Getting your first client or customer in any business is said to be the most difficult. Digital marketing businesses are no different. When you first start a company you have no case studies, no testimonials and more importantly no trust.
In this article I’m going to outline the exact process I used to gain my first 3 clients and $1,700 a month in billing all in 30 days. This was an extremely time consuming process, but if you are willing to work it’s the cheapest way to generate clients in the early days of your business and can be transferred to almost any business, website or industry.
The method itself is based around prospecting and personalised outreach. As you probably know, spam emails killed the semi-generic email blasts of 10 years ago which means even if you have a list of warm prospects, chances are they receive a number of spam emails every day. The key is to distinguish yourself from these and offer something of value very early on in your sales funnel.
This strategy is also for anyone looking to create a long-term business, my personal results are related to my SEO business (HQ SEO) and gaining long term clients that pay us every month. Spending 100 hours to land the perfect client is worth it for us, but you should always calculate how much time you’d be willing to input for each new customer or client you acquire.
Research, Relevance & Prospecting
Researching your prospects is easily the most important element to this entire process. Before I explain how to collect prospects it’s important to only add individuals that truly need whatever you are offering and also ones that you would like as clients, bad clients are not worth what they pay you! Below are the 3 methods I used to research potential prospects.
Method 1: Niche relevant forums
The first method I utilised was visiting niche relevant business forums. I focused on one business forum in particular as I was already active on this forum which made adding value a lot easier. When you’ve found a forum (of number of forums) you believe your prospects are active on, the next step is to post regularly, 5-10 posts a day is perfect, these should be relevant to what your business does, but also you need to build up your number of posts. This is so you can add a link in your signature or have enough posts to allow direct messages through the forum, this is usually around the 25-50 post mark.
Once you’ve built a rapport with the forum you can begin to ask individuals what aspects of their business they are struggling with the most, and begin to connect with individuals about their issues and remember to record the individual’s usernames that connect with you frequently, continue growing this list every time you are on the forum.
Method 2: Google Ads
The next method is finding prospects that already advertise through Google. If you are looking for prospects in a specific niche, simply search relevant keywords in that niche and find the website and contact information of the business’s using AdWords. This was the strategy I used to generate over 1,300 potential prospects! This was possible due to the range of clients we can take on, any business owner that needs more leads, which as you can imagine is 99% of businesses.
Method 3: Print advertisers (Newspapers and magazines)
The final method I utilised was finding businesses spending money on print advertising. Print is a relatively expensive and low ROI form of advertising, if a business has the budget for magazine or newspaper ads, they will likely have the budget for SEO (or whatever product or service you might be offering.) Simply pick up a number of industry relevant magazines and record the names of the company’s advertising in these.
I recommend having a list of over 1,000 prospects… Yes I know that’s a lot but if you can create a list of over 1,000 potential clients, you only need a conversion rate of 0.1% to get your very first client. Once you have your list you can move onto the outreach stage.
As I mentioned earlier, this is a very time intensive client generation technique, but to reduce the time you have to input you can always utilise staff or VA’s to streamline the process. Outsourcing the prospecting stage is a great way to save yourself time, although this does make the process a lot more expensive.
Smart Outreach and Giving Extreme Value
Stage 2 is reaching out to your prospect list in the correct way. Depending on the niche you are in, will depend on how you contact these business owners. Our prospects list was very wide as we can essentially help any business that needs to generate more customers, so the reach out method was relatively simple. If you’re in a different industry don’t be afraid to get creative.
Reaching out to the individuals on a forum is very easy, but you have to come across extremely personal and genuine, otherwise you will be reported and banned. Message your prospects using a very short semi-personalised script.
Our script looked something like this:
“Hi <Name>, after our discussion on <Thread name> I wanted to check if you need any more help as I’m currently looking to gain positive testimonials for <business name>, maybe a full website audit for <<site name>>, cheers, Tom.
The outreach for the print or Google ads prospects was very similar although instead of <thread name> we mentioned how we found the business but didn’t see them ranking on the search engines themselves.
After the initial response, which was usually positive, I would generally gently push them into the SEO audit, gaining their email and phone number in the process. This was 100% free and outlined exactly what was wrong with the site and how it was holding them back. I also included estimates on how much (in a monetary figure) they were losing as a result, this is essential, as most business owners don’t know how much they would make if they ranked for keyword X or Y, but if you can put a real monetary estimate on this, suddenly the dollar signs appear and they take note to what you are saying.
Follow Ups & Sealing the Deal
Although I had a relatively good response rate for both the emails (email stat screenshot below) and forum direct messages, I had only generated 1 client by day 22 of this case study, although that was over £600 ($850), I had put a lot of hours into the process and wanted to at least break the 4 figure mark.
The key to eventually doing this was following up and what I call “sealing the deal” or gaining a “yes”. After I had an initial response from a prospect I knew they were at least interested, if I didn’t receive a response within 3-4 days I would email or DM them again asking if they received the last message. This simple follow up technique led to another 7 audits (one of which went on to be a client.)
Once I had conducted the audits, the next stage was to get the prospect on the phone to “go over it”, again your main focus should be to help them as if you are truly offering a good service they will benefit from doing business with you anyway. This step is key to getting the “do you want to just do it for me?” style questions and this is what I was looking for from the start and then going on to close the sale.
Breaking the stats down – The results
- 1,566 prospects across the 3 research methods.
- 209 responses from these, after following up twice. (Approximately 13%)
- 77 audits delivered, very easy to get that first “yes” when something is free. This was about 37% of the individuals who responded initially.
- 21 calls – A frustratingly low number but many “didn’t have the time right away to go over the audit, so following up on this section is essential too.
- 3 monthly paying clients – As a result within 30 days we landed 3 new clients. 2 x £300 per month and 1x£600 per month client. = Approximately $1700.
Although $1,700 is rather low based on the amount of hours that went into the project, this strategy landed 3 clients without any testimonials or case studies that will continue to pay us every month as long as we deliver on what we promised (which we will.) The conversion rate from the initial 1,566 prospects was (3/1566 = 0.19%.) And it should be noted that we are still in talks with a number of other prospects from the original list.
Strategy Outline – TL;DR
- Research your prospects that are already spending money on advertising, or are actively looking for information on how to improve their business.
- Individually reach out to these prospects with a personal and relevant offer.
- Provide an extreme value, this can be in any form but it must be considered valuable by the prospect.
- Follow up and seal the deal by offering to do it for them.
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