Finding your first clients when starting your business can feel like a daunting task. Those first clients represent a lot. They validate your idea. They give you a glimmer of hope that maybe it’s all going to work out after all. That you aren’t crazy for starting this business.
No wonder you feel so much pressure to find them!
Let’s start with one assumption – the clients that you’re looking for DO exist. You have already done your market research and know there is a group of people out there with the challenge you’re looking to solve. (If you haven’t done that yet, check this out.)
These clients just need to know that you’re there and ready to help them.
So how exactly do you find them??
If you’re searching for the first clients for your startup, you’ll want to try these three strategies.
the power of a network
Over the years, you’ve built up a pretty substantial network of people. According to a study conducted by Columbia University in 2008, the average person had over 600 people in their network, a number which has grown considerably due to the growth of social networks.
That’s a lot of people.
And although the 600+ people in your network may not be your target market, many will still be people willing to take action. They may know your ideal clients. They could make recommendations. They could share your story. They could make introductions. They could give you suggestions of other places to try.
Don’t assume that people are unable to help you. It’s unlikely that you know how expansive their network may be. You don’t know who they know.
So put a call out to your network. Tell people what you’re up to. And ask for what you’re looking for.
get out there
Once you’ve exhausted your network, you’ll need to start meeting new people. There are tons of meetings and events out there that can suck up A LOT of your time. Be smart about what you choose to go to and, if you’re looking for clients, you’ll want to focus your networking on one of two places.
The first place is any gathering where you can access your target market directly. Let’s say that you’re helping young people get into employment. What other things may these same young people be interested in? Think about their hobbies, their interests, where they spend their time. You’ll want to look for places where young people hang out. You may also want to access the employers themselves. What networking events are they already attending?
The second place that you’ll want to focus your time is on events where you can develop partnerships with organisations that have links to your target market and / or are willing to spend money to address the need that you solve. Sticking with the example of young people into employment, perhaps you’ll want to access the local employment center, youth clubs, or other government agencies. Look out for events where those types of organisations may be in attendance.
No matter what type of event you choose to go to, don’t forgot to tell people what you’re up to and ask for what you’re looking for.
give a little, get a lot
From all your hard work in reaching out to your network, attending events, asking for referrals, and HUSTLING, you should have a good number of people on your list to follow up with.
When you’re first getting started, it will take a lot of persistence and sometimes a bit of convincing to get those first few clients in the door. They need to believe that you’re the perfect person to solve their challenge. And sometimes that means people will want to see that you have a bit of a track record.
It’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. How are you supposed to show potential clients a track record if you don’t yet have any clients?
Consider offering a portion of your product or service at a reduced rate or price through an introductory offer or pilot program. Make it really clear what your standard rate or price is and that you’re making a reduction in EXCHANGE for something else – such as a testimonial for your website, referrals into their network, an opportunity to provide your product or service at full price at a later stage – whatever would be most important in helping you to get the next client in the door.
Getting your first clients may sometimes seem impossible, but if you have validated your assuptions and put some effort into these three strategies, they will start to pay off.
over to you
Where are you on this journey? If you’re just getting going, I’d love to hear what you’re trying at the moment. If you already have your first clients, share with us how you found them. Leave a comment below.
need more help?
If you’re finding the startup journey a bit difficult and you’re not sure what steps to follow to make your ideas really working, download a free copy of Venture Vitals: The Complete Startup Checklist. You’ll learn the real things that you need to pay attention to NOW and what can wait until later.