This year, I’ve been working with two very different start-ups. The first is headed by a highly experienced and respected forty something former freelancer. The second is run by two highly talented young guys in their twenties with a passion for their craft.
My clients couldn’t be more different. But what they do share in common is they’ve both landed their first ‘big client.’ And not only have they landed that first ‘big client,’ they’ve also landed others! In a space of weeks, they’ve gone from ‘questioning whether it will ever happen’ to wondering how they’re going to deliver the sharp increase in work and if they should take in staff to work on these contracts, which are valued between £25,000 and £100,000.
They’re great guys. I couldn’t be more proud of them or more delighted that their hard work and determination are paying off. The contracts they’ve landed are game changers for their businesses because they will now go into the New Year with very healthy cash flow forecasts, and crucial for every business, an adequate cash reserve.
Here’s an insight into how they’ve landed their first ‘big clients.’
1. Seeking Help and Guidance
Both clients recognised that if they wanted to realise their ambitions, they would need a guide and mentor to help them along the way. We’ve been meeting on a monthly basis, and touching base in between, to chart their business growth strategy.
2. Being Crystal Clear About Their Target Market
We spent time looking at which parts of the market they wanted to target and who constituted their ideal customers. They’ve kept this at the forefront of their minds. Along the way, they’ve been asked to quote for work that’s not what they want going forward. But this work has paid the bills, put food on the table and kept their respective businesses afloat.
3. Small Jobs Led To Big Jobs
In the case of both clients, smaller jobs led to bigger jobs. Why? They delivered a great service which led to some customers rewarding them with premium referrals to people they knew with sizeable budgets. My clients had no way of knowing which small jobs would lead to bigger jobs. But had they not built trust and confidence with those first customers, they’d never have got those bigger referrals.
4. Understanding Their Brand Must Reflect The Aspirations Of Their Target Market
Neither start-up has had the budget to invest in their brand in the way they want but this hasn’t held them back. They understand that the brand they’re in the process of creating must appeal to their target market. So while they beaver away in their respective studios, they’ve been squirrelling away money to pay for the quality of brand design and assets they’ll need going forward. And working through how they want to present their brand in the future: doing that strategic thinking that many business owners fail to do.
4. Working One Main Marketing Strategy
They’ve concentrated their marketing efforts on what works best for their business. In both instances attending carefully selected business events and painstakingly building out their network, person by person. This took time. And once again, my clients had no way of knowing which meetings would generate work. But what they did know was this was the right marketing strategy for their business.
5. Keeping The Faith
Many times along the way my clients doubted whether ‘it would happen.’ But they stuck to the business growth strategy we devised together earlier in the year. They’re learning to surf. By this I mean they understand running a business is like riding a wave. There are ups and downs. Highs and lows. And a key task for every business owner is to learn to manage your anxiety and emotions.
So how did I add value along the way?
You’re probably best off asking them. But when I reflect on my own role, this is what I’ve observed:
- I helped them to clarify their vision. This is a continually evolving process. Their vision for their business and brand expands as their confidence increases with every small success.
- I held the vision. This freed up my clients to focus on those activities that were most beneficial to their business in between our monthly meetings. My aims were to make sure they didn’t get overwhelmed by the enormity of the task, distracted by shiny objects and bright ideas or procrastinate because they didn’t know what to do next.
- I set milestones. We agreed together on three milestones which were achievable and once accomplished, would make them feel like they were making tangible progress. Because they could see the first milestone was achievable – and my guys are overachievers – I found they quickly started hitting the third milestone.
- I reminded them to focus on their target market. While I was pragmatic about my clients taking work that ‘put money in the coffers,’ I made sure they were firmly focused on the types of projects and customers they really wanted to win
- I gave pep talks. Every now and then my clients needed encouragement, and I did my best to provide this, whether at our meetings, over the phone or by email.
- I encouraged and praised. My clients are self-effacing guys and modest about their achievements. Humility is a really important quality in a business leader. But we all need a cheerleader to encourage and praise our achievements along the way, especially when we’re doing something as challenging as running a business.
Whether you’re new in business, or been going for a while, I hope the example of my two clients inspires you during those moments when you doubt whether ‘it’ will happen.
Question: What helped you to land your first important client? I love reading your feedback so please do take a moment to share in the comments box below.
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