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The ability to attract new customers is always a top priority for every type of business.

Attracting new customers is always a top priority for every type of business. Although customer retention and increasing sales from those existing customers are also critical — to achieve growth goals and to compensate for customer turnover — the ability to attract new customers is essential. Different business development options exist, depending on the type of small business you have and the type of customers you want to attract.

Form Strategic Alliances

A strategic alliance is a partnership or collaborative agreement between your company and another. This alliance is based on shared goals and can be between two small firms or a large company and a small business. The focus is on the complementary strengths you can provide each other. A strategic alliance can provide you with access to a broader set of customers and cross-marketing opportunities, make you more valuable to prospects and enable you to price your products and services at a more competitive rate.

For example, a marketing agency that develops a strategic alliance with a web development firm can provide marketing services to the web development firm's clients and vice versa. For larger customers, they can combine their offerings for a full suite of services, increasing value and even attractiveness.

Establish Partnerships

Partnerships tend to be less formal than strategic alliances, but they can still provide significant marketing benefits. For example, that same marketing agency could partner with an association in a target industry to provide basic marketing services to its members for a set fee or as part of the membership package. In exchange, the marketing agency would gain exposure to the entire membership base and be viewed as a preferred provider — enhancing its credibility.

Utilize SEO

Is your firm the go-to in your area or region for the products or services it provides? If not, why? This is where SEO can truly help you stand out. Many people utilize Google and other search engines to find what they are looking for. These individuals will use certain keywords along with a city, county or state to perform their search. After they find a list of companies, people will often delve deeper — checking out the website, viewing rating sites or even searching social media depending on whether the firm is B2C or B2B. You can capitalize on this by devoting some of your marketing funds to SEO and search placement and working with existing or past customers to obtain more ratings or comments. In addition, make sure your website is easy to navigate and current, as this is often the first place people look. If you're an online entity, SEO is a crucial tool.

Leverage Social Media

Another way for small businesses to attract new customers is to leverage social media. For B2B firms, LinkedIn is typically the best place to find and connect with potential customers. After meeting potential customers at various networking events, business owners and their staff can connect to those individuals on LinkedIn. Thus, any company updates, blog posts or other information shared on LinkedIn will automatically go to those prospects. You can also identify and participate in associations and groups, which will increase your reach. For B2C companies, Facebook can be used in a similar manner. In addition, you can purchase ads to extend your reach and increase your exposure. Brick and mortar firms can successfully market via social media, but it is often a core customer recruitment for online businesses.

Know Your Customer

Reach out to all of your existing customers and ask them why they do business with you. Are they aware of all of the products and services you offer? Talk to your former customers and ask them why they left. When a prospective customer contacts you, always ask them how they heard about you. Doing all of this will provide you with a wealth of information regarding why your business attracts and retains (or not) its customers, what you can do to improve and where to focus your energy. You need to direct your marketing efforts to those channels that produce the customers and promote those aspects of your business that make you stand out relative to your competition.

There are many ways to attract new customers to your business. Identify and focus on those that work well for your business type. For online companies, SEO and social media are two of the best ways to do this. However, all of the suggestions above will work for both brick and mortar as well as online firms. As a small business, you typically have limited resources, but using the suggestions above will ensure that you appropriately leverage those resources to maximize your revenues.

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