Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Getting Your First Client

Many of the emails I get from aspiring planners ask me how I got my first client. I'd done weddings for family and friends on the east coast before moving to Phoenix but I never really charged anyone for it.

I didn't have my first paying client until six months after I launched my business in 2005. I don't remember exactly how the bride found me because at that time I didn't realize that I should be tracking that kind of information. (I do now!)

But after that, there was no miraculous flood of clients knocking on my door and I was still frustrated because I had no clients.

I advertised, I networked (not successfully but I was "out there") and I read lots of books on marketing and building a client base...but none of them worked really well for me. I must have changed my pricing a dozen times because I thought my rates were too low...too high. I wasn't getting vendor referrals because no one really "knew" me or my services well enough to recommend me. I had quite a few initial consultations in those six months but none of them ever turned into paying clients.

And then one day I had a phone conversation with the editor of a popular services guide here in town and he asked me how business was. I told him how discouraged I was that I hadn't been able to land any clients despite doing all the things I thought I should do. He told me that in the beginning stages of building a business, its not what you know but WHO you know. You've heard that before, right? Well that old adage is very true. Until your industry colleagues get to know your service style and you gain credibility, its going to be difficult to get clients.

My editor friend then asked me to make a list of everyone I know from work, church, my gym, my hair and nail salons...everyone. He said that these are the people that you have a relationship with and can vouch for your character.

Then he told me to indicate next to each person's name whether they know about my new wedding planning business or not.

When I was done, I had a HUGE list! A light bulb went off...

People will refer business to you when they...

Know you...
Like you...and
Trust you.


Tomorrow, we'll talk about a few ways to use the people you know to get client referrals.

Until next time...

Aspire to Plan!


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