Finding customers is among the most daunting challenges for small business owners, especially for businesses that have just opened their doors. Check out these proven strategies to find customers and generate business.
Identify Your Target Market
Hone in on your ideal customer
Who is your ideal customer? Are they male or female? Young or old? In Miami, Florida or Seattle, Washington? Do they live on $25,000 or $250,000 a year? Once you narrow down who you are trying to reach, you can better sharpen your marketing strategy.
For example, if you’re starting an upscale hair salon in New York City, your ideal customer might be a fashion-forward woman between 25 and 35 who has a disposable income.
Define what your product or service helps with
They need their hair cut; you can cut it. But it’s not that simple.
Target your ideal customer by getting specific in your offering. In this case, you’d focus on delivering high-end beauty products, precision stylists and the latest hair trends. You must also make sure your business is accessible and that your services are priced right.
Your business can’t be all things to all people. Choose your target and sharpen from there. A skilled hair dresser at your trendy salon can surely cut a child’s hair and charge $10, but by trying to cater toward more than just your target market — young women who are willing to pay $150 to get their hair done — you lose your audience and your brand.
But don’t be afraid to branch out
Once you’ve been in the game for a bit, you might identify new markets you’d like to reach out to. Maybe this upscale hair salon could start catering to businessmen who appreciate the luxury experience, for example. A customer relationship management system or enterprise planning software can help you analyze your sales data to identify patterns. Databases like Ibis World, Hoover’s and Forrester can help pinpoint trends too.
Build a Specific Strategy
Promote based on the markets you’re looking to reach
You can put the word out about your new endeavor and see what happens, but without direction, your message won’t travel very far. Be specific based on the markets you’re looking to reach.
If your business is a local cocktail bar and you’re trying to cater to an affluent crowd that comes into town during the summer months or on weekends, you might consider adding wine pairings to the menu or bringing in a high-profile chef to attract diners seeking a more comprehensive, luxury experience.
Maybe Tuesday evenings are particularly quiet. Offer happy hour prices to students who might want to host a study group at the bar during that time. Invite the community in for events or open mic nights. Appeal to the local music scene, by scheduling weekly live music nights.
Direct your promotions appropriately
You wouldn’t market a Tuesday study group to your affluent weekend customers. And those students may not appreciate your wine pairings. Adjust your promotional themes to emphasize the benefits that appeal to that specific market.
In addition, offer a loyalty program to build your base of regular customers. A few different loyalty program models exist. First is offering some sort of monetary benefit; take a punch card for example — buy nine cups of coffee and get your 10th one free. Or offer exclusive discounts by using a card or phone number.
The second is to provide a service that matches the values of your customer base. TOMS Shoes does this with their one-for-one program. Rather than offering their customers a direct reward, they offer a pair of shoes to someone else who needed them. The same can be done on a smaller scale — like a local nursery that plants a tree for every customer who hits a certain spend.
Whatever you do, tailor the incentive to your ideal customer to keep them coming back. Further, encourage your loyal existing customers to recommend you to others. Offer “refer a friend” discounts.