How to generate more customers for my small business

Making a decision to run your business can be a rewarding decision. However in order to sustain yourself you need clients. There are thousands of businesses looking for help everyday online, however how you need to know how to get them to become your customer.

Not everyone has access to unlimited funds, and despite what you may be sold over the phone, running Google Ads simply isn't always the best decision (although it is one to consider).

Some of the best ways you can generate new clients, ranging from cheap to expensive, include:

  • Word of Mouth
  • Referrals
  • Social Media (free)
  • Events
  • Advertising

Word of Mouth marketing

Word of mouth accounts for 13% of all sales, worth $6 trillion in annual global sales. This is more effective than paid ads!

If you think back to when you were starting your business, or even now to searching how to build your business further, who are you willing to hear from? Is it the sales representative at that website/advertising company, or do you rely on people who have 'been there, done that' to provide you insights? 

Getting word of mouth isn't incredibly difficult if you have a customer centric mindset. Tracking word of mouth sales is a lot harder. 

How to generate word of mouth

The best places to find your potential word of mouth speakers is to first identify your network. Do you have friends and family members who know what you do? Are they making sure to talk about you and your business when the topic comes up? If not, ask them to. There is no shame in promoting your business to your friends and family as a starting point. They want you to succeed.

Once you have your friends and family network working for you, consider your clients. Do you have any clients that have been working with you for a long period of time or who have sent in positive feedback? Do you have anyone who seems to have a very large network and loves to talk about people they know? Take them up on the offer for an introduction.

Consider sending emails to your customers. You can ask for feedback and a review. If they respond, call them, thank them and ask them to introduce you to someone. You could also send over semi regular information and industry updates - just make sure to remove acronyms and jargon. Provide regular information your clients can learn from.

Simply asking and reminding your existing client you are there for them will keep you top of mind, and ensure any conversation they have with other business owners will include you as a key partner.

How to generate Referrals

Asking for a referral is one of the most overlooked approaches to finding new customers. The majority of our first clients here at BizziEvents were from word of mouth and referrals. Besides being a way to gauge your customer satisfaction, it is a very cheap way to build your client base.

For every interaction you have, you should be asking for a referral. Make this a habit and it will pay dividends over time.

Whether you are at a seminar event, barbecue, local sports game or on a phone call, you should be asking. 

How to ask for a referral

  1. Transition into the referral: 'Thank you for the time, before I go I was wondering if you could help me in another way'
  2. Clearly request a referral: 'Like you, I prefer doing business with people I know and trust. I'm looking to be introduced to more people who might share similar values as you'.
  3. Make it personal: 'If you were me, running a [Industry] company dedicated to supporting small business owners, who would you go to first?'
  4. Reinforce the request: 'It sounds like you have a really great network. I would love to have a chat to them too.'
  5. Write down the details. This means getting as much information as possible, including name, when they are often busy/free, phone number and email.
  6. Ask for another introduction: 'Thank you so much. This is exactly why I enjoy meeting new people. Who else might be a good fit?'
  7. Thank them again and if you have people to offer introductions with, do it.

Who can I ask for a referral

Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to generate referrals exclusively from your existing clients. Consider adding your referral strategy to prospective clients, existing clients and past clients. Just because someone isn't working with you anymore doesn't mean they don't have a network. It could be they closed their business down, hired in-house or switched due to board pressures. Unless the reason is specifically that they don't like you, chances are they are a valid referral opporunity.

Social Media

Social Media makes the list for a clear reason. It is where millions of people spend their down time. The challenge most professionals face generating new business on social media is generating content. You have all the knowledge in your head that your audience would love to learn from. Consider looking back on your University or TAFE notes, or the training you received when you started your career. This entry level information is what your clients might be looking for. Are there any documented notes you could rewrite or turn into a simple post? 

If you do have the time to create social posts, consider using a tool like Canva, that has thousands of templates you can use.

If you don't have the time to create social posts regularly, consider joining Groups and providing real value to businesses in need. Ensure when joining a group you read and abide by the rules. This may include the ability to post about your business, or may require some sort of offer (e.g. a free call). These groups could include:

  • Joining your local suburb group and introducing yourself and your business
  • Joining Startup Groups in your region or state e.g. Sydney Startups 
  • Joining a Business Owner Networking group e.g. Small Business Owners Australia

By providing real value on social media you are putting yourself as the trusted source. This approach may take time and effort, so you may be best to focus initially on one media e.g. Facebook or LinkedIn, depending on where your audience is.

Run a Seminar or Event 

48% of brands realise a ROI between 3-5:1 with their events. Beyond Return On Investment alone, 74% of attendees say they have a more positive opinion about the company after the event.

If you haven't heard of Eventbrite, you are missing out. Not only could you find events to attend and potentially find new customers, but you are able to list your own events. 

The knowledge you have is knowledge your clients would love to learn. To find out what type of event you should be running, you need to consider the reason why most of your customers chose you. Ask them. Use this time to check in on your existing customers and to learn more about them. You can even invite them to the event as an example of a great customer (who might sell you on your behalf).

Once you know what causes the most stress for your clients, consider running an event. If you are savvy with tech, you could consider running a virtual webinar, however this may lack the personal touch, and often you will find half the attendees will be working at the same time, won't show up or won't be paying attention. This can be pretty daunting but if you are serious about events, and are able to service people in a wide area, you should test webinars as an option.

One of the most effective ways to generate a client at an event is to run a small (10-15 people) sales seminar or presentation. Here you can invite new or existing potential client and some select existing clients to come together to learn.

Creating an event requires a few things, nearly all of which can be done for free, however some paid versions may result in a higher quality event.

To run an event you will need to consider:

  • Content: what topic do your customers struggle with that you can talk about?
  • Guests: who is going to come and how you are going to generate RSVPs?
  • Location: where is your event going to be?
  • The Venue: is it the right venue for you, will there be adequate catering, is there parking nearby?
  • The followup: are you going to try and generate sales on the spot, or set up meetings with attendees

A general guide for physical event prices is below:

  • Venue with no catering: $350-1,000
  • Venue with morning tea for 15 guests (ie your future clients): $60-70pp /  $1,050
  • Parking for yourself: up to $40, but can be free depending on your venue or negotiations
  • Printed takehome cheat sheet: $30 at Officeworks to print high quality cheat sheets on topics such as 'What to do when [problem occurs]'. Ensure to include your details as a support option for independant investigations.
  • Powerpoint design: free labour using Canva templates. Keep in mind you may not need powerpoint. In either case you will need to practice your script/talking points.
  • Marketing: free by calling and emailing prospects, free listings on Eventbrite and if you need to, you can pay for promotion

We have a great, free guide on how to plan a sales seminar, located at the bottom of this page. If you need a bit of extra support with your event planning, contact us.

Advertising Tips for Small Businesses

There are dozens of advertising channels you can pick to generate new clients. The costs range from a few cents per view, to affiliates who might charge 25% commissions. An overview of some of the advertising channels is below. 

  • Search Engine Marketing: Running advertising on Google or Bing search engine. The more competitive the word, the more likely you will have to pay a higher sum. You also need to consider who might be searching. For example, lawyers and law related terms are some of the most expensive keywords, often more than $100 per click depending on what you are wanting to show for. 
  • Social Media Advertising: Placing ads on Facebook, LinkedIn or any other network. These are often charged on a cost per thousand views, and will involve putting in the interests of your potential clients e.g. small business owners.
  • Display Ads: Whenever you are searching across the web, looking at blogs or trying to find new recipes, you will notice there are plenty of ads on these sites. These are often display ads.
  • Native Ads: These ads are a type of display ads that are designed to look like the main website. To find these you can navigate to a  news website and find a section that may be called "you may also like" or "related content". These will often link to a different website and at some point were considered to be low quality ads. If you are a great writer you can write an informative article on your website and find Native Ads might work well. Networks where you can place ads include Taboola, and Yahoo Native
  • Affiliate Marketing: There are sites and services that may be paid to genereate you appointments, leads or new clients. Depending on your specific service and website they may generate leads for you. Be wary as often these businesses have purchased data lists and are cold calling phone books. The impact can be detrimental to your brand if you are not careful with your affiliate partners. 
    • Bark.com: A relatively new platform in Australia, Bark is a potential avenue of finding new clients if you follow these essential steps. After joining, you can tailor the industry you are looking to support. Beyond that there are filtering questions around the type of enquiries you can help with (for example BizziEvents can help with corporate events, but not weddings). By using filters you will ensure any email enquiry that comes through is relevant for you. When you do get an email, be quick. The faster the better as the likely outcome is the first person to call that lead will win it. If you join using this link you will get 2 free responses after purchasing your starter pack.

It is recommended to engage a professional to run advertising, else risking accidental overspend or underperformance. Often times finding ads that perform will take time and money, so treat this venture as a longer term solution and always remember to bundle all conversations with leads (and marketing agencies) with a referral request.

The Cost of Acquiring New Customers

Getting new customers doesn't have to be an expensive endeavour. While you can invest as much as you want into generating new customers, and if you have the skill to do so, it might be a great investment, you can also invest your time just as effectively. 

Using any combination of the above will help you generate new clients that not only stick, but often will refer others to your business too. 

Want to get more return from your events?

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