A business is nothing without customers. But with the tough economy and so much competition, landing new customers can be a big challenge to overcome.
So, to kick off 2011, I have asked my trusted network of experts and entrepreneurs to offer up their best unique strategy for businesses to land new customers and clients. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.
You may notice some similar strategies, but I kept their insights separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.
1. Deliver Value Then Bill for it
Too many people try to sell 'something' instead of something that their customers value. If you want to land a new kind of client, the kind that will be case-study worthy and help advance your own brand, try this. Before meeting with prospects, stand in their shoes. Sense their problems and develop solutions you might offer. Think about how to introduce your value-creating idea, and then do it. Don't worry about your idea being stolen; you can make a new one. Get the meeting. Then, close the deal.
2. Six Degrees of Separation
The best strategy I have found for landing a new customer/client is to put a name on a customer you want to obtain, and tap into all the people in your sphere of influence to get an introduction to that specific person/company. So, instead of saying you would like to obtain XYZ company as a new client, find the name of the specific person within that company that is the decision maker, and ask everyone you know if they or someone they know knows that person, and ask for an introduction.
3. Speak the Hard Truths
Never underestimate the value of "calling someone ugly to their face"! We ALL need someone to say the things that are hard to hear. Honesty CAN get you clients - when spoken with genuine caring & desire to help someone get better.
I've gotten lots of clients this way - especially professional services firm owners who can't answer the "why me?" question in any way that differentiates them from their peers. Calling them on it and providing a solution wins the business almost every time!
Some years back, I invited eight of my satisfied patients to post their comments about my work on YellowPages.com. All eight did so and now, years later, I am still getting new patient calls based on those eight evaluations. The YellowPages.com site has a hot link to my practice website.
5. Show Some Ingenuity!
Every business has challenges to overcome. You can court a business client by researching THEIR product or service, finding some information to help THEM increase their business or solve a problem, and then send them a copy with a hand-written note saying that they might find this information useful. Of course, attach your business card.
I once sent a business owner a little sketch that came to me as a possible logo for his new division. He loved it, and I got a new client!
6. Single Ingredient for Success
In an age of leadership shortcomings and scandal, trustworthiness is essential for your company. By surrounding yourself with people who embody integrity, you will build a culture of credibility. That, in turn, is the cornerstone for business trust and increased revenues.
7. Happy Birthday LeBron James!
Trickle down presents.
For LeBron James' last birthday party, Spa 101 presented him and his girlfriend with some special treatments. Beside his personal presents, we included gift certificates for him to give away to his close friends. Since our business depends heavily on word-of-mouth, what better 'brand ambassador' than LeBron James himself?
8. Randomly Reach Out
Use a random system to choose several, new email subscribers from your email listing and ask them personally what problems they have. Customers are very appreciative when businesses take interest in them individually. Entrepreneurs are problem solvers, so earnestly seek to identify and resolve the problems of your audience and watch your business GROW!
9. Be Your Best Customer
If you are trying to sell something, then you better believe in it, use it, wear it and live it. I design flip flops and I pretty much live in them. Who better to sell my product than me? If I am talking to a potential retail outlet, then I better walk into my meeting rocking my product.
10. Crystal Clear Stunning Results
Spell out the stunning results you bring about for your ideal clients in crystal clear terms that ease pain that is deeply felt and for which clients are eager to invest money to solve right now.
11. Become a Social Media Warrior
I believe a steady, persistent, value-driven social media campaign where you consistently provide thought-provoking insights, tips and advice to your audience is both a unique AND unusual way to land a new client. In and of itself, this is neither unique nor unusual, but taken in its entirety - steady, persistent, value-driven, thought-provoking, advice - you will find it to be both. Most business owners will fall down on one of the five adjectives listed above.
12. Become Cozy with Your Avatar
Develop an Avatar, a portrait of your ideal client. Include gender, marital status, interests, profession, etc.
Learn where your client spends time i.e. trade shows, clubs, and activities. Go where your client goes. Attend the conferences, networking meetings and events she frequents. Network and talk with her about her interests, problems and listen to where you can be of service. It is all about the relationship. Build rapport, credibility and genuine concern. The clients will come.
13. The Power of the Word of Mouth
I have had three new clients contact me in the past 3 weeks - all because of word of mouth advertising - or Referrals!
I offer a 15% commission to anyone who refers someone to me - yes the 15% is built into my pricing.
If you do a good job for someone, then ASK for a referral, or entice them by offering a commission or extra value-added service.
Do a brilliant job, and then ask for a referral. It's as easy as that!
14. Listen and Learn
Be direct. Be brief. Ask for what you want.
"How can I help you and get some of your business?" Then listen. And listen some more. And answer questions.
Business is about building relationships. If you focus on building relationships with your ideal target market, the sale will eventually come. So, become a part of your community and attend events in your neighborhood, meet people, make some friends and eventually, these friends will become your customers and recommend new ones too.
16. Tell 3 people About Us!
I ask every customer to tell three people about us. I tell them they are not just a customer at Haupt Antiek Market - they are now part of our marketing team. So many people come back to me and say - see, I brought my 2 girlfriends with me and I just have to bring one more person. They like to be included in the success of growing a small business. It is because of this wonderful word of mouth advertising that our business has been very successful.
17. Follow Up and Follow Through
I don`t know how unique it is, but I am amazed at how many of my large clients say that my competition does not know how to do these things. FOLLOW UP and FOLLOW THROUGH. We use a CRM software to diarize a follow up time that is convenient for the prospect and create detailed notes as to what we are supposed to follow up on. Following through and contacting the client in a timely and professional manner creates a new level of credibility, which shows your value as a potential supplier.
18. Pay it Forward
Frequently, I've found the best way to land a client is to help them out before they are one. I've met with a number of people in the last year and a half, and when I can, I'm always introducing them to other potential clients. It may not come back to you right away, but people remember kind acts, and will eventually repay in kind when they can. And it makes you feel good too!
19. Share the Wealth!
One unique way of bringing in a new customer is to partner with that customer on your mutual marketing. For example, Joe of ABC Tax Consultants wants Sally of XYZ Realtors to bring her 2010 tax business to him. Joe can interest Sally by offering her exposure as a new loyal customer of ABC Tax Consultants in its marketing -- online, print and simple brochures.
20. Out of the Box Marketing
We are bombarded these days with marketing messages. Want to be heard? Put your message where people don't expect it. It will snap people out of rote dismissal as they stop to process what is new and unusual.
21. Add a Free Bonus
Add a free bonus to your product and the customer will appreciate the added value and feel that you are generous. The value of knowledge increases when you give it away. Provide an opportunity for the customer to contact you to receive personal advice or have an additional bonus item added. This may come in the form of an e-mail address that the customer may use to contact you to have a personal question answered that applies to the product.
22. You are Not Important
Remember that the product or service you provide is not important. What matters to the prospect or customer is their need, problem, cost, situation, etc. Address what matters to them instead of "selling" your company, product or service. This particularly means that they do not care what your Mission Statement is.
23. 3 Steps to Greater Sales
1. Listen to the prospect's pain/dreams.
2. Describe a similar situation you faced and the result you got (do NOT tell the prospect how you got the result. That's what they're buying.)
3. Ask one or two questions that allow the prospect to realize that there is more to the issue than they're considering.
The reaction you'll get is "Gee, ____ is not only listening to me, she's faced similar situations and gotten results, plus she's seeing things I haven't seen. I've got to hire her."
24. CUSTOMER to VENDOR
Become a CUSTOMER first. Go to the client and experience what a typical client/customer goes through. Be aware that the owner or manager cannot do this, since everyone knows who they are. Go in as a regular shopper. Note the details of your trip. Then, communicate with your prospect with a note like this: Came to your location yesterday as a shopper. You will be very interested in what my shopping experience was like. When do you want to hear about it?
25. Fear Works
When presenting to potential dealers/franchisees, I always discuss in detail the unique and superior aspects of our products and service, and the benefits to them of this opportunity. If they are still wavering, I let them know that "We are going to dominate this territory - We want to do it with you on our team - But either way we are going to defeat the competition." Most then sign up, as they realize that they would rather have us supporting them than have us fighting them in the market.
26. Feed 'Em and Then Hook 'Em
We aren't afraid to go old school. We buy our potential clients pizza, or cookies, or whatever is yummy and easy to eat. When people's mouths are full, they are more likely to listen to some good advice... it's the perfect time for us to sell our services.
27. Celebrate with Them
A great way to land a new customer is to celebrate a milestone with them. If you know they are celebrating a birthday, expecting a new child, etc., why not send them a small gift, along with your business card. If you sell a particular product that would help them with this milestone (i.e. a baby product for an expectant mom), send this along. Not only will they be surprised and thankful, but they will remember you when someone they know is celebrating a similar milestone.
28. Give and You Will Receive
My ONE unique or unusual strategy or piece of advice on how a business can land a new customer is to give them a FREE perk up front. When a customer is confronted with a new business venture, they tend to be very hesitant, because they already know that you want their business. By using this unusual strategy in a world where people want to get out of others all that they can, this lets the customer know that you are willing to give as well. Then, they will be more willing to give you their business.
29. Thank You
Carry with you postcards with a Thank You message on them. When anyone does something for you, take out a postcard and present it to them with a message of thanks and a time limited offer for one of your services.
The service will have a discount offer off the first visit and a promise of a follow up call. The offer can be transferable to the recipient or someone of their choice.
30. Remember the Law of Karma
I volunteer in my community. When I volunteer and give back, new customers and clients come. The more you give of yourself, the more you get back in return. For me, volunteering is not about business, it's about spending time doing something rewarding for someone else. My business is not involved and I don't tell people that I run a business unless I'm asked; it is all about the human connection of giving.
31. Give a Little, Get a Lot
I support the ACS Relay for Life event in our community, because I'd like to see cancer eradicated. As a fund-raiser for the event, I'm offering a professional review with a full report: 10 pages for $15, which is 60% off my regular fee schedule. Potential clients get to try me out for a great deal, make a contribution to a powerful cause, and I've already gained new business as a result! A win-win for everyone!
32. Yea! A New Client
There are many ways to get new customers or clients, but one of the best is to hold a contest. People love them and they can be as unusual as you want. They can be open to the public (your audience) and will expose your name and services to them. Then, make a big fanfare about the winner and you'll get a second round of publicity.
33. Post it!
To land a new client or customer, create a short video (30-60 seconds) using an inexpensive ($150) high definition FLIP CAMERA (for easy upload) that clearly displays the benefits and rewards of your services. Then, post it on you tube, facebook and any other internet portal available to you.
***Email it to everyone you can....
34. Use Social Media Audio & Video
Potential customers are online, meeting and sharing discoveries via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Business owners must have a social media strategy. Re-purposing existing marketing materials into podcasts and videos is inexpensive, when you have the right tools. Shareware like Audacity lets you make great-sounding podcasts and audio tracks for your existing PowerPoint presentations. Export the resulting videos to YouTube, and people will find you. Just remember to be helpful, not sales-y.
35. Fun Contests = New Customers
Utilizing social media and our imagination, we have attracted a lot of attention and generated new business. Each week, we hold a contest in which participants collect points by sharing their knowledge of comic books, playing games, promoting our sale and E-bay items, and posting comments on Facebook, Twitter and our blog. We have been able to form great customer relationships and have given customers the chance to win great prizes, while getting recognition. Most importantly, we have fun!
36. 4 Words to Win New Customers
TRY BEFORE YOU BUY.
It's hard to get people to switch to a new product or service. So, overcome this by giving them time to sample and experience the benefits firsthand BEFORE spending any money on it. Today's market (no matter the product or service) is a skeptical one. We all hate being "sold to", don't believe what we see on TV and are suspicious of false promises. That's why the ability to try-before-you-buy cuts through the noise in the marketplace to get your brand noticed.
37. Submit "Contact Me" Comments
I submit comments to web sites' "Contact Us" page. I use an automated system that finds the pages and submits my comments. I've been able to make many contacts and create new business. I use an application that searches the web for sites based on key words, then I submit my customized message to each site. I'm treated as a 'guest' rather than a spammer because site owners always read (and usually respond) to web site comments.
38. Great Expectations
The perception of success begins with expectations. Be upfront with your client about their expectations AND yours. Make sure your contract or agreement spells out what you will do for the client, but also what your client needs to do in order for you to serve them better. Make sure everyone is on the same page before you move forward--then get out there and over-deliver!
39. Business Tough? Go to Hawaii!
Our competitors were nipping at our heels, trying to take business from us with low ball offers. Our prospects were nervous about investing money in our sales support and sales training services. So, we created the PhoneSmart Hawaii UnConference to bring clients and contacts together to network, learn and make new friends in a fabulous environment...and to create a great marketing campaign for industry trade shows and news outlets. It worked so well the first time, we are doing it again!
40. Simple - Ask for Referrals!
Ask for referrals and testimonials. Acquisition cost is near zero. A few cautions:
1. Be sure the person you ask is a happy customer.
2. If someone says "be happy to give you a referral" be patient. If a reminder is needed, be polite and ask for a time-frame you can expect it. Could be they are dead-lining on a huge project or have a sick child at home.
3. Always say Thank You via a hand written note (not an email - though if it comes in via email, acknowledge it immediately) then send a card.
41. Giving Builds Receivers
I learned a valuable lesson a few years ago. I had no money, but I had ideas. The voice said give it away and see if they like it and if they like it, they will buy more of it. Giving allows you to be profitable receiver.
42. Seeing Things Eye to Eye
Businesses should see things eye to eye with consumers by taking casual acquaintances to lunch to hear their perspective on your products: then you can explain how you & your products can help exalt them to another level.
(You could video tape it & put it on You Tube because people like to see interaction that's real.)
43. What's in it for Me?
Focus your sales/marketing message on the end result your customers will receive from your product or service. Both people and businesses buy a desired end result when they purchase a product or service. Focus on the valuable end result your product/service delivers to win the marketing game. Always remember that people care about one thing, “What’s in it for me?”. So, show them what valuable end result they will get when they buy from you and they are much more likely to buy from you.
44. Keep the Old & Grow Some New
First a word of caution: "Do not neglect existing customers to get a new customer." This year, we are starting off with customer follow-up and communication and asking for referrals. We are also offering some new products and services for old customers. Your customer base is the most important aspect of your business. Satisfied customers, testimonials and referrals are still the best way to maintain a healthy customer base.
45. Closing a New Client
Before I quote a price for programs or services, I ask the prospect what the success or accomplishment they want to achieve would be worth to them. They usually describe what the outcome would look and feel like. I then ask them to put a dollar amount on that value. I then quote my fee, which is usually less than what value amount they said. My fees look great and they are more likely to commit.
46. Gain Clients by Clearing Karma
Before attending a networking event or prospect meeting, I use a modernized ancient spiritual process, ho’oponopono, which means to correct or set aright, to clear karma and past life memories existing unconsciously between myself and individuals involved. I also clear anything within my mindset such as fears, concerns, and limited ideas that could potentially sabotage optimal results. All then relate to each other in the present, rather than through their subconscious negative memories.
47. Pay it Forward
My best advice is to give before you try to sell.
I have been able to build a large list of responsive career success coaching customers by giving away my book "Success Tweets."
Once people join me, I continue to give them free high quality information that builds their trust in me. By giving away my best stuff, I have created a group of motivated customers who want to buy my information products and coaching services.
48. Know Your Prospect
Become a profiler. Know your prospect inside out, upside down. Know their business, what they're trying to accomplish, where and how they've struggled -- and why. Know their competition and where they're vulnerable. Know how much value they would place on the benefit that your offering presents to them. Then, once you know what this big picture looks like, present yourself as the missing piece of the puzzle.
49. Boost Response with Doodles!
A great way to bring in new customers and clients is to use hand-written notes and hand-drawn doodles in your copywriting and marketing. They add attention-grabbing power to direct mail, websites, presentations, and videos, and have been proven to boost response. These time-tested strategies work because they stand out from normal, plain-vanilla marketing and will stop your readers in their tracks, so they notice your message above anyone else's.
50. Be Your Own Best Advertiser
As a small business owner, finding creative ways to attract new customers is important. I always carry a small tote bag with my business name, logo, website, and a statement that says "Ask me about Permanent Cosmetics" printed on the outside of the bag. The tote bag has sparked conversations that lead to new customers. I had similar bags designed to give to friends, family, and past clients, since they are also walking personal testimonials.
51. Back to Basics
My one unique or unusual tip for landing a new customer or client shouldn’t be unusual or unique: ask them. Ask your prospect what they need or at least want. It’s amazing how many of them will tell you exactly what they are looking for in a product and/or service--giving you the key to deliver to their expectations. Knowing what your prospect is looking for is an invaluable piece of information, allowing you to focus your efforts toward meeting that need. Ask and ye shall receive!
52. One Connection = Many Clients
Hunting for new clients, most businesses shoot directly and repeatedly at prospects. With a target in their sights, why not? Unless, there was just one person who already had close relationships with your target market for reasons uncompetitive to yours? And what if you could approach them in a compelling way motivating them to refer you highly to many clients? Would that be better than the direct, shotgun approach? Well Connected shows you how with its Right Person/Right Approach methodology.
53. Be a Resource for a Prospect
Every workday, contact one potential client with a relevant piece of information for them. This may be a congratulatory note on something they have done, an article that would interest them, or connection with someone who they should get to know. No pitching of your product or service is allowed when doing this.
54. Developing New Business
First, determine what needs your prospect is not getting from their current supplier. Develop a product, which not only meets those needs, but exceeds their expectations. Make a sizable sample run of the product and send it to them at no charge. Follow up with the customer to determine their reaction. If the feedback is favorable, you have your foot in the door. This is much more concrete than just promises. Now, you are in a better position to negotiate pricing and terms and conditions.
55. Giving to Get
I approach companies I want to become clients and ask if they would be interviewed on my business blog or a guest on my monthly webinar series. Showing this interest and asking them to share their expertise, I have been able to close 3 new client accounts out of the 10 I’ve approached thus far. One company approached is now a major key influencer. Those who have appeared on my blog have shared their appearance with their networks, further increasing Sūmèr’s exposure to new prospects.
56. Making More Sales
On the Internet, I find many opportunities to "offer a sales tip" or other advice,
like this one here, and then I can plug my business, which results in more exposure and more sales at my site.
Always look for ways to contribute, to share a business tip that has helped you. What you share can help others to get a foot hold, and they'll go on to be successful, and help still others! And, they'll always remember and thank you for your assistance!
57. Make Yourself Discoverable
Make your website discoverable and memorable by investing in the right domain name. Valassis, a well-known name in the media and marketing services industry, learned this firsthand when it created a consumer-facing brand. The Valassis name wasn’t resonating with consumers, so the company chose a new domain: Redplum.com. Now, in a span of less than two years, Redplum.com receives 3 million unique visitors every month, and the company sourced over 160 million coupons just last year.
Jeremiah Johnston of Sedo
58. Refer Them to a Competitor
During my first meeting with a new/potential client, I'll look at them at the beginning of the conversation and say, "If I determine that I can't help you, don't have the skills you need, or that I think you'd be better served by working with someone else I know, will you be ok with me referring you to them?" 9 times out of 10, their defenses immediately come down... they know I'm not just looking for money. I'm much more likely to land their business, and it generates a lot of referrals.
59. Becoming the Super Sleuth
Your prize is the customer; your focus is the gate keeper.
Develop obligation with the gatekeeper. Be interested in the gatekeeper- what do you share in common? Don't ask about the customer, get to know the gatekeeper. Can you find a way to get friendly- nothing as blatant as lunch? Become a friend, bring coffee or tea. Just stop in to say hi.
Remember that giving creates obligation and that's what will get you in. People hate to be obligated, so they will pay back as soon as possible.
60. Talk to Old Customers
People generally love to help others. By talking to old satisfied customers about how you want to reach out to others in their market segment (non-competitors, of course), you'll often find them passing along the name of a colleague to you. Now you have a warm lead to work with.
61. QR Codes That Build Business
Use Google Places to Create A Coupon. Then Create a QR Code directly to that Coupon. Put that QR code where your customers hang out with copy that gets them to view the QR Code. The QR code takes them to coupon that has a direct call now button on it, so they will call and buy your stuff.
62. Curiosity Counts
An important attribute in selling is to be curious about other people. Scan local news sources to find decision-makers featured for their work in their communities or honored for their company’s performance. Reach out and introduce yourself to these folks and congratulate them with an email or phone call. Show up to a local event sponsored by the community organization. This is a chance for you to meet them and start up a strong relationship that can lead to future sales or references.
63. Give Ideas Away
I share my gifts to help inspire and empower others. I help them find their gifts inside that will help them make a difference. When you meet someone and give first without asking to receive, it makes others appreciate meeting you even more.
64. Make 'Em Laugh!
It's not enough to be better than the competition. You have to make an impression. You have to be memorable, even outrageous. One powerful way to stay top of mind is to use humor. Funny works. Funny sells. I once did a YouTube video dressed as Moses and delivered the 10 Commandments of Online Video. I got more new clients from that one fun video than from all of the emails, brochures and Google AdWords combined. In a sea of sameness, humor helps you stand out. To land new clients, make 'em laugh!
65. Shadow Temperament & Clients
Each of us is born with all four temperaments (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) and develop them based on our education, parents, religion, experience, etc. The temperament that LEAST describes us is our fourth, called our shadow temperament. The behaviors associated with our shadow typically tick us off and we avoid people with that temperament -- or fight them! We avoid clients whose dominant temperament is our shadow. Learn about your shadow and find new clients in the ones you've been avoiding.
66. Giant Spine Parade Costume
To promote my chiropractic office, I built a 100 foot long giant spine costume for my town's annual parade. Each of the 24 vertebrae was worn individually and we marched in unison. We were the hit of the parade and it resulted in hundreds of new patients for my office. I provide free instructions on how to build and use this on my website.
67. Have Booth/Will Travel
Horse droppings, weird bird calls, pointy fishing lures... tenacious obstacles when courting new clients. As a Realtor for 20 years, I created a booth to exhibit at specialty expos like Equestrian or Sport Shows. My original booth even changed how Chicago Bridal Fairs do business. Keep the message in your booth simple with a clean look. Hawking attendees in the aisle is unhealthy. Thoughtful prizes or freebies work. Patience & friendly first encounters will ensure solid leads & happy clients.
68. Give Your Client Their Wish!
Landing a new client is easy when you help them get what they want. I'll explain. What is the one thing your potential client needs the most? In my business, it is often new customers or the chance to meet with a leader in their industry. I often send them a referral or aid in setting up a meeting with a potential partner, as a way to demonstrate my services. You can do the same thing! Help the florist land a wedding; be creative helping your clients and they will flock to you!
69. New Clients in Bunches
Gain sales in bunches works. Take a narrow focus on one of your services, the more narrow the better (i.e.: Ethics in Leadership). Now take a narrow focus on a specific group that can use that service (i.e.: construction companies of a specific size). Find the organizations/associations that specifically work with them (i.e.: General Contractors Assoc). Approach the association with a training/education program that you'll provide. Give them great value. You now have prospects experiencing you.
70. Use the Buddy System
Many new business owners reach far and wide for new clients, when they should be looking closer to home. Rather than cold calling for your next client, try a warm handshake with a current client who knows you well. Offer an incentive, such as a discounted rate if they send you leads. The connections you already have can be your strongest asset in new client acquisition. Even if your client seems in an unlikely position to refer you, who people know is always surprising--so always ask!
Do you have a unique strategy that wasn’t included? If you do, please share it below. And as always, many thanks to everyone who contributed to this article!