Every service-based business owner understands the metaphor of being on a hamster wheel. That familiar feeling of chasing leads, signing a new client, celebrating for five seconds, losing a client, freaking out, then starting the whole process over in order to fill this fresh hole in your roster.
Instead of constantly running in circles, wouldn’t it be nice if ideal leads were chasing you?
If all you had to do was check your inbox & find new potential clients patiently waiting for your response?
The solution: Activate your network.
See, we all get by with a little help from our friends — and word of mouth marketing remains one of the most powerful ways to grow a business, because it’s based on referrals from people we know, like & trust.
Here’s how you can start tapping into the people around you to get more social media clients.
Step One: Identify What You Do & Who You Do it For
Before you can ask your network to send you leads, you want to get super clear on who those leads are. If you skip this step, you might have your great aunt Carol sending you her 70 year old hairdresser, because she needs help on “the internet”, or your best friend could connect you with her boss’ wife who just started a clothing line for dogs.
Maybe both of these options are your ideal client.
But if you’ve niched your business to work with brands in the food & beverage industry, they clearly are not.
By taking the time to determine who you’d like to be working with, and who you don’t, you can give your referral network a very specific target demographic. This will eliminate a lot of “leads” that lead nowhere.
Step Two: Activate Your Immediate Network
Start with the low-hanging fruit. Your friends, family members, coworkers (past / present), social media friends who you’re actively engaged with, etc. Networking is like building a spider web. You start with those key connections, and then it continues to expand out.
By getting in touch with your immediate network & letting them know you’re looking to grow your client list, you’ll eventually reach others that they’re connected to through word of mouth.
Scenario: Your great aunt Carol is getting her hair done & her 70 year old hairdresser mentions that her daughter just started a vegan cookie company and needs help. Aunt Carol remembers you saying that your company does social media marketing for food & beverage companies & gives her hairdresser your information to pass along. That’s more like it, Aunt Carol!
Step Three: Activate Your Current Client List
If you’re already working with ideal clients, you can ask them if they know others in the industry that they can connect you with. If they’re happy with the service you’re providing them, they’ll be especially pleased to mention your work to others (as long as they aren’t direct competitors of course). No one wants give away the secret family recipe!
For example, because you work with companies in the food & beverage space, your current clients will most likely be attending events & trade shows with others in that industry. By asking them to refer you to their network, you’re automatically getting access to highly targeted new leads.
Step Four: Create a Referral Program / Offer an Incentive
You can choose to offer anyone in your immediate network, as well as your current clients, a referral bonus as an incentive for sending you new business.
By offering your existing client a discount on their services when you sign someone they’ve referred to you — or by paying your great aunt Carol 10% of the first month’s services when her hairdresser’s daughter signs on to work with you — you can motivate your network to spread the “gospel of YOU” more frequently.
Step Five: Stay Connected
It’s important that you keep in touch with your network & send them updates when you’re in the market for new clients. You can set this up as a repeating monthly or quarterly check in, or just plan to do it on an “as needed” basis.
Think about it: Instead of sending five million cold emails to potential clients who’ve never heard of you, you can activate your network by sending a single group message, asking them to send new potential clients to you & sharing an incentive.
Step Six: Pay it Forward
As your network grows, you’ll probably establish connections with others who offer services (maybe even similar services to yours) who might also be looking for quality referrals on a regular basis.
In this case, you can create a “referral chain” with these other business owners, where you agree to share leads with one other.
If a client lead slides into your inbox who isn’t ideal, pay it forward by passing it on to someone who you know does amazing work with those types of clients. Both parties will thank you — plus it conjures up some seriously good Client Karma.