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New customers are the lifeblood of any business or creative enterprise. We know. What a lot of professionals, business owners and creative entrepreneurs often get confused about is how to find new customers (and keep them for life) in today’s competitive marketplace.

After Shirley (33) spent 12 months and thousands of pounds setting up an e-commerce website, she was disappointed to find that new customers weren’t exactly pouring in shortly after the website went live. “I’d assumed that new customers would find me automatically,” she said, “but in reality I had to spend additional time and resources on repeated and complex business marketing campaigns.”

It doesn’t matter whether you own an e-commerce business, a high street store or a home-run service based business. You need new customers showing up regularly or you’re toast. Maybe you’re a writer, visual artist, speaker or charity founder. Well, the reality is that you still need new customers beating the path to your door for sure. So are you preparing for your first sale or just keen to expand a healthy customer base? The following tips will help you create a surge of new customers who will willingly part with their cash on a regular basis. Hopefully.

Step 1. Create Rules of Engagement:

Rather than embarking on sporadic marketing initiatives, first design the pipeline through which your stream of new customers will flow. Just like romantic relationships comprise of series of socially acceptable sequences, business relationships work best when unforced. Notice that at the start of serious personal relationships there is a lot of giving – ideas are exchanged during conversation as are gifts and treats such as dining out at nice restaurants. People do not normally make big demands at the beginning of such joyous relationships. It’s a patient game. It’s a ritual.

Likewise, think of your potential new customers as imminent life-partners. Ideally, they will be long-term investors in your business and (since we spend the majority of our waking hours working) a big part of your life too. Woo them with high value items that are of low cost to you. For instance, in the realm of courtship, flowers and chocolate won’t break the bank but are perceived by women to be of high value. Similarly, knowledge has a high perceived value in the field of commerce yet won’t put you out of business if freely dispersed. You can offer your potential new customers a free checklist, a valuable PDF report or even a complimentary audio podcast in exchange for their contact details. Aim to impress or they won’t give you their ‘number’. Naturally.

Next, you must plan to offer ever increasing value and access to your new customers at ever increasing prices. Yes, the top of your funnel should comprise of free or cheaper priced products that give prospects a low-risk taste of your expertise but as they progress, invite your new customers to get better attention and results via your mid-range products and services. If they appear to be in it for the long haul, then offer your top-tier delights e.g. weekend workshops, full body massages or 5 course gourmet meals. There is no hard and fast rule to this. However, if you start off offering new customers the best and costliest offers, then prepare to either watch them run away in abject terror or demand the next course in your menu at short notice.

Think about your business or creative enterprise. What’s the plot? How can you create rules and processes to help you engage new customers and keep them for longer – if not for life? The more diverse your offering, the more new customers you’ll get in through the door. Create something for everyone and keep your new customers wanting more.

Step 2. Choose Your Characters:

One of the most fascinating aspects of the work I also do as a novelist, is creating characters who breathe life into my stories. For once in my life, I get to exercise absolute power – envisioning and creating larger than life personalities then deciding who lives and dies. Exciting stuff.

Well, in order to attract new customers who will go the distance and make the ‘courtship process’ worth your while, it’s imperative that you decide once and for all, the kind of people you want to do business with on a regular basis. Do you want new customers who will appreciate the unique value you provide or new customers who will whine and haggle constantly? Do you want to work with males or females, SMEs, Corporates or the Public Sector? Your call.

When new customers start to beat the path to your door, it’s important to assess who they are and what exactly you are doing to attract them. For instance, what age bracket do your top 20% of customers belong to? Are they male or female? City dwellers or suburban residents? What books and magazines do they read? What income group do they belong to? If you are not happy with the type of new customers you are attracting, then you will need to change what you are doing. If you are pleasantly surprised however, you may want to rewrite your wish list of new customers.

Think about your business or creative enterprise. Have you got valuable information about your most valuable new customers to enable you focus your marketing strategies more appropriately and find more of such good quality customers? Could you get your top customers to refer similar family, friends and associates to your business?

Step 3. Stay Sweet:

It’s sad when people stop investing time and effort in their personal relationships. Equally so when business owners become less attentive to their not so new customers. Infact, studies carried out by the Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, proves that 20% of customers (the vital few – rather than the trivial many) are responsible for 80% of business income. Relationships should taste better as they mature with age so don’t put all your focus on increasing the number of new customers. Remember that you can get new custom far more quickly and easily by selling to your existing customer base.

In a nutshell, your sweetness is your strength. No matter how fantastic your products and services are, your not so new customers will not go out of their way to do business with you or refer business to you if they feel unappreciated. As a matter of fact, if you have failed to keep in touch for years, they may long have forgotten that you and your business even exist. It’s a jungle out there and hordes of direct and indirect competitors are out to lure your customers away from you. Stay sweet by maintaining regular communication with your new and not so new customers via email, multi-media and social-media platforms.

It goes without saying that new customers are the lifeblood of any business or creative enterprise. Create your rules of engagement, choose the characters you want to do business with and stay engaged. Not only will you be able to find those valuable new customers, you will also maximise your ability to love and keep them for the lifetime of your enterprise.

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The Editor

Ogo Ogbata is a writer, teacher, innovator and strategist.

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