Finding your first paying clients is the number one thing on a new business owner’s mind and it can feel like a terrifying task, especially when no one knows who you are. The key is to spread the word about your business as quickly as possible in the places where your potential clients are most likely to be spending their time.
This is one of the easiest techniques because people who know you are more likely to recommend you. Your friends, family and even ex-colleagues will want to see you succeed, so tell them about your business and ask them to share it far and wide with anyone they know.
There are so many people on social media asking questions and seeking help with specific issues. If your business solves one of those issues then it’s just a case of reaching out and engaging and helping that person online. That interaction could lead to your first paying client. One great place to start is by doing Twitter searches for phrases like “can anyone help with xxx?” “can you recommend xxx?”.
Can you do a mini training session or free talk about an element of your business at a local meetup, networking group or even your local university? There are so many groups and organisations looking for great guest speakers - start searching online and asking your local connections if they know of anyone looking and pitch an idea. It’s a great way to engage in person with your potential customers and tell people about what you do.
Whilst you don’t want to give away all your expertise for free, it is a good idea to offer some support or value up front so people get a taste of what you do and can see how your business can help them. Hosting a free 10-minute drop-in session at a place your potential customers are likely to be is a really great way to attract new customers. And you get the benefit of marketing support from the venue if they’ve an audience as well.
Networking groups are an incredible way of getting the word out about your business. Local meetings often involve coffee and chat with other local business owners, and sometimes the chance to ‘pitch’ your business and tell people who you are and what you do. If your potential customers go to these meetings, it’s a great place to meet them.
When you’re just starting out, it’s likely that your audience of potential customers is small. So can you partner with someone more established who is complementary to your business but has an audience already? Perhaps you could host a joint venture, or simply offer your services to their clients and customers? Think about who would be a good fit and reach out and ask. Businesses are usually looking at ways of supporting their customers and giving more value to them, so this could be the start of a great and profitable relationship.
There are dozens of listings directories online, which replaced the traditional ‘phone book’ and Yellow Pages. It’s usually free to submit your business as a listing, so search for relevant listing websites and get your business on them! One of the best starting places for this is Google My Business which allows you to add your business to Google and Google Maps. Most internet sessions start with a Google search, so by being on there, you’re giving yourself a much higher chance of reaching your first customers.
Starting and growing a business is as much about the innovation, drive and determination of the people who do it as it is about the product they sell.
Whether you’re on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or any other social network, update your bio and tell people what you’re doing now and share your business and that you’re taking on clients and customers. Especially on LinkedIn, where many people are actively networking and looking to hire businesses and solve problems. An update to your profile will trigger the LinkedIn algorithm and get more of your connections seeing your updated profile too - giving you even more exposure.
A key part of successful marketing and finding your first clients is spending time where they are, networking and offering value by being helpful. Online forums, groups (such as Facebook groups) and communities are a goldmine of people looking for support. Join them with the intention of being helpful and nurturing relationships and in time you’ll create a reputation for yourself and your business and you will very likely pick up new clients and customers.
If you’re just launching your business and you’ve a great story about how and why you’ve started it that you think will be newsworthy, write a short press release and send it to newspaper editors and journalists locally or in industry press. If it’s noteworthy enough, they’ll feature your business and story and get you in front of a wide audience of potential customers.
Do you have a chamber of commerce locally or another organisation of which your potential clients or customers are members of? If so, it’s well worth joining and going along to meetings and events hosted by them to network.
Content marketing is using written, audio or video content online to give value and attract your ideal customers to your business. Starting a blog, email newsletter or guest blogging are all ways of starting content marketing. Be sure to write about topics that your potential customers are looking for online, and/or are interested in, and that will leave them wanting to know more about you, or what to do next.
Just as networking groups and communities are useful for finding clients, if you can also build strong relationships and make friends with other business owners, you’ll find that not only can they support you as you grow your business but they’ll very likely recommend and refer people to you. So even if that great person you met networking isn’t a potential client, don’t ditch them. Put some effort into the friendship and help one another out.
Good old traditional advertising can work wonders in bringing in new clients, so long as you advertise in places they’re looking. From radio and newspaper ads to local business directories and magazines, there are lots of options for promoting your business offline. With a little bit of investment, it could land you your first paying client.
Pay Per Click (PPC/Google Adwords) and social advertising such as Facebook ads are affordable ways to advertise to your target audience if you know what you’re doing. They’re often more targeted than offline advertising as you get to choose who sees your advert and are in control of the cost of that person seeing or taking action on the advert. With so many people online, and on social media daily, it can be a great way of getting your business in front of your first customers.
Which tactics have you employed so far? If you’re still looking for your first paying customers, or you’re looking for clients in general, pick one you haven’t tried (or haven’t tried for a while) and give it a shot this week. Good luck!
Jen Smith is our resident email blogger. Sign up to our fortnightly newsletter to get more updates like this.
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