The Complete Guide to Signing Your First Marketing Client
Where to find them, how to present yourself, set up the meeting, and close the deal at the right price
If you’re young and have little experience, signing your first client feels like the hardest thing to do. Especially if you have no money to spend on ads.
This guide will teach you not just how to do it, but also how to make the process fun. It will show you that you don’t need to scared of signing new clients, and it will teach you to be confident about delivering results.
I highly recommend you read this article from start to finish, as we’ll cover:
- Where to find high-quality prospective clients for free.
- How to present yourself to prospective clients.
- What to look for when identifying prospective clients.
- How to set up successful meetings with prospective clients.
- What to do in that meeting.
- How to price your services correctly.
Let’s jump in.
This guide will give you a start to finish overview of what a successful sale looks like, how it leads to value for your client, and money in your pocket.
I’ll show you how you can get your first client to pay you a minimum of £750/month.
I used this exact method to get my first client, back in 2017, and it’s also exactly what I’ve been teaching others since early 2019. It worked for me, and it worked for others. For best results, follow this guide to the letter, and understand that you’re responsible for your results.
However, if you’re starting with zero experience, it’s imperative that you also see this as a numbers game. If your first meeting (using this method) doesn’t go well, it hasn’t cost you much at all. You can repeat the process to get clients and build up a referral base. From there, you can use other methods of getting clients once you’re making money.
I’ve taught people this method who’ve found it very useful and inspiring, but didn’t sign a single client from it. That’s because they didn’t apply it. It is up to you to use it.
I’ll answer some commonly asked questions:
“Why are you qualified to give me this information?”
I’m Ed Razzell. I started a digital marketing agency in 2016, set up to allow me to travel Europe whilst signing up clients remotely. I shared the lessons I was learning along the way in a UK Digital Marketing Agency Owners group. This led to people contacting me and paying for consultancy. I helped agency clients reach £15k/mo-£20k/mo with what I have learned so far.
“Lots of people say I’m too young, and I’ve never had a client before so I can’t get a client now.”
How old you are doesn’t matter. Especially if you’re selling digital marketing or social media services to businesses. If anything, being young is a huge advantage in this field because you’re native to it. You grew up with it.
They have problems that need solving. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be meeting with you. No matter what they say, they are there for a reason. It’s up to you to have the confidence in yourself to figure it out.
It’s extremely important to remember that people don’t care about you, they care about solutions to their problems.
When you have the solutions to people’s problems, you’ll get rewarded by the marketplace. People will want to pay you for your solution because it brings them value. Don’t think about yourself (“Am I too young?”) — think about the needs and wants of your prospect. Your prospect always thinks: “what’s in it for me?” and that’s the question that needs to be answered.
As long as you have the internal resolve to figure it out as you go, you’ll be fine. Ask your client the right questions to show that you understand the problem and show confidence in your body language.
Where to Find High-Quality Prospective Clients For Free
When you’re starting out, categorically the best place to sign up your first clients is through networking events for business owners.
Business owners at networking events are there for one of two reasons:
- They need to grow their business, and/or
- They are a people person and want to meet other people.
You’re going to go to this event because you’re looking to grow your business also.
You’re going to do so by finding others who are looking to grow their business — by getting them to ‘put their hand up’, and tell you that they want to start the ‘selling dance’ with you, because they understand that your agency services may be the solution they are looking for.
The reason that networking events are the best place to start is because they allow you to validate that people actually want what you have, before you’ve even started to sell anything.
If you were to dive into a niche straight away, you would be cutting yourself off from opportunities that you didn’t know existed previously. We’re purposely going broad to begin with, in order to gain experience, and find out which types of industries and clients we want to work with. Niching down and systemizing your client acquisition process comes later.
For now, we just need to know that someone is willing to pay for a result. Do this in the wrong sequence, and you can get very stuck very quickly. It’s really important that you do everything in the correct sequence.
Cities are traditionally bastions of business. Where there are businesses, there are problems that the owners need solved. That’s where you come in.
If you can find your nearest city anywhere on this list, there are no excuses whatsoever not to use this method. If you don’t have a client and you want a client, this works. This works just about everywhere where there are business communities.
For now, you just need to know that there are people willing to pay for your services. There’s no reason that we can’t move on to different types of clients after — but it’s much easier when we already have some clients.
Here are some great networking events for you to look at in your local area:
- Meetup.com — search for business networking events in your local area and go to the ones you can over the next few weeks.
- BNI.com — find your local chapter, and register to visit. You’ll need to pay for breakfast. If you don’t want to pay for breakfast, ring up the treasurer and ask: “Is there anyone who’s looking for a sub this week? I could come in on (day) morning.” They’ll let you know if there’s anyone you can substitute for — more details on this later.
- Eventbrite.com — similar to meetup. Search for business networking events in your local area and go to all the ones that you like the look of. Which should be most of them at this stage.
I highly recommend that you do this right now. It’s really important that you implement right now, otherwise you’re likely to forget.
You don’t need any business cards. I believe they are pretty outdated nowadays. If someone asks you for yours, just tell them that you ran out, and ask for theirs. (In most cases, this would make them a lead, by the way). If they don’t have any either, get a phone number, email address, and/or a LinkedIn connection with them.
At these events, we are not looking to sell our services to anyone. Under no circumstances should you start pitching your services to people at a networking event.
It makes you look like a salesman rather than a business owner. Instead, smile, look people in the eyes, shake their hand, introduce yourself, and ask them about themselves. Let the conversation naturally flow from there.
Each of the different networking events will be set up differently. Some will be rather casual. Others, like BNI, are quite regimented. All will have times of open networking and mingling — and that’s usually where the magic happens.
Just get to know people. That’s all we’re looking to do at this stage — there’s no pressure.
How to Present Yourself to Prospective Clients
Our aim at these events is to meet business owners, get to know them, and listen to their problems. It’s also a good idea to remember we’re aiming to give more than we take.
You can contribute meaningfully to your group, despite your inexperience. You can introduce people you meet with other people if they’d be great at solving each other’s issues. You can contribute your youthful energy, enthusiasm, and passion — highly sought after, and sometimes sadly in short supply in a room full of old business owners.
Here’s how you’re going to come across to people: competent, professional, friendly. You want to establish peer-to-peer relationships with people in the room. You don’t want to dominate them, and you definitely don’t want them having a dominant position over you.
I’m talking about the social dynamics of a conversation. For example, handshakes. This is one of the many non-verbal cues that signify the social dynamic of the relationship we have with the other person.
We’re aiming for a relationship where we take control and purposely set the tone of the relationship as being between two equals. (The one on the far right of the diagram).
The second-best scenario is you dominating your prospect. Not as good as a peer-to-peer relationship, because typically these kinds of scenarios are win/lose in your favour. It’s hard to keep clients happy in the long term like this.
Clients won’t want to keep paying if they are losing from your agreement. They’ll feel bad about it if you abuse your position. But, it’s definitely still possible to do a deal from here — you just have to make sure that you don’t make them feel bad too much, and that you’re rigging the relationship so that everything you do is win/win.
The only you both come out looking good in a dominant relationship with your prospect, is to make sure you understand their problems and you care about making their life better.
We’ve worked out that we are seeking only win/win scenarios, how do we make this happen?
Typically, this means that when we get into a sales meeting with a prospect one-on-one, it’s imperative that we take control of the meeting from the beginning by setting the agenda. Then, we purposely set up the conversation so it’s structured to seek a win for both sides. More on that in the sales meeting section.
“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” — Zig Ziglar
Remember not to sell at the networking events — this is key! All you’re looking for is people requesting meetings with you.
Do this by talking about them. Ask questions and actively listen to the answers. Be friendly, smile, and make conversation.
What to Look Out for When Identifying Prospective Clients
In this conversation, we are looking for people who are showing some sign that they are feeling pain.
Generally, there are three types of responses. Feigned interest, intellectual interest, and pain statements.
- Feigned interest is them being polite. They may quickly change the subject away from what you do.
- Intellectual interest is an indicator that pain exists. They are interested in the mechanics of what you do. It’s a good sign, and they may be worth meeting.
- Pain statements. These people may say something about being “sick, tired, frustrated, angry, or upset” about something in the related area. It will also be really obvious through their body language and voice tonality if you’re paying attention to them, which you should be by this point.
The further down this scale, the warmer the lead.
Someone who’s at intellectual interest isn’t a very warm lead. If they’re giving you academic answers at a networking event, they might buy if we uncover the emotional drivers when we meet with them, but for now, anyone who gives you a logical answer rather than an emotional answer is less warm of a lead. Both are still worth booking meetings with though.
Typically, the best types of prospects that you can meet at these events will be the ones who give you a card unprompted and ask that you call them. These are people who want a meeting with you.
The other types of good prospects are those who want to make an appointment with you there and then. Pull out your calendar and find a time that works for both of you.
If people ask you: “What do you do?” This is how to respond:
“My agency helps ________ to ________ by ________”. (You can fill in the blanks. A good starting point is: “My marketing agency helps small businesses to generate new customers through digital marketing and social media.”)
Then, let them talk. They’ll either make small talk, or they’ll change the topic. They are unlikely to be interested unless you dig for pain. More on that later.
Make sure your answer isn’t ‘me’ focused. Remember people don’t care about you. Your answer needs to tell them how you can benefit them. It needs to tell them what you do, for who, and what kind of problem you solve.
Remember — don’t bother with going into a niche yet beyond ‘small businesses’. If you haven’t had a client yet, you don’t know the problems you can solve for people. We stay broad, so we can sell to those who need what we offer. We’ll do so until we have the knowledge to understand what our agency does well, who we enjoy working with, and where we can really maximise our expertise. That’s the point where’s it’s worth niching down.
How To Set Up Successful Meetings With Prospective Clients
We now have a list of people whom we’ve met at networking events, they’ve given us a card and asked us to call them. Setting up a meeting with them is very easy.
If you didn’t schedule an appointment at the meeting, you can phone them and say: “Hi, it’s (name) from (event), I’m phoning as you asked to set up a meeting. When works for you?” Don’t overthink it.
What to Do in That Meeting
It’s really important that you don’t act needy in the meeting. If you’re thinking: “I really need this client!”, you’ll look unattractive. Focus on figuring out if they’re a fit for your business, and whether you can add value for them.
The sales process is like a dance. Your prospect has a routine they usually follow in the sales process (either consciously or unconsciously).
If you don’t have your own routine, you’ll default to their routine. Their routine doesn’t say: “Salesperson wins”. It says: “I get all the information I want. I win.” There’s nothing in there about you winning. They want your knowledge for free. They don’t necessarily want to pay you as often as you’d like them to.
So instead, you want to have your own routine. Your routine says: “We both win, or I won’t dance”. It says: “Let’s see if there’s a fit”. Choosing the song and setting the tempo that you and your prospect dance to is the only way to guarantee that you come out with a win/win outcome.
I have had considerably higher levels of success in selling my services to clients when I do not pitch my services to the prospective client. Pitching to a client is a version of the sales dance where you perform, and they sit back and watch. They get to judge, and you put in all that effort without knowing if they’re going to buy. It works sometimes, but not as often as my method — simply having a conversation.
I also barely do any of the talking in that conversation. It should be a 20%/80% split of the talking in their favour in an average successful sales meeting. So what you ‘say’ in the meeting actually matters very little. Saying specific sets of words in a script doesn’t necessarily lead someone into becoming a client.
The largest fundamental tenet of a successful sales meeting when selling business services is that the prospect feels listened to. They need to feel that you’re listening to them, and see whether you can help them.
This is what a good sales process that generates win/win or no-deal scenarios looks like, in terms of structure:
- Set up the meeting so you both win (or you walk away).
- Make sure you listen to the client talk.
- Ask questions.
- Take notes.
How To Price Your Services Correctly
Simple — as long as the agreed value of what you do for the client is significantly more than the price you charge, it logically makes sense to do business with you. But remember, nobody buys on logic alone. You need to target their emotional system too.
Here’s how you do that:
Your prospect is on a journey, as laid out on the line you see below. I highly recommend you draw this out for your prospect when you’re working out whether you want to work with them or not. They’ll find clarity in this alone, and it makes both the emotional and logical cases for working with you.
- Position A is where they are now.
- Position B is where they should be right now.
- Position C is where they could be in an ideal world.
For each of these letters, we want to work out how much each is worth in terms of revenue, and we want to work out what each means to your prospect.
We want them to realize that they aren’t likely to get there on their own, which will become apparent when we ask the right questions. For each of these positions we want to naturally work out an exact dollar amount, and then work out the why behind each one.
A number on its own means nothing. It’s really important that we work out the feelings behind each one. Ask:
- “Why are we at (revenue at A) when we want to be at (B)?”
- “What’s stopping you from getting there?”
- “Why aren’t you there already?”
- “What’s the plan to get there?”
The answers will clearly demonstrate whether they are worth being a customer or not. Your gut will tell you if you like the answer.
When you do this for a small business owner, you’ll see that their ‘gap’ produced (nine times out of ten) is way larger than the fee you could charge here. Paying £750 a month to close a £5000 a month gap is a no-brainer, for example.
If the gap you find isn’t large enough to justify paying your agency £750 a month, walk away. Politely end the meeting, send them to someone else if they need the help, and find yourself a different, economically viable client.
On the other hand, there’s no reason you couldn’t sell a client you meet for £1500 a month using this. The gap method demonstrates the value of your services in such a manner that the client comes to the realisations themselves, instead of you trying to tell them things that they may reject because they didn’t think of it first.
The beauty of this is that up to this point, we haven’t uttered a single word about our own services. They just know that we’re here to help and we’re listening to their problems. That’s much more valuable to them than what most people do.
Showing that you have their interests in mind differentiates you from 90% of agencies.
Again, it comes down to not being self-centered. If you try and work out how much you should charge your client before you go into the meeting, you are only thinking about yourself. How can it be in their interests if you haven’t even spoken to them about it yet? How can you know that what you do is what they need? You need to listen to a client to make sure they need your service and it’s going to help them.
Price can also be an emotional subject for many people. When selling like this, you don’t really want to take on any clients for under £750/mo. The reason is that it becomes much more difficult to get results for clients when the budget is lower.
High-budget clients are easier to get results for. When you charge too little, you’re creating a lose/lose situation in no-one’s favour — they are paying for a service that they can’t reasonably get for the price expected, and as a result, they’ll feel upset when you can’t deliver.
High-paying clients get you a budget to deliver results with. They respect you more and they’re typically happier people who are more fun to work with.
You don’t want to charge out agency services by the hour, or sell packages. When you charge by the hour, it’s not in the client's interest, because now you are incentivised to spend more time on the job than necessary.
When you sell packages, you’re mistaking the activity you’re doing for the value that you’re providing them. They really couldn’t care less about Facebook Ads. What they care about is making more money, so they can take some time off. Packages miss this point entirely.
One of the easiest ways to charge a high price is to pay a high price yourself for similar services. You’ll know what worked to get you there. It’ll prevent you from feeling uncomfortable about charging that amount — because it’s something that you’ve done yourself and felt good about.
You’ve just learned where to find high-quality prospective clients for free, how to present yourself to those clients, set up meetings with them, and seal the deal with the right price.
Take all these steps in order and, soon, you’ll have your first marketing client!