gift certificate for a silent auction at a reduced rate (or for free). I’ve done this for years now and it’s usually led to larger projects that rewarded my generosity.

9) Track your customers – In the Intuit Workplace App Center, you’ll find Fanminder, which can be used to send instant promotions to your customers’ mobile phones and social networks to drive repeat business, send automated coupons, grow your fan base, track revenues, and more, all in one place.

10) Promote your business – Use Fanminder or other apps to write and send an email or newsletter at least monthly for the first six months, then quarterly after that. Include success stories, a testimonial or two, new corporate accounts you’ve landed, and news about your latest product or service. Be creative!

Read the entire “How to Launch a Business” series!
Part 1 - Finding an Idea
Part 2 - Raising Money
Part 3 - Getting Up and Running
Part 4 - Finding Customers

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