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So you’ve just hung out your shingle and are now in business for yourself. Worried about where those first few clients are going to come from? You’re not alone! Here are some sure-fire strategies to get your practice going quickly.
First, some tough love. Believe me, I know from personal experience how challenging it can be to get yourself out there. People don’t believe me when I tell them that I’m an introvert by nature. It does get easier with practice, but getting myself out there remains one of the hardest things I do. So if you’re really uncomfortable approaching people, I *completely* understand how you feel. Nonetheless, there’s no getting around this simple fact:
Landing those first few clients isn’t going to happen unless you’re willing to push past those feelings of discomfort.
(Note I did NOT say “be pushy.” You don’t have to be pushy to get new clients – far from it!)
Okay, end of the tough love.
So you’re committed to building your business and you’re ready to live with the temporary discomfort of “putting yourself out there.” Congratulations! Here’s your action plan.
1. Start with who you know. You have a virtual gold mine right under your nose – it’s called the people you already know. And yet, it’s the last place the overwhelming majority of business owners look when they want to bring in new business.
Make a list of everyone you know, and craft a letter of introduction. Send it by snail mail or by email. Follow up with email or a phone call. Maybe two.
Ah, but chances are, if you’re like most of us, you’re nervous. Asking for referrals can seem pushy, right? I heard a brilliant solution to this problem at one of my marketing mastermind meetings just last week.
Make your letter or email of introduction truly one of introduction by changing the word “referral” to “introduction.” As in, “Is there anyone you could introduce me to?” or something similar. Better yet, if you know they know someone who would be perfect for your services, ask for that introduction. “Say, I’d love to meet so-and-so… would you make an introduction?”
If you’re looking for those first few clients and there are people in your network who don’t know about what you offer, you’re leaving clients and income on the table – guaranteed. It’s simple, effective and it costs you nothing but time. Best part? In this connected day and age, we all know more people than ever.
(Note: You don’t have to be a newbie in your business to work your network! If you haven’t reached out in a while, you can send a note to let folks know what you’re up to.)
2. Ask people what they’re up to. I’m talking about as many people as you can (remember, marketing is a numbers game). Folks you run into, people at the gym, people in the places you ordinarily go, and so on.
Note that I wrote, “Ask people what THEY’RE up to.” This is the key! Be sincerely interested in the answer, and listen!
When you take a sincere interest in others and get them talking, eventually they’ll run out of steam (and it usually doesn’t take very long). That’s when the conversation will come around to what YOU’RE up to. And that’s when you can let them know how you can help them or people they know. (By that time, 90% of the people you talk to will think you’re the most fascinating person they’ve talked to all week… and you’ve barely opened your mouth.)
The wonderful thing about this strategy is that it’s so natural. You’re not out to talk about your business, you’re just connecting with others, having a conversation, no big whoop. But you’re giving THEM your time and attention… they’ll love you for it. When it’s your turn, you’ll have THEIR attention.
3. Partner up. Are there holistic practitioners in your area whose work would compliment yours? One of the readers I spoke with this week is an acupuncturist who has two partners: a chiropractor for space rental and a massage therapist to split marketing costs. These are classic win-win-win joint venture partnerships.
You can get really creative here – you could put together a special offer for your partner’s customers, or offer a 15-minute intro session as a bonus to one of his or her products (if you’re comfortable with free sessions).
4. Always remember that “new cash is in the streets.” Recently I was introduced to the work of Lorel Langemeier. Lorel has a phrase that I just love: the new cash is in the streets. She says, “For the first few weeks, with hardly any marketing money besides your time, you need to let the community in which you live that you’re in business, or you’re going to have a hard time making money.” I couldn’t agree more.
Marketing is a numbers game, and while I’m definitely not a fan of pounding the pavement, when you’re starting from scratch and short on resources, it’s something you can’t afford to overlook. Networking groups, Meetup meetings, Chamber meetings, BNI meetings… think about where your clients hang out, then get thee there. Be selective so you’re not wasting a lot of time, but at the same time, resist the urge to cheat yourself and stay home.
It has helped me to start to think of networking as a part of my job. I do enjoy it (usually), but let’s face it – it’s work time. Think of it this way: when you’re networking, you may be going to work… but it’s YOUR business you’re working on, nobody else’s.
5. Reject excuses, find solutions.
Do any of these sound familiar?
“That won’t work because…”
“…There’s nobody in my area like that.”
“…People around here won’t pay for coaching / massage / Reiki / acupuncture / what I offer.” (Hint: they’re NOT paying you for any of that!)
“…I don’t know anyone.”
“…I don’t know anyone who is into coaching / massage / Reiki / acupuncture / what I offer.”
Those last two are especially dangerous to your business. You simply can’t assume what people are or are not “into,” even if you’ve known them for years. If you’re serious about creating a business, and you’re serious about getting clients when you’re starting with nothing but time, it’s time to reject excuses and focus on solutions.
Do you really live in the middle of nowhere? Focus on building a virtual business (sessions over the telephone and information products) and learn how to get clients using mail and the Internet. Also count on traveling to attend an in-person event at least twice a year. Convinced that people won’t pay for your services? Time to get really clear on the VALUE of what you offer… and come up with a plan to increase that value.
Speaking of “I don’t have time”… The truth is, you can’t have it both ways. ALL marketing costs SOMETHING, in either money, time, or both. (As that guy on Star Trek used to say, you cannot change the laws of physics.) So if you don’t have a lot of money, count on spending some extra time. If you don’t have it, you have to make it.