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Striking Gold

New customers are your business's lifeblood.

New customers are your business's lifeblood. How do you bag them without spending a fortune? Celebrated marketing consultant Al Ries, author of Focus: The Future of Your Company Depends on It (Harper Business), shares his tips.

1. Analyze existing customers. New customers most likely will be similar to old customers. The more you know about the people you do business with now, the easier it will be to find new people to do business with.

2. Expand geographically, not demographically. If you do business with medical doctors in one location, it's easier to find doctors in another community than to try to sell to dentists in your home territory.

3. Do more of what has worked. Find out what once worked, then go out and do more of it--while doing less of what hasn't worked.

4. Try radio. It's an inexpensive medium (in terms of costs per prospect reached), and it's also inexpensive in terms of production costs--which can be nothing if station announcers read your copy.

5. Pay a finder's fee. Tell customers you will pay a finder's fee for each new customer they send you. The fee doesn't have to be large. Case in point: America Online has become the biggest online service in part by rewarding members with a free month of service for every customer they refer.

6. Write an article. Offer to write an article on your field for a newspaper or magazine. It can bring you valuable inquiries from prospects.

7. Trade mailing lists. Find someone who sells a noncompeting product or service to a similar market and swap mailing lists.

8. Buy a mailing list. There's a list available to find new customers for any business, no matter how specialized. A well-targeted mailing is a proven way to find new customers.

9. Launch a second brand. When you run out of potential new customers, do as Toyota did with Lexus--launch a new brand that appeals to customers you aren't presently attracting. This can open the door to a totally different market.

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