Entrepreneurship comes with a degree of financial uncertainty. So you may be wondering if it’s possible to continue working your day job while building the business you have always dreamed of. Fortunately, for aspiring entrepreneurs like you, we created the “16 Steps to Starting a Business While Working Full Time” eBook. It has detailed steps to guide you through the process of launching your company while still collecting a paycheck.
In step 10, we will cover how to find your first customers. And if you want to revisit the nine previous steps, here they are: select a business; create a business plan; establish goals; choose your marketing methods; figure out your finances; know the rules; how to set up your office, business licenses, taxes and insurance, and invest in your image.
Customers are the lifeblood of every business. But how do you go about building a customer base from scratch?
Here are some tips to help you attract your first customers:
Leverage your relationships: Ask people you know (family, friends, professional colleagues and casual acquaintances) for leads and referrals. You’ll be amazed at how many connections you can make by tapping your existing relationships.
Put your business online: Get a website for your business so prospective customers can learn about the products and services you provide. Many all-inclusive and cost-effective website packages exist (such as GoDaddy, Web.com and Intuit Websites. For an ecommerce business, you’ll want to find a website service that enables you to develop a site with online sales capabilities. Some examples include Shopify, Volusion or 3DCart.
Embrace social media: Get social with your target market by setting up business accounts on online networks, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. By sharing information, linking to your website and interacting on these platforms, you’ll be able to build a following for your business. The key to social media success is to engage with your fans and followers regularly so you gain the top-of-mind advantage.
Advertise locally: If your business will focus on local customers, get some ink in local print publications. Advertising in local magazines, newspapers and business/community directories can give you valuable exposure. Also consider
advertising your business on websites that members of your target market visit frequently. Even if a website caters to a national audience, you can get advertising directed only at website visitors within ZIP codes nearest to you.
Reach out via email: Market directly to prospects and customers by asking them to subscribe to email messages from your business. You can craft professional-looking email marketing messages using services like Constant Contact, iContact and Campaigner. Just make sure your business complies with the FTC’s CAN-SPAM laws!
Generate publicity: You can gain valuable exposure for your business by doing some outreach to bloggers who speak to your target audience. By offering to submit guest blog posts or serve as a subject matter expert for posts on certain topics, you can introduce your business to more prospective customers.
Go direct: Consider launching a direct mail campaign to reach prospects in your community. All you need to do is choose the neighborhood where you want to advertise, and work with a business center to help send your direct mail advertising piece to every address in that area.
Use the buddy system: By forming referral partnerships with other small businesses, you can help one another get customers. For instance, if you have a dog grooming business, you could buddy up with a local pet-sitting business to refer clients to each other.
Offer an incentive: Special deals and discounts can attract attention—and new customers. This can work exceptionally well if your business provides recurring services. For example, if you have a lawn care and landscaping business, you might offer six months’ worth of service at the price normally paid for three months.
Showcase your expertise: Build a reputation as an industry expert through speaking to local groups and business organizations that your target customers belong to. By sharing your expertise and insight on topics that matter to them, you can attract attention and gain respect from prospective clients.
Ready to move forward in getting your business off the ground? Continue by reading the full “16 Steps to Starting a Business While Working Full Time” guide.
And remember, you don’t have to go it alone as you prepare to launch your business. Contact SCORE to connect with a business mentor for free guidance.