As similar as they might seem, the terms “growth” and “expansion” don’t actually mean the same thing.

You can expand your service offerings to your heart’s content, but if you don’t grow your group of loyal customers first, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

The great news is that there are tons of options for how to get clients, from providing awesome service to going the extra mile for current clients. There are also several digital marketing strategies you can use to build your user base.

If increasing the size of your business is your No. 1 priority, put aside the list of services you want to add to your site and use these strategies to create a startup marketing plan instead:

1. Market first, then launch.

It’s tempting to wait until you have a complete list of services before you start marketing them, but it will be a lot easier to actually book appointments if you’re able to create demand before you launch. 

Build a website with your contact information and social channels and add details about your services as you come up with them. Create a brand hashtag and use it across social media to spread awareness. Attend customer-centric events like open houses, wedding expos, or citywide sidewalk sales, and hand out business cards with your social handles and website URL listed.

You can also contact your local media outlets to see whether they run lists of new and upcoming businesses and request to add yours. 

Create business listings on popular platforms — or sign up for our Unlimited Bookings Plus add-on and get an automatic listing in our Marketplace. Run contests on social media in which people who book appointments during your first week of business can receive discounts. 

Pay close attention to any feedback you get during these campaigns, and tailor your marketing message as needed to make your business even more appealing.

2. Sell your advantage.

You want customers to buy your services — but asking them to purchase isn’t how you encourage them. People want value: Give it to them by offering your expertise for free. 

Create social posts or blog entries that answer common questions or go in-depth into the challenges they face. Tie your marketing efforts to the advantage that working with or buying from you can provide customers.

Health and fitness expert Darya Rose, creator of Summer Tomato, offers a free information kit in exchange for each new subscriber’s email address. That way, she can grow her bank of potential customers while providing readers with valuable information. New Hampshire spa and salon The Hair Company offers a free blog with tips on taking care of your hair in the winter, choosing a wedding hairstyle, dealing with a dry scalp, and more.

3. Entice digital visitors to return.

You can tell your outreach efforts are working when you see a boom in website visitors, email open rates, and social media engagement. But the ultimate goal of all those platforms is to increase bookings, and not everyone makes a decision on first contact. Plus, newcomers aren’t the only people you should target.

Use the kind of automated email marketing that any good scheduling software should provide to automatically email people who haven’t booked an appointment, people who haven’t booked in a while, and even people with a birthday coming up. When people reach out via phone or email, collect their contact information and use it to send them your relevant blog posts or reach out with discounts for loyal customers. You can also use that same strategy on social media — try messaging your most engaged followers directly.

4. Guest on other respected sites.

Guest posting on other websites is a well-known and highly effective way to get new audiences interested in your brand. The more respected the website, the better. But make sure you stay away from content that sounds too much like a sales pitch — you want to give away some of your insights to help readers trust you. In this case, the value you’re providing is information.

Cheryl Hawley of The Skinny on Beauty is a guest posting pro. She often collaborates with other bloggers in her industry, and she’s opened her own podcast and blogging platform to invite people to share their expertise. If you’re interested in starting your own guest posting journey, try finding a list of publications that accept guest posts, or search your favorite blogs for guest posting guidelines to follow.

5. Share the marketing load.

Consider partnering with non-competitive businesses to make the weight of marketing a little bit lighter. That way, you can get your service in front of a new audience while you show your existing followers that another company trusts you, and your partner company gets the same benefits. 

As you and your affiliates strive to provide more value to your audiences, customers across every base will start paying more attention.

A few easy ways you can showcase your partnership include posting joint content on social media, handing out business cards and product or service lists for your partner company at your front desk, and running promotions at the same time. Need an example? Try offering a 15% discount on a pizza from the joint around the corner for every person who books an appointment on the first Tuesday of the month. Talk with your partner business — or businesses — to come up with promotions that would benefit everyone involved.

Knowing how to get more clients is essential if you want to grow and expand your startup successfully. To do it right, develop a startup marketing plan as early as possible, find the right brands to partner with, and always focus on providing more value to your audience than you’re receiving at the moment.