Easiest way to get your first clients is to look for them in your local market – and we all do that, even though the reality of emerging markets can eventually eat your company up.
You have to deal mostly with oldschool businesses that don’t like to work on a time&material basis, and try to control everything you do as if you’re not the expert. And you know that not too far away there are clients who can pay you 2-3 times more (which, for instance, is about the exchange rate of $ to PLN) and who will be easier to work with.
It’s just that reaching out and getting your first international clients is so hard!
RightHello started with Polish clients, but we decided to enter the international market within the first few months of operating. Turned out it was easier than we thought.
Not a fantasy – a necessity
These days, companies in the IT business-to-business market have no limitations in selling internationally. You can go global using emails.
Why limit yourself to one group of customers, when you have an opportunity to pick the best clients from multiple markets?
You don’t need much to be able to do that.
First client abroad – checklist
Speak communicative english – you don’t need a huge vocabulary to close deals, and you’ll get better with time
Website in english – it needs to communicate your marketing messaging well, and have an option to contact you straight from the site
Portfolio – create case studies to post on your website, especially if you’ve worked with big name companies in your native market
Simple offering – something that is easily understood by all potential clients (like time&material software development), and something that isn’t extremely expensive.
How do you find your first clients abroad?
1. Use the conference + cold mail hack
Global industry events are a still a good place to connect with potential clients. But don’t just attend – increase profits from these trips with this neat hack. Three weeks before the conference, start cold emailing attendees that look like good potential clients.
Be sure to email them at least 4 times – 1 introduction and 3 followups – to increase the number of responses.
Schedule to meet these people at the conference. These meetings will be worth much more than traditional awkward networking at events.
2. Start approaching potential clients online
You can approach multiple companies with cold emails or linkedin messages even as a 1-person team. Speaking in a foreign language is always a bigger challenge than writing, so why pick up the phone when you can make a great impression over email or social media first?
Once you see how effective cold mailing and social messaging can be, you won’t pick up the phone to cold-call potential clients again.
3. Use small services to get your foot in the door
In B2B you can offer smaller services first to get attention of your customers and show your expertise.
Your main offer might be too big and if you don’t have strong social proof, it’s easier to convince new clients by offering audits, consulting, training sessions and analyses (website / code / product / customer service etc.).
Offering them for free will be a huge boost and will surely increase the number of people that will be interested.
4. Move abroad and join a coworking space
It’s a bold move, you might remember it from a while ago when I wrote about Netguru – it’s founder, Wiktor, went to a coworking space in Dublin for a while to learn about the market there and look for new clients.
It’s a great strategy because you travel, broaden your horizons, learn a different business culture, all while promoting your company.
5. Try approaching companies abroad that are similar to yours
Approach companies that offer the same services as you do. Offer assistance in the form of outsourcing parts of other companies’ projects.
Either find something that you do best and tell them that you can do it for them, or start asking if they need extra workforce for their projects.
Don’t wait for a miracle
When you ignore what’s outside your country’s borders, you’re simply losing cash. Coming from an emerging market gives you a great advantage – your cost/quality ratio is much better than most companies’ from developed markets. So what’s stopping you?
If you don’t do it now, your competition will outrun you and get the best markets first.
These days it just doesn’t make sense to run a local IT company, when you can get clients from all over the world easily. Go for it!