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How to find more customers for your home business

selling at a market

How can I sell products I make at home?

Whatever your business is, you'll need to make people aware of it, especially in the early stages as you're getting started. Word of mouth is the cheapest and easiest way - tell all your friends and family and get them to tell their friends. Ask your customers to tell their friends about you - give them a discount, upgrade or extra for recommending someone.

Selling things online

The more 'niche' or exclusive that your product or service is, then the better it will generally sell online.

People are much more likely to take the added perceived risk of buying online if the product is unusual or hard to source especially if you have taken the trouble to set up a secure online shop ( there are lots of simple solutions to doing this - you'll be surprised how easy it is!).

If you're offering a service then create a website to give potential customers an idea of an idea of the prices and services you provide.

Make it as informative as you can and give as many prices as possible - one thing that's guaranteed to make potential customers move on is an amateur-looking website with no contact information and no idea of what things will cost them. Attract vistors by doing some SEO (search engine optimization) to make sure your site appears in search results for relevant terms. The best way to do this is to create a good-quality site that complies with guidelines .

You can also pay for ads to appear alongside the 'natural' results returned by search engines. Depending on what kind of business

promote a business - woman shouting from pcDon't forget that social media such as facebook is a great way of telling people about your product or service. You can create a dedicated page for your business and if your budget allows, you can promote it further by paying for adverts and sponsored stories.

Have a dedicated phoneline or mobile for the business and answer it professionally - Write a script and practice with your friends if you need to until you sound confident.

Even something simple like 'Good Morning, work at home website. How can I help you?' sets the conversation off on a professional footing and makes it more likely that you'll get the work!

If business levels allow, don't forget that there are also a wide range of answering services available to take calls on your behalf and forward messages to you.


Selling Locally

If you want to sell locally, then there a number of options which can give good returns on your time - choose the methods that you think will suit your product best and mix and match them. Don't forget, there are still a lot of potential customers who don't have a computer and while it might take a bit longer to find them, they are still worth pursuing!

Car Boot Sales.

These are cheap to enter and can be a great way of testing the market, especially with low -ticket items. If you've never been to one before, it's always best to make a couple of trips to your chosen market as a buyer to get an idea of how things work.

Talk to sellers and ask them what they think of the market and, if they are regulars ask if they have any hints and tips such as best area to be in, best days etc. Most sellers will be happy to chat to you if you pick your moment and ask politely (and especially if you make a purchase). Some car boot sales are held in conjunction with markets and while this helps with drawing buyers in, it can attract different kinds of punters on different days so do your research and pick the right day.

The golden rule with car boot sales is to arrive early and allow time to get set up before the public turn up. Also watch out for other dealers and punters rummaging through your stuff as you're setting up and offering to buy at knock-down prices. If you don't keep a close eye on your stock at this stage, you may well find that some items 'walk' . You'll find that It's not unknown to sell something too cheap early on and then take a walk around later to see the same item on sale at a big mark up! So don't price to cheap to begin with - you can always discount later if things aren't shifting and you don't want to take anything home.

Weekly Markets.

A weekly market is a step up from a car boot sale and can help you get established as a regular business. Find out about them from your local council or ask around at the market itself. Renting a stall in a busy market can get you a lot of passing trade for a low outlay. You can find a local market by using the interactive map on the National Market Traders' Federation website. They also offer advice and public liability insurance which you'll need if you are trading professionally.

Contact your local market and ask about opportunities as a casual trader, many markets will advise you to get there early as they run a queuing system for casual traders - if one of the regulars doesn't turn up by a given time, you'll be given the opportunity to rent that pitch. If you haven't decided on the kind of things you'll be selling, look for a 'gap in the market' and aim to fill that particular hiche.

Bear in mind that unless you're operating in something like a specialist antiques, crafts or collectables market, your customers will be looking for 'cheap and cheerful' rather than luxury items so keep prices as low as you can.

craft stall

Craft Markets and fairs.

If you are selling crafts or gifts, then a craft show or market can put you in touch with the right customer base. Again, you can find out about them from your council or by asking around at the market. Stallfinder has a useful searchable list which enables you to find craft shows etc by county, type or date.

As with other types of markets, if you are new to selling at markets, it's best to go to a few as a visitor to get the feel of things, assess the competition and get an idea of pricing.

Renting a stall at an event.

Search for events in your area or which you think you could sell at and contact the organisers. Many events have opportunities for stallholders ranging from food sales to crafts and goods related to the event. Many specialist suppliers do a good proportion of their business at events - for example militaria suppliers at military re-enactments, equestrian suppliers at horse shows etc. Even a general event like a summer fete can be worth attending if you have the right product.

Talk to local shops and galleries about buying your stuff or selling it on commission.

Don't be shy about calling in to local shops and galleries with a sample of your wares. If your product is saleable, you can often do a deal with a local shop to offer your stuff on a sale-or-return or commission basis. Don't be too ambitious to start off with and be willing to negotiate on pricing and percentages. Restaurants and cafes are also useful outlets for paintings and photographs, as these don't take up any floor space and (hopefully!) improve the decor.

Tell everyone you meet.

Self-explanatory! Sell your business to your friends and family and ask them to tell their friends and family too. Keep flyers and business cards with you at all times and hand them out, keep leaflets in the car and when you have a few moments free push them through letter boxes, under windscreen wipers and into peoples hands! Don't be shy - you've got a great product or service and you need to get the word out.

Classified ads in your local magazine and free newspaper.

Advertising in your local paper can be a lot cheaper than you think, ask for a discount for more than one insertion and don't forget that parish magazines, neighbourhood and district magazines and school newsletter can offer a cheap way of getting your message across.

Leaflets and cards in local shops, newsagents etc.

Put cards up in your local shops and newsagent. Many supermarkets now offer boards where local tradespeople can put up business cards or adverts. This still works really well for services such as gardening, ironing or cleaning as many customers will consider using a 'local' service if they find it but may not necessarily search online for one.

Distribute leaflets.

Printing costs have come down and down over the past few years and the process of designing a leaflet of poster is much easier using a computer. Most printers will help you with advice on producing a professional-looking leaflet or will even include design in the costing. Always get someone else to proof read the leaflet before you go to print and make sure you include as many contact options as possible ( web address, email, landline contact number, mobile number, skype, facebook, twitter, and of course a postal address ) to make it easy for your potential customers to check you out.

 


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