You’ve landed some paying clients. But you’re still very early in your business.
And now you’re starting to worry about how you’ll keep that income flowing.
If you’re in that spot today, you’re right to be concerned—because keeping this new enterprise on track won’t happen on its own!
At the same time, your concern doesn’t have to devolve into panic. You simply need to take a measured approach to keeping your new business momentum going.
Sustaining momentum is largely a function of keeping your lead funnel full. When you have lots of promising leads, you’re less likely to feel “Uh oh. Now what?” at the close of a project.
How can you keep that momentum going and keep clients coming in? Here are four core strategies you can employ:
- Direct outreach
I’m not suggesting you take on all four of these strategies at once! Instead, pick two strategies to start and then add a third and fourth strategy as you hit your stride.
To help you decide where you want to start, let’s review each of these core strategies in more detail.
CORE STRATEGY: Direct Outreach
Generally, there are four direct outreach methods you can use to reach to prospects directly. They are:
- Warm emails
- Direct mail
- Social media.
1. Warm Email Prospecting
Warm email prospecting is similar to cold calling but with email. However, unlike cold calling (where you’re pretty much using the same script with everyone you call), you instead customize each email message for each prospect.
You want to keep your warm emails short, relevant and personalized. Keep in mind that the goal of a warm email is NOT to land a client—it’s to start a conversation!
2. Direct Mail
Direct mail is another outreach method. But instead of email, you’re sending print items through the post office. These could include “warm letters” (similar to warm email but sent via snail mail), lead generating letters, postcards, booklets, etc.
The phone is a great mechanism for following up with past and current clients and promising prospects. It can also be used to nurture not-yet-ready prospects. (more on that later)
4. Social Media
Social media is good way to connect with prospects and clients. LinkedIn in particular lends itself well to new prospect outreach.
CORE STRATEGY: Referrals
Some referrals happen more or less organically. But if you’re serious about keeping your momentum going, you need to make referral generation a more purposeful and proactive activity. Here are some tips for making that happen:
Step #1: You have to ASK!
Most clients won’t decide to send referrals your way on their own. You have to ask! But don’t worry, you WON’T lose clients by asking for referrals.
Step #2: Ask the right way
- Ask for referrals when you’re praised
- Ask frequently
- Ask in person or over the phone. Try to avoid email.
- Ask with confidence!
- Position your request carefully and intentionally, e.g. “Most of my business comes from referrals…”
- Suggest specific categories, industries or situations where you can provide value.
Step #3: Create a referral expectation from the start
Set the expectation that you’ll ask for a referral early in the relationship. For example:
Many of my clients refer me to others. Once we’ve done a couple of projects together, if you’re thrilled, I’ll ask you for a referral….
CORE STRATEGY: Networking
Networking can be one of your most powerful prospecting ingredients, if you do it properly. Some of the most successful freelancers I know built their businesses entirely through networking.
When it comes to networking, it’s better to narrow your efforts and go deep rather than spread yourself widely and more superficially. Stick to a couple of organizations and get involved as much as possible in each one.
Networking requires you to think long term. Most of the benefits won’t come overnight. They’ll often come when you least expect them—and, surprisingly, when you need them most!
CORE STRATEGY: Nurturing
If you’re not staying in touch in a value-added way with prospects that aren’t ready to hire you today, you’re missing out on some great opportunities.
Again, this is something you want to systemize through a simple nurturing process!
Here are some tips for nurturing prospects effectively:
Compile an information library
You’re going to need content you can share with prospects as part of your “Hi! I thought you might find this interesting…” outreach.
Your library can consist of things you’ve written yourself or third-party articles and reports (with attribution, of course).
Don’t delay implementing a nurturing strategy just because you don’t have a library of materials! You can always build it as you go.
Use multiple forms of media
Vary the type of medium you use to communicate with your prospects. Don’t just use email! Mix in some snail mail and phone calls as well.
Leverage the power of frequency
Send something every one to three months or so, depending on what you know about the prospect.
Keep your messages and information relevant! It’s OK to send the same thing to a few different prospects, but just make sure it’s relevant to that prospect.
Implement a simple management system
You’ll need to keep track of your nurturing efforts. Often, a simple spreadsheet will do. Alternatively, you can check out some contact management systems, such as Highrise, Contactually, or Zoho.
Carve out time every week or every other week for this activity.
Choose TWO Core Strategies to Start
As mentioned earlier, I don’t recommend that you try to address all four of these core strategies at once. After all, the goal is to build momentum—not burnout!
So select two core strategies to start and focus your efforts on them. Once you’re feeling comfortable with them, you can then add on a third and then a fourth core strategy.
Keeping your initial business momentum going will take some work. But the more momentum you build, the easier it will be to sustain and the more comfortable you’ll feel. And your business will be the better for it.