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Ten ways to gain new customers

One of the hardest parts of starting a business is finding customers. Even with a unique product or services, it can be hard to convince other people that they should buy what you have to offer. Part of owning a successful business is spending a significant amount of time and effort bringing new clients in the door. But how do you find new customers? We've compiled a simple list of ways to get started.

  1. Develop a plan
    This may seem obvious, but thoroughly researching your ideal client is the first step to finding them. Investigate companies and locations that are lacking a service that you provide.Make a plan to target potential clients using phone calls, e-mails and grass-roots marketing. Find out who would normally use your service, whether it's a specific person or a group of people, and figure out how to contact them directly.
    Do research on potential competitors and become more informed than they are about your targeted clients. Potential customers will be more inclined to use your service if you know how to reach them personally. Most importantly, work on your skills of persuasion. A little bit of self-confidence can go a long way.
  2. Realize there is no one path to success
    No one reaches success overnight. Sales happen when people start talking about your business and recommend it to other people. In order to reach new customers, it's important to spread the news using a variety of methods.
    Write positive reviews yourself, using free media like blogs, social networking sites and Web sites that review products. Research free listing services on the Internet and in your local newspaper. Submit information about your business to each site. Throw an event that has people talking about their plans for an evening, and make sure that they know the invitation is open to other people.
    Encourage your friends and family to forward a link to your Web site to their friends. Target specific audiences with special offers and discounts using e-mail blasts and flyers.
  3. Work your local media
    Newspapers and blogs are an incredible source of information. Make sure that you check your local media every day to pinpoint people who have recently won awards, or are notable in their field.
    If you have a product that they might be interested in, find out how to contact them. Send them a free sample or offer them a week of free service. If they like what you have to offer, they'll be inclined to tell other people about it.
    If they are speaking or attending a public event, try to be there so that you can meet them in person. The value of face-to-face contact can never be underrated. If you have a good rapport with an important local figure, he or she will be sure to check out your business, bringing free publicity.
  4. Infiltrate events
    Offer to sponsor a local event that you know will be attended by a hip, influential group of potential customers. Make sure your product is visible at the event, and that the event organizers mention your business in the program.
    Give away free samples or free trial periods in the gift bags, along with your business cards. By doing this, you are associating your product with trendsetters or leaders in a specific field. People are more likely to try your product if it is associated with a brand or organization that they are already supporting.
  5. Followup
    People are constantly inundated with new products and services. Following up after a meeting, or after someone tries out your product, can help remind them about what you have to offer. It also signals that you are invested in their satisfaction, and that you're willing to hear new ideas.
    Even if they're not interested in your business, they might be able to offer constructive criticism so that you can improve your service.
  6. Give a little to get a lot
    Everyone loves a bargain. Advertising that you're giving away a free product or discount when your business opens will encourage new customers to set foot in your door. Give clients a taste of what you have to offer, and they'll be inclined to take a bite.
  7. Work your personal network
    Your friends and relatives are the people most inclined to tell other people about your business. Encourage them to send out an e-mail to their friends, or mention your business to colleagues.
    Ask them to suggest people in their local network who would be interested in your service. Give them the incentive to promote your business by offering them finder's fees or discounted merchandise.
  8. Check out the competition
    It goes without saying that you must research potential competitors in your market. Find out where these businesses are located, and how their services can compete with your own.
    If they do something similar to what you offer, find out how you can do it better. Target their audience using advertisements, positive reviews and an incentive to visit your business.
    Listen to your competitors' disgruntled customers and find out how you can use their concerns to make your own business more desirable.
  9. Use multiple ads
    Making a big splash is important, but building name recognition will help your business survive. Focus your advertising in publications where your competitors are already present.
    Make sure that your ads appear with more frequency, so that customers get used to seeing your name associated with a specific product or service. Use the many forms of free advertising that are available, including publicity, and mentions in popular blogs.
  10. Ask for feedback
    No business is invincible, so it's important to pinpoint where you go wrong, especially at the beginning. Make sure to track customers and ask them for feedback if they stop using your business.
    Simple suggestions, such as making a Web site more comprehensive or improving customer service, can make a big difference. Use what you learn to make changes and you'll be guaranteed an increase in sales.

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Ten ways to gain new customers