One of the trickiest parts of owning a small business can be keeping a steady stream of work. If this concerns you, you’re in good company. According to the 2015 DNA of an Entrepreneur Report, nearly a quarter of small business owners cite attracting new clients as one of their biggest fears for the year ahead. It’s important to know how to find and win new clients. Here are some tips that can help.
Ask your current clients for referrals
There’s no better advertisement than an endorsement from someone who has used your product or service. Your current clients know what you do, and they know how well you do it. A lot of people are shy about asking for referrals, but it gets easier every time you do it. When you’ve finished a project for a client, or if they’re telling you what a good job you do, capitalize on the opportunity. Say something like, “I’m so glad you’re happy with my work. Do you happen to know anyone else in your (industry, town, line of work) who might also benefit from my services?” Don’t be pushy, but do ask. As someone famous once said, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
Tell everyone you meet
You are your own best spokesperson. Go to networking events, Chamber of Commerce meetings and trade shows. Make it a point to tell people what you do, even if you don’t think they can use your product or service. They probably know someone who can. Like asking for referrals, this gets easier the more you do it.
Keep up your social media presence
Make sure you’re posting regularly. Not every post has to be about something business-related, but you should post interesting and informative content about your business at least weekly. Remember, you’re not advertising here, but you are passing on information that shows that you are an expert in your field. Need help figuring out where to start, check out these 4 tips for promoting your small business on social media. Remember to comment on other posts, too, to keep the conversation going and get your name out there.
Follow up, follow up, follow up
This is the most important, and most overlooked, step in the customer acquisition process. If you call a client, have a meeting or present a proposal, don’t end the conversation without asking, “When should I follow up with you?” Then do it. Keep whatever kind of system works for you – contact management software, the calendar in your phone, or a good, old-fashioned planner. But keep track of every follow up call or visit, and make them on time. If you don’t keep your promises to prospective clients, they have no reason to believe you keep them with current clients.
Once you have secured a new client, make sure you protect yourself. Draw up a contract that outlines the work to be done and fees to be paid, as well as any other requirements you or the client have. You can use a contract that the client draws up, but remember that you can negotiate the terms. Read it carefully and make sure you can live with everything it stipulates.
Some clients may ask you to carry additional liability insurance for their projects. In addition, they may ask that you accept responsibility if there is a claim or lawsuit regarding your work. This is called a waiver of subrogation and it’s to your advantage to have this spelled out in advance.