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Starting a business is hard work. As small business owners, we often make it harder than it should be.

There are so many pieces to starting a business, but at the end of the day there is only one question that defines whether you are running a business: can you profitably get and keep customers?

It Starts with One

When I was teaching basics of business writing, I asked my students to write out a basic selling proposition: an introduction, a basic sales statement, and a close.

Everyone of my students asked me for an investment in their business idea.

That one exercise turned into the theme for that class. If you do not have an idea of what your business is selling, you should not be seeking capital.

It will disappear.

If you cannot sell your product or service, you don’t need a business license.

It will cost you dear.

To actually be in business, you have to start with one paying customer. And then get another. And another.

So, to get the first client, you have to offer to help people.

Getting Your First Five Clients

Getting the first five clients is going to be similar no matter what your business is, how prepared you are, and what you invested in the business.

You need to communicate with enough people to find the 5 who are ready to make a purchase decision and then communicate with them how you are going to fulfill their needs.

As you do this, you also need to be building all the other things that are going to make your business a success long-term.

  • Marketing
  • Distribution
  • A reliable sales system
  • Capital Plan
  • Strategic Plan

Find Leads

To get your first 5 clients, you need to be present in places where your potential customers are. Location, location, location matters. In retail, in services, wherever.

If you are starting a business with capital, you need to select your physical office or retail space carefully. You want to be around people who are going to be your customers. For a retail store, you need to be in an area where people are shopping and are outside their cars. This can be a small vibrant downtown are, a new shopping center, or other location.

If you are going to provide a professional service, you need to think about areas where people go to look for that service: a lawyer needs to be near the courthouse where she’ll do most of her work. And so it goes.

For many businesses, the simplest location is going to where you can find consumers, at their home. I remember well the Shark Tank episode where a belt inventor went door-to-door and sold his belt to several customers before he pitched it to the sharks.

To start the sales process you have to go where your potential customers are. For Small Time Marketing, that has been coworking spots, Facebook groups, and talking to business owners in their business or walking up to business owners I meet in other places and starting a conversation.

Talk to Leads About Your Business

Once you find someone who is a potential customer of your business, you need to be able to see if they are interested in what you provide.

This is the moment that helps you refine your communications and ultimately your business.

For years I ran my business under the name Paul Davis Solutions. For some people, using their name in a service based business make sense. The name never fit for my business. I could get customers when I talked to people about what I did but never when I talked about the business.

Small-Time Marketing is a name that gets responses. It is easy for me to talk about and I get positive responses when I tell people about it.

No matter how long you have been in business, you need to have passion to talk about your business.

Offer To Help

Find people who need your service, start talking to them. If an opportunity arises, offer to help. Often you will get a no thank you, but sometimes you get someone who is ready for your help and is ready to make that decision.

Once you have offered and they have decided to purchase from you, collect payment and follow through.

Find your potential customers, talk to them, offer to help, collect payment and follow through.

It is simple but it is not easy.

But, even the most difficult task gets easier once you have taken the first step.

So who can you talk to today?