How service-based businesses can win new clients and expand their network
Posted: Tue 14th Jul 2020
When you're a service-based business, it's natural to build strong relationships with a couple of key clients. However, relying too heavily on a handful of accounts can be risky.
As businesses begin to rebuild after the crisis, there's never been a better time to expand and strengthen your customer base. Here are some ways to get started.
Understand your target market
It's easier to find new clients if you understand exactly who you're looking for. Without a clear picture of your ideal client, your marketing will be too broad and won't have the impact you're looking for.
Think about who is likely to be interested in your service. Ask yourself:
What are the demographics of my target customer?
Where do they spend time?
What are their needs, goals and challenges?
How can I provide a solution?
Turn your answers into a set of customer personas that you can base your marketing strategy around.
It's important to check in on these personas often to make sure they're still relevant. A lot of the time, the customers you actually attract will be different to the ones you thought you would attract.
If you already work with a number of clients, try to identify the ones that are most valuable to you. That way, you can aim to win similar clients in future.
You might define value by:
How much money they have spent with you
The length of time they've been working with you
How much new business you've won through that client
The stability they offer (for example, a small client on a retainer might be more valuable than a large company that spends a lot of money on a one-off service)
Build relationships with potential clients
Once you know the type of client you want, make a hit list of sales targets. Social media platforms like LinkedIn are a great place to start, since it's easy to search for people by job title, company or location. You can also find people through Facebook groups or events.
Nurturing these relationships will help you turn these contacts into clients. Like and share their content, engage in discussions and demonstrate your expertise. Posting relevant articles or short video snippets can be a great way to show potential clients that you understand their challenges.
Communicate your story
Enterprise Nation adviser Bev Hepting recommends using storytelling to build trust and create connections with new customers. Storytelling isn't about being dramatic - it's about communicating your experiences and letting people in on your business's journey.
"If you're just producing facts, it's flat. No one remembers facts. But everyone remembers a good story. By weaving your story into your business message, the people you want to work with will hear you and connect with you emotionally," she said.
Partner with complementary businesses
Partnering with a business that offers complementary services is another effective way to get in front of your target audience. For example, if you offer SEO training, you could team up with a company that builds websites.
As part of your partnership, you can advertise to each other's networks and offer a 5% payment for any referrals. If you want to go down this route, make sure you choose a business that you know and trust to do a good job.
Ask existing clients for testimonials
One of the biggest challenges of winning new clients - particularly if post-crisis restrictions mean you're doing all your selling online - is building trust.
Ask previous and existing clients for testimonials and create a dedicated page on your website. You can also include a testimonials section in your email newsletter or post quotes on social media.
Testimonials give potential clients the chance to see the real-life impact of your services. If they see that someone they can relate to has benefitted from working with you, it can be the nudge they need to make a purchase.
Diversify your offering
Diversifying your offering lets you appeal to a wider range of customers, so think about how you could update your services.
Develop premium or "lite" options
Offering premium or lite versions of your services lets you expand your offering without spending a lot of money.
For premium, take what you already offer and add something extra: an additional course, a free guide or a more bespoke service. For lite, you might offer a stripped back version of your service - perhaps you'll just focus on one area rather than several.
While you might not make as much money from your lite service, you're bringing new customers into your network and giving them an easy, inexpensive way to sample what you do. When they're ready to spend more in future, they will know you can deliver.
Create your own online courses
Courses give business owners a way to turn their expertise into a digital product that can be sold again and again.
Enterprise Nation adviser Lucy Griffiths started creating online courses two years ago and has sold over 30,000 to date.
"I started selling courses on YouTube and Pinterest, and now use Facebook ads. They've completely revolutionised my business. I turn over multiple six figures and literally make money while I sleep," she said.
If you think online courses could be a good fit for your business, Lucy recommends taking these steps:
Think about the transformation you can offer customers - you want to be able to clearly take them from point A to point B. For example, participants in a bakery course might end up being able to make two types of sourdough bread.
Teachable provides a good basic platform to build your first course.
Start with an introductory video that lets people know who is behind the course.
Use a mix of slides and videos. Think carefully about any sections where users might benefit from visuals (for example, a bread recipe could feature on a slide, but the process of mixing the bread might need to be filmed).
Break up your course into bitesize 10-minute videos, with a total length of around two hours. Courses that are too long can feel overwhelming and users will be less likely to see them through.