Startups are always a challenge. You don’t have to be Einstein to equate the process of quickly establishing and steadily increasing your clientele with dramatically increasing your chances for long-term success. Nor does it take a genius to come up with strategies to build that all-important customer base, because that particular wheel’s already been invented. All you have to do is tweak the process to fit your particular needs.
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A few particularly tweak-able strategies for your consideration include:
Start building before you open. No matter what kind business you plan to kickoff, chances are you had a job title before entrepreneur. In the course of that career, you probably formed a personal and professional network, right? Use it. Pitch your new business to that established network before you even put your feet in the starting blocks. You never know what word in which ear will pique the interest of future clients. LinkedIn is a great place to start with this method.
Understand your true competition. The real competition doesn’t so much involve like businesses, but the unrealistic hype and broken promises made by others in the industry. You’ve got to separate yourself from the hucksters and overcome negative perceptions by building trust. The best ways to do that?
- Use your website, blog or press releases to publish testimonials from real customers/clients, even if those come from your previous career.
- Show, don’t tell. In other words, instead of offering unrealistic (and suspect) guarantees, be transparent about how you work and handle customer problems. Again, your website and social media platforms are good places to start.
- Remember, low prices aren’t the end all and be all. People tend to believe that old saw about getting what you pay for. Keep your prices in line with industry standards.
Attend events that draw your prospective clients. Professional organizations and social clubs hold meetings and conferences, and you can usually get the when and where from your local newspapers. Be there. Shake hands, give your pitch, and then follow up.
Find an angel. Establishing a relationship with a business that targets a similar audience is a great way to hook up with new clients. Say, for example, you sell high-end women’s clothing. You might want to get your local luxury day spa to offer your 50%-off coupon to its clients. Not only do you get to tap into their database via your special offer, reaching a whole bunch of likely buyers, your angel increases customer goodwill by offering in the first place. This is what you call a win-win.
And think about this: You can enter into this type of partnership with more than one business! Of course, you’ll want to be sure you tailor a unique offer for each of your angels.
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Offer something free. Not saying you should give away product, but free advice or a consultation can go a long way toward attracting new clients. You might even consider expanding your reach by offering a free seminar or webinar on a topic related to your business and of interest to prospective customers. Piggyback on your group freebie by offering a discount to anyone who follows up with you and mentions the seminar.
Jack Signorelli is the owner of soundviewadvice.com and is an expert at business coaching.