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How to Find Clients When Beginning Your Business




(Photo : serbuxarev from Pixabay)

Congratulations. You somehow beat the odds and managed to get funding for your own startup. 

Now you are faced with an even bigger challenge: finding your first clients. You might think your product is just so good that it sells itself, but you would be wrong. Landing your first sale is a challenge, but it is not impossible. Nothing is. That being said, it does take a lot of hard work and market research.

To help you navigate the challenges of finding your company’s first clients, we reached out to business leaders and c-suite executives to hear how they did it. Read on for their advice on finding your first customers.

Network for Your Net Worth

“Sales and business are all about relationship building,” says Chris Gadek, Head of Growth at AdQuick. He encourages new business people to start small before branching out. “Talk to your friends and colleagues, then to their friends and colleagues, and so on and so on. It might not be much, but you will surely find a few worthwhile connections in your immediate circle. Then, it’s just about building on top of what you already have,” he told us.

“You might find that a business owner you know from the start-up circle has a client base that would benefit from your services. Reach out to them for an introduction. Your investors might also know a few businesses that they can introduce you to, too. After all, they have a vested interest in seeing you succeed,” added Ryan Rottman, Co-Founder & CEO of OSDB.

Make use of social media as well, you are your own best advocate, Rottman advised. “Posting on LinkedIn and sharing how you can help others is an important practice beyond just when you are starting out.”

Posting on LinkedIn is great advice as every piece of content increases your business’s visibility and at this stage, your company should be focused on spreading the word. You should also be trying to identify and understand the pain points your potential customers are facing so you can make sure you are able to address them with your offerings.

“If your brand doesn’t provide a solution for its customers, then they’ll find another business to invest in,” commented Stephanie Wells, CTO of Formidable farms. “Before marketing, research your customer base front to back to ensure you give them what they want.

Advertise

“Many small and new businesses don’t have a website and fewer still are advertising properly. You need to do both if you expect to attract clients to your product,” says John Berry, Co-Founder & CEO of Berry Law. “Even if it is just a sample site, get it online. People are always on their phones and computers and you need them to be able to find you when they are surfing the web.”

SEO is a great tool for website traffic and advertising your product in a non-invasive way. “Using SEO to your advantage will help drive website traffic. The more unique visitors to your site, the higher chance you have of making a sale,” Jorge Vivar, Creative Director of mode, commented. “Blog like your life depended on it, it just might. People hate ads, but blogs create a feeling of trust.”

That’s true, people do trust blogs more than traditional ads, and blogs drive traffic. “You are not going to see results right away because blogging is a long-term strategy. Sit tight and let your content do the work and you will start to see your conversion rate grow,” says Akhilesh Srivastava, Founder & CEO of Fenix Commerce.

Conduct a routine search of your business to make sure you are showing up and your listing is complete.

The internet isn’t the only place you can advertise, of course, it’s just the most ubiquitous. Traditional media is still a great option for those with a bigger budget. “Commercials might be a few years off for those still looking to get their first customers, but you should consider internet ads to drive traffic. Social media ads are perfect for start-ups since they are affordable and your target audience is probably very active on them,” says James Ville, Chief Product Officer of GunSkins. “If your product skews older, consider print media like community papers.”

Cold Outreach

“Whether you are doing it or you have a sales team that is taking lead, you will need to do your fair share of cold outreach. This includes cold calling and emailing,” says Tirzah Shirai, CEO of Blink Bar. “These [emails] don’t have to be salesy. Try to think of them as a conversation between two friends. Something like ‘Hey, are you still looking at X? Because we have a solution for that.’ You will strike out a ton before you get a hit, but it’s a numbers game. No product sells itself.”

Email is still the backbone of internet communication, so use it to your advantage. Don’t send any email that you wouldn’t open if you were on the receiving end and get straight to the point. No one wants their time wasted.

“Don’t neglect the phones either. Sales engagement platforms like LinkedIn Sales Navigator and DiscoveryOrg should be an expense that you budget for so you can access people’s office numbers. Get ready to get hung upon. It’s all a part of the sales process,” Jeff Meeks, VP of Sales and Marketing at Energy Fit advised.

Freebies!

Everyone likes to get free goods and services. When it comes to your business, you might find that giving a little can get you a lot according to Juan Pablo Cappello, Co-Founder and CEO of  Nue Life.

“A free sample goes a long way for conversion rates. You’ve been to big-box stores and had a free sample of something you wouldn’t normally buy, right? It’s the same principle. Offer a free consultation if your product calls for it or allow people to try your product for free in order to let them see if they like it. Encourage them to spread the word online if they enjoyed it in exchange for a future discount. Even better if that person has a social media following that they can advertise to.”

“This method is a great way to get early testimonials. It also allows you to handpick your first customers and surprise them with how great your product or service is,” says Amine Rahal, founder of IronMonk Solutions. “When you offer something for free, you get to choose your client and you can come up with an offer that knocks their socks off […] They may not just give you a testimonial; they may actually give you referrals for new business. If it fails, they lose nothing and all you’ve given them is some of your time.”

SaaS businesses have a lot to gain from offering freebies as evidenced by Slack. It’s crazy to think about it now, but not too long ago, in 2013, Slack offered a beta-version to possible clients. It was obviously a huge success and the same could be true for you and your service if done correctly.

Team Up

…with existing players in your market in order to take advantage of the work that has already been done to find customers. “Host/beneficiary agreements are one way to make use of another company’s client list,” says Evan Zhao Evan Zhao, Co-Founder and CEO of Revela.

“Essentially, you offer your product to the customers of a larger organization at a discounted price and the larger company shares the offer with its client base. It’s a simple and effective way to get your name on people’s radar.”

To do this, try researching businesses near you that are in the same industry or field, not direct competitors since they are more likely to turn you down.

“If you find a company that likes you, but is still not sure, offer to cover the expenses related to their mailing or email service for a short while. You can even offer some type of commission on future sales if the customer came in from their marketing materials. Most people will be open to making some type of deal that serves them,” added Cindy Le Co-Founder and COO of Revela.

You can also offer the service or product to members of the host company if it is something that they might benefit from to help sweeten the deal. It’s going to be case-by-case, so go into it with an open mind.

You might consider strategic alliances as well. These are a bit more formal and long-term than host/beneficiaries and can last for many years. These essentially work as referral programs where two companies will send each other people who need added services. For instance, a captioning company might have a strategic alliance with a translation company. As long as both companies are benefiting, these kinds of alliances can last for a very long time and be great drivers of new business.

All of these methods are great ways to get your first sale or first bunch of sales. Don’t be let down if you don’t see immediate results. Once you finally get that customer, treat them well and your company will grow for years to come.

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