While the adage "if you build it, they will come" may apply in the business world most commonly in the cases of big stores with highly visible signage, big advertising budgets, and the kind of reserve funds to allow them to operate at a deficit for a few months, small home businesses usually do not have that luxury.
Instead, always keenly aware of the shrinking bottom line, the small business entrepreneur needs to locate customers almost from the beginning of the business itself, yet while doing so come across as professional and most certainly not desperate. At the same time, you will need to avoid alienating your friends and family, and if you have ever been in the clutches of someone selling Amway, you know exactly what that means!
So how does the savvy home business owner locate customers?
1. At the very beginning, concentrate on those with whom you have a good relationship and who will be supportive of your home business. For example, if you are in the business of baking and selling gourmet doggie biscuits, ask your friendly dog-owning next door neighbor if she would like to buy a little bag. Sell her the bag at a deep discount and see what she says. If she likes it, see if she will help you hand out samples at the local dog park.
2. Once your immediate neighbor pool is exhausted, move on to family and friends. Dog owners like to treat their dogs to little treats, and if they are healthy and the pets love them, they will be more than happy to spread the word. As you sell your wares at a deep discount, offer little sample bags for them to give away to other dog owners. Before long, you should be getting orders from friends of friends or family members. Always remember who your first customers were and treat them to special bargains!
3. Next, move on to groups of folks you may not know personally, but who might be known to your professional contacts. Dogs go to vets, and your vet may be willing to have you see doggie biscuits on consignment in return for a donation to her or his favorite animal charity. Conversely, you could include a sponsorship blurb on your print ads accompanying your orders that recommend the vet's office to other dog lovers. You dog's groomer is another such contact.
4. Next contact pet stores in your area and see if they will sell consignment products. If you run into problems, try small stores with which you have an established business relationship. Remember that as a small business you do not need global advertising to get started but can simply work within your immediate sphere of influence!
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