Business Growth Series: 9 ways to find new customers
A simple truth, that every business must face sooner or later, is that growing your business requires an increase in sales.
Where do you start if you are looking for more customers? In an ideal world, you would have an unlimited budget to market your business. You could invest in advertising, run promotions, wine and dine your best referrers, and quickly build your brand’s visibility. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. The reality of most businesses is that you’ll have more great ideas on how to sell your product or service than you have available resources to do so.
The good news is, even though you may be short on time or resources, continuously feeding the sales pipeline isn’t impossible – you just need to find the right approach. Whether you're in a service industry, retail, agriculture or manufacturing, there are some tried and true methods for expanding your customer base. In this article, we’ve put together a list of key strategies for you to consider incorporating into your business. Rather than trying to implement everything at once, concentrate on one or two areas to improve on at a time.
Attending business networking events gives you an opportunity to promote your business, meet new customers, and connect with other businesses that may be willing to refer you to their customers. Socialise at both industry and non-industry events and don't be shy about pitching your business and engaging new people. Always have your business cards handy and your one-minute elevator pitch ready to go. You never know who you might meet and where that meeting may take you.
2. Join industry groups
Member associations for your particular area of business are not just an opportunity to network, they are also an opportunity to showcase your skills. As well, being part of an industry association often allows you to have access to training, upgrading or accreditation courses in your field of business – which can give you a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
3. Leverage existing clients
Your existing clients can be some of your greatest allies when it comes to increasing your customer base. Recommendations remain one of the most valuable sources of quality leads for any business. This is because all of the ‘heavy lifting’ has been done for you. The existing customer has already sold the positive aspects of your business and all you need to do is close the deal. Consider implementing a system to reward and encourage referrals. Existing clients can also help you market your business by providing positive testimonials.
4. Connect with other businesses
Sometimes referred to as ‘affiliate marketing’, this means partnering with other businesses to help you get access to their customers. Look for businesses that operate in a business area that complements your product or service, and that have a similar target market. You can then see if there are ways you can collaborate through shared outreach efforts such as joint seminars, events, marketing and other co-branding opportunities.
5. Leverage your website
A website is a dynamic sales tool, not a set-and-forget expense. Search engines are constantly updating their algorithms, so make sure you monitor your website on a regular basis to evaluate whether your keywords and content are still leading customers to you. Keeping your website up-to-date with fresh content not only encourages your customers to re-visit, it also assists with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
6. Expand your sales channels
Look at the ways you communicate and sell to your customers and consider how you might expand these. This may mean upgrading your website to include online ordering or setting up social media channels to communicate with new and existing customers.
7. Offer incentives
Everyone loves to get something for free! If you're a service industry, offer an introductory free class or consultation, allowing people to test-drive your services in advance. You could also offer discount vouchers or product specials as a method of enticing the curious with the end goal of getting them on board.
8. Showcase your expertise
There are a number of ways that you can get in front of potential new clients in order to pique their interest about your business or service. Start a blog that discusses relevant topics in your area of business. Write an e-book that is offered free online via your website. Participate as a speaker at conferences, networking events or trade shows that cover your industry and you will get in front of people who are already engaged, interested and potentially ready to sign up to your product or service.
9. Enter new markets
If you encounter growth limits in your original market, expanding into new markets could give you the revenue boost your business needs. Both the state and federal governments offer financial assistance programs to help aspiring exporters. You can find out more about current grants and incentives here.
The impact of increasing sales on cashflow
It may seem logical that selling more products or services will improve cash flow, however, increasing sales may actually lead to cash flow problems. This is because sales require a cash outlay. You need to pay for the materials, buy the products or pay for the labour to deliver your product long before you receive any payment. For service-based businesses, an increase in sales will mean increasing the number of hours required to complete the additional work.
While increasing revenue is critical to the growth of a business, to avoid a cash flow crisis it’s equally important to have a thorough understanding of what the increase in sales will cost you to supply and cost you to fund. For further resources on managing cash and sales in your business read about the 7 key financial drivers of cash flow and calculating your break-even point.
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