Five months later, you’ve got a handful of customers knocking on your door. You make small profit, enough to settle a few bills. Then, nothing! No new customers, no orders, no inquiries, nothing. You can’t afford to pay for any marketing services. Gradually, your optimism begins to fade, and you consider giving up on the business.
Hold up! Don’t give up on the business just yet, try these two tips and watch your business grow. The best part? They will cost you next to nothing.
Define Your Niche
This is what sets you apart from other professionals in your field. I cannot overemphasize this- you cannot be everything to everyone. Carve a niche for yourself. I listened to a radio interview recently. The guest was a baker specializing in cupcakes. That’s all she bakes – cupcakes. She told the radio host that when she started , people kept persuading her to bake regular size cakes as well, but she refused. She wanted to carve a niche for herself and that’s what she did. She bakes cupcakes, only cupcakes and she is booked round the clock. She says 24 hours are not even enough to work on all the orders she gets on a daily basis. I can almost hear you say “wow.” You would have thought her business would not survive baking only cupcakes, right? How many people want cupcakes anyway? You don’t celebrate your birthdays/anniversaries/weddings with cupcakes. She won’t get regular orders for cupcakes.
Guess what? You’re wrong.
You know why? Because she decided to focus on one segment of her field, and she did it excellently. She made her name synonymous with cupcakes. So when you think cupcakes, you think her business. The market is saturated with all-kinds-of-cakes bakers. So when someone says I’m a cake baker, you probably don’t give it a second’s thought. But when she says “I bake cupcakes,” it sounds new, different. It makes you ask ‘just cupcakes?’ ‘why cupcakes?’ And next time you think cupcakes, you remember her. You’d rather use the services of one who bakes cupcakes on the regular, than one who does 12 inches cakes today, pies tomorrow, and cupcakes sometimes.
Think about it, if you had a life-threatening medical condition and wanted to see a doctor, would you rather talk to a specialist or to a general practitioner? Would you prefer to talk to a general practitioner who spends his daily work hours attending to patients with different kinds of ailments- cough, flu, arthritis, diabetes, cancer, rheumatism, and all?. Or would you rather talk to the specialist who has a wealth of experience in that field, as his work hours are spent focused on only patients with that particular medical condition? If you had fertility issues would you rather go to a general hospital, or to a fertility clinic?
When you have successfully made a name for yourself in that particular niche, you can decide to move into another segment of your industry and do a great job with that as well. When you have loyal customers who trust you and are confident in your excellence in what you do, it is easier for them to trust that you can be equally excellent at something else within your field. But it’s harder to convince anyone when you first present yourself as a jack of all trades. When you do, you know how they will perceive you– As a master of none!
Ask For Referrals
You’ve built a community of satisfied customers. Now, It’s time to leverage this for more customers. Word-of-mouth (referrals), they say, is the best form of marketing, and the cheapest. One thing many business owners fail to do is to actually ask their customers for referrals. They believe that if they do a great job for their customers, and they are satisfied, the customer will refer their business to others without their (business owner’s) prompting. Yes this is true. But you must take this into your own hands, it’s your responsibility to get more customers for your business. By requesting for referrals, you could triple, or even quadruple the number of customers you get from referrals alone.
Call up customers you have served in the past. When you do, don’t jump right into asking for referrals from them. Start by asking how they/their businesses are doing. Appreciate them for purchasing from you. Ask about the last service you provided for them, did they have any issues with it. If it’s a product they bought, ask about the quality. Did it serve them well, did it fulfill their expectations? Is there anything else you can do to help them enjoy the benefits of the products even more?
If the customer is happy with your product/service, you can go ahead and ask if he knows anyone to whom your product/service will be beneficial. Get their names and contacts. Ask the best way to get in touch with them. By the time you’ve called on all the customers you can reach, you will have a long list of new leads, prospects for your business.
When you call on these referrals, start by telling them Mr Xyz asked you to call them. Hearing that you are from someone they know, like, and trust gives you some ground. Knowing that person trusts you enough to give you their contacts also gives you some credibility.
Remember to always follow up leads on time. As soon as you are given the contact, follow up. Don’t let the lead go cold, or else, you’ll realize weeks or months later that you actually never got round to making that call, and hence, lost a customer you could have had.
Show appreciation to your customers, go the extra mile to send a thank you gift for referrals. It does not have to cost a fortune. You have made some money from their referrals, while not spend a tiny fraction of that on getting a gift that will show your appreciation. Make the customer even more willing to send your more referrals.
You can build a continuous cycle of customers just by asking for referrals from existing customers. First, serve your customers so well that they are happy and confident with your services, then, ask for the opportunity to be of service to their friends and loved ones.
No business can survive without a steady roll of customers. To keep your business breathing, you must be able to attract, keep, and multiply customers. Create a niche for yourself and people will find you. Give them excellent customer service and they will keep coming back, and will tell their friends. Ask for referrals and they will open the doors for even more customers to your business.
Photo Credit: blackenterprise.com
Like you, sales and marketing coach and consultant Bukola Olayemi has seen many businesses fail in their ultimate aim of selling their products/services. She works with small-businesses and entrepreneurs that are stuck in this low-sales maze, helping them get more customers and make bigger sales, faster than they thought possible.