Finding new customers can be a challenge.
Gaining new customers means getting your business's name out there, through methods like networking, social media posts and hosting events. — tdub303/Getty Images

If you want to run a successful small business, you have to constantly be focusing on your customer base — gaining new customers and maintaining the ones you already have.

Finding new customers in the beginning may be easy. As a new business in town, there’s a whole local community you can tap into. If you’ve been open for a few years, however, and are looking to grow your business by acquiring new customers, you’ll have to get more creative.

Define your target audience

The most important step to finding new customers is defining who your target customers are. This involves first researching your current customers to create a description for your target customer.

Go beyond a general description and instead flesh out a detailed customer profile. What do customers in your target audience like to do? What need are you granting them with your product or service? These are two good questions to get started.

[Read: Want to Improve Customer Retention? Try These 3 Expert Strategies]

Identify competitors

Looking to your competitors can be a major learning experience. While you can get a better understanding of the overall market, analyzing competitors will also help you strategize and plan for your future. Differentiation is key, so creating a product or service that hits the same target market can be effective so long as it’s unique.

The most important step to finding new customers is defining who your target customers are.

Ask for referrals

There’s nothing more powerful than a genuine business referral. People love to brag to their friends about a great product, or get impassioned about a cool concept or service. Ask your most loyal customers to refer new ones. It may be a good idea to set up an incentive program so your loyal customers can gain points or perks for bringing in new business.

Network

Networking is a key aspect of business acquisition. Get to know your competitors, other businesses in your community and important community groups that may have members of your target audience in them. Getting your business’s name out there and showing you’re an active member in the local community are essential ways to keep your business afloat.

Prioritize social media

The future of small business marketing and engagement is social media. Think of social media as another platform for networking: You can easily connect with both new and loyal customers. Buyers today are looking for a personalized purchasing experience. They want to go to local businesses, know the owner and use wholesome products and services. By staying active on social media, you can build a brand that serves itself.

Offer discounts and incentives

Incentive programs can be a great motivator when it comes to customer referrals. Discounts and other programs, however, can be a good motivator to keep new customers coming back. By creating membership clubs and other discount programs, you can edge out your competitors and hit your target audience. Make sure these programs are tied in directly with your target audience research. Some customers may be turned off by certain programs.

Partner with a complementary business

Small business is a team sport — it takes multiple people to keep things running. You can extend this team mentality to complementary businesses in your community. This may allow you to better access your target market, or further establish your business’s presence in the community.

Host events

Hosting local events related to your product or service can drive new faces into your business and foster a sense of community. This can be a powerful driving force for both new and existing customers. Get creative and build fun events for your customers to attend.

[Read: Customer Loyalty: What’s Love Got to Do With It? A Lot]

Building a successful business means keeping loyal customers and recruiting new ones. The most important aspect of this process is defining a target audience. By creating a detailed map of who you’re looking to attract, you can use the other tips to bring new faces through your doors.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published November 27, 2019