You don't have to spend a lot of money to build a customer base. But you do need to attack your goal with a single-minded determination and a willingness to employ several tactics at the same time to achieve success.
Think of "people who know people." Distribute business cards and information at the end of your transaction at stores and ask a customer to pass your name along if they are satisfied with the service or product you provided. Offer a small referral bonus, discount or gift to everyone who refers a new customer. This will help build your customer base and goodwill with present customers.
Ask a potential customers how they got your phone number when they call. If you receive an email inquiry, ask how they heard about your company.
Place business cards and fliers on the counters in your store or at businesses around the area. Offer coupons with expiration dates. This may attract a new customer and help you expand your base.
Consider a rewards or frequent buyer program. Have a card with 10 stamps on it that a customer can redeem for a free product, meal or service.
Use the computer and the Internet. Create a website with a potential customer base in mind. Include a link to sign up for an email list with your latest specials, products and services on your website. Update your website as needed.
Try to advertise in the more well-known yellow pages (through the local phone company) and see how many customers you can attract. Consider putting a coupon in the coupons section as well, if this is appropriate for your business.This will most certainly assist in building a customer base.
Use a vehicle sign with a business card holder. Only the sign, business cards and holders cost money. The rest is free advertising that will attract a potential customers. Your vehicle is earning money for you while it is parked in a lot.
Network frequently by carrying cards with you everywhere you go and do not be shy about handing them out. Post cards on bulletin boards as well. Talk about your business and why people would want your services or product. Join local networking groups. Often they have only one member of the community for each service, so there's no competition for a customer.
Keep in touch with your clients. Send postcards, coupons, recommendations and reminders every three to six months. Oil change places, restaurants, and shops do this frequently. People are more likely to read your postcard than open a letter.
Advertise in Yahoo or Google Local, or in your local coupon magazine or Valpak to build a customer base.
Mail Christmas and other holiday cards to customers. Remember birthdays and anniversaries with special gifts and offers. Use software such as Microsoft Office to keep an updated list in the computer. Have a customer fill out a brief survey or take the information over the phone while making their first appointment or a sale.