One of the common comments I hear from small business owners is that they need more clients. Whilst this may be the case, when I respond by asking how they intend to do that, there I am often just met with silence. This silence may simply be because business owners often just don’t know how to get more clients, or because they may just not be aware of what they need to do to get people to buy.
The old days of cold-calling prospective customers are dead. Everyone hates the telemarketers that ring them up and use the ‘hard sell’ to try to convince you to buy what they want to sell. This approach usually results in me hanging up before the telemarketer can launch into their sales spiel.
If you think your prospective clients are any different from you, you are dead wrong. If you hate telemarketers, I can guarantee that your clients probably do too. And what’s worse is that if you go down the telemarketing route, in effect you are associating your name or brand with an annoying situation which can change people’s perspectives of you for life.
In many ways building a relationship with a prospective client is similar to the process of dating. If you walked up to someone at work or in a bar and said ‘Hey I like you, let’s have kids’, it’s kind of creepy. Likewise you can’t just speak to someone who doesn’t know who you are and effectively ask them to give you a pile of money.
If we go back to the dating analogy, the relationship building process tends to follow a typical path. You tend to look at each other across the room, then approach each other and say hi, and then progress to having a coffee or two. If there is still some interest, you might have a date or two and then might start seeing each other on a more regular basis. Eventually, if there is still interest, you may decide to live together, get married and in time, if it suits, have children. Whilst you are probably not going to ever get married and have kids with your clients, both you and the client generally want to create a long-term, ongoing and trusted relationship that lasts for many years.
So how do you create this trusted ongoing relationship?
In simple terms, you need to create opportunities for your potential clients to get to know you, like you and then trust you. This is something that takes time and doesn’t happen overnight. It is a process that requires sustained effort and development of a sales funnel that consists of a number of steps, each with relevant materials, information, low cost products and so on that are relevant to the buyer at each stage of the buying journey. Check out our previous post on the buyer journey.
To get started, you need to raise the awareness of your business and the solutions you provide in the minds of your desired audience or target market. This might be done through advertising on social media, Google Adwords, in print media, or through using a content marketing strategy.
If you don’t have a lot of money to advertise, then the content marketing approach is the way to go.
To raise awareness we need to provide useful, helpful and engaging content for your prospective customers. This might be a series of blog posts, a special report or whitepaper available as a download, a diagnostic or quiz, or perhaps a podcast or series of videos. This content must talk to or solve part of the client’s problem or address their specific need. If it doesn’t, then you can spend hours, days and weeks producing content that is of little or no interest to anyone.
To work out what is of interest, you really need to understand the problems and needs your prospective customers have, identify their frequently asked questions or identify the common mistakes people make when buying the services of building designers, or NatHERS or thermal performance assessors. Check out our earlier article on this topic.
What you discover through this process becomes the content that you make available to people at no cost or without the need to provide an email address.
At this stage, the buyer is wanting to understand what you do and how you do it. They have an interest in your services, but are collecting more information to make an informed buying decision. At this stage, they probably won’t speak with you or contact you to ask any questions, but will be checking out your website, your YouTube Channel, your Blog and any review sites that your business may be listed on. What is of particular interest at this stage is content such as: information on your specific methodology, a buying guide for the client, case studies on past work you have done, some form checklist or self-assessment or even a webinar or video presentation on thermal performance assessment.
At this stage of the funnel, you should position yourself as the expert and provide helpful and useful content that makes you stand out as the ‘go to’ person.
The third stage in the funnel is where the buyer is comparing you to other providers. They are at the point of undertaking an evaluation to determine who offers the best solution and often the best service. The prospect client will usually contact you at stage to get a quote, to ask a pile of questions and find out some specific details around how long the thermal performance assessment process will take.
Content at this stage might be an infographic that outlines the assessment process and includes indicative timings. Given the client is collecting information to make a decision, this is a great time to provide testimonials from happy clients, case studies on past jobs and also comparisons between what you offer and that provided by some of your competitors. Free trials can also be useful for particular products or services. Your aim is to create a strong preference for your business in the buyer’s mind.
Once the buyer has made the decision to take action and buy, then your content should focus on how they can get the most out of their investment, tips and suggestions as to how to use the product or service, and how to access the product or service and who their key point of contact should be. For the NatHERS Assessor, this might be a checklist of what you need the client to provide. A ‘Getting Started’ pack is a good idea.
Where do I start?
There are no quick fixes or silver bullets. Building trust takes time, as such, the best time to start is right now. Over time you can advertise or build specific pieces of content, create your blog or YouTube Channel and develop your checklists and infographics. Each step you take gets you closer to the end game. Each day you delay starting means you are no closer to achieving that end state of a loyal and happy customer that gets great value and is more than happy to pay you for the excellent work you do.