5 strategic ways to drive new customers to your business without spending a dime

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  • Imran Tariq is a serial entrepreneur, bestselling author, and the CEO of Webmetrix Group.
  • Tariq works with seven figure companies to help them scale their businesses and become industry leaders.
  • While certain business advertising can be well-spent, Tariq says there's an even more important factor for customer acquisition and retention: trust.
  • Customer trust can be developed through ways other than advertising, such as providing thought leadership, utilizing strategic partnerships, and leveraging satisfied customer testimonials.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Trust is the currency of the 21st century. This is especially true when you consider customer acquisition and customer retention, both of which depend heavily on consumers' belief that their needs will be met - and that the product or service they purchase will provide more value than those of competitors.

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Courtesy of Imran Tariq

Imran Tariq

When starting as a new player in any given market, consumer trust - or lack thereof - can make a significant impact on whether a prospective customer chooses to patronize your business. Trust is not freely given, but that certainly doesn't mean it has to cost anything, especially not thousands of dollars in advertising spend.

Although I do run ads from time to time, here are five alternative ways I approach attracting customers and retaining them, all without considering the paid advertising route.

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1. Follow the thought leader

1. Follow the thought leader

While you might be a pioneer in your field, chances are you're not the first to market, and you might have prominent competitors. It's likely that when you entered the market, there were already innumerable firms engaging in the same kind of exchange. This is important because, while you might not be a leader in your field, there will always be prominent voices advocating for practices that are new, innovative, or completely industry-disrupting.

Not dissimilar to the rise of the subscription model for video and audio streaming services, it's important that your business adapts to the dynamic climate of your industry, which is often best achieved by — if not innovating yourself — following the thought leaders in your field. That way, the value you provide to your customers is always on par, if not superior, to static competitors. By following these thought leaders, you can gain a greater understanding of who your prospective customers are, how you can better meet their needs, and what you need in order to do so.

2. Influence the influencers

2. Influence the influencers

While telling businesses to increase their social media presence is perhaps the most beaten of dead horses, influential voices in an industry are always highly visible online. Because of the number of eyes that see these social media interactions — especially when said influencers are actively replying, or following you back — your business can achieve a type of credibility via acknowledgment or tacit endorsement.

You should never ignore these influencers, and you should do everything you can do to non-intrusively establish yourself as an authority in their eyes. A badge of honor from them can potentially be more impactful than any amount of advertising spend.

3. Leverage powerful testimonials

3. Leverage powerful testimonials

If a customer is satisfied with your product or service, the minimal time investment it takes to ask for a testimonial is more than worthwhile. Whether it's just a sentence indicating satisfactory exchange, or a longer story about how their faith in your business was well placed, a good testimonial can be the difference between whether a new potential customer chooses to work with you.

Your customers want to know what you can do for them, and former clients are often the best indicator of what you can do for new ones. That's why you should focus on making your existing client base happy — they'll do the storytelling for you when the time comes to sell to prospects.

4. Utilize strategic partnerships

4. Utilize strategic partnerships

Regardless of the type of business you're conducting, there's almost always going to be a lateral field that provides value, though in a different capacity than yours, that's relevant to the needs of the consumer. Showing that you can solve problems for another business's clientele is one of the greatest ways to gain business through strategic partnerships.

Whether incentives come in the form of commission or sending clients from one business to the other, it is always detrimental not to take advantage of the fact that businesses operating in lateral niches are looking to assist their customers outside of their hired roles. I have found this to be especially true if there is a promise of getting something in return, whether it's in the form of a direct payout or future business generally.

5. Think value-first in your existing partnerships, even at a loss

5. Think value-first in your existing partnerships, even at a loss

It's sometimes beneficial to be quite generous in these strategic partnerships. Especially if the lateral firm you're engaging with has a larger client base than yours, giving them an offer that seems drastically in their favor can prove to be a worthwhile investment in the future — especially considering the potential for return business, testimonials, and client referrals.

While at face value losing out on profit in the short term can seem like a detriment to your firm, business is a game that's played in perpetuity. If you're seen as a company that provides value to partners upfront, that value often pays itself in dividends in the future. Doing partner companies favors often won't cost you a dime, and the relationships that can manifest from doing so can often be priceless and generate future business for you in ways you might not expect.

Imran Tariq is a bestselling author, CEO of Webmetrix Group, and a voice on Forbes, Entrepreneur, and CNN. Imran helps companies scale that are making a minimum of seven figures in revenue to become a market leader in their industry. Connect with Imran on LinkedIn.

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