Seven ways to win new business
Every small business owner should spend some time reaching out to new clients to ensure the company grows, but what is the best way to go about it? Lucie Mitchell shares some top tips.
One of the best ways to spread the word about your product or service is to network. Find out if there are any business networking or trade events in your area and go along. Before you go, make sure you are prepared by having some business cards printed to hand out at the event – you can also use these to write a quick note on the back before handing it over so that the person remembers you, your business and what you talked about.
When it comes to networking, think quality over quantity. It’s better to spend time talking to a small, select group of people, with whom you hope to nurture a successful, long-term relationship, than to try to talk to as many people as you can in an hour. Take the time to build a rapport and find out as much as possible about them and their business and how you can work together.
The same goes for business cards. Be selective about who you give them to as a networking event isn't successful if all you've done is hand out 100 business cards.
According to research carried out on behalf of Vistaprint in April 2013, consumers often refer back to business cards for contact details with 56% saving them for a later date. Another 58% of respondents said they can be swayed to use a professional service depending on the look of a business card.
Although not everybody is a natural sales person, selling is a crucial part of winning new business. If you're not comfortable with doing the selling, perhaps think about finding someone else to do it.
If, however, you want to do it yourself, it's worth honing your sales technique to ensure you are the very best sales person you can be. Try rehearsing a 'sales' conversation; ensure you fully understand the potential client's business and market; and remember to come across as the 'expert' from the very beginning of the conversation, letting them know how you can help them.
Other ways to attract new sales is to find new sales channels, such as selling abroad. If you are an online-only business, think about setting up a stall in a market to increase sales offline. On the other hand, if you have only sold your products offline, think about going online too, which could help to reach more customers.
The prolific growth of social media has meant that the potential to win new business via channels such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn is huge. It’s therefore important to ensure you use social media as effectively as possible.
Even though different channels may require slightly different approaches, it's important to ensure you follow the right people and engage with them in the right way. Think carefully about who you are targeting and what sort of content you want to share with them. It could be worth taking note of the 80:20 rule – 80% of your message is to add value and engage with your audience, 20% can be self-promotion. Don't just 'broadcast'; engage in two-way conversations with your followers.
Also, don't feel the need to use every single channel. Find out where your target audience are, and go there. Start with just a few channels and focus all your efforts on there, ensuring you interact, spark engaging conversations and build up trust and relationships with your followers.
Know your customer
It's critical that you know your target market. If your customers are consumers, they can often be identified by age, gender or income. Business customers, on the other hand, are often distinguished by industry or company size.
Either way, try to create a profile of who your likely customers could be, and think about what they want and what you can offer to them.
Then, try to offer them something that your competitors don't, that will particularly appeal to them or offers them better value for money.
Spending time finding out who your existing customers are, through market research, can also help you to identify how to find new customers.
Encourage word-of-mouth referrals
Nurture the relationship you have with existing clients so that they become loyal customers who feel happy recommending you to new potential customers.
Word-of-mouth referrals can be extremely powerful so it's worth thinking about how you can incentivise your current customers to refer your business to others.
Give people a reason to refer business to you, such as discounts on future purchases – and don't forget to thank them!
Make the news
Securing coverage in your local paper or trade publication, or on TV or radio, can be a great way of getting your business out there and talked about.
To do this, you could provide comment as an expert on a certain issue or topic, come up with some kind of publicity stunt, or write an interesting and relevant press release on a 'newsworthy' story in your field of expertise that makes a journalist sit up and listen.
You’ll also need to spend some time collecting relevant press contacts so you know who to go to when you want to approach the media.
Clear and concise website
If you want to attract new customers to your business, it's crucial that, first of all, you have a website, and second, it is fresh, up-to-date and simple to use.
Often, a website is the first experience a potential customer has of your business, and can provide them with important information about your products and services, so ensure your site makes a good first impression and contains everything a customer needs to know about your business in a clear and concise way.