We all want to know how to get more clients. We also need better clients too. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation about the best way of achieving this.
The number one thing the people I coach want to know is how to get more clients, followed closely by how to get better clients.
In almost every case, these business owners are relying almost exclusively on word of mouth to generate new business. After all, we are told time and again that if we create great work, more clients will follow.
Unfortunately, that is bullshit.
Don’t Believe the “Great Work” Fallacy
Let me be 100% clear, producing great work is not the secret of how to get more clients or even better clients.
That is the delusion of the successful who think their success is down to talent. In truth, mostly, it is down to a combination of good luck, timing, hard work and self-promotion.
Yes, the quality of your work is a factor. However, it is not the only reason some have clients lining up at their door or even the primary cause.
There are many more talented designers and developers than those you see featured in magazines or speaking at conferences. Designers and developers who struggle to keep the work coming in, while less talented colleagues are turning away clients.
So what is the secret? Is it word of mouth recommendation? Well, yes and no.
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Word of Mouth Recommendation Is Not the Whole Story
Another common misconception many business owners have is that word of mouth recommendation is how to get more clients. Most of those I coach, rely exclusively on word of mouth recommendation for new business.
However, let’s be clear; the quality of your work is not the only factor to influence word of mouth recommendation. Customer service is probably a more significant factor in getting recommended than the quality of your work.
If you want to know how to get more clients, treating your clients well will go further than producing world-class work in many situations. Even so, word of mouth recommendation won’t be enough.
Don’t get me wrong — word of mouth recommendation is, without a doubt, the best type of marketing you could ever ask for. However, that doesn’t mean it should be the only type of marketing you do. It is also not necessarily the answer to your question of how to get more clients.
Word of mouth recommendation has two significant drawbacks.
First, word of mouth recommendation is largely a passive approach. In other words, you have a relatively limited number of options when things go quiet. If you rely exclusively on word of mouth, you can ask some clients to recommend you, but that is about it. You have no way of stimulating new leads.
Second, word of mouth will typically create more of the same kind of client. If you want to know how to get better clients, then word of mouth probably isn’t your answer.
With word of mouth recommendation, clients are recommending you to their peers and contacts. That means they usually are recommending you to similar companies. Yes, occasionally they may recommend you to a supplier or one of their customers. However, most of the time, the majority of recommendations will be similar companies.
The result of this is that word of mouth recommendations will generally get you more of the same kind of work. It won’t help to radically change the companies that you are reaching.
So, if producing great work is not enough and word of mouth recommendation will only take you so far, what then is the answer?
How to Get More Clients and Better Clients the Right Way
The only solution to how to get more clients or better clients is to have a well designed and executed marketing plan.
Yes, you will continue to get word of mouth recommendations, but having a marketing plan will allow you to ensure a continual stream of leads and help you target the kinds of clients you want to attract.
A good marketing plan for your business consists of three elements:
- A method for gaining the attention of prospects.
- A way to maintain contact with prospects.
- An approach for converting those prospects.
Now entire books are written on this subject, but I do want to quickly look at these three elements because the kind of marketing most web design businesses need is very simple. However, I see a lot of mistakes being made.
Gaining the Attention of Prospects
One common mistake is that web design businesses focus entirely on their blog, newsletters and social media channels, at the expense of other opportunities.
The problem with this approach is that often they haven’t first built up a following.
Just as good design is no guarantee of attention, neither is good content. You can write the best blog post in the world, but if nobody sees it, it achieves nothing.
You need to establish some ways of attracting attention in the first place. Some of the methods I use include:
- Guest posts.
- Network events.
- Participating in online communities.
- Giving interviews on podcasts.
- Targeted SEO.
There are other approaches too, including paid advertising. However, for me, at least, I have found the above have more long term benefits than advertising.
Because I have limited time, I focus my efforts on places where I know my chosen audience are. I write guest posts for my target audience’s blogs, speak at their events, participate in their communities, and so on.
It is not enough for people to hear from you once. They need to see your name cropping up several times before you really get their attention. That is why it is so important to be focused on a few specific places or on a small, well-defined audience, rather than having a scattergun approach.
Once you have their attention, the next step is to hold it.
Maintaining Contact With Prospects
Another common mistake I observe among those I coach is that they try and sell the moment they have somebodies attention. That is built on a false assumption that a person will be ready to buy as soon as they hear about you. That is rarely the case.
The chances of gaining prospects attention at the exact moment they have a project that you can help with is minimal. That is why the success rate of cold calling is so low.
Instead, we need a way of holding the attention of our prospects. We need to ensure that they remember us when the moment finally comes to buy.
You do that by providing ongoing value in the form of blog posts like this one, newsletters, podcasts and other content marketing.
Unfortunately, this is another area where web design businesses often make mistakes.
First, most business owners tend to be very ad-hoc in their content marketing efforts. There can often be months between posts or newsletters, during which time the prospect forgets you exist.
When they do post the value is often low, in part because it is so sporadic, but also because the content is often self-promotional. Because it provides so little value to the prospect, people are quick to unsubscribe from the newsletter or stop visiting the blog.
However, done right, it is possible to build a compelling sales funnel that keeps a potential client engaged by providing them with ongoing value. Eventually, a project will come along. The prospect will think of you and reach out.
Of course, there is a big difference between a lead and a signed contract. Again, this is an area I see mistakes being made, the most common of which is web design businesses giving up too early on a lead.
My father is an accomplished salesman, and he gave me the best piece of sales advice I have ever received when I first set up my own business. He advised me to:
Follow a lead to destruction. Never give up until the person says no.
It is common for a prospect to go quiet after initially contacting you. Maybe your quote was too high or perhaps the contact just got busy with other work. The point is that you don’t know if you don’t maintain the conversation.
However, all too often, web design businesses fail to follow up on leads. 48% of salespeople never follow up with a prospect. 25% of people only follow up once, and only 12% follow up three times.
The really shocking part is that 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact.
Unfortunately, most of those I coach have no customer relationship system in place for managing their leads. Even those who know how important it is to follow up on leads tend to rely on their memories to chase people. That is going to mean opportunities falling between the gaps.
Take Control of Your Sales Pipeline
Many web design business owners seem to have a passive approach to sales and marketing. That is extremely dangerous and fails to address the question of how to get more clients.
It leads to many people contacting me when the work dries up desperate to find new clients. However, there is only so much that can be done by then. Putting a sales funnel in place takes time. It takes a lot of hard work and consistency over many years.
So my question for you is whether you are prepared when work does dry up? Because if not, don’t wait until it is too late. Sales might be healthy now, but one day it won’t be and you need to have a way of avoiding that eventuality.
Stock Photos from Monster Ztudio/Shutterstock