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How to get new clients when your marketing isn't working

With everyone going on in the world right now, there's tremendous fluctuation in most businesses marketing efforts.

The things that were working, now don't.

You get less calls. Less emails. Less enquiries.

Cancellations go up.

Or maybe you're one of the super unlucky ones - forced to shut down completely.

It's easy to get negative and think that everything is shut. Nothing is working. No one needs or wants what I do.

But then you look out there and... wait a second.

There's one of my competitors, and they have work? How are they busy now when I'm not?

It's because there's still work. There's just less of it, and the audience might have shifted from the people you normally work with.

So I figured I'd put some thoughts together about getting clients during a pandemic.

On the plus side, if things are quiet for you it means you have time to look at new things.

If the service you offer is still needed, but you aren't getting enquiries:

If the service you offer is still able to be delivered (eg. you're an electrician, a web designer, accountant, lawyer, etc), then your problem is your previous marketing channels have lost effect.

That means it's time to look at some other options:

1. Reach out to past clients

It's proven that in many cases it's a lot cheaper to keep existing clients than it is to get new clients.

Why not call (don't email) your old clients and make sure they're doing okay. Find out about their challenges, if any.

At the very least, you've spoken to them and reminded them you exist.

But what else could happen?

  • You might identify a potential service that they need right now
  • They might realise they need you to do something for them
  • They might refer someone to you

There's really no downside to making the call, except for the time it takes.

2. Try a different approach to get clients

If what you're trying isn't working, try something new (or even something old).

Let's say you currently are investing in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), and networking in person.

But online searches are down, or maybe you're currently down a little in rankings (it can fluctuate) and your visibility just isn't there right now.

Networking is next to impossible, or you're doing the "digital" version which isn't quite getting you the same level of work as normal.

So what can you do instead?

  1. Letter box drops
  2. Short paid advertisements on Google or Facebook
  3. Set up a true multi-step advertising campaign
  4. Email marketing
  5. Outreach (whether it's on the phone or via email) to prospective clients
  6. SEO (if you weren't doing it already)

These are just some basic and general ideas - what options are available to you really depends on your business and what you're already doing.

3. Look at partnerships and joint ventures

Is there someone in a related field that works with your potential clients? Or maybe they could actually use you for part of the process.

Reach out to people like this, and try add some value to their business.

Perhaps you could come up with a mutually beneficial arrangement - they get you to do the work, but you give them a bit of a discount. That way you're still getting work, and they're able to make money off you.

Or potentially they could promote you to the customer list, and in exchange you give them a commission or fee on every client you get from it.

There are many different options here, again - it depends heavily on your business.

4. Look at getting different kinds of work or clients

Let's say you normally work with commercial clients only, but there aren't many commercial clients giving work.

Or you normally work with domestic, but people don't want you in your home anymore (or aren't going out and about).

Maybe it's time to look at switching that up.

Your service might be okay to do, but the potential audience shifted - so you need to shift too.

For example, plumbers and electricians can push more emergency services for residential rather than renovations, or focus on the types of businesses that are still open (like "essential" businesses).

Accountants and lawyers, same thing - if your typical client isn't available, find who is running and needs help.

Sometimes these changes are minor (focus on different types of work). Sometimes its shifting your entire business (switching domestic to commercial, or the other way).

But drastic times call for drastic measures.

If the service you offer is affected by lockdowns:

Unfortunately, there are many businesses that have been affected even more heavily by lockdowns and restrictions.

Beauty salons, gyms, restaurants, event organisers, travel agents - all of these businesses pretty much lost everything when things got locked down.

The options for these businesses become a bit more drastic.

1. Digitise your service

One of the first options is looking at how (and if) you can do things online.

I've seen many gyms move to an online offering. Online coaching, online programs, etc.

Beauty salons have shifted to offering online consultations and selling products.

2. Pivot the business

In other cases, it's less about being online and more about doing things very differently that's still within the rules.

Most restaurants have made the shift to being takeaway only.

Or they've gone to delivery via a delivery service like UberEats or Menulog where they never would have considered it before. And that's even with the soul crushing fees those services charge.

Some events companies have utilised their skills to offer virtual event planning - although this is less common.

3. Focus on what happens after

If you're running a physical event premises, or you're a travel agent, you're in a bad spot.

Sorry to tell you, but there isn't really much you can do to get clients now - because there simply aren't any.

So you need to look at how you survive now - use savings, loans, cost cutting - whatever you can do. And then focus on what you do when we get out of this garbage situation.

Some thoughts and ideas:

  1. Blogging or vlogging takes some serious time to generate a return. If you have nothing else you can do, create content. Write that blog post, record that video. Think about the topics people will be looking for, and create content around that topic.
  2. Do something innovative to build your audience. EG. a travel agent could record weekly virtual tours of popular hotspots and release that content on social media. This is the type of activity that picks up a lot of attention (because you're doing something different), gets you in front of people, and also builds desire for a visit to that spot. If you're smart about capturing that audience (either via email subscription or facebook tracking) you'll be able to target them once you can start promoting your business again.


My advice about marketing is always going to be the same. If what you're doing isn't working, try something else. This doesn't mean stop doing what you're doing - it could be a temporary thing, or maybe it takes time - but you do need to try something new.

You can brainstorm these ideas solo, but if it's not your forte then potentially look at getting a marketing strategy consultant to help.

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