The would-be entrepreneur's handbook

The last day of a recession is the best day to start a business, the saying goes. So tackle the 10 steps in this guide now - and be ready to ride the rebound when it comes.

9 of 10
Step 9: Lure customers, on the cheap
Step 9: Lure customers, on the cheap
What's a business without customers? Once you're ready to launch, you've got to build up a clientele as quickly as possible. Try these four strategies:

1. Start with people you know. Word of mouth is a powerful tool. Ask friends to spread news of your biz. Use social-networking sites too. Facebook lets you start a page for your company, run promos and post polls. Sign up for Twitter, which lets you broadcast your doings; and use it to remind pals about your business, says Joe Cullinane, marketing executive in residence at Northern Illinois University.

2. Be where your customers are. If your clients are in a particular field, go to trade shows. To get your name out, "see if you can speak at an event," says Cullinane. Or ask a question in front of the crowd at panels and engage in discussions afterward.

If your clients are in varied industries, think about what other types of businesses they frequent. See if those firms will work out a reciprocal marketing deal.

3. Get some ink. Public relations is cheaper than advertising, so use press releases to get your business some buzz. PR Newswire offers a program allowing small biz owners to send releases to targeted groups of media and consumers ( One-time fees for the service start at $180 for state and city distribution, $680 for national.

4. Offer sweet incentives. Anita Campbell of suggests giving away something - doing a very small project on spec, for example. Another option: Break out a piece of your business into an inexpensive one-off purchase. "Build trust first and that can lead into a bigger purchase later," she says. Also, consider promotional offers, such as "Buy one, get the second half-off."

NEXT: Step 10: Go 2.0
Last updated January 12 2009: 5:30 AM ET
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