Monday, June 22, 2009

Doing Business Locally

There is nothing more important to a startup than customers. They are the lifeblood of a business; providing much needed cash, credibility and hope. Your first customers are always the most difficult to land. You are not a known entity. You don't have the money for any advertising. And you don't have a sales history with any customers yet. So, what to do? Go local I say.

Even if your product can be sold over the Internet, it is usually best to find customers physically close to you. Why? Because you can meet them in person. Without a history to fall back on, you must build a rapport with your prospects. They have to learn to trust you and believe that you will take care of them This is critical to closing your first sales.

How do you find these first prospects? Your best bet is always a warm referral. I can't teach you to be a great networker, but I can tell you that being humble and asking lots of questions will get you a long way. People want to help you.

Unless you just got off a spaceship from Mars, you surely know a number people. Think outside the box. Talk to people in your neighborhood. At church. In your class from school (maybe Facebook will come in handy some day?). Don't forget your lawyer or accountant. As long as you are specific with what you're looking for, a referral is an easy thing to get. You're not asking for money or even any work on their part, just a name and maybe an email on your behalf. And it is going to take time and be painful at times. Remember, a startup is hard work. For some, this can be quite uncomfortable, especially if you're not used to socializing. But landing your first customers is never something you can outsource. Only YOU can close the first sales. Just get out there, never give up and believe the payoff will happen.

As a final note, you must know what is going on in your community. If you're in Atlanta, you must invest in a subscription to the Atlanta Business Chronicle and try to read the AJC every Sunday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Righteous post, Paul!

The ABC... while I can't disagree, I just can't have piles of paper laying around. I'll wait a few months till I can get a Kindle, and then get a subscription that way.