Referrals are the most common way I get new clients, but I don’t have any control over whether my clients recommend me or not, except by doing the best job I can. I could try to attract new clients with online ads on platforms like Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and Instagram. But I’d be putting adverts in front of people that don’t know me. People are more likely to become one of my clients if they already know, like and trust me.
I spend a lot of time communicating with clients over email, phone and video chat, so we must like each other and they trust me with a lot of confidential material and passwords. So ads to cold traffic don’t work for me.
I prefer a more organic approach that resembles more closely the way that I form relationships with people.
I often walk in the forest of Mareil-Marly, near my home in the west suburbs of Paris. The forest is extensive and full of wild boar, Sus scrofa.
Boar are mostly nocturnal. If I want the best chance of seeing boar when there’s still a little light, I must walk in the woods at either sun up or sundown. I must avoid the paths that most people use because boar are timid beasts. And I mustn’t chat on my mobile or divert my attention by listening to a podcast.
Instead, I must scan the trees and bushes for any movement. Most often, I see people or dogs, but sometimes it’s a magnificent boar or if I’m fortunate, a grizzle* of boar – papa, mama and all the little piglets. I’m always thrilled when I see these bristly rusty-grey creatures.
The right timing, acute attention and silence, don’t guarantee I’ll see boar, but they certainly make it more likely.
In the same way that I increase my chances of spotting wild boar in the forest, when I’m searching for a new client, I’ll visit the places where I know people are hanging out with problems that I can help them solve. Most often, it’s a Facebook group or online forum, but sometimes I venture out to a networking event. And when I’m there, I’ll be quiet and attentive. I’ll listen to the troubles people are having and ask a lot of questions. If anyone asks for my advice, then I’ll give it.
When I consistently interact with people like this, they start checking out my profile. So I must ensure that my profile represents what I offer. I curate my Facebook feed with specific public posts, strategic cover images and profile pictures from time to time. People can visit my business page through my profile, where they can access blog posts I’ve published on my website.
All this activity gets people heading to my website. And as I’ve inserted some tracking code on my website, I can collect data on who is visiting my site. When I’m a little more desperate for clients, I can use these data to send remarketing ads to people that have visited my website – people that are already familiar with me, so it’s not cold traffic.
This organic approach to getting more clients is continually running. I work on it a little each day. It’s my backup plan for those moments when work from referrals dries up.
Visiting the places where potential clients hang out won’t guarantee me a new client. But being in the right place, at the right time, and listening to what people need rather than talking about myself, increases the probability I’ll get a new client.
However, I spend much more time hiking through the forest than I do interacting online or at networking events. So, I see many more boar than new clients. But that’s ok because when I get a new client, we generally work together for many years, unlike the boar that charge away as soon as they see me.
* I made up that word – the correct collective noun for wild boar which is a sounder of boar.