How many times have you said, “My business could get really big if I could just find the right clients”? If you have, you’re not alone: There’s not an entrepreneur that I know who hasn’t had that thought, at least once.
The good news is that there are many ways to find the right clients. Here are five strategies that can be universally adopted to help you find them.
1. Know who you are.
Amazon, eBay and Alibaba seem to have something for everyone, but that’s just not practical for a small business. They have to focus on a client base, and that means that they first have to focus on themselves. No, that’s not a contradiction. You can’t determine who your ideal client is if you don’t have a firm handle on what your business is and what it does best. I’ve run into too many entrepreneurs over the years who still haven’t mastered the basic “elevator pitch” and can’t simply explain their company. Tell me “we teach children soccer” or “we install energy-saving commercial generators” and I know that you know who you are.
2. Know your competitors.
Don’t say that you don’t have any. We all have competitors, and to succeed, we must understand what they offer, who they cater to, what their price points are, where they operate, where they find opportunities, where they succeed -- and where they fail. By getting to understand your competitors this way, you will see the openings for your business to find more clients and, perhaps, the things that you must do better to get more business from existing clients. And when you make the list of your competitors, be sure to include both traditional competitors and the businesses that are disrupting your industry, on Main Street and online.
3. Do your homework.
You’ve got to read the papers, magazines, websites or blogs that are related to your industry. Is there a LinkedIn group for businesses like yours? Join it. Is there a Twitter chat dedicated to your industry? Participate in it.
As you read and listen, your goal is to focus on what your industry is saying about opportunities. What do the leaders in your field say about what the future holds and where the clients will be? The good thing about doing your homework is that it’s a lot easier than it used to be. Go on Google News and set up an alert for key terms in your industry, the names of your competitors and the economic factors most likely to have an impact on your business. But do yourself a favor: Don’t have the alert delivered more than once a week. You don’t want doing your homework to take the place of your real job, which is running your business.
4. Ask your peers.
I’ll admit, this one can be hard. What I’m asking you to do is to conduct interviews or surveys to better understand who would be interested in your product or services. But just as technology has made delivering alternative finance much easier, it has also made it simpler to gather information from people you don’t know or might hesitate to approach. There are several online survey companies out there that will help you to create a survey and buy a target audience to take it. The fees they charge are well within the reach of most small businesses.
5. Be seen.
Go to networking events, especially those that are likely to have some of your target clients in attendance. If you want to find families with young children, get involved with school activities and fundraisers. If your ideal clients are all within a certain geographic area, see if you have a strong local chamber of commerce and join it. Don’t be afraid of stepping up to the microphone when you go to these events. Don't give a long spiel about your business but speak to the audience with authority on a topic that interests them. They can become your ideal clients when they understand that you have the knowledge and expertise to be a resource for them.