How to land your first client
Whether you're an entrepreneur and just starting up, or a VAR or break-fix service provider looking to shift the focus of your business towards managed services, getting that first client is always a struggle. That first client also sets the course for your organization's future.
So, before we get into how, let’s talk about what you need to be prepared with before approaching a potential client. A business will not leave its existing service provider just because you offer cheaper services.
Thus, in order to introduce a potential client to your business and leave a positive impression on them, you need to have a good website that has your contact details and you must complete basic online marketing so you have some online presence.
Next, you need to select a specific business vertical, like security monitoring, and focus all your efforts there from the start. You shouldn't move to another industry until you've exhausted all your leads in the previous industry.
Once you're set with your target market and marketing base (website and online presence), doing the following things can help you land your very first client:
1. Utilize online and offline communication channels
As mentioned earlier, having a good website can be a huge asset. Instead of you going to your clients, a website can bring clients to you. With the right amount of online marketing, you can establish an online presence that can help you generate leads online.
You need to ensure that the contact details listed on your website are correct and the "Contact Us" option is clearly visible in all modes of communication (be it your website, Facebook page, LinkedIn account, or blog). Not only that, make sure you have enough resources to tend to the inquiries.
Apart from digital avenues, advertising in local business catalogs, the yellow pages, local newspapers, etc. can help a great deal in getting direct leads.
2. Get referrals
Whether you're a VAR, a break-fix service provider, or have a similar IT background, the most powerful way to generate leads is using your existing client base. Asking your existing clients for a referral is a simple, free, fast, and highly effective way to get your first clients.
If you're new and starting up as an MSP, it's certain that you have a background in the IT industry. Don't shy away from asking for referrals from your old contacts in the industry.
3. Acquire or partner with other companies
If budget is not a constraint for you while starting up, buying an existing small managed IT company is the easiest way to get new clients, as you will inherit the acquired company’s entire client list. Converting those leads shouldn't be hard if you offer to provide help with issues the previous MSP couldn't assist with. A decent discount is another way to attract that client base.
Partnering with well-established MSPs could help you get your first clients as well. Such MSPs have a large client base and may come across certain leads that are so small that they’re not worth their time. By providing a mutually beneficial partnership offer (typically one month's recurring revenue) to these MSPs, you can get those smaller leads that can help you get started on your journey as an MSP.
4. Re-orient prospective customers
Another effective way to get customers is to approach businesses that are looking for sysadmins or an IT team in your local area and offer them your services. Explain how your services are better, more cost-effective, and more flexible than maintaining an in-house IT team.
5. Select a niche or industry
An intelligent entrepreneur decides on the four P’s of marketing (product, place, price, and promotion) before starting any new business. But before even deciding on those marketing basics, an entrepreneur must establish their target market to execute their business plan successfully.
As an MSP, you need to do the same. Unless you want to fight based on just prices in a crowded MSP market, product differentiation is key. It's critical to select a niche, business vertical, or industry. Cloud infrastructure (as in IaaS), network monitoring and security, and issue resolution and IT asset management are a few examples of niche markets.
To pick a vertical, think about the following two factors:
- Your area of expertise
- Your location
Your area of expertise
Your area of expertise can be an excellent choice of vertical. As potential clients are looking for experts, being able to offer those services as your primary focus will work in your favor and help you land clients easily.
If you're unsure where to start, location is always a good starting point for deciding your vertical. For instance, if you're starting up in an area with a huge number of restaurants and a bustling hospitality industry, offering remote monitoring and support services will be highly beneficial, as hotels and other businesses in the hospitality industry have to manage a large number of devices.
6. Attend networking opportunities
Networking is the most powerful way of doing business. Join your local chamber of commerce, volunteer organizations, and networking groups to meet other business owners and make connections. Even though websites such as LinkedIn can help with networking, nothing can beat those networking lunches and events where you get to meet other business owners and talk to them about your business.
As a new business, you should attend as many networking events as possible, as there’s a high possibility that you’ll get direct leads or referrals from these events. Even if you don't get any referrals, you get to establish your presence in business circles, and that is bound to benefit you sooner or later. Networking events also help you learn the best ways to represent your business in front of others.
Creating a genuine connection always works wonders, no matter how much marketing has evolved. Meet your prospective clients and introduce them to your business. Help them make smarter decisions by consulting. Let them know the details of your business, your prices and packages, and why your services are better than the competition’s.
7. Avoid giving discounts
It may seem like a struggle to get your first client, but don’t provide services for free or give a heavy discount. These may look like lucrative ways to get clients, but all these tactics end up doing is diminishing the perceived value of your business. Clients start pushing MSPs for even lower prices when it looks like the MSP is open to providing a reduced price in an effort to get the customer to sign a contract.
Discounts must be provided the right way. If a client is insistent on getting a discount, you can remove some of the services from your bundles in order to lower the rates. Doing so maintains the value of your bundles, reduces your work, and removes some unnecessary services from the bundles for your client—it's a win-win situation for both parties.