At the risk of sounding like a douche, I’m not going to waste your time with content filler introductory stuff here. You already know whether you need clients or not, and I’m going to show you a couple of ways to get clients today, and how to get clients coming to you over time.
Channels for getting clients quickly
The seminar method
When I started out client consulting, I dived straight into cold-calling… the only problem is, I went at it way too aggressively and tried closing clients like I was selling peanuts. After a couple hundred no’s, I got desperate and couldn’t be bothered with long conversations. I just wanted my first sale. I got close a few times, but I gave up on the cold-calling and tried to come up with more creative ways to get clients.
I had a revelation one day, and suddenly I had more clients than I could handle. The method I came up with is one I thought I’d never share, but I’m growing out of client consulting and heading more towards affiliate marketing instead.
The basic idea is, if you are looking for new SEO clients, you search the web for companies that do Adwords marketing. And if you are searching for web design clients, you search the web for businesses that don’t have a mobile-optimized website. I know 2017 is around the corner, and most sites are mobile now, but you can hit them with the AMP news and let them know they need their website AMP-optimized to keep up with the competition.
So when I found my potential clients, I sent them an email basically saying I’m running a workshop where I’m mobile-optimizing a website live for a small group of students, and I’d like to use their website to demonstrate this. In return, I will show them the results, and they can acquire their new mobile website for a discounted price. I need no logins or passwords, I just need their approval. People are usually curious and have thought of improvements long before you reach out. So if you do it right, you’ll be surprised by the amount of positive feedback you will get.
Now if the client says it’s ok to use their site, you tell them you will get back to them after your seminar. Then, follow up and ask them if you can come over to their office to show the results, or if you can set up a phone meeting a few days forward in time.
If they say yes, you go ahead and mobile-optimize the front page of their website, nothing more. Then at the meeting, you tell them that you only optimized the front page for the seminar to show the basic principles of mobile design. At this point, you also demonstrate the value of having a mobile optimized website. Then tell the client that you will go ahead and mobile-optimize all the subpages in the same way once you seal the deal. At that point, my closing rate was around 80%, and I’m sure you will have similar or even better results if you have some basic sales skills.
What does this do that cold-calling doesn’t? Well, you’re running a seminar which must mean you are an expert. By the time you follow up, they already “know” you… even more trust.
Also, you can only imagine the possibilities with applying this strategy to SEO clients: “I saw you are not ranking for this or that keyword, I’m running a seminar where I demonstrate for the study group how to rank quickly”.
The best part of this strategy is that you can grow online in the meantime. Create the work in the form of videos or document them as case studies, and you are building your brand as well as you are getting direct client work.
“I can’t compete with developers from India for minimum wage, I’m better off working at McDonalds” is one of the most common limiting thoughts when it comes to freelance platforms.
I gave Upwork a try and I made over $10k my first two months, and honestly, I was barely trying. So don’t limit yourself to thinking clients are only looking for a cheap price on these platforms. If you have a nice portfolio to show, you will barely have any competition.
Obviously, there are many more channels to acquire new clients, I only mention the ones I’ve had success with. I’ve tried on-site and cold-calling but the closing rates were nowhere near.
When you are in this industry, you will hear “everyone” has clients coming to them instead of them having to do the chase. Is it because they do killer quality work? Well yeah maybe it’s thanks to referrals, but most likely they are creating value in one way or another to their target market.
I’m talking about putting your knowledge out there… blog about it, podcast, run offline and online seminars, guest blog, help people online, you name it.
I reached out to two key players in the industry, Ryan Stewart and Dino Gomez, and asked them to share their most powerful advice on client acquisition, here is what they had to say…
I get 100% of my clients from creating value adding content. In today’s world, there are no secrets or magic pills to having success online. I share EVERYTHING that works for my brand and in return, people come to me to replicate it for them. I focus most of my efforts on creating video content to stand out in the pack.
Dynamik 365 – How to Start, Grow, & scale your SEO business.
Client aquisition is my favorite skillset and I think the most important skillset any entrepreneur or SEO can master. If you can acquire clients at any time, you can grow your business to the size of your choice.
My tip I call “SEO Social Positioning”. The strategy is to pick a niche. To be cliche & widely obvious, let’s say “dentists”. Now find a partner who is a dentist to help you run and grow a private community via Linkedin, Facebook, or another social property.
Have your partner post about upcoming events and trending news for “dentists”… conferences, associations, legalities, etc. You will then post occasional SEO tips that will help dentists generate more exposure on Google. If you have a dentist SEO client, you’ll post examples of how SEO has generated new patients using xyz strategies.
This positions you as the expert of “dentist SEO” and as the private community grows, so does your authority. Before long, dentists will be reaching out to you to implement your strategies on their behalf.
A while back, I wrote a blog post about the basics of SEO. A couple of days later, I had clients calling me and emailing me. And this was the impact of one single blog post, imagine going all out on it. The CEO of one of the most successful SEO agencies in Sweden, Pineberry, recently mentioned to me that this is basically their only marketing effort. By putting quality content out there, almost all their clients come to them instead of vice versa, which just amplifies the fact that creating valuable content is one of the most powerful marketing methods around when it comes to client acquisition.
Now what happens when you get that call or email?
Before I got into web design and internet marketing, I used to work at a cold-calling company. I was one of the top sellers and month after month I used to compete with this one guy. We would come up with creative strategies that put us way above the numbers of the others. After having been on the phone day in and day out for three years I had enough, I started getting tired of it but I’m glad I learned a few lessons from it at least…
If you make it a big deal, the clients will too
I remember when our team coach took that other guy and me into a room, and she asked us how it’s possible we can sell 50-100 iPads with mobile broadband subscriptions to a single small company CEO. I told her “because we don’t make a big deal out of it”. We made our pitch so straightforward that they would feel stupid for not saying yes.
Without getting too off-track here, I’ll try to give you with an example of what we did:
A random seller called and sold a phone subscription including a device to a client. Then I called the client back up afterward and told him/her that the first seller forgot to mention that they had discounts that were activated in combination with their purchase. And these discounts allow them to buy a mobile broadband with an iPad. Unfortunately, the client only has discounts on 5 iPads, so he can’t purchase any more than 5 even if he wanted to. I would make this pitch so obvious without flinching that it seemed like an everyday thing.
If the client said yes, I would call back again and tell him in a “private tone” that I went against the rules and managed to unlock an additional 5 discounts. This is basically massaging the client. Even if he said no here, the chances are that the initial sale will be rubbed in and the likeliness of him regretting it will be drastically lowered.
Now, what does this have to do with acquiring clients for SEO or web design you might think. It’s just an illustration of the point that you shouldn’t make your offer a big deal. Everyone else “says yes” to your offer right, so why shouldn’t they?
Momentum is a must
I had periods where I would question reality. It felt so unreal that every single client said no during one period of time. Nothing worked, I mean nothing worked. And the deeper I went, the more confidence I lost.. and as a result, the more “no’s” I got. It’s important to maintain your sanity in these periods of drought, and keep pushing through until you get that sale. It’s inevitable that it will happen sooner or later – it’s a numbers game.
Don’t half-ass it
If you throw yourself into a call, own it. Don’t just “try” or “feel the temperature”, instead throw yourself in there head first and rip the hearts out of your leads.
If you’re starting out new in the business, you need to be reminded that there are people out there that have been doing this for decades. Why would someone buy from you if you haven’t done any research or any extra effort to try to outhustle the competition?
Eliminate desperation or your potential clients will eliminate you
What happens when you call any successful professional out there? Be it a surgeon, lawyer, or a successful marketing agency… When you want that appointment, they will all initially tell you that they can’t take on any further clients at the moment, maybe in a few months.
Now what happens if a potential client gives you a call, and you get over-excited to start working the very same day? It doesn’t look good right? It will most likely even make the client cautious before sealing the deal.
You want to mimic that very same feeling of success that the above-mentioned professionals radiate. My suggestion is to create some kind of client qualification form, be it on your website or as a PDF you send out to the client. Before working with you, they must fill the form out, or you simply won’t take on the client. While you maximize your chances to close the deal, you also get the information you need before taking it to the next step.
To scale and take your business to the next level, you need to either create some kind of automated system, or have a sales team working for you. If you don’t have the budget, the option is obvious.
A good way to go about it is to create a funnel where you generate “free” leads. A step by step example for this would be:
- Find out what businesses you want to target. Is it dentists? Restaurants? Lawyers?
- Research your target group
- Create a landing page that resonates with your potential clients. Make sure you have a form with enough fields to give you the information you need about the client (i.e., their problem, budget, phone number, etc)
- Create a Facebook ad that leads your potential clients to the landing page where you have them fill a small interest form.
- Follow up and cash in.
This can be broken down quite a lot, but it should be enough to get your ideas flowing. If your Facebook ad is appealing enough, you should be able to drop a lot of that marketing pressure off your chest.
You can combine this automation with consistent creation of killer content, and you should be moving forward and thriving in no time.