Every small business owner wants to attract new customers. Here are 10 time-tested ways to help you bring in “new blood.”
1. Ask for referrals. Referrals are one of the best ways to get new customers—but if you sit back and wait for your current customers to refer their friends and family members to you, you could be waiting a long time. Take charge by implementing a system for actively soliciting referrals from your satisfied customers. Build referral-generating activity into the sales process. For example, send a follow-up email asking for a referral after a customer has received their order from your e-commerce site. Have your B2B salespeople ask for referrals when they follow up with customers to answer questions after the sale.
2. Network. Generate good old-fashioned word-of-mouth by participating in networking organizations and events relevant to your industry and your customers. Be sure to approach networking with the attitude, “How can I help others?” rather than “What’s in it for me?” By thinking about how you be of service, you’ll build relationships that lead to new customers.
3. Offer discounts and incentives for new customers only. Introductory offers, such as a two-week course at your karate studio for $100, can lure curious customers in your door by providing a low-risk way to try your products or services. Track which customers redeem the special offer, then target them with marketing message encouraging and enticing them to keep buying from you.
4. Re-contact old customers. Everything old can be new again—including old customers who haven’t done business with you in a while. Go through your customer contacts on a regular basis and, after six months or a year without an interaction or purchase, reach out to dormant customers with a special offer via email, direct mail or phone. They’ll be glad you remembered them and want to win them back.
5. Improve your website. These days, consumers and B2B buyers alike find new businesses primarily by searching online. That means your website has to do some heavy lifting to attract new customers. Give your website a once-over to make sure that the design, content, graphics and SEO are up-to-date. If this isn’t your strong suit, it’s worth enlisting the services of a website design company and/or SEO expert to help.
6. Partner with complementary businesses. Team up with businesses that have a similar customer base, but aren’t directly competitive, and strategize how you can target each other’s customers to drive new business to each other. For example, a maternity clothing website and a baby products website could pair up to offer discounts and deals to each other’s customers.
7. Promote your expertise. Generate interest—and new customers—by publicizing your expertise in your industry. Participating in industry panel discussions or online webinars, speaking at industry events or to groups your target customers belong to, or holding educational sessions or workshops will impress potential new customers with your subject expertise.
8. Use online reviews to your advantage. Does your business get online reviews from customers? Cultivate your reviews and make the most of them. Link to reviews on your website and post signage in your location urging customers to check you out on Yelp (or wherever the reviews are). Social proof is powerful, and new customers are more likely to give your business a try if they see others praising it.
9. Participate in community events. All else being equal, most people like to support independent businesses in their communities. Raise your profile in your community by taking part in charity events and organizations. Sponsor a local fun run, organize a holiday “toys for kids” donation, or supply a Little League team in your city with equipment. It gets your name out there, which helps bring in new customers.
10. Bring a friend. Offer 2-for-1, “buy one, get one free” or “bring a friend” deals to get your “regulars” to introduce new customers to your business. For instance, a restaurant could offer a “buy one entrée, get a second for free” special to attract more customers. You can even get specific: “Invite a friend to try our new happy hour specials!” to let customers know you’re looking to introduce your business to a wider customer base.
This article originally appeared on the SBA.gov blog.