This article was contributed by Nico Prins.
The trick to growing your business is keeping your existing customers happy and finding new clients. In business speak it’s a marketing strategy. If you’re running your own business it’s a hustle.
Well, if only it was that easy.
I don’t claim to be an expert in creating small business marketing strategies… Still, I’ve learned a thing or two over the years about inbound and outbound marketing.
Three years ago I set some time aside to work together with my wife on her travel blog. The site was getting 30,000 unique visitors a month, but was making just $300 a month. A month after we turned the site into a business the number of visitors hadn’t budged, but the profit jumped 500% (not a life changing amount, but a healthy profit).
That’s inbound marketing.
Last year I started a new project with my business partner, launchspace.net. Our idea was to put together lifetime deals on software for small businesses, e-commerce stores, bloggers and video marketers. I don’t think the site has had more than 20 unique visitors a day.
Numbers aren’t everything. With just a landing page and a custom email address we found clients and generated close to $90,000 in gross sales. The secret was clear messaging and a good system for outreach (friends have tested this system in a number of niches and generated leads within a few weeks).
That’s outbound marketing.
In this post I’ll cover the exact steps I took to grow these two businesses by implementing a small business marketing strategy. We’ll cover how to find clients and attract customers using inbound and outbound marketing. It’s going to be practical. I’ll start with outbound marketing.
I love outbound marketing. It’s a solid marketing strategy for small businesses. All you need to get going is an idea, a little investment and a lot of hard work (the business strategy I implement uses a lot of the lessons from the Lean Startup theory developed by Eric Ries – create a minimum viable product, validate your idea and expand/ adjust).
The starting point for your outbound marketing strategy are your marketing resources. If you’re working online it’s your website. Offline this could be your shop or material like brochures.
As I mentioned earlier, you don’t need much traffic or a complicated website to start your outbound marketing. A one page squeeze page is enough to validate your business model. Your squeeze page can be really simple. The anatomy of a good landing page goes a little something like this:
- Hero image with logo/ call to action
- Social proof for your business
- Services you offer
- Testimonials from clients
- Second call to action
Check out the screenshot below and you can see how Jacob uses this structure on the homepage of Just Creative. The key information is above the fold (depending on your niche I’d consider using mockup software to create your image like I did). As you scroll down you can see the services that are offered and testimonials from previous clients. On Just Creative this combination is repeated a second time at the bottom of the page.
Once you’ve got your landing page setup you need to get clients for your business. There’s no point me covering how to do this in depth. There are too many variables depending on what niche you are working in, if you’re targeting local businesses, corporations etc. Instead, I’ll assume you know how to find clients and jump straight into implementing your outbound marketing strategy.
There are a few different options you can take to get started with your outbound marketing. The main ones include on and off site content marketing and direct pitching.
How to Get New Clients With Content Marketing
One of the best content marketers, and self promoters, is Neil Patel. He’s grown several multi-million dollar businesses. According to his bio on Quicksprout the first successful online business he launched was an SEO company. A tactic that he used to get clients was targeted content marketing.
Neil Patel would write an article on a business he wanted as a client. This article was a business pitch highlighting what he could do for the company. Once the article was written he would reach out to the business and tell them about the content he’d created (with a bit of research and archive.org you can find the site of the agency. It’s fun to see how much website design has changed :D).
You can use this same tactic to attract customers with strategic guest posting. The best example I’ve seen was by Eli Overbey. He wrote a targeted guest post on OK Dork. The business he wrote about, which he later got as a client, was Kissmetrics. You can read the article here.
Another form of targeted content marketing is your case study. If you’re trying to get clients I recommend you create at least one case study on your site. You can and should use them in your outbound marketing efforts. I’ll cover how to get clients using this method in the section below.
How to Get Clients with Direct Pitching
At this stage you’ve got your list of perfect clients. Now comes the hard part. You need to convince them to hire you over a competitor. This is the moment when you need to pitch your service to the business.
Pitching is where you put your outbound marketing strategy into action. The process for pitching clients can and should be systemised. Let’s cover how to pitch clients like a professional baseball star.
I use a combination of Google docs and Trello to manage my outbound marketing (it’s easy to share this info online or have a VA manage it for you). Here’s a screenshot of the excel sheet I’m using for Launch Space. I’ve blurred out the details of the clients, but left the headings for you to see.
While you can use whatever heading you want, make sure you collect all contact information for potential clients. Track when you contacted the client and what channel you approached them through. This makes it easy for you to manage the follow up.
I use a traffic light system to track clients responses (orange for outreach, red for no and green for yes). The system works a bit like this:
- Email the potential customer at the start of the week.
- If no response follow up 3 days later with a second request.
- Message the potential client at the start of the next week on their Facebook page.
- If no response message the potential customer through another social channel/ phone the potential client the next day.
The reason I use different communication channels to get clients is because it drastically increases the chance of a response. That and being persistent (or maybe a pain in the ass) helps. I’ve got clients for my business who I would have missed if I had only emailed them once, or only used email.
Don’t feel guilty about this. You’ve got a great service to offer. You’re doing them a favor
An important part of your business pitch when trying to get new clients is face-time (or audio time). Whenever I make a pitch my aim is to get the potential client on a phone call, or better yet a video call. The reason for this is pretty simple…
Face to face communication works.
Research by Albert Mehrabian, a Professor at UCLA, found that 7% of a message is derived from the words. The other 93% comes from intonation, facial expression and body language. If you’re trying to get clients by just emailing them they miss out on 93% of your message.
That’s a lot, which is why the endgame of your outbound marketing pitch is speaking to a potential client. Get people on a phone call and your amount of information you are transmitting, your ability to convince a client, jumps to 45%. Get a potential client on a video call, or better yet a face to face meeting, and you convey more of your message.
This is important. Face to face communication helps you build trust, overcome obstacles and convince your potential new client in a way that you never could by just communicating by email. A business deal is after all partially about how well you get on with the person you’re talking to.
How to Contact Potential Clients
Let’s take a step back. Before you get on a call you need to get hold of the right person in a company. To do this you often need to get past the company guard dog.
In a large business the secretary is the person who answers the general email address. Their job is to get rid of time wasters and help their boss work efficiently. You don’t need to use your full marketing pitch on the secretary, you just want the right email address. When I’m trying to get new clients I start by sending a general email like this:
Hope you’re having a great day. Would it be possible to get the email address for the person in charge of sales and marketing at COMPANY?
P.S. Just to give you some context on my enquiry, EXPLAIN WHAT YOU WANT.
The aim of this first email is to start a conversation or get the contact details for the person in the business you need to deal with. Only make your pitch once you’re talking to the right person. I use a variation of this email template to get new clients for my business.
I hope you’re doing well. EXPLAIN WHAT YOU CAN OFFER.
I created a short 2-minute video going over what we do here: URL
Watch the video. If you’re interested in WHATEVER YOUR SERVICE IS I’d love to arrange a Skype call to discuss this further.
Look forward to hearing back from you,
Pitching by video is a trick I learned from Daniel Di Piazza in a post about how he got more customers through eLance. It sounds stupid, every pitch where I’ve used this and talked to the client one of the first things we’d talk about is the video.
If you don’t want to make a video that’s fine. You can do something like this instead:
P.S. EXPLAIN RESULTS IN A SENTENCE. You can find a case study on the work we did with another client here: LINK.
People always read the post script, because we’ve been taught, like Pavlov’s dogs, to pay attention to it. Remember though, use either the video trick or the case study link. Don’t use both (you get better results by limiting choices).
Use a variation of these email templates and the system I just described and you will eventually get clients on a phone call. Depending on your character you might find this next bit really difficult.
Your first phone call or meeting can be nerve wracking (it’s an important part of how to get a new client for your business though). I screwed up the first time I pitched Launch Space, but don’t worry you’ll improve. With practice you get into a rhythm, adjust, close deals and get new clients for your business.
The flipside of your small business marketing strategy is inbound marketing. This is where you turn those thousands of leads that cross your website every day into paying clients. It’s really a numbers game.
A good starting point for your inbound marketing is your website design. The homepage is one of the five most visited pages on your website. Again the idea is to create a squeeze page that naturally draws your potential client into purchasing your service.
The design hierarchy should be the same as I mentioned earlier. You start with the hero image. Then comes the call to action, social proof, testimonials, services and a final call to action. But you know that already
In addition to prominently positioning your services on your the homepage remember to setup your menu correctly. English speakers scan from left to right so place your services on the left side of the menu. And remember to limit the number of links that appear here!
Next up when trying yo get new clients though inbound marketing is reviewing your services page. Think of your service page as a squeeze page. Write a good headline and introduction paragraph. Don’t overload your visitor with information or options and lead them to the sale.
You can either creating a service or sales page with the key information above the fold or write a long form sales page (Amazon do both and you can bet they’ve split tested the hell out of the sales pages they use). For more information on writing copy and the structure of a long form sales page check out this article by Peep Lajah.
I designed a long form sales page for selling services on my wife’s travel site. The design is far from perfect, and could be further mobile optimised, but it converts between 1-3% (optimised sites convert at around 3% btw).
Of course you need to get traffic to these pages. This is where a logical website hierarchy helps you attract customers.
Basic SEO for Inbound Marketing
Website hierarchy is an SEO term. People often use graphics that look like a fancy back scratcher to illustrate the theory of website hierarchy.
You might find SEO confusing. Instead of thinking about Google bots crawling around your website, think of it from your readers perspective. The principle of website hierarchy is to make it easier for your readers to find your best content. It goes a little something like this…
In your first two paragraphs insert logical links to your best content. For example, if you’re writing about logo design then most of your articles on logo design should link to your best/ most important content on logo design. All of these links tell Google what content you think is important. More importantly it increases the chances of your audience visiting certain pages.
The sales/ service pages that you’re giving all these links to are more likely to rank on Google. For this reason I recommend writing long form sales letters when selling a service. This helps Google figure out what the sales page is about and indicates that this page could be useful for people searching for that service on the Internet.
If you want to get a little deeper into website hierarchy I’d suggest checking out this article by Kissmetrics. Just remember the idea isn’t to game Google but organise your content in a way that benefits your readers while helping you get more customers.
Another way you can get people to visit your service page is to insert a banner image into all your posts. You should do this within the first four paragraphs of your content. There’s an example of a software company that uses this tactic below.
Personally I’m not a fan of this tactic as it breaks up the flow of the content. It does help you get clients though…
How to Get Clients with Email Marketing
The biggest drop off point for an e-commerce store is the checkout page. I was doing some research and found a comment from a Shopify employee who states online stores lose as much as 50% of customers at the checkout stage. That’s HUGE!
Amazon gets round this with it’s one click buy button (they’re the only company that can do this). Many e-commerce stores try to reduce the number of lost leads by using checkout recovery. That’s another way of saying email retargeting btw.
You might tell me you’re not running an e-commerce store. That’s fine. The principle of your services page is the same. You’re failing to attract clients who are interested in your service…
You can use either a Facebook retargeting pixel or an exit intent lightbox to get new customers (yeah lighboxes might piss people off, but they convert better than regular optin forms. See my results below).
If you are doing email retargeting to get new customers you should use a drip email series. The email series that works for your business will depend on the service you’re offering, the niche you’re in and the clients you want to attract. So while I can’t give you the perfect template I can give you some email marketing tips.
In an email drip series each email you send has to have a purpose. To get new customers you need to create different emotional responses or use logic to attract customers. Here’s a drip series I’ve used in the past to get clients:
1st Email: Introduction
Say hi. Introduce your company. Cover who you are, what you do and who you’ve worked with. At the end shove in a link to that case study you wrote.
2nd Email: Pitch Your Service – Scarcity
Sell your service. You want to get these potential clients to either reply to your email or book an appointment. If you’re booking appointments build in scarcity to your email by limiting the amount of time you’re available for (this does not seem logical, but the less time you are available for the more people want to talk to you).
3rd Email: Take Action – Fear
It’s almost too late. The world will end, their partner will leave them and life is at an end. Unless they take action now they will never see what you could offer them.
Well, you don’t need to be that melodramatic, but you get the idea.
There’s a lot of actionable information in this article to help you find clients and attract customers to your business. I’ve used them successfully on my projects to generate more leads for my ventures. I hope you find some of these tips useful and successfully apply them to your business. If you do it would be great if you could share your results, or even some of your own tips, in the comments below.
Nico sets up no brainer software deals for bloggers, e-commerce store owners and video marketers. Sign up to his list on Launch Space to get access to special offers on software.