Saturday, September 15, 2012

Where's Your Next Client Coming From?

A colleague of mine recently posted on her Facebook wall about the conundrum of social media. By spending a lot of time using social media as a marketing tool, it takes away time from actually doing project work. My friend happens to be a professional genealogist but you could insert the profession of any small business or self employed individual.

Independent business professionals will always have the challenge of wearing too many hats. When you are the business there is no one else to get the work done unless you hire a consultant. That means important decisions need to be made about how you spend your time. Spending too much time on project work and none on marketing could mean that your project pipeline soon dries up. Conversely, spending too much time on marketing could mean that you end up with more project work than you can realistically get done or you end up empty-handed if your marketing hasn't been done right.

The question that naturally followed for the people in the Facebook thread was whether using social media as a marketing tool actually works.

One person on the thread mentioned that he asked each new client how they found him. This is a good practice. This could provide the answer you need about whether social media works for you. You need some mechanism to determine where your leads and potential clients are coming from. After awhile you should see a pattern and when you do put more effort into the areas that are most beneficial to generating new business.

The key thing is not to focus on social media per se but to understand where your clients come from or where you want them to come from and have a marketing plan, whether traditional marketing or social media, that promotes a steady flow from that source.

My friend then asked if someone were to hire you from a print ad would they still expect you to have a strong social media presence so that you would appear as a "thought leader' in your field.  This may depend on the particular field you are in but I would say this is more important in the technology and computer sector.  I think that if a client found a professional genealogist through a print ad, they would be more interested in the quality of their research skills and abilities than how successful they were at attracting and maintaining an online audience.

The real issue of this larger question is what do you want to specialize in (i.e. what's your niche) and where are you likely to find the clients who want your service? Are your clients coming to you from online sources or traditional marketing? Perhaps a bit of experimentation is needed to find the right mix and the right client sources for your business. Once you determine that "sweet spot" then put more of your efforts into that medium.


  1. A lot of my non-genealogy friends and colleagues at my day job ask me, "can you make money at this?" and "do they advertise? Where?" Even though a lot of professional genealogists advertise in trade journals, trade websites, social media and word of mouth, the question is, how do you get your message to the average everyday person who doesn't subscribe to those magazines, etc. I don't know the answer.

    Like you said Marian, it's very important to ask a client, "where did you hear about me?" At my regular job (renting construction equipment) we do the same thing. That way we can tell which ads are working or which type of media is working.

  2. Yes, I always (try to remember to) ask where clients found me. Print ads haven't been value for money, and social media is more about expanding my social circle with contacts all over the world, and different specialities whose services I can call upon to help clients. Having a niche market, balancing work with social media and making sure your website matches your niche is the best tip I can give - most of my work comes via my website. Jo :-)

  3. I agree with these comments, especially about finding a niche. I have had my own business as a professional genealogist for 26 years. 95% of my clients come to me after seeing my large Website, which has lots of advice plus over 50,000 names from my indexes to Archival records. The other 5% of new clients come from word-of-mouth referrals.

  4. I will "out" myself - I am the person who started this discussion on my Facebook page! I must disagree on the importance of becoming a "thought leader" in one's field being more germane to the computer/technology field. In the age of social media, the importance of being a "thought leader" spans a wide array of fields - marketing, finance, etc. This viewpoint has been championed by a variety of experts on this topic who have led online seminars which I have attended.

    When hiring a genealogist, of course the potential client should care about the person's experience and research skills. And that can be demonstrated via social media discussions, and not just in the form of an "old school", static resume' on a web site.

    One cannot "attract and maintain" an audience in social media, unless one has interesting and relevant things to say about his/her profession. So, I would view social media marketing as a dynamic, online extension of a resume'.

  5. This definitely gives me something to think about. Social media has a very wide reach, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to gather followers quickly. Knowing which social networks to create accounts for your business is half the battle. Actually, manning those accounts and updating them regularly is the other. It might be wise to allot one or two people whose jobs consists of social media account maintenance, so as not to take time away from the rest of the business.

  6. I totally agree with the part where you said, “...understand where your clients come from or where you want them to come from.” Being relatable to customers is the integral piece of magic when it comes to marketing, online or otherwise. Finding the right marriage between what you’re doing and what they like may take a while, but knowing your audience is definitely a step in the right direction.

  7. "Magic" is the right word, Jamie! All the best magic tricks are planned and practiced, after all. The same goes with online marketing. There are many ideas and strategies out there that can attract clients, but you never know which ones will work until you try them out. It’s not going to be just one or two things, so it’s good to take a few ideas and mix them together.