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How to Find Your First Customers

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You know what you want to sell.

You’ve set up the basics. You’ve written your business plan. You have your business name, business cards and maybe flyers. You’ve set up a personal bank account dedicated for business income and expenses. What you need now is customers.

Here’s how to find them.

9 Steps to Your First Customers

  1. Make sure everyone you know, knows about your business. Talk about your business with friends and family. Show them your flyer or business card. You don’t have to give them one if you don’t think they’ll use it but, by showing it to them, it’s clear that your business is real. You are taking solid steps forward. It will encourage them to refer people to you.
  2. Distribute flyers door-to-door. Again and again, this comes up as one of the most effective ways to promote a personal service business like cleaning, painting, snow removal and more. But, you can’t just distribute flyers anywhere. Be selective. Make sure that you drop them in neighbourhoods that are good prospects for your business and not too far from home that you spend a lot of time traveling.
  3. Post flyers publicly. Look for places where you can post your services. Toronto has some public notice boards that can be used. Staple them on light posts in your target neighbourhoods. This can be done in addition to door-to-door distribution as people are more responsive to ads that they see more than once.
  4. Widen your circle, enrich your life. Given that you don’t have a full roster of clients, you likely have time to volunteer or join groups, expand your circle and possibly meet prospects for your business. By joining, you will enjoy more social and/or meaningful time. You might want to: volunteer at a hospital, join a book club at the library, take up a game at a community centre, volunteer at an amateur theatre, or join church groups.
  5. Network with other entrepreneurs. The place to start is at our Hub. A person who has a cleaner may also want a gardener. Someone who has their braids done may want a declutterer. A translation client may be looking for a painter. It’s important to watch for opportunities for each other and refer your fellow entrepreneurs. Also, look beyond this group. You may have other friends or acquaintances with small businesses. Let them know about yours.
  6. Use social media as your website. It’s nice to have a website but it is not essential. You can use a Facebook page, your Instagram account, LinkedIn profile or any other appropriate platform to showcase your skills, knowledge and services. Keep your social media alive with regular updates of tips, advice, as well as photos of your service. Support each others’ social channels.
  7. Keep all your contacts on a spreadsheet. Stay organized with your customers, prospective customers, and networking contacts on a Google spreadsheet. If possible, each record should include their name, email, phone number, physical address, date you added them, date of the last time you contacted them, and notes on the type of work they want done or, if they are a network contact, the type of work they do. Notes can also include personal information like their dog’s name or their birthday. Keep all contacts organized so that you don’t miss opportunities.
  8. Keep a calendar for follow-ups. You will meet potential customers who are not ready to buy or, perhaps you have customers who have bought and could buy again down the road. Using Google Calendar and add follow-up tasks on appropriate dates to keep on top of future business. Follow up with your customers in a timely manner and add any important information to your contacts spreadsheet.
  9. Stay in touch with valuable information. No matter how small your list of customers and prospects is, stay in touch. This will help make you top of mind when they are ready to buy. You can send simple emails that they will appreciate. For example, in the spring and fall, you could send a simple reminder to change the batteries in their smoke detectors. At any time, you could send a cleaning tip such as how to clean grout. Doing this demonstrates your knowledge and shows that you care about your clients.

Do all of the above to find new customers. Keep your first customers happy and they will likely send you referrals. These are the fundamental steps to your own successful business.