Aaron EvansTraveling around the world & helping test software

Freelance consultant with over 10 years experience.

Specialize in test automation, continuous integration, cloud test environments, agile processes, distributed teams.

Worked with Microsoft, AT&T, Boeing, Amazon, Alaska Airlines, Ancestry.com and several startups.

Recent Answers

Demand less of your leads. Offer more for them.

You need to find people who want what you're selling. You can't afford to weed them out. So your ad campaigns need to be specific. It's ok if they will only attract a small fraction of your potential market. As long as they only attract those people and no others.

It's not just about paying for ads, or clicks, or conversions. It's about the time it will take to weed them out.

The tried and true method is to get people to give you their email address. But that's getting harder, and it's getting easier to give a fake email address for spam. Even if they want what you're giving -- they can go setup a hotmail account and never check it after they've registered or gotten your download.

So what you want to do is offer them something for free -- no obligation. Share your knowledge. Entertain them. Get them coming back for more, because they want to.

And then, after they've made a commitment -- clicked a link, read an article, downloaded a whitepaper, etc. Then you can ask them if they'd like to hear more.

Not if they want to buy -- if they'd like to hear more. You give them 5 free tips via 5 weekly emails. Or you offer a free download. Or a trial membership. And then when that's done, you can ask if they'd like to hear more.

They will always know how to contact you to buy.

Prove you're an expert.

Write a blog, post videos, publish a book, build some software, write a detailed report, interview other experts.

There are two challenges to getting customers:

1) Getting noticed and
2) Convincing people you can deliver

Doing the above is a good step to do both.

Set up a booth in a public place, and find a cute little old grandma or someone who wouldn't normally be your customer and have them be your guinea pig: Live, in public. Record a video and post it on YouTube. You might even make the local news.

There are two tracks to consider -- are you targeting businesses or consumers with your startup (B2B or B2C)?

With business, it's about getting access to stakeholders and decision makers. With consumers, it's about getting traction and building momentum.

Offering something for free is a great way to start. It could be a report with data you've collected or analyzed yourself, or it could be a free online tool or open source software.

But you've still got to get noticed -- and that's different for each group of customers. So, it's a good idea to start by identifying the customers you want to reach. And then reach out to them directly.

It's ok to cold call or run targeted ads to them, even if that's not scalable. What you're trying to do here is prove your market -- do you have the right solution -- and are you positioning it in the right way to the right people. And who knows, you might get lucky and find (and convince) an influencer that you've got the right solution.

Ultimately it comes down to finding those influencers. Those are the people who are early adopters -- experimenters -- who will share their experience and influence others.

Chase Ambulances :)

Seriously though, I have a friend who is a chiropractor and he has an annual customer appreciation BBQ. He invites all his current and former patients and their families. He gets a lot of referrals (and renewed visits) that way via word of mouth. Also, the crowd having fun in the parking lot is sure to attract attention from passers by.

He engages directly with his patients on social media too -- and not with some automated tool or disinterested intern or social media expert. How are you doing Bob. Thanks for coming to the BBQ. A personal anecdote, etc.

A personal blog that talks about the practice, engages employees, has informative articles about wellness and links to relevant news is also a nice touch, and gives you something to share via Facebook, Twitter, etc.

I've helped several people with social media, Google AdWords, Facebook & Linked In ads, etc. It really helps to have a coordinated effort between content, personal engagement, social media, and ad campaigns together.

One other aspect that is like that virtual BBQ -- is a regular newsletter that patients and other interested parties can subscribe too. Build an email list and give people something to read & stay in touch every month -- and print a few copies to set out on the front desk.

If people click on an ad, it doesn't have to translate directly into an appointment, maybe a slow nurture campaign with a few tips for dealing with back pain and general health (getting a good night's sleep, etc.) is a good way to get people to slowly engage until they've gotten comfortable with you and then come into the practice or give you a call.

Offer a small initial project - a proposal, sample work, etc. for a reasonable fee. And then set regular milestones with payment due. You can also ask for a portion up front.

If your rate is something like $50/hour, and you expect to bill approximately 20 hours/week for the next 10 weeks -- for a total of around $10,000, asking for $1000 up front is perfectly reasonable.

A sample of work (for example, some initial concepts for a website redesign) for a couple hours work, billed at $99 paid up front after the initial consultation is a good example.

And then set a weekly (or bi-monthly) payment schedule, with acceptance. That way you are never more than a week (or two) behind -- and you stop work if they don't pay.

There may be questions about acceptance of existing work, but you can log a future work request and continue working and agree to address those issues going forward. It's good to put in a buffer of further support into the contract to cover these cases. So that if you end up with an extra month of work above what is expected, you have it in the contract already.

For my test automation services, I offer a free initial consultation and then a proof of concept smoke test with continuous delivery that will run for 30 days for $199. it provides a lot more than $199 value and since setup is mostly automated, doesn't take me too much effort up front. Once they see that I can deliver, we negotiate the larger scope deliverables. And even if we don't reach an agreement, they walk away with something of value, and I haven't lost too much time invested.

In addition to the above --all great advice-- I'd like to add that you need to get them to like you.

That is the differentiator. You need to stand out, but in a positive way. You can't just be a "purple cow".

A customer first needs to know you exist.
Next you need to build trust.
Then they have to have confidence you can do the job.
And finally you have to be the one they want to hire.

Know -> Trust -> Confidence -> Like

All other things being equal, they will choose the one they like best, the one who they want to succeed.

If they're hiring an unknown, they will either choose based on price or preference.

To be liked, you need to have a personal connection. So put out a personality. And that doesn't mean try to please everyone. Because you can't. And by trying to not offend anyone, you will fail to express your personality.

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