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15 May 2011
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6 top tips to find new clients

After reading about a few entrepreneurs me and a few friends at University always asked ourselves the same question “how did they win clients?”. Since my University days I’ve had experience of the working world but that doesn’t make it any easier to find new clients as a new relatively unknown business. i thought I’d write this article as much for my own experiences as well as helping others and the comments from others (we all can use feedback).

Cold calling

Many successful people will say you need to speak to other successful people who have been there and done it. When I started my SEO company. With that in mind I spoke with internet guru Neil Patel of quicksprout and two pieces of advice emerged, cold call and blog. As even the most seasoned cold caller has tough times I’m going to list all the possible excuses along with smartass answers to uncover why they are excuses:

1) I’m no good at cold calling! – Of course you no good at it you’ve never done it before! The thing with cold calling, prospecting, telesales and all those other dirty words we don’t like using it all stems from one thing the fear of rejection. If you’ve never done something before you are more than likely to struggle although the important part of cold calling is very similar to online marketing (some of you reading this blog will be online marketeers) in that you can measure it. If you can’t bring yourself to cold call maybe you need to take it one step at a time. Instead of starting from no where why not start from somewhere such as calling prospects that are related to the type of clients (but not competitors!) you’re working with at the moment. This way you have a story to tell and everyone wants to hear a story, such as if your start-up why not pitch other start-ups (just make sure they suit your product or service). Maybe you used to work in a different industry or perhaps you had a part time job in retail before you started your company why not share that with the person you speak to on the phone. Nobody wants to be the first person to share a lot of information about their company when they’ve never spoken with you before. A lot of this may be building up trust and a pipeline so look at the first call of many with your client as chances are you may bump in to them at an event in the future and having spoken with them before familiarity can help you build a relationship with your new customer.

I could write a whole blog post on telesales, but for now remember a few basics,

• Be polite and professional even if the other person is rude.

• Always clarify information (you’d be surprised how easily it can be to get a name or email address wrong).

• Always store your data in either a spreadsheet or a small business crm. This allows you recall the conversation when you call the decision maker back.

2) Referrals

When most people think of referrals they think of existing customers. These are a great first point of contact as they’re satisfied customers and have seen what a great service you can offer if you’ve done your job right.

Another great point of referrals is customers who aren’t ready to buy yet but have been impressed with the potential service you’ve put in a proposal and the timely response to questions they’ve asked. Take one customer who approached my company after finding us in Google due to the SEO we do. They left a message via our contact form, we phoned them within an hour and put a proposal together the next day.

They weren’t happy with their current provider as they didn’t respond to emails and weren’t reporting on any of the work. As they were waiting for their current website to be redesigned and updated they weren’t able to go ahead with our service straight away. However another company contacted them as they were thinking of going with the same SEO company and they explained they were trying to leave them and recommended us!

We haven’t done any work for them, however we’re confident due to our existing clients that we can get them great results and we’ll also tell them what we’re doing so they fully understand the process we go through, no search engine jiggery pokery here, just straight forward service and great results!

If you lose a pitch which happens to the best of us, then ask the company if they know any companies that would benefit from your service. You’d be surprised as most people think not to bother because the company went with another service provider, however it could be for a number of reasons, such as already having a relationship with the other company, cost etc. Basically always ask the question or you’ll never know what extra business there is out there!

Referrals from partner or affiliated companies, such as for my business it might be a team of really good web designers who have one good developer and one good designer but perhaps are missing out on bigger pitches because a rival company are offering ecommerce website design and development, along with SEO and Pay per click marketing to drive traffic to all their product pages. In this situation partnering with us could help them a more integrated solution without having to take on the work of extra support and the costs associated.

3) Blog!

I don’t have time and am not good at blogging! – Of course you can write! We’ve been writing since our early days at school and due to the way they teach us to write, its ingrained that there are only a select few of us that can become writers. Everyone has something interesting to say no matter who you are and its important like cold calling to not get phased about not seeing a spike in your google analytics as soon as you publish a blog post.

What good will blogging do me anyway? – It will engage you with other bloggers which will improve your writing and communication skills and your profile within your industry. The way you can look at it as if you don’t have time to pick up the phone to everyone why not let them know what your doing by blogging. An honest and genuine representation of you is the most important part of your blog.

No-one will read my blog? Well by nature of blogging you’re adding unique content that will help you with your Google rankings. If you’ve published something then you have something to share with others. Social media websites such as facebook and twitter can help add a viral element to your blog but try to think more niche and attract people in communities related to your blog niche.

4) SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

I don’t know how to do SEO? – If you don’t know how to do SEO then learn it there is numerous tutorials on how to optimise for keywords relevant to your industry. The key basics within SEO are to include your keywords within the title tag so instead of having your company name “XYZ widgets” you have a more specific and relevant name such as “Specialist Electrical Widgets”. Your title tag can include up to 70 characters so be careful to not repeat the same keywords and also put the most important keywords at the beginning of the title tag.

SEO takes too much time? – SEO is a process that takes time and a consistent schedule of effort. Writing blog posts will also help you with your SEO by including the keywords you want to rank for within the copy of your post (although be careful to not include too many keywords in your copy making it look unnatural and spammy).

There are several posts on how to effectively SEO your website, however this post is a brief intro to a few ideas to get you started.

5) Social media marketing

It takes up too much time! – Blog posts form part of social media marketing, although like SEO social media marketing is a time and effort game. Three myths are:

• I have to be a social media expert

• I need a hire a PR company to help me

• Its only for big brands and wouldn’t work for me

• Social media doesn’t provide a direct ROI

Rubbish! Everyone is calling themselves a social media expert, most of it requires time to learn it and a schedule of updates daily. Its not rocket science and there are lots of free tools out there to help you gain some market insight in to what your potential customers are talking about.

Secondly you don’t need a PR firm to help you, if you’re a small business then the beauty of social media marketing is all the information is out there for you to learn. If you are going to outsource anything it would be a good idea to get an intern in to help you and use an external company on a consultancy basis for guidance more than anything. As the social media space is relatively new compared to search marketing its important to clarify what value a company will bring through their services, as it is still difficult to quantify an exact ROI compared to direct response methods like search.

Thirdly you will have a big insight in to your industry and will know who the influencers are that you need to get in touch with to help promote your business. A brand such as starbucks will definitely have a large following on channels such as facebook and twitter, although you aren’t looking for millions of followers your looking for a select group of 1000 true fans a term coined by Kevin Kelly’s post.

Fourthly the ongoing debate that social media doesn’t provide a direct roi, thats because its being measured in the same way as other online marketing channels such as SEO and Affiliate Marketing. Social media can be measured, however it needs to take in to consideration completed customer lifecycle.

For example a customer who is really in to bicycles (not motor bikes) might have a certain interest in a specific brand, and may use social media channels such as twitter and facebook to ask bike specialists about buying parts and accessories. Reviews on a reseller website will help both the customer find out if the part is any good and will also help the reseller make sure they’re selling parts that their customers are happy with and reduce their inventory of lines that customers don’t buy.

Wheres the first place the same customer when looking to upgrade their bike will look to when spending anything from a few hundred up to a few thousand pounds. In this way providing useful advice to one customer can benefit a number of customers, and word of mouth recommendations will be much more likely to happen based on the excellent support from the bike reseller.

6) Direct mail

Its true that we receive more and more messages on a daily basis now more than ever. This means that its important to be more targeted with your messaging through contacting decision makers directly. When putting together a direct mail campaign if you’re starting out as a new business use your restraints on costs to put something more personal together such as a hand written letter. Including images would also be useful or your products or service to show the decision maker what they will be getting for their money.

• Make it more tactile – We all receive direct mail on a daily basis and pretty much know whether the letter is a bank statement or a sales letter trying to get us to buy a new product. This means one thing that if we’re to send something it needs to not be screened in the mail filtering process as “junk” which means it needs to look important or at least different.

• Sending a “letter” as oppose to a “mailer” is a lot more personal and will give you the opportunity to follow up with the decision maker by asking them whether they’d received the letter.

I hope you’ve found this blog post useful and I’d like to know your thoughts and ideas on good ways to develop new business as an entrepreneur?

One Response to “6 top tips to find new clients”

  1. Mark Cann 18 May 2011 at 8:50 am #

    Honest is the best way with upfront expectations so everyone knows what to expect, I still think the first two “cold calling” and “referrals” are the most cost efficient routes to market for targeting small to medium companies within digital who don’t have time to visit events. In my experience some digital agencies say they offer every service and in reality specialists in house are spreading their skills across many different areas instead of focusing on what they’re good at so being a specialist and communicating that to a new client is key!

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