You know, there’s no way around it – you have to start by figuring out your target market.
When I started my first business, everyone kept telling me how important it was to clearly define my target market – and I kind of hated it because I just wanted to get on with the selling.
But, they were right – you will never be as successful at selling if you don’t have a clear picture of who you’re selling to you.
If you’re speaking to everyone, you’re speaking to no one.
Next, you have to lock down your messaging. Focus on how you can solve your client’s problem, not the features of your service. For instance, if you have a bookkeeping business, your potential clients won’t really care that you have the latest and greatest technology platform. No, they’re focused on the fact that they’re staying up nights worried. They’re worried because they know they should know more about the numbers in their business, but they have no idea how the figures on the P&L actually impact what they’re doing each day, and they have no idea if they’ll have enough money to buy product next month – because they don’t have an accurate cash flow forecast. Or if they have one, they don’t understand it at all.
So, that’s where your bookkeeping service comes in – you can solve their problem and free them from worrying about the numbers. You will give them consistent, accurate reporting, and explain everything in a clear, easy to understand way. You’ll consult with them, and use your expertise to help them make sound financial decisions, like what, if any, changes they need to make to be sure they have the cash on hand to buy that product next month.
See, that’s how you focus on what you can do for them, how you can help them, basically – what’s in it for them.
Once you have the message – tell everyone.
You see – most service businesses start with referrals. So rev that engine up first thing.
Start with your friends and family – and – current and former colleagues. There’s an easy way to do this without sounding sales-y. Send them a personal note – and no, a system generated, generic eMail won’t cut it. These are personal contacts of yours, so be personal. Send them a note telling them you have a new business, and you solve problem X for your clients. Then (and this is the important part), ask if they know of anyone who is facing that problem, and might need some help. You see, the key here is you aren’t trying to ‘sell’ directly to your contact. You are asking if they know of anyone. That takes the edge off. And if it turns out they need exactly what you are offering, it will ring a bell for them and they can reach out back to you.
The other thing? Make it easy for them to refer you. Maybe give them a sample they can send to their connections.
And don’t think of it as a one and done. Of course, you don’t want to hound them with the same message over and over – but it’s a good idea to keep them updated, so you stay top of mind. Send them regular updates about things that are happening in your industry, or new content you created. Remember, people – even our friends – are busy, and while I’m certain your initial message will get special handling (after all, it is a personal message from you). The fact is, as time goes by, they will forget. So it’s a good idea to touch base every once in a while – monthly has always felt like a good cadence for me – but you will figure out what works best for you and your network.
Next – you should focus on expanding your network circle.
I know that these days, that usually means using social media for most people. But, don’t forget the analog world. Ask your contacts for introductions. Join professional groups. Attend networking events. And most importantly – follow up. You would be surprised how many people don’t follow up. You go through all the work it takes to meet new people, and engage them – when you don’t follow up, it puts you back at square one. In fact, at square 0 – because now they’ve met you, and they know you don’t follow up, and that may tarnish their impression of you.
Depending on your service, you might consider looking for placement ads on job boards. After all, if you are an HR pro, companies posting an opening for an HR pro might be just your target market. Maybe they didn’t even consider outsourcing, or (and this happens all too often) maybe they didn’t even know outsourcing HR was a thing. So, you reach out with some bit of valuable information – like the top 5 tips to remember when interviewing an HR professional – and end with a bit of information of the problem you solve for your clients, and how to get in touch with you. See, lead with value, and talk about the problem you are solving for them.
And speaking of leading with value. These days it’s critical that you have a content strategy. That simply means, figure out a way to regularly deliver valuable content to prospective clients. It will highlight your authority in the subject, raise awareness of who you are and the types of problems you can solve for them.
There are all sorts of ways to deliver content to prospective clients. You could blog, write articles for LinkedIn or other publications. By the way, there’s a really easy way to find out how to submit your article to publications. Just go to Google, enter the words ‘write for’ in brackets in the search bar, and the results will show you various publications (big and small) and how to submit your work.
You could do videos. Appear on podcasts, or start your own. Or offer to speak at meetings and events – start local and expand from there. How about offering to do a free training for the local chamber of commerce. And don’t forget to leverage other people’s audiences – collaborate with others in the same or related space. If you join forces for a workshop, you’ll get each other’s audiences.
As you ‘re evaluating which method might be right for you, remember – you have to be consistent, so it should be something that isn’t almost impossible for you to create. Don’t commit to a weekly YouTube schedule, if it takes you 4 days to get a video done – that’s not sustainable, because you have other things to do. Also remember, offering value is pointless if your prospects won’t see it. You have to go where the clients are. If your clients are on LinkedIn, and rarely on Facebook – then your content should be on LinkedIn, because posting on Facebook just won’t put you in front of the right people.
Remember, when you are giving value via content, it won’t mean much if you just let the opportunity pass by.
“If you’re speaking to everyone, you’re speaking to no one.”
You can build your eMail list by offering something additional to your audience. Lead magnets can be checklists, or resource guides, or a workflow or whitepaper. Something that makes it easier for them to execute on the knowledge you provided in your content. To get the lead magnet, they have to in turn, give you their eMail address. And once you build your eMail list, you can continue to provide valuable content, and occasionally offer services and products. Do not, I repeat, do not sell on every eMail you send, it’s too much, and it wears out your audience. A good rule of thumb is 60/40 – give pure value 60% of the time, and make an offer 40% of the time.
I know lots of people like to grow their audience using social media like Facebook or Instagram. That’s fine – but remember, you don’t own those platforms, so you don’t own the contacts you have through those platforms. The only contacts that you own, that you can be sure you can reach out to any time, that you are guaranteed you can nurture and move along the know, like, trust path is your eMail list. So, treat it like the gold it is.
There are a variety of eMail platforms you can use to automate your eMails. We use ActiveCampaign, but we started with MailChimp (they have a free tier that’s great for smaller lists). If you do decide to put some of your budget into a CRM [customer relationship management system] try them out first, most have a free trial you can use to see how they work and if they’ll work for you.
OK, those are the 5 things you should do to help you find clients for your service business.
Don’t waste another minute trying to figure out how to get your business going and what should come next.
Grab your Free 3-Step Leader’s Journey Business Builder course, and get freedom and peace of mind, knowing you are on the right, proven track.
Now here is a quick list of things you absolutely should NOT do:
Don’t think, if you build it they’ll come.
They won’t. They don’t even know you are alive. And if they do know you are alive, they don’t have a clue who you are or what’s in it for them. You have to seek them out, and tell them. And you have to tell them more than once.
Don’t spend money on ads right away.
You are new. Again, they don’t know you. What would you do if a stranger walked up to you on the street and said, hey – buy this thing from me. You would think they were nuts. And you definitely wouldn’t buy anything – you have no idea who they are. Well, that’s what you are doing when you put an ad in front of someone saying – hey buy my service. There is no trust factor, they have no idea if you know what you are talking about, or if you can solve their problem. In fact, they may not even know they have a problem. It’s called, know, like, trust for a reason – that’s the order that a prospective client needs to move through to get to a place where they are willing to purchase from you. So, don’t skip steps – and most definitely don’t spend hard earned money to skip steps!
Don’t worry about having the perfect…
website, proposal, pricing strategy
Listen, you are just starting. Focus on the right things first – and the right thing right now is finding and wooing the right client. You can make everything beautiful later … right now, just focus on the right thing.