We are going to cover 10 different strategies you can use to get customers for your business. For each one I will give some tips on where to start and show real life examples from my businesses. They work and can be used by everyone, whether you have a coffee shop, a blog or a huge multinational corporation.

Different techniques work better for different sized businesses. So my approach is to try every single one and when it has become clear which one is best I will focus on that. At some point the business will grow beyond it being worthwhile and I’ll move on to another form of marketing to get customers.

Public Relations

Get other people to create content about your business

PR is my favourite way to get customers because it costs nothing and has the potential for a huge impact.

Getting good stuff written about your business by an unbiased journalist will work much better to get customers than something you have written about yourself. Plus you are also being promoted to audiences you might never have been able to get in front of.

From the traditional press to modern content creators such as Instagram celebrities or bloggers, they all have dedicated redearships you can target to get customers for your business.

The difficult part though is being interesting enough for other people to create content about you.

You can take a traditional route of sending out press releases or building relationships with journalists. Or you can do PR stunts. Something outrageous that will get enough buzz people will have to write about you. Brewdog and Cards Against Humanity are two companies that are masters of the PR stunt. From buying and rebranding a baseball team, to making the worlds strongest beer sold in taxidermied rodents.

The term “no such thing as bad press” also comes to mind. It is often easier to get press attention from doing something that offends people, than from doing something impressive. In the last few years, we have seen some brands get a huge amount of success from a majority of the negative press. This article reckons that 91% of Donald Trump press coverage was negative, yet it worked and he managed to win the biggest popularity contest on the planet.

How I Have Used It In My Businesses To Get Customers

I must admit that I haven’t taken the route of being offensive or doing spectacular pr stunts in order the get customers. But I do use some traditional PR where we build relationships with press and bloggers and send them regular press releases.

The tactic I use is to find anything the least bit interesting about my business, write a release and send it out to a wide net of press and bloggers. The hit rate is quite low, but the quantity makes up for it.

What is there interesting and relevant about your business? Well, there could be loads: new business/product just launched, nominated,/shortlisted/won an award, record breaking month/quarter/year, great event happening/happened, etc.

The trick with press releases is to create the outline of the article for them. Including providing appropriate photos and quotes. I want it to be as easy as possible for them to churn out an article. And hopefully I’ll catch them close to a publication deadline or on a slow news day.

Content Marketing

Create content about your business

Although it doesn’t have the kudos or audience reach of PR, creating your own content does have the advantage of leaving you with complete control. And if you create something spectacular it could lead to other people writing about it or even it going viral.

Creating good free content can also work to build a sense of perceived expertise in your business. For instance, if you are a consultant and you write a detailed report of exactly what you did to help your last customer. A new customer considering your business might be impressed and swayed to choose you over a competitor.

The hard part about content marketing is getting anyone to view it in the first place. So it is probably best combined with some community building or search engine optimisation. Two techniques to get customers I talk about further down.

How I Have Used It In My Businesses To Get Customers

In some respects, this whole blog is content marketing. I am providing 100% free content that I hope will be useful and will help my businesses get more customers.

But perhaps my best most successful example is this video below:

The video went viral and now has more than 10 million views. Plus it led to a lot of PR and articles written about us. That video may seem a bit random, but it just so happens that we also have a business selling table tennis bats and all that publicity helped us get customers.

Post: This Is How Much We Made From Our Viral YouTube Video

Community Building

Build a loyal fan base

Developing a fan base who you can both sell to, and who can also spread the word about your business is a great move.

A community can be something as simple as an Instagram following or an email list. Or as complex as the fanatical fan bases that brands like Apple and Supreme have.

Community building is a long-term endeavour and don’t expect to get customers immediately. But you will be thankful for it years down the line when you have those true fans.

How I Have Used It In My Businesses To Get Customers

The most obvious form of community building is the effort we are currently putting in to building our Pipehouse Gin Instagram:

It is still quite a small following, but is steadily growing and is very targetted.

A slightly lesser version of community building is this blog as a whole. Yes the blog is a business in its own respect and is content marketing. But it does also have a regular readership who keep coming back. When I launch a new product or business they will be the first to hear about it.

The amount of offers of help or investment and general orders from this readers of this blog is awesome.

Events

Throw or attend events

Whether that is going to a networking event. Inviting important potential clients to something you’re throwing. Or even speaking at prestigious conferences to help raise your profile. Events can be great marketing and help you get customers.

How I Have Used It In My Businesses To Get Customers

Markets have been great for Pipehouse Gin. Not only do they make money in their own right. But they also get our product in the public eye. For every person who buys a bottle, another 20 will taste it. And then they might go off and purchase it later in a bar.

Here is an email from one bar that was hesitant in ordering until they started getting requests from customers who had seen us at a local event.

Those people probably tasted our gin and had a chat with us at the market. Remembered it and then went away and told other people about it.

Business Development

Form partnerships with other businesses that benefit all of you

Business development is used in lots of different ways and is sometimes used to just mean sales. But that is not how I mean it. By business development, I mean forming partnerships with other businesses that benefit both of you and help you both get customers.

How I Have Used It In My Businesses To Get Customers

An example is guest posts on this blog. For instance this popular post from Patrick Ryan of Ishka Vodka: How To Start A Vodka Brand On A Shoestring Budget. I am getting good quality free content for my blog. Patrick is getting his brand in front of my readers and links to his websites.

Another example is something we are currently doing with Pipehouse Gin. We will send our photographer round to different bars that stock us to take professional photos. It gives us more content to share. It gives the bar high-quality pictures they can use for their marketing and gets their customers ordering our gin. Remember the bar doesn’t mind which gin their customer orders, so it might as well be ours!

And finally, an example I am working on this very moment. With Pipehouse Gin we are looking for an up-and-coming tonic brand we can partner with. They will recommend our gin as the perfect accompaniment to their tonic and we will recommend their tonic as the perfect accompaniment to our gin. When taking out adverts or hire stalls at events, we can split the costs and promote both our products simultaneously. And we can cross-promote to each others communities.

Direct Sales

Sell to customers one on one

Direct sales is when you or someone who works for you goes and tries to sell directly to a potential customer. And although it is dying out slightly due to the growth in some of the other techniques, direct sales should still have a place in your business.

Obiously if you have a very high priced item then direct sales make a lot of sense. There is a reason why the best-paid lawyers spend so much time golfing while their associates do all the work. Their value is not in the work they can do, but in the relationships they have and the direct sales they can generate.

But it does also have a place with smaller businesses, especially if you are just starting out and want to get those initial customers. Yes your cost per customer is quite high. But as a new business with you doing all the work it won’t cost you anything but your time.

How I Have Used It In My Businesses To Get Customers

The most obvious example with Pipehouse Gin is going around and introducing ourselves to different bars. Even though we are only selling one or two bottles at a time. We are hoping for repeat sales and to build the presence and kudos of our brand.

But perhaps a less obvious example would be when we started our coffee shop, The Wren. Noone knew it was there and we needed a way to get customers. So we spent a while flyering and handing out leaflets on nearby streets. Once again it wasn’t worth it for the £2.5 sale we might get. But to raise awareness and help build a regular customer base it was.

I remember once I had the terrible idea of selling bacon sandwiches on the street outside the coffee shop in the middle of winter. It was freezing and we had no way to keep the bacon warm. Disaster all round. Except it wasn’t. We ended up having a few people who could see us from their offices and came over to have a chat. Those personal relationships then led to those people becoming regulars. Which led to them introducing a lot of their coworkers to us.

Search Engine Optimisation

Get your business appearing high on search engines

And by search engines, yes I am talkling about Google but I am also talking about other websites with search functions. For instance Amazon, eBay, or Yelp. Any search tool that will help you get customers.

Each search engine will have different criteria it uses to determine what it shows first. For instance Google uses a mixture of how users interact with your page and also how many other sites are linking to you. Whereas Amazon uses reviews, sales velocity and keyword relevance.

How I Have Used It In My Businesses To Get Customers

This blog gets 90% of its traffic from search engines, and I have gone into how exactly I got that traffic on this post. So let’s leave that for now.

Another example is my table tennis business Palio by Expert Table Tennis. It is a very successful brand that gets most of its sales from Amazon. And most of that is because it ranks highly when people search for table tennis bat on Amazon.

One key thing we are trying to do with Pipehouse Gin at the moment is encouraging bloggers and other alcohol-related websites to link to us. At the same time, we are planning on adding more keyword targetted content to the site by way of a blog. Combined they will increase our search engine rankings and help us get customers.

Commission or Affiliate Marketing

Get other people to find you customers in exchange for a commision

The beauty of commission based marketing is that you only pay out when someone generates a sales for you. And as such has a lot of potentials to be my favourite way to get customers.

It works best when you are selling a high margin item that you can give out a large commission on. Such as a piece of downloadable software or a subscription website. Obviously, the more money the referrer can earn the more incentivised they are.

It can also be used for physical products, but won’t be as effective as the commissions are lower. An example of this is ‘brand ambassadors’ on Instagram. These influencers will probably get a few items for free from the brand and then get a commission on every sale they generate. They track this through discount codes. So next time you see someone on Instagram offering a discount code you now know what they are doing! Every sale that uses that discount code will pay them a small fee.

How I Have Used It In My Businesses To Get Customers

Unfortunately I don’t have any really high ticket items with good margins that I can offer deals on. But if I were to start consulting more seriously, or launch some sort of paid video course. Then you can be sure that getting affiliates or people to promote me would be my first choice.

One thing we do have is an ambassador program for our high-end table tennis brand Eastfield where people can earn a 10% commission. It is easy for them to sign up and they can track it online. We hope that it will encourage people to promote our brand on their social media because they can earn a bit of money from it.

how to get customers for your business

I am also on the other end of this relationship and make good money from ccommission-based referrals. It is how this blog makes money. There is no advertising on here and I don’t sell anything. But when I do mention a product I try and negotiate a commission deal which the company to get a share of the sales my recommendation generates.

General Paid Advertising

Buying advert space. Either physical places like billboards or online

One of the biggest misconceptions with paid advertising is that people expect to get an immediate return on their investment. For instance, if they spend £100 on a newspaper advert they are hoping to get sales that lead to a gross profit of at least £100. And are therefore often disappointed.

It is very hard to make a direct profit from paid advertising and also very difficult to track what sort of return they are getting. Why is it so difficult? Because it is not trusted by customers and the other people who are bidding on the same advertising space are not looking to make a direct profit.

Instead, you need other reasons to do it. I work off the idea that in order for someone to remember your brand they need to see it 7 times. And paid advertising can work quite well for that. It helps you to slip into your consumers subconscious so they start to recognise the brand. And then we hit them with another form of marketing they are more likely to buy from.

How I Have Used It In My Businesses To Get Customers

This has been particularly true for Pipehouse Gin. We have targetted quite a small area with our marketing, the town of Tunbridge Wells. And there it is worth us spending a little bit of money to try and get our appearances up to at least 7.

So paid advertising works well for us when combined with doing events, being sold in local bars, having articles written about us in newspapers etc.

Pay Per Click Advertising

Paying for every click that takes someone through to your sales page

Pay-per-click advertising is how a lot of the major websites make their money. You can pay to appear higher on Google. You can pay to appear in people’s Facebook newsfeeds. And you can pay to show up on LinkedIn.

The really nice thing about the internet and why I have split PPC advertising from general advertising is that it is straightforward to track exactly what the click you have paid for does. So you can work backwards and work out exactly how much a click is worth for you and how much you are paying for each new customer.

PPC can take a lot of time and effort to get right, but when it works, it works beautifully.

How I Have Used It In My Businesses To Get Customers

Below is a screenshot from one of my Amazon accounts.

We have spent £12,532 on advertising and generated £43,254 in sales. So as long as our margin is above 30% (which it is) we are making money. A Pay-Per-Click money machine. Advertising spend goes in and sales and profit comes out.

But the thing is that even if we broke even or lost a bit of money on this pay-per-click campaign I would still do it. Remember what we were saying about search engine optimisation? Well, sales is one of the factors that Amazon uses to determine how high you appear on searches. So every extra sale we get from advertising leads to better SEO and hopefully more sales.

You can also check out this post where I talk about how we use pay-per-click for our table tennis bats in Germany to get cusomers.

Further Reading

This post is a companion to episode 5 of the Lazy Entrepreneur podcast on the same subject of how to get customers for your business.