Three Ways To Get New clients (or not)

I’m evil with my SEO bait, RSS friendly headline. Really these are the three easiest ways to spot the tire kickers and looky-loos.

Photo credit: cohdra from

1. Tell ’em it costs money. Easiest way to scare away new business.

  • When you get the “how much will it cost?” question, give them an honest answer: Depends on what you want or need, but it could range from C to Z dollars.
  • If a possible client does not realize that a 25-page custom website with a secure online store costs more than a 5-page static site with a blog, they are either going to require more hand holding or will fight you for every nickel and either way, not worth it.
  • Public relations and social media are not freeUnless the client is willing to pay for the monitoring, research, campaign strategy, the project’s not worth it. When I read LazySusan Monthly or follow the editor of on Twitter, it’s because it’s WORK.

2. Ask questions. I have a simple RFP response sheet of basic questions like this one about marketing goals, which often goes ignored.

  • “Do you have a time line? A budget? Are you the final decision maker? May I see current marketing materials?” If the looky loo cannot give you basic information about their business or marketing goals, they are either not serious about this or unprepared to invest in a public relations or social media consultant.
  • Heck asking for an email to follow up–after they called you, is a great way to kick a faker to the curb.
  • Bonus: Asking questions goes a long way to showing that you are not in “snake oil” sales but a legitimate specialist. No questions of their own = red flag.

3. Refuse the spec work, the handshake, the commission. You run a business, not a charity.

  • Show them samples from your portfolio, client references and referrals, white papers and case studies; give them a detailed, copyrighted proposal but not the full campaign complete with the “Just Do It” tagline or a free logo on spec. If they haven’t seen your online portfolio and profiles, another red flag.
  • If the formal business proposal and contracts you submit scares them because you mean BUSINESS and they just wanted a handshake and an email, there may be a reason.
  • More than just thud books of publicity placements, portfolio of design samples, I give prospective clients referrals from current and past clients, so they can learn about how the marketing and PR initiatives helped the business and added value to the company. But I do not work on a pay-for-play commission.Not only is it unethical, it’s unrealistic.

    A successful publicity campaign can generate great clip numbers, but if there’s no strategy to tie the PR back to marketing back to sales and the bottom line it won’t matter. Bad products, concepts, timing, bad clients, can hurt even the most creative campaign, and you know.. NEW COKE.

Small businesses can’t always afford a big firm, or have different people for the myriad of marketing communications functions. My solo PR practice is based on helping these people and if the project requires, creating a larger virtual agency to get the job done.

Everyone wants something for nothing. But you hurt yourself and your business to give it all away, and can waste a lot of time on dead ends.

So if someone makes it through these steps, then “Congratulations,” you have a new client lead. FWIW.

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7 thoughts on “Three Ways To Get New clients (or not)

  1. Davina, I love the way you list the money discussion first. I used to leave that until last. Now I’m not longer hesitant at all to tell them in a general way what it will cost…with tons of wiggle room as I learn more. But darn it if they can’t/won’t pay my rates I don’t want them. Period.

    1. Ann, Money is always the deal breaker, isn’t it? Everyone has a job to do, needs to earn a living and what we do–writing, PR, design, marketing–is a critical skill set not everyone has the talent/time to do. You get what you pay for, and if you’re not willing to pay what I’m worth, I’m happy to let you go elsewhere.

      Thanks for reading, replying.

  2. This is an excellent post and really hits home. I had an issue that came up recently with a prospective client, who I finally figured out, wanted me to work for free. Ha! I had to stand up and just say no. Thanks for reminding all of us how to spot these types up front to save a lot of time and energy!

    1. Amy, It’s tough lesson to learn, especially in today’s market.. there ARE times you just gotta walk away. Devaluing yourself, your work will not do anyone any favors. Thanks for reading, commenting.

  3. Excellent post…I always remind the team at Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) that there is a significant difference between “business” and “good business.”

    1. Marc, Smart point about “any” business vs. “good” business. We take the calls, talk to the leads, and invest a lot of time doing initial consultations. But it’s better to vet the clients first and make sure the project is a good fit; that’s just smart business.

      Thanks for reading, commenting.

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