When you get a new client, it can be exciting as your marketing efforts have paid off; you have converted a prospect into a customer and their project may be enticing. However, whether you’re a freelance copywriter, a web designer or you work for a large company, a new client can bring new challenges.
First there is the wealth of time you have already invested in getting them to this stage (marketing, PR etc.). Now you need to understand their business, learn how they work and form a new working relationship to get the best results. Sometimes you need to educate your client on your process or even your industry.
For most businesses, the primary concern is the bottom line; turnover and profitability. You need a steady, well-managed flow of customers. Assuming you have a good process in place for marketing your business and gaining interest, its likely that you’ll have the turnover.
Now comes the hard part; profitability. What is a key threat to this? Inefficiency.
The key word to keep in mind is time . Every prospect, every client requires serious time investment which is not billed time. So you need to be sure your customer is going to help, not hinder your business.
One of the key mistakes start-up businesses make is valuing the wrong client and/or placing the ‘wrong’ value on a client.
If you haven’t qualified your lead or your customer, to understand what their budget is, what their business is and what their long term goals are (and therefore your long term prospects) then you are inserious danger of cutting your hourly rate in half – or more!
So here are my 5 top tips to help you focus your efforts on the customers you want.
1. Return on time investment: If you’re a company or contractor who bills on time, by all means sign up to job boards and contractor websites like oDesk , Freelancer.com and Freelance Switch . Just don’t waste time here – the core of your business should be driven from referrals, recommendations and repeat business.
2. Have a social media presence. Most of my work now comes from Twitter and LinkedIn. Let me just repeat that – it’s powerful. Most of my work now comes from Twitter and LinkedIn . Leverage these online platforms by providing value to a targeted audience. A considered investment of ten minutes a day can pay dividends to your long term success.
3. Let the customers come to you. Provide a draw – either through a key promotion or a free service or offering; perhaps an e-book or a monthly newsletter. Whatever channels you use, make sure that this value is incentivising your customers to recommend you or speak about you in some way, thereby reducing your marketing costs (and time investment).
4. Establish your niche and grow organically. Focus on 2 or 3 key industries or reduce the field even further. Become the ‘go-to’ guy/gal/company for your niche. Even if you’re one of five ‘go-to’ experts, you’re still generating leads and credibility.
5. Build relationships with key and relevant industry figures, including competitors in your space. You may get work from them and you can return the favour when you’re overloaded. As an extension of this, you should seriously consider providing an offering to key publications which will be read by your target consumer base. So build relationships with those editors!
Finally, and this should be universally applied so has a special mention outside of my top five – call it my ‘GOLDEN RULE’: maximize your sales and upsell ; you’ve done the hard work, you’ve won the client. What else do they need help with? What are their short term and long term needs? They are a profitable client and it’s a competitive market. So how can you add value to them so that you’re the first person they call?
Get a good enough handful of clients and you won’t even need to bring in new customers.
So that’s the core of it. Best of luck in your business! If you have any ideas that have worked for you, or you’d like to add to the above points, please comment .