So many new solo-preneurs and small businesses are focused on growing social media as their main form of outreach. The right social media growth is key, but if your business socials are brand-new (or even if they’re not!) there are other important ways to find clients and customers.
It may seem obvious, but you can (and should) use the personal networks you ALREADY have to generate paid leads. Think about it this way. Before you establish your brand, your first clients are likely to be people who already know and trust your abilities. And there’s no reason to be shy - if you don’t tell everyone about your fantastic new business, your contacts are going to miss out on what you have to offer.
When I launched Craft Media just over a month ago, I fought my inner shrinking violet to let all my existing networks know about my new business. Since then ALL my paid leads have come through people I already knew. And this was by design. I’m still building my company’s social profile and I planned to survive the first three months at least without any social-generated leads.
However – I actually got my first lead via social media late last week, a full two months ahead of schedule! So how did I do it? Unsurprisingly this lead owes a lot to my pre-existing social network, even though it didn't come from anyone I know. Read on and I'll explain how everything came together!
Build it (but they won’t come – yet)
Up to the Craft Media Workshop launch I spent several months working on the brand and offering. I tweaked the website to reflect both and posted previous work to demonstrate my skills. I also created company pages on different social platforms and did an unpaid collaboration to generate social content (video). Not much was happening in terms of likes and follows, but I didn’t expect that. Social media and the web are really crowded, noisy spaces. Simply being online doesn’t mean anyone is going to pay attention.
The other thing I did, quite naturally, during this time was to talk about what I was doing when I caught up with friends and family. They were all interested and wanted to know more. In my initial draft of this post I didn't actually mention this step, but it was actually massive. It meant that the people who know and trust me most got to know about what I was doing and think about how they could use my services. It also meant I could test my ideas and check clarity around my business plan.
Even though this post is not about growing social media, for me, social media was an excellent way to reach out to my existing contacts. My next step was to write a short intro to Craft Media Workshop, throw in a bunch of links to my new socials and website and post this to my existing contacts on Facebook. For maximum effect, I did this during a high-traffic period (7.30pm, Wednesday). Facebook was my top choice because in New Zealand it’s by far the most popular social channel. It’s also the one I personally use most often, have the most contacts on and understand the best.
After I posted my launch blurb I went through my Facebook friends list and invited everyone I thought would be interested to like the new Craft Media Workshop page.
I stayed on Facebook fielding congratulations and comments for several hours, feeling grateful to have such supportive friends, family and contacts. This also encouraged Facebook to push the post higher up in my friends’ feeds.
By the end of the evening, I had 117 brand new page followers, and my website traffic was up 1000%. In other words, a lot of the people I already knew were now aware of what I was doing, and had had a look at what I had to offer.
Take it personal
During business hours the next day, I sent pre-drafted emails talking about my new company to four key ex-colleagues. These emails outlined my offering and included an invitation to suggest how we might work together. I also sent a friendly email to a group of people I used to work with, letting them know about my new direction and asking them to pass my contacts along if anyone needed my services.
After letting the dust settle, I contacted two friends who also run their own businesses and offered a free collaboration in exchange for cross-promotion on their social media, and to generate further social content that I could share on my own channels.
The fruits of my labour
From talking to friends and family, the outreach on Facebook and the emailing I secured a website rebuild and a video shoot with a high-profile international author. I also got the opportunity to pitch for two university-funded projects and a lead to becoming a comms supplier to a public-facing department in a major organisation. These opportunities came simply because the people in my networks trusted and referred me to others who had projects that needed completion. This has been really affirming and wonderful!
Aside from providing opportunities to do some cool paid projects, my friends and colleagues are now the foundation of my client base (thanks guys!). Each of them will hopefully remember that my new job is running a boutique communications company. Then, when they hear of someone who needs work done, they’ll know who to recommend - especially since I keep posting on Facebook to remind them! That said, I keep my business and personal posting very separate - only friends who opted in to my business page get my business posts. That way I don't have to worry that I'm flooding my personal contacts with information they're not interested in.
The next level
Now – I promised to explain how I got my first ever social referral. This came directly from the business collaboration I mentioned a little earlier. I made a series of short videos for a friend, featuring her business's products. In return, she provided a linked credit each time she posted the videos on her social channels. My new client saw one of the videos on Instagram, liked it and got in touch by contacting me via the link in my Instagram bio. The system is working!
If you want more tips on outreach that's worked for me and others, I'd love to have you follow along on this journey. You can find my socials links at the bottom of the page - it would be great to get to know you better :)