No business can succeed without clients, regardless of the industry. One of the biggest challenges of startups is attracting the first few clients without any reviews, current clients, referral partners, or brand recognition.
On top of that, most businesses have a limited marketing budget when they’re just starting out, making it even more difficult to get the word out.
But it is possible to build a business from zero clients and zero referral partners. All it takes is the first 10 to get some momentum.
The Client Acquisition Process
Client acquisition is the process of bringing new clients into your business. It follows specific strategies and techniques used to target, attract, and motivate prospects to make a decision to give you business. This strategy should be sustainable to continuously attract clients and grow revenue as the business grows.
The client acquisition strategy is not unlike marketing strategy, but it’s entirely driven by conversions. The goal is to systematically attract prospects and convert them into paying clients to boost revenue and growth.
How to Attract the First 10 Clients
Building a business from zero to one million is overwhelming, but going from zero to 10 is a little more achievable. You can build a strategy to get those first 10, then turn them into a flow of future paying clients.
Define the Target Audience
The audience is the central focus of your client acquisition strategy. You need to understand them and their needs to communicate to them effectively and get them interested in what you have to offer.
This can be difficult for businesses with a broad focus, such as a law firm. Many law firms have multiple practice areas, such as divorce law and personal injury law and disability law, all of which cater to different audiences. It’s important to segment the audience to ensure you’re speaking to them in a tailored way.
Show Your Value
All prospects are seeking a solution to their problems, and you can be that solution. Perhaps they need home repairs, or business technology, or a family attorney, or a veterinarian. It’s up to you to show them how your business has the solution to their pain points.
Your messaging should always reinforce your value. Showcase the benefits of your product or service and put it into real-world context. Connect the dots for them and show them what you have to offer and why it’s better than your competitors.
Provide High-Quality Content
Content marketing is one of the best ways to boost brand recognition, awareness, and credibility in an organic way that doesn’t directly sell to prospects. Blogs, ebooks, videos, infographics, articles, and case studies can answer your prospects’ questions and show them how you can help without traditional, direct marketing efforts.
So, instead of having ads forced on them, your prospect may search for information online and come across your blog or article. They read it and get the answers they’re looking for, giving you value in their eyes. Then, when it comes time to make a purchasing decision, you’re the business they think of.
Build an Email List
Email marketing can go a long way for converting prospects to paying clients. It takes time to build an email list, but it’s worth the effort. Don’t take shortcuts like purchasing a list – these people are unlikely to fit in your ideal audience, and more importantly, didn’t express interest in your business or content. Sending promotional emails to them may come off as pushy and invasive.
Your email list should always come from people who subscribed to your content. You can boost your subscriber list by offering something of value, such as downloadable content that’s given in exchange for an email address. Make sure this content offers something different than they’d find elsewhere, however.
Harness the Power of Your Network
Clients can come from marketing campaigns, but you may also gain your first clients from your current network. Family and friends are often the first customers for a business and can help you build the foundation for future growth.
Always consider the possibility that someone could lead to a client or referral. Don’t assume anything. Take opportunities to pitch your business (when appropriate), and you may be the first name that comes to mind when that person needs a realtor, mechanic, or lawyer.
Get Client Feedback
Client feedback matters, especially when you’re just starting out. The first few reviews and testimonials can give prospects more trust in your business and generate more clients.
Be sure to get feedback from your initial clients as well. You can learn a lot about what you did well, what you could improve, and what your clients would like to see. Remember, these people put trust in you when no one else did, and their insights can give you a wealth of information about how to improve the experience for future clients.
For example, maybe your first client for your law firm had a stressful case with a lot of complicated situations. If you provided a streamlined experience and kept them updated throughout the whole process, they’re likely to remember the experience more than the case outcome. Then, when someone they know needs a lawyer, they’ll be more likely to recommend you and share their positive experience.
Consider Everyone a Possible Prospect
Clients can come from anywhere. Something as simple as running into an old friend from high school or idle chatter on the morning train can lead to a conversation about your business, which can then lead to a referral.
You don’t know who someone knows and what connection you may be building, so don’t underestimate any possibility for a future referral.
Invest in the Long Game
Client acquisition takes time, but you can build a strong foundation that will get you your first 10 clients and turn them into the next 100 or 1,000. Plan a strategy that serves your needs now, but with systems in place to scale and continue to attract clients in the future.
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