- To find those first few clients, draw on contacts from your previous work
- Remember that word of mouth is crucial
- Set out the project’s goals clearly and report regularly to your client
- It’s not just about money – think of who else you might meet through working with a client
As a startup, your money won’t start coming in until you’ve got a client or two – and that cash will dry up quickly unless you make those clients happy enough to either keep working with you or recommend you to contacts in their network. It’s crucial for entrepreneurs to quickly become adept at managing client relationships, so that their businesses can thrive from the start.
In the first instance, drawing on your contacts book from your previous career is a good place to find those first couple of clients.
Eamon Tuhami recently set up DigitalAngle Ltd, a data and digital-marketing consultancy, and found that his initial clients were people he’d known and made a good impression on before starting the business.
“I’ve either interacted with people in previous companies, or people in my network have seen what I post on LinkedIn about my DigitalAngle,” he says. “I post short pieces of information, insight or thoughts on what we are doing – you never know who might be listening and where conversations might lead.”
Manage the workload
Lex Thornley has been running his PR and marketing company in Exeter since August 2010. “Word spreads quickly and I know many of the businesses in the city,” he says.
But Lex is still a one-man band, and handling a high level of work can become tricky. “I’m working at capacity, so, if I let one of the spinning plates drop, then I’ll have a problem with one or more of my clients,” he says. “I find monthly reporting a really useful way of managing client expectations.”
Small business owners should outline these expectations from the start, according to Eamon. “When we take on a new client, we outline what we’ll be doing and what the key performance deliverables are,” he says. “It’s about trying to make the client’s life as easy as possible and, at the end of the project, clearly demonstrating that you’ve achieved its goals.”
With new business opportunities emerging all the time, it can be difficult to make sure that certain clients aren’t prioritised over others. “We treat all our clients equally and the client dictates how much time they want from us,” Eamon says. “Our more established clients have the first opportunity to request more time from us, but the ethos of the business is that everyone’s equal.”
More than just the money
It’s important to see the non-monetary value of a client relationship or piece of business, too.
“I recently took on a piece of business that is not going to be financially lucrative in the short term,” Lex says. “The reason I took it on, however, is that it will allow me to renew relationships with national journalists I had lost touch with since leaving a previous job.
“I’ll take a punt on a client that’s not paying a huge fee where some of the best value is likely to come from the people I’ll meet and the relationships I’ll develop along the way. For me, it’s about identifying the added value of a client or piece of work.”
Find out more about Eamon’s business at www.DigitalAngle.co.uk and on Twitter @DigitalAngle
Find Lex at www.lexprandmarketing.co.uk and on Twitter @LexPRnMarketing