One of the biggest challenges of starting a new business — especially a service-based business — is finding new clients.
I’ve written before about how the best way to land new clients is to help them find you. While that post has several solid ideas, what’s sometimes even more helpful is real-life examples.
So here are five ways I’ve landed clients for Socialexis, a company I launched three years ago as a solopreneur that has now grown into a team of 10 go-getters. We’re a boutique content marketing firm that helps small businesses with blogging, social media and email marketing.
If these strategies worked for me, they can work for you, too:
Clarity.fm is a platform that connects experts on various topics with people seeking advice. Some experts treat it as an income-generator, but I use it mostly to protect my time, donating my earnings to charity. I do absolutely nothing to promote my profile other than occasionally including it in blog posts like this one, yet I still occasionally get requests from users who find me through Clarity’s search and want to pick my brain on creating content around a brand.
Unbeknownst to me, one of those brain-pickers was actually looking to hire — and he used our chat to get a sense of whether Socialexis might be the right fit. We were!
I spoke earlier this year at DC Lean Startup Circle about lean content marketing. While I typically stick to paid speaking gigs now, I did this event for fun, offering advice to about 100 engaged entrepreneurs and wantrapreneurs. That turned into not one, not two, but three new clients.
While my company isn’t actively looking for new clients at this point, I find speaking events tend to have high ROI, so long as you’re speaking to targeted audiences; in other words, they often produce client requests. I think this is because participants truly get to test your knowledge, understand your approach and, most importantly, see if they like you. People want to hire people they like, and speaking live in front of an audience lets you show your personality.
The relationship I’m thinking of here originated at an in-person meetup where I was a participant, rather than a speaker. But I attribute it to LinkedIn because if this contact and I hadn’t then connected on the social network, the opportunity never would have come through.
Here’s how it went down: Nearly a year after meeting this contact at a journalism event, I sent out an update on LinkedIn saying we had capacity to take on a new client. I was specific in that update, letting my network know exactly what we wanted to offer and what type of client was ideal.
This contact, who at that point I’d forgotten I’d even met, saw my update. As the top dog at his successful company, he knew that one of the clients he was working with needed our community-building services. He connected us to his client, and the rest is history.
Yup, I actually land clients through Twitter. I also land blogging opportunities and job offers and boyfriends — er, OK, just one boyfriend. I am such a fan of using Twitter to make progress toward goals that I offer a five-week Twitter course called Become a Twitter Power User.
How do you land clients through Twitter? The same way you land them through your in-person network. You establish credibility by showing the value you offer and helping others, and when someone needs the services you offer, they think of you. It might not be immediate gratification, but like many of these tactics, it pays off (literally) over time.
Even when you run a digital business, in-person networking goes a long way. Not just your professional network, but your personal network, too.
This is particularly important when you’re just starting out, and it’s how I landed my very first client. A friend and I were chatting during a weekend hike about how the company he worked for could use social media to bring in more business. Because he could see my ideas were solid, this friend later introduced me to his boss, who hired me. Three-and-a-half years later, we still work with them.
Your friends want you to succeed and can (usually) recommend you wholeheartedly. Let them help you!
If you’ve had success landing clients, what has worked for you?
Want more real-life examples? Check out this free ebook from The Write Life that tells the stories of how 10 creatives landed their first paying client.