Updated: Mar 17, 2021
Studies show that it takes six times more money to gain a new customer than to keep an old one.
But there are times when you have to go after the new ones. So where do you find them?
You could buy lists.
You could ask for referrals from current customers.
You could do cold calling and hope for the best.
All of these ideas will bring you some customers, but I like to start my day prospecting in my local paper.
Start With the Front Page
Starting with the front page there is usually a mixture of national and local news.
I look for anything happening in national news that affects local businesses.
For example, snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Mad Cow disease are national and international issues that affect local interests.
What I look for are names to contact and find any way that my company can do something for the people involved in these issues.
If I were a supplier of farm products I would study the mad cow problem and try to find a solution that my company could supply.
If my company can help with snowmobile technology, then that would be my hook.
Don't forget the city, county and state government articles. They buy tons of goods and services.
Keep up with what each branch is doing and constantly look for needs your company can fill.
The Economy and Business Section
In the economy or business section I learn about local successes and challenges of local businesses.
Who’s doing what and how can I get involved?
If a company is moving for example and I run a print shop, then they’re going to need new business cards and stationery.
They might need remodeling help. New carpets? Cleaning Service? Snow removal perhaps.
Don’t Forget the Wedding Section
You probably skip right over the engagement and wedding announcements. Big mistake.
Here are two people that are going to combine households. They may be in the market for a new home or larger apartment.
They’re going to combine incomes and will need a bank and possibly financial planning.
They may also be in the market for new furniture, carpet, draperies and many other household startup items.
What About the Classifieds?
The classified section is another gold mine of local information.
Is your competition hiring? What would that tell you? Is their business growing?
Are they preparing for a huge promotion or sale? People selling cars and other products may be short on money and need financial help.
People will often have moving sales or yard sales because they want to move to another place but not take all their junk along.
Commercial realty is often listed here. Contact the realtor to give you a heads up when spaces are leased and to whom.
Help wanted ads will tell you what companies may be on the move and might need your services.
The Last Word in Newspaper Prospecting
Last but not least are the advertisers throughout the paper.
Who's advertising what and is there a fit with your company?
Can you team up with a company to supply complimentary but not competing products or services?
Is your competitor advertising in the paper? What section are they in?
What products and services are they offering? Are there any hints of future actions in their ads?
The bottom line is this; customers are trying their best to find you.
The problem is they don't always know where to look. Every contact you make will put your name in front of one more person who should be your customer.
When you read about someone in the paper take a second and write a personal note to them.
Compliment them on their success and explain why they need you. It's a great way to get your name out in a friendly, non-threatening way.
Try looking through your daily newspaper and see how many potential customers you can find to improve your small business.
Based in Bozeman, MT, Tom Egelhoff is the author of, “The Small-Town Advertising Handbook: How To Say More And Spend Less,” and "How to Market, Advertise and Promote Your Business or Service in Your Own Backyard." He is also a seminar and workshop presenter and trainer. He may be reached at 406-580-1104