Often, small business leaders spend so much time serving current clients, they forget to prospect for new business. Don’t let this happen to you. One sign of a strong business is the acquisition of new clients.
There are several low- to no-cost methods of building your clientele. Check out You’ve hung your shingle, now spread the word to learn six tried-and-true methods.
However, many other options also exist. Here are some additional recommendations, sent in by IT director and TechRepublic reader Ben M. Schorr.
Join the Chamber of Commerce
“Don't just join, participate," says Schorr. "Attend the mixers and functions. Always have plenty of business cards handy and give them out freely. Meet lots of people. Don't try to sell anybody right there and then. If you've been chatting for more than a few minutes and there are other people to meet, arrange a time to meet or call the person, make sure you have their card, and then follow up with them!”
Schorr also recommends that you don’t look to close the sale right there and then. Instead, build a relationship. “Just be there so that they're aware of you. I got a major bank in my area as a client this way. It took a few months, but the bank vice president got to know me from meeting me at the events, getting a friendly call from me just to say, 'Nice to meet you,' and having my card.”
Join the local Kiwanis club
Again, Schorr says participation is the key. “I don't think I ever gave out a business card at a Kiwanis meeting, but by attending the meetings, going to service projects, and being involved, I made a large new community of associates, many of whom were local business and government leaders.”
And who do you think they called when they had IT questions? You guessed it.
“When they needed computer help, they called on their buddy from Kiwanis—the guy who was so friendly and so enthusiastic in helping out with the service project last weekend. It took time to establish myself there, but eventually I was averaging a new client every few weeks from Kiwanis (and referrals to other people by Kiwanians), and all of this without ever giving out a business card or making a big sales presentation. They just got to know me.”
Get everyone business cards
Don’t forget that in order for people to track you down, they need your contact information. Schorr recommends that you get business cards for everyone in your organization, including your receptionist.
“They'll give those cards out—and the cards are cheap ads. Encourage them to give the cards to everybody they know. A wasted business card is one that sits in the box, in a desk drawer.”
Send personal notes
Schorr also noted the importance of thank-you notes. He couldn’t be more correct.
One of the sincerest, and least costly, business-building techniques is the vastly underrated personal note. The next time someone goes out of their way to help you complete a project, be sure to drop them a line. And, don’t type it up in an e-mail. Handwritten notes communicate more than your thanks; they indicate you took time out of your busy schedule to recognize the contributions they made. Such notes aren’t soon forgotten.
Well that’s fine and dandy, but how can a handwritten note build your business, you ask? Such letters contribute to the growth of a company by developing and strengthening relationships. Furthermore, you can drop congratulatory notes in the mail to executives earning promotions, individuals winning awards, colleagues receiving awards or recognizing accomplishments, and businesses winning new accounts.
A charismatic CEO once taught me the value of sending these notes to folks you don’t even know. Don’t hesitate to drop a congratulatory note to a CEO or business owner in your area who receives an award or whose company experiences noteworthy success within your community. Just be sure you’re sincere, and don’t be surprised when they call you back. I’ve seen it happen time and again.
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