Maintaining a steady stream of new customers and clients is vital to any business. Without new customers purchasing your products or services, there wouldn’t be enough cash to keep your business viable long-term. It is important to have a solid strategy for attracting new customers as well as maintaining a strong professional relationship with your potential market. First impressions mean everything. The sooner your customer or client sees value in doing business with you, the better your chances of acquiring and retaining them.
There are many methods for bringing in new business. In this article, we’ll focus on 5 practical methods of customer acquisition that are tried and true. These methods include Referrals, Business-to-Business, Cold-Calling, Industry-Specific Prospect Generating, and networking and self-promotion. We will also review some best practices and tips for prospect meetings.
Smart companies get people talking, and people love to talk. Think about your best customers. Were any of them referrals? Often the best source of new business is a happy customer. Referrals are a great way to get new business in the door. One method of generating referrals is by offering a gift to current customers who send you a referral. The gift could be anything from a discount to a reasonable gift (keep your industry’s compliance standards in mind for this part). This method is a great way to get your current customers excited about bringing in their contacts. Don’t limit referral offers to only current customers. Asking everyone who stops in or calls, whether they are customers or not, is an easy way to start building a list of potential prospects. Encourage your employees to “pivot” conversations with current customers and non-customers to a product or service that may benefit them. This simple act is the first step to creating a potential lead for your business and client list.
Business-to-business relationships are so important, regardless of the industry you are in. The way you treat your vendors, suppliers or partners and the time you put into those relationships can pay off in a big way. Let’s say you own an accounting firm, and you exclusively purchase your paper from one specific company. In the future, that small paper company may need assistance with their taxes or bookkeeping. If that company trusts their relationship with you, reaching out to your accounting firm will be a no brainer. Therein lies the opportunity to earn their business! You can also create a referral relationship between your two businesses. If one of their customers could benefit from your services they refer that person to you, and vice versa. You can provide formal introductions for each other, and show the shared trust and communication your two businesses share with the potential client. Building these types of relationships is a great way to build loyalty amongst your commercial clients and customers.
Cold-calling may seem old-fashioned, but it is still a very effective way to reach out to potential clients. Whether you contact potential customers via phone, email or drop in for a visit, a personal conversation with someone can go a long way. Take time to relate to the other person and build a professional connection. Take an interest in their needs and be a resource. Many consumers appreciate having a good relationship with who they do business with. You can generate cold-calling lists by looking back at old customers who’ve stopped working with your business. Determine why they decided to leave. Has anything changed since then they may help win them back? You can also follow-up on old conversations or prospects that you had. Why did they decide not to go with you originally? What kept the conversation from moving forward? It is always a good practice to revisit this “cold” leads; someone who said they weren’t interested 6 months ago may have a totally different thought process now.
Industry-Specific Prospect Generating
You may hit a point in time where it seems like you have no new leads or prospective customers. At this point, it may be time to consider using a paid lead-generating service. This is common in many industries. With people constantly shopping for products and services online, this information can be sold to businesses in the form of “leads.” There are also services available that you can purchase lists of consumer information, like names, phone numbers, and addresses. This information is gathered by these companies. Consumers have to give their permission to share their information, so nothing is gathered without the person’s consent. These sources may be a bit of an investment, but when used correctly, the benefits will hopefully outweigh the cost. Check out Bark.com for an example of an online service that helps consumers find professional services.
Networking and Self-Promotion
One of the most obvious ways to gain new customers is by telling as many people as possible about what you do and what you can offer. A modern approach to generating large-scale brand awareness is by utilizing advertising features on wildly-popular social media sites, like Facebook or Instagram. According to Statista.com, “In 2020, the global number of Facebook users is expected to reach 1.69 billion, up from 1.34 million in 2014.” Instagram also has a massive number of users. “Instagram will have 26.9 million users join the platform by 2020 which is almost double the projected growth of other social media platforms.” According to eMarketer’s research. With so many people using social media, the potential customer pool is gargantuan. With the ability to drill down into specific segments of your target market, these platforms can generate serious results. Again, you do have to pay to use these services, but you can control how much you spend by setting a maximum budget. You can also use the more traditional forms of advertising, like television, radio, and print. Getting out into your local community is another way to promote yourself and your business. Sponsoring local events and school functions is an easy and effective way to get your business more publicity. You can also host events or informational seminars in your community. This is a great way to build relationships with people in your community and show that you are willing to share your knowledge with others. Another easy way to build new professional relationships is by having your team network. You should always be trying to make new contacts. You and your team can attend business networking events to build up your reputations and keep your brand fresh in people’s minds.
Tips for Prospect Meetings
Great work! You have landed a meeting with a potential new client. What are your next steps? Making sure you have a plan laid out for these types of meetings is crucial.
Before the Appointment
Before you actually meet with the potential customer face-to-face, you need to make sure you gather all of the necessary information you need about that person. This information can be gathered over the phone or in-person at your initial meeting before the appointment is set. What are their needs, and how can you meet those needs? It should also be determined by you and your team who will take part in that meeting. Are there specific team members who would work well with this customer to suit their needs? It is also very important to create a call to action and get an appointment scheduled! Nailing down a concrete time and confirming it with the potential new client is key to making sure they get to hear what you want to share with them. For example, during your initial call or chat with this potential customer, you could say, “I think it would be beneficial to have a meeting here in my office so you can learn more about our processes. I’d be happy to show you some of the ways we can help. Can I schedule you for Monday at 2:00 PM?” Be forward and let them know that you are serious about meeting with them, but also let them know what to expect in the meeting.
During the Appointment
During the actual appointment, you need to lay everything out on the table while still trying to forge a custom relationship with that customer. Get to know a little bit about them personally, ask them to thoroughly explain their needs and then share your ideas with them. Map out how using your products or services will benefit them, and what makes you different from your competitors. Show them the value of your business and the team you have working for you. Ask for the potential customers’ input on what you have said. Gauge their responses and determine if they are hesitant about anything you are saying. You can also offer the potential client additional materials and information to help them make a final decision. Do not let them leave your office until you set a follow-up meeting. Again, gage their response, if they seem hesitant to schedule, ask them why. Once a follow-up appointment has been made, start planning for your final meeting.
The follow-up appointment can be the most nerve-racking part. You and your team need to be prepared to answer any follow-up questions the client may have. Once those questions are answered, it’s time to ask them for their business. At that point, the deal is either completed, or they decide to go somewhere else. No matter what their decision ultimately is, you can feel confident that you put your best effort forward to gain them as a new client.
Bringing on new customers or clients may feel like a very lengthy process. Although it may feel this way, it is so important to make strong connections with these new and potentially new customers. Their business is what helps your business succeed. Always remember to keep their needs at the forefront of your mind.
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