A number of unpleasant surprises tend to lie in wait for small business owners to discover over time. One of the most troubling is the dawning realization that you’ll be devoting just as much time to finding new business as actually providing a service. Yes, you’re going to need a strong client acquisition strategy.
There are no two ways around it— as a service-based small business owner you simply have to spend a significant portion of your time searching out and snagging new clients. Yet just as with many areas in life, simply doing the same old thing won’t get you very far.
In this piece, we’ll help you keep ahead of the curve in the coming year by looking at five sensible ways to review your current approach and breath new life into it.
5 ways to reboot your client acquisition strategy
Find out what’s actually worked for you.
Interview your ideal customers.
Turn clients into sales reps.
Take a deep dive into competitive research.
Select one new channel to trial per quarter.
Let’s start by introducing some clarity to the proceedings.
1. Find out what’s actually worked for you
As we hinted at above, the obligation to go out there and chase new business can be something of a shock for those new to the services game. Caught up in the mad scramble to get cash through the door, a surprising amount of small business owners never actually sit down and analyze which of their revenue-generating efforts have been most successful and why.
The first step towards rebooting your client acquisition strategy for the coming year is simply finding out what’s already worked.
You don’t need to tie yourself up in analytical knots here, either. Run a quick 80/20 analysis on last year’s new clients by revenue, and retrace the steps you took to get the most lucrative ones on board.
An added bonus of starting with a review is that, along with the numbers, it will force you to confront the experience of each tactic you’ve been using to date. As you pick through the pieces of the past, you’ll be able to note which approaches tend to attract difficult clients, and which ones are largely smooth sailing.
2. Interview your ideal customers
After completing that first step, you should have a much clearer idea of which approaches have been most successful in attracting your desired clients. The next step is getting in touch with a few of your existing clients and questioning them about their needs. Just two or three in-depth interviews can unlock a wealth of ideas for approaching similar targets. This step is key to a solid client acquisition strategy.
Again, you don’t need to get too fancy or high-tech about this. A simple phone call is really all you need to solicit some details. Start by going over what made the client actually choose you as a service provider to begin with, then broaden the conversation to include insight into the client’s own network and the best way of reaching those potential customers.
3. Turn clients into sales reps
Having interviewed your best customers, you’re now in a position to turn every happy customer into part of your sales force.
Remember, when it comes to services, nothing beats the value of referrals for drumming up new business.
The people you’ve already sold to are one of your most valuable sales and marketing assets — so start using them as part of your client acquisition strategy!
You have a world of options available to implement this step. Some simple email outreach should be more than enough to get the ball rolling. An incentive-based offer is an equally straightforward way of prompting action. The most important thing is that you explicitly turn this channel on as a potential source of new leads, and make chasing referrals an official part of every deal.
4. Take a deep dive into competitive research
Our first three steps have focused on the enormous amount of client acquisition opportunities that are already staring you in the face. Now it’s time to broaden your horizons a little by scoping out the competition in depth.
This is another classic area that small businesses owners tend to drop the ball on. Extensive competitive research is one of those things that’s easily put to one side in the course of an average overloaded week. However, it’s an absolute goldmine for gathering fresh strategic and tactical ideas.
Again, we’re looking to keep overwhelm to a minimum here by making some practical efforts. Start with one major competitor and study what they’re doing across standard marketing channels to attract new business. If it looks like a good idea and you’re not already doing it, add it to your client acquisition strategy— it’s that simple!
5. Select one new channel to trial per quarter
By this stage you should be looking at a pretty long list of possible new strategies. Our final step is a practical one that will help you turn those insights into results and not get stuck at the starting gate.
Start by narrowing your list down to strategies you know you can implement relatively easily . Then, put them on a quarterly schedule so they can be gradually introduced.
By tackling one new approach on its own per quarter you give yourself a clear short-term target, as well as room to implement and analyze it in-depth. The temptation will be to try and get everything done at once, but isolated initiatives are the way to go to keep things manageable.
Client acquisition is the engine that keeps any small services business running, and you’ll inevitably need to review your strategy on a regular basis. By putting this task on a schedule, rather than tackling it in a last-minute panic, you set yourself up for many happy years of new business to come.
Getting it right is largely a matter of common sense. Let’s step through the five main aspects of our approach one more time:
- Start by nailing down what’s actually been working over the last 12 months.
- Drill into detail with your best customers to unlock new opportunities.
- Either implement or refresh your referral strategy.
- Take some time to analyze what your main competitors are doing.
- Introduce new acquisition initiatives on a quarterly basis to avoid overwhelm.
That’s it! Now start drumming up some new business.
Also published on Medium.