Every business owner wants to attract and win over new customers. But where can you find that profitable new niche?
Advertising can be prohibitively expensive for smaller companies, and marketing efforts can sometimes seem scattershot. I asked five business owners to share the methods they used for discovering powerful new customer lines that actually worked. These grassroots efforts show that you don't necessarily need to have to spend a lot to reach a new market.
"We do product giveaways every month for the wholesale merchandise we sell. Last month, for example, we gave away $5,000 in products to nonprofit organizations that support kids. We started these giveaways after Hurricane Katrina, when nonprofit groups came to us looking to buy blankets and other items for people affected by the disaster.
"At the time we weren't doing any business in the nonprofit world. But we recognized the opportunity. We started reaching out to nonprofits with these giveaways, and now half of our business is with nonprofits, including national contracts with the Salvation Army and Kiwanis."
—Marc Joseph, CEO & President, DollarDays International
"The demographic for our men's laundry detergent is very specific—22-30-year-old single males with above average spending, who care about appearance, scent [and] the details surrounding their life. Paramount Pictures and MGM reached out to us because they understood our demographic was very close to their target for the new film Ben Hur.
[pullquote showtweet="false" username="Paige Arnof-Fenn" alignment="center"]I started doing a listening tour during the Great Recession in late 2008, early 2009 to strum up new business.
—Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO, Mavens & Moguls[/pullquote]
"We agreed to put them on a lot of our digital in late August, timed with the film release, and they gave us tickets to give away to new customers. For the customer, if you buy a bottle of our detergent and get free Ben Hur tickets, that's a much higher value proposition than just buying the detergent. We are only two and a half weeks into the partnership, but already we've seen an amazing decrease in customer acquisition cost. We've beaten our best sales months by 25 percent, and we have earned 1.9x our normal amount for this ad spend."
—Leif Frey, founder, Frey for Men
Social Media and Email
"We do social-media giveaway promotions for our bodysurfing handboards about once a quarter, when we have a new product or something exciting going on that we want to promote. The way it works is people need to share a specific photo via their social media. Then their followers see it and they want to enter. We gain a lot of new emails, which is our goal.
"Our bump is anywhere between 200-500 new emails per promotion. Then right after each campaign, we set up targeted emails to those new potential customers with a coupon offer. About 30 percent of our sales come from our email campaigns, so that's why our big focus is on growing that email list."
—Angela and Steve Watts, owners, Slyde Handboards
"We hosted a beer tasting room at the Insight Innovation Exchange in June 2016, where visitors played one of our gamification-based experiences as part of the beer tasting exercise. We published real-time results of the most and least favorite beers on tap, but more importantly we were able to capture over 100 leads for a total cost of under $10,000. The sales cycle is fairly long in our industry, so many of these leads aren't likely to generate revenue for another three to six months, but in just eight weeks we've already converted enough beta participants to cover the cost of the event. As an online subscription service, this was tremendously effective for us."
—Jason Anderson, president, Insights Meta and Datagame
"I started doing a listening tour during the Great Recession in late 2008, early 2009 to strum up new business. I was already scheduled for some travel around the country in Q4/Q1 for meetings, so I used the trips as an opportunity to hear from current clients and prospects [about] how they were handling the downturn.
"Themes started to emerge. For example, on one trip everyone was asking about social media and whether or not they needed a blog. After several discussions I summarized my notes and sent them out to share what I was hearing. Then, given all the questions around social media, I offered to put together a talk and workshop to discuss current trends. I immediately got replies asking me to book and it all led to more work. Now it is just something I try to do regularly to keep a pulse on the market and find new work."
—Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO, Mavens & Moguls
For more tips on finding new customers, download our exclusive guide from Guy Kawasaki, The Art of Getting Customers.
Read more articles on getting customers.