Attracting new customers is one of the three ways to make more money as an entrepreneur. It’s also the most challenging.
What’s the best way to get new customers?
That depends. Since it depends, I’ve made a graphic that you can use to determine which offline strategies you should and shouldn’t use to attract new customers for your business.
It doesn’t matter what you do or what your business provides, every entrepreneur needs to network with other entrepreneurs and potential customers. People do business with people they know and trust.
By going to events with entrepreneurs or your target market, talking about your business whenever you can, and asking people to refer you to other people, you’ll naturally create a network of people who want to do business with you.
- When you SHOULD use networking: If you’re an entrepreneur, you need to attend networking events/conferences and take advantage of opportunities to talk about your business.
- When you SHOULDN’T use networking: The only situation in which it might not be beneficial to attend networking events is if you are the CEO of a nationally recognized brand and it’s not worth your time to meet an extra hundred people or so. If you have a nationally recognized brand, you’re not reading this.
2. Referral Programs
Referral programs are when you offer existing customers an incentive to refer you to other customers.
Let’s say Andrea refers you to three of her friends who then become consistent customers. In that case, you should provide your product or service to Andrea for free. Three then free is the ratio you should use because it shouldn’t cut into your margins too much and it gives Andrea enough of an incentive to talk about your business.
This sounds like a raw deal for you, but it’s not. Acquiring customers is expensive. Do whatever you can to get your customers to talk about your business. Word-of-mouth is the best form of promotion. Word-of-mouth is the best form of promotion. Word-of-mouth is the best form of promotion. Three times should be enough.
- When you SHOULD use referral programs: Referral programs work best when you provide a recurring service that has high profit margins.
- When you SHOULDN’T use referral programs: When you sell a product with a low profit margin to a one-time purchaser. You can use referral programs to sell products, but it’s challenging to develop professional relationships with one-time purchasers and keep track of who refers who.
3. Media Relations
Media relations consists of promoting your business to media and news outlets with the goal of having them give you a free news story.
This one is tricky. To be successful, your business has to be newsworthy and you have to convince the reporter why their readers will want to read about your story. If you’re successful, make sure you follow-up with that reporter by thanking them. It’s ‘media relations’, not ‘get a one-time favor from a journalist’.
- When you SHOULD use media relations: When you’re a young entrepreneur. That’s a natural hook for a journalist. Just remember that their job is to break interesting, timely stories.
- When you SHOULDN’T use media relations: If you’re a normal person who started a normal business during a normal time of year and you’re only interested in getting a plug. Reporters don’t publish normal information.
4. Print Advertising
Print advertising consists of everything from hanging up posters around town, to going door-to-door with fliers, to leaving informational pamphlets with complementary businesses or organizations, to purchasing an ad in your newspaper.
It’s more expensive than most promotional tactics and it’s geographically constrained to your local community, but it can be effective if it’s done strategically.
- When you SHOULD use print advertising: Print advertising is most effective when you have a local business with a tangible product and you can elicit a specific response through a direct promise. Print is used best when they can show you a picture of a product.
- When you SHOULDN’T use print advertising: If your target market is geographically dispersed and if you provide an intangible service. A poster couldn’t possibly reach enough of your target market (at least at the beginning) if they aren’t tied to your community. It’s hard to portray the benefits of a service with a picture.
There are two important factors to successful print advertising.
- It has to be visually appealing. You have to make people want to look at it.
- There has to be a specific call to action. Your goal with print advertising is to get someone to do something. Whether it’s giving you a call, visiting your website, or using your coupon – it’s far too expensive to use this tactic without getting a response. This is also called direct-response advertising.
5. Multimedia Advertising
Multimedia advertising primarily consists of TV and radio commercials. Similar to print advertising, this tactic is expensive, geographically limited, and it must have a specific call to action. As an entrepreneur, there are few situations in which it’s beneficial to implement a multimedia advertising campaign, at least at the beginning.
- When you SHOULD use multimedia advertising: Like I said, there aren’t many situations. Maybe if want to sell your product on QVC or through an infomercial. Or maybe if you offer an expensive product or service with high profit margins and you can afford to only get a few additional customers through an expensive advertisement.
- When you SHOULDN’T use multimedia advertising: If you have a small budget, inexpensive product or service, little experience with multimedia or a geographically disperse target market. You should also consider how a potential customer could go from digesting the ad to completing the call to action.
6. Direct Mail
Direct mail is similar to both print and multimedia advertising in that it’s expensive. Except, you can be a lot more targeted as far as who is exposed to your advertising.
This tactic entails finding or developing a list of addresses from people in your target market and mailing them an irresistible offer. Then you need to follow-up that offer with a phone call if you want it to be super effective.
- When you SHOULD use direct mail: If you have the ability to develop a list of addresses that is limited to your target market and if you have a sizeable budget. Depending on what you want to mail, it’ll be around $1 per person. Direct mail works best if you can offer them something exclusive or make a limited-time offer. People like exclusivity and their motivated to act by a limited-time offer.
- When you SHOULDN’T use direct mail: When you have a product or service with a small profit margin or if you can’t compile a targeted list. The list of people you mail is critical to the success of your direct mail campaign.
Traditionally, direct mail is perceived as ineffective. If you get a 1% conversion rate, you’re a marketing rock star.
Personally, I think there are plenty of situations in which direct mail is appropriate as long as you follow-up with a phone call. Start that conversation by, “Did you get my package in the mail?” If they threw it away (which they probably did), then they feel guilty and will be more willing to talk to you. At this point, you can begin your personal selling spiel.
7. Professional Selling
If you’ve seen The Office, Dunder Mifflin is a great example of a company that is suitable for professional selling. This tactic involves answering consumer questions, making personal phone calls and giving sales presentations. Selling is an art. You need a persuasive sales pitch and a knack to handle objections if you want to be successful with professional selling.
- When you SHOULD use professional selling: This tactic is typically used to sell relatively expensive products or services where people need a lot of information to make a purchase. This is called high involvement. Professional selling is time-consuming and won’t be worth your time unless you make a lot of money per sale.
- When you SHOULDN’T use professional selling: When your offering is inexpensive and/or the potential customer doesn’t need that much information to make a purchase. This is called low involvement
8. Sidewalk Advertising
I’m sure you’ve seen people dressed up, dancing and holding a sign on a sidewalk as you drive around town. This is surprisingly effective at capturing someone’s attention while they are monotonously running their errands. It’s especially effective at raising awareness for a new business, specifically, the location of a new business.
- When you SHOULD use sidewalk advertising: When you have a new business with a storefront and you’re trying to attract local customers. $100 for materials and $8 per hour is a small investment to reach thousands of people in a day.
- When you SHOULDN’T use sidewalk advertising: If you don’t have a storefront or if your target market is geographically disperse. Or if your budget is extremely tight.
9. Point of Purchase
Point of purchase (POP) is when you have a display for your product or service where you actually sell your product or service. A lemonade stand with a sign and a pitcher of lemonade is a great example of a POP display.
Companies also pay a lot of money to put up POP displays in retail stores. Walmart charges a pretty penny to put a product on an end cap (the shelves at the end of the aisles) because it’s prime real estate for a POP display.
- When you SHOULD use point of purchase: If you have a simple stand for your product (e.g. lemonade) or if you pay for a booth at a conference/event.
- When you SHOULDN’T use point of purchase: If you don’t have a specified location for selling your product or service.
The Best Way to Attract New Customers
The most important thing that you can do to build your business is to network with other people. This is important for three reasons:
- They can teach you things.
- They can introduce you to other people.
- They might become customers.
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Photo by Joe Shlabotnik