The recent downturn in the economy has turned many more developers who were full-time employees into consultants to help pay the bills. This increased competition has led freelancers and contractors to find business in new ways we have not seen in many years, since the bubble in 2000, to be exact.
I was introduced to a book a short time ago called Get Clients Now!(TM): A 28-Day Marketing Program for Professionals, Consultants, and Coaches by C. J. Hayden. My original thought was this was a bit of a gimmick but since it came recommended, I would give it a try.
In the past several months I had been trying both Google Adwords and Facebook Ads with miserable results. The ads are shown a lot but gave little or no results. I used different types of ads with different copy targeted at various markets with little difference. I wasn’t really sure why until I read this book and it made a lot of sense.
The program outlined in this book offers much flexibility to the person taking on the marketing program based on their comfort level and their expected rate of return (new leads and new clients).
The worksheet defines these 6 different strategies by order of effectiveness, with Direct Contact and Follow-Up being the most effective and Advertising being the least effective. So my new approach to finding clients was the least effect of the 6 and likely explains my lack of lead generation.
My best source of clients up until this point had been referrals from existing clients and repeat business from clients. Both are certainly great ways to get business but as spending cuts occur there comes a time to bring in new leads.
If you look at each of the 6 strategies there is something interesting to note; as the effectiveness of each decreases from left-to-right, the size of the potential audience goes up.
- Direct Contact and Follow-Up – is a one-on-one contact, you and a potential client.
- Networking and Referral Building – you in a small group at an event, likely one-on-one or you and 5-6 people talking.
- Public Speaking – you talking to a group of 20-100 people.
- Writing and Publicity – you addressing an audience with an article and 1000-2000 people, maybe more.
- Promotional Events – could be a trade show with 10000 people seeing your message as they walk by looking for freebies.
- Advertising – like Google AdWords you are flashing your brand to 100,000+ people.
As we move down the list the message gets lost among others and it becomes colder. I have always had a very good network and as I said, referrals are great and bring in new business. The place I tried and failed was attempting #6, Advertising, where I thought if more people saw my message that the hit rate of return would increase. I could not have been further from the truth, so don’t waste dollars on advertising yourself.
What’s Been Working
I don’t do all of the 6 steps but only 3 of them but they all are working for me very well. I need to work harder in some areas but things improve over time.
What works for me may not work for you and free time may play a role in some aspects. My plan consists of:
- Writing – I write for InfoQ.com about Ruby technologies and on this blog, of course, about anything technology-related that interests me at the time. This gets my name out there and recognized.
- Networking – I attend conferences and user groups and “work the room” by meeting and talking to as many fellow developers and entrepreneurs as I can. I need to attend more local user groups, it is important to get out of your office and meet people. I also think virtually meeting people is a great way as well, using Twitter and Facebook to network works very well for me and I know other too.
- Direct Contact – this is what I have focused on over the past couple months and is making the most impact.
All of these take time to develop but doing a little of each can move things forward.
Writing – start a blog and write on a regular basis with things that interest you. Comment on other peoples blogs and link back to your blog if the topic is relevant. I know people are on the Twitter bandwagon and say blogging has died and Twitter is the king, I don’t agree and think writing is a great way to tell your potential audience you know your stuff.
Network – attend a conference and bring plenty of business cards, meet people and hand them out. Go to the after hours parties and mingle, don’t just stand in the corner. Pick some local user groups and attend, could be a developer-related one or a business luncheon, but get out and chat with people and get the name out.
Direct Contact – this sort of stands on its own but also piggybacks Networking. How? Well, those contacts you meet are great for follow-up later, emailing with a note about meeting them goes a long way. I am not talking about emailing everyone but those that seemed interested, said to give them a call or you feel has a problem to be solved with which you can help. I like email versus a phone call, it is less intrusive and you can easily say it was nice to meet them in an email where a phone call to say so might be inappropriate.
There are other ways I have been using Direct Contact to find leads other than follow-up to a networking event. It requires some ingenuity to find ways to make direct contact. I use newspapers and magazines to find out what is going on with companies, maybe they are expanding or have a new product. This might be an opportunity for a new web site or chance to come in as a consultant to help write some new software to support some new business. You never know until you ask.
I am always listening to my fellow consultants, maybe they need help on a new project or an old project they are behind on. Maybe they have leads they just can’t follow-up on or are not their expertise. Taking a lead from them is a really easy way to get direct contact. I have even offered to pay a finders fee for leads if I get the job, maybe a flat-fee or some amount per hour for
each hour I bill. This is a great incentive for them to give you the lead over someone else.
One of the single best ways I have found new direct contact leads is using Twitter, Twitter Search to be exact. People are talking and finding the topic you are interested in is a search away. If you were looking for ASP.NET work, you could search to see who is talking about ASP.NET and their projects. You can reply to them or possibly get an email address from their Twitter profile and send them an email. This works great!
It is surprising to me to see people publicizing they need some help with their project. They are asking to be contacted…perfect.
I have been a consultant for many years and finding work is enjoyable to me. I like the challenge of finding leads and building a rapport with someone well enough for them to give you their money. Think about it, convincing people to exchange their hard-earned money for your service is a great feat and not to be taken lightly.
If you do a good job that client will tell others and getting new business will be easier. Starting out is not easy and no magic bullet but I do recommend C.J. Hayden’s book. Finding leads takes time and even the smallest effort can pay off but the right effort.
Disclaimer: I am not a marketing expert, just someone honing their skills after many years of consulting. I wanted to write up a bit about what works for me, not a recipe for everyone.