Every entrepreneur has a unique story of how and when they started. Some stumble upon their big idea quite easily. Others inherit a business, like an heirloom passed from one generation to another. There are people who build on existing business ideas. And then there are those who painstakingly go through brainstorming sessions, sleepless nights, and consultations just to come up with a viable idea.
While these conception stories may be different, one thing is universal—every business seeking to be profitable needs clients. Mahatma Gandhi emphasized the importance customers: “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it.”
You have created a solid business plan. You have turned your big idea into an actual product or service. You have completed all the requirements in setting up a business in Singapore and successfully registered your business.
Perhaps you have used up most of your finances or maybe you still have enough funding to remain operational for the first few months. You are ready to earn your capital back. But here’s the thing: customers do not come as easily when you start something from scratch. Sure, franchising a well-known business like Starbucks, McDonalds, or Cheers may make it easier to get customers since brand reputation, demand, recall, and loyalty have already been established. But how do you build your client base from the ground up without breaking the bank?
First things first: make sure you know who your potential clients are. Unless you want to fail early, do not be the kind of business that tries to make everyone its market.
Here are a few tips in identifying your specific target market:
Reanalyze your business plan
Take a look at the business goals you have set. What need or problem does your product or service address? What makes you different from your competitors? Do you have a unique selling point? Who will benefit the most from your offers? Once you have answered these questions, you will have a general idea of your audience. Research everything you can know about the industry and market that you are in, your competitors, and your general audience.
Describe your potential customers
Simply put, a customer profile is a comprehensive description of your ideal customer. This may include demographic information which is essential in identifying who your potential client is. Demographics may include age, gender, race, household income, education, employment status, location, marital status, home ownership. On the other hand, psychographic information is essential in pinpointing why your potential client will purchase your product or service. Do they value quality over quantity? Are they conscious about their physical appearance? You may obtain these insights through interviews or by analyzing online data.
Locate your potential customers
Where do they go to hang out physically and virtually? What kind of books or blogs do they read? Which social platform are they more active at? Are they glued to their smartphones? What kind of apps do they use? Do they use e-mail frequently? If not, which messaging platform do they use? The goal is knowing where you can reach your potential customers and leverage this knowledge in your marketing campaigns.
Now that you have an understanding of your specific target market, it will be easier to implement strategies on penetrating the market and engaging your potential customers.
5 Strategic Tips on Building Your Client Base
1. Network, network, and network.
Having the right connections can make a huge difference in the success of your business. It is not only helpful in getting potential clients but also in landing sales opportunities, marketing deals, meeting business partners, or simply just helping you unwind after a long day’s work. Connect with like-minded people. Participate in networking events, join groups that you are genuinely interested in, volunteer for various organizations when you can. Be sincere in your intentions and strive to form meaningful connections.
There are networking events or organisations that you can engage to start networking in Singapore. Below are a few examples:
- Eventbrite features a list of upcoming networking events such as the Tech in Asia Tour 2015 and a Big Idea pitching event organized by Singapore Polytechnic Graduates’ Guild (SPGG).
- Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Singapore is a community that that seeks to engage entrepreneurs in learning and growing.
- Plug-In@Blk71 has an updated calendar of startup entrepreneurship-related events.
- YourSingapore provides information on current and upcoming business events.
2. Build mutually beneficial partnerships.
When you actively engage in networking, you will meet entrepreneurs whose businesses complement yours. Be open to collaboration and tie-ups with the goal of creating a win-win scenario. For example, in July 2015, Costa Singapore and Books Actually ran a joint promotion. Customers who purchase a book from a list of selected authors at Books Actually will receive a free Costa beverage voucher. Who would not love to get free coffee on top of a book purchase? Meantime, people who claim their free coffee will most likely purchase pastries to go with it or even bring friends to enjoy their coffee with. Win-win.
Even the government of Singapore supports partnerships. SPRING Singapore, an agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, underscored the importance of collaboration in one of their published articles: “Since 2013, SPRING Singapore has been encouraging businesses to work together to overcome their business challenges through two programmes – the Partnerships for Capability Transformation (PACT) initiative and the Collaborative Industry Projects (CIP) initiative. These schemes have benefited close to 800 local enterprises in just over a year.”
3. Request for referrals and endorsements.
Reach out to your friends, colleagues, family or your satisfied and happy customers. Do not be shy to ask for referrals. You can also request customers to review your product or service, and to refer your business if they had a great experience. Just remember to be polite and clear when you ask people to endorse, refer or review your business.
4. Establish your online presence.
Advertising and marketing your products and services may require spending a sizeable amount to garner results. However, the evolution digital media and the visible increase in consumer usage opened up more economical ways for brands to promote their products and services.
Consumers nowadays rely on the internet when they are looking for information on products, service providers, reviews or just about anything they need. The Singapore Digital Marketing Statistics published by Digital Influence Lab in 2014, 80% or approximately 5.5 million of the whole Singapore population are internet users. You do not want to miss out on that market. Create a user-friendly, straightforward company website that provides all necessary information about your business. And one more thing—get your company website listed in major online directories so people can easily find you.
As a new entrant in the market, you want to establish credibility and thought leadership. Set up a blog and write about industry updates, answer questions relevant to your market, provide valuable information, and dispense sound advice for free. Well-written blog posts can help you build an audience and position yourself as an expert in the industry.
Singaporeans are highly active in social media. In fact, 96% of internet users in Singapore have an account in a social media platform based on the 2015 Social, Digital and Mobile Around The World report. Build your presence in social platforms where your customers are active. Remember these two important things—provide interesting content and engage with your audience.
5. Offer something valuable for free.
There is no denying—people love freebies. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear your customer say: “What a great deal!” after a transaction?
Attract new clients by providing them with incentives. Online, you can ask them to sign up on your website for a free e-book, weekly newsletter, discount promo code, or first dibs on exclusive promotional updates. You can use these emails for lead generation, awareness campaigns, invitations for future events and more.
Onsite, you can offer additional products or services on top of their purchase. It can be a simple sample of your product for every S$50 they spend in your shop, a free haircut if they avail of a major hair service, an additional cup of coffee or free dessert, and so on. Be creative and come up with freebies that are unique to your business.
Bonus: Do not hesitate to seek guidance or ask for help.
Every entrepreneur can use a helping hand, regardless of the kind of business they run. Remember, one of your most important commodity is time. An hour lost to accomplishing non-essential tasks can mean lost opportunities to be out there selling your product or pitching your services.
Are you feeling overwhelmed about handling everything on your own? Outsource non-core or administrative aspects of your business. The important thing is that you are able to focus on what matters the most. For example, you can outsource your payroll, Singapore accounting and tax services, corporate secretarial services, or content marketing. We, at Richmond, provide quality Singapore company incorporation and support services for SMEs in Singapore.