How To Grow Your Client List When You’re on a Tight Budget

Scaling / November 22, 2016 / JD

One of the challenges of running your own business is that on top of doing your work, you also have to be hustling to grow your client base. If you’re like most small businesses, you don’t have a mountain of cash to leverage for getting new leads. You have to work hard to find new customers and stay profitable. 

All. The. Time.


According to a recent survey of over 8500 small businesses across the US, over half of these small businesses spend less than $2500 a year on marketing, with majority having no plans to increase this budget for the following year.

As a small business owner, you might be wondering how you can get ahead to increase customers without the budget to do so. But don’t despair because the answer is right in front of you: your client list.

Leverage your network

For photographers, real estate agents, designers and other small businesses, building your contact list through referrals is key to your continued success.

Build a network by leveraging who you know. The connections they offer are vital to growing your client list. Every person you meet has a history, and a network of their own. If you can tap into this resource tactfully to unlock a wealth of future clients.

You can start with simple email campaigns. Reach out to your best clients and ask if they know of anyone who is looking for your services. Your best clients know how amazing you are. They want you to succeed, and they want you to help those around them. These can be new leads as well as new vendors, which ever you want to focus on more. You can be passive by asking them to introduce you to anyone they know in need of your services. Or better yet, do the work for your clients by simply asking for contact info of people potentially interested in your services, then reach out to them yourself.

You can even compose suggested emails that your clients can send to their network. The easier you make it for clients to send you referrals, the better chance you have at getting some.

For ongoing clients, you can offer a referral discount to encourage your clients to send you more referrals. This way the more clients they refer you, the better rate they get. When using this method to get new leads, it’s important to educate your clients and make sure they are sending you leads that match your ideal customer. Otherwise you’re wasting resources chasing leads that are not your ideal customers.

In a recent interview with Josh Nelson of Nelson Elder Care Law, Josh explains how they’ve leveraged their client list to gain new business and how Daylite helps them track referrals. When your clients send you more qualified leads, you have more time to spend converting leads into sales.

Always be on the lookout for new opportunities

Even if you don’t have an extensive client list, you can still be on the lookout to grow your business. You may meet people by a chance, like while waiting in line and you find people right in front of you who are thinking about selling their house, or that their daughter is looking for a wedding photographer.  When you put yourself and your business out there, you have more opportunities to gain new business and help improve the lives of your new customers.

You can also leverage local associations of business owners, or meet ups in your area. These offer great opportunities which offer high probabilities to lead as they are focusing on people who are looking for your skills.

Grab a big handful of your business cards, get out there, and start talking and listening to people no matter where you are. You can meet new leads in even the more unexpected places.

Ask the right questions

For some entrepreneurs, sales is not their forte. But this is a fear you’re going to have to overcome if you want to get better at expanding your client list. Getting into someone’s network is pretty simple. Just ask them questions.

According to a study published by Harvard University, our brains are wired to talk about ourselves and over 40% of conversations are about ourselves. When you start asking people questions, you’ll be surprised how easily it is to find out their needs and the needs of those around them.

Some people are naturals at schmoozing. But if you’re not, talking to new people can seem like a nightmare. You’re not alone with this fear but overcoming it is not too hard. One of the most common and succesfully used techniques that can turn anyone into a conversations expert is the F.O.R.D method.

This technique takes advantage of people’s tendency to talk about themselves and about the things they love. Specifically:

  • Family
  • Occupation
  • Recreation
  • Dreams

When you start with these questions and are genuinely interested in the answer, breaking the ice becomes easy. This also helps you keep a conversation going without having to talk much and most importantly, help you expand your client list by learning more about their needs and the needs of those around them.

Always follow up

As you meet potential leads and gain referrals from existing clients, make sure you’re capturing these leads and following up. Don’t let people slips through the cracks by forgetting to follow up, or by only following up once. People are busy. Most often, leads aren’t going to follow up with you. You need to be actively following up to secure the business. People are busy and unless they’re in desperate need of your services immediately, they’ll forget about you unless you keep following up.

You can leverage Daylite by capturing leads and setting follow up tasks with reminders. You can also set reminders for multiple follow ups for a single client using Activity Sets.

Remember every detail

As you’re gathering information about new leads, make sure you’re documenting all of this information. This way you remember who has referred you business, who a referral came from, as well as details about someone’s hobbies and interests. Remembering these little details goes a long way.

If you’re using a contact management app like Daylite for managing leads, you can capture this info as custom fields in the contact, or in a Form and link it to the person. This way you have detailed info about this lead that you can leverage later, whether it’s remembering to wish them a happy birthday or knowing what gift to get a client as a thank-you for sending referrals.

You can filter forms and target clients who match what you are looking for. Something as simple as their city, family size, or even if they have dogs could make a real difference. Even if you rely on donors or reoccurring business can also benefit from this workflow. You can filter your donors or your best customers and send targeted mailers that build strong relationships allowing you to keep doing the great work you do.

In, Deborah Mitchell CEO & Founder, Deborah Mitchell Media Associates writes 4 Networking Essentials to Build Your Client Base and offers excellent insight on techniques that you can also use to network and grow your client base.

Start growing your client list now. When it comes to your client’s next project, its the little things that they will remember.

Need help managing clients and leads? Try Daylite


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