I’m the owner of a small video production company, but lately it hasn’t been feeling very small. In the last few weeks, we’ve been inundated with more clients than I know what to do with.
It wasn’t always this way: I used to struggle to get leads and only converted a small percentage of them into paying customers. But I’ve learned a lot in the last year and today I want to share it with you so that you can experience a similar boom for your small business, startup, or online service.
You’ll learn about the blog post that has earned me a ton of leads thanks to a little note that I added as an afterthought. I’ll also share with you a simple trick that my friend taught me that has had a huge impact on the percentage of leads that I’m actually able to turn into clients.
How to Attract More Leads Online
My clientele is about half local and half online. My local leads are more likely to become clients whereas I tend to get more online leads per month, so it all evens out.
The great thing about attracting business online is that you get to work with clients from all over the world. Last month, I worked for a company based out of Hong Kong. That’s the magic of attracting leads online (though admittedly it didn’t seem so magical when I was trying to schedule meetings with a 15-hour time difference).
From Interviewee to Lead
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: my network has been the single most important factor in my business success. One of the primary ways that I’ve expanded my online network is through interviews.
Last year, I helped conduct interviews with 20 of the world’s top online entrepreneurs for Web Domination 20. I gained a ton of insight into what it takes to build a successful online business, but I also formed a connection with the entrepreneurs we interviewed.
Four of the 20 interviewees ended up inquiring about hiring my company’s services over the next six months. That’s pretty amazing – especially when you consider that learning from these people and being able to share their advice with others was already more than enough incentive to interview them.
If you have a blog and you’re not asking the top people in your niche to sit down with you for an interview, then you’re missing out. It will expand your knowledge, create valuable content for your audience, build your network… and if you’re lucky you may just get some new leads out of it as well.
Write Blog Posts that Generate Leads
I’ve never written a blog post with the goal of it getting leads for my business, but many of my posts have done that for me anyway.
My most successful post ever at getting leads is ‘Ultimate Guide: How to Make a Successful Kickstarter Campaign‘. It’s an extremely in-depth resource (3,000+ words) designed to help anybody who’s interested in starting a Kickstarter project.
One of the sections is about making a great Kickstarter video. But by the end of it, I realized that I had really only scratched the surface about what makes a good video. So, I added this little note:
Still Have Questions about Video?
Video is my forte and I’ve produced a handful of videos for Kickstarter campaigns through my video production company. There’s too much that goes into a great video to cover fully here, so if you still have questions feel free to ask me a question in the comment section below and I’ll do my best to respond promptly.
I didn’t think much of it at the time, but ever since I’ve been getting emails from leads all around the world inquiring about my rates for Kickstarter video production. These leads have been especially warm and – after talking with them – I find that it’s because they’re impressed by the knowledge of Kickstarter that I displayed in the article.
You can use this same formula in your industry to attract leads. Write an amazingly valuable, in-depth article that will appeal to an audience of your potential customers. Then at some point in the article, let them know that you offer a paid service to those interested in benefiting further from your expertise.
Turning Leads into Clients
All the leads in the world don’t mean a thing if you can’t close the sale. When I first started out, I was letting most of my online leads slip through the cracks.
One of my big mistakes was writing long emails that included lots of complicated questions. Video projects are complex by nature, but it was my job to make it simple for the client. I didn’t realize that at first and the result was that I overwhelmed some leads to the point where they just didn’t reply back.
With each lead I’ve responded to, I’ve learned a little bit more about how to talk with somebody who’s interested in hiring my services. I’ve come a long way and today I feel confident that – as long as the our businesses are a good fit for one another – I can turn every lead into a client.
Seek First to Understand
When you get an email from a new lead, your instinct is probably to reply right away. But before you click ‘send’, make sure that you’ve done a little bit of online sleuthing into the identity of your new lead.
After a quick read-through of your lead’s website or LinkedIn profile, you can generally get a good feeling for the size of their business, their role in the business, and their likely objectives for the project. This knowledge will inform you as you consider the services you could offer them and the rates you will charge.
You may also get the impression that the person on the other end of the email isn’t likely to make a good client. Maybe you can glean from their website that they haven’t invested much time in their business, that their resources are very limited, or that they engage in shady business practices.
Not all leads are created equal – and some simply aren’t worth following up with. For those who are, the more you know about them and their business, the more likely you’ll be able to close the deal.
Get Them on the Phone / Skype
The best advice I’ve ever received about landing clients online came from Nicholas Tart. He told me that closing a sale over email is incredibly difficult and that I would have better luck if I instead used email to schedule a conversation over phone or Skype.
I tried this with my very next lead – and I closed the sale in that first conversation over Skype. Ever since I’ve taken up this practice I’ve enjoyed a significantly higher conversion rate.
Why Talking Voice-to-Voice is So Important
First, a phone conversation helps me to understand the client’s project and their needs better than email. I can ask questions of them and get immediate responses, one after the other (something that would probably take six emails over the course of a week otherwise). When I understand my clients better, I’m better able to offer them the right service at the right rate. Hence, more sales.
Talking to a potential client in person helps me to make a personal connection with the person on the other line. This is helpful in earning their trust – and trust is all-important in doing business.
The Shortcomings of Talking Over the Phone
While a phone conversation is great for getting the ball rolling, it isn’t the best way to seal a project in stone. After all, the details of phone conversation are quickly lost. That’s why I end each conversation with a promise to compile some of what we discussed into a project plan that I’ll send to them the following day.
The Power of Project Plans
I learned my lesson early on that it’s important to have some sort of written agreement between both parties that details the services to be rendered, the method and amount of payment, and all other important expectations of the project.
I used to call these documents ‘contracts’ but now I call them ‘project plans’. It may just be a matter of semantics, but I find that it’s made a difference both in how I prepare the documents and how they’re received by my clients. Project plans come off as more interesting – and less intimidating – than contracts.
What’s in a good project plan?
I start with a brief overview that describes the nature of the project and the services to be rendered very generally. Then I delve into the details for each service (broken up into Item A, Item B, Item C and so on). Next is a project timetable, followed by payment information.
At the top of each page is the full name of the client’s company and at the bottom of each page is the name of my company and all of my contact information.
Lately, I’ve been putting a lot of care and attention to detail in my project plans and the result have been spectacular. Clients see the quality of the project plan and rightfully assume that our work on their actual project will be of the same pedigree. More importantly, a well-made project plan provides answers to many of their questions, overcomes their objections to proceeding, and sets the whole project up for success.
Once your lead receives your project plan, they should have everything they need to make a decision about doing business with you. If you’ve presented yourself well up to this point, then chances are you’ve just converted your lead into a client.
The Single Best Way to Get More Leads and Clients
Just like how Michael Dunlop says that the best way to get traffic to your website is simply to write great content for it, the single best way to get more leads and clients is to do quality work. Do quality work and you’ll have a stronger portfolio, better testimonials, and more referrals.
For me, that means striving to make every video that we produce better than the one that preceded it. The result is that right now three of our clients are all referrals from one client we had last spring.
So the quality of your work comes first, but that doesn’t make the other strategies I’ve shared any less important. I’m interested in learning what techniques or approaches you have found most helpful in attracting leads and landing clients, so please feel free to share your responses in the comments below.
For more on offering an online service, check out my 20 tips for making money with a service business.