As any entrepreneur will tell you-- getting your first customer can be hard, but the feeling of winning new business can't be beat. As we continue on twelve months of entrepreneurship, we're taking a closer look at the fine points of customer acquisition. Here are some of the best tips we could find:
"Everybody has customer," marketing guru Joseph Jaffe says in this article on "Z.E.R.O." as the new model for marketing in the age of digital and customer-centricity. "You could put a lemonade stand on the corner, and to the first five people you say, 'I'll give you the first sip of lemonade if you bring a friend back.' So if you are an new entrepreneur with a new venture, you still have a Rolodex, an LinkedIn profile," and various other ways of cultivating and activating your "zealots."
The "Red Velvet Rope" Policy
The consultant's bible, Book Yourself Solid, has a rather unconventional approach to acquiring new customers. Rather than accepting as much work as you can handle, the author argues that creating a "Red Velvet Rope" policy is essential to making yourself a highly sought after consultant. Port believes that having only "star clients" that inspire and energize your work will help you do the caliber of work that will help you attract more star clients. The solution is to separate your clients into three groups -- duds, mid-range and stars. Cut loose your dud clients, and decide if you can develop your mid-range clients into stars. Within the book is a series of exercises on deciding what exactly constitutes a "star" client for you.
Doing a great job isn't quite enough -- you need to grill your existing customers to learn what you can do better next time, and in doing so, help them to articulate your main selling points. Mitchell York explores this four-step process, including: surfacing hidden agendas and complaints, giving 110 percent, turning your clients into referral sources, and making sure your clients are clear on what you do.
Use Social Media
The Remote Stylist's primary means of gaining new customers is through the use of Twitter. They report: "We have found it to be a fantastic tool for engaging new audiences and starting conversations with the people that we want. Twitter is a worthwhile tool for new businesses because everyone operates on the same level; if you have great content, you can get pretty much anyone's attention."
So how do you make content that engages, inspires and gets you more customers? You figure out who your influencers are, as well as inventorying the best assets you already possess to create a stellar content strategy. If you take the strategic approach from the beginning, your content strategy can be done efficiently.
Employ "Lean" Methodology
The "Minimum Viable Product" or MVP is beloved in startup circles and for good reason -- it allows you to quickly take a temperature on how likely customers are to respond to your product. Consider the story of Zappos -- early on, founders behind the wildly successful etailer took photos of shoes in local stores, posted them online and then bought the shoes from the stores and shipped them out instead of building a large inventory. Groupon also launched with a incredibly simple version of its eventual daily deal email -- it was simple a PDF and a WordPress site to begin with.
"Developing a product by conducting customer development experiments can be difficult and time consuming, but it's the most efficient way to get insights to design a product that will delight your customers," explains Anna Curran, founder of Cookbook Create.
Most of all -- keep experimenting, with different types of promotions, marketing vehicles, specials and social media networks. It's the best way to discover what your customers really respond to.