Greg Miles, founder of digital marketing agency Bumbl, has always been on the hunt for new clients. “When we launched, in 2015, I was less than six months out of university, so I had no business contacts or reputation to leverage,” he says. “It was very much a case of starting from zero and I’ve been on the client lookout from day one.”
It is a fundamental problem for growth businesses. In order to grow they need to get new clients and customers on board. That could be starting from an empty slate like Miles or branching out from those one or two trusted and valued clients who have been with you from the start.
Miles says this involves researching prospects in industries he wants to work in and proactively asking for referrals from existing clients. “Most of our client wins have come from inbound marketing so by using social media, content and PR to generate awareness, we can make a space for ourselves at the table.
“You have to provide clients with value. That could be some helpful content, an interesting take on a topical issue in their industry or a research report. As well as demonstrating how you can help them, communicating what makes you different to your competitors and why you would be a good fit is also key once you have their attention.”
Miles, alongside his account director, does most of this work but growth firms are also creating dedicated business development management roles or outsourcing the client hunt to business development firms.
Will Evans, managing director of business development consultancy Growth Pilot, says there are a variety of routes to be taken to secure new clients. They include emails, direct marketing and phone calls to prospects, as well as social media activity where existing clients can re-tweet content and share blogs. They can, in short, be commercial influencers.
Whatever channel is chosen, it is vital to stick with the fundamentals.
“Research is key,” he says. “You need to find out more about the person and company receiving your inquiry, such as what their challenges are and how your product or service can fit their needs. Back this up with evidence of previous work.
“A ‘spray and pray’ blanket approach will not do. I am a big believer in the notion that people buy people. So, although I feel automated marketing systems which send emails and campaigns to prospects have their place, it is all about building up personal relationships.”
A long-term perspective is also vital. “Perhaps a prospect isn’t ready to work with you today. If so, keep your relationship going by inviting them to events or sending them regular newsletters or following them on social media,” Evans says.
Keeping track of client communications, referrals and wins during this often-lengthy process can be aided by using customer relationship management systems (CRMs). “We use a CRM and it lets us track which stage of the sales journey different prospects are at. It prevents leads from falling through the cracks,” explains Miles. “You need to have a lot of patience when seeking clients. You plant the seeds and wait for them to grow. You need to stick with it.”
Where the opinions of third parties are offered, these may not necessarily reflect those of St. James’s Place.