So, you’re ready to launch your new business. Maybe you’re a coach, a graphic designer or perhaps you’re selling a hot new product you’ve poured your blood, sweat and tears into. Congratulations! There’s just one snag: you’ve got something to sell but no one to buy it. Finding your first paying client can be a hard obstacle to overcome, so how can you get your ideal client to spend money on your product or service? Here are seven effective methods to help you find your first paying client.
Always begin close to home – ask your friends, family and colleagues for referrals
When you first launch a business, your ability to make that first sale can be hindered by a lack of raving fans who can vouch for your product or service. There’s no point trying to get clients by paying for expensive adverts when you’re just starting out. Why? Because the same objection will block your sales time and time again, “how do I know this works?”.
It will always be hard to convince a total stranger to spend money on a company they’ve never heard of and on something with no reviews or testimonials to show it works. However, if you start by asking your friends, family and colleagues to spread the word, they will be able to vouch for you, making testimonials less important.
Despite all the fancy marketing tricks out there, word-of-mouth remains the strongest form of advertising out there.
Nurture your social audience before asking them for money
This a mistake we commonly see across social media: brand new companies bombarding their followers with posts asking them to buy buy buy from day one. People tend to buy from people they know, trust and like. Don’t sabotage your first sale by cutting to the chase too quickly and asking for money from people who don’t really know, trust or like you.
Instead, spend at least a couple of months showing your followers what you are all about and giving them things they want (advice or product samples) for free. Once they have had a taste of what you have to offer and love it, you can then introduce your paid product or service as the natural next step. Follow this strategy and you’ll find your first paying client.
Partner with another company or entrepreneur who has a complementary but non-competing service or product
When you leverage someone else’s audience, you not only widen your pool of potential clients, you also inadvertently get an endorsement from the company you have partnered with. People who love that company will assume that your company must be equally great if they are partnering with you.
So, how can you get a company to partner with you? There are two effective ways of doing this. Strategy one is to pay for exposure to the company’s audience. This is the best approach if the company is well established and has a much larger audience than yours. Avoid insulting them by asking for free exposure under the pretence that doing so will be mutually beneficial for both parties. If you clearly have more to gain from the partnership than they do, pay them for the service you want from them.
Strategy two? That involves offering a mutual exchange if you have similarly-sized audiences OR if you have something of value to them. For example, a web designer could partner with a business coach with a large social following, and offer her a free website redesign in exchange for promotion to her audience of new coaches who may be looking for web design support.
Find some niche online forums
Facebook and Instagram ads are hot right now, but there are other much more effective, yet widely overlooked platforms that will help you to find your first paying client. Forums, for example, are still ripe for picking. Where else will you find free access to a big pool of people who are looking for a solution to one specific problem? From parenting forums to weight loss, hair loss and business start-up forums, thousands of very niche forums exist across the globe. Get on Google and find as many as you can and then go back to step two of this post: nurture the audience in those groups before selling them anything.
Volunteer to speak at events and on podcasts
Podcasters and events (especially recurring panel events) always need new speakers to stay relevant. And while it’s nice to be asked by them, volunteering your services is a quick and (often) low-cost way of getting in front of a large audience of your potential clients.
People cannot buy a product or service they don’t know about. Appearing on lots of podcasts and speaking at events will put you on the radar of people who may never otherwise have heard of you, and this could bring you some sales.
Because you’re trying to build brand awareness and get new clients for free, don’t get too hung up on also trying to get paid for your time. As a newbie, that podcast or event is taking a risk by bringing you on board and may not be able to offer you a fee. Only taking paid speaking gigs will seriously limit the number of podcasts or events that will agree to feature you as a guest.
Make cold approaches
We’ve all been on the receiving end of unsolicited emails, direct messages or phone calls from an unscrupulous company trying to sell us something we don’t want. For those companies, it’s a numbers game: if they contact enough people at least a few will be interested. However, this is a very time-intensive approach with questionable ethics.
If you’re building a business single-handedly and you care about being seen as a moral company, there’s a more effective (and less annoying) way of making cold approaches: prequalify everyone first.
There are many ways to prequalify (check they are legitimately interested in what you are selling) people. For example, you could look at threads on social media and respond to people who have said they have a problem that your product or service can solve. Alternatively, you can offer up a sample of your product/service and then follow up with those who actually sign up for your sample. There are lots of options, you just need to try one approach at a time until you find one that works well for you.
Network both online and offline
It’s easy to get sucked into finding a hot new method for getting clients and overlook the old classics. Earlier in this post we said that people buy from people they know, trust and like, so always keep that in mind. Pay particular attention to step one of that formula: people need to know you first. Getting out there, meeting new people and telling them about what you do is a very effective way of making this happen.
Go to new events, join Facebook groups and start conversations with people in them, post articles on LinkedIn, email people in your industry and invite them for a coffee or a telephone chat. You have no idea who could be sitting between you and your next client, so get out there and start making new connections.
Did we miss any effective strategies for finding your first paying client? Let us know in the comments below.
Join our insider club
Ready for a gutsy career move? Sign up to get alerts about game-changing career opportunities, such as work abroad opportunities and exciting jobs for career changers.