How you win new clients is the most critical aspect to growing revenue and increasing value to your small business. New clients don’t come by chance, you need to be strategic, particularly with your marketing.

The rules for finding the right prospects and converting them into great clients are constantly changing. The business landscape is always in a state of flux with new technology and legislation altering how you should approach marketing. It’s important to try to make the most of the change that has occurred and aim to stay ahead of the game.

But that being said, it’s also important to remember that some things never change. For example, it’s always been the case that you need to make sure you’re looking in the right places with a clear value proposition and you still need the skills to convert prospects into profitable long term clients.

Below is a nine step process to help you design a marketing strategy that is up to date with the new business landscape, but also contains some old proven marketing truths.

1 – Understand the problem that you solve best for clients

Small business people fix all types of problems, but can you clearly articulate which one problem you solve the best? A simple exercise is to define the one thing that you do really well, then ask, ‘Why is this one thing so important?’. People are more interested in the ‘Why’ (Why you do it) as opposed to the What (What you do).

Take a few minutes now to think through the problems you solve and write down why your clients appreciate your help with these problems. Narrow this down to the one significant problem you solve.

2 – Identify your prospects and where they can be found

Now you can define the problem you solve and why your clients proceed with your help, you need to find the people who have this problem. Look at your current book of clients, is there a common theme or demographic there?

Once you know what they look like, you need to know where they ‘hang out’. You need to know which water-well your prospects gather at and you need to be there to greet them. Obviously water-wells have long gone now, with the modern equivalent being social media networks like Facebook. But it’s not all about digital, consider where your prospects work? Where do they go to relax?

When you start thinking this through, you should have a list of water-wells for your marketing plan.

3 – You will need to create a website to show off your work

You might have a website but is it the right one for your business? Chances are the website would have been built with little planning from the business owner. It is usually a job farmed out to someone who knows little about your business and conversely, you know little about websites! It is a recipe for disappointment.

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You need to understand the dynamics of a website – and the best way to learn about a website is to create a website of your own. The bottom line is, your website is now your new reception. It has to say a lot about you, your business and the problems that you solve. It needs to articulate your vale (see point 4), your secret sauce (see point 50.

And most of all, it needs to allow your prospects to easily access your business – by phone, by a contact form off the website and by social media.

How to promote your business – This may sound difficult, but with support from a business like it is quite easy. They allow you to design and build your own website. You take ownership of the site and refine it to suit your changing needs. Once built, get your clients to review it – They know what it should need to get more clients like them! They will appreciate the fact that you have asked them, so make sure you do.

4  – Demonstrate the value you add

When you go looking for your prospects, you need them to identify with the problems you solve. As mentioned, they are more interested in ‘Why you solve the problem’. This means spelling out what the problem is, what you do to solve the problem and, of course, the value of your work — show how your clients are now in a better position for following your advice.

Value means different things to different people. Most people initially relate value in dollars and cents. But as we know, it’s not all about the money. Real value can be as simple as taking a load of worries of a client’s shoulders and allowing them to sleep at night.

In today’s fast paced world, the value of demonstration needs to be powerful and snappy to grab your prospect’s attention. It also has to be detailed to hold up to the scrutiny that, thanks to Google, is greater now than ever before.

5 – Know your ‘Secret Sauce’ (competitive advantage)

There are thousands of competitors trying to close the same prospects as you and by using the same tools. You need to show what makes you different and different for all the right reasons.

One option is being the ‘local’ expert. You can define yourself as the local expert through regular appearances in the media and events.  Also consider writing e-books, regular blogs on your website and short videos.

Another way to separate yourself from the pack is to be a specialist helping other specialists. If you help primarily doctors, for example, you’ll have a unique relationship with that industry that other small businesses do not.

Most small business people think their secret sauce is service. The problem with highlighting service as you secret sauce to new prospects is that none of your competition is going to say they provide bad service.Demonstration of great service is often best left to your clients through their testimonials. Independent survey results of your clients can also make a big difference.

Start thinking about what your secret sauce is, and if it’s not tasty enough, think of what sauce you need to create.

6 – Learn to love objections

So after completing steps 1 to 5, you are ready to roll and start picking off the prospects you want in your business. These prospects are not going to rollover just because you have some shiny new opportunities for them. You will get plenty of objections. Your job is to anticipate them and have answers ready to roll off your tongue without the um’s and ah’s.

Run a workshop with your team or people you trust. Get them to make a list of all objections. (Warning: not for the faint-hearted — these lists can get long!)

Now, consider this advice: “The job of the salesperson (and yes you are selling your services) only starts when the customer says no.”

You need to handle several “no’s” (objections) per objection before you get a yes — the sale. So start making a list of three answers for every objection. This makes for an interesting exercise and there’s an element of relief when done with enthusiasm.

7 – Lock your clients into a satisfied environment

At this stage, you’ve managed all of your prospect’s objections and you have closed the deal. Congratulations, they are now a client. But wait a minute, there is a thing called ‘buyer’s remorse’. After signing up with a smile on their face they go away and start thinking ‘Have I done the right thing?’

The best way to manage buyer’s remorse is to stay with them, especially for the first 100 days. Invite them into a client event. If you have enough new clients, make that event just for them. This way they can see that they are not on their own.

8 – Find some more prospects with referrals

We all know that the best prospects come from client referrals. Asking for referrals is a tricky subject with a new client. There is plenty of research that does show that most clients are willing to refer — they just don’t. The key is to make it easy for them.

Start by highlighting that your business growth is due to repeat business from clients who regularly refer. Show how you appreciate referrals, for example, in your next newsletter and blog post, do a case study (or something similar) on a client that was referred to your business.

Make a promise that you will only contact a referral one time to make a personal introduction and not to sell something. Add this promise to all of your communication, including your website. Make sure it is tailored for your business.

If you decide not to ask for referrals, don’t be surprised if you never see a referral.

9 – Don’t stop learning

From the outset of this post we have made it clear that the landscape is changing for small business. If you don’t change, remember that the world’s not going to stop for you to keep up. The best way is through continuous education. It does not need to be formal, it just has to be enough so that you keep up with what’s new and where your prospect’s next water-well will be in the future.

Start learning by building your own website today

How to make a website — The planning and strategic thinking of how to make a website is described in this video

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