New business owners face a list of challenges once their doors open. Among those hurdles is finding potential clients and turning them into customers. This is especially difficult for high-ticket service-based businesses like event planners or interior decorators, where clients might be wary of hiring a professional who’s never had a client before.
Maybe you’ve heard tales of new business owners spending time and effort with inquirers who seem interested but never commit to doing business. Your task will be to identify which inquirer would make the perfect first client and show them the value of working with you.
Some business owners try to secure their first client by investing their time, money, and effort primarily into advertising. Marketing your brand to a wide audience is helpful, but you should adjust your strategy if this method doesn’t bring you an initial lead. Rather than casting such a wide net, consider focusing specifically on your most serious inquirers. The process of securing your first client should look something like this:
- Make a name for yourself
- Identify your ideal client
- Get your name out there
- Focus on the goal
- Build your client base
Every business is different, but many new owners experience success by concentrating their efforts in a model similar to this list.
1. Make a Name for Yourself
Securing your first client requires a solid brand. Inquirers can be wary of new businesses that don’t yet have a foundation of previous clients and good reviews. As a result, attracting new clients can be more difficult for you than it might be for an older business with a history of good service. Smart marketing can reassure inquirers that your level of professionalism outweighs the risks of working with a new business.
Making a name for yourself means more than just choosing a business name or designing a logo. Invest time in establishing a strong online presence by building the following pages:
- A professional website
- Profiles on popular social networks (ex. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, etc).
- An industry-related blog
- Some new businesses build their own mobile apps, depending on the type of service they offer.
When clients decide they need service, they usually research their options online. Maintaining an online presence gives your business credibility by:
Making you accessible: People want information clearly and quickly. Potential clients will be happy if they can find your contact information, prices, and information about your services easily.
Taking control: With the existence of customer review websites, information about your business will end up online whether you put it there or not. Inquirers might post about your quality of customer service before you’ve even had your first official client. Take control of what people see on the Internet by painting an image of your brand yourself before someone else does.
Keeping you modern: We live in an increasingly digital culture. Businesses that don’t have social networks, or at least a website, are regarded as outdated.
Making you comparable: Keeping up with your competitors is important. If potential clients turn to the Internet to contrast businesses, you might not measure up in their eyes without a comparable online presence.
Making you transparent: Giving potential clients the information they want at their convenience assures them that you’re not hiding anything, like better deals or additional fees.
Your professional website is your most important marketing tool. It is often a prospective client’s first impression of your business. It should present your information clearly and concisely, but also be interesting enough that people want to browse your content.
2. Identify Your Ideal Client
Recognizing your target market will help you identify who your ideal first client is. Ask yourself:
- What are the primary benefits of your service?
- What kind of person or business will benefit the most from that service?
Knowing your target market is essential to both marketing your business to your ideal client. Consider the type of person who would be the most interested, the most serious in their consideration, and the most likely to actually need your service. These are the people you’ll target in your marketing efforts. Catering to your target market influences:
- The images and wording you use in your advertisements and online content
- Where and how you advertise
- The scope of your services
- The type and timing of your promotions or sales
If you know who your ideal client is, you’ll have an easier time convincing them that you’re their best option for service. A client is more likely to do business with you if you can anticipate their expectations and are prepared to meet them.
3. Get Your Name Out There
If you want potential clients to consider your business, they have to know it exists! Advertising will spread the word that you’re ready to provide a quality service. Before you spend thousands of dollars launching every type of ad campaign you can think of, you’ll want to consider your target market.
- Where is your ideal client most likely to see and pay attention to ads?
- How can you format those ads to communicate what they need?
- Which methods of advertising are most beneficial but also cost-effective?
If your service is intended primarily for university students, consider online ads that they’ll see when they use their laptops, cell phones, and tablets. If your ideal first client is a senior citizen, however, you might invest more heavily in print ads for the local newspaper instead.
Remember: Advertising in the wrong place isn’t worth your money!
4. Focus on the Goal
Now that you can recognize your ideal client, you know where to concentrate most of your energy. Continue advertising to a broad audience, but focus your attention on inquirers who stand out as serious prospects, rather than those who don’t seem ready to commit to a contract.
If you have a potential first client on the line who might just need a little incentive to sign that contract, you can consider this option:
- Offer them your best service package at a discounted rate. You want to give them a good deal, but don’t under-value yourself by doing it for free. In exchange, ask them to provide you with a testimonial at the end of the contract if they are happy with your work.
- Tell the client that you won’t charge them if they are unsatisfied with your service at the end of that first contract.
- Provide the client with the very best service you’re capable of. Prove that your business is worth returning to in the future.
- Honor your deal. If that first client is genuinely dissatisfied, let them walk away without paying. If they’re happy, accept payment at your discounted price as promised and ask them to honor their side of the agreement by providing you with a testimonial you can now use with future potential clients.
Giving your first client a deal like this is beneficial to both parties. It’s a “win-win” situation for the client because they either receive a service they need at an amazing price, or they walk away with no strings attached. At the same time, you get the opportunity to prove yourself and you still get paid to do so, even if it’s at a discounted rate. You’ll also increase your chances that this first client will spread the word about your services to friends, colleagues, and family.
5. Build Your Client Base
Knowing when to offer deals and where to focus your energy is a skill that you’ll continue using after you’ve secured your first client. You’ll dedicate energy and effort to all of your contracts, but you can benefit from offering incentives like new client deals and referral discounts to expand your client base.
When working on expanding your client base, keep in mind:
- Don’t neglect repeat contracts in favor of new ones. Providing your best service to the clients you already have is what builds the reputation and credibility of your business.
- Quality is especially important if a new client approaches you based on a positive referral. Bad service will reflect poorly on both you and the client that referred you. You’ll risk losing both the new client and the one who gave the recommendation.
The key to building your client base effectively is to strike a good balance between investing energy in attracting new clients and providing your current ones with the service they deserve.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
Getting and keeping your first client is a challenge no matter what industry you work in. New business owners can maximize their chances of success by identifying their ideal clients and adjusting their marketing tactics, advertising techniques, and promotional offers from there.
Knowing where and how to focus your energy will reduce stress in the weeks following your grand opening so you can concentrate on providing quality service.
QC Event School offers online courses that guide students through the process of becoming a certified professional event and wedding planners. Each QC student receives complete course texts, exemplary video tutorials, and a personal tutor who is also a professional planner. QC’s online courses involve hands-on assignments based on real-world scenarios that prepare students for their professional event planning careers.