Online you'll find lists and lists of ways to get new customers. They may mention "9 unconventional ways" or "5 fastest ways" of gaining new customers. Some of them have good advice. Others will tell you that refreshing your image with a new logo and business cards is the key. Sometimes, with the goal of helping you, resources online become convoluted.
For now, instead of trying to give you 20 new ways of getting new business, we're getting down to brass tacks. Way down there at the bottom of everything, there are three core ways to get new customers for your business. Size your strategy around the resources and time you have to deploy against each of these three core fundamentals.
- leverage your known network
- approach the unknown
- attract the inbound.
These are the people in your network. It includes anyone you've worked with, current customers, vendors, and so on. Here's more detail on who counts and how to harness them. You're probably a pro at getting referrals and otherwise utilizing your known network. It's how you've gotten this far. Another key way to draw upon the known is to learn more about them.
Try picking their brains. Set up meetings to find out why they chose you if they're your customers. Or just meet up and talk about what makes you work well together. You're searching for common ground because that's information you can use not only to appeal to them when asking for referrals, but also when you set out into the unknown.
Getting at the unknown is fundamentally an outbound activity, where you're seeking specific companies you believe are receptive to hearing your message. These people don't even know you exist - yet. You'll be pursuing them with a direct sales channel, and your efforts will likely be supported by marketing and industry events. We've written a longer piece on reaching the unknown. But for the most part, this is where cold emails and cold calls come in. You may not enjoy the idea of cold calling, but done well, it's one of the best ways to approach the unknown.
You don't have to be wary of calling or emailing the unknown, though. Because you've started with your known network and spoken with them or researched them to learn the traits, values, and interests they share. Armed with that knowledge, you can be picky about who you reach out to. We like to call these closer to the close® calls instead of cold calls.
This involves creating content that provides value and appeals to the right people. There are two huge perks to creating a healthy inbound channel. First, it's everywhere and always open. There are no office hours to worry about or best times of the day to publish content. Second, it's often evergreen. Sure, some content is seasonal or based around an event, but there are evergreen topics in any industry. Think how-to's and lists.
The thing about inbound is the same as everything else in business - it takes work. If you've learned all you can about your known network, then you're already part of the way there. That information gives you clues as to where potential customers like to consume content and what types of content they enjoy. Your next step is to create, create, create. If you'd like more guidance on this, here's an article all about inbound.
This Is How We Do It
That's why we know thinking about customer acquisition in this manner works. You probably noticed the trend throughout all of these suggestions. The most effective way to find new customers in all three of these channels is to really get to know your current network. You'll know how to best work with your current network, and you'll be able to use that information as you approach both the unknown and inbound.