Ten ways to approach new customers

Talking to a new customer in shop

Need to build up your customer base? Here are ten tried and tested ways to reach a whole new audience

1. Advertise somewhere new

Research websites and publications that would appeal to your target market. Start with your local press, and then consider regional and trade publications. Look for free sources of advertising, such as directories and community websites that list small businesses.

Make the most of the Google My Business tool. It will give you a presence on Google Maps and Search and will make it easier for local customers to find you. It's free and easy to use.

2. Use empty display spaces

Put up eye-catching promotional messages to make the most of your shop window, an exhibition space or the sides of your vehicles. If you are renting premises or leasing the vehicle, check you are allowed to put up signs.

3. Encourage word-of-mouth recommendations

Satisfied customers are the best advocates for your business, so urge them to pass on your details to people they know and ask friends and family to do the same. Ask customers if you can add them to your mailing list so that you can keep in touch by email and encourage them to follow you on social media in order to get wider exposure among their followers. Always ask satisfied customers to provide testimonials to use on your website.

4. Offer free samples

Promote your business by offering samples at local events, so people can try your products before they buy. If you offer a business service, consider offering free advice to show potential customers how you can help them.

5. Get involved in your community

Hold or sponsor an event for charity, offer your service to a local good cause, volunteer as an expert at talks and events or take part in a national awareness week. Send out press releases to local publications in response to current news and trends that are relevant to your industry.

6. Network

If you sell to other businesses, attend local networking events arranged by your local chambers of commerce or trade association to make contacts. Join online business networking sites such as LinkedIn and look for groups that serve your sector or local area. Make the most of social media sites to raise your profile and connect with followers.

7. Build partnerships with other businesses

Ask neighbouring businesses to promote your products or services in exchange for mutual recommendations. Exchange leaflets and business cards so that you can refer new customers on. Look for related businesses to partner with: if you're a car dealer, for example, hook up with a vehicle repair shop.

8. Promote yourself with a mailshot or email

Create and distribute leaflets or carry out an email campaign. Make your marketing eye-catching and consider including a promotion. Make sure you also include your contact details and a clear call to action.

9. Call other businesses

If you sell to other businesses, dedicate a day to calling prospective customers. You could be following up on a mailshot or introductory email. Gauge the level of interest and offer to follow up with a meeting.

10. Start selling online

If you don’t have an ecommerce platform for your business yet, there is no time to waste. Selling online will help you to keep existing customers and gain new ones. You can test out your online market first by setting up a shop on a marketplace like eBay, Amazon or Etsy before you invest in a website with a payment facility.

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