Finding customers is an ongoing chore that most business owners would happily do without. Advertising to find customers can easily become one of the largest expenditures of any new, or existing business. If you are looking for great ideas to generate new leads, and grow your customer base without breaking your budget, then read on...
These ideas have come from someone that knows that sinking feeling you get when your budget is $0, and you're just waiting for that phone to start ringing. Finding customers requires a marketing plan: The plan does not need to be complex, but should identify your resources and objectives. Failing to plan will cost you a lot more in the long run. In the simplest of terms, the marketing plan needs to begin by articulating your marketing budget and sales goals. Don't be discourage if your budget is limited; many valuable customer finding strategies are possible on a shoe-string budget! In fact, depending on your product or service, customer leads are more easily generated organically, through face-to-face social networks. This is especially true with consultancies and family-operated businesses.

Marketing Plan Overview:

From 30,000 feet, a marketing plan looks like this: ------------ CHANNELS: ------------------- ---------<--CONNECTION --> YOU: <----CONNECTION: ---->CUSTOMERS: ---------<--CONNECTION --> Each channel represents a means of finding a potential customer based on their activities.

Customer Demographic:

Ask yourself these questions:
  • What are my customers doing right now?
  • Where are they?
  • What are their interests?
  • What do they do for fun?
  • What do they do for work?
Most importantly: What do they do when they are ready to buy your product or service?
Understanding your customers' behavior means being even more precise than knowing only their demographic. This will allow you to target your marketing efforts like a laser beam. The effort required to find customers is too costly to try the shotgun approach; just hoping you'll accidentally hit your target. Trying to sell to a customer when they're either unable to buy, too busy or just not interested, wastes not only time and money; but it will also drive potential customers away.

Marketing Materials:

The extent to which technology is underutilized, continues to boggle my mind. I can remember waiting years for suppliers to finally be able to communicate with E-mail, instead of fax machines. Even to this day, I still have to deal with wholesalers and distributors with pathetic samples, brochures, and marketing materials. If they do have a web site, it's either broken, or an otherwise pitiful attempt at one. Here I am, a customer with credit card in hand, and it's as if they're not ready. Nobody's home; frustrated, I go somewhere else... The whole point of technology is that it's supposed to save time, and or money, thereby increasing efficiency. In any business I've been involved in, I think of my marketing campaign as revolving around the online presence. Everything I design is intended to drive people to the website. My business cards, brochures and other printed materials. That's because I'm a cheapskate. It's much less expensive for me to put a product catalogue online in PDF than it is to give away printed materials. It's also much more effective to update price lists, and other time-sensitive information in electronic format. When it comes to marketing materials, you are painting your companies image for your customers. For that reason, everything must be perfectly polished. Think quality, not quantity: Starting out small allows you to test your marketing efforts before going gangbusters; making small adjustments along the way. The most effective marketing materials to find customers are electronic. In short, if you don't have a website yet, your marketing will be much more costly and limited in many ways. Even if your demographic does not spend a lot of time online, there are other considerations that I'll discuss in another article.

How to Find Customers with Promotions:

This is one of the most effective ways to generate new leads that I've seen. I've launched this kind of campaign myself and experienced great success: If you are a consultant or contractor, consider sending a sales letter to your target customers offering a free initial consultation. I don't mean just a free phone call either; you have to offer real value. Considering the high cost of advertising, it's actually a cost-effective method of finding new customers. This works particularly well with commercial clients as opposed to home owners, end users, or at the retail level. For example, if you are a plumber and you want to get your foot in the door of a sizeable client, you could send a sales letter such as this:

XYZ Bottling Corporation 1234 - Main Street Anytown, USA Attention: Mr. Smith, Plant Manager January 1, 2000

Dear Mr. Smith:

ABC Plumbing Co. is pleased to present you with this $120 complementary service voucher. We value your business and welcome you to evaluate our services first-hand. Our reputation of delivering cost-effective maintenance agreements is ranked number one in the industry thanks to building winning relationships with partners like you... XYZ's account has been credited with $120 as part of our customer appreciation event. As such, your first 2 hour service call is available free of charge with no further obligation. I look forward to discussing how ABC's cost-effective preventative maintenance solutions continually drive down costs for our clients in your industry. Kind regards.

John Smith, Marketing Director

When crafting promotional materials as above, always focus on the benefits rather than features of your product or service: Feature vs Benefit Fast service = Less down-time Low cost = Cost-effective plant maintenance Reputable = Business Continuity
Finding Customers is not difficult when you target your marketing efforts in a meaningful way. Always try to think like your customers do: Be careful to slightly understate your marketing message; coming across as "A deal to good to be true", or any other kind of hard-selling, pushy tactics will only scare away customers by creating suspicion and doubt in their minds. In the absence of the holy grail to finding customers, I hope this article gave you something to think about. If you have any questions about crafting sales copy or proposals, feel free to submit your questions.


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