By: Steven Cotroneo
This technique for reaching out is often overlooked. Instead of spending considerable amounts of time trying to acquire new clients, I try to make it a priority to regularly reach out to all of my existing and past clients with whom we already have an established working relationship. I try to show each client how much we appreciate their business. Even if our project together was brief, where we were called in to help out in a pinch, I have found that it’s always a good idea to stay connected because you never know when they will need help in the future. If you haven’t tried this approach before, you will be surprised at how much work you can generate just by staying in touch. Do the following and watch your business grow:
• Stay connected with current and past clients
• Schedule time to reach out and check in
• Make each client aware of your appreciation for their business
I would estimate that about 85% of our work at SAC Designs is through word-of-mouth and client referrals. As my number of years as a business owner have grown, I’ve made it a part of my job completion routine to intentionally ask for testimonials and/or referrals. I believe that these endorsements are probably the easiest and best way to grow almost any business. For some reason, many small business owners neglect to take this final step, or perhaps they feel uncomfortable asking. Getting comfortable with asking just takes practice. At SAC Designs, once a job is complete, we often send an email that starts out with our appreciation for the work and then ends with us asking for a referral or testimonial. I try to respect my client’s time and make it as easy as possible for them to give a testimonial or referral. Keep in mind that the easier the process, the better response you will receive. Overall we have had great success simply asking for client feedback and referral recommendations.
Once you get a desired testimonial, don’t forget to SHARE IT on as many social media sites as possible — including your website — and even on the footer of your email.
Ask for what you want and often times you will receive it!
• Make asking for testimonials/referrals part of your routine
• Don’t be afraid to ask for work
• Respect your client and make it easy for them to give a referral
• Show off your testimonials on social media, your website, and emails
I don’t claim to be the best designer there ever was, and I know that there are plenty of professionals in my industry that are capable of doing what I do. Instead of comparing myself to others, I choose to focus on displaying confidence. A confident and positive attitude will go a long way in attracting business partners and new opportunities to collaborate.
40% of the work we do is done in collaboration with other design studios. We are often contracted to assist on speciality design projects such as animation, programming and video production. I have been told by many of these design studios that they prefer to hire us because we are easy to work with, we have a good attitude, and we are willing to help out in difficult times (and quite often on short notice). I was even told by one studio that they strongly believe that the quality of having a good attitude is around 50% of why they might ask someone to do a job. A positive, easy to get along with attitude is so important, especially when your business requires you to work with small groups or individuals.
When you’re a small business owner, it can be difficult to hand over the reigns to someone else. In the past, I often thought that only I knew the best way to do something. I found that I had a hard time asking others to be responsible for jumping in on my project work or for taking over some of my day-to-day responsibilities. This hesitation to delegate became a crutch that kept my business from growing. After some time, I began to trust others to follow my lead. I also realized that by gaining help from individuals that were more skilled than me in a particular area, I could spend more time doing what I truly love. Being around successful individuals also encourages me to strive to do my best.
My advice is to be open and engaged with everyone around you. Listen more than you talk. And remember that at the end of the day, everyone is smarter than you about something.
At SAC Designs, we’re committed to providing consistent communication with our clients. We often send out email blasts to our subscribers to share studio updates, examples of our work, and even helpful design tips. We have found success when we initiate these types of mass reach outs on a regular basis. Sometimes, however, a group e-blast can be overlooked or ignored because the receiver is so busy, or the topic is too broad, or not personal enough. In an effort to connect on a more personal level, we will often times reach out directly to a client to share information that we know is of immediate interest to them. By keeping up with my clients businesses (following their posts online for example), we are able to find some common ground. I often send recent examples of work my team has done that’s relevant to a client’s specific industry, or I share links that they may find helpful for their own use. Staying connected this way has been proved quite valuable to starting conversations that can lead to more work or new referrals.
• Share your company updates on a regular basis
• Connect with your clients on a personal level
I’ve been told that I’m good at networking. This recent comment surprised me! When I first started my business, I just wanted to design — and be left alone to do so — but I soon realized that if I wanted to get hired by new clients, I would have to put myself out there. By far, my favorite place to network and discover new clients is on LinkedIn. As I mentioned above, I think the best way to get work is to reach out to your current and past clients and LinkedIn makes this very easy to do. When I periodically go through my connections on this platform, and discover that someone I have worked with has changed position or has moved to another company, I will send them an email to congratulate them or to reconnect. I will also offer my continued design assistance and simply ask if they need any help. I get a lot of project requests this way!
When I browse LinkedIn and find individuals working at companies that I’d like to work with on projects, I look to see if I have any established connections that are already working there. If so, I reach out to the new person and introduce myself. I typically start off by saying that we share mutual connections. Once we are connected, I can then follow-up and see if they need help, stating that I own a design business that could be of value to their company’s business building efforts.
More connections equals more opportunities.
My top three tips on how to grow your business is to network with as many people as possible, to surround yourself with individuals who can improve your game, and don’t be afraid to ask for work!
What steps have you taken to build your business? Connect with us and share your tips!
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