One of the best ways to learn how to improve your business is to hear what’s worked for others who have come before you. For this article, we reached out to businesses big and small from within our network and put together 66 tales of how people got their first few Adelaide customers. We hope you find a few ideas in here that will help you open up some new marketing channels for your local business.
This article is almost 10,000 words so if you don’t have time to read it all, subscribe to our email list (blue form on the right) and we’ll send you our summary post in a few weeks time.
Please add your own story to the comments at the bottom and lets make this the most comprehensive resource for helping new businesses get customers.
Matilda Mack from Dearly my Frank
I told my friends I was starting to do freelance web design and had one believe in me enough to engage my services to build her professional website. She recommended me to a tradesperson working on her house and I ended up building a website for him as well. So with my tiny portfolio I built a website outlining my services and advertised for free on Gumtree. With low rates to begin with, I gained many clients and was able to build up my skills and portfolio, and my business grew from there.
David Thompson from In Property Design
I got my first customers through Strategic Alliances. I set up meetings with other businesses who also serviced the same target demographic. I then offered my unique services to add greater value to their customers. This serves as a win/win for both our businesses. It has also allowed me access to their database of clients (which would have taken years to build up). This strategy will build your business much quicker than going it alone.
Nicole Jones from Market Me Marketing
My business started on Facebook, and so I started networking with other businesses on Facebook. What I offered met a need for other businesses and I began to build a bigger vision of how good their Facebook page could look, and how amazing their brand could be represented on social media. My first few clients weren’t hard to find at all, they were right on the one platform I was utilising! So I sourced and connected with potential customers on Facebook, and continue to use it to this day.
Jo Quigley from Send a Gourmet Basket
Thinking back I’d have to say that my first few customers were from word of mouth and good old fashioned customer service.
Colin Slater, a Self Empowerment coach
As I was developing my coaching business, I offered free coaching sessions to get testimonials , which I then used in my marketing as I got better to move to paying clients. I did this as it was recommended by our mentors and trainers at The Coaching Institute where I received my qualifications/training for NLP Life Coaching.
Nicole Leedham from Black Coffee Communication
My first Adelaide customers were found through networking – getting off my work-at-home behind and going to events, including the Flying Solo monthly meetup and the SMART Business Association events down south. I also joined my local business association (and was soon conned on to the executive). Most of my local business has come through complementary business people I met at these events – graphic designers, web developers, other copywriters and so on. Quite honestly, I would say 90 per cent of my business – local and national – has been through networking (on and off-line), repeat clients and referrals. I do get some inquiries through my website and social media profiles, but a lot of them are tire-kickers.
Lisa Askwith from Apex BRS
My first few customers in Adelaide were from businesses I had worked in a B2B relationship with in the past. They had commented that if I ever decided to consult and help businesses they would love to contract me to help them. So I took them at their word, and when I set up my own business they were my first calls, and my first customers. They were great, and definitely gave me the extra confidence to keep looking for more customers, and further grow my business.
Frazer Kirkman from Frazerk.net
I spoke to many people I met about my skills, and eventually people who knew the value of performance coaching started to book me and tell their friends.
Ivan Vantagiato from Vantagiato
My first sale was a referral provided to me by a business associate I’ve known for years. In business I believe it’s critical to build and continue to grow your network. There is a famous saying “your net worth is measured by your network!”
John Kamuchau from Multiplier Technologies
I started working in the web space in 2004. My first client was a family friend who had just started a consulting business and needed a cheap website done. He then referred me to his mate, a lawyer who needed two websites done. After doing three sites, I had portfolio and some basic experience in e-commerce. This got me my first full-time job as a web developer. I worked full-time as a web/mobile developer then went out on my own in 2012. My client base has mainly originated from referrals. I invest a considerable amount of time networking, participating and volunteering in the Adelaide startup space. I would attribute the latest growth of my business to being part of the Majoran Distillery. My tip is get out there, get plugged into the entrepreneur community, do quality work as your reputation and quality are the biggest selling points in Adelaide. Have fun and lets make Adelaide the City of Entrepreneurs.
Jindou Lee from Happy Inspector
I rang them one by one and went in to see them. You can’t delegate sales.
Nicole Johnston from Mad as Designs
I dove into the market without really knowing what might happen to me. I’d already been exposed through a friend to what could happen if you didn’t read your customer base properly and I didn’t want to emulate that. I decided that a convention with thousands of people who could pass on word of mouth would be a brilliant place to start. It was tough, I was unknown and really needed to use my own positive flair to sell face to face. I spent a lot of time thinking that I had charged too much, there are even doubts now. But I had people come back the following year who remembered me and bought again, so I must have created a lasting impression.
Gregg Eaton, Business Adviser from Enterprise Connect
Go to business networking meeting (BECs, etc.) – meet someone new – get introduced to someone else – go to another business networking meeting – meet someone new – introduce them to someone else – get introduced to someone new – go to another business networking meeting – meet someone new – introduce them to someone else – get introduced to someone new – introduce them to someone else – ad infinitum – collect all their cards – collate all your memories regarding them – write them down – go to another business networking meeting – meet someone new – introduce them to someone else – get introduced to someone new – introduce them to someone else – they introduce you to someone new – remember someone not there who may just be synergistic to this new person – email introduce them – no strings attached – et cetera, et cetera. The best part is that it is quite a personal buzz to introduce two strangers who might each have opposite parts of that same puzzle and who, without you, may never have met. ….… and it works – what goes around comes around ! I got my first customers this way and doing it this way is a pleasure, not a chore. (400 prospects in 6 months !)
Luis Penascoza from Bookrin
I got my first 5 customers through my family and friends. I listed down which had a business or knew someone who had one. From there I caught up with my list of prospective customers and asked what their pain points were and if they would get value out of the service I was offering. From my findings they didn’t have the time and the know how to improve their online presence. As it was a problem for them, I advised them how I could help their business and signed them up as a customer on the spot.
Whilst family and friends can be more forgiving when you make and learn from your mistakes, the most important thing you have to build with your first customers is trust. When you start out, you have zero credibility and to build that, you have to place measures of accountability. Once you’ve built your credibility, your customers will naturally either recommend your services to other business owners, or you can ask them. If you’ve done a great job, they will advocate you and help you get your next 5 customers.
Rex Buckingham from Colour Thinking
First client I achieved was by targeting him and visiting him three times in five day span. First time I was knocked back, I took what he said, adjusted my proposal and came back, and again and then he agreed to trial and I worked with him for about three years. Second was a cold call, they saw the need and hired me. Third (and this is all around 35 years ago and still quite fresh in my mind), I targeted, we got on well,in fact very we’ll, at the end of the conversation he said thank you, I will call if I need you and I said, I am sure you need me, lets talk more about what isn’t working so well and I landed my third – staying on the conversation one question longer.
Michelle Prak from Prakky
When I set up my business, I was lucky enough to have already been in the game. (Before I set up my social media consultancy, I was a social media consultant within a PR firm). I’d worked hard to get a good reputation in the field and to build up my own personal brand. It was relatively easy for my first customers to have confidence in me and to approach me. So I had a handful of customers before I officially ‘set up shop’. I’m still grateful to them for the support they gave, but it’s important not to be complacent. As a sole operator, you need to keep taking care of customers and protect your reputation as you seek new ones.
Sam Russell aka Rusty from Southern Shooters
It has been a mix of friends, group buying, facebook and family. I started off advertising for 4 people to attend a trial course, through online forums and friends. From those four people I’ve had two other bookings develop. I’m in the process of running a campaign on a group buying site. We are on track to sell all of our vouchers. Time will tell how this goes in terms of repeat business and word of mouth advertising. I’ve been advertising on Facebook. This has resulted in great increases to my website traffic, as well as a few customers. This has been an excellent way to raise the profile of the business and put ‘shooting’ as an option for their next upcoming social event. Lastly, family have been very good to me. I’ve had 4 corporate bookings with another in the works, as well as excellent work of mouth.
Brenton Rolton from Smart Line
It was really about building a database of people I knew Contacting people that I knew through any means possible including telephone, facebook, linkedin and other social media and letting them know what I was doing and asking for business. The internet is a great place to find people in the majority of cases.Networking events are vital to build your base. Results can take time however they are worth it.
Vinh Giang from Vinhgiang.com.au
I remember it was about 2 years ago, I realised one of my other passions in life besides magic was speaking. I loved the feeling on stage and wanted to add more value to people than just entertainment and that’s when I realised I was able to fuse together magic and speaking and talk about important business concepts, by adding the magic I was simply making the medicine taste good! I remember every company I contacted would push me back and say “err.. you’re a magician? Vinh we are a Law firm? Sorry we are not interested”. I remember cold calling quite a large number of corporates and this was the reply I got each and every time.
To me this wasn’t really a let down as I knew the journey ahead was going to be difficult, I mean I was getting a result that I didn’t want so I knew I had to change my approach. I then went out and asked the corporates if they had social clubs and that I was more than happy to perform roving magic at their events for free. All of a sudden with this approach I was now getting booked nearly every weekend! However there was a problem it was only for magic and not speaking and I was not being paid. When I was out performing my magic I would always make my way to the partners of the firms and perform for them, not just magic though.. I was literally doing a mini keynote in front of them with magic as my metaphor. They LOVED IT! I remember after performing for a group at a networking function using this strategy I got my first gig and it was with Santos, it blew my mind!
Now I didn’t go into detail how many times I failed above, I mean it took me about 1 year to get it right. 1 year of trial and error at countless networking functions, cold calling, cold emailing, creating newsletters to give out etc I did everything I could. The lesson here is rather simple, if you are not getting the results you want just keep changing the method/ formula until you get the desired outcome. I believe that at the end of the day it all comes down to how bad you want it, if you want it bad enough and you never give up you will gradually find a way to succeed at your goals.
I can tell you now that I have made it, I’ve got my dream job. I am a speaker who uses magic as his metaphor when he speaks and now I share the stage with the most successful people in Australia and I got here because I wanted it more than anything in the world and I never give up on my dreams. Good luck.
Dr. Robert Muller from Tutoring to Excellence
I started an editing service as I had been working at Flinders University for about 17 years. Basically, I knew I had a market at my fingertips before I took the leap of working for myself. The key was to let as many people as possible within my circle of influence know that I was now working for myself and to let them know about my services. As people trusted me, I knew that I could develop a solid base of clients. From there, my client base has grown to include entire university departments, the international students unit, the AusAID program (which has now been changed in name but is essentially a very similar program), and I have also discovered, over the years, how to get found on the web which has helped to internationalise my client base for all my businesses.
Philippa Dominish from Adelaide Balanced Books (ABBS) Bookkeeping Service
It was by word of mouth. I was walking the dog and chatting to another dog owner I knew in the park about starting my bookkeeping business. She had an electrician friend who was looking for a bookkeeper, so I gave her my business card. That evening the electrician called me as he needed someone straight away and I actually went to see him and his other bookkeeper that night and it was basically a hand over.
Woj Kwasi from Kwasi Studios
I’ve been in business for a while now, as an employee, a freelancer, co-Director and now as Head Honcho of Kwasi Studios, here in wonderful Adelaide. I guess it all comes down to word-of-mouth since Adelaide is such a small city with little (and in some cases no) degrees of separation. When we started Wise Orange in 2008, our first clients were through our existing networks & relationships. The funny thing is that when I started KS we had no Adelaide clients but that changed through word-of-mouth referrals and is growing now through some pro-active relationship marketing, aka “networking”. Adelaide is a very people-orientated place, so if you want to do well in business, get out there and build your networks!
Karl Thew from Static Shift
I was working in the property industry when I decided to start a web design business as a part time venture. I got my first customer by offering to build a website for one of my old uni lecturers in exchange for him writing one article for my own website project (he ended up buying me lunch as an extra thanks). My second client was the company I was still working for full time…I built their website during my work hours when I had spare time. My third client was somebody who shared an office with us that saw that website. I did their site really cheap. My fourth was from an online small business forum and my fifth was from a networking event. So to summarise, I was willing to charge next to nothing to establish myself and get the word out. I started off with people I knew and became active in relevant online forums and went along to a few networking events. From there everything snowballed!
Michael Grace from MG Natural Stones
I created a list of potential clients that included companies from internet research and networking, but my first client was from Internet search, I contacted him over the phone and left him a voice message, he called back and we had a nice discussion and then I went to his office and showed him some business samples, he liked one of them and we discussed pricing and other terms and conditions, and that was my first sale.
James Hewison from Cave Cuisine
To get our first customers at Cave Cuisine, we found local and vocal advocates in Adelaide who were already eating healthy Paleo food. A simple Google search helped us find these on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Meetup and various other online and off-line fora. The meet-ups were the best by far. We found we could talk more freely with people face-to-face and share information and ideas easily. We found out from the people we met what was most important to them in a meal service. We offered our meals to the experts for free in exchange for their honest feedback. With this information, we honed our product and service to make it superior to our competitors. Before long our helpful food testers were anxious to share the details of our meal service with their followers and friends. While we still offered a discount to our food testers, we began to charge a fair price for new customers for the meals they ordered – delivered for free to a choice of pick up points around Adelaide. We used social media and our web site to engage our new customers, provide useful information about health, and drive orders. Once they tried our meals, our awesome customers began to recommend us to their like-minded friends, workout buddies, colleagues and families. Our customer base continues to grow which means we can reach more people and continue to make healthy food easy and convenient for the people of Adelaide.
Ilona Reid from Gossip Box
Started with my ‘old’ work contacts making them aware of my new venture Gossip Box and seeing if there was a ‘need’ I could assist with. Generally asking around and finding out who was receiving gifts during the year and from whom? Then contacting industry sectors I believed would ‘usually send’ gifts but interestingly the ones I thought would didn’t and those I thought wouldn’t have a need, did.
Progressing from there has mostly been word of mouth and for Gossip Box it really is the best form of advertising …. Mainly because people’s ‘expectations’ are set at a ‘standard’ level, hence we are usually compared with the ‘traditional hamper companies and expected to fit the ‘generic mould’ which at no fault of their own would be due to previous experiences they may have had – you know the one … Oh a ‘gift hamper’ company … their mind gives out “wicker baskets with average treats and more ‘padding’ (or cellophane) than product plus a basket I will hoard for a few months then finally dispose of ” and once they get past the ‘how different can you be?’ thought we find we are well and truly exceeding their expectations plus South Aussies really are keen to support local (once they know what local actually is)
Josh Pugh from Identiti Web Development
Identiti got its first client like many do, from a friend (friendships and networks will make for a lot of the work that start the business). I partnered with a friend’s small business by offering assistance with odd jobs around websites that they managed if they ever needed help or ran out of time. Their main focus was on databases and I noticed that the front-end website work was sometimes falling behind. This started as fixing problems that would arise, and then slowly I would be sent larger fixes or small projects, and finally onto near complete website projects for their range of clients.
After a year of helping out, we realised that there was actually an opportunity to do more with this, as my skills in the area had increased dramatically with experience; especially with clients. We approached the business and explained that we would be comfortable expanding their website offerings to the clients they had. After some discussion they instead offered to unload their current client list on us and step out of the web business completely. While this was incredibly lucky for us, the idea behind it is pretty standard. Starting small and taking on all the work you possibly can is what we feel is the best way forward. Experience with actual work is worth more than any degree or education in my opinion, especially to clients that want evidence that you know what you’re doing. So being able to show off even small jobs that you’ve done, you will immediately be able to build status and confidence within yourself.
Karyn Lanthois from Massive Empire
I had previously been involved with gaming and digital media so when I announced I would freelance my WordPress skills, anyone who knew me didn’t doubt my abilities. However my first few gigs were from word of mouth introductions through aquantainces. It’s suprising how often a casual social chat has led to a request for my business card. I have also noticed a direct correlation between being actively engaged in my community and further introductions. I volunteer my time to creative projects in Chinatown which has greatly expanded my network. I find many of my clients like having a local who will understand them who can meet up if necessary. Getting SEO right for “WordPress Adelaide” resulted in a huge increase to enquiries.
Casey Gollan from Casey Gollan Business Coaching
I employed a telemarketing company to target SME in Adelaide that were after business coaching help when I arrived here in 2010. That brought me in my first three business coaching clients here in Adelaide.
Richard Williams from Rhizome Creative
I maintain only a couple of Adelaide clients which have come through personal or business contacts. The majority of my work is for clients in Perth which have again come through business contacts. I find these contacts are very important; keeping in touch with your current (and past) clients is a worthwhile endeavour. I have found a niche where business owners need someone who knows what they are doing; not only in SEO and Adword marketing but also can reliably maintain their website content. This has taken some time to accomplish and the courage to leave a relatively good full time role two years ago to concentrate on my own work. I focus on WordPress website development and eCommerce using the WooCommerce platform.
Tamarra Gollan from Pilates Strength
I started Pilates because I fell in love with how much it helped my dancing career, by overcoming the injuries I had from years of dancing. When I first started my Pilates business I started with a handful of friends in a studio room that I rented out on King William Road in Hyde Park. They too fell in love with what Pilates did for their bodies and soon their friends decided to book in for a class. Within a year I took over the lease and it’s now our head quarters for our growing business.
Marion Drazil from W.I.N. MasterMind Group
I gained my first clients through several regular networking groups and a mastermind group I attended. I had already establish some credibility through my presentations and being able to provide answers to questions that had been brought up over a period of time at these meetings.
The second successful method was to send personal invitations to an information session for people whom I had met that had indicated they were interested in what I was offering and wanted to know more. These were both members and presenters, people whom I had established some rapport with at networking events.
Both of these had proven to be successful methods for me.
Adam Lobbestael from Razed in Flames
My first few customers came by word of mouth. I was doing something completely different that many of my customers had never seen… FIRE DANCING! After the initial rush of customers quieted down after the novelty of the product wore off, I realised there had to be a better way to keep a steady stream of customers coming to me for services. SEO was quickly adopted as my primary form of client acquisition.
Jenny Hassam from Rhetoric Communications
When I first started my business my aim was to work with business owners offering public relations services and advice in an online capacity. I spent my first month working with a graphic designer to set up my website with the aim of launching it through a friend who was a successful business coach for women. As a back-up I also looked at local networking opportunities and found Majoran Distillery on Twitter and decided to pop in and see what the co-working space was all about. They were so friendly and interested in my new business idea and it was great to know that when I was in the City I had a place to work from.
I also found out about a local event run by The Entourage which I attended and talked about my business in front of the audience at that event as part of their workshop style. My first client ended up being Majoran, who rang me two weeks later and I ran a full PR campaign for the first SouthStart event which gained TV, print, radio and online coverage locally and nationally. My second and third clients came from the Entourage event. It was all very quick and exciting. So seven months on my clients are more Adelaide-based entrepreneurs who are looking for national coverage, but I have also leveraged the online space since too and work with entrepreneurs in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney on a variety of fun campaigns.
Julia Chau, Designer
My first few clients from Adelaide are mostly from word of mouth and old contacts. Although the most interesting one was actually on the operating table, where my anesthetist was making small talks and asking what I do for a living – I ended up receiving a phone call from him the next day for a job which is still on going now. I must say that is the oddest place to meet a client – just a few seconds before being put to sleep before an operation! I find that the key with finding customers in Adelaide is mostly about who you know and being at the right place at the right time – apart from the obvious of being good at the service you’re offering, be sure to expand your network at every opportunity available!
Megan Drechsler from Paper Clip Ideas
The desire to live in harmony with my own values and ideals was a big motivation for me in starting my own company, so from the beginning I made sure I was clear about why I was in business and the kind of principles my business would operate under.
Once I’d worked out what that looked like I looked around for places and people who shared those values and found ways (small and big) that my business could add value to their purpose. For me, Co-working spaces including Hub Adelaide, Adelaide Business Hub and Majoran Distillery were really instrumental in finding people whose values matched mine. Even if co-working isn’t your thing, finding a community with common values as your ‘home base’ is really valuable just for the moral support.
After a short time I started to get referrals through my new networks, customers with values like mine. I like to connect first with a phone call and ask questions to work out if I can add value before meeting so I don’t waste anyone’s time. I also offer a free online questionnaire which for potential clients is a valuable strategic exercise in itself. This is a good ‘qualifier’ for my service as I can gauge the client’s needs from the answers.
Business growth hasn’t been fast, but it has been of a high quality, and has happened with minimal business development effort and very little formal ‘networking’ – something that’s important when you’re building a company from scratch in under 30 hours a week!
Mark Angus from Cadogan & Hall
I set up Cadogan and Hall when I arrived back in Adelaide after having lived and worked abroad for almost 25 years, and so at that time I had almost no network of business contacts at all. I am grateful that my first few pieces of work came from personal recommendations, as this then enabled me to start to build up some contacts and slowly establish my own network in Adelaide. Dealing primarily with small- and medium-sized enterprises, these sorts of personal recommendations were, and continue to be, crucial to a business like mine. Since then, I have been able to broaden my network of contacts through creating and maintaining a significant online presence, which I have found to be vital when you’re working as a freelancer. I’ve worked hard to establish this, but it has been worthwhile as I increasingly have people contact me who have seen articles, blogs and other pieces online that I have written for others. Similarly, I have found LinkedIn to be extremely valuable, as several of the larger corporate clients with whom I work have come to me after seeing my profile and portfolio online, so the time I’ve spent developing and maintaining my LinkedIn pages has also been very useful.
Michael Reid from Majoran Distillery
We started Majoran through our network. We put a line in the sand and said ‘until we get 10 people who signup’ we’re not going to worry about a lease or any of the heavy, expensive work that leasing a physical property involves. We put up blog post, sent it out to our networks, and spoke with everyone we could about it. We ended up getting 6 people keen and could see that if we actually started something more concrete there were enough people sitting on the fence to make it worthwhile so away we went.
James Martin from Insider Guides
In our business, we had to sell advertising for a print guide book for international students before we had the money to print it. I was a poor uni student, so I convinced our would be printer to print 50 copies of an 8 page brochure for free, which would include sample content, graphics, pricing etc.. It was essentially a teaser to what the guide would look like if when we go to print. The promise was, if this teaser brochure worked and advertisers bought an advert, the printer would get the job of printing the whole lot. With that teaser, I cold called businesses in Adelaide and had a lot of meetings. I approached ones that had a real need to reach international students in Australia. I pre-sold adverts, raised the revenue, and used the funds to print our first edition. The second edition was a much easier sell as we had an example of the first edition.. Today, we print over 100,000 guides in 5 cities across the country.
Liam Carter from Cartel Media
I’m someone who worked for other businesses while building up to start my own operation. I think, if you do the right things while working for somebody else, then people want to do the right things by you when you work for yourself. Clients are often people who I have known for a while. In many cases, they never purchased anything from me, until I was working for myself. Or maybe they just liked my new website featuring scantily-clad ladies, with machine guns. I can’t be sure…
Daryl Clarke from Enarah Web Design & Integrated IT
My first few customers in Adelaide came through volunteering my skills and time with local clubs and schools. Through these networks, people began to ask me for advise and expertise about their home computers or setting up their small business websites, at which point I had a viable business.
Phi Theodoros from Phi Theodoros Multimedia & Events
My first customers came from existing networks through volunteer work – I’m a massive advocate for volunteering and building not only your skills but also your networks. Volunteering is totally invaluable, I wouldn’t have the skills that I now use in my business if it weren’t for my volunteer work over the past 5 years.
The other way that I gained clients and leads for future work – is through working from Hub Adelaide a gorgeous Co-working office space on Peel St in the city. I was lucky enough to be one of their first Young Entrepreneur Fellows and was connected to the space, mentoring and support for the first 4-6 months of my business existing. As a young entrepreneur (I’m 23) with a super young business (launched November 2013) this was an amazing opportunity for me! I think that simply looking at working in co-working spaces or for opportunities to be mentored or connected to any similar program is so important, especially in Adelaide where a lot of people are connected and can help refer you on to the next person, organisation, client or lead.
My advice is get out there and begin networking, at events, by volunteer or simply by choosing innovative new workspaces – they may not directly introduce you to clients but they will connect you and point you in the right direction whilst giving you a solid grounding and repute.
Steven Travers from Henley Business Consulting
We have always been predominately word of mouth. Our first couple of customers were friends we did pro-bono jobs for, and we networked out from there. To some it up, it was really a case of speaking to people and asking if they needed a bit of help.
The focus that we have held is to work with startups, particularly people that have fantasic ideas, but just need a little help on the business support side. Setting this focus stopped the scattergun approach to our selling and gave us a target market.
Matthew Blackford from LimeSquare
When we first started the business we were very new to the industry and didn’t have any existing contacts. We setup a temporary website and ran a short Google AdWords campaign targeting the Adelaide area. After spending about $300 we managed to convince two clients to use our services. They weren’t high-value projects, but it started a referral chain that has kept us going over two years later.
Peter Cornish from Succinct Ideas
My first clients came from my presentations on how to get sales leads from your website. I managed to get in front of business owners through network groups, industry associations etc. spruiking how to ‘Tune your Website for Sales’. The opportunity that SEO/SEM presented was poorly understood back in 2005/6, and it was hard work trying to get client engagement.
Each of my presentations included sampler ‘mini-reviews’ of a few attendees’ websites, then I offered to provide free website ‘health checks’ for any interested attendees. A presentation feedback sheet included an opti-in and so I subscribed those attendees to my ‘Succinct Update’ monthly newsletter.
It was all about getting in front of prospective clients to ensure they understood how my services could help their business. Frankly, nothing has changed. Its still about pitching your value to your marketplace.
Chris Schwarz from Digital Leaf
In 2009 I was unemployed and very bored. Naturally I turned to the internet & became obsessed with Twitter so much that I wrote a 70 page PDF Ebook about how to use this medium for business marketing. I tweeted out to a few local businesses who were trying to use Twitter and gave them a free copy. I ended up consulting one of these businesses with AdWords. This was my first paid consulting work. Since then I have always valued offering huge amounts of free advice to up sell yourself to more work.
Joe Rossi from Sapphire Developments & Epic Projects
I got into telephone contact with:
1) People I knew in my industry and explained I now work for myself. They were past clients or contacts,
2) Cold calling a number of companies out of the phone book,
3) Emailing potential clients, cold emails or people I may have known in the past,
4) Communicating with friends and family.
When I co-founded SolveIT Software in 2005, I was new to Adelaide and didn’t know anyone in town, so I contacted in-busi
ness magazine and said I’d like to write a regular column for them about technology in business. It was a win win situation for them because I said they would have complete editorial control and they wouldn’t even have to pay me. They agreed and I started contacting the directors of local companies, saying I was a freelance writer for in-business magazine and that I’d like to interview them for a story, which was all true. I got plenty of people saying yes and went to meet with them at their offices. At the end of the interview I would make suggestions to help improve their businesses and they would ask me if I could recommend anyone to help them, to which I would reply; “well, actually, this is what my company does.” I got a quite a few of our first clients this way, including Intercast & Forge, Australian Vintage, and ETSA.
Frank Templeton from Free the Apps
Getting customers for us was all about leveraging the people we knew, whether that was family, friends or business colleagues. The closer you can be to those you’re trying get a sale from, the better your chances are of being trusted to deliver (in either your service or product).
Ultimately that’s what it comes down to, people need to trust you to deliver and trust that you will be around if it doesn’t work out – that doesn’t come from talking or selling your way into it. It comes from them being told by someone else (family, friends etc) that you are ok and can be trusted.
Honest testimonials can really help with this and if your selling online, good honest reviews are like gold!
Barnabas Smith from Barnabas Smith Music
My first client engaged my services after I contacted them as part of a phone call and e-mail blitz looking for employment.
My second client heard of my business through word of mouth and contacted me.
My third client booked me on the recommendation of a third party which had been engaged as part of the work with my second client.
Chris Hooper from Cirillo Hooper & Company
We rounded up everyone we knew in our target market and asked them what they wanted from their accountant. We then asked if you found an accountant that did all those things would you switch. They all said yes, and they became our alpha customers.
James Polacek from Cloud Mojo
Networking and past connections have been my greatest asset in Adelaide, and have led to not only my first few, but many subsequent customers. With a vast professional network, my marketing budget is almost non-existent, and almost entirely unnecessary!
Vishal Jodhani, Business Design Catalyst
1. Branding & Credibility – Being an outsider in a new city was challenging at first. I had to take some time to really articulate what I had to offer (based on what I felt the market needed) and then put myself out there. I spent time building a website, explained my services, shared my story, got my past clients to share their experience (testimonials), and went “live”. I got myself some MOO cards, connected with the right groups on social media and offline, and when they traced me back, there was a lot more information and background on offer.
2. Networking & Community Building – I spent the first few months meeting as many people as I could; I joined different meetups and professional associations, invited people to coffee catchups so I could learn more about the local market – what’s needed, what works, what are some gaps that could be filled in… Also, even in those initial stages (as an outsider), I started connecting people and groups to each other.
3. “Getting my foot in the door” – This phrase came up too often during my time in SA. Instead of worrying about how to land that first big project, I started focusing more on just getting my foot in the door. The initial conversations in-person, taking on a smaller projects, free presentations and workshops… allowed me to just give these initial clients a “teaser” of my work, and allowed them to better understand the value I could add. Actions, not words, helped to build trust and rapport and sign on those initial clients.
And besides all of the above, what definitely helped were some healthy doses of patience and perseverance…
Matthew Garcia from PetsGo
PetsGo started with an advertising budget based around a Saturday night out in the city. We created a low spend campaign on Google using their ad-word platform, knowing we couldn’t compete with the big players out there who were spending $000’s a day on online marketing. We needed to do something different and stand out in a crowded market. We achieved this by reverting to something that has worked for many years but seemed neglected in the Pet Food & Product industry: find the consumer in the public. In our industry they aren’t hard to spot – usually with a leash in hand and a furry family member on the other end. Every day, I would takeout Harry (our Tibetan Mastiff) to the local dog park, beach (morning and night and boy did he love it!), basically anywhere I thought we could target a pet owner. Within hours we could see results. We didn’t just see hits on our site but also purchases. We saw results by giving away little bags of training treats along with a discount code voucher. We ensured the location of our marketing was varied, so that time wasn’t wasted targeting one location when we could get a better return on our time in other locations.
Jo Shanahan from DVE Solutions
When getting started in business it’s often very much about using your own networks. This is especially true and a powerful tool in Adelaide where everyone knows everyone! When we started DVE it was just mum and myself, we worked mostly in the University sector and mum particularly had a lot of personal contacts there after working in the industry for over 10 years. We found it quite easy to get initial customers and from there, we just made sure we did a really good job, and then referrals became the most frequent method of attracting new clients.
Ben Luks from OMP & LEAPIN
Networking! Relationships matter. By knowing more people, more doors will be open for you. Our first few customers at LEAPIN came through our networks and we are so grateful that we invested the time to build those relationships. I would encourage all business owners in Adelaide to do the same. In this interconnected world, one new contact can lead to many more. The trick is to start making those connections and the rest will follow!
Kelly Baker-Jamieson from Edible Blooms
Edible Blooms opened its doors in 2005, providing a unique gift delivery service across Australia, including same day delivery. A fresh alternative to traditional flowers and gift baskets, the product range contains great gift ideas for men and women including chocolate bouquets and chocolate flowers, edible arrangements of fresh fruit bouquets, cake pop bouquets, cookie bouquets and gift hampers.
The first of its customers were acquired through a personal email sent by the business Founder, Kelly Baker-Jamieson. Kelly emailed 50 people the night before the first store opened with an offer of all fresh fruit bouquets half price for the first week. That one email started a viral email campaign and in the first week of opening, Edible Blooms made $1,000 of sales. Word of mouth marketing has been a strong promoter of our brand ever since. Nine years on in the business journey, that email data base of 50 people has grown to 100,000 people that receive our regular special offers and exclusive news updates.
Anna Butler from Copybreak
As a copywriter, I sought out a collaborative relationship with a complementary service provider: a local website/graphic designer. Ironically, she was hoping to find a local copywriter to refer to her clients to. Since most people consider web design well before they consider the content of their site, Sally was able to refer quite a number of Adelaide-based clients to me. Together we have successfully completed a number of online and offline projects.
Brendan Levi from The Hungry Hippo Cafe
The concept of a board game cafe was new to most people, ourselves included, we believed that the best way to test our business model was through prototyping, so we setup some ‘trial’ nights at the cafe where we invited our friends and family to be our customers for the evening. We watched, listened and talked to the customers throughout the night about how they were finding the experience; the feedback was invaluable to making refinements to how we organised games, staff and the cafe layout.
One of our close friends is a videographer, so we came away from the trial nights with some great media content which we fed into a very structured social media campaign focused around Facebook and building hype in preparation for the grand opening.
Simone Douglas from Social Media AOK
Our first twenty customers for Social Media AOK came from an email I sent out to all my LinkedIN Connections letting them know we had launched the business and asking them if they wanted to catch up for coffee and touch base. No hard sell just relationship building. It worked a treat because a lot of those coffees I had resulted in referrals for us.
Jaroslava Svensson from Website Adelaide
I have lived and worked in Sweden, UK and now in Adelaide. Finding clients for my business has worked very differently in every country. For example, when I first arrived here in Adelaide, I tried to focus my marketing around the experience I have of building websites and offering SEO, but I soon realised that no one was interested in my long list of international clients as endorsement. They wanted to see local testimonials.
I volunteered as a computer program teacher to get to know local people. This led me to my first client and a few more. I noticed Word of Mouth is very important and therefore also networking.
I started to network and talk about my speciality area. I try to help those I meet with my advice and show that I am passionate about my business. This way you can connect with them on a deeper level than just exchanging a nice business card. I would say it helps to passionately help someone who expresses a problem with your thoughts and share your knowledge. This has now resulted in a steady growth of a local client base.
Good Website and SEO
Eventually the marketing of my website and the SEO gave result. I am now also getting requests directly to my website as well as from customers who have found me on Google.
I would say a good website, good SEO and extended networking have given me a great start here in Adelaide and I am excited about the future.
Tony McCreath from Website Advantage
I started out doing a lot of pro bono work for local businesses that I liked. A local café, a Mexican shop etc. This gave me time to refine what my product was going to be as well as helped me learn more about my chosen field.
My first client made it easy for me. He was paying a fortune for Yellow Pages. We looked at his Analytics and it showed that they generated about 10 visitors a month for him. I was half the price. I said if I could not generate 10 visitors a month I would personally go door knocking to get them.
My general tactic at the start was to be cheap. I was on $20/hour and that was only when I had work. I had savings to help me get going. After about a year I had all the clients I could work with. And demand meant I could raise my prices.
Karen Zaskolny from Copy with Cream
I’d been working overseas for a few years for multinational ad agency, J Walter Thompson, in Singapore and Hong Kong. When I triumphantly returned to my hometown Adelaide, I had a swag of awards and a new catchcry — ” Yeay, websites!” There was just one little problem. The year was 1996. Wa-a-a-ay too early for “Yeay, websites!”
I couldn’t get a job. Agencies here were still in TV, Billboard and Big Press Ad Land. So I decided to freelance and started Copy with Cream. My first clients were some of those ad agencies around town, and I worked mainly on direct marketing or brochures. I got those gigs by targeting the ad agencies, large and small. Calling up, setting up appointments with the creative directors and going in to show them my portfolio.
My other early clients came via the graphic designers I used to work with at The Advertiser, before I’d gone overseas. Those days there was no Google, no Facebook, no LinkedIn and I had no idea what ‘networking’ was. It was a hard slog, but gradually, one job did lead to another. It does get easier.
Jamie Stenhouse from JamieStenhouse.com
I didn’t know it at the time but my first few months in business were spent going after the 3x F’S. Everybody should try to capitalize on all of these F’S first before spending a single dollar on advertising they are.
Friends – People who support you no matter what, even in your latest business venture
Family – People who also support you no matter what but who may actually need your service
Fools – People who you can capitalize on because they haven’t got any idea about what they’re doing but they have money. We all know these people, let’s be honest.
I approached my closest networks and friends first, then I went onto my family members. From there I bounced back to friends and had them connect me to their family members which ultimately expanded my reach into the ‘fools’ category.
From there I remember just grinding it out, pure hustle. I remember printing 1000 DL flyers in 2008, and walking around to business shop fronts in the middle of the night. Slipping them under the door at night and then moving onto the next business. Even though I was very new at marketing in 2008 I knew the basics, always follow up. The next morning I woke up early and I visited every single business that I handed a flyer to, all 1000, I walked in, asked who owned it and then asked them if they received my flyer this morning. The answer was always yes, and then I would lead in with a pitch. While this was an exhausting exercise it did acquire me clients and some very profitable partnerships.
Leila Henderson from Newsmaker
First customers came via my PR friends, people I’d got to know over many years in journalism. We still have some customers from that era who have stuck with us through all our ups and downs.
As soon as we launched version 1, the service became popular in Google. It was the first Australian-owned service to be accredited by Google News, thus companies who were monitoring competitors using Google Alerts would find Newsmaker and sign up. It was self-promoting service and to this day it is promoted mainly through organic channels including social media.
Richie Khoo, Ruby Developer
When I got really involved in the tech and co-working scenes in Adelaide I made new friends. Over time we’ve grabbed coffee, discussed life & projects and sent each other referrals. It’s all happened pretty organically since I started getting involved in more meetups and co-working regularly. I haven’t focused on finding clients I’ve focused on helping the people around me succeed even when it has nothing to do with my business of crafting custom web apps.
I also think having a solid LinkedIn profile and being present on twitter also helped people find me. It also helped them learn all about me and what I could offer before they got in touch. In a few cases it led people to hunt me down as the person they most wanted to work with.
Go to meetups, build the community, grab coffees and assist those around you.
Do that and get active on Twitter & LinkedIn and people will come.
Leticia Mooney from Brutal Pixie
While digital is exciting and sexy, nobody is going to refer business to you if you don’t first work on the relationships. In the 21st Century, doing that in person is more important than ever.
Jason Cross from Aston Club
Aston Club is unique in comparison to other app based businesses because we technically only have one customer – the consumer, but for Aston Club to work we have to forge partnerships with Point of Sales companies and also Venues themselves.
The app is free to download for consumers, so getting ‘customers’ really comes down to marketing. We have gotten customers via write ups on sites like shoestring.com.au and startupsmart.com.au and also ran Facebook ad campaigns along with status updates on the venues we are going live in. However, our initial first customers were from the venues. When a new venue was ready to accept Aston Club, we would hold a small event where we would hand out vouchers and educate the users face to face on what Aston Club is and its benefits compared to using cash or a credit card.
Getting venues on board was relatively easy because we weren’t asking for money upfront and really putting our balls on the line. If no customer used Aston Club in the venue, well the venue doesn’t pay us anything. Our initial point of contact was cold calling and setting up a meeting to come down and show the venue owners the app.