Are you struggling to find new clients? Attracting new business and converting them to loyal customers is arguably the most important activity of a small business owner. Whether you are a freelance web designer, a blogger for hire, or a SaaS startup with a shoestring marketing budget, building a strong customer base is crucial for your business to grow and expand. In fact, your head is probably swimming with statistics about content marketing, social media, and analytics.
Guess what? It’s okay to take a break from your laptop and head out into the real world – in fact you just may find a few of these surprising places to find new clients are gold mines. If you aren’t feeling particularly social, get ready to make some calls or emails. And yes, there are some online ways to find new clients too.
Finding new customers isn’t always easy. If the basic marketing tactics you learned in college just aren’t working, or if you don’t know how to get started, here are ten places to start looking.
1. Your suppliers
Depending on the nature of your business, your list of suppliers may give valuable referrals, or even become clients themselves. Tell everyone you meet what you do – you never know where your next client could be hiding.
2. Established businesses with your target market
Take a look around your neighborhood. Which business complements your own? We often forget that our customers also fit the demographic of other businesses. Offer a free or heavily discounted product or service to this business’s customers either by mailing an insert with their invoice, as a direct mailing, or through coupons handed out with receipts. This is called Host Beneficiary Marketing. Your business benefits with access to an established client base, the customer benefits with a great deal, and the host business benefits by offering a perk to their existing customers at no cost to themselves.
3. Local service providers and professionals
Think about the local service providers that YOU use. These professionals provide trusted opinions to others, and are often influential in your community. Impress your doctor, lawyer, accountant, dentist, banker, or minister and they may refer you to the many people they meet with each day.
4. New business workshops or seminars
These are great places to find new clients, whether as businesses or individuals. Participants need a variety of services to get off the ground, and if they’ve received start-up funding they are eager to spend it. Can you post a notice on a bulletin board outside a classroom? What about doing a short presentation to the class on some aspect of your business – and how it could help them?
5. FAQs of your target market websites
Okay, here’s one way to find new clients that takes some work, but is very effective.
First, go to an organization or website that represents a group your clients are likely to belong to. For example, say you’ve developed an online service or application for realtors – head to the national, provincial, state, or regional organization for real estate agents.
Second, search for the FAQ section, and find a question you are comfortable answering.
Third, write an answer in no more than 500 words, and email it to the site editor as a potential blog post or basis for an article. If they don’t have a blog, ask for your answer to be included in the FAQs – with your full company name and email address included, of course.
6. Online discussion groups and forums
Head to your favorite search engine, or go directly to the discussion groups and forums your potential clients are likely to hang out in. (Important note – don’t go to your own favorite groups and forums people, unless you plan on selling to your peers. Think like a client for a minute or two.) Look for questions like “How do I install xyz?” or “Where can I find an abc?” Provide simple yet thorough answers, and include your contact information or a link to your website in your signature.
7. Your business supply store
If you’re a digital creative, freelancer, or a service provider targeting small to medium size businesses, chances are that at some point your potential clients are going to take a trip to their local business supply store, whether it’s a local mom and pop shop or a supersized Staples. Check it out – is there a bulletin board in the entrance? If so, add your print marketing material here (make it BOLD though – use neon yellow paper, for example). Alternatively ask if you can leave a stack of business cards at the checkout. You never know….
8. Your local contractors can help you find new clients
Think I’m joking? I’m not.
Contractors, such as construction companies, electricians, plumbers, and sign installation outfitters that work with local businesses know who is launching a new business and who is upgrading and renovating. When businesses are starting out or expanding, excitement is high, and this is a good time for them to invest in a new website and/or upgrade technological services. Freelance writers, web designers, and developers, as well as SaaS or IaaS providers can get great leads from cozying up to your local contractors.
9. Your neighborhood
Potential customers are literally all around you. At the grocery store, the gym, the coffee shop, the park where your kids play and your dog romps. And don’t forget your local business lunch hot spot or after work watering hole.
10. Your existing customers
Once you have an established business, they can be the best way to find new clients. Remind satisfied customers to share their recommendations with a line on your business cards and email signature that says something like “Recommending our services to your friends and family is the highest compliment you can give us.” Reward referrals with a small gift or coupon to redeem on their next visit.
Remember, you are your best advertisement. Talk to people. Promote your business everywhere you go.
Whether you prefer online activities or face-to-face contact, you can find new customers in all sorts of places. Give some of these suggestions a try. Find the methods that work best for you, include them in your daily or weekly routine, and watch your business grow.
Where is the strangest place you found a new customer? Let us know in the comments below!