How to target new customers
It's typically much more difficult to reach new customers than
to get existing ones to buy more. But because of that, once you
have a wide, established customer base, sales are going to be
easier, more predictable, and easier to grow.
This guide introduces you to a range of techniques for targeting
new customers. Which ones you choose to use will depend on your
budget, timescale and logistical capability.
- Incentivise. Offer exclusive deals and discounts
for first-time users. This has a double advantage in that to ensure
people can only be a 'first time buyer' once, you need to take
contact details - thus building on your store of customer
- Show them what it's all about for free. Give out
samples of your product, either outside your premises, online
(which would enable you to collect data and contact details for
future use) or in locations where your target customer is likely to
be. Ensure anyone handing out samples is wearing a branded
- Hold 'open evenings' or 'open days' where new
customers are able to wander in to your premises and try your
services out for free as a one-off (this won't suit every business,
of course, but some, particularly gyms, use it to great
- Create offers structured around giving a first
taster of your services or product for free, but then the customer
needs to pay for the next time.
- Target new customers through your existing customer
base. Incentivise your existing customers to bring their
friends to your business by introducing 'refer a friend' schemes -
discounts or special offers for the person who has convinced a
friend to register an account with or buy from your business.
- Introduce gift certificates (where appropriate) -
the person who receives them may potentially be a new customer.
Apparently approximately 20% of all gift certificates are never
redeemed, 80% are redeemed for more than their value, and 40% are
redeemed for more than twice their value - they're practically a
license to print money!
- Use everyone you know. If you haven't already, you
need to get friends and family to sing the praises of everyone you
know. Make sure they understand what exactly your business does,
and make sure you sound excited and passionate when you talk to
them about it - you'll inspire them to want to help you further
your hopes for the business. Ask them to tell people they know
about it - promising you'll return the favour somehow, one
- Advertise. To make any ad spend worthwhile, you
need to carry out some detailed research on who your new target
customer is going to be.
- As targeting new customers can be somewhat hit and miss, you
may want to reduce costs by trying co-operative
advertising - where you team up with another company to
produce an ad.
- Some websites will allow you to list yourself for
free - try placing a free as on Gumtree or Craig's List, for
- Get yourself in relevant directories. Getting
listed in a directory such as Yellow Pages for a year can cost as
little as £100, but can be a quick-fire way to drawing people who
definitely want the service you offer to your business.
- Take out classified ads. In much the same way as
directories work, with classifieds you know the people are looking
for the service you offer if they find you - that's a gold mine -
you don't even have to try to sell to them!
- Trade shows and expos. They can be expensive to
attend (think a few hundred pounds for a stand, plus the additional
cost of producing marketing material and flyers, as well as taking
at least a day out of your schedule). But if you know there are
going to be hundreds of potential new customers there, it can be
worth the cash.
- Find out normal attendance numbers before you pay for anything
to make sure it's worthwhile.
- Check out who else is taking a stand, so you know you're in the
right company, and so that if a huge number of the other stands are
your larger and more popular competitors you know it's either
pointless taking a stand or that you really need to put on a great
- Go armed with loads of flyers, marketing material, product and
sample, banners if possible, and other things to decorate a stand
with - and of course hundreds of business cards. You want to be the
brightest most appealing stand in the hall, not the one everyone
looks past. Sweets or wine, while simplistic and fickle, are also
consistently effective in drawing people to a stand.
- If you can't afford a stand, just go and network with as many
people as you can to tell them about your business - this can still
be highly effective.
- Flyers can be a good vehicle for lots of
information, but they often get chucked straight into the
- It's usually best only to hand them out with free
samples, or at least a sweet or something similarly enticing
to encourage people to actually look at what you're handing
- That said, if you can get a good deal at the printers and don't
mind standing around for a few hours, the scattergun approach of
flyering always produces a few results - just monitor how much
return you get on the time and money investment to see well it's
worked for your business.
- Do PR. Either use an agency (read more in our
guide on *how to use a PR agency*) or do it yourself (get advice on
that from our guide on *how to get your business into the
- Promotions on other sites. Asking another website
to promote you to drive traffic to yours can work well with sites
who cater for a similar audience but who are non-competitive.
- Offer to promote them on yours in blogs and on the pages they
prefer in return.
- Getting another site to include links to your website has the
added advantage of upping your Google rankings, which are dependent
on other websites linking to yours.
- Creating an eBay shop (where appropriate) gets you
exposure to a potentially massive audience nationwide (or even
- It can also be a nice little extra revenue stream.
- You can brand your shop, so getting the word out about your
- You can also direct traffic to your business website, so
drawing more people closer to your brand.
- Just make sure you always deliver on time and to the standard
promised, else you risk doing damage to your brand.
- Competitions. Giveaways in trade or relevant
magazines and websites and a good way of getting the brand name out
there, reaching a specific demographic and showcasing your product.
A highly favourable description and a nice big picture of a product
never did anyone any harm - in fact, you're essentially getting an
advert for free.
- Social media. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter,
Smarta, YouTube, LinkedIn, MySpace, Bebo - is free and can
potentially open you up to a nationwide or even international
- Each site has its own etiquette, and each has certain sneaky
ways for your business to reach as many people as possible.
- Read all about how to use it to your best advantage in our
social media section.
- Draw customers away from a brand they already use.
Undercut the existing brand on price, out-do them in quality or
offer customers a deal they can't refuse, then make your advantage
over the competitor abundantly clear in your marketing
communications with the new target customers and/or your
- Sponsor events or awards.
- If you know your target customers arelikely to be there at an
event can be a good way of getting your brand name out there.
- You may also be able to give samples out at the event.
- It will, however, be expensive - from hundreds to hundreds of
thousands of pounds.
- Speak to event organisers in-depth about their usual
demographic and attendance numbers before handing over any cash to
make sure they align with yours.
- Assess whether the people attending are influential enough in
their social or work circles to make the money per head it would
cost you to sponsor worthwhile in terms of how many people they're
likely to tell about your business as a result of sponsoring.
- Sponsoring smaller scale events and awards in the local
community can help position you as a locally-liked business and
brand, one that's supporting the community, and make you look both
professional and, potentially larger and more established than you
- Cold calling.
- Many consumer are resistant to cold calling, as it can be seen
to very irritating, and, in some cases - particularly for older
people - very unsettling. So think very carefully before you do
- It is also very time-consuming and can be incredibly
disheartening - you may spend days on the phone only to have one or
two people interested, if that (there's quite an art to phone sales
and it's a lot more difficult than it sounds).
- Make sure you are always polite, never pushy, and try to focus
on the advantages to the person on the other end rather than just
explaining what you're selling.
- Door to door.
- Many consumers are averse to door-to-door selling, and it can
be very annoying. Then again, it must produce some success, or else
people wouldn't try it.
- We'd recommend leaving it as a last option, as it could do more
harm than good to your brand and reputation - it can look fairly
desperate and some people find it intimidating.
Monitor your results
- As always with marketing activity, you need to measure results
carefully to ensure everything you do is producing enough benefit
to your business to warrant any money and time you spend on
- Ask new customers how they heard about you when they place an
order to monitor this.
- Adapt your strategy for getting new customers accordingly by
focusing on the most effective channels and dropping the least
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