Every business has at least a few universal challenges. In this article, we are focusing on two of those; gaining clients and to better retain them. Although some of these are “common sense” we all know practicing “common sense” is not always so common.
About:It’s all about the clients
Author: Troy Hipolito
We have been in business for a minute and during that time have adapted to the wild swings of how the world changes. And believe me, it was not only difficult, we made a few novice mistakes. The truth is we are very good at solving problems for clients but in the past not so much on the business development side. The following are some things we learned on the way. Just remember these are just our general guidelines. Things work differently for different people. And if you have suggestions then I may just update this post to reflect it. So comment please, it is a work in progress 😉
1. Properly engage with potential clients
There is a very fine line between harassing individuals and peaking their interests. So let’s present it in that fashion. Because most of our clients are out of our local area. I will be coming from engaging most clients remotely.
- The first contact via email should be very short. Not many details, maybe 1 or 2 sentences on average. It should always be about the client. Know that they are “human”. So they like most humans love talking about themselves. Once they do that, you get an incite on how to approach them and if there are any synergies.
- Do not send more than 4 – 6 unsolicited emails to a person a year. This includes LinkedIn and other professional groups or email lists that have not opted-in.
- Do not ask for work in the first contact email. Most of the time this also goes for the second email. and only if they show interests. At that time you target a quick meet and greet via online/phone. Even then, less is more.
- However, there are some acceptions to the first email in a while. Sending a “hello we are open for work” is generally accepted as long as it is only done once or twice a year and you already know the individual. But most of the time you want to just explain what is going on based on the clients need.
- If the individual you are targeting in your LinkedIn or professional group/mailing list then it is okay to email them with a “what we are doing” email. But again not too often, please. We tend to do this every 60-90 days to show that we are relevant and it is usually something nice and simple like new project, design or blog post.
There is a very fine line between harassing individuals and peaking their interests.
2. Know when to politely walk away
Generally, we do not have many clients in Atlanta GA. It is a great place to live with a lot of diversity. And many trees. It’s pretty cool. However, it is a big co tech city. Meaning most of the technical companies are very large and often hire within to complete projects vs. hiring agencies. Also, the small businesses more often than not do not have any usable budget for development services or require a lot of hand-holding. So with limited opportunities, don’t waste your time if it is not a good fit.
- When we engage with a client face to face we have a 3 in-person meeting rule. And you can add in-depth online meetings to this a bit also. Maybe double the number of online meetings is a good starter rule. After that, it is considered consulting. And time is money. Of course, explain this ahead of time as good and clear communication is important. If a client is offended that you are charging after 3 in-person meetings and they knew this ahead of time, then you may need to just walk away.
- Most of our deals are done via over the phone or an online communication tool. But our clients generally know what they want and have vetted us prior to engaging to the point of sale. Many times we negotiate hourly rates and general estimates on how to get things done. However, if the numbers do not add up in a way where you are making reasonable amount to cover your expenses and have enough profit for yourself then again, it may be time to just walk away.
- We often have potential clients that ask “Can you do this for 100k? I say I can do 100k worth of work for 100k. If they want to go cheaper, then honestly they get what they pay for. We know our rates are very fair and margins are tight as it is. So no point in being that hungry just to starve yourself out of existence. Walk away.
By walking away you have more time for real paying clients.
3. Present a beneficial and clear solution
We tend to start with general subjects and only after engaging with the client hone in on specific areas we can help with. Just understanding their pain and how it can be resolved is another way of looking at it. This sometimes requires brainstorming with the client. And if it is within the 3 in-person or 6 online rule then it’s free for the client. You are there to help them make an informed decision.
Before presenting a specific solution you go over marketing material that covers the general ones (for example our updated white paper at www.isointeractive.com/pdf). Often during this review, the client will tell you what needs they have in more detail. Fix their pain. And if you can not do it, you should recommend someone that can. You may not make money all the time but you will gain karma and the client knows you are honest and will more likely recommend you to others. So don’t cut potential clients off just because you are not a good fit. It is bad business and sort of makes you look like a sucky person.
Also, this is a big one; keep it as simple as possible. Adding every detail in a solution upfront is not beneficial. Don’t confuse the client. Those details need to be in the technical documentation.
Present very specific methods or solutions that are easy for the client to understand. We provide talented vetted design and development resources and also contribute to the management of the project. So basically a team or part of a team that is actually available for daily meetings via online communication. At ISO Interactive we are like a ready to go team out of the box. We are daily and can scrum with the best of them.
Start with understanding their pain
4. Keep relevant
If clients and potentials do not see you doing worthwhile things then they may not remember you. You want to be in the back of their mind in case anything potentially comes up.
It is good to have something new all the time. For us, this includes client projects, internal items, blog posts and other related items. But many clients projects are pretty big and time-consuming. Also, they may be under NDA. So in those cases, we have to show some things that are interesting or relevant to clients and potentials.
Well, this is one reason why we have internal projects. We can make this a short or long as needed. And can show these off to the client. A rebrand or business card design update, a new sexy company white paper , a fun project we are working on like our virtual world Wizard Spark Community. It can even be something we made that clients think is just cool and ties other big companies or brands. Like our LEGO Mini office. It is an office of our people working but in LEGOs and in a little box! It was also promoted on UVIDEO portfolio which is cool. It is something we give big clients instead of a business card.
5. Create strong partnerships
We have certain partners that are different from us. And they are more than often just a lot larger or have a greater presence in the community than we do. For example, we are one of the top smartfoxserver developer partners out there. The recommend us because they trust we have a long history and they trust us.
As mentioned previously we did a cool UVIDEO piece and now on their portfolio! It is free advertisement and a good partnership.
Other types partnerships are also extremely useful. For example finding a group to reduce your time finding potential clients and having a semi-automated system for prequalifications is so important. This is based on a number of variables. From your target market, extending your user/client base with the help of your current network, assets, easy client calendar systems, adding SEO based information on a regular basis to gain a larger audience/clients (such article here) and a plethora of other bits and pieces.
These partnerships can be a specialized service vendor just for you to larger CRM/communication type of supporters like Hubspot and Drift. However, for now, we prefer working with a specialized partner/vendor as it touches on the various different areas we require to be engaged with our clients and allows us to use the tools as needed. Some services focus on one thing or another. But there is always a good fit out there depending on your needs.
Partners can recommend you.
6. Participate in groups of similar interests
This one is pretty easy. Every social media platform (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc…) has interests, tags or groups. So join them and add to the conversation. Actually, engage and reply to posts. Be useful and polite. Self-promoting means you are not listing. Sometimes you need a 2-way conversation to spark interest. Also, there are sites specifically designed for groups like meetup.com.
7. Use a method to vet potential clients
Many of the so-called clients that come your way are wasting your time. I get several calls from kids telling me to make a game or app for them and I will be rich. Rich you say? lol. And a number of calls for website development but no budget. So I tried to put some basic rules together.
- Be polite no matter what. Well, try at least. If it is a kid, know he or she had the guts to ask you. So don’t be a douche bag, appreciate that he actually reached out. You could be the one that inspires that person to do great things. Put them down gently, he could be your next intern or evangelist.
- Try to identify the individual by what they are asking. If they know exactly what they want they probably understand it costs money to build. And you want to try reply to the ask by some basic queries. Such as when they want to start, how long are you expecting until launch, specific features, etc.. You can also mention a suggested team size. That is one way to discuss money without actually discussing money.
- If you are not the right fit due to skill set or budget, suggest someone that can do the work. Or at least explain in a nice way you could do this at XYZ type of company but explain the pitfalls. Maybe explain what you can do for that budget.
- Identify the company that they are representing. Should be easy. Look at the email. Example: email@example.com has isointeractive.com at the end of it. So that is probably the company. That’s me by the way, I’m Troy – Hi!
- If the company wants a detailed proposal, review a project in detail or run an audit or report, you charge them for it. After all, you are providing a sort of blueprint they can bid to others with. Well, at least we do that. Time is money.
- We actually had a client that had a pretty unique online product. He had a different team work on it and it was a mess. We told him we could run an audit to see what the underlying issues were. Much of the source had to be reprogrammed as they were traditional PHP programmers that were making a multiuser game that used certain technologies improperly for that sort of environment. The programmers were not bad at all. They just were not skilled in the other technologies or understood the multiuser things actually work best. Lots of performance and dropping of packet issues. Anyway, we were able to redevelop it for a pretty reasonable amount. So a paid audit can lead to a better project. As long as you are not losing money on the audit then it’s all good. If the client feels that you have put some professional hours in, He may trust you to do a better job with his project.
If you are able to vet clients in a timely manner then you know whom to deal with. And the ones to deal with will more than likely benefit you directly via a project or indirectly via good universe vibes.
If you are able to vet clients in a timely manner then you know whom to deal with.
8. Have case studies and testimonials ready
If you take a good look at my web site you notice I have a lot of modulated stuff in there. That means a lot of talking pieces you can shift around when needed.
They talk about a mobile app, we have several and all in different programming languages with different purposes. They want to talk about a detailed website with a management system, we did those too. How about large scale facebook games that are designed to bring in money and able to reuse the code to port to mobile. No problem. Any big names, plenty. What do customers say about you? Good stuff I have a testimonial page. Awards, all day long. I also have been published for project management articles and it goes on and on. Now to be clear you do not want to talk that way lol. I was just shortcutting the conversation for the sake of time.
You only want to talk about the specifics that have to do with the client.
I did not post all these things above to brag. I was only to demonstrate that we have enough content to usually shift the conversation in a direction where the client feels confident about our skill sets. If the client is confident in your skills you are one step closer to close a deal.
If the client is confident in your skills you are one step closer to close a deal.
9. Just be honest
Honestly is one of the most important traits you can have. If you are known for giving straight answers you will attract people that will pay for it. Now being honest does not mean being a blabber mouth and give away the secret sauce. So maybe I should have said, to be honest as you can, professionally.
- If you can’t do it, don’t say you can.
- If you do not have a good answer, tell the client that you don’t know but you will find out.
- Don’t suck up. Be professional. Sucking up is fake and that is definitely not honest. Clients see that a mile away.
- Clients appreciate a team and leader that can give him/her the facts (good or bad). It saves him money and frustration. If something goes bad it can usually be fixed if communicated properly. Don’t be afraid of making a few mistakes. We all do it. Sometimes a team member let you down and you have to take the heat. Well so be it. That is why you are there. It happens, keep it moving.
Be as honest as you can, professionally.
Please feel free to contact us to discuss or just to brainstorm. You can even schedule a meeting.
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