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How to get more customers and find new suppliers

The people you once relied on to support your business may no longer be there. Learn how to get new customers and find alternate suppliers.

Updated June 8, 2020
5 min. read

In order to sustain your cash flow, you need a steady supply of inventory to sell and customers to buy from you. If you sell a service, you likely rely on key vendors to support your business offering.

During a crisis or recession, you may find that your current customers stop or reduce buying and key suppliers are no longer able to support your needs. It’s essential to maintain cash flow and to continuously attract new customers – as well as find alternate suppliers in case existing vendors stop selling to you.

The goal is to keep generating revenue and reduce interruption to your cash flow.

Keep your small business moving forward with these tips to get more customers and find new suppliers.

How to get more customers

Finding more customers isn’t always easy but it can be done. You may need to change the way you market and promote your business.

1. Focus on online marketing

Start by researching and investing in online tools to help power your business.

You may need to set up an eCommerce store (such as Shopify), invest in marketing automation software (such as HubSpot) and enable online payments (Moneris). The goal is to streamline your customer experience and make it really easy to buy your products or services online.

Next, optimize your website and social media presence. These platforms are your new ‘storefront’ where buyers come to check you out and will form first impressions. Everything should be engineered to guide prospects to a sale.

It doesn’t take a lot to upgrade your online presence. You can:

  • Refresh website and social media page copy and images with compelling copy and attractive photos

  • Add your products or services on these platforms

  • Drive all user actions to a clear call-to-action – such as a ‘Buy Now’ button

  • Create content to attract new customers to download in exchange for their email addresses, and then add them into your email marketing campaign

  • Offer online demos of your product or service

  • For product sellers, arrange delivery. You can hire a local delivery service, or if you buy products from a manufacturer, you can drop-ship direct to your customer

  • For service providers, let customers order your service or book an appointment right on your website

  • Set a schedule to post fresh and valuable content on your social media pages – for example, you could write a weekly blog for your website and share it out across channels

  • Do a live event on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter

“Your customers and vendors may be experiencing their own challenges right now.”

2. Change what you sell – and who you sell to

New customers may not be interested in your current offer. You can find additional customers by offering interesting new products, services or benefits. That way customers will enjoy more options and are more likely to spend their money with your business.

  • Partner with a complementary business to offer something new

  • Come up with an add-on product or service (think warranty, service plan, private instruction)

  • Ask your suppliers about new and exciting options you can carry

  • Target a different customer base

  • Market in a nearby city or town

  • License your intellectual property

  • Add the safety and convenience of a delivery service or curbside pick-up

  • Sell a digital gift card right on your website

Also think about who else might buy what you sell; if you sell to consumers, consider selling to businesses. If you sell to businesses, look into the potential for expanding into the consumer market.

3. Team up with other small business owners

Just like you, other business owners want to find new customers. Teaming up with entrepreneurs with similar goals is a great way to reach new customers. Try:

  • Running a joint promotion with another business owner who is going after the same customers so you can share leads, bundle offers, and save on marketing costs

  • Asking business owners who you know well to introduce you to their network

  • Co-hosting a webinar with other business owners and sharing the resulting leads (be sure to remain compliant with Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation)

  • Participating in small business discussion groups on Facebook and other social media platforms – you’ll find opportunities to promote your business

  • Online accounting software (QuickBooks)

  • Online banking for safe and easy access to your funds

  • Website platforms (like Wix or Squarespace)

  • Ecommerce storefront applications (like Shopify or eBay)

  • Payment gateways to accept customer payments (Moneris)

How to find additional suppliers

Things can change rapidly for large and small vendors alike and you may not want to rely on any one supplier entirely. It’s a good idea to line up alternate suppliers just in case.

  • Research potential suppliers online

  • Ask other business owners for referrals to their trusted suppliers

  • Find out who supplies your competitors

  • Speak with wholesalers and distributors about getting what you need

  • Use small business discussion groups on social media to get referrals and ask questions

Do your homework on any possible new supplier

Your business is only as good as the vendors who supply goods and services. If inputs are poor, your outgoing product or service is negatively impacted.

Before you let a new supplier into your world, be sure to perform some basic due diligence:

  • Check their capability to fulfil orders

  • Ask for references and check them

  • Open a credit account with generous payment terms

  • Test them with a small order (even if you are staying with your current supplier for now)

Your customers and vendors may be experiencing their own challenges right now and that may affect their ability to support your business. Securing additional customers and alternate vendors is a way to mitigate financial risk because you won’t be so reliant on the same players.

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