How to find paying clients for your VR work
Hello, friend and welcome back to episode number two of my new 31 day series, answering your questions on how to create a career or a business that you love.
In today's episode, I'm going to be tackling quite an important subject. It comes from a question that starts in quite a disheartened way, but actually, the core of it, what the question really was about is, how do you find the right clients for you? So I'm going to be diving into that in this episode.
If you've got your own questions, then make sure to reach out to me, you can get me on social media, @alexmakesvr across all of them. If you've got a slightly longer question, send me an email at email@example.com. Okay, so let's dive right in.
Read on for the full transcription or listen to the podcast episode here:
So this question, and I'm going to kind of paraphrase here, because this particular person I do have a bit more context on, on where they're at but I wanted to make this super applicable to all of you listening. So the context really is that he has been going out and trying to sell virtual tours, specifically to the events industry. His message reads, part of it reads - “I’m currently becoming disheartened by the lack of positive leads I'm getting, it's making me question whether there's really a market for this product, I wonder whether my experience is due to the recent pandemic, or whether it's just a really difficult time to start a virtual tours company right now.”
So there are a few elements that I want to talk about here and ultimately, at the heart of this is, are you are you going after the right kind of clients? Now, right now, is a particularly strange time. I know that people keep flogging this word to death, but we really are living through unprecedented times. Therefore, you can't even really look at the way that companies generally react to things like recessions because this is so much more than a recession. This has literally never happened. In the last, however many decades, the last time this happened was maybe 100 years ago or something? So it's not just a financial problem. Obviously, we've got freedom of movement being restricted. There's obviously there's so much going on. Having said that, if you are having a lot of rejections at the moment, or if you're reaching out, you're not even hearing back from people, I want you to not feel disheartened, I want you to flip the switch and think about it from that person's point of view. Because everyone is suffering right now and the number one piece of advice I can give you when you're going after new clients, especially during this time, but this applies in general, is you have to lead with empathy. You have to kind of put yourself in that person's shoes.
Now, the number one thing that I kind of gathered from this question, the key points were that he was specifically going after events, companies. Now the logic behind that is totally sound, I think we can all agree that virtual reality and 360 will absolutely and in some areas already is, it will transform the events business, especially now during these times that we're kind of getting used to doing everything remotely, right? And actually the idea of having to fly across the world and spend out all that money on plane tickets and accommodation and food and all of that, just to kind of see a couple of keynotes that I really want to see. I'm gonna think twice before I do that now in future when it comes to events and obviously the number one thing I would say about events businesses is generally speaking, their biggest attraction is the in person networking, right? So like, you can pretty much watch any keynote, you can record the talks and put them online and the key thing that you want from going to an event is the atmosphere. It's the networking. It's who you're sitting next to etc. So VR and 360 can absolutely add to that and it will a big part going forward but currently, during this time, events, companies are probably being hit the worst. Out of all of the influences that I follow in the business space, the majority of them make a lot of their income from speaking gigs and all of that has been wiped out. I mean, I usually speak at least event a month and I haven't spoken at an event in person since January. Event companies, hospitality, they are suffering right now. Now, that's not to say that you won't be able to win work with those kind of clients, but what I would suggest is, we need to scale back and really look at who your clients should be right now and who you should be going after because when you lead with empathy, and when you put yourself in that potential clients shoes, right now, if someone came to me and said - okay, I run a VR company, and I know that you events and businesses have really suffered so what I'm offering is this solution of 360 tours or recordings, and you could have this virtual event. The first thing that events person is going to do is think - okay, firstly, this is something that I don't know anything about. It’s going to be a steep learning curve for them. Ultimately, what they want to do, events companies in general, I don't know them inside out, but I think they make a lot of their money from the sale, the money they make from the exhibitors, but then also the ticket price from the audience. The reason the audience pay that ticket price is because they're getting value, they gain access to all these speakers, and also access to these exhibitors and everything like that. So from that point of view, what does 360 offer to an events company? That’s going to be a lot more expensive, it's a much higher learning learning curve for them and when they've got 1,000,001, things running through the head, and they're having to quickly pivot their company away from a physical location, to online, I don't think there's many clients or people that you're reaching out to, that would be in the right frame of mind to think you know, what? I'm going to invest in the future of my company, because this is what they should be doing. Realistically, I'm going to think, you know, not a year into the future but I'm going to think 10 years into the future, maybe even five years into the future, when VR and mixed reality glasses are a lot more commonplace, I can be ahead of the curve. I can start building right now, I can have this innovative solution for my events going forward so that I'm offering a more immersive experience for people that can't attend in person. That's the kind of attitude that you want the client to have. That's the kind of messaging that maybe if you are going to go after those clients, that's your kind of messaging. But realistically, right now, if I'm the owner of an events company, all I'm thinking is, how am I going to keep the lights on? How am I going to feed my family? I've literally lost millions or hundreds of thousands in revenue, I have no idea when my business can operate again, I need something and I need it quick. Something like zoom or an online event offers that and it's cheap and it's easy to facilitate. It's proven. So these are all the reasons why I would say that right now, that's not necessarily the right client.
Now when it comes to finding the right client, I feel like that was a long ramble about why maybe that's the wrong kind of thing, but I do want to offer advice about how you go about finding the right kind of client, especially during this climate, but also in general.
So the thing with 360 and VR here is, it’s kind of for corporate purposes. So I'm not talking about VR entertainment here and obviously, I'm assuming if you're listening to this episode, you've kind of guessed that this is more like a commercial kind of topic. But generally speaking, there are three reasons any business buys anything.
Number one, it makes them more money.
Number two, it saves them a lot of time, which in turn, probably saves the money. Or it acts as a marketing tool that's going to generate more awareness, and essentially get more people into their ecosystem to potentially make a sale. So when you boil that down and I really, really hate that funnels have become synonymous with them but if you think about the funnel, and you're like a little Goblin at the bottom, waiting to catch anything that comes through, bringing them into your business. If you think of the very top of that funnel, the idea is to get people into it. How do you get people into it? All you have to do is marketing. This is where your outreach is, emailing people, messaging people on LinkedIn. You know, socialising in Facebook groups, this is the bit where you need to get people aware of you and aware of your products and services. Once they're in the funnel, then they already know who you are, they already know what you do. Now you need to kind of…now you need to convert them, you need to make them want your product, right? They need to understand, they need to kind of know why they should invest in your product or service, like what's it going to do for them? And then obviously, at the bottom of said funnel, they fall into your business and then it's all about retention. Is the product good? Is your service good? You know, is what you're offering top notch and it's doing the job that you said it was going to do? That’s the very basics of the the big picture, but the basics of all sales and marketing is, this funnel; it reoccurs through everything. But if you think of it from the point of view of your personal marketing towards a new client, say for example I'll use the events company example but bear in mind I said now might not be the right time to go after events companies. You’re more likely going to get more success from industries that have a bit more trust in the technology of 360 right now. For example, real estate, travel and tourism. Any kind of industry that already has a little bit of a buy in on things like virtual tours already, like museums and galleries, places that need people to want to go to those places. It's an enticing way to bring new people in and I can't remember if I've already said this, but if you haven't listened to my latest episode, not latest episode, but one of the recent COVID podcasts that I did with Ben Claremont, he goes into a lot of in depth discussion about why now is the right time to be building a virtual tour business and all of the opportunity that he sees in that so definitely check that episode out if you haven't already.
Okay, so we'll talk about the funnel… let me use the example of going after an events company client. Okay, so my message. This is what generally most people's messaging sounds like…
“Hey, I'm so sorry to hear that your business has been completely demolished by and COVID absolutely sucks. I make virtual tours, which can basically allow you to kind of do your events completely remotely and it offers a way to have quite an immersive events experience without actually people needing to be there. Does that sound interesting to you?
And their answer is either dead deadly silence or “no, that doesn't sound interesting to me right now”
Now, there's nothing necessarily wrong, I mean that sounded pretty good, right? Like there's nothing really that wrong with that messaging from our point of view, right? I mean, I've said that a virtual tour would be really good but the thing is I've led is…me.
I’ve led with being in my own shoes and what I really need to do when I'm looking for the right kind of client, when I’m trying to reach out to a new client, when I'm figuring out whether or not they are a good person to go after, what I need to do is put myself in their shoes. So now, let me try that again, thinking with that kind of lens, and also referring back to what I said earlier about the three reasons why someone might kind of want 360 or VR services. So maybe this goes a little bit, something like this off the top of my head, something like this:
“Hi, so and so events. I've been watching your content you’ve been putting it online, I'm so sorry to see that you're having a difficult time like. It's really been quite hard on a lot of the location based services. I wanted to reach out to make sure, that you are aware of this new technology that allows you to generate more awareness and convert more people at your events and actually engage people more so.”
So we are kind of hitting on generating more awareness, converting more sales, but I haven't really touched on saving time or money. But let's focus on the first two.
“So I wanted to make sure that you were aware of this new technology that other events companies are using, which is this idea of a virtual event and I found that with other clients, virtual tours or virtual events, can actually offer up to three times more engagement than just traditional videos and photos of an event online. What that tends to do, is boost retention of those audience members for the next event, increasing people's events, ticket sales, or even pre sales, I'd be super happy to jump on a call to talk you through how it works. I know that sometimes new technology sounds a bit scary, and I appreciate that during this time, you probably don't have a lot of free time, and you're looking for something that can save you time and money as quickly as possible. I'd be super happy to jump on a call with you, just to talk you through how the technology works. Would that be of interest to you?”
And then maybe you would say like:
“I’m free, next Tuesday or next Wednesday, if either of those work for you let me know.”
And so do you see what I did there? So that wasn't obviously the most concise version, I would probably want to work on make that email a lot smaller because again, the idea is that you are trying to keep it as concise as possible. Because I know personally, when I see a long email come into my inbox, I just don't even really read it. I leave it as unread and I just think I need to wait until I’m in a kind of space where I've got 10 minutes to digest that email and reply to it before I'm even going to look at it. So you need to make that a lot shorter but just the very principle is what I'm touching on there. Do you see what I did? Did you see that I switched the script? So now I'm no longer talking about virtual tours and how you know they are immersive, and they do this. I'm using sales language on the client, the client needs to hear what the value of virtual tour is for their business. So if you're going after, like real estate, they're quite easy one, right? Because currently, it's quite difficult for people to or people are scared to go to open houses or go to viewings. Actually, if we weren't in COVID times, and even if you did go to an open house, how many of those people are actually quite serious about buying that house? Probably not many people, so the messaging for reaching out to a client like a real estate agent might be something similar but along the lines cold opens and cold emails and stuff because if there's one thing that I've perfected over the years, it is the art of cold emails.
But always start with something that shows that you're not just sending a template blanket email. Anytime I get an email in my inbox that is so obviously just a template that someone's copied and pasted it to about 50 different addresses, I just delete it. I don't even bother looking at it because often, well often is just about SEO or websites, or whatever but actually, if they take the time to make the opening personal and really show that they’ve done their research, that works. For example, I had someone reach out recently, they opened by saying:
“Hey, Alex, I've been looking at working with VR professionals and I came across your TED talk, I absolutely loved the bit when you talked about X/Y/Z and just wanted to reach out and see if you needed any help with….”
And I thought they'd very clearly taken the time to watch it my talk, because they were referencing a bit in it and just even seeing that made me more likely to read the whole email, you know? So that's the name of the game here. The aim of the game is to get them to read the email, to become aware of you, because again, when you email someone, when you're trying to find a client, you're working on that top of the funnel type stuff. So when you want to reach out to a real estate agent or something like that, like maybe the messaging is more around how you're going to help them either convert more sales? So for example, that might be that I'm sure there's stats about this online, but someone who looks at a virtual tour of a house, versus just traditional flat photos are three times more likely to want to have a serious viewing and are more likely to be a qualified lead. That’s what they call them when someone when you're a bit further down someone's funnel and you're most likely going to buy. So there's kind of stats like that, that you could use to your advantage
You could go for the angle, I wouldn't try and do all three in one email, but maybe like focus on one of them, because they save time and money. You could be like, do you want to save more time and money by doing a virtual tour of a property? Rather than having to pay a salary for an employee to go out to a house and spend the money on the mileage and the expenses that come with that? Wouldn't you rather, you know, get people to see the property virtually, and then offer an in person viewing if they're serious?
Another big one is when the world starts opening up again, and there are stats around the fact that companies that have 360 photos attached to their Google search, will rank higher on Google. So you could be a cafe in Leicester, let’s say, and if you had 360 photos, combined with some good reviews, you'd probably be listed first over another listing that didn't have 360 photos. So again, that is a really powerful thing to say to someone. Maybe lead with:
“I’m sure that you get a lot of your footfall or your customers from people that Google cafes in the area. I've noticed you've not gotten 360 photos on your listings, did you know that listings with 360 photos on average list 80%, higher (or whatever the statistic is, you can find that by googling it) than than other listings?
So again, this is just a lot of rambling and a lot of different ideas I'm throwing at you but ultimately what I'm saying is when you’re looking for the right kind of client to work with, a big factor is it actually right for them and their business? You have to put yourself in their shoes. Can they make money? Ultimately, that's all businesses, a business just makes money. That's why it's a business. Can your 360 services make business? Can your VR services make that client money? That's basically what you need to decide and you need to remove your own personal prejudice from the equation and you need to put yourself in their shoes.
Think it through thought from their position and make it so easy for them to say yes, because there are so many upsides of using you and your services. We've covered a lot there, and I realise I’ve focused a lot on virtual tours. That's purely because the question itself came from someone who was offering virtual tours to events company. So that's why I focused on that. I'm sure a lot of you listening who are wanting to kind of jump in, and this is your first step into, the world of business for yourself, virtual tours, especially if you're a 360 creator, virtual tours are just the easiest hanging fruit, they are the easiest to sell in because they don't require the kind of the steep learning curve that VR does.
If you're going after someone for VR work, finding the right client for that and again, that's going to vary and not necessarily going to be the same right now because of the pandemic, and people's focuses are elsewhere, but generally speaking, the reason why 360 or VR training is so well received in companies is because they can save a lot of time and money. Ultimately, it saves them a lot of money down the kind of road if their employees are trained well, and there's been loads of studies around the fact that, you know, VR training outperforms traditional training and e-learning by miles.
PwC, actually, who are a lovely client of mine, they've just released a report about looking at some of the projects that we've done together and comparing it to traditional classroom learning and e-learning. They found some really interesting stats around that. Don’t be scared to use those stats, use those stats in your marketing, put them in your armoury, so that when you're having these conversations with clients, you can have these stats out there ready to tell them why, because ultimately, the only reason you're selling them a virtual tour in the first place is because you genuinely believe that it's going to help their company and if you can lead with that and if you can always start with that, that's just going to take you miles.
So I guess I've not really talked specifically about finding the right particular client in very specific terms but that's purely because that's going to differ person to person and actually, arguably, anyone could be the right client but the number one reason to know if they're the right client right now, is if you think that your service can make them money, because that's all they're interested in.
So key takeaways:
Look at the emails that you've been sending people and have a good hard, talk to yourself in the mirror, about whether or not you've been a selfish asshole, and haven't been putting yourself in your clients, your potential clients shoes,
that's number one.
Number two, pick one of three. What are those three messages or one of those three reasons why a client might benefit from your products and services? So it's either generating awareness, converting sales, or saving time and money and then what I want you to do is, have a portfolio already. That's such a key part, you can't go out just pitch clients, If you don't have any work to show for it. We’ll probably talk about that in a different episode but if you've got proof of the work that you've done, I want you to pick an industry and really think about which industries would be most benefit right now from virtual tours. I want you to craft an email, that is along the lines of what I've talked about in this episode. I want you to send at least 10 of those kinds of emails, and just see what happens. Now, I'm not guaranteeing that anything will happen, I'm not guaranteeing that people will even reply because again, we are living through weird times where people are, you know, really busy, or they've got 1,000,001 fires to put out They might not necessarily respond straightaway but I promise you that when someone does respond, even if it's not the right time for them, because they can't afford it or their marketing budgets have been slashed, or whatever the reason might be, they're going to be so much more receptive, you're probably going to have a much higher open rate of your emails, people are probably going to digest the information a lot more because you've taken the time to really think through whether or not you can actually help them in their business.
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