How I Find My Clients (a 3-year lead analysis)


The other day, I asked my Facebook Group members what they were struggling with. Overwhelmingly the answer was finding clients. 

So I starting thinking about the tactical advice I could share. Advice about:

  • inbound marketing
  • client onboarding systems
  • client retention strategies 

And then I thought, hold on. Let me take a step back and show in real numbers where my clients come from.

Here's a quick background on my business:

  • Been in business 5 years (2013)
  • Started tracking my leads in 2015
  • When I say tracking, I mean that I ask "how did you hear about me?" on my hire form.

So now that you know where my data is coming from, let's start with 2015.


Here where's my referrals came from in 2015: 

  • 61% Facebook
  • 17% Referrals from non-clients
  • 11% Referrals from clients
  • 6% Google 
  • 6% Instagram

That giant Facebook number made me very nervous. I worried about what would happen if FB drastically changed things (which we know it often does!)

now here's a look at my 2016 referrals:

  • 50% Facebook (-)
  • 18% Referrals from non-clients (+)
  • 15% Google (+)
  • 15% ConvertKit Experts List (+)
  • 3% Referrals from clients (+)

So let's pause here before we talk 2017. There's a couple of interesting things to note in these pie charts from '15 and '16:


1. Instagram 

First of all, those Instagram referrals in 2015 completely baffle me. I had an account with very few personal images, terrible filters/editing, no posting consistency, and no hashtags. I didn't talk about business because I was too scared for my friends to know I was freelancing. (#impostersyndrome) So your guess is as good as mine on that 6%.


2. Client Referrals

Client referrals dropped 8% in 2016, and I attribute that to a few things.

  1. I switched my model from one-offs to nearly entirely retainers in the middle of 2015. That meant that my client turnover was much more controlled in 2016. Good news finally. But I usually asked clients for a recommendation when they would wrap up a project, and retainer clients were "completing" their projects much less frequently.
  2. I just simply forgot. When a retainer would end, I repeatedly forgot to ask them for referrals or testimonials. I changed that in 2017, and increased my client referrals by 11%.
  3. Retainers attracted a client portfolio that was better suited for me. When I was doing only one-offs, I experienced clients who told they didn't want to share my info because they didn't want my schedule to be full when they needed to hire me. When I moved into serving clients ready to commit to a retainer, those folks were much more generous in passing my name along. They could give their friends a good recommendation without worrying about not being able to work with me later. They were the right set of people for me.

3. Referrals from non-clients

While we're on the subject, let's talk about Referral-Other. The average of these 3 years is 15%. This means...

On average, 15% of my annual LEADS come from strangers. 

This means that 15% of the time, on average, when I jump on a consult call with a potential client, they say: "Susie Q. recommended I contact you. She's great, isn't she?" And I say: "You know what, she's my favorite person today because I get to talk to you! But I don't actually think I've met her before, so I'm glad she thought of me."

Think social media isn't important for a young business? Think networking is a waste of time? Think acting "in the service of the brand" with how you speak and treat people isn't needed? (To quote Diane von Furstenberg.) Think again. It is. This stuff matters.

4. ConvertKit

I joined the ConvertKit Certified Expert program in August 2016. So, let's pause and really emphasize this. Seriously, LISTEN TO ME: 

15% of my annual leads in 2016 came in the last 5 months of the year. 

If you've considered joining a program, doing a JV partnership, launching it. Sure, do it strategically and with market research behind you. But do it. There's still time for you to completely conquer your year.

OK, so let's move to last year! 

Here's my 2017 pie chart:

  • 31% Facebook (-)
  • 29% Google (+)
  • 14% ConvertKit Experts List (-)
  • 14% Referrals from clients (+)
  • 12% Referrals from non-clients (-)

Take a look. It's much more balanced, right? There's no rockstar, standout platform here. No "all my eggs are in one basket" scenario. 

I'm still happy with it, even though: my referrals from non-clients dropped just a bit (I attribute this to participating less in FB groups b/c I was hustling on client deliverables), and my CK Expert referrals went down a little (I think this is because more experts were added, so there's more choice for clients. And that's a good thing! Still enough work to go around!). 

All in all, what is this chart saying? It's saying I have a lot of things working for me. 

I look at this and feel a big sense of accomplishment.  

What if FB suddenly shut down groups in 2016 and I lost 50% of my leads? I would just not be as agile as when I'm more balanced like I am now.

If I lost all traffic from Facebook or search right now, I would only lose a little more than a quarter of my leads. I can recover from that. I have options and I could buy myself some time, in terms of client acquisition, if I needed it.

I've hedged my bets. And that's a good thing!

OK, so you know where my clients come from. Now what?

If you don't know where your clients are coming from, there are things you can do today to get moving on this: 

  • Determine: Decide how you'll determine where clients are coming from (Google Analytics, your Hire Form, ask them via email, ask them on a feedback form and send it out to everyone this week)
  • Organize: If you know where to find the data, then take time to organize it. Need help with the math? Check out Percentage Calculator. 
  • Analyze: Once you have your data, take some time to analyze it. Is there one platform you'd like to see more referrals from? How will you spend more time there? Is there a liability somewhere - is one referrer too large? Is one area (like client referrals) missing completely? How will you increase it?

If you need help talking through it, come into the FB group. You'll find me there answering questions all week long!