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Nine top tips for finding new customers

Relying on too few customers can leave you vulnerable - losing just one could mean you hit cashflow problems. Even if it seems unlikely that you will lose customers, finding new people to sell to might be the best way to keep your business stable - and growing. Here's how you can win new customers without breaking the bank

  1. Know your customer. You don't have to pay for market research, but you do need a good idea of your 'target market'. Build a profile of likely potential customers - in particular, think about what they want and how you can appeal to them. Always aim to be special or offer better value for money than your competitors.
  2. Give incentives to existing customers. Offer discounts on future purchases or even commission, if your existing customers introduce new customers to you. Word-of-mouth recommendation is the most potent form of advertising, so surpass customers' expectations where possible.
  3. Freshen up your image. Are your signage and business logo looking a bit tired? Does your website need revamping? Is your online marketing strategy working? Could it be time to rebrand or even rename your business?
  4. Set targets. To judge how successful your new business drive has been you'll need benchmark goals. For example, you might aim to attract enough new customers to increase profit by 10% over 12 months. Keep your targets realistic.
  5. Go back to basics. Stick flyers up in local shops. Distribute leaflets and samples, and provide introductory offers. A direct mail campaign might be more suitable - maybe even a direct email campaign; but be sure to observe data protection rules if you go down this path.
  6. Advertise on a budget. Should you be advertising elsewhere? Could advertising with other businesses reduce costs while still generating sufficient sales? Give free advertising at your premises or on your website to non-competitors who return the compliment. If you pay for advertising, try to negotiate cheaper rates. 'Pay-per-click' deals are cheaper when advertising online.
  7. Get in the news. Try to get coverage in your local paper or trade press. You will need a newsworthy story, or you could put yourself forward as an expert to comment on your industry.  If you organise a publicity stunt, make sure it won't backfire.
  8. Network. Go to trade events and speak to as many people as possible. Get involved in local business associations and events. Would closer involvement in your local community (be good for business? Online networking can also generate sales.
  9. Find new sales channels. Maybe it's time to start selling online, if you aren't already. This could enable you to reach many more customers and to sell round the clock. Maybe some of your products or services could be altered to increase their appeal to different customer groups and niche markets.

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