I am asked this a lot by web design clients, consulting clients, advertisers and, of course, also myself - just about every morning! But many entrepreneurs (myself included) spend so much time attending to their clients' needs, they don't spend enough on their own and thus fall behind in lead generation and closing.
1. Have/get/polish up a professional website. No excuses.
If you've got a free Wix (or other) website, it's just not enough. It sends the wrong message. If you are asking a potential client to invest in you, they will expect you to have invested in yourself first. Websites are relatively cheap (even the good ones). Either way, it's worth it!
2. Have/get/polish up your portfolio of work.
Add a portfolio of completed, beautiful work samples on your newly polished website. Use professional photography and professional design as much as humanly possible. Without examples of work, you can have the fanciest website ever and it probably won't generate leads.
3. Add raves from past clients to your website and marketing materials.
No one wants to be the first to invest in someone they don't know. Testimonials say send the message, "Its okay. You're not the first and look how happy these past clients are!"
Make sure your testimonials are specific, such as "I loved how creative, friendly and skilled ABC Design Co. was in creating my logo and business cards. The project was worth every penny... they completed the project much faster than expected!" Avoid generic testimonials such as "Thank you for designing our business cards." Meh.
5. Find and narrow your target market.
For example, a freelance web designer might find it easier to target small start-ups in their local town than to try to compete on Google with every designer everywhere. SEO can be very helpful with this.
6. Advertise wherever your clients are.
Find out where your potential clients are hanging out online (certain niche content websites, Facebook or LinkedIn groups, etc.) and what they're reading in print (niche magazines) and then put yourself in front of them - via an advertising product, content contribution or otherwise. When leads come in, be sure you're asking them how they found you to measure effectiveness of the ads.
7. Make sure you're priced realistically.
You may think your time is worth $200 per hour, but at the end of the day, it's really only worth what people will pay for it. If you're charging $200 and the other guy is charging $125, you might have to up your game to justify the price difference.
TIP: Be sure you're comparing apples to apples... If the other guy offers half the value for a quarter of your price, then you're probably pricing yourself nicely. Also, consider how long the other guy has been in business. New businesses tend to price themselves low. If you're not new, then compare yourself to a company of the same experience level. It's easy to panic over the competition. Putting it into perspective can do wonders for your stress levels!
8. Get started with (or give some fresh new love to) social media channels.
Use social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn to start and/or continue a consistent, friendly, helpful, value-filled conversation. I know that it's easier said than done, but if you can swing it, social media can yield some great connections and ultimately sales. When writing posts, be sure to tag or mention peers and potential clients wherever possible. You'll get more likes, re-pins, tweets, etc., if you do. Good social karma often equals sales, or at the very least, sales referrals. This can sometimes be a sloooow sales funnel though, so I wouldn't rely on it for fast results.
Note: If you don't have time for social media, a small budget can generally cover having it done by a marketing company or social media guru.
Fair warning: Choose a social media guru that has (or can develop) the right voice for your company before you trust them with your online relationships.
9. Write a daily or weekly blog that you update as you take on and work with new clients (always keeping it positive, of course!).
Make your posts inspiring, fun, innovative, valuable, helpful, filled with personality or all of the above. Tag and link to clients in each blog post to show them some love. This goes hand in hand with your social media because you will post links to your blog entries on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. Use content to share and show off your expertise and/or to add a bit of personality to your brand.
10. Ask for referrals from past/present happy clients which whom you've maintained a close relationship.
Sometimes asking is really all you have to do. Don't believe me? Try it.
11. Ruthlessly source, keep and curate a mailing list of people and companies you feel you could provide valuable services to.
Use this list to reach out and share information, ideas, and ultimately present your leads list with products that you think they would need, want or love. Avoid cheese and the hard sell, because in my opinion, it simply doesn't work. Be genuine. Sell only what you believe in.
12. Run a giveaway promotion.
This is particularly great for people who need more completed client projects to show off in their portfolio. Running a giveaway essentially means that you'll be offering your products/services at no charge to the winner (website design, home reno, whatever your service/product may be) and have potential clients enter to win. Save their contact information and invite them to follow your blog, twitter account, Facebook page or email newsletter. Publish the finished product that the winner took home/received on your social networks and add it to your polished portfolio.
> ONLY run a giveaway if you have a wide enough network - via social media, free classifieds, peers and otherwise - to get the word out so that you get plenty of entries.
> Run the giveaway for at least a month to gather the most names of people who are interested in what you have to offer.
> If you don't know how to add an entry form to your website, EmailMeForm is a great spam-free, entry form tool for non-coders.
13. Track your advertising for the love of all that's holy.
Double up on the benefits of the giveaway entry form by asking users to share how/where they found you - i.e. use it to help you track your advertising. Then, to increase sales asap, focus more time or advertising money in those locations. Do this not just via your giveaway, but all the time - in every email and phone conversation with every lead that comes in. Unless you're a web business (like SaaS or an online store where ALL sales come in via the web), Google Analytics will NOT give you the information you need. Instead, use Analytics more for demographics such as most popular time of day, website entry pages and exit pages, bounce rates, etc.
14. Post a free classified ad online. Ew.
I'm not a huge fan but it's worth a shot. Some classifieds sites work and some waste your time... In Ontario, kijiji can be great for selling mom's dining room furniture set and advertising your garage sale, but maybe not so great at selling photography sessions and website design. It depends what you're selling. The newspapers' online classifieds seems to have all died and been buried, but in major metro areas, they're much stronger and may still do the trick. Do your research :)
15. Do it for free.
Do some pro-bono work for (or offer free products to) a company or charity that needs it. You can do this in exchange for referrals and a testimonial if they're happy at the end of the project. Add the completed work to your polished portfolio.
If you have questions about content marketing, design, social media or any of the above, don't hesitate to email me directly. You can also friend, tweet, pin, or connect with me. All connections are welcome :)
*The above 15 ways to increase clients and sales are my own, used and proven to have worked for me. But they're surely not for everyone. If you don't like the above ideas, feel free to send me some of your own. I'd love to try them out!