As a small business owner, you have big plans for your company, your income and your lifestyle. While business may already be good, you dream of attracting that perfect client to help you achieve your goals.
How do you do it? I sat down with two experts to find out.
The first: Ford Harding, author of Rain Making: Attract New Clients No Matter What Your Field and Creating Rainmakers: The Manager’s Guide to Training Professionals to Attract New Clients.
The second: Oliver Munday, an independent graphic designer in New York City, that, at just 26 years old, has a client list that includes The New York Times, TIME, and The Wall Street Journal.
Here are their words of wisdom.
1. Tap your B-listers
Harding recommends contacting persons you knew 10 or more years ago. They may have moved up in the world and might be in need of your services.
“I had a client who thought all of his contacts had retired; he started calling his B and C contact list and found one that was still working—that outreach turned into $12 million worth of business for him,” says Harding.
2. Go to an event with an old client
Everyone loves referrals. There is nothing better than getting a call from someone who wants to hire you, before they’ve even met you. How do you find those golden eggs? Ask an old (or current) client to take you to a networking event and hang out with them for the evening, Harding suggests.
“They will introduce you to their contacts in a very favorable fashion, and therefore you will get the implied endorsement of this individual at the event,” he says.
While chatting, look for reasons to get back in touch at a later date, he adds.
3. Eat three breakfasts
Take full advantage of the next time you are at a meal-included conference or networking event. These are great opportunities to chat up decision makers, says Harding.
“Clients can be really hard to meet so go up for three breakfasts and sit down with three different groups of people in one mealtime; their guards will be down and it will give you a chance to start a relationship that you can build on later,” he recommends.
4. Cold call
Don’t roll your eyes; cold calling can really work. It did for Munday. After graduating from college and rejecting cubicle life, he called and e-mailed the art director at The New York Times.
“I told him I loved him and would love to work with him at some point; then I sent him my portfolio from college,” he says.
Munday’s phone rang one day later. It was the art director with a job offer.
“Don’t hesitate to reach out to someone you really want to work with; you might not get a client out of it but you will be on their radar screen,” he adds.
5. Start an interest group
“A friend of mine is an actuary in a small town and she started a group for people interested in pensions," he says. "There was no association for that in her area and she invited people to meet every other month; she became the de facto chair and it helped build her client base.”
6. Offer a trade
If you have your eyes on a specific client or type of client, consider a barter agreement, Munday suggests.
“Put yourself in the position to do it even if they don’t pay,” Munday says.
What about working for free at the start?
“If you are not going to get anything out of it, that doesn’t make sense, but if it can help open your business up to a different line of work or increase your portfolio, go for it," he says. "It can be very lucrative if you do it the right way."