There are a lot of firsts for an entrepreneur in the course of opening a business. The first time you see the building your business will be held in, the first employee you take on, or even the first time you see your logo or business name printed on something. Along with these firsts, there is also another major one in the life of an entrepreneur – the first client. So how exactly should you go about getting your very first client?
Rescue a CEO and CEO Blog Nation asked entrepreneurs for tips on how to land your first client.
Photo Credit: Llew Jury
Build your personal brand online
For service based businesses, the best way to land your first client is to spend time building your personal brand on the internet. This first client, like any future client, will go straight to the web to research you and your business and the reputation that you bring to the industry. Make sure there are multiple touch points showing you as the authoritative source of your industry and vertical, using tools such as LinkedIn, a business page on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and blog articles. By showcasing your experience and commitment to your industry, gives them confidence to buy your services.
Thanks to Llew Jury, Reload Media
Photo Credit: Kaleigh Eichel
Landing your first client means good old fashioned hustle. Tilted Pixel got its first few website clients in 2005 by me networking until I was blue in the face. At that point my only marketing investments were printing business cards and having a friend design the logo in exchange for a few beers. The rest was my time spent telling every business owner I met what we did. I made sure to go events and other opportunities where people who might need website design services could be found. A couple weeks later, Tilted Pixel had client #1 and client #2 almost immediately after. Don’t forget that your first few clients are also your beta testers! Having that personal relationship with ours made it easy to quiz them on everything we did and find out what we really need to do to meet and exceed people’s expectations. This would have been more difficult if we focused on trying to do an impersonal marketing campaign as a starting point and hoped to sign-up lots of people immediately.
Thanks to Matt Inglot, Tilted Pixel Inc.
Photo Credit: Tommy Landry
Putting the word out to your support system
This is a very appropriate question, because it is very fresh in my mind after I ventured out on my own during early 2012. There are many ways to land clients, but when first starting out, nothing beats networking. Networking includes many things, such as blogging, social media, direct contact, asking for referrals, and even attending networking events. But you cannot wait until you are already in need to ask for help or approach people. Landing a client starts long before you take the plunge into entrepreneurship. The first thing to do when going solo is to get the word out to your support system. Tell them what you are doing, why you are doing it, and whom your target audience is. If you network with well connected professionals, this should result in at least one or two potential leads. Follow up on every lead. Next, get out there and start meeting people on your own. Join the Chamber of Commerce and go to the events they offer. If you are not already in professional organizations or networking groups, find some that will allow you an opportunity to meet potential customers. Hold off on advertising until you have revenues to reinvest in the business, and you will avoid overextending yourself needlessly in the early days.
Thanks to Tommy Landry, Return on Now
Photo Credit: Isha Cogborn
Look at previous professional contacts
No matter how much time or money you spend, there’s a good chance that your messaging and marketing will be less than perfect when you first start your business. Because of that, focus your initial client search on people who already trust your expertise. I’m not talking about your relatives or best friends, either. Think of those who you’ve gained credibility with in your previous professional life who can really benefit from what you’re doing now. They’ll already be sold on you, which is more than half the battle.
Thanks to Isha Cogborn, Epiphany Institute
Photo Credit: Karen Grosz
Fake it to make it
I pretended to be busy. Really. When I started an AMAZING team building company I poured my whole soul into it…but no-one knew me enough to trust me, let alone hire me so, I networked like crazy. I gave away dozens of team buildings, supported every non-profit fund raiser, talked to everyone I could, and used whatever I could to create a buzz. People heard about my company from all sorts of people who weren’t really using my company but it still build credibility. Finally I spoke to a service organization about my non-best seller book and a gentleman said “I’ve been watching your company, will you do our retreat next month?” The rest, as they say is history. Now I am as busy as I can possibly be, but it took pretending to be busy to make that happen.
Thanks to Karen Grosz, Canvas Creek Team Building
Photo Credit: Steven Lowe
Start new conversations
Be willing to have new conversations – that means starting them – and go where your clients are. This can take many forms. For example, I landed my first client by dropping into a computer store and asking them if they had sold a computer to anyone that might need custom software. They had, put us in touch, and that client is still using my software over 30 years later! But you have to go fishing where the fish are, and be willing to start the conversations! Don’t try to ‘sell’ but just listen.
Thanks to Steven Lowe, Innovator LLC
Photo Credits: Nick Psaila
Identify your ideal client beforehand
I believe there are 3 main elements to landing your first client. 1. Identifying your “Ideal client” It’s important that you are really clear about who the ideal client is for you. A great exercise for this is to design your “ideal client” using Empathy Mapping where you get to really uncover your clients traits, buying habits and so forth. It’s easier to get a client when you know who you’re looking for 2. Design a “Lead Magnet” This is information that is relative to that ideal client. Whether it be a solution for a challenge they may be having. i.e Borrowing advice if you are a Mortgage Broker etc. This can then be used to get in front of your ideal client. be it at Networking event, Online or Offline promotion, referral source ( other people that can get you connected to the people you are after) . The Lead Magnet should have information that is of high quality and applicable. 3. Use the “Law Of Reciprocity” This is when you add a massive amount of value and give away a gift, be it information or product of some value. The work by Dr Cialdini in his famous book “Influence” reminds us of the power of giving a gift away. It creates an automatic bond between your “prospect” and you , drastically enhancing your ability to bring them on as a client. I like to use this analogy “you don’t get married on the first date”. Begin a relationship, add value then close the deal.
Thanks to Nick Psaila, Nick Psaila International
Photo Credit: Colin Drake
Talk passionately about what you do
The author Stuart Wilde expressed that “The key to success is to raise your own energy. When you do people will naturally be attracted to you. And when they show up, bill ‘em.” I love that! The way you land your first client is by talking passionately about what you do. People are drawn to other people who have infectious positive energy. I’m a financial advisor who incorporates life coaching into the process and I got my first clients by infecting them with wonderful energy. I engaged them in a conversation about what they most want in life, really listened, helped the, see where money plays into their vision and where it doesn’t. And I expressed how much I believe in and love the work I do. They saw how I could help and wanted to be around my energy. How do you get your first client? Draw them into your wonderful energy tractor beam, then take fantastic care of them.
Thanks to Colin Drake, Drake Wealth Management
Photo Credit: Joannie C. Danielides
Survey the market
Identify what you and your company are most passionate about, i.e. healthcare issues, fashion/style, and create a philosophy about how you can empower that client within their profession. Survey the market and offer suggestions on how you can distinguish the client from their competitors without naming names, but focus on the potential client’s special programs/services. Highlight what makes the potential client unique and offer a few branding strategies that are consistent and effective for their brand – offer up timely suggestions as to why it would be an opportune time to begin working together, such as what tie-in would the media consider newsworthy for featuring the new business. Consider local, regional and national media opportunities as well as print, broadcast, online and social media that’s realistic and appropriate. Lastly, create a three-month timeline and realistic goals for the new client – be sure they are ready to get started!
Thanks to Joannie C. Danielides, Danielides Communications, Inc.
Photo Credit: Farnoosh Brock
Have the guts to draw a line
My entire coaching program was a result of this one conversation. I had been mentoring and coaching colleagues and peers at my corporate job for a decade. All for free of course. Then when I started my blog and side-hustle and as I was leaving my corporate job, I kept getting approached for coaching. You know, the type that says “Can we go get coffee and let me pick your brain?” This is the most dreaded question when it comes from people you know. So in response to one query, I told my colleague that I’d be glad to help him with his career struggles but this is now part of my business and I am glad to quote him a rate. I was sure he’d never come back but he asked “How much?” and those two words gave me the confidence, the impetus and the motive to start what is now a very successful coaching business. He hired me and got great results. Have the guts to draw the line and explain that you charge for your knowledge. The people who hire you will appreciate you far more than those who just want to pick your brain!
Thanks to Farnoosh Brock, Prolific Living Inc.
Photo Credit: Jeff Grill
Reach out to friends
The first client is often the easiest to close since he or she should come from your closest business contacts and network. The challenge comes in when you need to source clients after your contact list is exhausted. While supporting that initial burst of client activity you need to be planning for the harder to reach next wave of clients. Use the time when working with friends and associates to hone and get feedback on your value proposition, supporting materials and presentations. Ask friends to participate in the development of relevant case studies, white papers and then leverage these assets online, in speaking engagements, via LinkedIn group engagement and other marketing activities that extend the reach of your network.
Thanks to Jeff Grill, MMB