Building a Start-Up? Four Ways to Find Customers/Clients

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Laid off, you do a start up. Those are the courage and logistical pieces. Now, what about finding customers/clients?

The answer, hammers Sarah Needleman in The Wall Street Journal, is that there is no one way. You have to try a number of different marketing and sales approaches, do more of what pays off, and keep experimenting. The marketplace keeps changing.

In less volatile times and when buyers were less cautious and tight-fisted with their money, newbies running businesses could attend a seminar or two to discover proven formulas for marketing and sales and they were on their way. Currently, it's more like flying by the seat of your pants.

However, there are some best practices emerging.


1. Leave your comfort zone.

Using the phone may be tough for you. However, research shows that cold calling is effective in sales. That's why you receive so many of those kinds of calls. Other paths out of business as usual for you may be knocking on doors in person, especially if your customer base includes retail chains and small businesses. Reward yourself every time you venture out of what have been safe harbors for you.


2. Answer ads for freelance help.

The compensation might not be great but it is income and experience. And you're not locked in. When you attract the customer/client base you really want, you can phase out the other accounts. Those ads are on Craigslist, Careerbuilder.com, and niche services like eLance for the editorial field.


3. Give a tactic time.

After all, you will have to get out the wrinkles to customize it for your specific business. The trick here is to steer clear of whatever costs more than you can absorb over time, such as taking out expensive ads. Better to explore promotions that only cost you sweat equity. Most of them are digital, ranging from being clever with Twitter to exploiting blogging, podcasting, and YouTubing. Public libraries have tons of books on Web marketing, and the Internet provides even more short articles. Just key in "social media marketing." Along the way you will likely learn new software such as Photoshop.


4. Think pro bono.

Donating your time, product, or service to a cause or causes can build your network, know-how, and a debt the leaders owe you for the assistance. Not all causes can get you out there, though. Choose those that are well run, well funded and high profile. However, there are no sure things. If results aren't happening for your enterprise, find a polite cover story for exiting.

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