5 New Ways to Find Local Customers

Entrepreneur and customer at concession standSmall business owners are always looking for new customers. If you have a brick and mortar store, people might wander in to check you out—but how do you continue to find new, local customers? Here are five new ideas:

1.Network

This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many small business owners don’t do this because they’re uncomfortable networking or don’t see the benefits. Even if you don’t meet someone who might be a customer for your business, you never know who they know. Word of mouth is incredibly powerful (and can generate good revenue for your business).

But your time is valuable. Where should you go? That depends on who your ideal customer is. If you sell to other local businesses, your local Chamber of Commerce is a good place to start. You’ll learn about other businesses in the area and they’ll learn about yours. If you promote each other’s businesses, that’s a win-win for the local economy.

If your product or service is industry specific, you might want to spend your time at industry events instead. Consider attending an event before you spend money on sponsorships or getting a table or booth to ensure that it will be a good investment for you.

Example: An event that is targeting small business owners might attract a lot of solo or would-be business owners. Your company might be targeting small businesses with “X” employees or ”Y” dollars in revenue, so this event would not be a good fit for you.

2.Co-promote

Creating a promotion with a complementary business (one who serves similar customers) can dramatically increase your reach because you will get access to each other’s customers.

Example: A kid-friendly restaurant might co-promote with a gym that has classes for kids or with a toy store since they all cater to kids.

3.Bundle

Everybody loves a good deal. So, what is the natural other thing that someone would want when they purchased an item or service? If you already have sales, what do people tend to buy together?

Example: If you have a specialty food store, gourmet snack baskets for game night might be a big seller—maybe you can even pair the basket with some craft beer or specialty wine to increase the total value of the sale. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

4.Optimize

What would people type into a browser to find you? Local businesses need to target the name of their city with their service/product. It’s frustrating to be looking for something and find that it’s located 20 miles away.

Example: If you have a Chicago-based limousine service, you could try to rank for “Best Chicago Limo.” Need help optimizing your site? Check out Google’s Search Engine Optimization

Starter Guide.

5.Be the expert

Being seen as an expert or thought leader is especially important if you’re a service provider. It can get you noticed by your prospective customers and differentiate you from your competition.

You (and everyone else) are competing for attention these days. What’s the best way to get your message out? You’ll need to decide, but probably a combination of print, online, and speaking will be the most effective, as each method supports and magnifies the power of the other.

Example: If you’re a chiropractor, you might want to do a print ad in a local circular, have a blog and/or publish articles on someone else’s blog, and speak at local events about how to improve your posture or how to work in more ergonomic ways.

As you can see, none of this is very difficult, but it will take time. I recommend looking at your marketing plan and getting very clear about your ideal customer. The clearer you are about who you are targeting, the easier the decision will be on where and how to market to them.

Ajeet Khurana
Ajeet Khurana
Ajeet Khurana wears many hats: author, angel investor, mentor, TEDx speaker, steering committee of the NASSCOM Start-Up Warehouse, Director of Founder Institute, Venture Partner with the seed initiative of a top Venture Capital firm, and former CEO of IIT Bombay’s business incubator, among others. Before all this, he was entrepreneurial twice in the field of education and web publishing. As a lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin, he taught e-commerce back in 1993, when the term "e-commerce" had not yet been coined. An undergrad in computer engineering from the University of Mumbai, and an MBA from the University of Texas, Ajeet is presently an active name in the startup ecosystem. From starting two ventures as a solopreneur, to helping a large number of startups with their go-to-market, he has never shied from getting his hands dirty. At the same time he has helped dozens of startups raise investment. He truly believes that small business owners are driving change in the world, and need to be facilitated as much as possible. Innumerable small businesses have gained from his attitude, vast professional networks, financial acumen and digital mindset.

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