20 creative ideas on how to win consulting clients

Finding new clients and better clients is the ongoing challenge of almost any agency or consulting practice.  

In this post, I outline 20 different tactics that I have seen agencies and freelancers use to win new clients for their business. These tactics are all real-world examples that I have learned from hands-on experience or interviewing agency owners on my podcast.

1) Send them an eye-catching package

At my outbound marketing company we have broken through the door with some big name clients by using high-quality physical mail outreach as a way to get in the door. 

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2) Start a podcast

A podcast is an incredible way to draw people toward your business. If you choose to do an interview style format, then it is also a great way to network with your peers and prospective customers.

My podcast Working Without Pants - For Agency Owners and Consultants was the source for over 60% of my business in 2016.

 

3) Hang out in online communities

There are countless places where you can hang out online and bump into potential clients.  

  • Facebook Groups
  • Slack Groups
  • Forums
  • Linkedin Groups
  • Portfolio sites
  • Online classes
  • Etc.

Find the right communities where your clients are hanging out, create value in those communities, and leads will come to you.

On a recent podcast episode, I spoke with Erik Reagan of Focus Lab who cites that his agency has generated $3M of business by being active in the Dribbble community.

 

4) Work in public spaces (Coffee shops, co-working, etc.)

I have spoken to a huge number freelancers and consultants who found that working in a space where there is a community, like a coffee shop or co-working space, is a great way to find new business. By being active in the community, they bump into clients or contacts who can refer them business.

 

5) Get involved in an association

Can you join an association where your target market hangs out? Or just visit some of their meetings or conferences? Going to where your clients hang out is a simple and great way to win new business.

 

6) Take an officer position at that association

Getting involved in an association is just the start. If you choose to get really involved and take an officer position, then your results will grow significantly. I have met multiple firms who worked their way up to the officer level at their local AIGA chapter and cite that as a massive source of growth in their business.

 

7) Work with contract recruiting companies

There are countless contract recruiting and placement companies you can work with these days to find work. Here are just a few great examples of places to start:

 

8) Create a meet up group or monthly mixer

Another great tactic for growth is to create your own meetup group or monthly event in your local area. The key here is to be consistent. These events almost always start off small, but if you keep holding it and promoting it each month, then it will grow over time.

It also gives you something to invite people to. Whenever you need a reason to follow up with a prospect, or a way to further engage a quality contact you just met, you can invite them to the next event.

Check out this short article from Rapid Boost Marketing who cite $165,000 of revenue coming from their Meetup groups in the first 12 months of starting them. 

 

9) Create an invite only private dinner

This tactic works extremely well for larger agencies with high ticket sales. Imagine that you started hosting a monthly dinner for your highest value contacts and clients.

You immediately begin receiving more referrals from existing clients because you are showing appreciation and keeping yourself top of mind. And at the same time you can slowly expand this private dinner group to include prospects or other industry contacts you want to network with.

Creating an invite-only exclusive monthly event is a great way to build a small tight-knit network of high-quality buyers.

 

10) Speak in front of your target audience

Why speak to one client at a time when you can speak to 200? Getting on a stage and sharing your message with an audience of potential prospects can be extremely valuable.

On a recent podcast interview I did with Gene Hammett, he shared a framework and approach for how to get speaking opportunities and how to turn those into paying clients. 

 

11) Guest blog for other websites or trade publications

What are the primary blogs and trade publications that your target market reads? Can you write guest posts or articles to feature on their site?

This tactic not only establishes you as a thought leader, but it can drive leads and new business as well. In the past, I have written articles for HOW Design, Millo.co, Creative Live and many more. These articles have generated inbound leads and projects for my consulting business.

 

12) Use Elink Pro to ramp up your Linkedin Traffic

This tactic is a bit out there, but it has generated tens of thousands of dollars of business for my consulting practice. Here is how it works:

  1. You install this Chrome Plug-in called Elink Pro.
  2. You build a search queue in Linkedin of your ideal prospects
  3. You click Start, and Elink will visit up to 800 profiles of your target prospects

You show in their “## people viewed your profile” notification. Some people will click on that, find your profile interesting and reach out to connect with you.

It’s a simple, passive way to generate more inbound leads for your business.

Read this article where I dive into the tactic in much more detail.

If this tactic sounds like too much work, check out my new service Linkedin Panda which does this for you.

 

13) Channel partnerships with software vendors

Several years ago, I used to freelance as a Squarespace Web Designer. Over 50% of my business came because I was listed as a “Squarespace Specialist” on their website.

Since then, I have seen many other companies replicate this strategy from small to large.

Jason Swenk's agency set up a partnership with Sharepoint which lead to tremendous growth. 
Kurt Elster's agency saw early growth through being listed as a Shopify partner.
And, I have talked to countless companies who saw growth through partnering with Hubspot, Marketo or Microsoft.

If you can get in the door with a new technology while it is on the way up, you can establish yourself as a trustworthy partner and see a tremendous amount of work come directly from the company and their sales team.

 

14) One mans garbage is another mans gold

My friend Vinny Azevedo of Nettrus utilized a brilliant tactic for growth. Vinny chased after and got a meeting with the CEO of a larger agency that generated over $100M in annual revenue.

After some conversations with the CEO, they structured a deal where that larger agency would pass Nettrus any of the work they didn’t want, or that was too small for them. A project too small for this massive agency was anything under $50K.

Vinny built a pipeline of high quality projects with this one strategic partnership where he took the work someone else was turning away.

This concept of getting work from larger agencies is the whole genesis of my new business Agency Scout.

 

15) Ask your clients and friends for referrals

Almost every agency and freelancer I talk to gets 90% of their business from word of mouth and referrals, yet almost none of them are intentional about this.

As soon as a project ends successfully, follow these steps.

  1. Ask for a testimonial first - This blog post outlines a script I use to ask my clients for testimonials.
  2. As soon as they approve or give you the testimonial, ask them for referrals. 

Since they just gave you a testimonial, they are clearly happy with your work, so it’s a great logical time to ask them if they know of anyone else who could refer you.

 

16) Re-engage existing customers

The easiest sale you can ever make is to someone who has bought from you in the past. Are there additional services or add-ons you could sell to your existing customers?

On a recent podcast interview with Matt Inglot, he talks about holding quarterly "Strategy Calls" with his clients. This is a way for him to deliver free consulting value to his clients at no cost them.

They get value from hearing Matt's insights, and often Matt identifies other projects or opportunities they could collaborate on through these calls. 

17) Set yourself a weekly coffee or lunch time and fill it

The CEO of a large agency that I spoke with has had a very simple process for how consistently network. He blocks out Thursday mornings as at time for a coffee meeting. His goal each week is to make sure he has this meeting blocked out with a prospect, partner or someone influential in the industry.

By doing this simple system for years, he has slowly and steadily built a massive network of partners and a pipeline of sales.

 

18) Send cold emails

Some people overcomplicate the act of getting new business. The truth is, a few well-written cold emails can go a long way. Be personal, and make your email all about them.

Send 10 cold emails this week, and then follow up with them all next week. If you do a decent job chances are you will at least get a reply.

Send 10 cold emails a week with follow ups, and eventually you will win some new business.

 

19) Get organized with a CRM

This may sound like a no-brainer, but I speak to so many agencies and freelancers who try to keep all of their sales activities in their head. That is a terrible idea, because there are countless people who will say “Follow up with me in 3 months” or “Now isn’t the right time.”

You need a system or some tool to keep all of your sales organized. Even if it is just an excel spreadsheet, start with something.

 

20) Show your passion by building your own case study

So many creatives get into this habit of only doing work that they get paid for. A great way to show you are passionate about your work and attract new leads is to create your own case study.

When I say “case study” I mean creating your own project that you have 100% control over which demonstrates your ability to deliver.

One great example is the agency Parachute Media. They built the Instagram Account Camping With Dogs and grew it to over 450,000 followers! You can sure bet that caught the attention of quite a few outdoor brands who are now wanting to work with them.

Another example is Xavi of Branded Pod. He offers a podcast producing service. So to market himself, he of course started his very own podcast. He is eating his own dog food and building his own case study at the same time.

What can you create that enables you to show off your skills?

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These are just a handful of creative tactics that you can use to win new clients. You simply don’t have the time to utilize them all though.

So I encourage you to read my accompanying post on How to create a sales and marketing strategy where I dive into a process for brainstorming ideas and figuring out what tactics are the right fit for your business.

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