1. Know your target audience
Do you know the people you're selling to? What boxes do they tick? Are they old or young, male or female, married or single? Make sure you know who will be more likely to buy your products. People who aren't interested in your business are less likely to talk about it, whereas people who are interested are likely to talk about it to others.
2. Talk to influential people
Talking to people you're aiming your business at is a good way of getting your message out there, but it can be more effective. Talk to someone with influence, someone who many people follow; go on social media sites and find people in your area who have lots of followers and post regularly. If someone with influence is speaking about your business, it's going to reach more people. Don't go bombarding people with in-your-face emails and calls. Treat people like people, not business clients. Learn about them and get a conversation going.
3. Build up an online community
If you can build up an online community of potential customers, it will be great for your business, because you've got your target audience right where you want them. Get yourself on social media sites and steadily build up a following of potential customers. This can take some time, but it can also work really well. The more people you've connected to online, the more people there are who can refer you to someone else.
4. Be consistent in your offerings
No matter how big or small your online community, make sure you keep their interest by posting regularly, whether it's about your business or about other things. People will lose interest in you and your business if you don't post anything. Keep your pages updated regularly and always make sure your posts are engaging and tie in with you and your business.
5. Ask people to refer you
There's no harm in simply asking people to talk about your business with others. Manners and patience are key, of course; tag it on to the end of a conversation, that way it doesn't feel forced. Be polite and say you'd really appreciate it if people could spread the word. Remember that people are only going to talk about your business if it's any good. If they've had bad customer service and have umpteen other things to complain about, they might spread the word, but it won't be good and bad word of mouth could hinder any efforts to help your business grow. The customer does always know best, so treat them respect and they'll hopefully spread the word, even if you have to ask politely.
6. Give them something for nothing
People don't expect to get anything for free these days, so it's always a nice surprise to get something for nothing. Give your customers and potential customers something for nothing, even if it's a little sample or a postcard with one of your paintings on or something like that. That something is a reminder of you and your business. People are more likely to remember you if they have something that jogs their memory.
7. Manners go a long way, and they're free
Always go that extra mile and be polite and friendly to people. If someone makes a purchase, thank them for it. Engage people in conversation. Let them engage you in conversation. Offer to help them. Always be polite and always put the customer and potential customer's interests before your own.
Joanne Perkins is a Berkshire-based artist with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art and specialises in painting Berkshire landscapes. She is happy to accept all queries and questions. For more information about Joanne, her work and her current projects visit: http://joannesberkshirescenes.com/default.aspx