Starting a business is only the start – building and expanding a strong client base is the next, much trickier step! But it doesn’t have to be hard, as Lucinda Brown explains.
Lucinda Brown owns Trillamar, a company that helps clients to elevate their online sales and marketing, delivering powerful web solutions as a purse-friendly budget. Recently, she honed her skills at a more grassroots level – with fantastic results!
When I started my business, Trillamar, in 2003, I didn’t have much of a business network – all my clients were referred by friends, former colleagues, and occasionally my parents! Seven years and much business success later, word of mouth via an existing and trusted relationship is still the main way I land new work.
A great example of how this worked for me recently started with a trip to the hairdresser. As every woman knows, the relationship between client and hairdresser is a sacred one that exists on absolute trust – I don’t give the responsibility of transforming my bad English dishwater blonde into California fabulous to just anyone! I’ve been going to the same guy at Goodform Salon in West Hollywood for a cut and colour every since I moved to Los Angeles ten years ago, and there’s nobody else I’d let touch my hair. I love going there so much, I’ve been known to schedule appointments on my birthday – a little gift from me to me!
My cool, hip hairdresser is a father of three, and during one of our many long conversations, it came to light that the recession was hitting him hard. He had a cash flow problem after loaning his father some money and asked if I would mind pre-paying for my next appointment in exchange for a discount.
I didn’t mind at all, but his predicament got me thinking about how I could help boost his sales and marketing – after all, that’s what my business does! I decided that rather than put a band-aid on his problem, I could not only fix it, but leverage our relationship to bring about a new flow of clients for us both.
Trillamar then designed and printed up some new Business Cards for my hairdresser, with his contact information on the back, and a variety of new promotions on the front to drum up new business. Naturally, I used MOO Business Cards. What’s great about them is that you can have any number of different images on the front of your cards, so we could really get creative with lots of different types of haircut promotions – something for everyone!
The best part is, when I sent him his new cards, I also included a selection of my own (also designed by MOO). So if a new client happened to mention how much they liked the cards, he had an easy segue way to mention Trillamar too – and to hand out my card!
So what’s the outcome? I’ve learned that there are 5 ways to build up your client base from within your existing network!
1. Tell everyone that you are open for business. People like to connect their friends and colleagues. Isn’t that what social networks are all about? But they aren’t going to know to do it unless you tell them to. So don’t be shy!
2. Create some promotions for new clients. Even if the new business isn’t a big revenue generator, once people are comfortable working with you, bigger projects will hopefully follow. But while promotions are great marketing, don’t work for free. If they don’t pay you, you can’t call them clients.
3. Bring more to the table than existing clients expect. Promotions are good, but many clients prefer free advice in your area of expertise. Try a direct marketing mail-out to let people know there’s more to your services than they think.
4. Be open-minded. Some of our best web marketing success stories have come from listening to clients’ ideas and feedback, and tweaking them to make them amazing.
5. Be worthy of people’s trust. There is inherent risk in any business transaction. Minimize that risk by being transparent to work with. Be considerate of a client’s time, but make sure you always communicate the most important details, such as what actions they need to take, when they need to take them, what they get from you in return and when they get it.
Lucinda Brown is MOO.com’s Expert Tips blog winner.