What to Do When Your Clients Dry Up: A 12-Step Program

Layoffs don’t just apply to salaried employees. Business owners get laid off, too–by their clients. When clients cut costs, change strategy, declare bankruptcy, or are dismissed from their own positions, it hurts. When most of your clients start drying up–common behavior in this economy–it’s just like losing a job.

Fortunately, business owners have options for revival. This basic 12-step program provides a method for recalibrating your business and finding new clients. Use it as a skeleton, and customize as needed.

Breathe

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It’s normal to feel your gut wrench if you lose a client–especially a major one. Take a moment, a day, or even a week to recoup. You’ll need your wits about you to find new clients.

Reach Out

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If a client moved on due to extenuating circumstances, like a job loss, send them an email offering to help out any way you can. Stay networked. You never know when you’ll need each other again.

Discuss

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Tell your friends, family, and the people in your network about your situation. Discuss new opportunities. Send ten people you haven’t contacted for a while a simple email saying hi, telling them about your situation, and asking them if they might know of anyone who would be interested in what you have to offer.

Evaluate

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Sit down alone. Evaluate your company’s strategy. How has the past year looked? How about the past three? Have you reached your previous goals? What are your new ones? Do you have the resources to reach them? Is your existing product/service still a viable one? What needs to change for you to reach your goals?

Change

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Adinkra symbol for change

After evaluating your business, chances are, you’ll need to find a way to change something, even if it’s as minor as improving the way you network. Write down at least three ways that your business needs to change. Save that information for the next step.

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Revise

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Revise your suite of offerings–products, portfolio, service list–to reflect the changes you need to make to your business. If the changes are minor, write down an action plan on how to make them within the next month. If they’re major, find people who can help you execute them. Mentors and assistants can be invaluable.

Educate

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You may need to update or gain new skills. To do this, educate yourself. Your local library is an easy place to start. Or have someone else help educate you via a workshop, class, or conference.

Hunt

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Search for new prospects who might be interested in your revised and expanded offerings. Make a list of their names and organizations.

Target

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Approach your prospects in a way that best suits your business. That could be through targeted networking, social media, email, a phone call, a free service, or any other offering you find appropriate.

Be Seen

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People do business with people they know. Make sure that people have a chance to get to know you. Make it a point to attend anything that might help you eventually score a deal with your target client. Conferences, networking events, workshops, and community events are places to start. If your targets are remote, join them on forums, blogs, or Twitter.

Nudge

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If you’re still on the lookout after completing the steps above, nudge people in the right direction. Remind your existing, potential, and dormant clients that you’re here. Sometimes it takes a few tries before someone bites. Nudge, but don’t bug, unless you’re a talent scout.

Wait

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Keep doing your due dilligence, and opportunities will come.