Our objective as an Armidale Web Design business is to get new work and clients by word of mouth. I think this is the ideal way to get work for most businesses. You have done such a good job for someone, that they become your champion, if someone mentions needing something you can do, your client will put their reputation on the line by suggesting you. This is something we aspire to.
The other way we are getting work is through upgrades. We always keep an eye out for ways to improve the effectiveness of our clients websites. If they have a simple brochure site, then maybe suggest a contact us form, a newsletter, a news & events section, can they sell or book online? Anything that would contribute to their business. So instead of finding a complete new client and having to establish a rapport and understand their business, you can upgrade an existing website and reinforce a client relationship, while getting some more money.
Local directory listing. A lot of businesses need to be introduced to the benefits of the web. We have done this by creating a local directory. See it here, Armidale Directory. We provide free listing to local busnesses, we can promote our clients business. As people become familiar with this, they can imagine other benefits of having their own website. Its a nice first contact too, you take your business card in with the directory url, you say you have put their business on the directory for free, if they would like to look and maybe suggest updates to their listing.
Our bread and butter in the early stages were Proposals. This is where we find a local business, without a website, and prepare a document to present to them. This proposal is just a couple of pages, outlining what we could do for them, the benefits to their business we envisage, and the cost. This is brief and gets to the point. In later meetings you solidify what they need and the price. We have found this to be a yes and no situation. Those people who understand and have thought about needing a website will normally contact you within a couple of days. You still follow up with the others at a later point, but rarely do we secure these clients.
Incentivising. Friends and family have their own busy lives. They will suggest your business, but not as passionately as word of mouth clients. I read this recently, but havent tried it. Maybe tell friends and family you will send them a bottle of wine or case of beer for ever secured new client. When the website goes live, send them a bottle with a thank you. They will be more inclined to keep an eye out for you and will remember your thanks for their efforts.
Local Groups. Consider attending your local Sports Council meeting, Bed & Breakfast Association, Tourism Board, Slow Organic Food Group. You are not attending these to be a salesmen. These are your potential clients, these groups will help you understand their needs and get your name out there.
These are some of the methods we have used until we get word of mouth up and running and clients knocking on our door.
P.S I would recommend reading Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Entertaining read on product and business momentum.