How do I get more customers to grow my business?

Your question

I launched an interior design service just under a year ago and I have had some success, mainly from friends and family. I’m starting to worry about how I can get more clients once I have exhausted my friends, family and their networks! There doesn’t seem to be a particular ‘type’ who I can focus my marketing efforts on.

Our answer

Congratulations on launching your business and getting your first clients! Getting your first few customers can be the hardest part of starting up on your own. It is great that you are planning ahead and thinking about where your next projects will come from.

Here are some tips to help you continue to grow your business.

1) Use referral networks

It sounds as if you are already using referral networks ie your friends and family, plus their friends and contacts as a source of business. Maybe this has come about naturally, but it is also worth thinking about how you can encourage this referral behaviour to continue.

Don’t be shy – ask your friends and past clients to pass on your details to their contacts and make it easy for them to do so. Get some business cards printed that they can pass on, and ask them to share your profile on social media.  You’ll find that most people will be happy to help you grow your business, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Ask past customers to leave a review or recommendation for you online as this is an incredibly powerful endorsement of your services which future clients will pay attention to. Google Business listings and Facebook are the most popular for small businesses.

2) Encourage repeat business

If your service is a one-off then you will always be looking for new customers which will be both time consuming and costly. Is there a service that you can offer past clients?

Get in touch with people you have worked for in the past and offer to design another room for them, or ask them what their latest project is.

If you haven’t already done so, start collecting their email addresses and connect with them on social media, so that you can easily communicate with them in the future. Take a minute to read our article on email marketing to ensure you stay within the law. (link to August Email article)

3) Create customer profiles

You say that your past clients have not all been the same type of person. Can you group them in some way that allows you to create several buyer profiles?

For instance, do they live within a certain distance of you, are they all home owners? Can you group them by need – people who are trying to sell a property, people whose teenager has just left home and they are renovating that bedroom, for instance. There’s a list of different criteria that you can use for this on the Refresh Marketing website.

It is fine to end up with a few different customer types which will then help you get more customers in the future, just don’t create too many or it will become unmanageable.

4) Use your target profiles to generate more business

Prioritise your marketing activity based on the customer types you think are the most likely to buy your services. There is no point in trying to win business that might take months to convert if you have ready customers practically on your doorstep.

Gear your marketing activity around your customer types, both in the language and imagery you use as well as which channels you choose to promote your business in.

Focus your messaging on solving a problem that they have, such as the need to refresh the décor in a house they are selling. That way you will speak to their problem and they are more likely to be interested in your services.

The messages, images and channels could be different for each of your customer types.

5) Be found online

It’s important for all businesses to have some form of online presence, so that anyone hunting for your services will be able to find you. This is particularly true if you are looking for clients that don’t already know you.

At bare minimum create one or more social media profiles which contain details about your services and your contact details. Better still create your own website, which is much simpler than you think.

6) Plan your marketing activity

Make a note of all the marketing activity you are planning to do – it will act as a reference for you to come back to and ensure that you are committed to making it happen.

There are lots of template marketing plans available online, including one that I prepared for small start-up businesses (you can download it here).

Make a diary note to review your marketing plan and activity every month so that you stay on top of it, and that way you should be able to get a steady flow of new clients every month, even after you have exhausted all of your friends!

Answered by our marketing agony aunt Roisin Kirby from Refresh Marketing. Let her know of any marketing questions you need help with by joining her on Facebook.