Creating a Steady Flow of Customers by Dave Archer

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Mar 17th, 2013
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customerEvery small company is in the business of building and maintaining its customer base. This objective is even more vital for home-based businesses, which continually straddle the line between “too much to handle” and “not enough to live on” business. How do you go about establishing a steady flow of customers?

  1. Utilize your marketing plan: Second only to the business plan is creation of a detailed marketing plan – in fact, I often suggest that entrepreneurs develop the two simultaneously, because these documents serve as road maps for determining the path your company will follow. Your marketing plan will help you identify potential customers, recognize gaps in the products/services offered by your competition, and will assist you in determining the best outlets for reaching your customers.

  2. Start with who and what you already know: Many home-based business owners launch their businesses while they’re still employed by another company. This approach gives you time to build a substantial enough customer base and bankroll to survive on during the early days of solo operation. This “in-between” period of time before you formally launch your business should include taking full advantage of your existing business networks of friends, colleagues, co-workers and clients. While it wouldn’t be seen as ethical to “poach” clients from a company you’re currently employed with, there’s no professional faux pas in asking for referrals and for help putting the word out when you go 100 percent solo.

  3. Up-sell your existing customers: If you’re successfully selling shoes to Company A, pitch them a sock account… then a shoelace account… then a shoebox account. While you don’t want to continually “hit up” existing customers for more business, the simple fact is, people like doing business with people they know. If you can successfully add on or integrate new products or services to an existing line, let your current customers be first in line.

  4. Ask for referrals: Having an “in” to a potential new client is far more effective than cold-calling. If you’ve got happy customers, don’t hesitate to ask them for referrals. In return, offer referrals of your own when you can.

  5. Be part of professional organizations: Joining business organizations and specialized professional groups can help you build a presence for your business. Even if you don’t pick up new clients right away, remember, you’re doing something equally as important – establishing your business and starting to build new relationships that will likely become profitable down the road.

  6. Attend professional and business events: Trade shows and seminars are a painless way to network, as it’s easy to strike up a conversation with some staffing a booth, or with someone who’s sitting next to you.

  7. Exhibit at trade shows: Trades shows and expo can be a surprising cost-effective way to reach a large number of potential customers and contacts. Conduct a bit of research to determine who the attendees will be, and how are expected to attend. Make sure they’re truly your target market before you commit to exhibit.

  8. Keep networking: Operating a home-based business is often a solitary pursuit. Don’t let yourself get so immersed in running your business that you lose touch with professional contacts or stop attending networking functions. It’s important to “see and be seen,” even if only in a select number of networking forums.

  9. Start with simple marketing initiatives: Just as you need basic office equipment to launch your business, you also need basic marketing tools to promote it. Start simple and look or “niche markets” – specifically-targeted groups of potential customers that fit your customer profile. Make sure you have an attractive and helpful website, and that you’re using your email contacts to reach out to customers and prospects.

  10. Make full use of Social Media: Social media forums are free and easy to use, and include LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Each will allow you to start building in cost-effective components such as business blogs, e-mail marketing and online newsletters.

Remember, when you’re a sole proprietor, you’re personally linked to your business, so exceptional customer service must be priority one. Recruit customers with realistic promises, follow-through on your word, and do all that’s necessary to maintain your reputation for quality product, service and delivery.

© Dave Archer is the Chief Executive Office of NCET – Nevada’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that helps Nevadans start and grow their businesses by connecting them to the resources they need to succeed. NCET’s programs include the NCET Entrepreneur Expo and the Governor’s Cup Collegiate Business Plan Competition. You can find more information at www.NCET.org. NCET is not affiliated with the State of Nevada and receives no state funding.

And if you liked these tips then you will want the Get a Plan! Guide® to Networking. Networking is a far more important skill and practice than any of us can really comprehend. Years ago, it wasn’t necessary to know how to network because you knew who you knew – and that was all you needed to know. Today… that is far from true. Learn 19 Networking Need-to-Knows in this practical and specific guide which is part of the Get a Plan! Guides® series.

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