Getting That ‘First Date’

Tips for attracting that potential first-time customer

The pandemic changed the very nature of business on so many levels. We changed many of the ways we do things in our everyday lives, including how we shop and how we make purchasing decisions. In this adapted environment, doing the same things we did before will not move your business forward. We need a new approach. Welcome to “Dating for Business 101.”

first date
Image courtesy of Valarie O’Connell, Imaging Custom Embroidery & Printing.

Getting new customers is a lot like trying to get someone to go out on a first date with you. They need to like you. They need to like the look of you. They need to feel good about dealing with you. They need to like how they feel when they are around you. They need to feel safe when doing business with you. They need to want to spend time with you. Oh my, welcome back to high school!?

High school was no barrel of monkeys, let me tell you. I was not in any of the popular or cool cliques, I was more of an “I’ll stay out here on the fringe of the group,” kind of gal. I had friends in many of the prominent social circles but did my own thing for the most part. That kind of approach will not serve your business well. You need to put yourself out there, in the public eye, where you and your business can be seen.

What can you do to get the possibility of that “first date” with a new customer? In other words, how do you get that ever-so-important first order from them? There is an even more important question to ask – do you want to go on that first date with them? Here is where you ask yourself, what do you want from your customers, so that it is a great relationship for you and your business? Trust and loyalty are on the top of the list. The ability to pay for the orders is another important quality.

Have you ever been burned in a personal relationship? Well, that can happen in business, too. The customer that tempts you with promises that the next order will be huge, or the customer that never returns to pay for and pick up that custom order, or the customer that says they want to place their order, then shows when they need it tomorrow, and expects you to perform miracles.

first date
Image courtesy of Valarie O’Connell, Imaging Custom Embroidery & Printing.

It is important to evaluate a new customer to determine if they will be a good fit for you and your business. Now is when you decide if you want a second date with them, another order. Because they are a new customer for you, this is your opportunity to train them how to be your ideal customer. If you offer a ridiculously quick turnaround on that first order, they are likely to expect that for every order. If you order them a discount because they promised a big follow-up order, they will come in with that scenario on their next order potentially, true or not.

The first thing to do to attract the attention of a new customer is become an expert at expressing who you are — what you believe, and why you do what you do. Believe it or not, potential customers do not care about what you sell as their primary criteria in doing business with you. There are at least a dozen other businesses nearby that offer the exact same shirts, sweats, and jackets. In order for them to choose to do business with you, you need to get them to care about you first and then get them to care about how your customized products make them feel. When you and your business resonates with someone, they are much more likely to become a long-term customer. They feel a connection, this resonance, by getting to know you as an individual.

Think about – when someone asks you for a recommendation, a referral, how do you answer their question? Need a mechanic? Go see Mike down at Main Street Auto. Looking for a good home repair person? Call Lauren and Pat, they can do and fix anything, L & P Repairs, over in Ravenna. Your computer was hacked? Take it to George at Computer ER – he is the only one I trust with my computers! We give referrals using the person’s name, their business is secondary. We know these businesses and recommend them because we know, like and trust the person we deal with at that business.

After a successful first date, that first order, your customers should be able to say to their friends,  “Need some shirts with your logo? I know exactly who you need to call – [insert your name here] at [insert your business name here].”

The second element of successful dating for new customers is making your outbound marketing about the kinds of customers you want to attract. Your website, social media posts, any print ads, and brochures need to make it crystal clear that you are in business to serve your customers in every way possible.

Instead of putting a post on social media that you make shirts, add a post about how awesome your customer’s event went with a photo of them in their new shirts. On your website, include snippets with photos whenever possible of your work “in the wild.” Encourage your customers to send photos to you of their team in their new apparel. This shows potential customers the different ways your products are used, and highlights the kinds of customers with whom you work. By demonstrating how you can serve, help, or solve an issue for potential customers, you make the message about them instead of about you.

Take a look at your current messaging — it is about you, or is it about them? By making your posts and marketing materials about your customers, and not about your company, you will immediately stand out from your competitors.

The third element to successfully attract and interact with new customers is to make it easy for them to reach you. Always include a big and obvious button or link that says call me, request a quote, see the latest catalog, email me. Use whatever language reflects you on every digital media you send out into the world. This includes your social media posts, your email signature, and every page of your website. Make sure this connection point is easy to spot and takes only one click. With your written materials, make sure that your phone, email and business address are always easy to notice. If you do not tell them how to reach you, they cannot and will not reach you. They will scroll through to the next option, where they can connect in just one click.

It is time to take an objective look at how you present yourself and your business to the world. Would you want to go on a first date with you? Or do you sound like that awful date that drones on about their car, their job, their travel, their amazing life, and never, ever asks about you, your interests, your life. Don’t be that date! Update your materials and make it about your customers, how they use your products, and how their products help them achieve their goals. You will stand head and shoulders above the competition, that is a bore. You will have the opportunity to go on many more great first dates.

jennifer cox

Jennifer Cox

Jennifer Cox is one of the founders and serves as president of the National Network of Embroidery Professionals (NNEP), an organization that supports embroidery and apparel decoration professionals with programs and services designed to increase profitability and production.

View all articles by Jennifer Cox  

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