I hear it from you all the time: "But how will I find my customers???" Also, "Does anyone really WANT this service?" And my favorite, "Will people pay THAT?" So I decided to do what I always do when something comes up multiple times in my life over a short few weeks. I decided to write about it. The alternate is that I record a podcast about it, so that may be coming soon as well.
Here are the tips and tricks no one shares with you about how to find and retain customers as well as have them pay you what you're asking.
Decide who your dream customers are and where they hang out. Spend time hanging out where you'll attract them! Sounds simple, right? If I'm being utterly honest, none of my tips and tricks are complex. They're so easy you can put them into play TOMORROW. Several times recently I've noticed that I'll be at my favorite coffee shop or Whole Foods with a client and someone I know will stop by to say, hello. This often turns into a conversation about what I do and may result in, "Can you do that for me too???" Another thing that often occurs when I'm working at my favorite hot spots is that STRANGERS will approach me to ask for a business card because they overheard me talking to a client and thought to themselves, "I need to get to know this girl!" In fact, I'm meeting with someone tomorrow who found me at a tea shop after overhearing me connecting with a potential new client. She approached me with the old gem, "I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but..." I love it when this happens! I'm doing what I love and it's attracting the people around me when I do it. It's the 'ole law of attraction working in my favor. Good news: you can do this too!
Create a free connection. "Free Consultation" kind of makes me yawn. "Free Coffee Date", however, peaks my interest. So does, "Sip & See For FREE" (which I just created with a new client as her intro date). Another good one is, "Tea for Two" or even, "Quick Connect". Whatever it is, make it appealing, pack it with value, and leave a lasting impression. Advertise this on your website's home page, contact page, AND make sure to remind your people of it on your social feeds from time to time as well. In addition, be sure to invite everyone you meet who fits into your "dream client" profile to take advantage of this offering. "Hey! I would be happy to meet up with you sometime to discuss ____ further! I offer FREE quick connects and I do them all the time. E-mail me to set up a date!" This is a way to allow those around you to know you are excited to connect with them and that it requires nothing on their part except an hour of their time at a fun, local, spot to talk about their needs. Who wouldn't want to do that??? When you show up to your free connection, you want to make sure you are a) on time, b) prepared, c) ready to LISTEN, d) asking lots of questions to gather as much information as you can about your client and e) willing to offer value in the form of great advice or tips they can immediately take advantage of. Remember: "People will not always remember what you said but they will never forget how you made them FEEL." Be warm. Be open. Be a curious student. Make eye contact. Smile. Be vulnerable. Affirm their struggles. Celebrate their joys. Be YOU in your most powerful moment. Be the person you want in YOUR life. Be their cheerleader. I've done around 18 free coffee dates over the past 5 months and 15 of those have turned into paying customers. That's an 83% retention rate! Currently I can't imagine ever removing this free coffee date option from my marketing strategy. It's too valuable! It allows me the chance to get to know people (and for them to get to know me) without any commitment from either of us. It's a sincere connection and it's short and sweet. In addition, it's always at a location of my choosing that's close to my house. You don't want to drive all over town for these! Keep them close to home and at places you enjoy spending time at.
One size does NOT fit all. Know going into each meeting that you are there to serve the person in front of you. What they need is not the same thing that the person before or after them needs. They are unique and it's your job to get to know them so you can figure out how to serve them best. Take notes during every meeting. Listen attentively. Develop strategies for solving their "problems" that work with who they are. Avoid a templated approach to each person. They'll feel like you aren't paying attention and that you don't have time for them. That's the opposite of what you're trying to communicate through your support. You can, of course, have systems in place that you can pull out as the occasion arises to support your customers, but you want to do that on a case by case basis and not as a matter of course. Develop ways of doing things that work for a variety of different learning styles and personalities and be open to throwing it all out the window if need be. Let your client teach you how to support them best. You don't have all of the answers, but they do - if you pay attention. It's your job to give them what they need.
Turn every client into a raving fan! Buy their tea. Hug them when they leave. Follow up immediately with a text or e-mail thanking them for their time. Randomly text or e-mail them when you're thinking about them and ask how they are or share something that reminded you of them or of the project you're working on together. Stay connected like you're their "bestie light". At the end of your time together, send a hand-written thank you card and maybe even a small gift! Create a client process pipeline (just use a sheet in google docs) for each client and make it a priority to always, always, always end a project with a note and a gift. Leave them better off then when you found them and with the firm belief that you care deeply. They will be raving fans for life and send other people your way as a result. You want to make it your goal to be able to use EVERY.SINGLE.CLIENT as a reference for new clients. Someone reached out to me the other day for references and I gave them three names and numbers quickly without much thought. It occurred to me afterward that I could have blindly pulled a name out of a hat and been confidant about what any of my clients would say about me. I'm not perfect and I make mistakes like we all do, but I am always committed to making it right in the end. I believe that I'm fair, that I'm open to feedback, and that I deliver what I say I'm going to deliver. If I can't deliver, then I figure out how or I refer them elsewhere OR I offer a discount where needed. Be someone who operates with integrity and you'll create a fan club in no time!
Don't waste ANY leads. When someone says, "I may need your help!" or sends you a DM with questions about your business or fills out your contact form or expresses any interest whatsoever in your services... follow up fast! Don't give them the opportunity to go elsewhere because they can't get a hold of you quick enough. Your family, friends, and "interested parties" are invaluable in getting your operation off the ground. Treat them like actual gold, because they ARE. Offer them special things for referring you... like $100 off their next package or a Starbucks gift card in the mail. Figure out a way to say, "THANK YOU" to anyone who helps your cause. They are doing it free of charge and that is an incredible gift. Treat it as such. If you follow up with someone and they aren't ready now then don't take it as a "no". Take it as a "not yet" and put them on your reminder list to circle back with in a month or two.
Over deliver. I practice being the queen of over delivery. I promise 10 edited images from a photoshoot and I try to give 15 or 20 when I can. I promise a new website and I sometimes throw in some marketing strategies or a free flier as well. I look for ways to add in "extras" that are super meaningful to my client so they know I'm committed to delivering my very best. Never stick to exactly what you promised. Do what you promised and then add sprinkles. It will set you apart. I promise.
My boyfriend, Charlie, jokes with me that I find clients everywhere and that they "throw money at me". While this is far from the truth (God, I WISH IT WERE TRUE!), it always makes me laugh because I don't FEEL like I actively market my services 24/7 or that I'm a high pressure sales woman. I just bop through life sharing what I'm passionate about with anyone who seems interested and I've noticed that people WANT to give me a chance. They want to give you a chance too!
Humans love to support other passionate humans in doing what they're good at and what they enjoy. Unfortunately, what often happens, is that people don't deliver once we give them the opportunity. Never sell something you can't deliver on with confidence. If you share what you love and then deliver fast... you'll have a devoted client who will pay you what you're worth AND recommend you to their friends. So many people get caught up in the "Will people pay me that???" game and, being totally real, most of my clients tell me they can't afford me at first but then they figure out how to do it anyway. If your service or product is worth it (and only you can make that true) then people will pay you what you're asking. You decide the value and then deliver that value plus a cherry on top. Do that again and again and again and word will spread quickly.
If you're interested in learning more about how to create meaningful (or more!) client connections, then reach out by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out the form on my contact page.