Archive for July, 2013

Dear Danielle: Should Prospects Be Allowed to Contact Clients Who Have Provided Testimonials?

Dear Danielle: Should Prospects Be Allowed to Contact Clients Who Have Provided Testimonials?

Dear Danielle:

Do you think I should allow a prospective client to contact my “testimonials” to get information about me.  They call them references, but they’re not references, they’re testimonials from folks I’ve known and/or worked with over the years who have spoken highly of me and my work. I told the prospective client that I do not want them to contact my testimonials directly without their permission. I provide testimonials and they can view recommendations on my LinkedIn profile to further my credibility, but that’s it. If I allowed every prospective client to contact my testimonials or recommendations, they would be inundated with calls and emails and I do not want to burden them with that. I told the prospective client that I operate as a professional business provider and that I wasn’t applying for a job or work as an employee, but rather offering my services to them. If they wanted to do business with me, then they should take the testimonials and recommendations for their face value and trust that they are authentic. Otherwise we are not the right fit to work together. I may have lost this opportunity to work with the client….I haven’t heard back from her yet. But I feel strongly about this. Do you think I did the right thing? I don’t want them to think I’m hiding something by telling them I don’t want them to contact people directly. I’m confused…I know. Any advice would be greatly appreciated thanks much!  —Anonymous by request

Thanks for the great question! And as usual, I have lots of feedback for ya. 🙂

I feel the same as you about it:  Much as I know they love me, I don’t want my past or current clients pestered by every Tom, Dick or Harry who comes along. That’s one of the reasons I gathered their testimonials in the first place:  to have that information already prepared for prospective clients and save and be respectful of my clients’ time and energy.

Plus, there are lots of reasons why many service professionals prefer their client lists be confidential, this being one of them.

What I do in my practice is reserve that information only for serious prospects. In my practice, that means only those who I’ve prequalifed as good client candidates, met in consultation already and determined there is enough of a fit to move further in the process.

If I’m asked, I let prospective clients know that I am happy to provide contact information of those clients who have given me permission to give it out and are happy to speak with others about my work once we have met in consultation.

However, I have to say that I’ve never been asked! And I firmly believe it’s because of the way I have presented testimonials on my website.

When your prospective clients and site visitors get all the competence and credibility they’re looking for demonstrated on your website, they don’t feel the need to go to elaborate lengths. You’ve gained their trust enough that they put faith in what you’ve presented because all evidence (your demonstration of skill and competence) tells them to take things at the face value you’re wanting them to.

When it comes to testimonials, the more transparency you provide, the better. What I mean is when you put a real face to an actual name, people put more trust and credibility in the testomonial.

You don’t have to have testimonials from every single client you’ve ever had, nor do you have to put your entire client list, past and present, on display. Even just a couple well-written and nicely presented testimonials will accomplish everything you need them to.

So how I’ve done that is by including with the testimonial:

  • A headshot of the client
  • The client’s full name
  • The URL of their website

With that information you are making it clear this is a real person and real testimonial. When you make it real, people feel far more trusting of the information, which is what you’re trying to accomplish.

And then try to get testimonials that give useful, substantive information. Simple statements like “She is great to work with!” may be well-intentioned and genuine, but they are pretty boring and useless as testimonials. I’ve developed the ACA Client Feedback Form (FRM-04) and the Client Info Sheet (FRM-06) to be used together to both elicit great testimonials and develop before and after case studies. I highly recommend you check them out.

Another thought occurred to me that I’m going to throw out here as well. You mention that this person referred to “references.” The concern I have is they are not understanding the nature of the relationship, which leads me to ask, why not?

Examine the content on your website.

Your website should be pre-educating clients in a way that they correctly understand the nature of the relationship, and that they aren’t interviewing you for a position, they are seeking collaborative support and guidance from an administrative expert.

Big difference in definitions and big difference in how they will approach you in their demeanor and understanding as well. So that’s really important.

If you are talking about yourself like an assistant, they are naturally going to go about things as if you were. They don’t know any better. So it’s your place and in your best interests and priority to educate, inform and instruct them as to how to go about things with you.

On the flip side of that is to look at where clients like this are coming from.

There are lots of channels where clients are being completely miseducated about what we do and what our relationship to them is. Indeed, so many are getting the impression that we are basically under-the-table employees. So, if you are getting prospects from avenues where they are being miseducated, those are not good client pipelines for you.

Improve your message and educational information on your website so that prospects are properly informed before they ever contact you, then focus on developing your own target market pipelines, and you’ll get far fewer (if any) of those kind of inquiries in the future.

Let me know if this is helpful. And as always, we can continue the conversation in the comments.

All my best!

Gmail Just Took More Control Over Your INbox; Here’s How to Fix That

So I guess Gmail rolled out some significant changes to their email system that affect whether or not you are receiving YOUR email.

Apparently they have added new automatic “Primary,” “Social” and “Promotions” category tabs.

This means they are arbitrarily deciding how your email gets sorted and what email you get based on their protocols, not yours.

Not only are their efforts overzealous and big-brotherish, but there is going to be lots of legitimate mail—mail you WANT, including from clients and prospective clients—being blocked and rerouted.

Not good business.

To remedy this and make sure you get all your business email, here are two options…

OPTION 1

  1. Click the little X at the top right of your INbox next to the tabs and uncheck the “Social” and “Promotions” box, and click save. This will revert things back to the traditional Gmail INbox.

OPTION 2

Alternatively, if for some reason you want to keep the new tabs (though, God knows why you would, lol), you can do this instead:

  1. Go into one of the tabs and find a message from someone you WANT to continue seeing and hearing from.
  2. Drag that message over to the Primary tab.
  3. You’ll get an alert that asks:  “This conversation has been moved to ‘Primary.’ Do this for future messages from X?” Click YES.

And that oughta take care of things!

You Are Not an Expense

You are not an expense.

You are an investment.

An expense is money down the drain.

An investment is something that yields returns greater than the money spent.

And that’s exactly what administrative support yields for clients. It yields greater returns in the form of more time, more bandwidth and creative space, more energy, greater focus, less stress, faster progress, better business, smoother operations… the list goes on.

Stop talking about savings and discounts and free this and that, and start talking about what your clients GAIN from working with you!

It’s Time to End Your Client-Getting Struggle

Last Chance to Save: Register by midnight, August 5, to save $50! http://www.administrativeconsultantsassoc.com/classes/2013/091913

Are you struggling to get clients? Are the clients you do get the penny pinchers who want you to work for practically nothing?

Do you have a hard time asking for (and getting) your fees?

Do you do a lot of project work and live on the hope those customers will turn into actual retained clients (but never do)?

Are you lost or stuck when it comes to writing your marketing message in a way that doesn’t sound like everyone one else in the industry?

Do you want to get more consults with a site that instill trust, credibility and rapport?

If you’re dying to get some of those lucrative, well-paying retainer clients who pay you every month, in advance, I have a special offer for you…

After the millionth conversation on my Facebook page, hearing from folks who were still struggling to get clients and earn well, I got fired up and put together the Build a Website that WORKS workshop to show folks, once and for all, how to do it!

The first thing I want to assure you is that the economy has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do the struggles you’re having. That’s not why you aren’t getting clients or getting the clients you wish you were getting.

The clients are out there. The money is out there. It’s just that you aren’t getting the proper information and education on how to go about getting them in a way that they will happily pay what you ask. That’s what I’m going to change for you and it all starts with your website.

We’re going to take some business inventory, activate some mindshifts, get clarity around your business model and vision, overhaul your marketing and message, and then transform your wesite into a client-getting powerhouse. When we’re done, you will have a website that turns site visitors into hot prospects, captures  leads and get you more consultations.

Isn’t it high time you ended all the years of struggle? Imagine what your life would look and feel like!

I’m taking registrations now for this month-long workshop that will begin on September 19. Register by midnight tonight and save $100 on tuition!

Head on over to the registration page to learn more about what I’ll be teaching you and what we’re going to accomplish. This is going to be an eye-opening, life-changing experience!

Are We Sole Proprietors or Independent Contractors?

Last Chance to Save: Register by midnight, August 5, to save $50! http://www.administrativeconsultantsassoc.com/classes/2013/091913

Someone asked the question on a listserv I’m on: Are we sole proprietors or independent contractors?

Here is the answer:

These are just different terms for the same thing: business owner. There is no difference.

It’s just that when someone goes into business for themselves, they are self-employed. By default, when there has been no official business formation filed, anyone who is in business is a sole-proprietor (unless they have a partner, in which case they are a partnership).

There are legal guidelines that govern self-employment. When someone is self-employed, they are still a business. And when you are in business, by law and by practice, it is you who determines everything in your business: how the work is done, what you charge, when, where and how you work, what tools you use… everything.

As someone who is a self-employed business owner (independent contractor), the people you work with are clients. Clients do not get to determine any of these things (and it is their duty and responsibility in business to know this).

They come to you because you are in business to provide a particular service and expertise they have need of. However, any client who is setting your “rate of pay,” supervising you or controlling any other working conditions is no longer a client. By law, they are an employer.

It’s important for people going into business for themselves to understand these distinctions. Employers who engage in illegal misclassification of employees pay stiff and severe penalties when they are caught. They are actually also stealing from these people because they are not paying into Social Security and Medicare funds and all the other legally required benefits and standards that employers are liable for.

I have a free Intro to Business Formations guide that you can download here: http://www.administrativeconsultantsassoc.com/freeresources

Tell Their Story: 3 Case Study Ideas for Marketing to Clients

Tell Their Story 3: Case Study Ideas for Marketing to Clients

So, what is a case study?

For those who might not be familiar, a case study is basically a story that describes a typical client’s situation before, and the progress and results achieved after, working with you.

Potential clients visit your site and they see what you do, but a lot of times they don’t understand how your service helps them beyond just getting work done. Case studies provide context in a way that helps illustrate the ways in which clients benefit from your support. They help them better visualize and imagine the kind of results you can help them acheive and get excited about the possiblities of working together.

Ideally, a case study uses an actual client as the basis. However, maybe you are a new Administrative Consultant and don’t have clients yet. When that’s the case, what you can do is paint a word picture of the kind of results and benefits a typical client could expect from working with you.

You would tell the story from the perspective of the typical kind of client who would need your services, the kind of needs, challenges and goals they have, and then describe the kind of support you would provide to meet and overcome those needs, goals and challenges. Most importantly, you then describe how that typical client’s business (and life, for that matter) would be improved and all the various benefits and results the client would get as a result.

Here are three case study ideas that each focus on a different angle you can take in developing your own.

  1. Demonstrate how you help. A lot of times, prospects don’t fully understand what you can help them with, and those exhaustive lists of tasks and services don’t help (the eyes glaze over at a certain point). So what you do is describe a typical client in your target market, point out some of the needs, goals and challenges they have, and then outline the kind of support areas and activities you would help them with that would address those needs, goals and challenges. This gives them context to better understand and visualize what you do for them and how you work together with certain objectives in mind.
  2. Demonstrate how you give clients back more time. Another kind of case study you can paint is one that helps prospects realize how much time they can gain back. Most people want more time to what? Work with more clients and make more money? Take vacations? Have more quality time with family and friends and just generally have a life beyond their business? So, use this kind of case study to help illustrate what their life might like with your administrative support. What kinds of things would they do with that newfound extra time? Would they have more time off for relaxing and self-care? Would they have a better quality life? Would they have more time to develop and grow their business (and, thus, make more money)? How would their peronal and family life be improved?
  3. Demonstrate how a client’s business can grow and improve with your support. This kind of case study is about specific facts and figures. Obviously, when clients are trying to do everything themselves in their business, there’s only so much time left to work with clients. By leveraging your support, how many more clients could they work with? How much more free time would they gain back? How much more money could they be earning per year? How many new products, services or programs could they develop? For this case study, you need a client where you’ve taken inventory at the start of the relationship and then again at least six months or a year later. How many clients did they have in the beginning and how many after? How much were they earning annually then and now (i.e., their income persumably increased due to having more time and being able to work with more clients with your support). This is a powerful kind of case study because it directly links your support with growth in their business and income.

There are two products I recommend you get from the ACA Success Store that will help you develop the third type of case study:

Client Profile Sheet (FRM-06)

Client Profile Sheet (FRM-06)

and the

Client Feedback Form (FRM-04)

Client Feedback Form (FRM-04)

These have been designed to work together in collecting the before and after data you need to elicit testimonials and create your own powerful case studies.