The internet offers multiple opportunities for even the smallest start-up to catch its fair share of new clients and customers. Here are some tips to help you get started connecting with people who are looking for a business just like yours. These tips may take you a little time and creativity, but none of them should put an unwieldy dent in your bottom line.
Send out newsletters
Your first advertising outlet is your existing customer and client base. If you make them happy enough to start a good wave of word-of-mouth endorsements then you won’t have to put out any money towards advertising at all.
In order for this to happen you’re going to have to give your customers something to crow about. Even better, you can give them something to pass on to others – a newsletter.
Here’s the key – make the newsletter useful. You can write about your own accomplishments a little bit, tacking it on at the end of the newsletter, but 99% of the text should be useful and actionable tips your clientele can use.
Don’t be worried about giving away all of your secrets to the point that your paying clientele will no longer require your services. With each new tip they’re going to see just how much thought and consideration you put into giving them your services. They’ll find it’s well worth having your professional help handling the one-hundred-and-one balls you juggle when you work for them.
Also, with each helpful tip you’re displaying that you are an authority on the subject. The more tips, the greater that authority, until clients and potential clients wouldn’t dream of going anywhere else.
Get a website
Most businesses these days have a website, but if you’ve been holding off, get one today. Working without a website not only makes it more difficult for new people to find you, it also makes you seem like a fly-by-night organization. Today’s websites are like yesteryear’s Yellow Pages – you can’t imagine a legit business not having one.
What do you put on your website? First, your contact info and on the homepage a clear statement of who you are and what you do – don’t leave visitors guessing.
References and referrals also make for some nice website content. If you can get video testimonials from happy clients, all the better. If those clients happen to have some sort of celebrity, be it in general or in your field, that’s even better still.
You should also have a blog. Keep a regular schedule of postings (we’d suggest at least once a week). You give tips and answer questions in the blog, making sure that you respond to comments. Just like with the newsletters, these blogs will help establish your authority. And the more blogs you have, the greater the range of subjects that potential clients can use to find your business.
Be the one with the best customer service
Outstanding customer service is an immense value-add and one of the greatest ways to start one of those word-of-mouth waves rolling.
If you make a mistake, fix it, and then up the response to go beyond just breaking even with the client.
Customer service also extends to your internet presence. Be quick and helpful with your responses to comments and criticisms.
Also remember, business rating services like Yelp are rising in popularity. Your ratings now pop up automatically next to your location on Google maps. The more shiny stars you have, the more likely newcomers are going to be to give you a try.
Get on social media
Much like websites, it’s just kind of weird for businesses to not have at least one social media outlet (e.g. Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.)
You can use these outlets to link back to your blogs, to make yourself known in multiple communities, to keep tabs on what your competition is doing right or wrong, to connect with charitable events and organisations, to show your sense of humour (depending on your brand), to share what inspires you (another way of connecting with people who were similarly inspired), and so on.
Mind you, when we say connect with communities we’re not just talking about (for example) LinkedIn groups that are already in your field. In fact, in the example of our SME accounting firm, it might not be all that helpful to join communities that are centred around accounting since an audience of accountants already have what you’re selling – accounting services.
Instead, try finding communities that revolve around small and medium-sized businesses in your area. Chime in with helpful tips that will help small-business owners get over some beginner tax hurdles. Link one of your past blogs when applicable.
Mind you, self-promotion should be kept to a minimum. Just like with the newsletters, you want to make it all about helping other people first.
Create humorous content
This tip depends somewhat on your brand. If you’re promoting your business as being a very strict and no-nonsense kind of affair, then this tip may not apply to you.
But if your business has a more genial air, then try adding some humour to some of your output. At the very least you can pass on some fun cartoons relating to your field. If you can create some original content of your own, all the better.
The go-to example for this idea is The Dollar Shave Club, an online service that sells razors. They hit internet gold by producing a fun (and cheap) video that went hugely viral.
The Buff Dudes, two brothers who are physical trainers, put out helpful training videos plus fun videos that goof on themselves and on people who sometimes have trouble following gym etiquette.
What are some of the common complaints of people in your field? Can you make something fun out of that? You only need one video or post to tickle the right funny-bones for your business to catch some big attention.
Get involved in local events
Dunking booths. Charitable silent auctions or car washes. Marathons. Pie-eating contests. Music festivals. What’s going on around your town that will let people get to know you?
A free consultation can be a fantastic selling tool. You get them hooked with your awesome service, and they can’t imagine doing without you from that point on out.
It’s important to remember though that this consultation is not for you to sit and pitch yourself – your services are the pitch, so the more you do for that potential client during the freebie, the more likely they’ll be to give you the nod.
Freebies can also be a way to react to mistakes. We mentioned above going above and beyond with apologies. You don’t just want to make it so the client breaks even with your mistake – you want to make them go wow, these guys are awesome.
So a free consultation involving a service that the client usually wouldn’t have looked at on top of fixing the mistake can both show that you care enough to really work to make the apology, but it can also introduce them to your other services.
Small budget, big ideas
You don’t have to spend a fortune in advertising in order to lure in new customers. All you have to do is to give people something positive to talk about, and they’ll do the advertising for you.