If you’re a consultant or agency, qualifying clients is painful–explaining what you do, assessing if they’re nice people, determining if they can pay and seeing if you can solve their problem, all before you get a dime.
So I asked Sarah Sal, a longtime friend of BlitzMetrics and an amazing Facebook ads consultant, for some tips here. You may have already seen her tips on how to kick-start a crowdfunding campaign or how to revive a dead email list, for example.
So Sarah, what are your thoughts on qualifying clients? Shortest answer possible: Always qualify them. Here’s an analogy I use to explain why:
Cong Sao is a famous restaurant here in Hong Kong with a long queue.
I don’t join any random queue. I read reviews, check the menu and, as a vegetarian, make sure there is something I can eat. Waiting in line here is worth it!
So when companies ask me to call them back or make time for a Skype call, my thought is: “The line in front of that restaurant is long. I need to protect my time.”
We’ve heard a lot about people stealing time/advice from experts. Do you have any horror stories? I took a call with a prospective client to find out after 60 minutes that they didn’t have a funnel or content. Their target market had no interest in their offer. They had tried LinkedIn ads for a few months with zero conversions, then thought Facebook ad targeting was the magical solution.
I regret taking that call.
A friend who is a Google AdWords consultant has the “top-rated” status on UpWork, which means many companies get in touch with him. The other day, he was annoyed because someone tricked him into a one-hour phone call, aiming to pick his brain for free. The person pretended to represent a big company that could send a huge amount of business his way. Then during the call, he was asking basic newbie questions:
- Which tools do you use?
- How do you change an ad position?
- How do you do your keyword research?
To make things worse, at the end of the call, the person asked, “Can I white-label your services for a small monthly fee?”
When running a business, time is your most valuable asset; you need to learn how to protect it. With experience, I’ve learned it is better to ask a few a questions via email and determine if there is a fit or not.
What questions do you ask potential leads to qualify them? Here are the five golden rules posed as questions for a client to qualify with me:
- “Tell me a little about why you’re looking to start with Facebook advertising, and what business goals do you have in mind after you have successfully executed this?” Many gurus claim that their secret sauce guarantees supercheap clicks or 356 sales in the first 24 hours without the need for a website, content or email list. I want to make sure people have their feet on the ground with realistic expectations. One prospect’s goal was driving cold traffic to a $1,000 seminar. They had no fans, email list or website traffic. They didn’t want to do a webinar or generate leads. Their objective was finding people that would click, then immediately grab their credit card and make a purchase.
- “Do you have a monthly ad budget you’ve set aside for this project? Is it over $3,000?” When someone tells me, “Based on my funnel conversion rate, I need 500 registrations per week, and my testing budget while we figure things out is a max of $1,000 per week,” it tells me that they are serious about their business, but also that they understand how the plumbing of online marketing works. My experience is that the higher one spends, the more they tend to understand how online and Facebook marketing works. That does not mean that one cannot get results spending only $5 per day–it is just not where I add the most value.
- “When are you looking to get started on this project?” Here’s where you’ll discover that the client isn’t ready yet to take the next step in promoting their product: For example, they mention needing to finish writing some content or rebuilding their funnel.
- “Have you promoted your products with Facebook ads before?” If yes, ask what type of results they got and what other traffic sources are working for them. During season three, episode six of U.K. TV series The Apprentice, a team tried to sell British cheese to the French, who already have over 350 varieties. The team failed, selling none at all. Everyone has a friend getting $0.02 clicks or leads for $0.23, even if they have never used Facebook ads. They might say, “A friend of mine successfully sells €5,000 per day worth of English tea in Paris, so why aren’t my British cheeses flying off the shelves in Paris?” A company that was getting $4 per webinar registration when running ads on its own can say I am doing a bad job if the cost per webinar registration increased to $7 after hiring me. If it never ran Facebook ads before, then it doesn’t have the metrics to benchmark my work. When a company that ran Facebook ads without success avoids answering the question and instead focuses on how the click-through rate, cost per click or reach was great, this raises a red flag. Cheap clicks that don’t convert into leads, registrations or sales are useless.
- “What type of content do you have?” People tend to think of Facebook as demand fulfillment when it is more about demand generation.They ask, “How can I find someone looking to hire a search-engine-optimization firm?,” when the correct mindset is, “How do I get people to trust me and see me as a SEO expert?”
Many businesses fail to get results with Facebook ads. By focusing on their products and services, they act like the user just did a Google search on “financial planner New York.” Facebook uses interruption marketing–no one cares that you are a financial planner. Now if you have an article on why it is more profitable to invest in commercial real estate, you have more chances of having the user listen to you.
Content is an essential mix to succeed with Facebook ads.
While I still use email to filter leads, I could take it a step further and use an online form to save time.
Back to the restaurant analogy, wouldn’t you want to check the reviews of a restaurant if you had to wait in line for an hour? It is the same for a company wanting to hire Facebook ad consultants. That is why I publish case studies showing the results of my work.
By sharing my knowledge, I get better clients who appreciate my expertise and who tend to see me as an expert instead of seeing me as just another ad consultant. Often, I had cases where after potential clients had read some of my content, I told them why they shouldn’t hire me, and they argued back why they wanted to hire me.
Do you have any advice on how to respond to requests? One day, I received an email that said: “Sarah, xxx over at yyy referred you as a highly effective online marketer. Please give me a call on Thursday.”
I would have had set the wrong expectation if I jumped on the chance to call. I don’t accept every single project that comes my way; I am not an employee who can be hired by the hour. For me, it is not a job interview. I’d rather spend my time helping clients to achieve their goals than talking on the phone with every single lead coming my way.
A while ago, as an experiment, I posted the following job ad on oDesk: “For $5,000, I want you to build me a search engine that is better than, faster than and returns more relevant results than Google.”
Some applicants sent me a cover letter; others responded by claiming that they had looked at my specifications and were confident they could do the job. In one case, I replied, “Microsoft spent billions of dollars trying to build a better search engine than Google and failed, but you’re telling me you can do it for $5,000?” The guy said, “Sure. I can give better results than Google.”
Would you trust a doctor who says after one minute of meeting you, “Sure, I can help you; the surgery will cost $3,000,” Or would you rather go to a doctor who makes you go through blood tests and asks multiple questions about your medical history?
Protecting your time and your expertise is key, as Sarah points out. Don’t just “join a queue for a restaurant because you are hungry,” but think about what you are investing your time in.
People are eager to get you on the phone to pick your brain for free, sometimes luring you out to give away free advice or labor. Remember to ask them:
- Why are you looking to get into Facebook advertising?
- What are your business goals after your successful campaign?
- What is your monthly budget? Is it over $3,000?
- Have you ever promoted anything on Facebook before? What were your results?
- What content/creatives do you have to support the campaign?
Lastly, ask then when they would like to get started? If they don’t have everything ready to go, it’s a solid no, as you will most likely have to babysit them through the setup process and waste your time (unless this is a service you offer).
Remember that you don’t have to respond to every request that comes in. This is why having a solid qualification process in order is key to your success. With this in place, you won’t have any cold leads, since they’ve been properly screened and nurtured.
Readers: How do you qualify your clients? Let me know in the comments!
Image on homepage courtesy of Shutterstock.