The vast majority of businesses gain their customers through repeat business and referrals from happy clients. If you’re a new business, you are wondering how you get repeat and referral customers before you have your first customers.
You want to have proven your concept before you start
My sincere hope is that you have not started your business without some customers lined up. It can be very risky to set-up a new business without knowing that you’ll have some customers right away. The riskiest start-up is based on selling a new invention. Whether you have some customers lined-up from the beginning or not, here are three ways to get things kicked-off to attract new customers and retain them.
Work with a partner to amplify your results
First off, I encourage you to join a Chamber of Commerce, your local business improvement district, or an association that supports businesses in your niche exclusively. All of these organizations want you to succeed and to turn your success into a testimonial about the tremendous value of your membership. These membership organizations need you to succeed. Join one that makes sense for you, get involved, and ask them to support your endeavors and to spread the word.
NUMBER ONE: Host an Event
A grand opening or other event is a wonderful reason to invite people you might not know to come into your doors for the first time.
- Ideally, you hold a grand opening right about the time you open if you have a store front or office. If you are home-based or don’t have an office that would allow for mingling, you can surely welcome people to a bar or restaurant to celebrate your opening.
- If you are not new in business, any anniversary, especially those ending in a 0 or a 5, provide a great opportunity for celebration. If there is another number significant to your organization, celebrate that too!
NUMBER TWO: Supply a Coupon or Special Purchase
To attract first time customers, promote a discount. You can use social media to promote this, issue a press release, and drop a postcard to the areas right around your location. Your partner (business association or supportive friend) can also announce your promotion.
This is also a good tactic to exercise when they come to your event. Once you have people at your establishment, give them reason to return. A coupon, discount, or some other advantage to hiring you.
- If they sign-up/enroll/purchase at your event, give them a discount with a deadline to create some urgency. For instance, special pricing only available that day. Add an attractive thank you gift once they signed-up
- Make a “Buy X, get Z for free” option. The Z would be something valuable but doesn’t take too much of your resources.
NUMBER THREE: Introduce Your Prospects to a Loyalty Program
They can use the coupon once, and then what? You want them to come back again, and again. The easiest way to do that is to create some sort of loyalty program. If you sell coffee by the cup or some sort of widgets, then a punch card with the tenth or twelfth, or even the fifth item free, is an effective incentive (if your product is desirable).
- If you are a consultant, then offer a bonus or a discount if they sign-up for a monthly retainer. It can be a tiered discount that is one price for the first project, but the hourly rate goes down the longer they commit. They can save 10% with a six-month commitment, 20% with a one-year commitment.
- Offer incentives for referrals. Ask them to submit names and contact information for their friends they think would benefit from your expertise.
- Host a “bring a friend” event.
- Create a membership club that gives additional support to members only. It could be as simple as a quarterly happy hour where people can network, or it can be a regularly scheduled Zoom event where you offer tips on a particular topic or have an “Ask me anything” session.
Pay attention to what has attracted you to use a business. How did you first hear about them? What did you do to vet them before making a purchase? Then what did you do?
If you answer these questions regarding all the services you use, I bet a pattern will emerge that you can replicate to attract new customers to your business.
Leslie A.M. Smith founded McCormick L.A. in 1994 offering public relations and marketing consulting to nonprofits and small businesses. She recently published Laws of Promotion. The 50-page promotional guide for small businesses and local nonprofits is available now on Amazon. Call her for help with your promotion. If you found this post helpful, please leave a note here and feel free to share it.