Here is a marketing business idea list for finding new customers. Whether starting a new business or trying to survive in a down economy, finding new customers is vital to your business.

No one ever said starting and running a small business was easy. With the dozens of details to consider like finding a location, appealing to investors, choosing the right suppliers, and hunting for employees it can be easy to lose sight of what should be your most important focus: the customer.

You might have a stellar product or service, but if you don’t have a sound strategy for attracting qualified prospects that can benefit from it, you’ll be hard-pressed to get your small business off the ground. The good news is, lead generation doesn’t have to be rocket science.

With a marketing business idea list in hand and the right combination of research, planning, and execution, you can increase your market presence and make yourself known to your target demographic. Below are some of the most proven techniques:

idea2Create a written plan.

Before you start fishing for customers, spend some time formulating a realistic, workable plan of attack. Your marketing business idea list needs to be written and needs to state clearly how you will accomplish it.

Go here to learn more about writing a marketing plan.

For example, if you’re marketing a product or service to businesses, create a list of target companies along with the name of the department and person you need to reach. Determine how you’ll attempt to contact them (phone, email, or a face-to-face visit at their office or at a networking function).

Think before you write!

This is the simplest and most overlooked idea. When you are writing business letters, emails and proposals you are communicating with your customer or potential customer. How are you representing yourself?

To market yourself effectively you must know how to write from a marketing perspective. Go here to learn more about writing business letters, emails and proposals.

Advertise, advertise, and advertise some more.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but a surprising percentage of small businesses don’t do nearly enough to promote their offerings. Marketing analysts recommend that small business owners devote significant time to making their presence known.

For maximum saturation, place ads in as many venues as possible. Common mediums include online ads, the Yellow Pages, newspapers, radio spots, TV commercials, hand-delivered fliers, and direct mail campaigns.

Become an event junkie.

Conferences, trade shows, and seminars can be gold mines for prospective customers. Look in newspapers and online for event calendars.

If you run a wedding planning business, invest in booth space at a bridal show. If you sell landscaping services, contact the coordinator of an upcoming home and garden show and offer to give away a free lawn treatment in exchange for prime advertising placement. Attending industry events is also a great way to build a network of professional associates in the industry.

Peruse the papers.

Take a few minutes each day to scan the local headlines. Be on the lookout for new businesses opening up, awards or promotions that have been bestowed, and any developments related to your product or service. Drop an email to the people mentioned in the articles letting them know you saw the piece and subtly upselling your offering.

Don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth.

Even in our high-tech, multimedia age, good old-fashioned word of mouth remains the single most effective form of advertising for small businesses.

When you’re a small business owner, everyone you encounter becomes a potential customer source. Ask friends, family members, and associates if they know anyone who could benefit from your product or service. You might even consider offering a monetary incentive or discount for referrals.

peopleWatch your competitors.

While you’ll want to develop your own unique approach, studying the competition can help you stay up to speed on the latest industry trends and developments. See what’s on their marketing business idea list that should be on yours!

If your biggest rival is offering free shipping during the holidays, you may want to follow suit to remain competitive. It’s also a good idea to place advertisements in the same publications and venues as your competitors.

Spread your ads around.

It can be tempting to plunk down a big chunk of money for one dramatic, full-page ad in the local paper, but the old adage about putting all your eggs in one basket holds true here.

Instead, distribute your advertising budget over a longer period of time with more frequent, smaller placements. Potential customers probably won’t remember how large your ad was, but they’ll be more likely to remember your name if they see it multiple times.

Don’t be afraid to follow up.

One of the biggest mistakes small business owners make is pay a single visit to a prospect and then sit back and wait for them to come knocking. After the initial contact, it’s essential to follow up to gauge their level of interest, answer any remaining questions, and attempt to close the deal. If they aren’t ready to buy, ask if they know anyone who may have a need for your product or service.

Find out where you missed the mark.

If, after an ongoing sales effort, a prospect decides not to buy, politely ask for a reason. Once you know where you missed the mark you can update your business idea list with ways to improve.

Is your online ordering process too complicated? Is your price out of their budget? Did they go with a competitor’s version? Explain that their feedback will help you to refine your product or service to better meet consumers’ needs.

dealUse the power of referral marketing.

One delighted customer can lead to dozens more. Why wait for word-of-mouth advertising to happen on its own? Don’t be afraid to ask satisfied customers to spread the word to their friends and colleagues. Chances are they’ll be delighted to see their associates reaping the same benefits they’ve enjoyed.

In addition, ask your satisfied customers what pleases them most about dealing with you. This will help bring focus to your marketing business idea list.

Sample your way to success.

Who doesn’t love a freebie? Giving away a complimentary sample of your product or service is a great way to demonstrate its benefits and encourage future sales.

If you sell bath and body products, include a small packet of lotion with your marketing postcards. If you’re an IT consultant, offer businesses a free technology assessment.

Consider outsourcing lead generation.

As a small business owner, your time is probably in short supply. Save valuable hours by paying a lead aggregator service to compile lists of leads. They’ll do all of the necessary research to ensure that you’re working from an accurate list of qualified prospects.

Partner with other businesses.

Nearly every industry has parallel providers that cater to the same group but offer different products or services. Forming an alliance with people in the same market can be mutually beneficial.

If you sell custom stationery, contact a local bridal gown boutique and ask if you can drop off some business cards. If you provide consulting services for small businesses, ask a local office furniture seller if you can post a flier. Offer reciprocal exposure in exchange.

As an added benefit, you can also learn how they successfully market their business and add to your marketing business idea list.

opportunity signGet in focus.

Hosting a focus group can provide invaluable insights about customer reactions and perceptions related to your product or service. You can enlist the services of a third-party moderator and then listen to the dialogue from an observation room.

This is a great way to find out what motivates potential customers, how you may be missing the mark, and how you can tweak your offering to meet their needs. Your marketing business idea list will grow with new ideas.

Perseverance pays.

Remember, fishing for customers isn’t a one-time excursion. To sustain the profitability and branding identity of your business, you’ll need to devote time and resources to ongoing prospecting campaigns.

Develop your marketing business idea list today! Go here if you want to see more small business marketing ideas.