May 16, 2019 @ 5:17PM

How to Get Your First 100 Customers

So you’ve started a business. Congratulations! You’ve hung your sign out in front of your storefront; you’ve made business cards; you’ve told your family. So now you wait. And you wait some more.

Where are all the customers?

Unfortunately, it’s not like the voice in “Field of Dreams” – loosely paraphrased, “If you build it, they will come.”:

It takes hard work to grow a small business, and getting your first 100 customers may seem to be a daunting task. There are things you can do, though, to speed up the process and make it easier:

  1. Create a business plan. What? You don’t have one? Then how do you know what you’re going to sell and how you’re going to get your first 100 customers? A good business plan should contain the following sections:
    • Description of your business
    • Description of your products or services
    • Market analysis
    • Strategies to sell your product
    • Organization of the company
    • Funding
    • Financial goals
  2. Create an attractive brand. A brand just isn’t a logo – it’s what you’re about; it’s your business’s personality. Think about your target audience and how you want to portray yourself. What’s your company’s name going to be? What’s your slogan or tagline? This should all be in line with your business plan. Be prepared to spend some money on a logo; 99Designs offers freelance designers who can create a professional logo for you, although you might get lucky with some small, inexpensive services such as Fiverr.
  3. Give away your work for free. What? Where’s the money in that? Well, sometimes you have to start small. Offer your product or service for free in exchange for a testimonial. Getting satisfied customers is a key to success (see #5.)
  4. Network. Get out that Rolodex (if you still have one), get on LinkedIn, and start contacting people, letting them know about your business. If they aren’t interested in your products or services, the next person they talk to might be. Go to networking events and talk about your business (even if you’re an introvert). Set up some speaking engagements and talk about the problems people who need your product or service face.
  5. Practice extraordinary customer service. We’re not talking about good customer service. We’re talking about going over and beyond the normal. Is someone not 100% pleased? Do whatever it takes to make them say, “Wow, that was amazing! I never expected that in return!” Not only will you keep that customer – and loyal clients spend up to 67% more than new customers – but they’ll tell people about your small business and offer a raving review.
  6. Get online. Nowadays, people expect you to have a website – hey, it’s one more thing to put on your business card. You need a place to showcase your products or services, along with those testimonials you’ve collected and a contact us page so people who don’t want to call you can get in touch with you. You may want to start a blog, but there are advantages and disadvantages to that. Think it through.
  7. Start an email list. On your website, include a link or a popup for people to join your mailing list. This is a captive audience, and one that’s relevant to your business. You might want to offer an incentive for them handing over their email list. It may be an ebook, Top 10 suggestions related to your business, or a giveaway. Then when you have an announcement – a sale, coupon or change in your business – you can send out an email to all of them. The larger your email list, the better…
  8. Be seen. You absolutely MUST be listed in Google Business and Yelp. It’s relatively easy to get your business listed on these sites – you just have to prove that you own your business. Depending on your company, there may be other specialty platforms in which customers can find you, and you can bid on work. Thumbtack, for instance, offers work by professionals ranging from attorneys and plumbers to designers and movers.
  9. Use social media. Not every business needs to be on every social network; for instance, it’s hard seeing an accountant posting on Instagram. Find the social media platform that fits your business the best, post often, and engage with your customers and contacts. Other apps such as Nextdoor offer advertising for businesses in nearby neighborhoods.
  10. Create a marketing plan. A business plan is no good without a marketing plan. What are you going to do to get new customers? What do you do to find your target audience? What about publicity? Luckily, we’ve written a whole series of posts on creating a marketing plan.

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