When you first start your business, whether it’s a law firm or an eCommerce store, its success relies on bringing in new clients. Business owners need to recruit their own first customers, and those customers shape how the business is positioned in the market and provide social proof.
But how do you do that with no existing clients, no referral partners, and a nonexistent marketing budget?
Businesses in their early stages typically don’t have the budget or processes in place to attract and manage steady streams of qualified leads and turn them into paying clients.
Fortunately, you have advantages as an owner. You know the business inside and out, ooze authenticity, and deeply understand the problem you’re looking to solve. You also have the decision-making power to make the magic happen and close deals.
And all you need is 10 clients – just 10. Sure, this won’t sustain your business in the long term, but it’s an excellent start to learn how to acquire more and continue your business growth into the future.
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The client acquisition phase is when clients learn about the product or service. This is all about drawing the clients in and getting them interested in what you have to offer. Marketing is built around solving the problem and positioning your business as the solution to bring clients on board.
For example, if you’re running a law firm, your client acquisition begins from the moment your client becomes aware of your business until they schedule a consultation for their divorce case and retain you as their lawyer.
This phase encompasses the entire client journey, from the moment a client becomes aware of your business until they become a paying client. The client acquisition phase may include paid or free marketing tactics, such as pay-per-click advertising, online media advertising, search engine optimization, public relations, and social networking.
How to Acquire Your First 10 Clients
Getting the first 10 clients can be daunting, but you have options for low-cost marketing and acquisition efforts to attract prospects and bring them on as paying clients. Here’s how to do it.
Identify the Pain Points
Most businesses don’t start out with the perfect product or service. It’s important to identify the pain points and needs of your client to ensure that you’re serving their needs. You may find that you need to tweak your product or service to address their needs better.
One of the best ways to accomplish this is by checking out the competition. Research your competitors and see what’s working, what isn’t, and what their clients want to see improved. You may find opportunities to serve your clients better and give them what they’re looking for.
Define Your Target Audience
You can’t sell if you don’t know who you’re selling to. You must define your target audience to ensure that you’re directing your efforts toward your ideal clients. Those first few prospects may find you through various channels, but if they’re not your target, it can be difficult to scale when you’re ready.
You’re not creating something for a broad audience, so start by narrowing down your audience and determining why they need your business. Depending on your product or service, you may have a few defined audiences that require different tactics to reach.
For example, if you have a law firm that practices divorce, custody, and spousal support law, you could segment your audiences according to law practice. From there, you may need to drill down your audience further.
When you start narrow and targeted, you can effectively market your product and services to convince early clients to hop on board. From there, you can expand and attract more diverse segments of your audience.
Position Your Business as the Solution
At this point, you identified a market need and the audience you’re addressing. Now, it’s time to position your business and its product or services in the market. You’re trying to attract the client to your business, not advertising it to them.
This can be done by articulating the benefits of your product or service and the problem it solves is the central core of your strategy. You’re communicating your value to the client and reminding them why you’re the exact solution they need.
Remember, your prospect could be considering you and several of your competitors. It’s up to you to set yourself apart by providing a better product or service and keeping the client as the focus.
Create Valuable Content
Content marketing is one of the most effective – and cheapest – marketing techniques to build brand awareness and acquire clients. By creating blog posts, articles, videos, tutorials, and other content, you can market your business to potential clients without coming across as salesy or pushy.
For example, you could create content around common client questions related to their legal cases, such as “what to look for in a lawyer” or “what to expect from your child custody case.” These are phrases that your target audience is likely to search, and when they come across your post, they find answers and may become interested in you as their solution.
Your content has to be high quality, however. You can’t just create content for the sake of it. Pay attention to your client’s needs and offer value and relevance in your content.
You can get ideas for content that people are actively looking for with keyword research. Start with your core topics. So, if you have a law firm or solo practice, search for keywords related to your practice areas and general legal content. Some trends will emerge and you can see what people are searching for, then craft content that seeks to answer their questions or address their search queries.
Leverage Thought Leadership
Link building is a huge boost for search engine optimization (SEO). When you create high-value content that may be helpful to another business’s audience, they’ll link to it. This not only increases your visibility, but it passes on some of the authority from the original publication to your link. If that business is an authority in the industry, Google and the audience believe your content is credible and valuable, boosting its search engine ranking and driving more traffic.
So, how do you make this happen? One of the best ways is with contributor or guest posts in reputable industry publications. Do a little research into the topics the publication typically offers, then write a post and send your pitch. You may not get a “yes” every time, but keep pitching. Once you have some published articles connected to you, you’ll start to develop a reputation as a thought leader.
Your first 10 clients may come from marketing efforts, but you could also attract them through family, friends, or friends of friends – essentially, your personal network.
Your personal network can also provide data and validation for your ideas. You can discuss your product or services and their needs. As an owner and salesperson, you have to develop your pitching skills, and this is the perfect opportunity to hone them.
During this process, you will get a sense of the types of questions you’ll need to answer when nurturing your prospects. You can also expand your network by suggesting that your friends introduce you to their friends.
Marketing is Up to You
Most businesses don’t have big marketing budgets in the beginning. Instead of leveraging an expert marketing department, they rely on their own skills to earn clients – and so should you!
Even if you’re not a salesperson, you’re passionate about what you do and you understand your business, so you can add that “X factor” to your sales conversations. It may seem intimidating at first, but over time, you’ll become more effective.
Leverage Email with Gated Content
Gated content is typically in-depth content, such as whitepapers, ebooks, and other downloadable content, that people can download in exchange for an email address. Once you have this list, you can share updates about your business, promote content, and offer exclusive discounts or trials to your subscribers.
You may find that someone on your email list will become one of your first 10 clients. After all, they’re signing up for your content and have an interest in what you have to offer.
Get Feedback from Your First Clients
Even if it’s just one, your first clients can offer valuable insights into how you’re performing. Because they were the first to come to you, their feedback is critical to your business’s success. Ask for feedback and determine areas for improvement. Often, these clients can offer honest opinions and relevant advice.
Also, maintain a relationship with your first clients after your business with them is complete. They may become your brand advocates and offer word-of-mouth referrals that send other clients your way.
For example, your first client for your law firm may have a complex case that had them stressed out. If you provide as stress-free an experience as possible, guiding them through it and staying available for whatever they need, you’re likely to gain a loyal advocate – even if the case didn’t have the best outcome.
Then, when someone they know needs a prenup lawyer, your law firm will be the first name that pops up.
Consider Everyone a Potential Future Client
Remember that every single person you meet could be a potential future client. Yes, the target audience is important, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss people who don’t fit into that niche. You could meet someone by happenstance and get to talking, and they may come to you in the future for your business.
You never know who someone knows, either. Maybe that person doesn’t fit into your typical client base, but their brother/daughter/friend/boss does. Treat every interaction like an opportunity and every person like a valued client.
Acquiring your first 10 clients as a new business is a significant hurdle, but you now have the tools at your disposal to make it possible. Once you get those 10 clients, your work is far from over, however.
While you can scale these tactics to keep the acquisition coming, it’s a continuous process. You must evaluate, refine, tweak, and fine-tune your efforts to keep the momentum going. Get feedback, keep networking, and continue with email and content marketing to set up a strong foundation for the future.
This is a guest post written by Maxwell Hills
Maxwell Hills is the founder of Hills Law Group, a premier Orange County family law firm with a concentration on high net worth divorces. Max’s entrepreneurial career stretches back to his teenage days when he had his music used in Grey’s Anatomy and ESPN. Today, Max has used that experience to build Hills Law Group with 0 customers and $0 in revenue to a respected firm in the industry.
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