(By Julie Bawden Davis)
“When all is said and done, nurturing relationships, either with other business owners or customers, helps you create a client base, focus on building human relationships. The stronger your relationships are, the more likely your customers will be to tell their friends about you. And, the more likely they’ll be to come back“.
As a business owner, you’re no doubt keenly aware that your client base is the lifeblood of your company. A steady stream of new customers allows you to grow your business and fulfill your company vision.
OPEN Forum community member Farzana Irani realizes the importance of a strong client base for all small businesses, including virtual ones, which is why the Web consultant with iAdControl.com/Fuzzworks UK asked the community: “What’s your best approach in creating a client base for your online business?“
It turns out that a seven-step approach works best for attracting new clients.
1. Identify Your Ideal Client
It’s easier to look for customers if you know the type of consumers you seek. Without a composite of your ideal customer, you probably wouldn’t know where to start looking.
“Have a crystal clear picture in your head of exactly who you’re targeting,” says OPEN Forum community member Nicole Beckett, president of Premier Content Source. “Think about what makes those types of people happy, sad, scared, relieved, and then think about how you can make their lives a little easier.”
Narrow down the focus of your ideal client and avoid making broad target market statements, such as every woman, every man or all baby boomers. Few products appeal to that vast of a group of people, and overstating your market will prevent you from developing viable targeted strategies for attracting clients.
2. Discover Where Your Customer Lives
With your targeted customers in mind, “identify those places where they are likely to be found (media, online, offline, mail, etc.), and then create messages for them,” says Jeff Motter, CEO and chief marketing officer of East Bay Marketing Group.
Where you look for customers will depend on the nature of your business. Some good online locations include forums and social media pages, including your own and those of similar or complementary businesses. Offline, you can meet plenty of potential customers at conferences and conventions in your industry.
3. Know Your Business Inside and Out
Thoroughly understanding your industry and having a firm knowledge of your product or service is critical to being able to attract interested clients. When you know your product backward and forward, that fact comes through. The people who would be interested in your offerings can see how knowledgeable you are and will seek your assistance.
4. Position Yourself as the Answer
Give potential clients you come into contact with a good reason to try your services, which is your first step to making them loyal customers, says Jason Reis owner and lead programmer for Flehx Corp.
“Provide value and establish yourself as having an in-depth understanding of the problems they are looking to solve,” he says. “This takes the form of creating content via webinars, blog posts, guest blogging, and getting out there and physically networking with people. From all this you will start to attract a following, and as long as you have a structured sales funnel setup, you will be able to convert the followers/fans into paying customers.”
5. Try Direct Response Marketing
Your best bet for reaching out and touching customers is to use tactics to encourage them to complete a specific action, such as opt into your email list or request more information.
Create messages directed at your target market, says Motter. “Learn to create ads that attract your ideal clients by giving them something of value for free to get them started in your funnel. Learn all you can about direct response marketing practices, because they will teach you to focus on results that matter. Create compelling messages that tell your ideal audience why they’d have to be a fool not to work with you. Show them you understand their pain, and can make it go away faster and cheaper than they could without you.”
6. Build Partnerships
Teaming up with businesses that offer complementary services offers you the opportunity to take advantage of synergy, which can be very effective in building a business. For instance, if you have a company that specializes in SEO, consider teaming up with a business that builds websites.
When all is said and done, nurturing relationships, either with other business owners or customers, helps you create a client base, Beckett says. “Focus on building human relationships. The stronger your relationships are, the more likely your customers will be to tell their friends about you. And, the more likely they’ll be to come back.”
7. Follow Up
After your efforts to bring in business, always remember to close the loop, says Josh Sprague, CEO of Orange Mud. “Remember to set follow up tasks (follow up to sample sent, etc.), and execute your plan. So many leads and great conversations are wasted because you forget to follow up.” Doing this simple step is sure to get your client base to grow.
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