I’ve always been amused by the Seinfeld episode where Jerry attempts to ‘help’ Babu, the owner of a restaurant near his apartment building, who is not having any luck attracting customers. Despite Jerry’s goodwill, his attempt at helping is, of course, met with disastrous results, and eventually the restaurant is closed and Babu is left penniless. He also inadvertently causes Babu’s deportation in a later episode, which is also quite funny, but I digress.
I have never really had that entrepreneurial spirit, where it’s been attractive to me to own my own business or go out on my own. I respect the heck out of those who have. My uncle ran a successful gift and collectibles store for almost two decades (which also supplied me my first job). Fellow bloggers have quit their job to write and provide blogging services full time.
To them, I say, that’s awesome.
So why have I never taken that leap?
I think the main worry is I would be afraid of putting a bunch of work in, getting everything just right, open the doors, and then have nothing happen. Nobody show up. Nobody browsing whatever it is I’m selling. Nobody telling their friends. Of course all leading to: No Sales.
I’ve always wondered how people get over that initial hump and have come up with a few thoughts on things that business owners likely do to generate those first sales:
- Have contacts in the industry – If you’re already in the industry that you’re entering, you likely have contacts. You often have to tread carefully and not be accused of stealing customers from former employers, but you can often use your existing contacts to build a base.
- Advertise – This requires a lot of up front money, and often money is scarce anyways with associated costs of starting many businesses, but getting the word out can be achieved by targeting your desired customers. One challenge is using the right medium and getting noticed by the right people.
- Paying for customers – OK, you don’t actually pay for customers, but you can pay for leads. A construction company looking to target the commercial sector can use companies dedicated to the process of finding leads that can then be targeted for potential sales.
- Discounting – This can be combined with any of the above methods to lure customers in and give them the opportunity to see what you’re all about. If you prove yourself as worthy, you can often use this to build a long term relationship. The biggest challenge here is retaining customers at a higher price once they’re hooked in. You also have to make sure your discounts don’t put you right out of business, as many deal-of-the-day participants have learned the hard way.
So, I might have answered my own question about how to go about getting customers in, or at least methods which can help attract those first customers. Still, these aren’t surefire ways and you have to make sure to approach each one carefully, making sure to understand your marketplace, your desired customers, and how to make adjustments along the way.
No wonder business owners are so darn busy! That’s a lot to take in.
Have you started your own company? How did you generate your first customers?