3 tips to cultivating new business clients

By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller

If you ask Debra Wagner the difference between a spotted snow leopard melon and a Christmas melon, you’ll get more than an earful.

“Here,” the Meridian farmer says, as she drives a toothpick into the meaty white flesh of the melon. “We cut one up this morning. Taste the difference between the two.”

With a mouthful of juicy melon, I was once again shown how passion and honesty in business go hand in hand.

“There’s a certain crunch in the leopard melon that not everyone likes,” she says, and smiles.

Wagner Produce, a family operation in Meridian, features home-grown produce using little or no chemicals. The Chinden Boulevard roadside stand is abuzz with activity.

Most small business owners face the challenge of getting people to understand the difference between their product or service. People may recognize your name, the nature of your business, or both, but until they stop and buy your product or your service, they rarely connect. Educating yourself, developing a marketing plan and networking are all part of making your business grow.

Wagner Produce has actually been around since 1982. The original concept was to sell excess off the farm and make a living at it. When it first opened, there were no developments nearby, there were no golf courses and there were fewer cars on Chinden (Highway 20).  Even the farming seemed to be slower.

“This spring we lost all of our tomatoes,” she says.  “We planted every starter we had, but the cold killed them all.”

Within a week, they’d found a farm that had 4,050 extra tomato plants. Wagner bought them, and began replanting.

“It would have been a disaster had we not had a good network to fall back on,” she says. “We’re now having a good harvest.”

Not everyone can stick a toothpick in their product and offer a sample, so I’ve put together some tips you can use to cultivate new customers.
A good place to start to prepare your business for growth is to create a marketing plan. Doing so will help you to understand your target market, distinguish yourself from competitors and keep up a budget. A good plan can help in times of misfortune and fortune. Government experts can offer guidance for free or reduced fees. You can also hire a professional to do this for you, find a trustworthy marketing consultant within the BBB Accredited Business Directory.
One great way to grow your business is to join a business or industry group. Doing this will also allow  you to network and meet others in your field of expertise.
There are many educational and training opportunities available to small business owners and their employees. The following resources are nationwide:

  • SBA – offers counseling, training and business development to help grow your business.
  • SBDC – Small Business Development Centers offer guidance and help to small business owners.
  • SCORE – resource partner of the SBA assisting with business counseling and training, as well as entrepreneur education.
  • WBC – Women’s Business Centers aid women who want to start and grow small businesses.

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