In a recent survey of women entrepreneurs in which we asked what was their biggest challenge was, consistently the answer was finding customers.
In this tight economy, finding customers is crucial to staying alive, but sometimes it pays to think longer and deeper about who would make the perfect customer. All of us can likely share horror stories of the customers who were so demanding, unrealistic, and unappreciative that we rue the day we got them! I've actually fired customers, in my case, members, before now. Having them on board and the negative energy they created, was more hassle than they were worth.
But how much better if you could recruit and retain customers who get it, who like what you have to offer and want to partner up with your company. I remember one graphic designer who intentionally designed her brochure to be creative and thought-provoking. The design was simple, but said a lot.
Her theory was that if potential clients appreciated the simplicity, yet depth conveyed in brochure, they would equally like the type of work she wanted to create for them. On the other hand, if they dismissed the artwork and just wanted to move on, then she figured they were unlikely to grasp the meaning or like any designs she produced for them.
This was her screening tool. What could you use? For years we have had a rather touch-feely statement on our home page of our website. If my webmasters had their choice, it would be long gone but for me, if people like what they read, the likely will like being part of our organization.
So how do you define your perfect customer and how do you find them? Here are some tips:
1.What qualities make for the perfect customer. Think back to the customers you have and why you have you enjoyed working with them. Who has truly been a pleasure to be around and for whom have you produced the best work, service, or product? Once you have done that analysis, reflect back on how you found them or they found you in the first place? Perhaps you should use that approach again.
2. Ask for referrals. If they were happy with your work, ask them to make referrals for you. Like attracts like, and they will quite probably move in circles made up of similar, like-minded people.
3. What's your passion. Think about the type of work you love to do. This may well have changed over the years. Now reflect on who would most benefit from what you have to offer. Again your target audience may have changed, but your marketing strategies have not. It may be time to revamp and change your outreach.
4. Be very clear on who your target audience is. Drill down so you can have a picture of who your ideal customer would be and what problem you are solving for them. When you do that, your marketing is much cleaner and crisper and you are going to the right places to attract attention.
5. Become an expert. It helps if you can be considered an expert in your field. Writing articles, starting a blog, speaking at service clubs or professional groups are all ways to establish yourself as an expert in your industry.
6. Use social media to get the word out. Follow people of interest on Twitter and tweet interesting articles. Join groups on LinkedIn and introduce yourself by asking questions, requesting input and you will start to build online relationships.
And don't forget Facebook. You can now create a business page which can be used to promote your business.
7. Volunteer. Lend your skills and expertise to a non-profit board or get involved in a service club, like Rotary. You will be surprised at the connections you make, and the experience you will gain.
8. Network. Network. Network. Participate in at least three networks. Shop around and select ones where the people who attend can help you with referrals, provide support and make connections. Be patient. It is all about building relationships and that takes time.
Over the years we have tried different strategies to recruit new members, and word-of-mouth continues to be our most effective approach and the price is right - it is free. Although it could be argued that building a strong reputation for quality, professional service takes time and that is not inexpensive.
And once you have attracted new customers, set out clear guidelines on how you will operate, what you will deliver and when, because when the expectations are clear, no one is disappointed.