In order for someone to become a client they first need to know you exist and that you do something that’s relevant to what they need or might need in future.
There are other steps they need to take before they become a client. They need to get to know, like and trust you. And they need to see an offer that entices them to work with you – something that helps them at a price they see value in.
But the purpose of this blog post is to think about that very first step – knowing you exist.
It’s not just a case of being known by the largest number of people.
You want to be visible to people who are likely to become your clients. So if you’re a doula there’s not much point getting seen by older women or men (although I know men have wives/girlfriends who are pregnant). Yes they may know people who need the services of a doula but you’re better off trying to get to people who are going to need the services of a doula themselves. They’re the ones who will ultimately decide to employ your services.
And it is not just about the people who might need your services, but about targeting people who would be willing to pay for the kind of services you offer. So whilst a doula might work with women who are pregnant or have a newborn, you would want to target people who might employ a doula. Not just anyone who is pregnant or recently had a baby.
Depending upon what you do you might want to hone your target audience further. Particularly if there is lots of competition for what you offer. There are lots of website designers. I choose to focus my marketing towards female entrepreneurs with service based businesses. They’re the kind of businesses I understand and can help the most. It doesn’t mean I don’t work with men (I do, but they represent a small percentage of my clients), but it is easier to market to a smaller niche. I know where to focus my efforts and the kind of language that resonates.
And that is key. You need to think about where the group you’re targeting might “hang out” and what appeals to them. It’s no good marketing to people in Bolton if you’re a massage therapist in Bromley. That’s just a waste of time and effort (and potentially money).
There are lots of different ways to market to people who don’t know you yet. What works best?
The holy grail is to get other people to start talking about you, recommending you to other people who are your Ideal Clients. Because these people who are told about you come into your world “warmer” than someone who has found you via any other means. They kind of jump further into the “know, like and trust” box.
You could argue it requires the least effort. Someone else is doing your marketing for you.
But because you’re relying upon other people, you have less control over it.
However, there are some things you can do to help. Things like:
- Doing a good job for clients (especially those who may be influential). They’re far more likely to tell people if they’ve been pleased with the service you provide. They become ambassadors for your brand
- Telling people you know about what you do (even asking them to recommend you). It is tempting to keep quiet about your “little business” but telling friends and family and asking if they know of anyone who might need your services, especially when you first start out, is one of the best ways to get business. We all know other people. And you telling 50 people who might then tell a few more people each adds up to a lot!
- Incentivising referrals. Giving gifts or paying people to refer others to you. They’re doing the work for you and saving you time and money so there is strong justification for them getting something in return. It may mean that they put more effort into promoting your services too.
Once they have been referred it is up to you to convert them into clients. Think about where you want referrals to go to find out more. Is it your website, social media or do you even have anything printed you can give them?
In person and facebook groups are brilliant ways of getting your business known. And known about in a positive way. I don’t just mean posting on those “promote your business” posts as usually they’re only looked at by people looking to promote their business. Yes it helps but not as much as other tactics.
I mean finding groups where your Ideal Client will be and sharing helpful information. So if you’re a baby and child sleep consultant it means groups of mums (ideally of younger children) and when someone is having issues with their child sleeping, making helpful suggestions of what they can do. Do this often enough and you’ll find you become known as the sleep person in that group. When someone is thinking about professional help they’ll reach out to you (and you can make offers to this group at the right time too).
Once you have a few clients in this group you’ll find they even recommend you or tag you in threads where people ask about the kind of things you help with.
Not only does this help your visibility, getting known by more people, but they’ll know you as the “authority” on this subject. It catapults you along the “know, like and trust” scale, meaning they’re more likely to become paying clients if they have the need for your services.
So it is worth thinking about which groups you can be active in in this way. These can be paid or free groups, in person or online.
3. Search Engines
What about your website?
People don’t just accidentally type your website name into their browser when they’re looking for the service you provide.
People who don’t know who you are but who are looking for the kind of service you provide (or help with the kind of issue you help with) will use search engines, primarily Google.
They might search for a specific service eg “website designer Sevenoaks” or a question related to the service you provide eg “how to get my 2 year old to stop waking in the night”. You want them to find your website.
Tactics to get your website found in this way is called “Search Engine Optimisation” (or SEO). The most important thing is to be writing about what you want to get found for. You should have a page for each “keyword” or phrase you want to be found for. I talk more about this in my blog post How to Get to the Top of Page 1 of Google.
4. Social Media
Social media is many people’s go-to for getting in front of a new audience. Constantly posting on their Facebook page, Instagram or LinkedIn profile.
Your social media posts are generally shown to people who already follow you though. If you want to be seen by a new audience you need to be following some quite specific tactics. For example:
- Doing reels on Instagram. Instagram is currently promoting reels to people who don’t follow you (they’re also showing them more to people who do follow you), although it seems to be a pretty random group of people who are on Instagram – not necessarily your target.
- Using hashtags on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, as people do search by or click on specific hashtags. Whilst these don’t tend to get shown to as many people as reels are on Instagram, you’d expect people who search by or click on specific hashtags to be interested in that subject so it is a bit more targeted.
- Creating YouTube videos with “search friendly” descriptions. Lots of people use YouTube as a search engine to find things they’re looking for.
- Collaborating with people who have a community of your Ideal Clients. This one can be super powerful. You get access to their audience, who trust them, and you can show you know what you’re talking about. But it can be difficult to get access to a large enough audience this way – you have to collaborate with the “right” people
- Creating shareable content (so your existing followers will share with their followers). This one is good, but in practice can be difficult to do. Charts and Infographics tend to be shared, but you can put a lot of effort in to a single post only for it not to go anywhere, and/or
- Creating content that people will comment on in Facebook pages, LinkedIn and Twitter. Their comments are shared with some of their followers so they see your post too. It’s the reason people run competitions with “tag a friend who would love this” or “comment below for a chance to win”.
If you’re going to use social media to expand your audience you do need to make sure you’re creating the “right” kind of content. You also need to think about what the follow on is for the people who find you this way. Do you want them to follow you on social media, join your email list or visit your website? You need to make sure they do more than just see you once if this is going to lead to then becoming a client. More followers is not the ultimate goal.
Of course paid advertising is another good way of getting in front of a new audience. It can propel your business more quickly than you can do yourself organically.
There are lots of places you can advertise. The key is to make sure it is being seen by the “right” audience, ie full of your Ideal Client.
- Social media advertising is particularly good for being able to target specific audiences. You can target by “likes”, demographics and by “lookalike” audiences which are similar to people who already follow you (so make sure your followers are your “Ideal Clients” rather than your mum, nan and best friends from school).
- Google ads is another targeted option. Targeting people who are using a specific search term. This works best if it is a term which you can’t rank organically (eg because it is too competitive)
- Advertising in magazines your Ideal Client reads is another option, but this can be more expensive. You also can’t “test” posts to see if they are likely to work before you commit
- Leaflets delivered door to door are a waste of money in my opinion. Most of these go in the bin and are poorly targeted.
You don’t just want to think about where to advertise but the kind of adverts that might work. The great thing about social media and Google is you can test several ads across different target audiences and see which ones work best. This can be done with a fairly small budget and you can then invest more in the ones that work.
6. PR and Speaking
PR and speaking are other ways of getting known by a new audience. Depending upon the audience, they can be very effective. Because you’re showing your authority and personality too.
If you don’t have the budget to extend to having your own PR you can do this yourself.
There are several tactics you can employ to get into the press:
- You can target specific publications that you want to appear in, find the name of the journalist that covers this area and send them a pitch directly
- Press contacts often seek people out who fit what they’re looking for (eg using the #journorequest on twitter or specific groups like Lightbulb on Facebook), and/or
- You can send out a blanket press release. There are services that do this for you or you can use twitter, LinkedIn and the directory in individual publications to put your own list together
The other benefit of PR in digital publications is many of these will link back to your website (which helps your SEO).
There’s also podcasting.
Hosting your own podcast has many benefits. You can reach a new audience as the podcast players (like Apple) do promote shows to people who they think might be interested in them, but there are other ways of doing this which require less effort!
Where podcasts really do stretch your reach is by appearing as a guest on other people’s podcast. You get to speak to their audience. Podcasts are particularly effective because they are more intimate channels and because they tend to be longer. You really get to show you’re an authority on the subject. The secret is to choose the best shows. You want ones where their audience is full of your Ideal Clients.
There are lots of ways you can reach a new audience. The key is to reach a new audience that has the potential to become clients. Quality is definitely better than quantity!
I’d recommend initially choosing one that you’re going to focus on. You can always add another later. You can use:
- Referrals – getting clients, friends and family to recommend you to others
- Groups – getting known as the “go to” person for a particular issue in an online or in person group of your Ideal Clients
- Search engines – targeting particular keywords that your Ideal Clients will type into Google
- Social media – posting the kind of content that reaches a new audience and collaborating with others that have the kind of audience you want to reach
- Ads – social media and Google being effective at targeting specific audiences;
- PR and Speaking and/or
- Podcasts – especially as a guest on podcasts your Ideal Client listens to
Once you have reached this new audience you want to keep them. You want to get them to “know, like and trust” you. Ideally you’ll direct them to your website (which will be set up to lead them to work with you), sign them up to your email list or at least get them to follow you on social media.