How to Attract Local Customers to Your Small Business

Local Customers : As a freelancer in 2015, you can easily have clients from the other side of the world (something unthinkable a generation ago).  But sometimes, that leads us to forget a simple truth: the best customers can be in your backyard.

Well, not literally in your backyard (that would be weird).  But you can find great clients for just about any type of freelance business in your city or region.  As a neighbour you have more opportunities to win business and develop long-term relationships through in-person meetings.  These local customers can be the backbone of your business.

But where do you find them?  Much of today’s advertising talks about social networks, search engine optimization, online advertising, blogging and other Internet-based solutions.

So, in this tutorial, we will go old school and look at some tried and tested techniques for finding clients in your local area.  We’ll talk about writing local posts, local advertising, exploiting your social networks and more.

Social Media -Local Customers

Social Networks” now means Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, among others, but often the most powerful social networks are those in your own life, in your local area.

So the primary and easiest way to find local customers is simply by casually talking about yourself.  Chat with other dads at the school gate or with your neighbours at a local restaurant.  Let your friends know that you are a freelancer; ask them if they know someone who needs a job done.  Even if they aren’t directly, showing up at local events will connect to what you do.

You may feel painful “selling” manually to your friends, but if you keep it casual and informal and don’t push them, you’ll find that most people will be happy to help you by either hiring you or referring you to a potential client.  There is nothing that most people like more than being able to help a friend.

Focus and Approach Local Customers

Friends are good, but companies tend to have more money.  So when will do blasting your social media, you’ll need to reach out to some local businesses.

First, identify the type of business you want to work for.  Most freelancers can focus on a wide range of different kinds of companies.  From a local veterinarian to a specialized manufacturing firm, everyone could need independent services such as a website, photos, videos, software development, graphic design, written content, and more.

Thus, you can cast a wide net in terms of business type, but pay attention to things like the size of the business, its profile, how it will market, etc.  Think about the services you can offer: if they already have a website, how could you improve it?  How could you improve their design if you already saw their advertising brochures?  Also, make sure the business is doing well, so they are more likely to invest in your services.

You can start looking for companies in many ways, from an Internet search to online directories or traditional paper directories.

Since we’re going old school, why not visit your local library?  They often have lists of local businesses and may have more information available than you can get through online resources.

Once you’ve found a few companies that are right for you, please identify the person within the company who is responsible for hiring someone like you, and contact them.  You can do it informally through personal contact, or if you want to have a more formal approach, here are some tips on how to write a good sales pitch.

Advertise In Local Directories

Remember the process you used in a previous step to find your local businesses?  Your potential local customers are doing what you are doing to see you (or your competitors).

Do you advertise in all those local directories?  If you don’t, you should submit your information to as many directories as possible.  Here is the list of 50 local business directories for you to check out.  Start with the most significant search engines like Google My Business and Yahoo Local.

Advertise Locally

If you’re like me, you’re probably afraid of the word publicity.  It sounds luxurious, and you don’t want to give up your hard-earned money so quickly for something that might not even work.  But do not worry.  We’re not talking about a full-page colour ad in the New York Times.  You can advertise your services in several simple and inexpensive ways.

Of course, the techniques you use to make yourself known may vary, depending on the businesses and opportunities in your community.  You can decide to sponsor a local event or offer a special discount to a local business in exchange for some promotion.  You can print a very creative poster and buy a cheap advertising place to put it at the local station or bus stop.  The possibilities are endless, so get creative!  After all, as a freelancer, that’s what you’re good at.

Give Away Your Services – Local Customers

It may seem like a strange tip in a tutorial that talks about winning local customers.  After all, the point is that they should be paying local customers.  In a way, yes, but giving away your services for the right local reason can be a huge move.

Firstly, if it’s a reason you believe in, it’s just a great thing to do.  You can make a positive contribution to your local community with relatively little time investment.  If you’re web fashionable, you could donate your time to building an excellent website for your local food bank, helping them attract more donations and continue their essential work.  You can create a free promo video for your favourite local charity if you’re a video producer.

Work As A Team

There is a phenomenon of nature called symbiosis.  Different species help each other; for example, the buffalo bird travels with larger animals such as rhinoceroses eating ticks on their bodies.  The rhino gets rid of pesky ticks, and the bird gets a free meal.  It’s a win-win situation

See if there are other freelancers or companies in your area with whom you could have a symbiotic relationship.  For example, maybe a web design business in your city is very good at producing creative designs but needs help with the type of complex code you specialize in.  You could offer to partner with them to get rid of the tedious coding hassle, and you would have free local customers.

To Take Into Account –  Local Customers

If you follow some of these steps, you should be able to find many clients in your area.  However, once you’ve gained some local customers, make sure you handle them properly.  They might call you while you’re in the middle of another task. Show up unannounced at your workplace, or expect you to go to lots of meetings for which you won’t get paid.

However, you can easily handle this situation: make sure you make the rules clear from the start.  For example, you can specify when you will be available to local customers and when not.  Instead of giving out your home or personal cell phone number, you can have a particular phone for work turn off when you are no longer available.  Instead of your home, you can use an office or PO box as your shipping address.  You can meet with your clients in their offices or “neutral” places.  The details are up to you, but make sure you set the necessary limits to be available to the client when needed and protect your work and personal life from unnecessary distractions.

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