Having launched a few small online businesses of my own, I'm no stranger to the challenges of finding new clients. It's not always easy, and for many professionals and businesses, it requires continuous effort – but it pays off.
Regardless of whether you’re just starting out and seeking your first client, or have been in business for some time and have just hit a dry spell with finding new clients, there are several great strategies you could use to help you get over this hurdle.
In this article, I’ll take a closer look at 8 of these strategies which could give your business the boost it needs to connect with some new potential clients.
8 Ways to Get More Clients Online
Whatever your industry or niche, here are 8 great ways that you can use to get more clients online.
1. Cold Pitching
Cold pitching is when you reach out to potential clients that your business has had no previous communication with. This can be in the form of emails or phone calls, both of which can be effective in their own way. Cold pitching is a particularly effective strategy if your ideal client is a business, because it should be easy to obtain their contact information and get in touch with them.
Before you reach out to a potential client to cold pitch them, make sure you’ve done your research on their specific situation. You want to tailor your pitch to that person or business specifically, conveying to them what exactly you can offer and how they’d benefit from signing on with you.
For example, if you’re a web designer, you might try cold-emailing a business with a couple of mockups of designs that you think they may like. You’re not trying to get them to commit to being your client; you’re simply aiming to pique their interest enough to want to continue the conversation with you.
2. Boost Your Online Presence
Boosting your online presence is something you can go about in a number of different ways. Two great approaches that you can take toward this goal are building your own website and boosting its visibility, and leveraging the power of social media platforms to spread awareness of your business and connect with potential clients.
In order to boost your website’s visibility, you want to make sure it’s well-optimized for search engines. Make sure all its pages contain keywords relevant to your business.
SEO optimization can help your potential customers find your website more easily, so doing some research into keywords that your target audience searches for, and using these on your website, is a great way to get the most out of this.
Another powerful tool you can use to reach new potential clients online is social media platforms. Depending on your niche, you may choose to put more of your focus on one social media platform rather than another.
For example, as a financial advisor, you may choose to maintain more of a presence on a professional social media platform like LinkedIn over a more visual platform like Instagram. Try to think where your potential clientele might spend the most time and target those websites or apps.
Some great ways to make the most out of social media include regularly posting interesting tidbits relevant to your business, staying responsive so potential clients can easily connect with you, and occasionally posting promotional offers such as discounts or gift cards.
Joining or creating your own social media groups, for example Facebook groups, can be a powerful way to connect with people and provide value to them. You could use this space to host online workshops, or offer free consultations to people with whom you could build a relationship – many of these people may appreciate your free advice and be keen to work with you one-on-one.
Making sure your business's social media pages and website clearly link to each other (perhaps through a banner or easily visible button) will go a long way in allowing potential clients to better engage with your business.
3. Create Free Online Content
Building on the previous point about boosting your online presence, putting out free content is a great way to cultivate a reputation as an expert in your field. This content could be anything from blog posts on Medium or LinkedIn, to PDF reports or analyses you can send as email attachments, or YouTube videos that share some insight into your expertise.
Consider offering some of this content exclusively in exchange for contact information – this will allow you to stay in touch with your audience and potentially bring you some new clients down the road.
Regularly creating free content online can also help you directly target your chosen audience by tailoring your content specifically toward them. If you run a life coaching business that specializes in optimizing productivity, you could create regular blog posts with a few useful tips on how to do so.
Try to keep your free content insightful, but don’t reveal all your secrets. Emphasize that while the advice in your posts can be helpful, the results your clients see by working with you one-on-one are typically far better. Finally, don’t forget to make sure that your business is clearly mentioned here, and that it’s easy for potential clients to reach out to enquire about signing up.
Not every business will benefit from this, but it's always a good idea to hang out in online places where your potential clients might be and try to be active.
4. Freelance Job Boards
If this isn’t an avenue you’ve used yet, freelance job platforms like Upwork are great places to find potential clients. There are hundreds of jobs available on these platforms, and they’re worth taking a look at to see if you can offer any of these clients what they’re seeking. You can also advertise your services on Reddit, Facebook, or Craigslist.
To take this a step further, you could also look into freelance job platforms that serve your specific business. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, Dribbble is a freelance job board that is tailored toward the creative industry, and it could be a great place to look for new clients.
When you apply to postings on these job boards, remember to highlight why you’re a perfect fit for the role: you could choose to highlight whatever you think are your strongest characteristics, whether this is your background, your experience, or your expertise. For creative roles, make sure to supply a portfolio of work or show off the work your business has already completed.
Remember that freelance job platforms are widely used, and job postings, particularly the ones that pay well, attract a lot of applicants. For this reason, carefully picking the ones you think you’d be best suited to is vital, as is making sure this shines through in your application.
5. Optimize Your Payment System
If your business doesn’t accept credit cards yet, or if you want to expand the range of payment options that are available to your clients, signing up with Pay.com is an easy way to start.
With Pay.com, you can easily start accepting a wide range of payment methods, regardless of whether or not your business has a website. In addition to credit cards, Pay.com lets you offer your clients the ease of paying with digital wallets like PayPal as well as mobile wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay.
Pay.com enables you to take payments from your clients in several ways, too. Besides setting up a checkout page on your website, you can create and send your clients direct Pay Links by email or text message, and you can take client card payments over the phone and securely input them using the Pay Virtual Terminal.
Offering your clients a smooth, convenient payment process will result in a more satisfying experience with your business for them overall, and make them more likely to recommend your services or products going forward.
6. Utilize Paid Ads
Regardless of whether you’re just starting out or looking to grow your client base, paid marketing campaigns can be a great tool you can use to help you realize this goal.
Digital advertising is a strong way to reach members of your specific target audience. Using information about your potential clients like their demographics, location, and their browsing history, you can pay for online ads that target them directly. Making the most of targeted paid ads requires you to deeply understand your target audience.
These are the two main forms of paid online ads that are worth considering:
- Social media ads: Once you have an idea of which social media platforms are most worth focusing your efforts on based on your target audience, consider running paid ads on these.
- Search engine ads: All the major search engines like Google offer paid ads that are displayed above organic search results. This service can help give your business’ online visibility the extra boost it needs to bring in some new clients.
If your business is new and you don't want to invest in marketing just yet, try to pay as much attention as you can to free advertising avenues, such as social media, relevant groups, and word of mouth.
7. Create a Referral Program
Using your current and past clientele for referrals can be a powerful tool to help you find new clients. While this approach isn’t as useful when you’re just starting out and looking for your first client, it’s worth creating a referral program so that when you do find your first few clients, they’ll be incentivized to refer your business to their friends and family.
A simple but effective referral scheme would be one that offers clients a discount, gift cards, or some redeemable credit with your business each time they refer a client. Consider incentivizing both parties by rewarding both the referrer and the referee. Additionally, you could include an extra bonus for referrals that stay on as clients for a certain amount of time.
Even with a good incentive program, however, it’s important that you remember to ask your clients for referrals. The best time to do this is right after you deliver a great service to them. At this moment, your client will want to spread the word about your work, and this recommendation can be an effective way to bring you a new client or two.
You should also ask your clients to leave positive reviews on your website or business Facebook page. Many people like to read about the experiences of others before committing to a purchase.
8. Build Referral Partnerships
A great strategy you could use to find a steady stream of clients is by reaching out to established professionals in your niche who aren’t directly competing with you, and proposing a referral partnership with them.
Let’s consider an example of a copywriter. As a copywriter, you may want to reach out to a web developer, a full-service web design business, a digital marketing agency, or a graphic designer, and propose an agreement with them. You could offer to refer some of your clients to them, and ask that they do the same for you – perhaps offering a commission for each referral they send your way, too.
Building such partnerships is a great way to grow your business – you’re leveraging the client base of someone who has already established theirs. In time, you can create more referral partnerships and tap into the client bases of several professionals within your industry.
What's the Best Way for an Online Business to Accept Payments?
With the growing number of payment methods out there, giving your clients the flexibility and convenience of paying the way they want to is an important part of running a business.
When you sign up with Pay.com as your payment service provider, you can seamlessly start accepting customer card payments from all the major card brands – both online and over the phone. Additionally, you can also accept online payments from mobile wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay.
Getting started with Pay.com is a quick and straightforward process, and once you’re all set up, the Pay Dashboard is a powerful hub that gives you a clear oversight of all your payments and their fees in one place.
The Bottom Line: How Should You Market Your Online Business?
As an online business, the key to consistently finding and bringing in new clients is using a variety of different approaches, a few of which I’ve outlined in this article. Don’t stop there, however – pay close attention to which of these strategies work best for you, and focus more of your efforts towards these.
Take any opportunity to get your business’s name out there, whether through freelance job marketplaces, guest posting on a blog or an industry-specific publication, or by putting out free online content.
Getting involved with your community and industry is a great way to spread awareness of your business. Even if you don't necessarily need to build yourself up as an expert in your particular niche, you will benefit from having your name be seen by more potential clients.
Stay patient and don’t lose motivation: finding your first few clients is typically the most challenging part of the journey. Once you’re over that hurdle, let your work speak for itself, and remember to encourage your satisfied customers to send some of their friends and family who could benefit from your services your way.