If you really want to know why you don't have any clients, take a look at this list to see if anything sounds (uncomfortably) familiar, and then start thinking about what you can do about it:
Reason #1: You haven't got a clear vision of what you want to accomplish.
Before you start sputtering that indeed you DO have a clear vision, riddle me this: How many clients do you have in your vision? What hours do you work? What problems do you help your clients solve? How did you get these clients? What does success look like to you? Is it a number of clients, an income level, or something else? Well? If you don't know the details, you haven't got the vision, so what you need to do is...
Solution #1: Create a vision of success for yourself (and by create, I mean write it down!).
Be as specific as possible. One of the easiest and most compelling ways to do this is to choose a day in the near future (say six to twelve months from now), and describe in vivid detail what's going on in your business and life. Frame the statement in the present tense as if it were already true, using these questions as a guide: What day is it? What time is it? Where are you? What are you doing? What specific goals did you reach? What happened as a result of reaching those goals? How do you feel?
Just remember to ground your vision in reality. If you haven't got a single client, please don't sabotage yourself by envisioning a multi-million-dollar business within six months. Make it real, make it reasonable, and make it worth your while to achieve. See it, feel it, and then go for it!
Reason #2: You haven't got a written plan.
How will you know if you're on the right track if you have only a fuzzy idea of where you're going? Once you've written it all down, you can start making choices about how to spend your time and energy to get what you want. But until you do that, you're just stumbling around in the dark, and any successes you may have are pure dumb luck. So unless you're feeling very lucky, if you want to make a success of your small business, you must...
Solution #2: Document your plans.
Don't tell me that you're keeping it all in your head; that's just an excuse for not doing your due diligence, and you know it. Write it ALL down, including what service(s) you offer, who needs it, what packages you've got, how you plan to market your business, what your goals are (in terms of both income and number of clients or whatever makes sense for your business), when you're going to do whatever it is you do to market your business, and so on. If you need some help, take a look at my web site for an easy and very basic marketing plan, or if that's too overwhelming, then start by answering my Top 10 Marketing Questions. You CAN do it, and you'll thank me for it, I promise!
Reason #3: You don't (or can't) clearly articulate your value to your clients.
Can you distill the essence of your value to a particular and specific customer base in seven to nine words? I can, and let me tell you, it works wonders! Let me be blunt: Nobody cares about your title (coach, consultant, king of the world), your process (facilitating, coaching, teaching, empowering), or your education (CC, MBA, PhD, Harvard or Hogwart's School of Witchcraft & Wizardry). All your clients truly care about is what you can do for them, or more specifically, what benefit they will receive as a result of working with you. What that means is that you need to...
Solution #3: Create an absolutely killer "elevator" speech.
An elevator speech is a short sentence that distills the value of your services and benefit your clients get when working with you. It answers the question "what do you do?" which is really "what CAN you do for ME?" Add your name, your title if you want, and you've got a great introduction. To create your own killer elevator speech, download my Killer Elevator Speech tool.
Reason #4: You don't have the support you need to get where you want to go.
Doing all this on your own is more than tough--it's overwhelming! Having a group of people PLUS one partner or buddy who are/is familiar with and supportive of your goals enough to offer regular support, ideas, and feedback helps keep your energy and momentum up, and provides you with the strength you might need when the going gets tough. Doing it all alone doesn't make you a hero, so why don't you...
Solution #4: Get a coach, and join or create a group of people who are in the same situation (building a business) as you. You've got tons of options here; either join an existing group, or start your own. You can work with a coach, or find a buddy who will provide reciprocal coaching. Not many rules to this solution, except that the support must be consistent and regular (ideally, every week for the first six months of your start up or business building process).
Reason #5: You don't truly believe you can do it, so you're not "ready" for clients.
If you feel that you're not really ready, you're not, so stop whining and go back to sitting on the sidelines. But unless you're practicing a trade that requires a specific license that you haven't got, chances are that there are people out there who are willing to accept your level of expertise, no matter how new you are to the business. And the best way to get experience is by doing. So quit making excuses, and find those people! You may have to...
Solution #5: Work for free.
If you're truly so insecure that you feel shy about charging for your services, offer to perform your services for free until you've got some experience, positive feedback and confidence. And don't stop with one or two free clients; get as many as you can. Just one caveat: Set a limit on the free deal, either in number of hours or weeks/months of service. If you've provided adequate value, at least some of your free clients will turn into paying clients, and you'll have proven your value to yourself.
Reason #6: You're not focused on your goals and doing the work.
Maybe you've got your vision and plans documented, but you haven't looked at them in weeks (months?) and you don't recall off the top of your head exactly what your marketing tactics are. This is not good (but you knew that, right)? What you need to do is...
Solution #6: Focus and act!
Constant attention to your goals helps keep your eyes on the prize and the finish line in view. Remember, the greatest threat to progress is inertia. Keep your goals visible (in a notebook on your desk, posted by your computer, etc.) and do at least one task that is designed to move you toward your goal (this would be one of your marketing tactics) every day (yes, I really mean every day!), not just when you feel like it. Your progress may be slow, but the good news is that a slow and steady accumulation of small tasks will eventually get you where you want to be.
Reason #7: You don't know who your best client would be.
If you're still stuck in that rookie trap of thinking that "everyone in the world" would want your service, it's time for a dose of reality. The bottom line is that if you can't identify the person who would benefit the most from your service, then you may never get a clientele worth having. The best cure for that is to...
Solution #7: Create a profile of your best client.
Start by asking yourself this question: Who would benefit most from my services, and why? You want to know the age, gender, income level, interests and other defining characteristics so that you can find and speak directly to that person in your marketing efforts. If you've got a good idea who your best client is, but you're not sure, then interview a dozen or so people who fit the profile you've developed, and find out from them what their greatest concerns and needs are regarding your product or service. If you still haven't got enough information, then keep asking questions until you get some answers, or consider working with a coach or buddy to tease out the information.
Reason #8: You've tried a bunch of things, but nothing seems to work.
Maybe you tried a postcard, but that didn't work as well as you had hoped. Or you put up a web site, but nobody's visiting, or if they are, they're not calling you. Or perhaps you ran an ad once, but nothing much came of it. Knock knock! Who's there? Reality calling! You're not handing out free $100 bills, you're marketing, so that means you've got to...
Solution #8: Give your plans time to work.
If you're going to do something only once, you'd best be sure that that the offer is so compelling that people will break down your door to get it. What works best in the long run is repetition and consistency. If you think a tactic is good, then give it three months or so before you abandon it. Did you know that most people do not respond until they've seen a message at least seven times, and that most ads require 27 (yes, 27!) impressions before they are acted upon? You will be bored with your marketing long before your clients are, so when you make good plans, stick with them until they stop working, and don't dump them before they start!
Reason #9: You don't ask for the business.
You expect people to ask you to work for them, but that's not the way it works, pumpkin. Most people aren't mind readers, so your potential clients won't know that you want to work with them unless you say so. I know you don't want to hear this, but what you need to do is...
Solution #9: Ask for the business.
Remember back in the olden days when you were a young jobseeker? What was the one thing that you were told to do at the end of the interview? That's right, express your interest in the job, and if you were bold enough, ask for the job. It worked for me back then, and it still does today. Let it work for you, too.
Reason #10: You're letting fears get in your way.
If this is true of you, you certainly have my sympathy. Anything new can be intimidating and scary, but please believe me when I say that once you start doing what you need to do, you'll be too busy to remember to be fearful. If your fears become overwhelming, perhaps it's time to consider the services of a mental health professional. But if those fears are just fears of the unknown, all you need to do is...
Solution #10: Get over yourself.
You are neither the first nor the last person to start a small business, so stop thinking about your poor little baby self and start thinking about all those people (clients) whose lives you are going to enrich with your wonderful products or services. When you start focusing on your clients rather than your own petty fears, your business will take a quantum leap forward, and you'll feel a bit sheepish when you remember what a scaredy cat you were when you first started.
By Veronika (Ronnie) Noize
Photography by Malize
© Veronika Noize 2003. All rights reserved. This article was written by Veronika (Ronnie) Noize, the Marketing Coach. Ronnie's web site is a comprehensive marketing resource for small office/home office business professionals. For free marketing resources including articles and valuable marketing tools, visit her web site at http://www.VeronikaNoize.com, or email her at Ronnie@VeronikaNoize.com.