I'm looking to do a very niche consulting business and want to develop a local client base from scratch. Any advice on how to begin finding clients in addition to joining chambers, local clubs, and going through current contacts?
You develop an avatar or model of who your ideal client looks like, then try to find out who they are.
Then you call them. On the telephone. You drop by and introduce yourself, you do sales.
In my experience, chambers of commerce and business mixer events are full of mutual fund, insurance and real estate salespeople. Go talk to people who can use your services.
I've been involved in B2B sales my whole life. If you'd like to discuss your particular case, please arrange a call.
Personally I would stay away from those groups. In my experience they've been full of broke business owners trying to sell to everyone else. Big waste of time.
Money-making business owners are...guess where...in their offices! Being tied up by employees coming in and asking questions for them to resolve!
The idea of making a customer avatar, in contrast, is a good one. You need to know who you're looking and filtering for. Not everyone qualifies to be your client. They need three things:
* Need or want for your help
* A problem large enough that it warrants your involvement in fixing it (Budget)
* A Personality that you can get along with. No amount of money is worth a bad personality fit.
Once you understand your avatar, you can start filtering for it. You can ask business owners, "Do you know anyone who has these kinds of problems?" You can pre-qualify a list by industry type, number of employees, recent events in their world, and so on...and then connect with the principles of those businesses.
Yes, you have to get out there and meet people. But a huge factor in success or failure is picking a target market who can afford what you have to offer...not just those who have a need or problem you can fix. Lots of people are out there who have the problem, but can't afford your help.
So in summation:
* First pick a target market that can afford your help, so that you have a chance of hitting your money target
* Filter further in that target market by those who have need, budget, and personality fit
* Go meet them in their offices, because that's where they are.
Press Release - Try to put out a press release to local newspapers, trade journals, business journals etc. You can write your own or use a national service like PR newswire and ask them to include your local market. Write the release as if it were a story you would like to read and follow-up directly with a reporter. I did this and was front page of my local paper. The paper likes it because you give them valuable content and help with the work.
You mention you already have an idea of what your niche will be. It would be useful to know if your niche is a horizontal niche (the service you provide ie. marketing consulting) or a vertical niche (your ideal target market i.e.. dentists).
If you know your vertical niche then it becomes easier. I would do the following:
1. Identify the needs of your ideal client.
2. Highlight all the benefits your consulting service offers and create a compelling offer with your ideal client in mind.
3. Find out where your ideal client can be found and promote that offer to your ideal client. Local trade shows are more effective than chamber meetings. If your offer is good I would even try cold calling using online directories or a targeted leaflet drop.
PS. I couldn’t agree more with Jason’s comment regarding networking groups (glad it’s not just me!). I tried several local networking groups to find new clients. It quickly became clear that nobody had any money and I found them full of people having awkward conversations in which each party tried to sell their services to the other disinterested party.
Check https://Meetup.com for local groups.
Target groups of people who are target clients, not other competitors.
Let's say you run a WordPress design + hosting company.
Don't attend WordPress tech meetups.
Do attend meetups where people will use WordPress for their Website, like business networking.
If you attend + there are 10 other similar businesses, look for other Meetups.
My preference is zero competition.
First, it's good to have a niche. It makes it so much easier for you to find your clients. Just make sure there are enough of them and that they can afford you, as recommended.
There is no reason to network in person with complete strangers anymore. It's so much easier to meet the people you want to talk with online first.
The easiest way to meet people is on Twitter. The quickest way to find and consistently engage with the people you want to work with is by joining a regular, lively Twitter chat. Find a few local Twitter Chats (or local to your nearest metro area) in your service area here: http://www.tweetreports.com/twitter-chat-schedule/ . There are other listings, too, if you google them. Observe and decide which you'd be able to contribute the most value. Do so regularly.
Now at least some of these people know, like, and trust you, which is key to winning clients. They're not "cold" contacts and you can easily reach out to them via social media, and eventually take it offline when the opportunity presents itself.
When there are conferences you know some of them will be at, plan to go and let others know so you can meet them. This happens constantly on all social platforms and can lead to serious conversations.
No conferences? Every so often, you can use the twitter chat to casually ask if anyone will be in a particular area because you're like to discuss (topic) over coffee with a small group of likeminded people. These are also common ways to get to know more about certain people's needs and issues, leading to more serious conversations as well.
NEVER hijack a hashtag for a Twitter chat with advertising for your business. That's spam. Besides, people don't need you to tell them about yourself--they'll find out for themselves on your profile, and if they're at all interested by what they find there they will follow your link to your web property. So make it interesting.
Not keen on Twitter? Create a group on LinkedIn and invite connections you know would benefit. It's a little more work but it's worth it because as the owner of a group, you get automatic authority status.
Moderate it to prevent the flood of ad-sludge, link bait, and me-too content that overwhelms most unmoderated LI groups. Encourage discussion and relevant content.
Also, LinkedIn does not seem to promote its ProFinder feature very much (I found a writeup about it on an external site) but it's locally filtered. It will deliver requests for proposals/fee quotes to you based on services and industries you list on your account. Set it up here: https://www.linkedin.com/profinder?trk=eml-marketplace_provider_new_lead-null-0-submit_proposal
If you'd like to further discuss how to implement these ideas I'd be happy to talk.