Entrepreneurs just starting out are all faced with the same tough job of not just finding customers, but turning them into loyal customers. Fortunately Richard Branson has some advice…
"Step back and plan out how to take your enterprise to the next level," the Virgin Group founder recommends in a recent blog post. "The first thing to do is put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Often, when companies are racing to make a profit, clients’ needs are overlooked."
Instead, you should focus on what potential customers care about most, he says, as this will help you to find an edge. When Virgin Atlantic first launched and had only a small number of passengers, it did the exact same thing. "We were able to provide those passengers with a level of attention that our competitors couldn’t be bothered to - limousine service to and from the airport and in-flight entertainment that made their journeys much more relaxing and enjoyable," Branson says.
"Our small group of customers was quite loyal, and we soon found ourselves competing with the major airlines. The key is to set realistic expectations, then exceed them, preferably in unexpected and helpful ways."
Branson says that focusing on social media can be helpful in finding out what your customers think of your products and services – and can be just as valuable as advertising in finding new customers. But when it comes to pitching, you can’t beat talking to people in person.
"Once you are face-to-face with someone, they are likely to give you a couple of minutes to make your case," he says. "If it takes longer than that, you pitch probably isn’t ready. Just make sure you tailor it and ensure that it relates to them personally."
Richard’s final tip for attracting customers is one that he’s the master of: getting your name out there. “We relied on smart promotions to get the Virgin name in the news," he says.
"I leapt at every opportunity, from trying to break the record for flying a hot air balloon around the world in the shortest time to starring in an American Express commercial, where I used my credit card to fuel up my vehicle - our 747!
"The ad put a smile on people’s faces, and helped put us on the map."
Attracting customers is the biggest challenge that any business will face, but as Richard says: "Once you’ve established a loyal base of users, your business will soar."