Starting a business is the easy part
Truth is — starting a business is easy. But what’s hard is generating real interest, getting clients, and sealing deals. This can be a huge challenge for a company just starting out, especially if you don’t have a banging portfolio and a stellar reputation.
So, the question is, how do you attract paying clients? My business partner and I have used six methods with great success. You can also implement these tips to help increase your business’s business.
1. Undercut Your Competition (This One Comes With a Warning)
Don’t make this a permanent business practise, and don’t do this for too long because it can be difficult to implement a price increase once your clients are comfortable.
But for the early days, an effective way to gain business is to undercut the competition.
This means you can sell your product for a little less than the other companies to jump-start your pipeline. Or, perhaps you can work to a client’s budget rather than your own.
Getting the first job, sale, or commission is a big deal for your business, and this means that sometimes you’ve got to go against what you want.
Call it a small sacrifice for the greater good.
Just make sure you heed the warning. Gradually increase your prices to the level your work merits as you go. You don’t want to get a reputation for ‘being cheap’ rather than ‘being the best.’
2. Try Some Targeted Self Promotion
Even with lowered prices, or a great word-of-mouth campaign, there might always be spells without work. These can be both frustrating and terrifying.
Sometimes you’ve got to hunt for work and promote the hell out of yourself and your business. This means designing (or paying someone to design) high-quality flyers and business cards in order to get your services out into the world.
Here’s a bit of advice. When you’re looking for work and starting to print off business cards, flyers, and other promotional materials, don’t just plaster them on every wall, stick them through every letterbox, and throw them at every person who looks your way.
Instead, save yourself the headache and do your research. Then, focus on a smaller audience who may generally be interested in the work you do. This will save you money and increases the chances of returns.
We recently put up flyers around our city. We focused on empty units up for rent that were for restaurants, cafes, and bar opportunities.
We did this because we design and make furniture, and what better place to advertise than an empty building waiting to feed people? We only printed off 30 flyers and got three enquires back from them. And out of that, we got one project commissioned.
The proof is in the pudding — focus on a smaller audience and pinpoint your targets for greater returns.
3. Be More Human
We’ve had a lot of clients tell us during or after a job that we got the project because they liked us as people. We never realised when we first started just how much building a relationship with a potential client can swing the job in our favour.
How do you be ‘more human?’
Ditch the corporate bullshit.
Don’t act like the ‘big time company.’
Don’t send reps or assistants down.
Do it yourself.
Be the face of your business and go meet the potential leads and clients in person. Be the first point of contact with them. Build up a strong relationship with them.
Make a great first impression with a client by being respectful, humble, and most importantly, by being yourself!
This has done more for our business than anything else we’ve done. And if they don’t like you for who you are, then they aren’t the right clients for you anyway.
4. Word of Mouth
Once your foot is in the door and you have secured your first job, you have to smash it.
I mean, you really have to knock this one out of the park. Do whatever it takes, whether this entails working long hours or outsourcing support. Just get it over the line and to the highest possible standard.
This, of course, should be your aim for every project. But the difference with your first one is, if you can blow your client’s mind, they will speak highly of you to others.
Word of mouth is the most valuable thing in getting new work, especially at the start. When it’s working in your favour, your reputation will work for you even when you’re asleep.
So leave each client you meet with better than you found them, and the compound interest of these relationships will help to keep new clients coming through the door. Just don’t be lazy once word of mouth starts working for you. Keep promoting the hell out of your services so you always have a healthy pipeline.
5. Engage With Your Audience
As mentioned earlier, setting up your social media accounts is the simple bit. Building an audience that is interested in what you do, and turning them into potential clients? That’s not so easy.
One way to find work in your early days is to grow an audience on your chosen social platform. Start by posting insights into what you do and your process behind it. Show why you do it, and highlight why you are different.
You could even run ad campaigns to boost awareness of your brand. Or, you could run an initial deal to attract your first customers.
But the absolute key to building a following that you can turn into clients is engaging with them. This means responding to comments (yes, all of them). This means commenting on other people’s content within your community. It means being the ones starting the conversation.
The more that people see you on the platform, the more they’ll begin to remember you. You’ll start to become a key figure in the space — one that people respond to.
And that is the position in which you can turn some of these followers into clients.
6. Network Like A Motherfucker
When you are new in the game, start small with networking. Find events that are going on locally through apps like Eventbrite.
Find the places your clients talk the most and begin to introduce yourself.
Whatever you are doing, networking is going to be an essential part of getting that initial clientele through the door. We all know networking sucks, but it doesn’t have to be that way if you go prepared and you remember to play the long game.
Don’t go flying in there with the sales pitch.
Don’t just talk about you and what you can offer.
Go in with the view of building relationships, and focus on making real interactions with people that could actually lead to something beneficial.
Networking is not as clichéd and cringe-inducing as you think. The opportunities and possibilities are worth swallowing your pride for, and it really can start your business on the right foot.
So whether it’s across the world via the internet or at a local event in a cafe in your town centre, do your best to try and network the shit out of yourself, and reap the rewards it may bring you.
7. (Surprise!) Be Ready for Rejection
One piece of advice that is less positive is to be ready for flat-out rejection, as it’s something that is going to happen frequently.
And it always hurts a little.
Sometimes your price will be too high. Sometimes the ideas or concepts you design will be the opposite of what the client wants. Sometimes you will put lots of hours into trying to get a job just to be told ‘no.’
You may just get no response or follow up at all, which is not a rejection by definition but it certainly feels like one.
Unfortunately, that is part of doing business. The best way to deal with it is to change your expectations and be far more realistic. You should expect a good 50% of your leads and enquiries to end up going nowhere.
But if you can grab the other 50%, return successful projects from them, and utilise that through your social media channels and networks, your business is sure to have a queue of clients and customers waiting for you at the door.
Wrapping It Up
Once you’ve taken your lightbulb moment and created a business, you probably think you’ve done the hard part.
The truth is, the hard work has only just begun. You can’t rest on your laurels and wait for work to turn up because it won’t.
You have to go out there and grab it.
With tactics like undercutting price, targeted promotion, engagement, and networking, mixed with being a real human and actually being the face of your business, you have a winning combo that will ensure you get your first client and customer through the door.
Now go and smash it, and then let your reputation do the talking. You can do it!
All Rights Reserved for Stephen Moore