Five Ways For A Small Business To Get New Customers
If Coca-Cola, Microsoft or any other big business wants new customers, they've got a tonne of options open to them to achieve it. They can run a new multi-platform advertising campaign, buy a competitor, or lower prices. Or use one of the million other tricks they have up their sleeves. But when you're a small business, your options are limited.
That's because almost all small businesses are short on cash and resources. This isn't a new problem, although it has worsened in the last few years. It's always been this way. It's the very nature of being a small business.
So, when a small business wants to find new customers, you need to be savvy, and spend your money wisely. With that in mind, here are five things to consider.
1. Email Marketing
Anyone who reads my blog posts regularly will know this is a biggie for me. That's because I know it works. Email marketing is an incredibly cheap and effective marketing tool, almost entirely under-utilised by small businesses. Big business sends out newsletters almost daily, but not small ones.
Email marketing can mean everything from sending a newsletter to hundreds or thousands of recipients. Or, it can mean emailing your last handful of customers, checking out if everything is going OK and asking if they need anything new from you.
It's Not SPAM!
Whenever I suggest email marketing to small business owners, I often hear back, "No, it's just SPAM". But it isn't. Not if it's done right.
Sending an email to your existing customers or a list of carefully targeted recipients isn't SPAM, so long as you are careful about the content. In most cases, emails like "We can guarantee to get you more business" will get the SPAM button clicked in no time. But reframe that message and you are no longer sending SPAM but helpful tips and advice.
90% of what you think you know about GDPR is wrong. GDPR certainly doesn't stop you from sending marketing emails to your existing customer base. And if you are careful and follow some simple rules, sending to carefully targeted but unknown recipients is well within the regulations too.
GDPR was not invented to stifle small businesses from reaching out to potential clients. It exists to protect individuals from mass-scale data mining.
Email marketing has a place in every small business marketing arsenal. If you are not doing it, you are missing out. Because sure as water is wet, your competitors are doing it, most likely to your clients!
- Sending a handful of emails to previous customers is free. It just takes some time to gather the addresses and write the email.
- If you want to send to more than 100 addresses, you will likely need to use a bulk email service. Mailchimp is free for up to about 1000 addresses. Above that, they charge a lot.
- I offer a fully managed option if Mailchimp is outside your technical ability. You send me your list; I do everything else. From £50 per email campaign. Details here.
2. Local SEO
There is so much nonsense spouted regarding search engine optimisation (SEO). Almost all of it is utter garbage, designed only to make money for the company selling it. Local SEO is different and does represent a real opportunity for many small businesses, but not all.
I have a page explaining what local SEO is here. But in short, it's a way that any small business that works in a local area, i.e. your customers are all local to you, can leapfrog right to the first page of Google search results with minimal effort and costs.
Local SEO, or Google Places to give it its official name, is entirely free. You head over to the Google Business profile website, claim your profile (if it already exists) or create it if not. Then tell Google all about your business, what it does and where it does it. Next, add some pictures and carefully worded text, and that's it. You now have a Google Business profile. Before long will start to appear in the Google Local search results.
The trick is to get you into the first three or four local search results. That way, you appear on the first page of Google. This takes time and a level of understanding of how Google works. But there are plenty of articles on the web telling you everything you need to know.
Doing it yourself is free, but getting the best results takes time. A way to speed the process up is to employ the services of a Google Local expert. Like me! We have learnt the tricks and tips that Google likes, to get listings to the first page quickly. Here is a blog article detailing some of my case studies.. That article is old now; I've had more success stories since then. In most cases, I've got clients onto the first page of Google within a few weeks. In some cases, within days!
But, as explained, you don't have to pay someone else to do it. You can do it yourself; it just takes time to read and understand the best practices. The to put it all into place within your profile.
3. Your Website
It's incredible to think, but even in 2023, many businesses still don't have a website. That's just nuts. Even now, with all the underhand things Facebook has done to business users, I still hear business owners say, "I don't need a website. I have a Facebook page.". No, no. NO! I won't go into the details here because I have a blog post about it,, but suffice it to say, Facebook is not a replacement for your website. If in 2023 you still believe that, you are delusional and damaging your business.
Your website is the place you present your business's shop window to the world. It needs to be smart, easy to use, aimed at your target market and, above all else, conform to the many standards Google demands. So that website you did yourself on Wix, or had that college student do for you in WordPress... It most likely doesn't cut.
I don't want to dwell too much on websites, as it's my main business, and I don't want this blog article to become a marketing piece. So if you need to get a professionally built website that scores well in Google tests, speak to me, speak to a competitor, but speak to someone!
Don't be fooled into spending a fortune. My website starts at just £150 / €200. And depending on your needs, they don't need to cost much more.
4. Networking Events
Every day, up and down the country, there are networking events. Commercial businesses often run free ones, aiming to pick up new clients from attendees. For you, the aim is to meet other business owners and network! These events are only helpful to small businesses whose customers are also other businesses. But if that's you, get in there.
Networking events usually take place at local hotels or similar venues. The host will book out a function room, often laying on light refreshments and either make the event invite-only or require anyone wanting to attend to pre-register. That way, they get your details and can send you marketing emails!
At the event, you will typically enter a large space with many other business owners, often looking as bewildered as you. But stick with it. Get chatting with people, and very soon, you'll be introduced to so-and-so who is either in your line of work or is looking for someone in your line of work. It's that simple. Get one or two of these events in your area under your belt, and you will soon be a known face on the block. So that next time when another attendee needs someone who does what you do, they are more likely to get in touch.
In-person networking events can be time-consuming and sometimes require a certain level of fakery if, for instance, you're not in the mood for it, but they can be a great way to get new customers. If you don't have the time or means to visit events in the real world, look at online ones. These are often done by video conference and can be much shorter.
Normally free. Except for your time and some travel expenses.
5. Social Media
Yes, I know. Who doesn't hate social media, right? It's why I left it to number 5! It's a massive time sink, with minimal returns for maximum investment. But even so, it does have its place. You just need to be savvy about which platforms you focus on.
The key to success with socials is to pick and choose which platforms will work for you and not post the same thing over all of them. For instance, if you sell your products or services to other businesses, Facebook is of little help. Same with Instagram and Tiktok. For you, LinkedIn is where it's at.
If your clients are consumers, then platforms like Facebook can be gold. The demographics for the various platforms are constantly changing, but generally... Older: Facebook. Younger: Tiktok. Any age but "on-trend": Instagram. Annoying: All of them. Nah, only kidding about that last one. Maybe ;-)
The bottom line is social media has a place in your efforts to gain new customers, just don't get suckered into spending all day servicing that audience trying to build your page/group/following. Because at a moment's notice, the platform owner can change the rules, and all your hard work is gone.
Running an ad campaign on a platform like Facebook can be a great way to build engagement and potential clients. I've done this a few times for some of my side businesses and clients, but you need to get your graphics and text spot on and carefully select who you want to see your advert. If in doubt, seek the help of an expert. Only try to wing it if you are willing to burn some cash.
From free to the skies, the limit. So be careful out there!