For the past 5 years one of the most common questions we’ve been asked – by family, friends and people who find out what we do – is this…
How do you get clients from anywhere?
We have a global roster of clients and customers – we work with people from the US, Dubai, Australia, Germany, France, South Africa and more – and we’ve worked with clients from many more countries than that since 2006. Not only that, we’ve worked with them while we’ve been gadding about the globe ourselves, in the true style of nomadic location independent entrepreneurs.
We’ve obviously learned a lot about how to get clients for a service business and customers for a digital products business and here I’m going to summarise what we’ve learned, starting from the core…
Build Your Brand & Build The Trust
When you sell anything, trust is a vital component.
You must have your customer’s and prospect’s trust before they’ll even consider parting with their hard-earned cash. Nowhere is this more vital than online.
To succeed in attracting clients from anywhere, trust needs to be baked into your business and personal brand. Some of the core elements of an effective brand are:
- Showing up authentically – people need to know there’s a person behind the brand, a person they can trust and a person who cares.
- Wear your mission on your sleeve – a successful brand has a clear mission which differentiates it from everyone and everything else.
- Be easily and instantly identifiable – people need to be able to recognise your brand which includes both the visual elements and the non-visual elements (such as your brand voice).
- Be consistent – Your audience should be able to tell it’s your brand from the look, feel, vibe and voice of everything you do – they want to know what to expect (even if they’re expecting mystery or intrigue) and don’t want to be disappointed. Ever.
Trust doesn’t happen overnight however; it is hard earned, hard won but very easily and even more quickly lost.
A good start is to show up consistently and regularly – online, offline, in emails, in social media, on your blog, on other peoples’ blogs, in forums…show up wherever your audience would expect and want to see you. And keep doing it over and over again.
Sell What Sells
Obvious maybe but the problem that many online entrepreneurs face is that they continue to do the same thing over and over and still make no progress.
It was Albert Einstein who defined “insanity” as:
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results
…which means if what you’re selling to your market isn’t selling, then maybe you need to take a look at that.
For us, the key to successfully selling our services has been to find and package something that sells, and sells really well. Some of the most popular services we’ve ever sold are our Website in a Week package and the “About” pages I used to write.
They sell so well because:
- They’re packaged to sell – easy for people to see and know what they’re getting and what they’re paying for (they’re “productised”).
- They’re easy to purchase – we have a smooth, streamlined process which involves them hitting the “pay now” button, after which they’re taken to a questionnaire to complete and then we get in touch.
- They’re great value – at less than $1,000 for a fully-fledged website with custom design and copy writing help, our customers know they’re getting a good deal.
- We aim to make it easy and fun – we recognise that the whole website process for many people just getting started can be daunting and scary. Our services are designed to make it more fun, informative and less of a mystery.
One of the advantages of running a small business is that you’re agile.
You can turn on a dime, adapt, tweak and test what you do on a tiny budget (if not for free) and then adapt and pursue the things that work and drop the things that don’t. Use this advantage to hone what you offer into something that sells. Like hotcakes.
We continually adapt and evolve the services we offer, the digital resources we publish and the channels we use; we’re forever experimenting with the how but what doesn’t change is the what, that is, our overall mission remains a constant.
To continue to attract clients and customers from anywhere, you are going to need to:
- Get comfortable with an environment of adapting, tweaking and changing.
- Get comfortable with the mindset of experimentation.
- Continually craft, hone and sculpt what you offer to fit your market.
- Sell whatever it is they’ll hit the “buy now” button for.
Spread Your Marketing Efforts
If you’re already marketing using social media platforms, you’ll know how easy it is to get sucked in to the vortex.
The problem with social media when it comes to marketing is that it makes you lazy.
Social media makes you forget about having a marketing mix and it makes you rely far too heavily on just one or two marketing channels, meaning that you’re building weak points into one of the most crucial aspects of your business…the part of your business which ensures an ongoing stream of clients.
The question you need to ask yourself when you’re looking at how you reach out, spread your message and attract new people into your funnel is this:
If this went away overnight, can I still and how will I attract new customers and clients?
If the answer to that question isn’t immediately forthcoming, don’t panic! It’s better to know that now and have an answer ready, than have no clue what to do if it ever actually happens.
If you use social media, spread the risk and diversify your marketing efforts – while I don’t recommend being on *all* platforms (unless you can do them all well), you need to:
- Secure your profile ID for brand protection purposes
- Ensure that what you do choose to do, you do well
It pays to have at least a basic profile on the main channels – FB, Twitter & LinkedIn – or at least have reserved your brand/company name should you ever need it.
Alongside this, you need to make sure your marketing efforts include the following:
Own your main channel of online communication
- Chris Brogan calls this having a home base and then using social media tools as outposts. It’s great advice since you need to own at least one of the main platforms you use to communicate your message – and this should be the one where you share the majority of your valuable content.
This provides a fail safe should any of the other channels on which you share content (YouTube, FB, Twitter, Posterous, Tumblr) go away or suddenly decide to start charging (remember Ning?) without much warning.
Interact with your prospects where they want you to interact with them
- which might be different from where they hang out or where you think they want you to connect with them. For example, you may find that a great number of your ideal clients for your web design company hang out on Facebook, so you set up a FB page and start trying to connect with them and get their attention.
The only problem is that they may use FB for purely fun and social purposes and do *not* want to be advertised to by a professional services company there. For that, they might ask their Twitter followers or head to their LinkedIn network to ask for recommendations. Wherever they’ll be looking for you and want to interact with you, that’s where you need to be.
Make sure you’re connecting with the people who will buy from you
- this might be a very different audience from the people with whom you chat daily on Twitter or the people who you discuss industry trends with. It’s very easy on social media, to think you’re marketing to your *right* people when in actual fact, you may be brand building, connecting with peers and positioning yourself as an expert…but this is not an audience who’ll actually buy from you.
Know the distinction between the people who will buy from you and those who won’t. Your marketing efforts need to focus on the former, not the latter.
Add To, Don’t Replace
- if you already run offline businesses and are trying to take it online, remember this advice as you forge ahead creating your online strategies: Don’t replace your offline marketing efforts with online strategies, ADD them to the mix.
This means figuring out ways to replicate the things that work well offline, online and figuring out how to make your offline strategies work if you’re going to hit the road and not be in the same place all the time.
Leverage Your Travels…
The key to making your offline strategies work for you, even if you travel, is to plan them into your travels. This is something we weren’t especially good at to begin with until we figured quite out how foolish we were being.
While you can’t always work in the countries you visit due to visa restrictions, there is nothing to stop you networking, connecting with the business movers & shakers and generally spreading the word about you/what you do in the offline world wherever you are.
We attracted a fair bit of business from the owners of the apartments we rented, from the car hire companies we rented from and from the cafe owners whose establishments we visited regularly while living on location.
Another travel planning approach to consider is to plan your travels to incorporate any events or meetings you want to attend. We weren’t smart about this and ended up having to make and pay for separate side trips for various events we wanted to attend – including a very expensive (and ultimately wasted) trip to SXSWi in 2010.
As a location independent business owner, the key to getting clients from anywhere is actually not hugely different from getting clients in your home town; the strategy can be summarised as:
- Let people know you exist – build your brand
- Sell what they will buy – offer the right services & products
- Cultivate good customer relationships – deliver on your promise
- Never stop marketing your business – ever!
Do all four of the above consistently, authentically and with your mission at the core, and you’ll find your business attracts an ongoing stream of new clients and customers, no matter where you or they are based in the world.