How I get / got clients

How I get / got clients

A few other solo IT consultants have asked me how I get my clients; that is, what marketing strategies work best for me. Currently, 100% of my new business is generated through referrals. Referral sources include current and former clients, other IT consultants, friends, and people I’ve met through professional networking. My business has matured considerably over the years, and I am now taking on only two or three new clients a year.

I currently have 27 clients that I work with on a regular basis. They range in size from a single computer to about 35 PCs, with an average of around 10. Here’s a summary of how and when I started working with them:

  Year acquired                  
Source 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 Total
Client     1 1   1   1 1 5
Consultant 1 3     4 2   1 1 12
Friend 1   1       1 1 1 5
Network           1       1
Don’t Remember 1 1       1       3
Prospect       1           1
Total 3 4 2 2 4 5 1 3 3 27

 

It may not jump out at you from looking at the table, but I want to stress that the most critical source of revenue for me is repeat business. The importance of doing a good job and maintaining a good relationship with your existing clients cannot be overstated.

In terms of acquiring new clients, referrals from other IT consultants have been tremendously important to me. (For more on working with other consultants, see my “Ten Commandments.”) They’ve referred business to me either because they’re getting out of the IT support business and/or the Boston area, or because the client is not a good fit for them (usually the client is too small).

The “Prospect” referral listed above is one of my favorite stories. In 2003 I had a sales call with a small client in a large office building in downtown Boston. The meeting went well, but I didn’t get the job because the business owner decided to hire someone he had known personally for years. But a few weeks later I got a call from another business on the same floor of the office building. It turned out that the office managers from the neighboring businesses happened to strike up a conversation about their IT management needs one day in the ladies’ room. The office manager I’d met had kept my card, and one thing led to another. The other office manager — the one who actually hired me — left the client a few years ago, but my relationship with the firm is still going strong.

Since 2000, I’ve done business at least once with about 150 additional clients. Some of these were “one-offs” and some relationships lasted for years. I can’t possibly reconstruct the referral source analysis for all of these, but I know that consultant referrals, client referrals, and networking have always been important. In the early years, there were two additional sources of revenue:

  • Direct solicitation. When I started SCHRAG, I happened to live in a condo in Boston that was within walking distance of dozens of small businesses. I made up a little sales kit and went door to door introducing myself as a neighbor. One client hired me on the spot. I only remember one occasion on which I got a grim stare and a finger pointed toward the “No Soliciting” sign on the wall. I also got hold of a mailing list of local businesses and did a small direct mailing, which led to at least one sale.
  • Web searches. I remember that one client found me through my listing on the web site of the Independent Computer Consultants Association. I believe that one or two might have come across my own web site through search engines.

I don’t know if that information is helpful to anyone, but I hope it at least answers the question.

Posted in All, Business on Jun 20th, 2008, 11:56 am by David Schrag   

One Response

  1. Starting out
    December 19th, 2010 | 4:27 am

    Great information for someone who is starting out, such as myself. Thanks.

    P.S. Love the blog.

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