As a professional running your own business one of the biggest struggles to overcome is figuring out how to attract the “good clients.” These people or businesses are the ones that commit to buying from you, recognize the value in the products and services you are offering and willingly pay for what they are worth, and they are the ones that gladly refer you to their friends and contacts. These customers are out there; you just need to know how to reach them. Usually, this process starts (and ends) with having the right structure and systems in place in your business. I know this statement may sound a bit formal and daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.
The following guide is designed to help you set up your business in a way that will allow you to attract and retain the best prospects. These are the basics. No matter what kind of business you are running, if you carefully pay attention to the 10 steps below and implement them, you’ll learn the fundamentals behind attracting the right customers and getting them to come back for more.
Ten Steps to Get Good Clients to Buy From You… and Bring Their Friends
Step 1: Define your ideal client. Do you know who your ideal customer is? Attracting good clients starts here. If you are not laser targeted on The Person or The Business you are trying to reach with your products and services, then you are going wind up wasting a lot of time, money, and energy. I’m saying this from experience. The more real and defined your customer profile is, the easier it will be to know what products and services to offer as well as how to effectively promote them for the best exposure and engagement.
Step 2: Determine the problem(s) you’re trying to solve and the solution. Are your ideal clients looking to feel a happier, better, stronger, more confident? Are they overwhelmed or frustrated by something- even something small? The key is to find out what your clients really need or are looking for that you would be able to offer and then give them just that. There is actually a process you can go through to figure out your clients’ pain point (I’ve explained it here). The most successful entrepreneurs follow this system; they don’t base their business on “educated guesses.” One important point that I want to highlight is that you need to enter the conversation that your potential and current customers are already having. We all want to solve our problems. We all want to relieve our pain.
Step 3: Figure out what makes you unique.Today, if you want to succeed, then you better be rememberable. The people who matter have to remember you when they are in need of the kinds of products and services you’re providing or when they are feeling the weight of the problem that you are offering to solve. You need to touch your customers a way that your competitors aren’t and position your business differently from the rest. When marketing experts talk about building a brand with a strong value proprosition, this is what they mean. Some questions to consider are:
- Is there a service, a set of skills, or even a unique point of view that you can provide that your competitors don’t?
- Do you have interesting personal background, experiences, or knowledge?
- Do you have an exceptional personality or business culture? What makes you, you? What are your values? For example, I know a document imaging company that was approached one day by a business interested in scanning a piece of art- which was of an unusual size and material. Instead of sending the potential client away, the company spent the morning carefully testing their scanning process and eventually scanning in the work. This company could highlight the fact that they are not afraid to test new things, nor go out of their way to work around potential problems in order to customize their service.
- Do you have an “alter ego” or a symbol that you can use to identify the business?
To sum everything up, in these two steps your job is to get to know your audience and the current competition as well as you can so that you can make an impression where it counts, build loyal relationships, know what problems to solve and when, and how best to communicate it all.
Step 4: Frame your value. Another important step that many professional consultants, contractors, and small business owners make is that they don’t give their products and services enough context for credibility and pricing. New prospects thus have little to go on when deciding if the prices being charged are reflective of the real value they would be getting.
There are many subtle ways to convey credibility that will allow you to charge a premium. You can start adding elements to your site that help prove your credibility and create a context that new visitors can rely on to determine if your pricing is fair. This would include things like your subscriber list count, well-known websites where you have been published, mentioned, or interviewed, as well as the names of well-known client’s and their testimonials. If you want to see this in action, look at what Neil Patel does on his site QuickSprout. He plays up the fact that he’s worked with many big-name companies, such as TechCrunch and Amazon, as well as many big online personalities. This gives him instant credibility even if you’ve never heard of him before. Another technique is to pair yourself with other influencers in your niche in a way that stands out, as Derek Halperin did when he first built Social Triggers.
Step 5: Create a payment plan that works. When you are just starting out in your business and/or you are working on your own, every payment from a customer can be so much more important. You simply cannot afford to work without getting paid or getting paid after being pushed off for several weeks or even months. You want to weed out these kinds of clients right from the beginning. One way to do this is to require that your clients pay a non-refundable deposit before you actually begin working with them. In some cases, it may be better to request the whole payment upfront, or to receive “milestone” payments along the way.
You may need to tweak your process at the beginning to see what works for you and your clients. Just make sure that you clearly communicate this payment process to your customers and that you stick to your own requirements. Again, this will help you to weed out those clients that aren’t really serious about buying from you and who will try to cheat you later on.
Step 6: Have the right paperwork in place. Another very important element to have in your business is a collection of contracts and agreements that clients would need to read and/or sign before any work is completed. This helps to ensure that you are on the same page. At a minimum you’ll want to have some kind of letter of agreement or contract that details what clients can expect in terms how the work will be completed, any important terms and liabilities, as well as the payment plan mentioned above. You can find an example of a freelance writer contract agreement here to get an idea of what this may look like. Just make sure that you get someone with legal expertise to look over these contracts and agreements.
As you move the client through these forms, some may want back out. Don’t let this keep you from using these documents. I know it’s hard to turn away work, but again you want to attract the good clients, not the ones who are just going to cheat or mistreat you.
Step 7: Keep the lines of communication open and clear. Getting feedback from your clients along the way is essential to the health of your business. I personally like to do this via email because I have a record of the conversation. But, you may prefer to connect with your clients with phone calls and/or web chats. Basically, you want to use the time to touch base as you reach certain milestones and ensure that your clients are truly satisfied with the work. To that end, you should develop a series of questions to ask clients along the way as well as a time line for doing so.
Just keep in mind that you can’t make everyone happy. Hopefully, if you are targeting the right people and you are putting out quality products and services then the feedback you get back- whether positive or negative- should help you keep your business on course. But even then there will be times when it just doesn’t go, and that’s when you need to…
Step 8: Know when it’s time to turn clients away. The systems above will help you to weed out the majority of the bad or problem clients. But, on occasion you may still find yourself working with difficult people, and when that does you owe it to yourself and your business to end the relationship. Knowing when to stop is going to be subjective. If you start feeling tired or anxious whenever you work for a particular client or you get the sense that this person or business is taking advantage of you, then these are some strong signs that you should move on. Sometimes, it may not be that the client is doing any wrong per se, instead, it’s just not a good fit for whatever reason.
If you need to end a working relationship, then you should try to do so in a way that doesn’t burn any bridges. Don’t point fingers (even if you really want to). You could thank them for their business and just say that you see the setup isn’t working out. Then issue a refund and move on.
Step 9: Always ask for testimonials from happy customers. But, you need to know how to do this properly. Don’t ask for blank, open testimonial. Ask them to answer specific questions. Here is a sample customer referral email template that illustrates this point:
We want to thank you for your business. You success is really our success, and we look forward to hearing about how your company grows and develops from here on out.
We also wanted to ask you a quick favor – would you be willing to provide a brief testimonial about your experience with us?
It doesn’t need to be anything too long or intricate. Specifically, would you be able to answer the following three questions:
- What were you hoping to achieve with our services?
- How did our services help you to achieve it?
- What results have you seen as a result?
Please let us know if you are able to participate. Thank you in advance for your consideration.
Step 10: Have a system in place to get repeat business. Delighted customers come back and bring their friends. But at the same time you shouldn’t just sit around waiting for referrals to come to you sporadically. Instead, you should proactively seek them out, no matter what industry you’re in. If you take the time to develop referrals, you’ll get more qualified prospects since people tend to hang out with and be connected to those who are like themselves.
One simple strategy is to send out an email explaining that you enjoyed working with the client. Then when you ask for the referral you can give them something valuable, like a free strategy session, training video, or product demo that they can then forward to their friends and contacts.
In short, attracting good clients and getting profitable referrals for your business starts with having a good set of systems and habits. There’s no real alchemy here. The hardest part is committing yourself to doing what’s right for your customers, your business, and ultimately yourself.