Reader Question: I have started my online marketing and website development company. Do you have any ideas on how to tap local businesses for their web requirements?
My Response: My advice for anyone trying to get local clients is the same whether they’re running an offline or an online business; the trick is to get known and connected locally.
Join the business associations and charity organizations your potential clients belong to. In your case, because businesses are your target market, you will want to focus on joining organizations other business owners are likely to belong to, such as your local Rotary Club, Home Business Association, Chamber of Commerce etc.
(If your business involved products and/or services that targeted consumers, I would advise you to focus on groups and associations that your ideal customer might frequent; see my article, The 7 Best Places to Find Clients for suggestions.)
Once prospective clients get to know you a bit they're much more likely to be responsive to your pitch about solving their online marketing and web development needs. Some organizations with their own websites will also allow you to promote/advertise your products and services on their sites if you’re a member, giving you an additional way to communicate with potential clients.
But note the phrase “get to know you”. Joining any organization in the hopes of finding clients is going to be pointless if joining is all you intend to do. You need to be an active, regularly involved member to build any client relationships on the basis of your shared membership.
So don’t bite off more than you can chew in terms of joining up. It’s best to devote time to working with only one or two organizations instead of joining five or six; you may attract prospective clients who are members of other organizations who hear about the work you’re doing with the one or two organizations you’ve joined whereas if you join too many organizations, you won’t have the time to make any impact, let alone an impressive one.
And don’t forget that local business people spend time online, too. I’m assuming that your business has a website and that you’ve optimized it to attract as many visitors as possible – and that you have a system for converting visitors into customers in place.
A strong social media presence can also be invaluable for developing new clients. If you haven’t put one into place already, the first step is developing a social media plan.
This collection of articles on social media will show you how to get started with Facebook and Twitter and how to best use social media marketing.
The same rule applies to social media as applies to joining organizations; concentrate your efforts. You are better off setting up accounts with one or two social media rather than trying to blanket a bunch of different social media channels; every social media account you set up gives you another page or stream to regularly update, monitor and converse on.
You will also want to make sure you choose social media that is appropriate to your products and services. As your focus is on selling local businesses on your services, you may wish to establish yourself on LinkedIn, the social medium used most heavily by business professionals.
The rest is all marketing, marketing, marketing. There's a whole section of marketing articles here on About.com Small Business Canada for you to browse through. One that you’ll definitely want to read is How to Ask for Referrals and Get More Clients; referrals are the number one source of new clients for many client-based small businesses.
Before you actively start marketing your business, you’ll want to put a marketing plan together.
Ironically (in light of what you do) my article Help! The Internet is Killing my Business has good advice for you, including links related to what I've discussed above.
All the best,
Do you have a question about starting or running a small business that you would like me to answer? Email it to me.
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