Locating new clients

Is Your Business Tool Box Full? Part LX: Locating new clients

Stephen Capper, along with his wife, Nora, and their daughters, Jami and Toni, owns and operates A-1 Awards, Inc. in Indianapolis. He has been associated with the awards and recognition industry for over 45 years, and has given numerous seminars since 1979.

It is crucial to keep plowing new ground and adding new clients for both suppliers and dealers. One of my friendly competitors once said, keep looking for new clients because you will often only keep a client for five years or less, so you will have turnover. His thoughts proved to be right many times in our business.

Our client contacts move, quit, and sometimes there’s just a change of buyers. Our clients change for many reasons, and often we don’t even know why they have stopped buying. This doesn’t mean that you won’t keep clients, because you will. The clients we keep become our base and are important in the sell-ability of our business. However, in order to enjoy growth, we must keep some of the old clients and continue to search for the new ones.

We all need to keep growing our active list of purchasing clients that we can convert to profitability. This word needs to be revisited often to make sure we are maintaining margins that afford us the opportunity to continue to grow. Profit is what sustains our wants and needs as well as those of our employees, and presents the opportunity to create new products and services—we must always have enough profit for expansion and growth. If we don’t grow, we will die just like almost anything in the cycle of nature.

We do have clients we have maintained for over 50 years. In some cases, these are the same families or corporations buying for the same group for over half a century, but this is not the normal, at least not in our business. Don’t forget that often we can add services or products that will expand our offering to our existing clients. Take advantage of the opportunity to sell more to existing clients—when possible, most of them do buy other products that we haven’t offered them yet. We will talk more about existing clients at the end of this series.

Looking for new avenues and venues that will buy our wares can be challenging, but rewarding. I am speaking of clients that can and do buy enough that you really value their account. We value every client, but there are those that take up a lot of time, and we would all like to replace them with less time-consuming and more profitable business, and we can, if we keep fine tuning our client list. Every business must make a genuine effort to search and replace small margin accounts for a better and more profitable one.


Consider that when we add a new client, our present line is likely to be new and exciting to them and it can and often does fulfill their needs. By this I mean that while our line needs to be constantly improving, new clients will buy our existing line because it can be new to them. (Don’t think you have to change everything every year. However, don’t fall into the trap of keeping the same old line just because it is easy.)

Many small businesses think this:

  • When I get a better location, people will come.
  • When I get that new machine, then I will be able to compete.
  • When I get a catalog, then I can really show them what I have for them.
  • When I get a new website, then I will look competitive.
  • When I get a good employee that I can depend on, things will change.
  • When I get some of my bills paid, then I can concentrate on selling new people.

The list goes on and on, but every journey starts with your first step.

I have talked with so many who think they need to reinvent their business each and every year with new machines and processes. Nothing wrong with offering something new—you should, but once you have perfected a process, it is more profitable to you to expand your production rather than reinvent and add another process to your offering.


You can spend a lot of time going to other cities and attempting to sell strange segments of unfamiliar business that will benefit you a little, but we will deal with this later. My suggestion when searching for new clients is to go where you are comfortable and feel as if you can relate to these new prospects. Remember: People Buy from People. This is what both large and small businesses live by. It is important to remember to be true to yourself and to be consistent in all of your business dealings.

Where you fit in is important and you need to deal with the people you get along with. This may take a little time and a lot of research to determine what best fits you. But don’t try to be something that you aren’t—that just doesn’t work most of the time. Comfort with our business and those that do business with us is important to give each of us the self-satisfaction we all need to run our business. We should feel as if we are making a contribution to our communities and serving a need, yet doing commerce that produces a real profit. Profit is not just a word that sounds good, but it is a position that we must attain in order to survive and prepare for growth. If you are not growing, you could be doomed. 

Don’t try to be or fit in with a group that you don’t relate to—this can be draining on you physically and mentally. My father always said, “Worry is the hardest work there is.” I never realized how true that was when I was young, but life has a way of teaching us. You need to be honest with yourself and locate the client base that interests you and that you can enjoy serving.

If you don’t attain this feeling with your clients, I have observed that business owners lose their desire to deal with these clients. If you can cross over between just running your business to being interactive with clients who are your friends and not just a paycheck, then things will change in the right direction. Look at your business as a service you render and the business will succeed, if you work on the right margins. When and if you adjust your margins, be prepared for some to leave you. If you are not making enough to maintain your business then it’s only a matter of time until you won’t be in business.