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    What’s a sure-fire way to find new customers? Have current customers refer them to you. That’s hardly surprising, as referrals are typically the top source of new business for any company.
    So how does a small business just starting out find those first customers and start the coveted cycle of referrals?
    A good first start is to develop a comprehensive marketing plan in step with your business plan. You’ll have a good, detailed profile of your target market, and how they shop for products and services like yours. The characteristics of that market will then dictate how to attract the attention of those customers, whether its strategic advertising, networking at professional conferences and associations, or contacting previously identified decision-makers.
    There are also tools to help those potential customers find you more easily. The most important one is a well-designed website. It should be professional in appearance with your company name and contact information prominently displayed, easy for visitors to navigate, and filled with content containing keywords typically used in Internet searches for your type of business.
    Social media can also be a helpful tool in finding new customers. Blog posts and tweets on topics of interest to your customers are a good way to populate search engine results with your company name. Platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn offer both free visibility and, if desired, advertising options to give you an even higher profile.
    Though social media offers an instant Internet presence, it does not always translate into instant results. “Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet; it is trial and error with every marketing initiative,” advises Internet marketing and social media consultant Dan Beldowicz. “The better you know your target market and the better you align the information to make an emotional connection with them, the better the chance you have of converting fans into customers.”
    Even in this social media-driven world, there remains a variety of simple, low-cost ways to connect with customers that don’t require an electronic device. Among them:
        - Watch for events that may bring your potential market together. This includes events that might attract your target customers, as well as other companies in your business.
        - Follow up with people you meet after meetings.  If they don’t need your services now, ask if there’s a better time to contact them, or if they have business associates who could use what you sell.
        - Work your personal network. Ask friends if they know of people who can use your services. You could offer a finder’s fee for referrals that turn into jobs, but many people may consider a cup of coffee or dinner reward enough.
        - Ask for feedback when prospects don’t buy. Use what you learn to make needed changes in your approach, whether it’s in person or online.
    This column is provided by Southwest Illinois SCORE with locations in Godfrey and Belleville. For more information contact (618) 467-2280, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit score.org

IBJ Business News

Kyle Anderson assumes CEO role with Realtors

    GLEN CARBON — The Greater Gateway Association of Realtors has hired Kyle Anderson as its chief executive officer starting July 1.
    The GGAR is an association of more than 1,000 members including Realtor and affiliate business partners serving the counties of Madison, Bond, Jersey, Calhoun, Montgomery, Fayette and Macoupin.
    “We are very excited to have Kyle continue to serve our association in his new role as CEO. He will bring a source of energy and leadership to our organization along with a desire to grow the organization in size and service,” GGAR President Sandy Michel-Stempinski stated. “The board wants to increase its role in the community and to have a stronger civic presence. Kyle will bring this and much more to the role of CEO.”
    Anderson served as the association’s local government affairs director for the past six years.
    Anderson replaces Rob Wigton, who left at the end of April to become head of the Williamson County Association of Realtors in suburban Nashville, Tenn.
    Anderson was selected as a result of a search of association professionals. A lifelong resident of Madison County, Anderson graduated from the Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville with a B.S. in Political Science. He is currently attending the Institute for Organizational Management (IOM), non-profit management training provided by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Anderson served as a member of the Wood River City Council and as Madison County Recorder in 2010.

Holland Construction begins Edwardsville church

    EDWARDSVILLE — Holland Construction Services Inc. has begun work on the new $3 million First Presbyterian Church of Edwardsville, following a recent ground-breaking ceremony.
    Holland is providing design/build services for the 11,056-square-foot church located on a 6-acre site on Ridgeview Road. The new facility will include a sanctuary, offices and an education wing.
    The current church on North Kansas Street was built in 1923 and in need of repairs as well as not being ADA compliant. The new building will be energy efficient, one level, and meet ADA requirements.
    “First Presbyterian is the first church established in Edwardsville, and its people continue to step out in faith toward new territory,” said the pastor, Dr. John C. Hembruch. “We are pleased to partner with Holland, and excited by the construction progress we see on our new home for mission and ministry. We’re grateful for the many expressions of support we’ve received from members of the community.”
    The last service held in the existing church was on Easter. The 375-member congregation is currently meeting at Goshen Elementary School during construction, which is scheduled for completion in January.
    Hurford Architects of Glen Carbon is Holland’s design/build partner on the project.