Creative, Free Ways to Attract New Customers to Your Business

Use these creative and inexpensive tips to bring in customers during the holidays—and all year round.
December 14, 2012

If you run a small business, you have so many wonderful and creative opportunities to stand out this holiday season and get new customers without cutting prices and margins to the bone. Granted, everyone loves to get a great deal, but the holiday shopping season actually offers several opportunities to attract new customers to your business.

Below are just a few ideas that you can use this holiday season to help your business stand out from the rest and create memorable experiences for your customers.

Put your advertising dollars in the hands of customers.

With this strategy, you’re taking money you would have spent on advertising and literally giving it to your customer. So your advertising money walks back to your business in the hands of a new customer. 

The best way to implement this strategy is to send a friendly letter to your local community. For cost-effective ways to do that, check out the USPS “Every Door” program. In your letter, tell them that what you are sending them is not a coupon, is not a discount—it’s an actual gift certificate that they can spend in your store. Then share all the great things you offer and encourage them to stop by.

This is a ridiculously profitable and successful strategy—yet few retailers have the guts to do it. I encourage you to give it a try.

Do random acts of business.

This strategy is ideal for service businesses and professional service firms. First, take a hard look at who your customers are: What’s missing that you can provide? To get to that answer, start paying attention to the things your customers do and say. Then, find something you can provide that they need, and do it.

For example, I recently had a landscaper put a fire pit in my back yard. I had mentioned to him that I was going out of town during the weekend and wouldn’t be able to water the patch of grass they planted around the new fire pit. When I came back from my trip, I found the patch of grass watered with a little card tucked inside the door that read “Compliments from your friendly neighborhood landscaper.”

This was such a simple act of kindness (and part of the services he offers) that I was left really touched. This guy heard me and took the time to do something to maintain the quality of his work. When I asked him about it, he told me he had these printed up and gave them to all his employees so that when they heard a customer say something, or saw something that obviously needed some care, they could step in and lend a hand.

This isn’t just for landscapers—it's a great strategy for professional services firms as well. One of my clients is an elder law attorney who's very committed and connected to his local community, especially the nursing homes who often refer clients to him. A member of his staff used to work at a nursing home and knew that during the Christmas holidays there were residents who didn’t have family and wouldn’t get presents. This year she went out and purchased blankets and personal care products, and delivered them to all the local nursing homes as a gift from the law firm. 

Doing something like this sets you apart because it shows your passion for what you do, your commitment to your customers and it allows you to feature your products and services.  

Offer 12-days of your product or service.

You'd be surprised at how few of your customers are aware of all the wonderful things your business does. This is why my “12-Days” strategy is an ideal way to have fun during the holidays while featuring products and services your customers may not have been familiar with.

Simply identify 12 products or services that you offer regularly and combine them into an offer with a special discounted price. Another option is to choose 12 days during the holiday season, and feature a free sample or experience of a new product every day. So if you’re a bakery owner, you might feature brownies on Monday and cupcakes on Tuesday.

Treat this program like an event. Promote it, tell your newspaper about it and get the word out any way you can. Give new customers a reason to come and try something new. If you run a local business, treat the 12 days like a party so that anytime anyone comes into the store, want to come back. (This isn't just for the holiday season, either; you can apply it to any holiday throughout the year.)

Run a product swap.

Instead of ordering generic gifts for my clients, I purchase products from those clients and community members who actually sell physical products, then I give those products to other clients.

For example, I have a client who runs a special gourmet bread bakery and a friend who creates “conversation stones” that you can use as a game at a party or family gathering. I would give the conversation stones to the bakery and the bread to the conversation stone client. Each would receive a card and a note describing the other's business. I was blown away by how much my clients loved this! Another year, I created a set of baskets with all these gifts carefully combined—so that no client received their own product as a gift. This not only brought my clients joy for receiving a creative gift, they got to know and understand my business better as well as that of my other clients. Often, they became fans of each others’ products.

This holiday season, take the time to come up with some creative ways to tell your existing customers how much you care and use the opportunity to attract new customers to become part of your customer community. The tips I’ve shared here don’t cost any more to implement than taking some time to brainstorm what works for you.

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