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How to get customers for your business? 13 small business lead generation strategies

Reading time: 9 minutes

If you’re wondering how to get new customers for your business, you must embark on a journey through a bustling marketplace. And before setting sail, you should prepare. At a minimum you should:

  • Understand your target audience
  • analyze competitors
  • be brutally honest about your business’s strengths and weaknesses

Different businesses require different tactics for lead generation, and you need to find the right mix tailored to your business’ unique needs.

That’s why we made this comprehensive guide to lead generation for small businesses —  a map to help you explore a diverse array of tactics, ranging from the tried-and-true to the innovative and unconventional.

8 traditional ways to get new customers to your small business

Attend networking events

Business networking events aren’t just about free custom pens and tiny sandwiches. They’re golden opportunities to forge genuine connections with potential customers and partners. Whether you’re mingling at trade shows, rubbing elbows at conferences or chatting over coffee at local meetups, simply showing up puts you ahead in the game.

Business people networking at an events

Atmospheric image of a networking event. Source: depositphotos

At these events, you can share your expertise, pick up insights from industry peers and perhaps even clinch a deal or two over cocktails. 

However, while networking events can be fruitful, they’re not without their pitfalls. It’s easy to get lost in the sea of handshakes without making any meaningful connections. Plus, there’s always the risk of coming off as too pushy or insincere, so be sure to strike a balance between promoting your business and genuinely engaging with the event attendees. 

Business card design

Business card design. Source: ultrastjarna via 99designs by Vista

To avoid being too pushy at events, take it slow and steady and pack ample business cards. This ensures you leave behind a tangible reminder of your contact details. Also, be generous in how you help and support your new network connections. It will come back to you in multitudes. 

Print business cards with VistaPrint

VistaPrint Tip:

If you do get a chance to talk about your business, make sure to keep things brief. For that, you need an elevator pitch — a super short, up to one minute long, speech about who you are and what you offer, focusing on the unique sides of your product or service. 

Rely on word of mouth and referrals

Word-of-mouth marketing is the OG of advertising — it’s authentic, trusted and can snowball into something big. When customers recommend your business to their friends, family or even random strangers on the internet, it’s like hitting the jackpot without spending a dime on advertising.

Starting out with word-of-mouth marketing might feel like planting seeds in a desert if you’re still building your customer base. But here’s the silver lining: fewer customers means you can lavish extra attention on each one and provide a stellar customer experience that turns them into loyal brand ambassadors.

VistaPrint Tip: Run contests or giveaways where customers can win prizes for referring friends or sharing your business on social media to maximize the number of referrals at the beginning of your small business path. 

Tap into the power of direct mail

In an age dominated by digital marketing, don’t overlook the old-school charm of direct mail. Direct mail cuts through the digital noise and lands right on your potential customers’ doorsteps. It’s tangible, personal and can leave a physical impression in a way that email blasts simply can’t. Plus, with the right targeting, you can reach exactly the people who are most likely to be interested in your business.

A direct mail leaflet design

 A leaflet design. Source: wlinn via 99designs by Vista

Of course, the cost of direct mail campaigns can add up quickly, especially if you target a large area or demographic. There’s also the risk of your mailers ending up in the dreaded junk pile or, worse, being mistaken for spam. However, with careful planning, a cost-effective printing service on your side and a compelling message, you minimize these risks and maximize your return on investment.

A brochure for new customers

A brochure to potential customers; Source

VistaPrint Tip:

Get creative with your direct mail campaigns. Whether it’s a quirky postcard, a personalized letter, or a flashy brochure, make sure your message stands out and speaks directly to your target audience. 

Dedicate your time to cold calling and cold emailing

Cut to the chase and reach out directly to potential customers through cold calling and cold emailing. Introduce your products or services and schedule meetings or demos to seal the deal. 

While you might feel like this lead generation strategy is a bit dated, the figures say otherwise. Research shows that cold emailing shows a higher return on investment than any other lead generation method — on average, $36 for every $1 spent. 

This approach works wonders, especially in industries like B2B sales, consultancy or real estate, where building personal relationships is key. 

Arm yourself with a killer script and dive into the world of cold outreach. With persistence and a little charm, you’ll be turning cold leads into hot prospects in no time.

Build a robust social media marketing strategy

In today’s digital landscape, a strong social media presence is non-negotiable for small businesses. Social media offers a powerful platform to connect with your target audience on a personal level. It’s where conversations happen, trends are born and relationships are forged. Plus, with the right strategy, you reach a wide audience without breaking the bank.

Social media design for a brand

Social media design for a brand. Source: Arthean via 99designs by Vista

Craft a comprehensive strategy on how to get clients and engage with your audience, showcase your brand personality and drive traffic to your website or storefront:

  1. Define clear goals and objectives.
  2. Identify your target audience.
  3. Choose appropriate social media platforms.
  4. Create a content calendar.
  5. Develop engaging and relevant content — use tools like VistaCreate for top-notch social media designs.
  6. Utilize hashtags effectively.
  7. Engage with followers and respond to comments/messages.
  8. Analyze metrics and adjust strategy accordingly.
  9. Run targeted advertising campaigns.

Learn more about how to develop a social media marketing strategy in our ultimate guide. 

Branding on Instagram

Branding concept for a professional Instagram account. Source: Daylite Designs © via 99designs by Vista

Speaking of digital advertising… If you give it a try on social media, why not experiment with paid advertising on other platforms? 

Try online advertising  

Venture into the realm of online advertising and turbocharge your efforts to reach new customers and expand your business’s visibility. However, it’s crucial to ensure that your investment pays off by having a well-developed website. After all, if the landing page where the ad leads is weak, your money won’t make any difference.

Banner ads design

Banner ad by BespokeDesign via 99designs by Vista

Here’s how to set up an online advertising campaign:

  1. Define your audience: Clearly identify your target audience to ensure your ads reach the right people.
  2. Choose the right platform: Select the online advertising platforms that align best with your target audience and business goals, whether it’s Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads or others.
  3. Craft compelling ad copy: Write captivating ad copy that grabs attention, conveys your unique value proposition and compels users to take action.
  4. Design engaging visuals: Use eye-catching visuals that resonate with your target audience and effectively communicate your message.
  5. Optimize landing pages: Ensure that your landing pages are well-designed, user-friendly, and optimized for conversions. Provide clear calls-to-action and relevant content that aligns with the ad’s messaging.
  6. Track and analyze results: Use analytics tools like Google Analytics or Sprout Social to monitor the performance of your online ads. Track metrics such as click-through rates, conversion rates and return on investment (ROI). Use this data to refine your ads and improve their effectiveness over time.

Distribute print collateral

Don’t underestimate the power of good old-fashioned print marketing. Design and distribute posters, postcards, flyers, stickers and brochures to get your brand in front of potential customers.

Print marketing materials. Source: tale026 via 99designs by Vista

Poster design for a private cinema

Poster design for a private cinema. Source: Erudite™ via 99designs by Vista

While print collateral might not yield immediate returns on investment when used in isolation, it plays a crucial role in building brand awareness and recognition. Think of it as planting seeds that will eventually blossom into fruitful customer relationships.

Create long-lasting partnerships

Partner with businesses that share your target audience but offer complementary products or services and open up new avenues to reach potential customers. For example, if you sell books consider setting up pop-ups at the checkout of your local coffee shop. By leveraging each other’s strengths, you expand your reach without stretching your resources too thin.

Besides reaching new customers, long-lasting partnerships also lead to valuable referrals, shared resources and even cost savings through joint marketing efforts.

Five unconventional ways for how to get clients

In the ever-evolving landscape of entrepreneurship, sometimes thinking outside the box is the key to unlocking new opportunities. Here are five unconventional strategies to attract fresh clients to your small business.

Host workshops or webinars

Host free educational sessions, either in person or online, to share your expertise and showcase your business’s value. Whether it’s a hands-on workshop or an insightful webinar, providing valuable knowledge to your audience positions you as a trusted authority in your industry and attracts potential customers eager to learn from you.

PPT slides design for a business webinar

PPT slides design for a business webinar. Source: Rockslide via 99designs by Vista

VistaPrint Tip:

Create educational sessions that directly relate to your business and the products or services you offer. That way, promotion will be natural and not forced. 

Try guerrilla marketing

Break the mold with guerrilla marketing tactics that ignite curiosity and capture attention in unexpected ways.

Examples of guerrilla marketing campaigns include:

  • Flash mobs: Organize spontaneous, choreographed performances in public spaces to surprise and delight unsuspecting onlookers while promoting your brand or message.
  • Street art: Use urban landscapes as your canvas to create eye-catching and thought-provoking art installations that spark conversations and leave a lasting impression.
  • Stunt marketing: Stage attention-grabbing stunts or events that defy convention and generate buzz, like a dressed-up actor showing up in the middle of a city square to promote a new product.
  • Ambient advertising: Incorporate your brand message into everyday environments in unexpected ways, such as projecting images or messages onto buildings or sidewalks.

VistaPrint Tip:

Don’t overlook experiential marketing. Create immersive brand experiences through interactive installations, virtual reality demos, or product trials to leave a lasting impression on potential customers.

For more insights on how to create a viral campaign check out our guide!

Tap into the power of User-Generated Content

Harness the creativity of your customers and inspire them to generate and share content related to your products or services on social media platforms. Encourage participation through specific hashtags or challenges.

User-generated content is a game-changer for small businesses operating on a shoestring budget. Instead of investing in expensive marketing campaigns, you leverage the power of your existing customer base to spread the word about your brand organically. By incentivizing users to create content, you not only increase brand visibility but also foster a sense of community and engagement around your business — all at little to no cost to you. It’s a win-win situation that maximizes impact without breaking the bank.

Max out your community engagement

Community engagement is a potent tool for small businesses to build trust and loyalty among local customers, subsequently driving new customers to your business. 

Some community engagement ideas include…

  • Sponsoring local events
  • Volunteering in the community
  • Partnering with local schools or non-profits
  • Organizing community cleanup events
  • Hosting customer appreciation events

Check out our guide to planning an event to make sure everything runs smoothly.

By showing genuine interest and support for community activities, you position your brand as a valuable member of the neighborhood. This fosters positive associations with your business and encourages customers to choose you over competitors. 

Launch influencer partnerships

Influencer partnerships are a powerful way to expand your reach and connect with potential customers who trust the recommendations of influencers they follow. By collaborating with influencers whose values align with your brand, you authentically promote your products or services to their loyal followers and generate buzz and drive sales.

To get started with influencer marketing…

  • Identify relevant influencers: Research influencers or micro-influencers whose audience demographics match your target market and whose content aligns with your brand values.
  • Reach out with a proposal: Contact influencers with a personalized pitch and outline the benefits of partnering with your brand. Highlight how your products or services align with their interests and audience demographics.
  • Negotiate terms: Discuss compensation, deliverables and expectations upfront to ensure a mutually beneficial partnership. This may include sponsored content, product collaborations, affiliate programs or event appearances.
  • Track and measure results: Monitor the performance of influencer partnerships using metrics such as engagement rates, click-through rates and conversions. Adjust your approach based on insights gained to optimize future collaborations.

Conclusion

Finding the answer to how to get clients for your business is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Depending on your industry, target audience and budget, some strategies may yield better results than others. 

However, one thing remains clear: diversification is key. 

By mixing and matching different lead generation strategies — from traditional methods like networking events and print collateral to more unconventional approaches like guerrilla marketing and influencer partnerships — you maximize your chances of attracting new clients and growing your business. 

So, don’t be afraid to get creative, experiment with new tactics and most importantly, stay engaged with your community. With perseverance, strategic planning and a dash of innovation, you’ll pave the way for success in the competitive world of entrepreneurship.

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