Pete Bowen's site

The shy introverts guide to finding clients

I've been consulting with a few mentoring clients who have PPC jobs but want to quit and work for themselves. They've got the skills to build and manage PPC campaigns, but without a predictable way of finding clients they're doomed to servitude.

It goes without saying that no matter how good you are at the craft - PPC, web design, engineering etc - you can't make a business out of it unless you have clients.

This is pretty much the same situation I found myself in around 2012.

From 2007 to 2011 Peter Carruthers and I were business partners. He handled marketing and sales. I handled the technical end. It was a good partnership, but we wanted to grow the business in different ways so we parted. (Amicably - we're still great friends.)

I kept the Google Ads side of our business.

It gave me an income but I didn't have a client-finding process of my own. I had no sure-fire way of replacing clients who churned, or of growing the business. I was lucky enough to get referrals from existing clients but that wasn't steady. To say I was stressed is a bit of an understatement.

Advertising on Google proved too expensive, which left me the fallback of cold-calling.

I still have bad dreams about cold-calling.

In the early 2000s I owned a sound equipment hire business. We'd put up stages, lighting and audio-visual equipment for concerts and corporate events. It was a fun until we ran out of money because we ran out of clients.

The same Peter Carruthers told me that if I called 5 event organisers every day I'd pick up some new work. I was desperate so I followed his advice.

I felt sick every time I picked up the phone. I don't have enough words to tell you how much I loathed bothering people on the phone. But, it worked and I landed a client who gave us a load of work and the promise of more.

And then I did what most people who don't like selling do - I stopped trying to find new clients. I never made another cold call again. And, I buried the guilt of not cold-calling under busyness: putting up stages, wiring up microphones and doing the craft of the business.

It was a mistake. My business teetered on one client's goodwill and her ability to keep landing new projects.

(I never paid the price for this neglect because I sold the sound business when I moved from South Africa to the UK.)

And in 2012 - a decade since my last cold-call - the familiar dread and nausea flooded back. I knew I could make cold-calls. I also knew I'd stop the minute the immediate pressure was off. And that wouldn't do. I was a single-dad to 4 kids. I couldn't get caught in the feast-famine cycle.

I needed a way of finding clients that suited my personality.

That's when I bumped into Amy Hoy and Alex Hillman. They teach a client-finding process that feels like it was custom-made for my personality. It fits in a way cold-calling never did. And, it's sustainable.

This is not a pitch for Alex and Amy's course. I don't get anything from them for sharing this with you. I wanted to tell you about them because so many of us dream of running our own businesses but are blocked because we're not natural born salespeople.

Their client-finding process starts with building an audience of people who need what you sell and trust you. Then, when you have something to offer you tell your audience about it.

They devote 89 separate lessons to understanding and building trust with your audience. My 8 point summary leaves out the detail and nuances. But, if this resonates with you I'd be happy to dive deeper with a small group on Zoom. Let me know if you're interested.

Here's the gist of the process:-

  1. Find places where people in your chosen audience hang out on the internet. In my case my chosen audience is people who use Google Ads to generate leads. They hang out in Facebook groups, Reddit (r/ppc, r/marketing etc) and to a lesser extent in LinkedIn groups.

  2. Watch how people interact there so you get a feel for the etiquette and conventions.

  3. When someone asks a question that you know the answer to you give them a useful answer.

  4. The person you've answered - and others in the community - start to trust you because you're helpful.

  5. Publish helpful articles on your website. Occasionally link to one of your articles when they answer someone's question.

  6. Publish an email newsletter with more helpful information. Put a subscribe form on your website so people who found your article useful can get your newsletter.

  7. People read your newsletter and start to trust you because you're helping them get what they want.

  8. When you have something to sell, tell your audience about it. Some of them will buy.

I've followed this method for years. And, apart from referrals, it's been the source of every new client.

It also resonated with some of my mentees but they had questions. Here are a few of the most common...

How long does it take to get clients this way?

I've signed clients within hours of helping them on the internet. I've also signed clients where their first email to me started something like "I've been reading your stuff for 3 years..."

I consider the time I spend helping people an investment. You're building a reputation and a body of work. Maybe it pays off today, maybe only later, either way I've found it worth doing.

How do you post on Reddit or Facebook without sounding spammy or self-promotional?

If you genuinely want to help and offer useful, well thought out advice it won't come off as spammy.

And, if you follow a few rules you'll probably be ok.

What happens if someone downvotes you or argues with your answer?

It's inevitable that someone will find fault with your answer, call you an idiot or downvote you. It's not pleasant. The first few times this happened I stopped helping people for a few weeks. I was scared it would happen again.

But, here's two things to consider:-

What do you do if you don't think you have expert-level skills?

One mentee said "I've only being doing Google Ads for 4 years. What right do I have to give advice?" (I've seen her work and she's on top of her game.) This feeling is common enough that it has a name: imposter syndrome.

And, although the feeling is real it shouldn't stop you from helping someone. You don't have to be the world's best Google Ads expert - or whatever it is that you do - to help. You just need to know what the person asking for help doesn't know.

And if you don't know enough to answer them you might still be able to help them by showing them how to get closer to the answer - what questions to ask, where they could start looking for the answers etc.

Why do you have to have a website instead of publishing on Medium or LinkedIn?

There is nothing wrong with publishing your articles in where your audience is eg LinkedIn as a secondary outlet. But, if it's the only place you publish them you're exposed to the risk that they change the rules, their business model or shut down.

Publishing on your website removes this risk.

Why do you have to run an email newsletter. Isn't it enough to get followers?

Building a following on reddit or Facebook or X is OK, but like publishing on other platforms it's risky. The platform controls the relationship between you and the people who are interested in what you have to say. They can (and do) change the rules.

An email newsletter removes this risk.

Need some help with this?

I offer 1-to-1 mentoring and consulting. You’ll get help, advice, support and answers without having to commit to a long-term contract. Details here.

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