As a service provider, your ability to find leads makes all the difference in your success.
When you don’t have a steady flow of inbound traffic, prospecting fills the gap and supplements your revenue by producing leads.
However, today’s online service businesses face more competition than ever so these leads don’t come easy. Knowing where to find potential customers is only half the battle. Your pitch, product and sales process is equally important.
Regardless of the online service your provide, it’s important to find a way to continuously find prospects without having to invest anything but your time. When you can go to your target audience rather than needing them to come to you, you can effectively grow your business and flood yourself with a continuous supply of leads. Whether you’re providing the services yourself or outsourcing the work to your own employees or contractors, good prospecting is a revenue boosting asset.
The most common online businesses for lead generation:
- Software development
- Web development
- App development
- Online backup services
- Research services
- Domain name selling
- Business coaching
- Personal coaching
- Courses / classes
- Technical support
- Planning services
- Search engine optimization
- Pay-per-click marketing
- Social media marketing
- Marketing strategy
- Content marketing
- Blog management
- Reputation management
- Video production
- Local marketing
- Infographic creation
If you have a knack for one of the above services or you’re confident in your ability to outsource and manage your clients, you can start prospecting using the below methods without even needing a website. While I recommend that you setup a website to begin driving inbound traffic, it’s not a requirement and you could close your first sale as soon as today.
1. Sites for Finding or Posting Freelance Jobs
Don’t underestimate freelance job boards, classified ad sites and job request communities. They’re often overlooked as many freelancers feel like they can’t find good clients there. While the businesses that use these sites may have more requirements and stricter demands, you can be selective about the clients you work with. Make sure your clients have accurate expectations and understand the work being provided. At the end of the day, you dictate who you work with.
When submitting a proposal, be sure to address each prospect personally and demonstrate that you have read their job description by cross-referencing their requirements. It’s also a good idea to have a complete profile that takes advantage of some of the advanced features the site has to offer. Add your resume, cover letter, personal picture, take tests and write a detailed headline. Try fill out every field available, the site may even award bonus account credit for doing so, which will allow you to apply to more jobs.
Open to Everyone:
- Mechanical Turk
- Help Cove
- Just Answer
- Short Task
- Demand Studios
- Smashing Jobs
- Genuine Jobs
- Student Freelancing
- People Per Hour
- We Work Remotely
- Writer Bay
- Freelance Writing Gigs
- Problogger Jobs
- Freelance Writing Jobs (Canadian)
- Online Writing Jobs
- Task Army
- Government Bids
- Journalism Jobs
For Designers and Programmers:
- Authentic Jobs
- Envato Studio
- Field Nation
- Computer Assistant
- Programmer Meet Designer
- Art Wanted
- Get A Coder
- Hexi Design
- Smashing Jobs
2. Niche Forums
Most niches will have exclusive forums that were created for those specific industries. Participating on these communities can help you drive leads.
Find forums in your niche, start posting and advertise your site in your signature.
Contribute to other threads by writing helpful responses and start your own threads with valuable content. The goal is to become a reputable member of the community so that you gain respect and appreciation from other members. If you use compelling copy in your signature and follow the practices recommended, it could be an effective way to get leads.
3. Question and Answer Sites
Answering questions and helping community members solve their problems and concerns can be a great way to gain respect and expand your reach.
When you answer another member’s question, you can drop your link as a “source” for the response.
The goal here is to get picked as the “best answer” for the questions you respond to. Being selected as the “best answer” will give you more exposure and traffic.
When you are selected as the best answer, it’s worth taking things a step further and attempting to rank that question in search engines. You can use manual link building and other SEO practices to accomplish this. By getting the question ranked, you’ll help drive traffic to the Q/A site, which will provide more exposure to your answer and your link. Sometimes getting these pages to rank is fairly easy because of the authority behind the site.
If you’re tempted to create a separate account for asking questions that you can then respond to, I’d recommend against this. Q/A sites are heavily moderated and their regulations strictly prohibit this. You can use private proxies to avoid detection but chances are it will get recognized and your accounts will be deleted.
4. Social Media Marketing
For service providers, social media can be a great way to attract leads. Actively engaging your audience on social media allows you to advertise your business while reaching out on a personal level. Social media sites have huge potential and if used correctly, they could play a major role in lead generation.
Beyond growing your own profiles you can use groups to gain more exposure on social media.
5. Cold Calling
While it may be tedious and discouraging at times, due to uninterested or even offensive responses, cold calling is one of the most effective ways to grow a business.
You can scrape phone numbers from local business directories or other communities. Sometimes it’s best to pitch a simple, low-cost service that will be easier for your prospects to see the value in.
Continue to push forward and eventually, one of your calls will end in a successful close. That one positive outcome can make all the hard work worth it.
6. Cold Emailing
Often preferred over cold calling, cold emailing is another cold prospecting strategy that may work for your service business.
Expect to get some negative replies, even emailing isn’t well received at times.
Keep your pitch short, personalized and focused on solving the problems of your prospects.
7. Going Local
Meeting face-to-face with local businesses can be a great way to promote yourself and get clients.
Local businesses are more likely to signup for your services when you’re there to pitch them in person.
If you’re having trouble finding clients online, don’t be afraid to reach out locally.
With a professional appearance, a strong pitch and some determination, going local could be the best move you ever made.
8. SEO and Content Marketing
When you have a website, SEO and content marketing is undoubtedly the best way to drive inbound traffic.
While some of the methods above are great for finding your clients where they already exist, this method brings the clients to you.
It’s the only method that doesn’t require direct time and energy spent for each lead you generate. Rather, you put in the work upfront by improving your website’s value and content strategy.
These are clients that will already have an understanding of what you do, why it’s important and why they need it. They’ll be more cooperative and willing to follow your lead.
When you’re an online service provider you’re going to have to hustle. These strategies really do work and it’s all about the effort you put in. It often takes time and consistency to see results so don’t give up on a single method too quickly. We have firsthand experience with drive leads through manual and semi-automated forms of outreach, we know it works. As an online service provider, let these strategies supplement your income and fill the gap in your revenue by producing leads during downtime when you’re not actively working on a project.