20/01/2016 04:16 GMT | Updated 19/01/2017 05:12 GMT

How to Win Your First Customers

There are two challenges that every new business faces - firstly, they don't have a track record and, secondly, they are unknown. The good news is that every business that is currently successful faced the same challenges when they started out and there are proven strategies for overcoming them.

The way to tackle the lack of a track record challenge is to establish credibility. Prospective customers will be understandably wary about doing business with you. You need to appear reliable and trustworthy in their eyes and there are a few ways you can do that.

  • When you talk to prospects and they want to know how many customers you have or how much experience you possess, don't lie. Instead highlight the positives that come from being a start-up. For example, you can be flexible and 100% committed to them. Mention your personal level of experience in business and in your industry.
  • Another way is to cultivate your image so that you are perceived as an expert in your field. Your aim is to be regarded as a knowledgeable resource because are reassured when they think they are buying from an expert. 10 or 20 years ago you would have had to write a book in order to be perceived as a guru but these days you can do it quickly and easily by using social media, blogging or writing a White Paper and distributing it via email or as a download.

Challenge number two is to effectively get word out there about your business. Your most probable source of new customers is your existing network of contacts. They themselves may become customers but it's the people that they know who should be of most interest to you. So call or meet everyone on your contact list and ask them if there is anyone that they could introduce you to.

Your second job is to get your message out there. Fortunately, these days there are numerous inexpensive ways of generating leads. Here are a few ideas.

  • PR is about using traditional forms of media such as print newspapers and magazines to get publicity.
  • Guerrilla marketing is an unconventional approach where imaginative and attention-grabbing ways are used to get exposure. Tactics include placing adverts in unusual places and doing publicity stunts such as flash mobs.
  • Search marketing remains effective and the approach includes search engine optimisation and running online advertisements on websites such as Google, Bing, Facebook and other social media platforms.
  • Content marketing is where you create your own blog or seek to become a guest writer on popular existing blogs in order to showcase your knowledge.
  • Offline opportunities to promote your new business include speaking engagements, tradeshows and industry conferences.

The key is to get into action. New business won't just magically come to you. Continually look for ways to boost your credibility and test, test and test to see which distribution channels could work best for you.