Starting any business, let alone a Salesforce Independent Consultant practice, regardless if you wish to scale or not, requires a lot of work. At times, it may seem like you can accelerate that by spending more money in big ticket items such as marketing events & campaigns to generate leads. However, in most cases, if you’re starting organically, you may not have the funds, or even if you do, you may overspend as you may not get the leads you’re looking for. So at the beginning it’s crucial to avoid oversteps. But it’s important to get started early, and there are a few key steps that ensure you can plant a few valuable seeds now to properly brand yourself and grow a large pipeline of prospects as you continue to scale.
We’re going to talk about a few things that are crucial when starting out to brand yourself and grow a pipeline of qualified prospects. These won’t happen overnight, and it takes an ongoing effort, but once executed (in this order), it’ll likely turn into a fantastic opportunity generation tool.
The key points are:
Which brings me back to those that are just starting out in their Salesforce Freelancing/Consulting venture. You may not have any people to prospect to, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest early in a way to nurture any leads you get. In fact, that’s probably the time you need to focus the most on nurturing any real prospect that you have.
This may mean that you’re setting yourself reminders to touch base via email, phone or LinkedIn every now and then. But eventually, as you get one or two projects, this may be difficult to manage, so you should start looking for tools that help you start organizing (and automating your efforts)
If you’re budget conscious like Julia, who asked during our webinar “What’s the best way to start a SF business with under $109 as an initial investment?”, then you may already be freaking out at this title. But fear not, as there are several fantastic automation tools that in some cases are free, and most importantly valuable for someone starting out. The amount of functionality that is delivered with respect to their cost is tremendous.
So once you use your $109 to incorporate, get your first client and get to collect on your first invoice, these tools should be something to seriously consider. And while I do see the value in tools like Pardot and other enterprise tools, the reality of it is that it’s probably far too much functionality for someone starting out.
We highly recommend using tools like ActiveCampaign or MailChimp, so you can begin your nurturing automatically. We use ActiveCampaign, and it’s fantastic as a starting tool that serves most of our needs. ActiveCampaign is extremely reasonably priced and allows you to go month-to-month, while MailChimp even has a free version for you to consider. If you have $10/month to spare from your $109 budget, ActiveCampaign is a good bet.
The second step is collecting a good list of prospects. Anyone can purchase a list of thousands of names, but the reality of it is the following: do they even know who you are? Will you just be spamming them (and perhaps hurting your brand) with cold emails. Marketing Automation tools do not take kindly to that, so it takes a bit of effort to get everything ready. Plus, an important thing is making sure that you find and define your niche (more on that below). But here is one recommendation: create a Form to capture information, place it on your website (or even host it in Google Forms).
As you do your networking, perhaps you’ll do a few webinars, collaborate on a few videos, or post some content on social media, make sure there is an easy way for people to access this information. This is your Call To Action. Content must be always relevant, but more importantly, whenever you deliver your expertise or promote yourself, make sure to never miss the opportunity to collect a prospects information (if they are willing to share it).
The next step is the one that requires perseverance: creating and delivering content on a scheduled basis. As an aspiring freelancer, your availability may change from week to week. One week you may have a few projects, another week you may have half of the week open. Whatever the case, if you publish content to your email marketing group, make sure to do so consistently.
One great way to do that is to have a realistic view of how much content (of value) can you genuinely create in a time period. Does that “open” week only come up once a month? Great. Take that opportunity to write 2-3 pieces of content that can be used on your marketing campaigns, and release one of them a month. Consistently.
That way everyone can expect that once a month they will be receiving something. And you can hopefully build it out so that you’re set for a few months out. The key importance here is that you can stay top of mind: people can be reminded that you’re there at a moment’s notice and that you’re continuing on with your craft and delivering content of value. That way, if they ever need someone with your set of skills, you’re one of the first names that come to mind.
Finally, as you figure out who your target audience is, make sure to write content that is uniquely yours. This could be content that’s targeted towards a particular niche, or with a particular set of thought leadership practice. The important thing is to know your audience. And the reality of it is that most people that are signing the contracts and writing the checks are not the Salesforce experts. They are the ones seeking them. So beware of making technical content your “uniquely yours” strategy, as it may not resonate with who you’re trying to reach.
Finding Your Niche
Finding a niche is a simpler task for some, but if you do know your niche, make sure you corner that market above anyone else. Niche’s commonly follow two types: either you’re an industry expert (healthcare, finance, etc…) or you are a cloud expert (CPQ, Health Cloud, Pardot, etc).
If you’re fortunate enough to know what your niche is, go with it. But if not, don’t worry. While a niche is certainly important, it is more important to start somewhere.
Many have certainly started that way, and with time, let their niche find them (in a sense). As you start getting more projects, you may find that you’re naturally gravitating to a particular industry, or getting more involved with a particular set of Salesforce clouds more than others. As you grow, narrow your focus then.
Finally, be realistic with yourself as you seek to build your audience. I once spoke to the CEO of a Salesforce Consulting firm with 70 employees and his exact words were “I would never take on an enterprise (500+ user) client from Salesforce. It would be irresponsible of me as my team would not be of a size and capacity to properly service a client like that along with all of our other clients”.
My point being, if you’re starting out, focus on smaller organizations. See who is using Salesforce through the Success Community or LinkedIn, gauge their company size by looking at their LinkedIn Company Pages, and build your target list by going to the places they go to (User Groups, Industry events, etc) if you’re not directly reaching out to them. Don’t try to get your foot in the door with a company the size of Coca-Cola, that’s probably running their own internal team of 20 people and an external consulting team with the likes of Deloitte, etc…
A final thought I’d like to share here. There are different strategies for different points in your path. In a great conversation with Ben McCarthy, founder of SalesforceBen, we examine a few strategies for different steps in the journey.
Make sure to check it out and see what makes the most sense for you.