It can be particularly trying for young entrepreneurs to secure customers. This is because they may not have had the privilege of building up a network of business contacts and potential clients over a number of years, says Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the Entrepreneur of the Year competition.
Mjadu explains that although securing business is a challenge for just about every entrepreneur when starting a business, seasoned business owners or experienced individuals who have worked in an industry for an extended period possess a network of contacts or may have potential leads in place based on existing relationships.
“This may however be very different for young entrepreneurs that have just finished university or recently started their careers.”
In light of Youth Month, Mjadu provides her five top tips for young entrepreneurs/businesses looking to land their first client:
1. Find out who the client is
The first step in attracting and growing a client base is defining exactly who the client is. Entrepreneurs should narrow down their target market with factors like age, location, interests, and income level in order to know who it is they are looking to target.
Once a specific target market has been defined, researching this audience extensively will allow a business owner to identify leads that will hopefully result in a sale or a client if pursued correctly.
2. Get the word out
Word of mouth advertising is arguably the biggest source of clients for start-up businesses. While paid advertising and mass-marketing may work well for more established brands, when it comes to gaining business as a start-up – talking one-on-one to a few well-targeted individuals and gaining their support will prove to be more valuable.
3. Network and collaborate with competitors
While it may seem somewhat counterintuitive, reaching out to competitors and other similar players in the market can be extremely beneficial in finding clients – especially for a business in its infancy. A good way to do this is by joining industry groups and forums – whether these are online or face-to-face.
Rather than seeing other businesses as competitors, view them as opportunities for business expansion through collaboration. Networking with likeminded people, and those in the same industry, can offer the potential for a young, start-up entrepreneur to engage with and learn from more experienced business owners which can also prove invaluable for a new business just entering the market.
4. Communicate effectively
One of the most important elements in successfully sourcing new clients is clear and targeted communication. Entrepreneurs should decide on a tone and style for their brand very early on in order to communicate in a consistent manner that connects with their specific target audience. Furthermore, entrepreneurs need to identify the channels that are likely to be most effective in reaching these clients – which ties in with having a clear idea of exactly who is being targeted.
5. Don’t sell yourself short
As a young entrepreneur without years of ‘business experience’, it could be tempting to undervalue the business and its offering. Instead, research should be done to establish exactly what the product and/or service is worth and be confident in what the business is selling. Young entrepreneurs also shouldn’t be intimidated to pitch for large clients due to the belief they don’t have enough experience. However, entrepreneurs should also be cautioned not to grow too big, too fast, as without the appropriate structures in place this could be as damaging to the business as not having enough clients.
This article forms part of the Youth Month 2016 series in which SME South Africa, throughout the month of June, will shine the spotlight on youth issues and highlight the work of young entrepreneurs and innovators who are shaping SA’s future.