SCORE Small Business Blog

Getting Better Customers: Advice for Start-ups
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I was a part of the webinar scheduled for 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?

Great question! And one that I saw repeated several times in the chat stream. 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 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 valuable it was for me, especially in the start-up months when 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) first.

All you veterans out there, any other recommended sources or books? Add in the Comments section below.

And join us for the Redux of Getting Better Customers this Wednesday at 1:00pm ET.

Jeanne RossommePresident, RoadMap Marketing
Jeanne uses her 20 years of marketing know-how to help small business owners reach their goals. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she held a variety of marketing positions with DuPont and General Electric. Jeanne regularly hosts online webinars and workshops in both English and Spanish.
www.roadmapmarketing.com | @roadmapmarketin | More from Jeanne

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Discussion (2) Comment


  1. loanuniverseVisitor

    Thanks for the article, I found it very useful. I especially liked the part about “Look at competitors for ideas”, which I think is great. Not only is a good idea to copy what competitors do, but it is also a starting point to improve on those methods to differentiate your business. This can take many forms such as improving on a competitor’s promotion by offering a better value, or just expanding marketing over different channels.

    The other good idea was that of growing slowly. I have seen so many business plans that include the purchase of large fixed assets and even real estate on day one. Fixed costs are the enemy of businesses, and they rob the business owner of flexibility. Start small with the key word being “scalability”.

 

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