Five years ago, my business partner and I were fresh out of college with nothing but an idea.
We knew that we had more insight on social media than most “adults” running ad agencies, which led us to start an agency that specialized in social media marketing.
We didn’t have a website or business cards and we definitely didn’t have case studies to show prospective clients. Nevertheless, we were able to secure deals, develop our brand, and grow into a team of 15 people with offices in New York and Boulder.
Here are the three steps we took to lock in our very first clients:
1. Be open minded, prepared and enthusiastic.
Attracting customers to a new startup takes a little preparation and a ton of cheerleading — you’ve got to be open-minded, collaborative and the biggest brand ambassador your company has.
To start an agency in the digital space, we knew we would need someone with programming skills, but also knew we couldn’t afford to hire anyone. We quickly connected with a talented college student who put together a company website and business cards in return for being our go-to guy for design and development projects.
We spent our early days telling everyone we knew or met about our new company.
In fact, the first client we had was someone who was sitting next to me at the poker table, and our second client was someone I got paired up with for a round of golf! In both cases, I continued to be outspoken about what we were doing, why we were qualified and how we could help their businesses.
2. Don’t be afraid to work for free, at first.
We also made it nearly impossible for someone to say no to our time, thanks to our prices. We were getting our foot in the door by offering our services for next to nothing, and occasionally working for free to build case studies.
We let our work speak for itself and, to this day, generate almost all of our new business through word of mouth.