Getting Better Customers: Advice for Start-ups

I was a part of the webinar scheduled to today but was rescheduled. I read a little bit of your book and was wondering if you had any information for start-up businesses. I am in the process of starting a payroll service business and have been stalling because of marketing, or lack of knowledge on where to start. Do you have any information on this topic?

slideshow2Great question! And once that I saw repeated several times. While the eBook The Secret of Getting Better Customers is written with a focus on operating businesses rather than start-ups, here are some ideas and resources you can use to get your new business off the ground with greater success:

  • Look to your past. Define your better customer based on past experience you have had in working in your industry. I am guessing you have experience in the payroll industry. Think of your “better” customers from those experiences and start there.
  • Focus on the idea of value exchange.  Who has value for what you offer and is willing to pay for it?  In the early rise of the dotcom days, there was much banter that the fundamentals had changed.  They haven’t. Successful businesses still need to have paying customers – even if they are indirect advertisers or sponsors.
  • Look at competitors for ideas.  If you are local like a nail salon, call successful salons in other geographic areas to get their success tips.
  • Test your better customer profiles. If you have an online business, take out a few limited time Google ads with different appeals to different targets. The ad clicks are essentially votes for the appeal that resonates best. Or you can use networking groups and industry events to try out your description.  If people nod politely or their eyes glaze over, you are not there.  If they seem engaged and ask you clarifying questions – you’ve hit gold!
  • Don’t put the cart before the horse. Wait before spending a lot of money on your customer facing materials like a business cards, website, etc. Your first months/year will be focused on learning and refining. After that trial period you can invest with confidence and focus on these marketing tools.
  • Track your time.  As you gain clients, track your time per customer.
  • Get a SCORE mentor to help you define these many important pieces.  They are both your coach and cheerleader.  I can’t tell you how value it was for me, especially in the start-up months where my mind was spinning.

Recommended books?  The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki gave me several “aha” moments – for example, list 50 target customers and define your business model (meaning who is paying for what) figured out first.

All you veterans out there, any other recommended sources or books? Please comment below.

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