Where can I find people who need an Apple IT consultant
January 31, 2019 7:14 AM   Subscribe

I am a one person IT consultant who has about 10 small business (1-50 employees) and residential clients at a time, for whom I provide ongoing support for servers, network, helping users, etc. I've been doing this since 2010, all via word of mouth. I'd like to gain 1-2 new clients a year. Where can I find them?

I have tried advertising on Yelp which didn't get any leads. I don't want a consumer with a broken phone screen, I want a business that doesn't want to hire a full time IT person, so I'm trying to figure out where that company would be looking.

Would a Google Business profile be useful, or will it be similar to Yelp? My home would be my address as I don't have an office and go to my client's offices. Would that cause confusion as I don't want people coming to my home? Would I be able to not have an address but target an area (Manhattan)?

I'm also interested in expanding to help individuals with setting up 2 factor and a password manager, but the same question remains of where are those people looking?
posted by ridogi to Work & Money (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Have you politely mentioned this to your existing clients? They may know other Mac-using small businesspeople who they could recommend you to -- even if it's anonymously. :7)

AFAIK, word of mouth is king here.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:23 AM on January 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Yes, all of my clients are word of mouth. I would just like to supplement that.
posted by ridogi at 7:28 AM on January 31, 2019

I own a B2B software business. I have staff members who work on a lot of this stuff, but we're still pretty small and growing, so I think our experience is relevant.

- We have a full marketing stack, but I'm guessing that you're not too interested in something that involved. I would try to get a few quotes from clients for your website and write up a short case study that tells the story of how you saved a client money/saved their bacon from disaster, etc. I have an awesome content writer I can recommend if you don't want to do this yourself. We also have a 1-pager that explains what we do and our value proposition that we can give out as needed.

- Networking is great for business. We're a member of our local tech council and go to events. Every once in a while we meet someone who needs us. Invest in nice business cards; they will help add legitimacy.

- Can you mentor or network with your local business incubator? Our local one throws off at least three or four rapidly growing businesses per yer that will not yet need their own IT staff.

- It always pays to incentivize clients to recommend you. Ours get discounts for any recommendations that sign.
posted by Alison at 7:46 AM on January 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

Do you go to any local meetups? That's a good place to network. I'm not sure how active meetup is where you are but there are lots of general business ones in our area that seem like they would be a good place to meet people.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:53 AM on January 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'd get involved in your local chamber of commerce or business improvement district or whatever equivalent organization in your area works with and supports young entrepreneurs (which I suspect are more likely to use Apple products in their business). Go to networking events with a short pitch about what you do and that you are taking on clients. Have a card or something that you can leave with them that has your number on it.
posted by gauche at 7:54 AM on January 31, 2019 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I have tried the local chamber of commerce, but it was not a good fit so I didn't join. I would have had to spam my contacts with recommendations for the member's businesses, and continually provide new contacts to them. It felt like a multi level marketing scam to me. Like Yelp, I think it was for different type of business. The members of it had businesses where they performed one time or occasional services (lots of things like legal services), while what I am looking for is more similar to a part time job. (I charge hourly as a 1099.)
posted by ridogi at 8:10 AM on January 31, 2019

Response by poster: I did hire a write to help with my website, have quotes from clients, and have business cards.
posted by ridogi at 8:12 AM on January 31, 2019

Can you get listed on the ACN with a maildrop address in a good ZIP code in Manhattan? If you're on the ACN (with at least one or two good reviews) then Apple employees will tell small business owners to contact you when there's something they can't help with in the store. If you're listed in Chelsea or around the High Line you will unquestionably get exactly the sort of referrals you are looking for—photography studios, small advertising or digital marketing agencies, etc.
posted by bcwinters at 8:37 AM on January 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'd guess that your world w/r/t marketing yourself is a lot like mine is even though I am not tech-based. I'd also guess that a business like yours is EXACTLY the kind of business I would seek out if I needed help with configuring or maintaining something related to my online presence or network structure.

I teach sewing and make clothes. When I push too hard in the wrong way I get people who want me to make pillows or prom dresses (fine, but not my goal) or people who want me to teach them how to make pillows or namby-pamby crafty things (again - not my goal).

If I need help with something in your world or wanted to find a business like yours and didn't have someone around me to ask I would start with Google and ask specific questions or keyword mashups for what I needed. E.g. "offline system backup small business iMac", "how to configure long-distance network between four Apple machines: iMac, MacBook, iPad, iPhone", or whatever else had me in a problem solving mode that day. I would then follow those up to the third page of google or so.

To this end: On your webpage, you may want to have a blog section in which you chat about problems business like mine have or answer specific easy questions that you have come across that demonstrates your knowledge and ability without being too vague or so detailed and specific you are working for free. Some of the blogs I've found that are actually marketing for a business (from IT to construction and historical preservation to pattern making) are essentially teases for the company itself. This "would you like to know more? Give us a call" at the end of vague half-answered articles makes me crazy because it has roped me into thinking I will find the information I was looking for without giving it to me. I will discount those people and businesses because I now feel tricked.

I also read interesting things about IT systems and tech on LinkedIn even though it is generally a terrible website. But a couple of times I have found the tech people I've needed when I need it because someone with a business like yours has written something and I've found it on Google and then LI.

You want your business + location + specific things you do to show up in a google search fairly early and not be spammy or scammy if someone like me is looking for a business like yours. I consider most ads on google and/or yelp to be this scammy/spammy combo, so I will look past them. Even if they aren't I just assume they are and bypass them - especially if they are tech/web/IT related because as a small business owner I am swatting away tech and IT people who cold call and force their way into my email inbox ALL THE TIME. I want to find the place somewhat organically, not be told BY the place that I need them through an ad or some marketing.

See if there are any local clubs or groups that you can speak at and give presentations about something that is related to what your business does - not advertising your business directly, but maybe a talk that you can give to a young entrepreneurs group or a high school or college computer club that can be recorded and then put up on your businesses FB or Youtube page.

Personally I talk a LOT about why I do what I do, so if you have reasons other than "I know how to do it and can make sone scratch at it" you may want to try that.

Also, as someone who would potentially be looking for your service I definitely shy away from places offering "specials" and "deals". If someone comes to me and says that there is a referral deal or some two-for-one shenanigans I automatically assume that they aren't doing very well and are desperate. This goes doubly for Groupon for me. This may just be my personal cynicism, but for small businesses I respond the same way I do to ads: Nope. To me it speaks to the business willing to undercut itself and I don't like it because if you are willing to undercut yourself it is just a matter of time before you undercut me. YMMV; I may be just being a jerk.

And you have to be careful with this last one, but wherever you are online, answer people's questions when they have them. Don't advertise your business, but let people know that you know what you are talking about. That helps immensely, just don't be weird about it.

This ended up longer than I thought and some of it may not be where you want to go, but I know what it is like to try to figure out how to grow just enough without spinning and feeling useless or growing too big.
posted by Tchad at 8:46 AM on January 31, 2019 [4 favorites]

Hello fellow Apple Consultant! I can highly recommend listening to the Command-Control-Power podcast, and consider attending the ACES Conference. The conference (from what I've heard) is really focused on growing your Apple Consulting business.

For day-to-day discussions, I can also highly recommend the #consulting-lounge channel on the MacAdmins Slack.

As for tips, here's what has worked well for me: Never hand out just one business card, hand out at least two. When your on-site work is finished, and the client is smiling, let them know "Thanks for giving me a call, I'm glad we got this fixed for you. You know, I'm really interested in finding some more work, so if you run into anyone that would be a good fit for what I do, would you give them my card?" This is certainly the cheapest way to get more business, but it's also the best. It helps your clients look good to be able to recommend someone who is good at what they do, too!

Next: The online stuff (website/twitter/Facebook/etc.) should be tailored to show two things: 1) What you're good at, and 2) Who your services are for. The amount of work this takes can be deceiving, because the tech changes so quickly. If you're looking for more residential clients, I think FB makes more sense. If you're looking for corporate clients, then I think having your own website (with timely blog entries about what you're doing (and most importantly how those changes solved a problem or created an opportunity for their business!)) is the way to go.
posted by Wild_Eep at 10:00 AM on January 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

I was going to suggest this
- It always pays to incentivize clients to recommend you. Ours get discounts for any recommendations that sign.
posted by Alison at 16:46 on January 31 [2 favorites +] [!]

and also want to echo that for any professional services I need (accountant, estate agent, plumber), I go
1. ask friends for recommendations (or ask on FB) and, if this yields nothing,
2. google it (and read reviews).
Not sure how you can get around the home address problem, but I think a Google Business profile would be useful. And give your existing clients perks for referrals.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 11:28 AM on January 31, 2019

Best answer: You can make a service area google business profile which would not show your address.
posted by Sophont at 12:45 PM on January 31, 2019

My dad has a small business, and he's a member of a group in his area that does breakfast every Thursday morning, and then commits to doing referrals among each other. I have been to a few meetings, and they devote a section of each one to giving a short testimonial when another member sent them business, or indeed was a direct vendor. A friend in town here is in one of these groups, too, and I believe they have found it to be pretty effective.

Could you find one of these nearby, as others have suggested?
posted by wenestvedt at 1:23 PM on January 31, 2019

Speaking as someone that has looked to hire exactly your services, here's what I've tried:

Reaching out to managed service providers to see if they can help. So far, none of them support Mac environments, nor do they seem interested in adding this. Opportunity for you: Reach out to MSPs in your area to let them know that you provide these services, and offer a referral incentive or do a partnership.

Search google. I've tried "Mac support " "Apple MSP " etc. I found a few but none seemed well set up for organizations our size. Opportunity for you - a Google business listing is useful, but better would be a nice clean website that was optimized for these types of keywords, a description of your services, why we should hire you and what a typical engagement would look like.

Browsed the Apple business partner listing. I seem to remember a partner program on the apple site where you could find organizations that provide support, but a quick look on the site didn't turn it up. Could be a good opportunity to market to Apple customers, although Apple hasn't been that supportive of partners in the past.

PS - if you're in the Vancouver area and offer Apple hardware business support services, memail me :)

posted by kaefer at 1:31 PM on January 31, 2019

Response by poster: I do listen to Command Control Power, and am thinking of attending ACES.

For day-to-day discussions, I can also highly recommend the #consulting-lounge channel on the MacAdmins Slack.

I'm in that Slack but don't see that channel.
posted by ridogi at 2:33 PM on January 31, 2019

Response by poster: I am a one person MSP (which I didn't say above as many people wouldn't know what that that is), although I'm small and don't want to grow to have employees. I also don't charge flat rate as has been the trend for about a decade, so I charge hourly.

My service area is Manhattan so there are certainly other MSPs that service Apple based clients. They are my competitors. 😉

PS - if you're in the Vancouver area and offer Apple hardware business support services, memail me :)

Sadly not, and I'm not surprised you have trouble finding someone for hardware support. It is basically impossible to make money doing that.
posted by ridogi at 2:41 PM on January 31, 2019

There's another conference that happens in Vancouver: Mac DevOps YVR
posted by Wild_Eep at 6:28 PM on January 31, 2019

I used essentially the same business model for quite some time, and whenever I needed a bump I'd just tell my existing clients so and ask if they'd mind passing on a few of my business cards. They were always happy to do so, and I always got a couple of new clients out of every round of asking for them.

The beauty of direct customer-to-customer recommendation over advertising is that once you have a regular customer base of pleasant and considerate people, new customers they recommend you to tend to be that way as well. With customers gleaned from advertising there is no such tendency. So since your new-client requirements are rather modest, I think you'd be better off just giving your existing recommendation network a gentle nudge whenever you need to than going off in a completely different direction marketing-wise.
posted by flabdablet at 4:07 AM on February 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

Seconding Flabdablet. It's one thing to need customers and take anyone that calls you. It's another to verify that they're someone you'd actually want to work with.
posted by Wild_Eep at 8:27 AM on February 1, 2019

Thirding Flabdablet: "...once you have a regular customer base of pleasant and considerate people, new customers they recommend you to tend to be that way as well. With customers gleaned from advertising there is no such tendency."

Indeed, they're the opposite of customers gained through the Groupon model of people screaming for their free Donkey sauce.

Plus grateful friends will be so glad you hooked them up with a good third party, and will return the favor down the line. I love knitting people up like this whenever I can.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:51 AM on February 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

« Older The Rose vs. The Bull   |   ScotchFilter: recommend a gift scotch? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.