10 Ways to Find Customers

10 Ways to Find Customers

Too many times, we see business owners with an “field of dreams” philosophy - that is, “If I build it, they will come.” They believe that once they open their business, build a website, and maybe run a few ads, the customers will find them.

Unfortunately, it’s up to the business owner to find customers, not the other way around. When you own a business, you need to actively seek out customers. Here are 10 ways to get started.

1. Define your ideal customer

You need to have a picture in your mind of who is going to buy your product or service. If you are selling to businesses, what industry are you marketing to? What level of employee will be seeking your product/service? Where does your ideal customer typically shop? How and where do they spend their time (both working and leisure)? You need to find out about your potential customers so that you can find a way to get your name and information in front of them.

2. Build a Blog

A blog is not the answer to everything, but it is an excellent way to establish yourself as an expert in your field. Creating content that is useful to both existing and potential clients works for you two-fold: it can provide real-world information for someone who might be looking for your product or service; and it showcases your expertise in your field. Let’s face it; people want to do business with a person (or company) that knows their stuff.

3. Network, Network, Network

People like to do business with people they know and like. Get involved in professional organizations. If you own a restaurant in your town, participate in town events where you can meet local residents. Talk to your friends and family members to get contact information for people who may be in the market to buy what you’re selling.

4. Know your competitors

Take a look at your successful competitors. What are they doing to get customers? Your marketing budget may not be as big, but you can still use this information to determine where and how you should be focusing your efforts. You may even see a vulnerability in your competitor’s efforts - something they should be doing, but are not. It may be your opportunity to capitalize on something they missed - to siphon off some market share.

5. Give a little

Nobody wants to give anything away for free. But you know the old saying, “you have to spend money to make money.” Sometimes it’s worth it to give something away in hopes of a bigger payoff in the near future. Maybe you have a “free sample day” at your new ice cream shop. Or, if you’re selling your consulting services, a newsletter with some “free advice”, or a “no-charge mini consultation” may be a good way to introduce yourself to potential clients.

6. Get on the list

It sounds simple, but many forget to get their businesses listed. Local business groups, Chambers of Commerce, even the Yellow Pages - you should have your business name, address, phone number, URL, etc. available to anyone who might be looking for what you’re selling. And don’t forget to “claim” your business name on Facebook, Google, Foursquare, etc.

7. Put yourself in front of the right people

If you’re a printer, you will likely belong to professional organizations that include a lot of other printers. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we all know that going to a meeting with a bunch of people who do the same thing you do isn’t likely to get you much (if any) business. Instead, focus on related/complementary industries. For example, a printer is more likely to get business from members of a graphic design organization.

8. Sponsor Events

Watch out for events that will attract your ideal potential customers. Find a way to sponsor that event in some way, either by donating your time, product, or money in order to get your name on the promotional materials. Make sure you also attend the event so you can get face-time with those potential customers.

9. Follow up

One of the biggest road blocks to success is lack of follow-up. When you meet a new prospect, don’t be afraid to ask if they need your product or service. And even if they say no, ask when would be a good time to check in with them. I have a salesperson who calls me pretty much once per quarter. I haven’t needed his services yet, but if and when I do, I can assure you he’ll be first on the list. It’s not necessary to be pushy, but it’s always good to keep your name in front of those potential clients..

10. When you lose a sale, find out why

You may have spent considerable time working with a potential customer, providing samples, estimates, etc. only to have them suddenly drop off the radar. If they’ll cooperate, it’s a good idea to find out why they decided not to purchase from you. Did they find something elsewhere that better suit their needs? Was price an issue? Did they postpone their decision to buy? (meaning there is still a chance in the future). Approach this carefully, as you don’t want to make someone uncomfortable about their decision (or lack thereof). Many potential clients will appreciate that you took the time to follow up with them. And they may be in the market for your services in the future.

May 16, 2014

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