JumpStart Mentor Offers Tips on Finding and Keeping Customers

By: Kevin Volz

When Sally Schriner began mentoring entrepreneurs, she had no idea it would inspire her to leave her corporate job and join the Ohio startup community. Yet that’s exactly what happened. After spending two years working with a variety of startups at JumpStart, an Ohio Third Frontier partner in Cleveland, Ohio, Sally joined their portfolio company Sociagram, which specializes in video gift messaging.

Now both an entrepreneur and a mentor, Sally finds the work she does with her clients incredibly rewarding. She helps these companies with sales presentations, market research studies, website design, lead generation campaigns and SEO.

Above all, Sally notes the important role customers play in growing a business, making it very clear that there is a distinct difference between finding customers and looking for customers; finding customers indicates you’ve determined your place in the market and are ready to grow, while looking for customers is usually reserved for those entrepreneurs just getting started.

Here are five tips from Sally on how to find and keep your customers:

  1. Have a clear value proposition that will scale. When many companies begin, they develop a value proposition geared to just one customer. This leads to problems when you have to take that proposition and scale it to attract many customers. Look at what your value proposition is in the marketplace in order to stand out from your competition. Do whatever you can to break through the clutter with your value proposition message.
  2. Identify your target audience. Customers can be found in a variety of ways, from cold calling to buying sales lists to email campaigns. But it’s important to note that these are just tactics and that each tactic will work very differently for different companies. If your company doesn’t resonate with the target customer, no tactic you pursue will work. Companies should always ask themselves what message they are trying to communicate and what customer they want that message to reach. Once this has been determined, it’s easier to find the right channels that will reach the right customers.
  3. Use measurable tactics. Always make sure you can measure your customer lead tactics so that you can identify which ones are effective and which ones are not. Put more effort behind those that work and stop the ones that don’t.
  4. Look at your competitors. Value propositions can change due to competition. Sometimes your value proposition can even go away because of competition. Have a pulse on your competitors at all times. You don’t have to necessarily change your value proposition each time they make a move, but you have to make sure you’re connecting with your customer and that no one else is chipping away at that customer.
  5. Most importantly – listen to your customer. Customers give the most feedback regarding satisfaction. Remember, too, that your first customer is not necessarily your best customer. What satisfied that first individual may not be what is best for your customers as a whole. Strike a balance between growth and success, even if that means having to say goodbye to your first customer.

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