Find-New-CustomersYou’re about to get a simple 6-step formula that applies in any marketing, in any media, to let you generate new customers from scratch.

I’m also going to run through parallel examples.  One, online.  Another, in-person at networking events.  Both, following this same formula.  To show you that yes, it does work everywhere!

Remember, even though it’s Tuesday, this is my weekly Mailbox Monday issue, where I answer your questions.  (I skipped it yesterday due to the Memorial Day holiday — and yes, the thunderstorm held off and we enjoyed a nice, sunny, warm afternoon with the family at the pool!)

Here’s the question from the mailbox…


I’m a retired Army Colonel and new to business.

I’m looking for the best ways to get new customers from scratch.

How is it done?  Thanks.

Marty Smith

Here’s the 6-step formula that you can apply to any market, and any media…

STEP1: Identify your specific target market…

First and foremost, you need to be crystal clear on who you’re going after.  Who do you want to serve?  What problem or challenge are they having, that you can overcome for them?  Why would they choose you, over every other option available to them?

The more specific the better.  You’re going to do far, far better in business if you can spend 3 hours telling me about all the little details of your perfect customer, than if you can only spend 3 minutes or 30 seconds.

This is critically important.  Because if you go too broad, you won’t be able to speak to them with a voice that resonates.  And you won’t move them to do business with you.

You’re far, far better off picking a market that’s very narrowly-defined and growing from there once you’ve reached saturation…  Than you are defining your target market in too broad of terms and never really connecting with anyone.

For my examples, I’ll share two really specific projects from my past.

The first, the online example, was people who cut foam wings for their own model airplanes.

The second, offline, was high-level financial publishers who used long-form sales letters to sell their products.

STEP 2: Figure out where they congregate…

Once you know who you’re going to serve, think about what brings them together, or where you can find them on a regular and reliable basis.

If you’re thinking about in-person, it may be a place they regularly go to.  For normal consumer goods stores, they may want to set up at a busy intersection because that’s where traffic is.  Or, in a mall, because that’s where people go to shop.

The same principle applies all over.

Maybe your ideal customer is a member of a specific group or organization.  Maybe they regularly attend certain conferences or trade shows.  Maybe they’re regulars at the local Chamber of Commerce.

Maybe they read certain magazines, or trade journals.  Or consume some other common media.

Online, the principle is much the same.  Maybe they frequent certain websites.  Or they all “like” a certain page or person on Facebook.  Maybe they use a certain set of search terms.  Or participate in a certain forum.

The key is you have to find out the specific context that you can use as an indicator.  If someone goes to or does X, it means there’s a high likelihood that they’re a member of your target market.

For the foam wing cutting market, the most reliable and consistent indicator I could find was search keywords.  If someone typed a certain set of keywords into Google, I could reliably predict they were looking for info on cutting foam wings for model airplanes.

For the financial publishers I wanted to work with, the most common place I could find where they all congregated was at AWAI’s Bootcamp.  AWAI set up the job fair portion of that in such a way that lots of long-copy direct response marketers — including financial publishers — would come looking to have conversations with copywriters.

STEP 3: Introduce yourself in that space…

Once you know where your market congregates, you have to show up.  This probably means investing.  And probably, it means investing money.  (Although investing time is a sometimes-effective but less reliable strategy.)

You’ve gotta pay to play.

Maybe this means becoming a member of the local Chamber.  Maybe it means renting a shop where there’s traffic.  Maybe it means running an ad in a certain publication.

Maybe it means buying keyword traffic via Google AdWords.  Or buying Facebook ads, or space ads on various ad networks that let you target certain websites (such as Google Display Network).

It can also mean participating in forums or groups, as long as you play by the rules — which usually means you need to hold off on blatant promotion.

Whatever you do, your goal is to show up and be seen.  (We’ll talk about the most important thing you need to be seen doing in the next step.)

For my foam wing cutting project, this included running AdWords ads alongside the search results.  (Also, eventually ending up with 3-4 out of the top 10 organic search results.)

For working with financial publishers, this meant actually going to AWAI and speaking with the people I met there.

An important note: the value of being seen usually increases through repetition.  If you get zero results the first time, it may just be because you’re new.  If you get zero results the second time, it may be worth questioning if you’re in the right place with the right message (again, getting to that).  If you get zero results a third time, you most definitely need to make some changes.  The ideal scenario gets you small results the first time, bigger results the second, and results that keep snowballing every time you go back, as you become a familiar face.

STEP 4: Make an introductory offer to get them to come into your space…

So — once you’re in the “space” where your ideal target market congregates, what do you say?

A lot depends, but one thing is consistent.

You have to accomplish one big goal.

You have to take them out of that space, and bring them into your space.

In person, this probably means you need to make some kind of offer, outside of your business, to bring people into your actual store.  This is why we see window posters, merchandise displayed in shop windows, and other unique approaches to get visitors to come inside.

One of the most interesting examples of this comes from — I think — The Cookie Company, who has locations in most malls across America.  They actually have a specially-designed fan system that blows the smell of baking cookies out into the mall.  That’s why it always smells so good any time you’re even remotely close to one of The Cookie Company’s stores.  Because they’re pushing that smell out to bring you in.

If you’re in media, you need to make a risk-free offer to attract your prospects to respond.  This is often done with some kind of freebie.  It can be a free report, or better, a free tool that is useful to them.  It can be a short free introductory consultation.  It can be a free trial or sample of your product.  The idea is that you want to make it as easy as possible to respond.

And importantly, the offer should be created in such a way that by responding, they are effectively giving you permission to communicate with them in the future.  If you’re in the kind of business where someone buys immediately, this is less relevant to the first transaction, but definitely important for future transactions.  But in general all businesses should apply this rule: getting permission to follow up and create a relationship is infinitely more valuable than getting a one-and-done sale.

For the foam wing cutting business, after they arrived at my website I offered them free email tips on cutting foam wings.  I teased the specific tips I would make available through email, and asked for their email address.

To get copywriting gigs, the most effective approach I’ve identified is by setting up a short phone call for after the event is over.  That’s my entire goal from the first interaction.

STEP 5: Nurture the relationship…

Once you have brought someone into your space, it’s time to nurture the relationship.

There are two main areas of focus in nurturing a relationship in such a way that it leads to them doing business with you.

The first and most obvious and widely-used is showing your customer that you understand their problem, and that you have a solution for them.

The second and far more powerful — but less-used — is by positioning yourself as a character that they are attracted to.

The problem-solution approach is simple.  You speak to the problem they have.  Make it clear that you really understand it.  Then, present your solution.  Make it clear that you can solve the problem for them.  Show how yours is the best solution.  Then, all you’ll have to do is make a compelling offer.

The character approach is a bit more difficult — but when done right, radically more effective.  You have to figure out what traits and attributes you have that are naturally appealing and attractive to your target audience.  Then, you convey those attributes not through telling them, but by showing them in story.

Once you’ve identified the attractive character attributes that will move your market toward you, dig into your past to find the most compelling stories for demonstrating these attributes.  Find, develop, and really hone your best selling stories.  Then, tell them in the course of regular communication with your prospective customers.

For the foam wing cutting market, my emails gave the specific tips promised.  These demonstrated that we had a unique and compelling solution to wanting to know how to cut foam wings for model airplanes.  Many of the tips were pulled from the video, and written down and simplified to fit into email.  Throughout though, I was also doing some interesting character crafting.  Because it was my dad and I running the site, I was able to convey that my dad was a modeler just like them.  And that it was something we have done together — fostering family relationships.

When it comes to copywriting, I’ve spent a long time and a lot of effort cultivating a certain character in that market, and at AWAI in particular.  Nothing of this is disingenuous — it’s simply highlighting the specific aspects of who I am and my experience that are most likely to get me the results I want in that context.  And as I continue speaking with clients who come from there, it’s often a continuation of story lines and character building that they’re first exposed to at the event.

STEP 6: Make your main offer…

Once you’ve done all of this, you’re in a perfect place to make your offer.

At this point, your biggest concern is making it easy for them to respond.  How can you make your offer in such a way that tilts the scales of success firmly in their favor, and puts the majority of the risk of the transaction on you?

What can you do to deliver overwhelming value, while minimizing their perceived cost?

If you’ve done everything else right up to this point, making the offer is easy.  The fact that they’re going to buy is pretty much assumed.  You just can’t stand in the way.

For the foam wing cutting video, I started making the offer from very early in the selling cycle, and continued to make it consistently in every contact.  Because it was a relatively low-dollar sale, the threshold for purchase wasn’t that high.  And yet, I also knew that some people would be more hesitant to purchase, so I offered an extremely generous guarantee.  Basically, if you decided at any point that you weren’t happy, we’d give your money back and you could keep the product.  There was really no way to lose by buying.

For my copywriting services, it’s evolved over the years.  I got my first copywriting client by writing an irresistible offer letter.  Then, I did spec assignments to show my skill before they offered a contract.  Even once I had mostly sworn off spec work, I would occasionally write a lead unsolicited, and send it to a client to get them to hire me.  Then, as my reputation started to precede me, all of that became far less necessary.  Before the contract, I will occasionally still sit down with a client to bounce ideas — and we can get enough of a sense that way if we’re going to have a fit.  But for the most part, my reputation precedes me and is enough of a risk reduction that they’ll move forward on that.  All along, this has flowed out of a conversation about their needs and if it’s a fit for my services or not.

So there you have it!

Sometimes I feel like these Mailbox Monday essays turn into my most epic — and I think this one is no exception!

Remember, every Mailbox Monday issue is dedicated to answering YOUR questions.  It can be about marketing, selling, copywriting, business building, life, whatever.

If you’re reading this in email — good for you!  All you have to do is hit reply, and ask away.

If you’re reading this on the website, why aren’t you an email subscriber yet?  You should absolutely find out where you can enter your email address on this page, and subscribe.  Then, shoot me an email at with your question to answer in an upcoming Mailbox Monday issue.

I hope this has been a breakthrough for you!

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

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