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How Can I Get My First Few Clients?

By Karen Tiber Leland

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I'm the co-founder of a new business consultancy that deals mostly in statistical analysis. We are really good at statistical analysis but not so good at getting clients. We are a small team of five dedicated people. None of us have much idea about how to approach companies. How should we approach potential clients and what preparations should we do before we meet? Also, how can we convince them to give us just a single chance to prove ourselves?

A few years ago, when I made the transition from running a traditional management consulting practice to creating a branding and marketing firm, I faced these same issues. While strategies for getting clients is always top of mind, at the beginning, these actions can make the difference between starting with a bang or a whimper.

Have your social proof ready to go. Before you start pitching, get your “why us” ducks in a row. What makes your company a great choice should be clearly spelled out on your website, including the relevant background of the players; the types of work you have done and experience you’ve had; links to any articles, books or blog posts you have written; podcasts, webcasts or places where you have been interviewed; and testimonials from people who have worked with you.

Tap into your network. Next, reach out to your existing network to mine for potential clients. Make a list of people you have had conversations with who have expressed a need for your type of service and call or send them a short personal email announcing the company and offering an initial consultation at no charge.

Go through your contacts and identify people (such as CPAs, attorneys, consultants and so on) who might be willing to make referrals. Invite each one to coffee or lunch with the express purpose of letting them know about your new business. It goes without saying that you buy, and in cases where it is ethical, legal and appropriate, offer to pay a small five to 10 percent referral fee for any business they send your way.

Send out a newsletter announcement. Put together a master email list that contains all your business associates, friends, family and colleagues who have given you permission to contact them and use a service such as Constant Contact or Mail Chimp to set up a newsletter distribution. Do a short, sweet and informative announcement about your new company and services. Consider offering a content-rich (and free) webinar or teleseminar as a way to bring value to your network.

Attend a conference where your potential clients hang out. Some of my best clients have come from casual conversations I had over breaks, meals and cocktails at conferences. If you can, get yourself booked as a speaker or panelist at the conference -- increasing your visibility and creditability even further.

Offer a starter service. Potential clients may see the need for your service but be a bit wary about spending a substantial amount on spec. Overcome this objection by offering a starter service. For example, I offer a one-hour Rent My Brain© strategy session, which provides potential clients a way to test-drive my services for a nominal fee -- while getting a great deal of real value. Other starter services can include an intake, or assessment or a first-time-only discount for one of your services.

Want to find out where you are in terms of business development and what your next steps might be? Take the easy, quick and free quiz on my website to determine your place in the Modern Marketing Pyramid.

Karen Tiber Leland

Author and President of Sterling Marketing Group

Karen Leland is the president of Sterling Marketing Group, a branding and marketing strategy and implementation firm that helps CEOs, businesses, and teams develop stronger business and personal brands. She is the creator of the Brand Mapping Process, which clarifies and strengthens 10 distinct areas of a CEO, personal, team, and business brand. Her clients have included AT&T, American Express, Marriott Hotels, Apple, LinkedIn, and Twitter, among others. Karen is the best-selling author of nine business books and a freelance journalist.

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