Need to build up your customer base? Here are ten tried and tested ways to reach a whole new audience
1. Advertise somewhere new
Research publications that would appeal to your target market. Start with your local press, and then consider regional and trade publications. Look for free sources of advertising, such as local authority magazines, directories and community websites that list small businesses.
2. Use empty display spaces
Put up eye-catching promotional messages to make the most of your shop window, exhibition space or the sides of your vehicles. If you are renting premises or leasing the vehicle, check you are allowed to put up signs.
3. Encourage word-of-mouth recommendations
Satisfied customers are the best advocates for your business, so urge them to pass on your details to people they know. Ask friends and family to do the same. Give your referees business cards to hand out and encourage them to provide testimonials for promotional literature.
4. Offer free samples
Promote your business by offering samples at local events, so people can try your products before they buy. If you offer a business service, consider offering free advice or an audit. If your samples impress, they will bring new customers through your door.
5. Get involved in your community
Hold or sponsor an event for charity, offer your service to a local good cause, volunteer as an expert at talks and events, or back a national awareness week. Send out simple press releases to local publications in response to current news and trends that are relevant to your industry.
If you sell to other businesses, attend local networking events arranged by your local chambers of commerce or trade association to make contacts. Consider joining online business networking sites such as Tradespace or LinkedIn.
7. Build partnerships with other businesses
Ask neighbouring businesses to promote your products or services in exchange for mutual recommendations. Exchange leaflets and business cards so that you can refer new customers on. Look for related businesses to partner with: if you're a car dealer, for example, hook up with a vehicle repair shop.
8. Promote yourself with a mailshot
Create and distribute leaflets or carry out an email campaign. Make your marketing eye-catching and consider including a promotion. Make sure you also include your location and contact details. Target your marketing to your local community and beyond to increase your chances of finding new customers.
9. Call other businesses
If you sell to other businesses, dedicate a day to calling prospective customers. You could be following up on a leaflet drop, mailshot or introductory email. Gauge the level of interest before offering to follow up with a meeting if necessary.
10. Start trading online
The internet is an enormous marketplace in which to find new customers, and gives you the potential to sell to people across the world, 24 hours a day. Test out your online market first by setting up a small shop on eBay, before you invest in a website with a payment facility.