Does this scenario sound familiar – you started a business, you have the most exciting product in the world, you’re all pumped up and ready to go, when you suddenly realize that there is no one lining up outside your door to buy your product?
If it does, then you are not alone.
Before I continue, I want to tell you something that you already know – building a successful company is really hard. I have been involved in both launches that were successful and launches that have miserably failed. But there is one thing I noticed that I did in each of the successful ventures: I was able to find out where the paying customers were, every time. My grandpa used to say “Go where the fish is” – it’s as true for business as for fishing.
Who am I? Currently I am the founder and the CEO of BITE.lu – a company that offers unlimited web & IT support to small businesses owners. Previously, I worked as a Director of Technology at Goldman Sachs, a leading global investment bank. I have always been attracted to entrepreneurship and have been a serial entrepreneur for 15+ years now.
So, as I was saying, building a successful company is hard. And it gets even harder when you realize that the success comes not from having the best product but from finding customers to sell it to. There is nothing worse than telling the world about your product and then hearing nothing but crickets in response.
It is indeed not easy to find where your potential customers hang out. We often spend too much time looking in the wrong (or in just one) place. For example, I tend to only consider sales channels that I am already familiar with. Or because I think I should be using certain channels if I were my customers.
Remember – you are not your market!
The worst thing you can do is limit the places where you look for your customers. It is actually equally worse to try and cover ALL channels at the same time.
Using a guide like this will make it a bit easier for you to find where your potential customers are and will bring them to your doorstep so you can sell them your products. This list has helped me before and it is helping me now to grow my customer base for my new business venture in Luxembourg – BITE.lu. Sharing it with you is the least I can do to help you grow your business.
Public Relations (PR)
This widely recognized abbreviation consists of a set of skills that allows you to get your name in front of potential customers using traditional media – newspapers, magazines, TV. Doing this in Luxembourg is straightforward because of the relatively small number of newspapers (Wort, Tageblatt, Chronicle, L’essentiel, etc.), magazines (Delano, Made in Luxe, Luxbazar, etc.) and TV stations RTL). A quick Google search will list out all of them along with their PR contact info.
Initially more popular among the younger population, UnPR is getting a wider recognition, especially by some of the most innovative companies in the business. It involves doing something exceptional to attract media attention – David Blaine for example is a master of the Unconventional PR with his feats of endurance. Any modern media company can help you come up with ideas about UnPR stints and then help you bring them to life.
Biz Dev is the art of creating strategic relationships in real life. To give you an example – let’s say you offer a product and you find a company that offers a product that compliments yours (goes before or after it, for example), if you and that company create a new product which is a combination of the two, that is business development. The best way to go about doing business development in Luxembourg is to search for companies that offer complimentary products to yours. A second best option is to find private consulting companies that can assess your business and suggest how you can develop it further (just Google ‘private consulting Luxembourg’).
Search Engine Marketing
This consists of placing ads with search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. It takes 20 minutes to open a Google Adwords account, add target keywords, write a few text ads, select Luxembourg as your target country, then choose you daily budget and off you go.
Similar to the Search Engine Marketing channel, this one consists of placing ads with social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. This is a powerful way to reach new customers as some of those sites will allow you to specifically target a certain demographic group to which your ad will be displayed. LinkedIn for example can target your ads not only to a specific country like Luxembourg, but also to a specific age group, business line and set of interests or skills. You can also place ads with sites that are popular locally (like YourLivingCity, AngloInfo, BLC, and other local communities’ websites).
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is the art of attracting people to your website by making sure your website ranks higher (shows up on the first pages) for specific word searches placed with online search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. Doing this in Luxembourg is relatively easy as you (probably) don’t have much local competition and Google usually uses location information to display search results. So just make sure your website’s content makes it clear that you are Luxembourg based and that you have all relevant meta tags in place.
This happens when you create content which attracts visitors to your site. The best example is when you have a blog and you write posts in it with relevant topics to your business. It’s a great way to show expertise in a field and increases conversions (turning visitors into paying customers) tremendously.
Email marketing is one of the best ways to convert prospect clients into paying customers. Do not confuse this with spam. Indeed, there is a fine line between the two which can turn your emails from a powerful sales machine into a junk folder filler. If you have a website and do not yet have an email collecting form, then you are losing on potential customers. You can also piggyback on someone else’s existing mailing list to promote your products and reach a larger audience. Many communities send email newsletters to their members and will happily tell them about your product for a small fee, if your product is relevant to them of course. Another quick win is adding a sentence about your business or products with a link to your website to your email signature. You’ll be surprised how much traffic this will generate over time.
Creating Tools as Marketing
This one may not applicable to all types of products or services but it also is a powerful way to attract potential customers. It consists of creating widgets, free tools or other products that attract leads, who you can then convert to paying customers. A good example is Intuit, a company that makes Tax software. Their free online tax preparation service has converted many free users into regular subscribers. Even ordering some pens and mugs with your business logo on them can go a long way, and you can easily do so online from sites like Vistaprint.
Viral marketing is the methodology of reaching customers and growing your customer base by asking your existing customer to refer new ones. The easiest way you can achieve this is by introducing a referral program, where you ‘empower’ your customers to bring you new ones and you reward them with a referral bonus. This may come a little down the line for you, especially if you are just starting up.
This one is my favorite. It is all about forming relationships. It consists of pitching a popular blogger to share your content so they can drive traffic to your site. Even one such relationship can explode your sales overnight. The popular blogs in Luxembourg are also not that many (City Savvy, Whats On For Kids, expat blogs, etc.) so you can easily approach them with your collaboration ideas.
Creating affiliate programs allows other people to bring in customers for you. It is a type of performance-based marketing in which you rewards your affiliates for each customer they bring to you by their own marketing efforts. Take a look at the way I have implanted one at BITE.lu/affiliates
Marketing via Existing Platforms
Often simply called Social Media this one is very powerful as it leverages the platforms’ huge user bases to tremendously increase your audience. When you focus your efforts on some of the mega-platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Apple’s App Store for example, and write an article, put out an ad, or publish a free app, you immediately get in front of the eyes of their hundreds of millions of users. Great examples of utilizing this channel is having a Facebook group and selling your product on Amazon. The easiest thing you can do to promote your business locally, is to add a paragraph about it to your LinkedIn profile with a link to your website.
Fliers, posters, billboards, TV spots, radio commercials – these may seem like the old-timers of marketing but they do capture a big number of people – the ones that are not online. Done in a catchy way, they are still the ones that leave the deepest imprint in (accidental) viewers’ eyes. A great way of capturing some new customers is for example organizing a raffle or a special promo at a charity event – this increases your PR, shows that you are about supporting a good cause and at the same time increases your audience among everyone who stopped by at the event. Charity events are organized regularly in Luxembourg so it won’t take you much time to find one you can join.
Hands-on, in-person, old-timers trade shows, exhibits, expos and others of the kind are a great way to show off your products to a crowd that has gathered specifically to see products in your industry. There are regular events of this kind that take place in Luxembourg (LuxExpo exhibits, B2B shows, European Business Days are just to name a few).
Promo Events Offline
This is another one of my favorites. By sponsoring or creating events (open houses, meetups, workshops, playgroups) you are drawing a targeted crowd of potential customers that you can easily turn into paying customers. Open Houses are great for brick-and-mortar-only businesses to attract potential customers. An easy way to start doing so in Luxembourg is to create (or join) a Meetup group (there are over 150 groups in and around Luxembourg), create or sponsor an event and tell people who show up about your product. I for example run a regular event for startups called SiliconDrinkabout, where like-minded people gather in a very informal laid-back atmosphere and talk about their business ideas while having a drink (sign up here if you want to join the next one!)
Speaking venues and engagements are great for launching a new product. If you have just finished a book, landing a talk with a famous media personality will shoot you straight up and will generate sales for your book. A perfect example of doing this in Luxembourg is the Mumpreneurs Facebook group that a friend of mine had started recently – she gathers mums and invites an expert on a topic that interests all to speak about it and answer questions. Her group (and her business) has grown quite quickly after she started doing this.
Building a community of like-minded people or passionate followers is another great way for attracting potential customers. Communities provide strong support to their members and members can leverage the power of the community to promote their product and reach a much larger potential customer base than the one they can reach alone. Meetup offers the perfect community building tool for Luxembourg but there are other platforms you can use to do so too.
As you might have already guessed, picking up the right channels to concentrate on is difficult – it is hard to predict which will work best. However, if you run a few simple tests, you can make an educated guess as to which ones would work in your case and then you can concentrate on exploring them further.
And I am going to tell you exactly how to do this.
But now I want you to share ONE EXAMPLE of a sales channel that you’ve used before and your story about what happened. Did it work for you or why not? Simply email your example to firstname.lastname@example.org
I read every email. Yes, really.
About the Author
Ivo came to Luxembourg a year ago and is currently the founder and the CEO of BITE.lu – a company that offers unlimited web & IT support to small businesses owners. Previously, Ivo has worked as a Director of Technology at Goldman Sachs, a leading global investment banking, securities and investment management firm. Ivo has 15+ years of experience with web, IT and online business development.
Featured photo: kev-shine/flickr (file)