5 Ways to Attract Customers to a Small Business & Why Only 1 Works

You've got a great product or service, the customers you have are happy. You enjoy running your own business. The work is rewarding, and you love solving your customers' problems. If only you had even more of those awesome customers, right?

What's great is that you're in control of all aspects of your business, which is likely why you started your own business in the first place. This means that you can try new tools and methods with ease.

And here's some exciting news - the world is full of companies with problems to solve and your solution is perfect for a select group of them. All you need to do to get more customers is learn more about your current ones. Then you can go out there and find others just like them. There are a number of ways to do this. We'll focus here on just a few, and hone in on the one we think tops all others.

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So how can you attract customers to a small business?

We Know Other Things Can Work. But Will They Work for You?

Now here's the thing. We know that all the tactics mentioned above have a place in prospecting at some level. However, they aren't well suited to small businesses specifically. There are plenty of guides on how to make your company and solution look more appealing in order to gain customers. There are also a great many "lead generation companies" that are happy to take your dollars and turn them into names on a list. The problem is, those solutions are geared toward a different type of business. Those options are not efficient, and you my friend are efficient.

As a small business owner, or perhaps even a one-man band, you're too busy wearing all the hats to learn a lot of complicated tools or revamp your image. Here's some more detail on these five methods of attracting customers. You may have already thought of--or even tried--the first four. Click here to skip ahead to the one we think works best.

Rely on Your Existing Network

Referrals are one of the number one ways in which very small businesses approach new customer acquisition and it's something we all use. Of course we do - recommendations account for 9 of 10 buying decisions. The thing is, if you're here, you're ready for new ideas. There are only so many referrals you can get from your existing customer base because we all know only so many people. Or you may be wary of pressuring your network to pony up phone numbers and emails of their friends and family. Or maybe you're a brand new company and are just looking to find your very first customers. How could you get referrals then? Whatever your specific case, this is a great tactic but it has limits.

Internet Research

Let's say you decided to buy a lead list with 50,000+ names on it anyway. If you want to try and narrow that giant list down, you could try looking in to each of the names before you give them a call. That means you'd have to scour the internet, looking at thousands of websites and LinkedIn profiles. You'll end up eliminating a lot of the names on the lead list, and you'll definitely make better calls in the end. However, that would take way more time than simply dialing numbers all day. You need that number narrowed down before you can even think of doing the digging yourself.

We spent some time with the CEO of a 10 person manufacturing company recently. They are looking to get in front of civil and mechanical engineers across the country. Since there are so many firms, the company decided to hire someone to spend every day looking at websites to see which ones share the company's ideals about water safety. This person's job is to find the engineers likely to choose their product over a competitor's based on safety rather than price or ease of use. Can you even imagine hiring a dedicated employee just to look at websites all day to find prospects?


Advertising has worked for decades, but we're past the heyday of ads and people keep discovering new ways to ignore them. When's the last time you clicked on a banner ad or a Facebook ad? Back in 2009, Seth Godin released the book The Purple Cow and described one of his experiences with banner ads. He bought 300 million banner ad impressions for $600. 300 million people saw his ads, and he made a total of $500 off the investment. That was in 2009, before the improvements in ad blockers, so the effectiveness has likely gone down even further. Now, if you think ads would work well for your solution then that's great. All you need to do is figure out the platform. It's either that or hire someone that knows how to use it already. There are companies out there that make a tidy profit off managing online ad platforms. They just aren't the simplest tools to figure out.

Buy a Lead List

This is how larger companies end up with 10+ sales reps with 100 dial/day quotas. This volume makes some sense when you consider research says it takes an average of 18 dials to reach a buyer. It's also why a lot of those larger companies have astronomical employee turnover rates. Endless cold calls or even cold emails leads to burn out. As a small team, you can't afford to burn out. Here's some more detail on how to improve the quality of your lead generation.

Recently, we sat down with a business owner trying to reach pet store owners. Let's call him Ted. Ted spoke with us because he's fed up with the leads he's been purchasing and decided he wants to try something new. He told us of a list of emails he bought a few months ago for about $2,000. It had well over 60,000 names on the list, so it seemed like a great investment at first. Unfortunately, more than 50,000 of the names bounced. He'll never buy a list from that company again. He's had some success over the years with purchasing information in bulk like this, but told us that it's frequently out of date and unusable. Another issue with lists such as these is that all the data companies have access to the same information, and they're all selling it to whoever will buy it.

Let Someone Else Research for You

Ok, the title was a bit of a stretch. I'm sure you saw that coming. Some of these sales prospecting tactics can totally work - if you don't need to be lean and mean. Using LinkedIn and researching potential customers by checking out their websites is one of the best ways to find new customers. But you're lean and mean, aren't you? To take advantage of this process without so much grunt work, you'll instead need to spend some time analyzing your current customers.

You need to create what we call an ideal customer profile. This is basically a collection of traits that all your best customers share, and what they share with you as well. We don't mean job titles, we don't mean annual revenue, and we don't mean company size. Nope. You're going to have to think more deeply. We know it's hard, which is why we've put together some examples.

If You Already Know Your Magic Number

We recently had a chat with one of our customers in the software business. He helps restaurant owners manage their ...

If You Already Know Your Magic Number

We recently had a chat with one of our customers in the software business. He helps restaurant owners manage their restaurants. He charges per location, so he's not interested in speaking with any of the owners or operators that only have one location. He also knows that trying to get past all the bureaucratic red tape that exists in company-owned national chains is a nightmare. He wants local restaurant owners with at least 5 locations, but no more than 50.

If he were to go to buy leads that fit this description, he'd be out of luck. The information that these companies use is publicly accessible and shallow. They can sell him a list of all restaurant owners. How helpful! That's about 1.1 million names long. There's no way he can get through that this year, even paying a sales agency to dial or email for him. He wouldn't even see a return anyway. Salesforce reports that lead lists have a less than .1% conversion rate.

Instead of continuing down that route, he's agreed that the best way to get new clients is by narrowing down his prospects to the best ones. He needs someone searching all the restaurant websites with locations in the United States. What's cool is that Onemata can look at each website with certain criteria in mind. The most important part is whether a restaurant has multiple locations and how many. Most restaurant websites have a page for each location. He'd prefer restaurant companies with locations on the higher end of his spectrum because then he needs fewer of them to grow. Onemata can deliver the right restaurant companies to him with a score based on how close of a match it is to his requirements, so he can quickly sort through them and find the best ones to go after first.

If You Know Your Customer’s Problem

Another company we've been working with has explained that their best prospects are the ones that are using certain ...

If You Know Your Customer’s Problem

Another company we've been working with has explained that their best prospects are the ones that are using certain email servers. If you use G Suite or Zoho, they have no interest in calling you, but Outlook works seamlessly with their CRM software. We're able to find out what email service a company is using, and we can also often tell if a company has already chosen a CRM. We can put both types of companies in front of this customer, and rank them accordingly so they know which ones to call first. You may need to spend some time thinking about your customers' common traits, so here is some guidance on how to find out who your customers want to buy from

If You Know When You’re Needed

You wouldn't think a web development company would have much use for Onemata, right? You're probably thinking that if a ...

If You Know When You’re Needed

You wouldn't think a web development company would have much use for Onemata, right? You're probably thinking that if a company already has a website, they wouldn't be a good prospect for a web developer. That's not the case at all. A small Denver based web development company gave us some interesting criteria for their ideal customer profile. This little shop works only with clients that agree that websites should not be a "set it and forget it" aspect of their business.

First, they eliminate any website built using Wix or another do-it-yourself platform. These developers know that a business owner savvy enough to build their own website and keep it up to date won't need their services. Instead, they look for websites that are built using WordPress or another more complicated platform but haven't been updated. Many of the websites that haven't been touched in a year or longer have errors or security holes. This development company charges a small monthly fee to keep the site secure and free of errors. They'll also add new information to the website as needed such as new pages or company news.

This two person team told us this method of finding new customers would never have been manageable, so they needed someone to take the research out of their hands. Research is a time sink. Forbes reports salespeople spend an average of 35% of their time selling and an average of 12% researching.

Reveal the Common Ground

Have you noticed a trend yet? All these companies - and they run the gamut in terms of industry and ideal customers - have thought through what their best customers have in common. Then they take that shared ground and use it to sort through the hundreds of thousands of companies that may need their services to only find the prospects that will likely need their services. They spend less time doing the sorting. They spend less time making pointless phone calls. They spend more time having quality conversations

Now that you've made it through this massive wall of text, here's some more work for you (hooray). Determine the key things that your current customers have in common. Or better yet, think through the problem you're best at solving. We even made this ideal customer profile (ICP) worksheet to help you along the way. It's got three more examples from companies we've worked with, and a space for you to jot down your thoughts too.

Download your ICP worksheet now using the button below (no form necessary). Or, you can receive it via email and keep up with our monthly sales education content by telling us where to send it below.

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