As most solopreneurs learn, the most powerful and effective way to attract good clients is through a strong word-of-mouth referral network. Using techniques like marketing vignettes to help people describe us in the most effective way possible, we can connect with far more prospective clients than traditional advertising and marketing. Recently, Marcy Phelps (Marcy Phelps & Associates) and I were talking about the importance of word-of-mouth referrals and she reminded me that her word-of-mouth network is good for more than just getting new clients.
How is a solopreneur like someone in search of his perfect mate? Well, they are both looking for contacts; they both need to present their best attributes to the “market”; and they both need to use a number of approaches to identify and connect with prospective, um, clients. Both want a long-term relationship, although the solopreneur isn’t asking for monogamy; she plans to cultivate a number of devoted clients rather than One Perfect Love.
So, what approaches should solopreneurs take in their search for the ideal client(s), similar to the tactics of the singles searching for love?
You’ve probably had this happen to you at least once… You have what seems like a perfectly normal conversation with a prospective client, you send what you think is a perfectly reasonable proposal, and your client responds with shock at how expensive you are.
What’s one of the first things you do when you launch a business? Get a domain name and set up a web site on a platform like WordPress. You pick one of the popular templates, write up descriptions of your services, grab a few stock photos and you’re good to go. No-brainer, right?
I like to practice what I preach, and one of the ideas I have been thinking a lot about lately is being radically client-focused. I recently recorded a half-hour talk on the art of the informational interview, which looks at how to learn what you don’t know you don’t know about your clients’ biggest information-related needs.
I don’t know about you, but I never found the Magic 8 Ball that would tell me what my clients value the most. Sure, I can make educated guesses. But what I have learned over time—and from talking with many coaching clients—is that generally we are way off when it comes to what our clients care the most about and are willing to pay us well for.
I was chatting with a friend the other day who, among other things, is a professional wallpaper installer. A local hotel had contacted her and asked for a bid to redo all the wall coverings in their halls. She knew that her price would be higher than others in town; in fact, she knew that her client was getting competing bids. But as we talked, she thought through what her client was actually paying for.
Have you ever struggled to describe what you do so your prospective clients really hear you? Do they look at your web site and say “Oh, that’s nice” or do they immediately recognize you as the person who can help solve their most important problem?
One way to talk about your services memorably is by telling a story. My 10-Vignettes Exercise, which takes no more than an hour or two to complete, helps clarify how you describe who you are and what you do for your clients. And if you don’t have any clients yet, use this as an exercise to picture your prospective clients.
When someone asks you what you do, do you freeze up or start stammering? You need a concise, memorable response prepared for all the times when you’re asked about your work. This is sometimes called your “elevator speech.” Why? Imagine stepping into an elevator with your biggest prospect. She turns to you and asks, “So, what exactly do you do?” You have 30 seconds—the time it takes for the elevator to get to her destination on the 25th floor—to describe yourself in such a way that she immediately understands why you are the solution to her problems.