Author: Karolina Seta, InvoiceOcean.com
Every entrepreneur needs a steer in the right direction from time to time, and professional consultants who can pass on their knowledge are at a premium. However, the financial market is filled with many larger and smaller companies and standing out from the competition is not an easy task.
How do you grow your business so you don’t get overshadowed by others? Check out the following tried-and-tested tips and get started today!
1. Set up smart goals
Staying motivated to achieve big goals is challenging. However, it gets much easier if you divide a large project into a few small ones – milestones. Milestones are points on your project timeline that are used to measure progress towards your goal. Here is a simple illustration of a milestone.
So how can you make a big goal easier to achieve? Start by determining where you stand starting out and what your main goal is. This will help you think through the smaller steps you need to take in pursuit of the end goal.
Don't just plan by yourself! Assessing your own resolutions and ability to execute them may not be objective, it's worth asking others to help you evaluate your goals from a different perspective.
Determine exactly what you want from yourself and your business – just as the end goal should be thought out and specific, so should all the steps leading to it. Plan both short-term and long-term steps.
Set new steps as you go and don't be afraid to take different approaches that you hadn't thought of before – always give yourself a margin for change. Don't beat yourself up if you don't accomplish all the goals you set. Focus on the most important ones and the ones that will be most beneficial to the growth of your business.
To help you stay organized and avoid getting lost in various tasks, consider using productivity software such as Asana, ClickUp or Trello. They allow you to set task priorities, major goals, reminders or time tracking reports, that will streamline your progress and increase your productivity and efficiency in your chosen goals.
2. Create a referral program
Growing your consultancy business is not only increasing loyalty of existing customers, but also scaling your new business effort. To draw the attention of new customers you have to think as one of them. What can attract people more than offering good deals and bonus benefits?
By using a referral program, you can incentivize your clients to recommend your services to others in exchange for being rewarded for doing so. How does it work in practice? The referral software keeps track of your clients' recommendations through referral codes or referral links. Later, as your clients collect points by attracting new customers, sending a discount code or another incentive is automatically triggered.
Keep in mind, however, that simply introducing a referral program won't do much good if your customers don't know that you offer them such an option. Let them know about it on your social media, via email, and definitely put information about referral deals on your website in a prominent eye-catching place like the example below shows.
3. Respond faster to questions
Maintaining great contact with customers and responding to their inquiries in a timely manner helps build customer loyalty. In other words, if you want to build a loyal group of clients, you have to take care of lead response time. Lead response time describes the average time it takes you to respond to customer requests. It doesn’t only affect the quality of customer service, but also the sales performance. After all, the longer the response time to customer inquiries, the lower the chance of closing a deal.
There are different ways to communicate with your clients. Emails are a good option as you can describe everything in detail and each party can always come back to the message. However, it may go down a long time before you get a response. A faster option is live chat customer service, which also benefits from compatibility with a variety of mobile devices and immediate responses directly from your company website.
The best performing option on the company-client line is phone contact. Nothing can replace direct communication, natural conversation and response in just a few moments. However, when running a business, you already have a lot of other obligations on your mind and there is not always enough time to make a phone call.
That's when it's worth reaching out for help from account managers. They can make catch up calls to clients for you to build a strong relationship with them, while you take care of other business activities.
4. Deal with late payments better
Hardly anyone enjoys admonishing a customer for money, which causes many entrepreneurs to struggle with late payments. However, maintaining a steady cash flow is a key point when running a business and you can't let your customers constantly stay in arrears with their payments. How to speed up the payment process?
Sometimes it happens that a customer has lost your invoice or received it in the wrong mailbox - it's a good idea to send the invoice message again first. It's also worth contacting the customer directly, either by phone or email, and asking them straight out about the delay in payment.
If customers continue to fail on their payments, it's time to get serious and charge them extra. Small amounts, even 2% of the total amount, will be sufficient here. The main goal is to let the client know that failure to perform their obligations has consequences. Remember, however, that it cannot come as a surprise for the client - you should include in payment information concerning additional fees to be imposed if delay in payment occurs.
Also, try to prevent late payments from the start. Offer your clients the possibility to pay in installments and the opportunity to pay in advance – if the client has paid part of the amount, there is a greater chance that they will pay the whole amount. It is also worthwhile to incentivize early payers and reward them with, for example, discounts on subsequent payments. It builds customer loyalty and encourages clients to pay fast - after all, everyone likes to pay less!
Also, invoicing software will help you track payment statuses, add a ‘Pay online’ button to the invoice, which will take the client straight to the payment or even add access to your account for your accountant. Additionally, you can add ready-made automatic reminders which will be sent to the client as soon as they miss the payment deadline.
5. Focus on the right marketing channels
It is said that a good product doesn’t need advertising. However, when the market is filled with competition, marketing is the key to business success. There are many advertising channels on the market to help you reach your customers. The trick is to choose the platforms that suit your business the most. Some of the most common and working channels are:
Reach your clients on Google by writing content! This is an inexpensive way to provide relevant and useful information to attract the interest of your consulting clients. You can start writing an article by choosing a suitable topic, writing an eye-catching headline, doing some keyword research, and creating an article that matches the most common search terms.
You can work to optimize your content before publishing it using smart tools. Frase is one of such tools that help you brainstorm your content ideas. However, you can also consider Frase alternatives if you expect more from the content editing tool of your choice.
Facebook is a great tool for building your brand. It allows you to post both formal and informal content, reach a wider audience through ads and create groups or events related to your business. Additionally, on Facebook it's easy to encourage users (your potential customers) to take part in discussions and give feedback, share your posts, and invite their friends to learn more about your company. Start by creating your Facebook business page to distribute content as well as to launch ads.
In order to build a professional brand, it is worth looking at Linkedin. Linkedin not only allows you to promote your business, but mainly helps you to create a valuable network of contacts and learn from similar companies. Take advantage of the opportunity to showcase your business to millions of users and build relationships that will boost your brand.
6. Educate your customers
New customers should know the rules of your business, but it's up to you to transfer all the information they need – you are the one who should care about growing your business and building your brand. After all, you don't want your customers to be confused and not know what they are dealing with. So before you do anything for your clients, provide them with clear terms and conditions.
Explain the nitty-gritty of your business and set the right expectations about project span, its complexity and main purposes. Also, inform your clients about the payment methods you accept, the due dates that apply and about imposing additional charges in case of late payments.
To avoid any problems due to misunderstanding your company's guidelines, it is worth reminding your clients about the rules that apply. Hold a discovery call first, then implement regular catch-up calls. Send regular newsletters to your clients to educate about the know-how of your business and inform about new rules introduced. This way, your clients will be up to date and won't miss a thing.
7. Fire problematic clients professionally
Without receiving payments for services rendered, all your effort put into the business can go to waste. Continuing working with clients who are late with payments after receiving a few invoice reminders can also be damaging for your business when you start hiring employees. By not getting your money on time, you run into risk paying your employees late as well. Sometimes, it’s worth saying goodbye. So how can you do it in a professional manner?
- Don’t fire them via email – you can set up the context for it by writing an email. However, always schedule a call for a serious conversation.
- Finish their project first – don’t leave work unfinished even if you no longer want to cooperate. No matter what the final decision is, mind your business reputation and do the last right thing for your client.
- Create a transition list – create the tasks to finish your cooperation and hand over your client’s project to someone else.
- Don’t make a client angry – finish cooperation on a good note, so your client doesn’t spread a bad word about your company (and angry clients can do it!).
8. Collect feedback
The development of the company is often influenced by the opinions of its customers. It is said that the customer is always right - after all, without clients your company would not exist. And the truth is, a dissatisfied customer is much more likely to share their negative opinion with others than a satisfied customer would be.
That’s why if you want to grow your brand and gain new customers, it is worth delving into the feedback that your recipients have to give. Whether it's positive feedback or, even more so, negative feedback, it will definitely be beneficial to take these voices into consideration and adapt to your customer's needs.
There are many ways to check how satisfied your clients are and what you can improve to apply to their needs. Sometimes it is enough to ask for feedback during a phone call - by reaching out to your customers directly, you will get the needed information sooner. Sending NPS surveys is also a great idea, but remember to keep them concise and specific in order to motivate the customer to complete them.
Here is an example of an optimal NPS survey.
If you have a business website, include a feedback window – it should be there when a customer is searching for specific information on your website and is more likely to give feedback on the delivered services.
9. Cooperate with subcontractors
Running a business entails various responsibilities and tasks that you won’t be able to handle on your own sooner or later. Taking care of everything by yourself can be overwhelming and laborious.
Don't overwork yourself and transfer some of your tasks to third parties – be it hiring tech talent or a marketing executive. For many entrepreneurs, building an in-house team has many advantages – employees become more familiar with the industry, client needs, and are always there to help. Additionally, by working together for a longer period of time, they will eventually evolve into a well-coordinated team that can contribute to a more effective implementation of the entire project. However, hiring the right employees takes a lot of time, money and recruiting skills to choose the best option.
For these reasons, before you start hiring employees, consider working with subcontractors and test out outsourcing.
By working with subcontractors, you will reduce the costs that you would have to spend on hiring and training your own staff internally. Additionally, you will test the areas of your business you really need long-term help with. Look around for subcontractors at local events, job boards or freelancer websites - like Upwork or Freelancer and choose the professionals that suit your company best.