The answer to how you should find new clients varies on the type of business and the stage of the business. But, if you are reading this I’m going to assume what you are looking for is your first client. If you already have a reliable stream of clients, then you should focus on getting referrals, the #1 way to drive new business for existing businesses. So this post is for people just getting started, who do not yet have a large book of business.
The first thing I want to say to you, is that you can build a business and you can drive new customers from completely cold connections. There are a few approaches that work great, and we’ll go over each of them briefly here, and in more detail in future posts.
Create an Engine of Sales
I will get in to more specific in the remaining points, but this is an important distinction to make. Many entrepreneurs will go about getting business one client at a time, and after each contract they will be left wondering when they will get that next lead come in the door. Whether it’s from networking events, referrals, or SEO, the leads are unpredictable.
Many freelancers will go through a feast/famine cycle where some times they have way too much work, while other times they suffer from not having enough. Does this sound familiar? Well I do have some good news.
There is a better way to approach building a sales pipeline.
What you need is an engine of sales. An engine of sales is any mechanism where you put in money or time, and out of the other end comes qualified prospects. An example of a working engine of sales is online advertising. If you are able to put $10 in to online ads, and produce 1 valid lead out of that, then you can control your own destiny. On the other hand, if you are waiting around for referrals, crossing your fingers and hoping leads will come out of that networking event, you will never really control the income of your company.
If you have successfully built an engine of sales, and you are sufferring from a famine cycle one month, you can easily put in more time in to your cold prospecting, or put more money behdin your online ads. If your engine of sales is working properly, you’ll be able to fix the problem within a week.
So as I proceed with these methods, I want you to understand that while there are other approaches to getting clients, they are all distractions from what is really needed to build and grow a business, and that is an engine of sales.
Create a Web Presence
This may sound like a no brainer, but yes you do need a website, and ideally some form of social media presence as well.
If you are brand new to this and don’t have a website yet, then I highly recommend setting up a blog on WordPress.com and detailing your offer on your homepage along with some contact information. Make it easy for customers to reach you either by phone, email, or using a contact form (Wordpress has dozens of plugins for this)
I know what you’re thinking. Online advertising? Isn’t that expensive and inneffective? Well, to answer that directly…
NO, or at least it doesn’t have to be.
There is a reason why Google is one of the most profitable businesses in the world, and it’s that their paid advertising products work. Businesses come back month after month, either maintaing their budgets or even increasing them as the ROI (return on investment) is proven. Online ads are the king of sales engines for online businesses.
You don’t need to spend thousands to get results. Personally, when I’m launching something new I limit my spending to $100. If I can’t produce reasonable leads for $100 within a week, I will pause my campaigns and try again with a better, more relevant ad.
If you go this route, you will need a convincing ad, and a convincing landing page for your new prospects to arrive. Make it clear what you are offering, and how to reach out to you.
This is a big one for my businesses. Think about what type of content your target customer might consume day to day. The morning read before they have their coffee. By speaking to this audience directly about relevant things in their professional lives, you are putting yourself in front of clients and even positioning yourself as an authority.
As an example, when I was selling programming courses I had created a few years ago, I wanted to use content marketing to get programmers who were still learning the ropes to see my offer. So, my content marketing strategy was relatively obvious: publish tutorials about common mistakes and tasks new programmers get stuck on. By providing this content I was able to gather emails, keep in touch with these visitors, and ultimately convert them to paying customers for my online course.
For my software development business, our target customers were founders of new businesses with angel investment or venture capital funding. So, we to target that audience, I would write about the startup space and add my own commentary on the developments of silicon valley.
You can extend this to your work as well, just make sure to take the time to map out your ideal customer, and tailor content for them.
This is a dense topic, and there is a lot more to it, but this post is already long enough, so I’ll see you on the next one!