How can you go to your customers instead of hoping they come to you?

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I am often racked with guilt as I recycle many works of art created by my son Josh at school. Each day, he runs up to me with excitement and shares his latest creation of pyramids of Egypt, or scorpions or, in his current craze, penguins in Antarctica.

I cringe as I drop them in the recycle bin, thinking “grandma and grandpa would love to see this picture!”

But my desire to reduce the mounds of colored paper all over the kitchen counter usually wins out.

Yesterday, I got a flash of inspiration and a business idea for a creative entrepreneur.

What if someone were to meet me at school at the end of the day and pick up the drawing that I wanted to share with my relatives? (or pick up an envelope at the end of the week with the choice pictures enclosed)

He or she could go back to the office, scan the picture, upload it to Facebook or Flickr or Dropbox, where I could send it to my family spread over the globe.

As a value-added service, this creative entrepreneur could load up the picture in my drafts folder so all I would have to do is add a pithy note and hit send.

And what if these pictures could be compiled at the end of the year in a coffee table art book, using one of the many high-quality on demand publishing or photo sites?

This creative entrepreneur could build relationships with schools and day care centers, working out a profit-sharing model with the school.

The possibilities are endless.

Where could you meet your customers where they are?

This same model can apply to each one of you in your business endeavors.

Last week at the airport, I ended up doing two full-on coaching sessions with fellow passengers. Winding through the security line, I coached an author on how to build her community with social media. I sat next to an advertising guy on the plane, and explored ways he could move from the print medium to online marketing.

Perhaps I should fly more often.

What to ask yourself

  • Where do my customers hang out?
  • How can I catch them right in the middle of a situation where they need me to help them out?
  • How can I build relationships with groups, institutions or organizations who serve large numbers of my customers?

A word of caution

In your quest to meet your customers where they are, be sure to walk a respectful line.

I cringed as I watched religious evangelists pass out cards to their church right in the middle of a traditional Native American Pow Wow.

If you sell life insurance, you probably don’t want to attend funerals and pass out your cards.

You may get punched if you enthusiastically promote your vegan soy products at the regional barbecue championships.

So with respect, creativity and finesse, how can you meet your customers where they are?

Share your ideas, and let us jump in and help.

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10 Responses to “How can you go to your customers instead of hoping they come to you?”

  1. The questions to ask yourself are genius. Simple, but genius.

  2. Richard says:

    Great post. The important point here is to find where customers for your business can be found and let them know how your business can help. Social media can be a powerful tool in getting customers in your niche area. I found a great non-profit that has been providing online education to adult jobseekers in 60 IT certifications in (Microsoft,Cisco, Oracle, Sun, A+, Net+, Security+ etc.) and Business (including Project Management certification) at

  3. […] In your quest to meet your customers where they are, be sure to walk a respectful line. via […]

  4. Hey Pam – I get your bigger very valid point, but perhaps this may address your original concern, which is one I share having just tossed a lot of my daughter’s end of first grade work into the recycle bin!

    I photograph the piece of “my child’s glorious art work” (or school work or creative writing) with my mobile phone, and immediately send my image to my private Posterous blog (direct email) that I set up for Granny in South Africa and various beloved family members and former nannies to see. It takes me less than 2 minutes!

    Sorry, did I just do someone out of a new business? 🙂

  5. sarah says:

    This is hilarious- I esp. relate to Mommy guilt- my kids will occasionally hit the recycle bin and gasp in HORROR as they retrieve one (or 5 ) or their masterpieces and give me a look like “how could you??”

    I have a lot of clients who are smart, amazing, kick ass women who are DOING IT ALL and just need to give themselves permission to do what they already KNOW is the next right thing….not sure exactly where I can meet them- but I know one place is on good old facebook(:

    Thanks Pam- I am a MB student currently and LOVE your generous and encouraging style in the classroom.

    Gracias! Sarah

  6. Crystal says:

    Hi Pam,
    Wowza, so loving the idea of someone who routinely digitizes your kids’ art. I love the idea of handing the drawings over, and payments being a subscription, 9-month for the school year, or 12-month for those year-round scribblers like your sweetie 🙂

    And for a less in-touch but viable remote option: prepaid envelopes that include the cost of postage and the service, like SnapFish does?

    And thinking about images going in your Flickr accoun as you saidt: At the end of each semester or the school year, they could select favorites and push them through MagCloud to create a magazine for that period. Buy a bunch to hand over to family or ship direct, or send them to buy for themselves.

    Such a wunnerful idea seed…great to have something to dream about while Hubby got his haircut!

  7. This isn’t physically meeting your customers where you are, but one of the best pieces of advice I received when I was starting my business was to start seaching on Twitter for various terms related to what you do. Especially if you use TweetDeck, where you can make search columns, you can just watch the search stream go by, and see what people are saying about your topic and how they’re interacting with it. And if someone says something you can respond to – well, you can respond to it, and say, “Hey, I can help with that.” 🙂

  8. Hamish says:

    Great post, Pam.

    No one is waiting around to say “thank God you showed up, I need exactly what you’re selling.”

    I used a technique you recommended in Escape from Cubicle Nation to reach out to my primary audience, which are communicators.

    A communicators’ conference was planned for my home town so I pitched a presentation on building and maintaining a sponsorship program for not-for-profit societies, got on the program and am now known as “the sponsorship guru.”

    For those that haven’t read Escape from Cubicle Nation, find out the local associations to which your target audience belongs and start attending their events. Don’t pitch right away, develop relationships, volunteer, then pitch your services.

  9. Your caution examples are hilarious.
    Pam, when you meeting and give some coaching to say, people at the airport. How often do they turn into clients?
    I am currently in the phase of looking for clients and trying to determine where would be the best places to meet my prospective clients. My business wedding and portrait photography.

  10. Linda says:

    Hi Pamela,

    What a creative way to build your biz. It’s so important to think innovatively, and I’m going to schedule some of your strategies into my day.

    Great post!