20 Ways to Attract Clients

Fishing for business…

OK, let’s get started with the question that has most of you chomping at the bit. How do I get clients/customers, anyway?

In simple terms, you need to find customers, and then sell to them.  And if you are just starting out, nobody else is going to do it for you.

Oops! I used the dreaded “S” word — sell. I know, you don’t want to become a peddler — rather, you just want to solve client problems (for a hefty fee, of course.) But if you are going to succeed, you first need customers. As we say in our business, “If you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business.

To use a simple analogy, finding customers is a lot like fishing. First, you need to figure out where the fish are, and what kind of kind of bait to use to attract them. Once you get a fish on the line, you need to figure out how to get it in the boat. And remember, you don’t get to eat the ones that got away!

Attracting the fish can be considered marketing, and getting the fish into the boat can be considered sales. Both are necessary, but as the late Peter Drucker once observed, “The better the marketing, the easier the sales.

For that reason, I always emphasize marketing when discussing consulting practices. The good news is that your marketing efforts need not be expensive or complicated. A few simple, well executed plans can keep your net full.

To continue the fishing analogy, you typically need more than one line in the water. Over the years, we have found there is no magic bullet for finding consulting clients. Rather, a combination of methods is usually needed to keep the leads coming in.

In fact, with multiple lead sources, there is often a multiplying effect. For example, if you get a referral and your prospect has already seen an article you wrote or heard you speak, your success rate can increase drastically.

It all starts with leads! Here are 20 lead generation ideas we have used at one time or another over the years. Unlike “big company” approaches, most require little money but do require time and effort. I suspect we’ll add a few more, so it will likely be 20+ ideas.

Some methods are better suited to starting out (or even before starting), while others are better suited to later stages in your business.  Some focus on writing, while others focus on personal contact.

To start, choose methods with which you are most comfortable — that way, you’ll stick with them. My recommendation is to try several (but not too many), and then refine your approach with time.

We’ll discuss each of these ideas individually in future posts, and we’ll explore how to best apply them under different conditions and for different markets.  I hope these 20 ideas help you start thinking about how to fish for YOUR business.

Got your own lead generators??  Share them here… and please let me know how these work for you!

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6 Responses to 20 Ways to Attract Clients

  • Hi,
    your website is informative.
    I am a full time employee for more than 15 years.
    looking for ways to do independent consulting.
    above ideas are really useful for lead generation and practical.
    regards
    vinodh

  • Thanks for the kind comments, and glad you find this useful!

  • Hi Daryl ,
    (Bounced here from EEtimes)
    (Was working for Big Research company, and moonlighting a bit)
    OK. I’ve made the jump about 7yrs ago.
    Semi retired, work barefoot from home, pretty good actually.
    Doing more Electronic Design than consulting though.

    My Question is how do you NOT get mixed up with BAD clients?

    They always seem to be “inventors” or “entreprenuers”
    Got badly burnt about 20ys ago to tune of $20k by an “inventor”
    Much warier after that. Fended off 4 or 5 since then.

    But last year burned again for $60k, most of which was re-imbursables , (not getting paid for labor just means you work for free, but losing real money paid for stock/services is more difficult). This time the clients had a business plan, they had investors, and cooperation from government research organisations, had other optical and mechanical consultants on tap, they were going to setup a small factory with employers, they paid their bills promptly, then it gradually started to slide, I made up 10 sets of electronic kits, They had no inventory control or premises or employees so I bought the parts and subcontracted assembly, that got paid for OK. Then they had some conceptual issues needing massive redesign of other aspects, So I helped with some of the mechanical aspects, then we did another 10 unit prototype batch, got bogged down with their mechanical issues, then due to investor demo deadlines, got squeezed into a pilot run of 100 assemblies that where essentially prototypes. All needed a massive amount of rework by my assembler. All the while the entire purchasing / billing / charging / payment cycle smeared out to several months , and then one of the “big_investors” “about_to_invest_$1million” pulls out. All I’ve got now is a big hole in my bank account.

    I guess I need to get more consultancy gigs and do fewer design jobs.

  • Hi Bob,

    Ouch! My worst case was a $10K hit, with about $3K in reimbursable travel expenses. The client filed for bankruptcy and my invoice was within the 60 day window of the filing so it was “clawed back.”

    Their test lab, however, was out over $100K. Both of us had bent over backwards to help this company.

    To add insult to injury, the customer was a reputable firm in good fiscal shape, but was owned by a less than reputable well-known conglomerate that manipulated several of their holdings into bankruptcy. Talk about a legal scam!

    We finally got 10 cents on the dollar, which just about paid for our lawyer to handle the paperwork.

    As a result, upon our lawyer’s advice we:
    — Now get an advance retainer for travel expenses.
    — Do not pay for any client expenses (lab fees, equipment rental, etc.) but have them pay the supplier directly.
    — Get the FULL fee in advance if we suspect any payment problems.
    An alternate would be regular progress payments.

    While annoying, in 26 years we’ve only had a couple of payment problems, as most of our clients are honest. But if anything looks flaky at all, I now get the money in advance. No sense in working for free – or worse, paying for the privilege.

    Sorry to hear of your fiscal loss, and hope this helps.

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