10 free ways to find clients and increase sales for SMEs

Business Growth
July 13, 2022

2022 continues to bring more challenges to Philippine small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs): increased cost of raw materials, soaring inflation, and global supply chain issues.

How can business owners like you cope?

The best course of action is to focus on business aspects you can control. Mind your cash flow, minimize unnecessary expenses, and consider getting a revolving credit line to use as your business emergency fund. Most importantly, maximize your exposure to new markets — ideally without spending or taking on debt.

The latter is the hardest, since you’ll be competing with companies using paid marketing tools and sophisticated strategies. But with concentrated effort and time, these free tips will pay off by increasing your brand awareness and recognition in a wider market.

1. Create a Google Business Profile

Filipino shoppers visit around 8 websites before making a purchase — often starting with Google Search. A free Google Business profile quickly increases your visibility to leads “googling” your service, product, or business, since it displays your profile first on relevant results. It also shows your business location on Google Maps, which helps when you operate brick-and-mortar stores.

If your business doesn’t have a website, Google My Business is also the fastest way to have one. It signals credibility and keeps potential clients safe by immediately directing them to your legitimate contact details.

First Circle's Google Business Profile

2. Create business social media accounts

In 2021, 78.5 million Filipinos were on Facebook; the younger the demographic, the likelier they are to have other social media accounts, such as Instagram and Tiktok. However, it’s best to focus on Facebook, and/or another channel most used by your target market.

Post on your accounts semi-regularly — once a week is the bare minimum. It won’t increase your clients overnight, but it makes you visible or reachable to anyone searching online for your kind of product or service.

3. Join online entrepreneur communities

Another advantage of being online is networking and finding opportunities in a low-investment way. On Facebook, Startup PH — a grassroots group of local startup founders and SME owners — lets you trade tips, crowdsource supplies and services, find investors, and connect with fellow entrepreneurs. The official Facebook pages of Go Negosyo and DTI also regularly publish important SME updates. You can even get featured on #FlexPHriday, a DTI campaign highlighting a local business every Friday for their 472,000+ followers.

4. Automate responses on your social media and website

The better the start of the online purchasing journey, the likelier it is for a consumer to choose your brand. However, you and your staff can’t always be online to attend to client inquiries. Setting up automatic responses — often a chatbot — on Facebook Messenger and website is an easy way to make clients feel heard.

Some best practices: ensure users know they’re interacting with a chatbot, remind them of your business operating hours, and ask them to leave their contact details for a follow up. Then follow up!

5. Re-target customers

Upselling and cross-selling current customers should be a top priority for SMEs, as they are already familiar with your brand and are likely to do business with you. Make an email list of current clients and email them as a reminder that your business exists. You send updated pricing, new product lines, holiday greetings, or a friendly personal email asking how you can be of service. If your transactions happen more often on Messenger or Viber, you can also do the same. You can even offer special discounts to repeat customers.

6. Consider product bundle pricing

Product bundle pricing is the strategy of combining several products or services into a single package deal. The price becomes lower than the individual price of each item, encouraging clients to buy more. It increases your perceived value to customers, and helps offload underperforming inventory. And while you may be selling individual items at a small discount, it also increases your average order value.

7. List on Carousell

This advice mostly applies to B2C and B2B product suppliers. Carousell is an e-commerce platform specializing in C2C (consumer-to-consumer) sales of secondhand items. Compared to e-commerce giants like Shopee and Grab, Carousell doesn’t charge transaction fees. They also have a 2-way review system for both sellers and buyers, which can increase trust in your brand if utilized correctly. Just ensure you manage buyer expectations by explaining the state of your products, especially if they are brand new.

8. Start your B2G journey with Project Finder

B2G (business-to-government) is another strategy SMEs can use for revenue — made possible by PhilGEPS, the official government procurement website. Having the government as your client makes your portfolio more attractive to leads and opportunities.

To find government projects and filter them according to keyword, location, and budget, use Project Finder (https://my.firstcircle.ph/project-finder). This is First Circle’s free and searchable database of government projects from PhilGEPS and LGUs. More importantly, you can use Project Finder to set email alerts for new contracts relevant to your business.

9. Follow the DTI Export Marketing Bureau for tender notices

DTI Export Marketing Bureau (DTI) champions exporting of Philippine products and services by providing resources such as business matching and trade guidelines. Their Facebook page regularly publishes tender notifications from Hong Kong and other countries that SMEs can bid for.

10. Request reviews from clients

Leads are more likely to choose a brand with a lot of good reviews. So if you haven’t initiated a review request every time a client completes a transaction, now is the time to do so. You can automate this in Hubspot and other marketing software with an automated email trigger; otherwise, you can just manually send a review form. Google Business is the best place to display your reviews; you may also consider Facebook, but be prepared to encounter more spam content.

By maximizing your organic options, concentrating on important channels used by your target market, and expanding your network, you can increase your brand visibility and credibility — hopefully leading to more leads and sales.

How can funding help?

You may find that none of these strategies can quickly cover immediate cash flow gaps, since they take time and effort to bring inbound leads. On the other hand, these strategies may work very well for your business, making you more willing to spend on full-time resources or automated marketing software.

In both cases, our revolving credit line can give you flexible, ongoing access to funds. The application process is fast and free, making it an ideal emergency fund and growth partner for your business. You can withdraw from it any time, and only pay what you used plus interest.

First Circle is a multi-awarded lending company supporting SMEs since 2016. To apply for a Revolving Credit Line and other forms of business funding, you may contact us at support@firstcircle.com.

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