Life as an entrepreneur can seem glamorous—work when you want, where you want, and set your own rates. Granted, there’s one big caveat: you’ll need to find the clients to pay those rates.
So how can you consistently land more clients—or land your first clients?
How do you to build a quality book of business that keeps your well from running dry?
All the time, I see questions from entrepreneurs on forums, blogs, and Facebook groups about how to generate new business. Almost all their queries could be answered with a few pointers on the art of outreach.
Outreach is simply the process of finding and communicating with new clients or contacts. Entrepreneurs not outreaching or outreaching inefficiently will struggle to grow their business.
Here are five practical tips to help you land more clients using outreach:
1. Add client testimonials and past work to your website
Before people are going to work with you, they’re going to need to trust you.
What makes people trust you? Evidence.
Namely, people want to see examples of your work and client testimonials. Whether you are connecting with potential clients via social media, face-to-face networking events, or the normal course of business, they’ll probably find their way back to your website.
Showcasing completed projects and client testimonials on your site is one of the best ways to improve the return on your outreach efforts.
When selecting the best examples of your work, find those which can be quickly explained or demonstrated easily. Consider using photographs, videos, or white papers to effectively communicate the main points of your projects. If you include several examples, you will want to label them in a way that allows visitors to filter your projects by industry, service, or other means.
With very little effort, entrepreneurs can curate examples of previous projects and testimonials from satisfied clients to their website. If your business is just getting started, consider borrowing examples of work you have done with past employers (with their permission, of course) or creating a spec portfolio (if you’re in a line of work where this is possible).
2. Find low-hanging fruit
After you have added examples and testimonials to your site, it’s time to start qualifying your targets. Any sales professional will tell you that warm leads (those who have an expressed interest in your service or product) close more frequently than cold. Instead of wasting time pitching cold targets, find low-hanging fruit.
You can find warm leads by skimming job boards for companies or individuals already looking for help in your field. Many sites like CareerBuilder, Craigslist, and Indeed have job listings for employers in a number of different industries.
For example, let’s pretend you operate an accounting startup. You can look on job boards for businesses hiring an accountant to find outreach targets. Research these organizations for the proper contacts, then pitch them directly. We’ll talk more about what makes a good pitch below.
3. Target clients in your niche
Ultimately, you’ll probably have to do some outreach to cold targets. In that case, it’s best to focus on the industries in which you already have a footprint.
For instance, I run a copywriting business specializing in small business and entrepreneurship growth. Rather than emailing businesses in the health or travel industry, I target my cold outreach to brands that align with my expertise. This ultimately led me to pitch StartupCamp—which, as you can see, turned out well.
When you are cold emailing (or cold contacting) clients, just know that the odds are against you. There are, however, certain things you can do to get a reply—namely, be personal and do your homework. For more on that, check out this article from Fast Company.
4. Create a pitch that gets results
Creating a strong pitch is one of the most important steps to succeeding at outreach. There is no shortage of advice on how to do that, and ultimately, you’ll need to create your very own pitch based on what you want to accomplish and what generates favorable responses.
Here are a few tips that can help you get started based on what works best for me:
- Use a Clear and Direct Subject: I’m not a fan of overly clever subject lines or bait-and-switch tactics. If I want to write for your business, you will know that before you open the email.
- Find the Right Contact and Use Their Name: The single most important thing you can do to generate responses to your pitch is to make sure you are contacting the right person. Use LinkedIn, Twitter, or the job ad to find who you need to contact, and make sure you email that person using their name in the introduction.
- Don’t Waste Time in the Introduction: Statistics show that cold emails with 50-125 words have a response rate just over 50%. Don’t waste your words with a lengthy and irrelevant introduction. Many people like to start with something like “I don’t want to waste your time but…” or “Thank you for taking the time, I promise you will like what I have to say…” which ironically wastes more time than simply stating the purpose of your email.
- Explain Your Value Early: Because most people only read the first few sentences of a cold email, put your important information up front. “I’m an experienced writer and can add value to your content team.” Quickly and clearly communicate your value and what you intend to do for them.
- Provide Examples: In addition to describing your value, use relevant examples to support your claim. If you have examples that relate to that client use those; otherwise include your best work and the portfolio page from your website.
- Include a Call-to-Action: What is the next step? Entice a response from your outreach efforts by posing a question or driving the user to complete an intake form. Don’t just introduce yourself without a clear call-to-action. For instance, when I’m looking for writing work, I’ll end the email by asking “Do you have any paid writing opportunities available?”
5. Follow up on your pitch
In all likelihood, you’re not going to get a lot of responses to your first pitch. That’s why sending follow-up emails is so important. It’s estimated that sending email follow-ups can increase your response rate by 300%.
Create a process for tracking when you send your first pitch and try to send another follow-up email 5-7 days later. I will typically send three follow-up emails to each contact, and if I don’t get a response, I’ll try reaching out to that person on Twitter to see if I have the correct contact information.
I’ve found that using social media as a secondary communication tool can help you increase your responses. Even if you don’t use social media, you should still send follow-up emails to initiate a line of communication.
Don’t be afraid to fail
Outreach is a necessity for entrepreneurs looking to increase their book of business. As you start your outreach process, keep in mind the tips above–and remember; don’t be afraid to fail.
Outreach is not easy, and you will see far more rejections than acceptances, but if you stay the course, you will open the door to more clients and the future of your business.