A little more than five years ago, I launched my boutique, marketing consultancy. Like all new business owners, enthusiasm and promise overwhelmed me the first few months. Then reality set in. After acquiring as much business as I could from my immediate network, I found my reach for new customers start to dry up.
I learned quickly to survive by being flexible and open minded with how I ran my business. Customers, especially for a boutique consultancy, don't just come knocking on your door every day.
Over the many years of working with not-for-profit and health care organizations, I realized the importance of community. Like individuals, communities have certain patterns and cultures all their own. Instead of targeting individuals and businesses as customers, I began to reach out to specific communities.
My community-based new business development strategy paid off. I began to acquire new business and steadily grew my consultancy over the years. Looking back, I came up with six ways that I implemented this strategy. I believe these six techniques could help any new business grow its customer base.
Join a few Chamber of Commerce associations. I joined three of these Chambers in my target markets. They are a great resource for new businesses as they have set programs, business directories and an audience that is generally ready to make purchases.
Contact religious organizations. While you may not sell directly to these organizations, they generally have a lot of very well connected people. I joined the Knights of Columbus in my local area. While I did not join specifically to network for my business, that's exactly what ended up happening when I began to speak to the members. Some of them were retired executives and others were very successful small business owners.
Sponsor a local sports team. When my brother's son needed a sponsor for his travel soccer team, I stepped up and provided funding for their practice uniforms, team events and coaching costs. This opened the door to small business owners, executives and other people I never expected to be major decision makers.
Join a business association as an affiliate member. This was one of the best ways to meet people. Like the Chamber of Commerce associations, these organizations generally have set events and schedules. I made a lot of contacts and opened new business accounts when I joined a local health care organization as an affiliate member.
Give something cool for free to family and friends. Instead of just asking family and friends if they had other people they could recommend my business to, I gave them free workshops on career and business marketing. Many of my friends and family loved the workshops and shared the experience and results with their extended network.
Create traffic for others. Similar to doing free workshops for friends and family, I started to do free sessions at the local coffee shops, organizations and other businesses. While these sessions were not always well attended, the people that did attend were very interested in the service my business provided. These were generally easier sales and some have become loyal clients who call me often for new projects.
Starting a business was exciting, with ups and downs along the way. After the excitement wore off, and new business had to be acquired, I managed to adapt to my immediate personal and professional environment. I created these six techniques when the opportunity came. These six strategies have consistently helped me to generate new business when I focused on communities instead of individuals.
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