It’s a mistake many agencies and freelancers make; becoming over-dependent on a single client.
I don’t blame you for getting into an overly-dependent situation —when you have a good client, and they need more help, it can seem like a win-win. You get reliable business and predictable cash flow. They get a partner they feel understands their business, and does great work.
But if your relationship grows to the point that you become overly-dependent on a single client, you’re putting your business at risk.
If you get more than 20 per cent of your business from a single client, you’ve got a client concentration problem. You need the money, but then you feel like you have to cater to their every whim. If a big client fires you, you have to scramble, while covering the payroll from reduced revenues.
Having lots of small clients is a problem, too. It’s frustrating to constantly get sales inquiries from prospects who don’t have the budget to afford your help.
Regardless of whether you currently struggle with client concentration, or just need more clients, this article will take you through how to land more dream clients.
Dream clients are those that are great to work with, can afford your agency services, and put you on awesome projects.
So, how do you become the top pick for your dream clients? And how do you get enough dream clients to ensure a profitable business?
I’ll review three marketing strategies to maximize profits and minimize stress by attracting high-quality, high-budget leads:
- Capture the attention of your dream clients by specializing.
- Use free samples to get clients to pay for custom help — aka content marketing.
- Publish your pricing to pre-qualify sales leads, so you ONLY get calls from the right-sized clients.
Catch their attention: specialization makes you an expert
Specializing means to focus on one area exclusively — typically by industry vertical (e.g. garden retailers) or by functional area (e.g. web design).
You can think of this as going deep instead of wide in your field. For instance, I’ve specialized to focus solely on digital agencies, which translates to more familiarity with the business structure and problems they face.
In other words, if you cater exclusively to ecommerce companies, you will begin to understand the intricacies of working with online retailers, and will be able to hit the ground running with new clients. It eliminates the time needed to get up to speed on industry regulations, common problems they run into, or special requests they’re likely to make.
That creates some real benefits for your clients. As a result, specializing in a particular industry makes it easier to attract the clients you want. You can dig even deeper into specific areas of ecommerce, such as B2B or B2C, or even a narrower niche than that.
When you’re looking for a doctor to perform heart surgery, you want a heart surgeon, not a generalist. Narrowing down your niche makes you an expert, and inspires confidence in your clients.
Once you have a clear niche, make sure your marketing is consistent within that niche.
Don’t just think about marketing and branding; think about marketing and branding within your niche. And think about your audience’s needs, not just your own needs.
When you can make your target audience feel like you understand them and their business, and are perfect for them and their needs, they aren’t going to be as price-sensitive. They’re also going to trust you more — meaning they’ll be more likely to take your advice. In general, that tends to lead to clients that are a lot more enjoyable to work with.
You might also like: The Counter-Intuitive Approach to Getting Your First Client
Give away knowledge to convince clients to pay you
Imagine this: you’re a business owner, and you’re getting ready to buy new office furniture. One of your employees asks if you’re planning on buying ergonomic chairs. When you look at a few online, you’re not sure they’re worth the price — so you do a Google search.
The first search result is a site with a great article explaining the benefits of ergonomic design, and it just happens to have a guide to getting ergonomic furniture without breaking the bank. They also have a few other helpful articles on keeping office costs down.
How will you feel about that website? You’d probably view it as a valuable site to bookmark for the future; you might even sign up for their email list in order to get more helpful tips.
Now imagine they were also a site that sells some of the chairs you are considering. Once you’ve made up your mind on which chairs you want, you’d probably buy them there, wouldn’t you?
That is content marketing. It’s based on the idea that when most people today have a question, they are likely to either run a Google search or turn to a trusted online resource.
And as a business owner you can use content marketing to become a thought leader in your industry. When you put content out into the world, you are also showcasing bits of your expertise for people to see.
There are many ways to successfully use content marketing; personally, I’ve used it since founding my business four years ago.
I often get emails from potential clients saying my articles felt like they were written just for them — that I captured what it was like to face the problems they face. Who do you think they are likely to call when they need coaching at their agency?
And sometimes, content marketing allows for quick wins. This is unusually fast, but I’ve had a client sign up for my newsletter on a Saturday, and sign a contract that Monday.
Why? Because they found my content at the right time, and that content was enough to convince them I could help. Yes, it takes time (or money) to create, but in the end it’s worth it.
People who love your content are pre-sold on hiring you. Because they want to hire you, they tend to be less price-sensitive.
You have to give to get, and it’ll prove your value in the process.
You might also like: The Ultimate Guide to Finding Web Design Clients.
Positioning your content
Trying to decide where to start? Your content should focus on high-value services — typically, the services that are most profitable to your business.
For example, if your agency offers branding (higher-margin) and production design (lower-margin), focus on content around branding, since it’s a higher-value service.
Struggling to generate ideas to write about? Start by writing answers to questions your clients and prospects ask you. Most of my posts start this way.
Think about topics you keep mentioning to your clients. In my work, I’m often reminding clients to delegate and practice self-care — which led to articles like hiring “new rope” instead of “wet twine” or making yourself “needed, but not necessary.”
Put yourself in your target client’s shoes. What problems are they struggling with? When I created my newsletter signup premium, I decided to write an ebook on satisfying difficult clients. I chose that topic because I knew it was a universal struggle for every agency. The ebook lets me connect with prospective clients, share value, and gives people a way to raise their hand for custom help.
Remember, content marketing won’t make everyone want to buy — it’ll make the right people want to buy.
You might also like: 7 Content Ideas That Will Drive Revenue for Your Agency
Eliminate low-budget prospects with published pricing
Worried about getting too many leads, and finding out that many of them can’t afford you?
When you go into a clothing store, you get an idea of whether or not the items are within your budget by checking out a few price tags. If you’re willing to buy a piece for the listed price, you buy it; if you aren’t, you move down the rack, or to the next store.
Now, what happens if you’re shopping and you pick up an item, but can’t find a price tag? Sometimes, maybe, you put it in your cart and ask the cashier to check the price for you — but most people would consider putting it back. After all, why go through all that extra effort?
Frank Lloyd Wright once complained that after he got famous as an architect, “normal” people wouldn’t approach him with design commissions — they assumed they could never afford his help, which wasn’t quite true. He could have solved this problem by publicizing his prices…and so can you.
Publishing your prices on your website can help clients determine for themselves whether they can afford you. A range is OK — you want to share a general idea of where your prices start.
If your price point is unclear, potential clients won’t have a reference point, which means they’ll have to guess. If they guess that your pricing is lower than it is, it’ll waste your time — and theirs — to clarify. And sometimes it will lead to your dream clients passing you by.
What if your published prices scares off your dream client? I’d say, they weren’t really your dream client if they didn’t want to pay you a fair price for the work.
When you’re clear and straightforward with your pricing, there won’t be any surprises after you’ve already invested an hour of your time with a lead. Publish your pricing to deter any clients that can’t afford your rates, right from the start.
For example, one of my clients is a mobile app developer. They were being bombarded with leads — but many of those leads were just people who wanted to “partner” on an app.
Essentially, they wanted my client to build the app for free, with a slim chance at profits, if the app did well. But that wasn’t always obvious from their initial email, so their sales people would spend time researching the company and communicating with the client — just to find out they didn’t have a budget.
So they updated their landing page to say that apps typically cost $5,000 to $15,000. The results? The bad leads disappeared overnight.
Should you offer packages?
You can’t go through a McDonald’s drive-thru without being asked if you’d like fries and drink with your meal — that’s because add-on sales add up to big business. While packaging services isn’t right for every agency, you should consider whether it’s a fit for you and your clients.
For instance, someone who needs web development for an ecommerce site probably needs product descriptions. You could partner with a copywriter and offer product descriptions on a packaged basis.
However, you’ll want to take a number of things into consideration when making this decision, including the type of agency pricing model your business uses. If you offer a service where the price can differ greatly, based on the specific details of the project, a package probably isn’t the best fit for you.
You might also like: A Web Designer’s Guide to Pricing Strategies
What’s on your agency marketing checklist?
Whether you’re struggling to wean yourself off a client who makes up too much of your business, or just trying to grow the number and quality of leads you attract, these tips can help.
Spend some time to determine your specialty, establish yourself as a thought leader with content marketing, and publish your prices proudly — and before long, your dream clients will be drawn to you like a moth to the flame.