How do you get that first customer? Many new start-up entrepreneurs are caught up with the chicken-or-egg situation: potential customers want to see your track record in serving other customers before jumping on board. It is common human behavior to expect people to patronize businesses that have already established a good reputation. Imagine two restaurants - one is bustling with customers while the other one has only the cook standing at the door. Unless you are really starving, you will most likely opt to go to the restaurant full of customers. But how can you have a track record when no one gave you that first chance?
There are various ways of attracting that first customer. You can get customers for your business by doing either one or all of these things: walking, talking, showing and telling. It is important, however, that you select the method that your budget allows and is workable for your home business.
As soon as you are ready for your first customer, you have to start pounding the pavement. Customers do not know that you exist, so you have to start going around your neighborhood or community and begin the process of networking. Distribute flyers or brochures, post announcements in community bulletin boards, or even volunteer.
You can also attract customers by showing them what you offer or what you can do. The simplest is to give your product or service away. This is a strategy that many companies, large or small, adopt when introducing a new product in the market. These companies understand that customers opt to buy into products that they understand, know how to use and has verified that the product is useful to them. While you are not expected to adopt AOL's strategy of sending its CD-ROM program every week in every household's mailbox, you can distribute a small sample of your product either in your community or a small group of targeted buyers. You can use this as a way both to improve your product and to expose future buyers to what they make.
If you are a software developer, you can offer a downloadable free version of your product, either the scaled down version with less features, or a **** of the full program for a limited period of time. If you are a wedding planner or a personal chef, you too can treat your first customers as beta testers. Offer your service for free on the condition that they provide you with feedback on ways you can improve. You can use this experience as practice to learn how you'll deal with paying clients. There is also the likelihood that you can turn your beta testers into future paying clients, and they can help spread the word about your business.
The concept of "introductory pricing" is also another effective approach of winning customers. If you are designing web sites, for example, you can charge your first few clients far less than they would be able to get elsewhere and less than you're likely to charge later. Anyway, you're still learning your trade and your client is actually giving you a discounted education and a track record at the same time.
Your competitors (yes, your competitors!) are also an excellent source of both new business and industry information. Some of your competitors may have excess work that they cannot handle, and may be willing to subcontract or refer work to you instead of turning their clients away. Don't be afraid to check out your competitors.
Also, check out whether you can offer your products or services to your former employer. Many home business entrepreneurs start out as a result of opportunities they find within the companies they worked for as an employee.
The amount of business you get is highly proportional to the amount of effort that you put in marketing your business. You'll do fine as long as you do the walk and do the talk. Your customers are out there; you just need to "show and tell" and hopefully, they'll come knocking on your doors.
Source: by Lyve Alexis Pleshette