Insights from our Small Business Webinar series
Small businesses are feeling the impact of this year’s economic downturn due to COVID-19 perhaps even more severely than other types of businesses.
If there’s any comfort to be had in our current situation, it’s that “small businesses also have an advantage over medium and large businesses: We can turn on a dime,” says author and senior USA Today small-business columnist Steve Strauss. “We’re agile and quick, at least we’re supposed to be. And that helps us a lot.”
On our May 19 Small Business Webinar presentation “Affordable Ways to Find Customers Now,” Strauss talked with host Julie Hyman, highlighting easy, affordable ways to find new customers even in these challenging times.
Think about your value proposition.
Strauss recommends getting started by thinking about your value proposition. “The first question you have to answer is why should someone hire you,” he adds. “Ask yourself how can you help customers, how can you solve a problem they have and how do you save them time or money. You have to answer these questions if you want to find new customers and clients.”
Find customers or help them find you.
There are two ways to get new customers, Strauss says, either you find them or they find you. “Finding customers is great because it’s quick, immediate and allows you to do proactive work to get customers now. Also, the long-term play is this: COVID-19 isn’t going to last forever, and if you prepare yourself now, that is really kind of great. As Warren Buffet once said, you buy when everyone else is selling and sell when everyone else is buying.”
He recommends three different tactics for finding customers, which include
Prospect. Research which companies have the budget to hire you and which titles you should consider targeting, then go after them with a great pitch and proposal
Look for companies with social diversity programs. These are proactive business programs that encourage use of minority-, women-, LGBT- or veteran-owned suppliers. “If you fall into one of the categories, and can get certified,” says Strauss. “You can apply for one of these diversity programs and you’ll find customers that way. There are billions of dollars available that way”
Use social media. Connect with LinkedIn®, Twitter®, Facebook® or Instagram® to get your name out there. Struss suggests that you find people in your industry who are tweeting, such as those contributing to conversations using the hashtag #smallbiz. “You never know who you might meet and form new relationships with. I know people who have completely changed their careers, and make a whole lot more money than they used to by becoming influencers”
Next, says Strauss, is thinking about where customers find you. That’s through building your brand and advertising. Letting people come find you means they really want to work with you.
He recommends four basic methods to get clients and customers to find you. You can become a thought leader, use advertising, develop your SEO strategy and use content marketing.
“When you become a thought leader in your industry, people will want to work with you because you’ve made a name for yourself. Being a thought leader is a long-term play: It won’t help you next week, but it can help you next year to make more money.”
Thought leadership activities include speaking at events, getting on podcasts, pitching a story to a PR company or writer to give them a clever way to write about you and other similar efforts. “If you can write blogs or articles and have a website, it’s hugely valuable,” says Strauss.
Next, advertising is like switching on a porch light to let people know you’re out there. “Advertising right now is cheaper than it was even a month ago,” he adds. “Doing a pay-per-click ad right now isn’t that expensive. Someone who clicks on your ad is a qualified lead.”
Search engine optimization (SEO) is also important, says Strauss. “With SEO optimization, you create specific pages and content for keywords and phrases that will help you get attention from search engines and rank higher.”
Finally, with content marketing, you commit to creating, publishing and sharing great content. “People are online and clicking right now. And if you can get your content out there and get it ranked high, people are going to find it and come find you.”
Find out the bonus tips that Strauss shared on five places you can sell your goods and services that can make a difference. Access the playback of the webinar and additional handouts in the Verizon Small Business Webinar Series.