Text by Lori Broadfoot
Your business plan is done, the permits and paperwork are in place, the stock is in supply, and all that’s left to make your small business a success is for the customers to start calling. But who are these customers, and how do you reach them?
The first step is to create an image of your Best Customers. Be as descriptive as possible: who are they, where do they live, work and play? This will help you send the right message and ensure it hits the right target. You likely won’t be able to sell a lawn care service to an apartment dweller no matter how cleverly you package it.
Next you need to define what the benefits of your product or service are to that potential customer. How will you make someone’s life easier, more enjoyable or safer? Remember you can’t be all things to all people, so choose the ONE thing that will make you irresistible to that ONE customer.
Once you have these two elements in place, use these simple tips to put your business in the spotlight.
Even if you have never had your fingers on a computer keyboard, no small business should be without a website in today’s marketplace. It can function as an electronic brochure, a product catalogue and a handshake to your customers before you even meet them.
If cost is a factor, enlist the services of a student, keen to show off their talents and build their portfolio. Just remember that a simple, clean design is more favourable than one that is complex and confusing. A poorly designed site will frustrate visitors and you’ll never know you lost them as potential customers.
A website is only as effective as the content you provide, both text and photos. You can provide details and specifications about your products and services, and answer questions that would otherwise tie up valuable personnel time.
Include your web address on your answering machine message, and your website can ‘take over’ whenever you’re not available, after hours or busy providing service to other customers.
Update information on your website on a regular basis, you may want to include a ‘What’s New’ page for more timely topics. A site with dynamic and up-to-date information will indicate you care about providing a service to your customers and have the same attention to detail that you have for all the other aspects of your business.
In conjunction with your website, email is a flexible and cost-effective method of staying in touch with your customers, and piqueing the interest of new ones. Invite people to register for email notices, either at point of sale, on your website or whenever you hand out a business card. These are people who have now expressed an interest in what you have to sell, don’t let them get away. You can inform them of upcoming promotions, sales events, new products and any business news that will keep your name and products in their minds.
The actual email can be brief and invite people to click on links to your website. Include a link at the bottom of the email if someone should wish to be removed from your list, and also indicate that you will not share or sell their information. Don’t overuse this method; no one likes a ‘spammer’. Spam is the electronic version of junk mail and an unsolicited email may alienate some potential customers.
Never leave the house without a supply of business cards in your pocket; you never know when you may encounter a client-in-waiting — at the grocery store, the bank or a sporting event.
Not only will you appear professional but also you will be viewed as an enthusiastic ambassador for your business. Look at that seven and a half inch square piece of paper as an invitation for someone to contact you and learn more about you. And they can choose the time and method that is right for them: in person, by telephone or via a website and email.
Keep Your Customers Happy
It may seem like a simple concept, but you may overlook the potential of the customers you already have in the quest to find new ones. Enthusiastic quality service will help your business thrive, whereas even one disgruntled and vocal client can do your business irreparable harm. Keep in touch with your past clients, even if they are no longer in the market for your services. A little attention from you may solidify your place in their minds and initiate a referral at a later date.
As a small business owner, you may be overwhelmed at times with length of your To-Do list, but without ongoing marketing plans your customer lists will shrink in comparison. To market your business effectively your strategies need not be complex or expensive and don’t look at it as selling, you are merely informing people why your business is superior. At every opportunity.