Archive for February, 2014

Dear Danielle: Is It Hurting My Marketing If I’m Not on Any Social Networks?

Dear Danielle: Is It Hurting My Marketing If I'm Not on Any Social Networks?

Dear Danielle:

I love receiving information from you. It is so relevant in this fast pace environment. However, I must admit to you that I am not connected on any of the social networks – Facebook, Twitter LinkedIn, etc. Do you think it is hurting the nature of work that I do? I need an honest assessment of the facts, okay. —Natalie Headley

Hi Natalie 🙂

Thanks for the question.

So, there’s not one black or white answer for this. It really all depends on who your target market is and whether or where they are hanging out in large numbers. If that’s not social media, then there’s no reason to spend an inordinate amount of time and energy there.

I’m not a social media zealot myself. I don’t use it at all to find clients in my own Administrative Consultant business.

You always see those people evangelizing that you HAVE to be on social media, it’s the ONLY way to get clients.

My eyes just roll and I can barely contain my sarcasm, lol.

If that were true, then what was anyone doing before Twitter and Facebook and the rest? 😉

So you don’t have to be on social media. They are merely tools. And some people need some tools and others don’t.

That said, I wouldn’t write off social media channels entirely. They can be very useful, but for reasons different than most people think.

I see that a lot of people don’t view or understand social media the right way. They think it’s some excuse not to market, that all they have to do is pop up a profile and clients are going to rain from the skies and magically drop in their lap.

(These are the same people who think all they have to do is throw a website up and their work is done, lol).

Yeah, doesn’t work like that.

Here’s how I would tell you to look at it…

Social media is not the driver of marketing. Rather, social media is a tool for keeping in touch and getting to know each other.

Marketing and networking are still the primary drivers and creators of relationships, not social media. Social media platforms are ancillary and secondary to that, not primary.

And social media, as far as getting clients goes, is only helpful if you are hanging out in places they are hanging out.

So here are a few pieces of advice I have when it comes to social media:

  1. Think of your social networking accounts as another avenue for your prospects and clients to get to know you, to nurture those relationships. They give them another way to interact with you, see your expertise and knowledge demonstrated in action, get to know you as a person, and grow that all-important know, like and trust factor.
  2. That said, if you’re going to have a social media account, that also creates the expectation in those who connect with you that you’re going to be on there somewhat regularly to post updates. If you aren’t, don’t bother having an account. It’ll annoy people when you don’t respond to the questions, comments or posts they share with you.
  3. Stick with the platforms you enjoy using. You don’t need to have every single kind of social media account. And if you don’t like one or another, you’re never going to be there and it will be a chore trying to force yourself to be. Don’t do that. The ones you like being on are the ones you’ll be on more regularly and will be more useful (and fun) for you.
  4. Get a target market (if you don’t already have one). A target market is simply a field/industry/profession you cater your administrative support to. Without a target market, you may as well be blowing dandelions in the wind and hoping someone finds you. Not very effective or profitable. A target market will give you direction for your effort and help you be more purposeful, focused and interesting/compelling on your social media platforms.
  5. Once you get a target market, start following and connecting with people and groups in that industry.
  6. Remember who your audience is. If you need clients, that’s, ahem, people in your target market, not your colleagues. The reason I mention this is because we always see people in our own industry wanting to connect with each other. “Let’s all follow each other on Facebook!” For what purpose? Your colleagues are not your clients. Your clients and prospects are your clients. THAT’S who you want to be connecting with. And if you think about it, do you really want colleagues piping up in your conversations with your prospects? I’m not saying never to connect with colleagues and mentors; they definitely are helpful to you in a completely different way. But you want to keep your priorities in perspective. If you put even half the effort into connecting with your clients and prospects that most people in our industry spend dinking around with each other on these channels, you’ll be far, far ahead of the game.

Let me know if that helps!

8 Tips for Transitioning to Your Administrative Support Business from Full-Time Employment

8 Tips for Transitioning to Your Administrative Support Business from Full Time Employment

While you’re still working is the best time to get your business foundations solidly in place before opening your business doors:

  1. Become a student of business. Study up, particularly in the areas of practice management in a professional services business, marketing of professional services, and all things related to the administrative support business industry (starting with the best resource of all, the ACA website and blog here! 😉 )
  2. Create your business plan. Going through the exercise of business planning forces you to think through certain aspects of the business and get clear about why you’re going into business, what your goals and challenges are, how much money you want/need to make, etc., and then formalizing the map for how you plan to get there.
  3. Create a business map (not to be confused with a business plan). This is basically a modeling of what the business looks like in a visual, illustrated format and how it earns its revenues and profits. RESOURCE: The ACA Business Plan Template is tailored specifically for those in the administrative support business! It’s not only a business plan; it’s also a visioning tool for how you want your business to support your life.
  4. Get the practical working pieces together. This includes your contracts, ideal client profile, and beginning policies and procedures. This is also the time to begin drafting your Client Guide, which is a basically a formalizing/documenting of your standards, policies, procedures and protocols. This guide is given to new clients for the purpose of informing them how things work in your practice and how to get the most out of the relationship and work together successfully. This is a particularly useful tool because, while it should be written in positive, client-centric language, what it does is help to outline boundaries and inform clients what the “rules” are (for lack of a better term) so that they don’t think it’s their place to be making them up. YOU have to instruct them about how things work in your practice, not the other way around. It sets proper expectations and helps them view and respect you as a business and professional, not their beck-and-call employee. RESOURCE: One of the reasons many businesses in this industry fail is because they never learned how to structure their operations to handle more than one or two clients at a time. This is where my Power Productivity & Business Management guide comes in. In this guide, I give you all my trade secrets, systems and tools for running a six figure practice that scales with the growth of your roster and makes sure you still have room for a life in the process.
  5. Get your website started. This will always be a work in progress. No one is ever “done” with their website, nor should they be. One should always be working to improve and clarify their educational marketing message for clients. And while you are working is a great time to get the framework up and begin the work of crafting and honing your message. RESOURCE: Build a Website that Works. In this guide I show you exactly how to put your website together using my own proven conversion system for more consults and more clients, and how to articulate your value as I walk you step-by-step in creating your own unique, irresistible marketing message so you can get those lucrative, well-paying monthly retained clients. Throughout all this, you’ll get the bonus of a crash-course in in-bound marketing, business modeling and more clearly identifying your offers and how to position them on your website for best results.
  6. Learn those all-important business skills. Getting clients isn’t at all like applying for a job. In this way, going into business is like going back to college because there are several skills you’re going to need to study and learn if you’re going to be successful. These include pricing and packaging your support; conducting consultations with clients; and marketing and presenting yourself among other things. RESOURCE: I’ve been in this business for darn near 20 years and have packaged up every single bit of my knowledge, know-how, and expertise into the ACA Success Store. When I say it has everything you need, that’s not some cheesy marketing line. It actually has exactly all the right information and tools you need to set your business up properly and learn the important skills you need to be successful far more quickly and easily than trying to do it (slowly, blindly) all by yourself.
  7. Take on that first client! While you’re still working can often be a great time to take on that first client. Keep in mind, you’ll only be able to handle so many retained clients (possibly only one, maybe two) while still working a job, and you still need to provide a professional, business-like level of quality and care they would expect from any business. Don’t use having a job as an excuse for providing anything less. That said, I often refer to those first clients as “starter” or “practice” clients. That’s because this is a time when we’re getting our business legs and learning about what we like and don’t like in our business and identifying who our ideal clients are and how we want things to work. So, it’s quite common that these clients aren’t necessarily ones you’ll keep for the long-haul (although that is entirely possible as well). Sometimes we’re lucky and have a client who happily and gratefully grows with us. You’ll also find that as your business standards and boundaries shift and improve, as you course correct things that aren’t working in your business, there will also be some clients you naturally outgrow and need to let go. And then there will be others who are just plain intractable and not amenable to any change in your business (and probably weren’t a great fit anyway) and  leave of their own accord. Don’t view those clients as losses or failures. They absolutely aren’t! They provided invaluable growth and learning experience and helped you better know yourself and improve your business. So, be grateful you had them and remember that when you let the unideal go, you open up space for the more ideal to flow in and take their place. You won’t grow by clinging to that which is not ideal and absolutely happy-making for you.
  8. Start a slush fund. As you’re working is the best time to start socking away operating capital for the business. This is because for most people, there are only so many clients you can feasibly take on while still employed in a “day job” and still have time, room, and energy for all the other things you have to juggle in life. There comes a transition where, if you’re wanting to go into business full hog, you have to make a leap, and most people don’t yet have a full roster of retained clients when they make that leap. So there’s going to be a period of time once you make the leap and leave your job where you’re working to fill your roster with clients. Having that operating capital (or some other means of income) while you get established can be a lifesaver and help ensure you can pay the bills and not make choices out of desperation (which leads to stepping over of standards) until the business becomes profitable and fully self-sustaining.

Hope that helps!

Do You Network at Events to Find New Clients?

Do you network at events to find new clients?

Someone asked the question on one of the LinkedIn groups I joined recently:

“Do you network at events to find new clients?”

I thought I would share my thoughts with you here as well.

Any way you can meet and interact with prospects is certainly good.

That doesn’t mean it necessarily has to be done in-person or locally.

And you want to consider that some methods are more fruitful and productive and less costly to the business to engage in than others.

I occasionally go to a live/local event just for the fun of it, to get out of the office (my house, lol) and meet new people or learn new things.

The human interaction is nice and I believe getting in some local networking helps keep our interpersonal skills honed.

It’s a nice change of pace; however, my primary business marketing and networking is done online.

(Likewise, I only conduct consultations over the phone.)

Relying entirely on in-person meetings and networking is a very expensive prospect. And I’m not talking about admission fees.

Any time you have to leave the office, the cost to the business of that personal time triples.

That’s because in a solopreneur business like ours where we are the business, we are the craftsman, that personal time away is time away from other clients, other work and other opportunities.

So it’s a more expensive proposition compared to online networking.

You can meet, connect, interact with and get in front of vastly more people and potential clients using online methods because it’s a one-to-many ratio that doesn’t require your personal presence outside your office.

You can meet ten times more people online in less time than it takes you to meet with one person locally.

And because it’s online, your prospect pool is not limited to your local geographic location.

Not that you shouldn’t ever leave your home/office, lol. You just want to be discerning and strategic about where and how you spend your in-person time.

Here’s how I would mix it up:  

Focus first and perhaps more predominately on developing your online marketing and networking. Eventually, you’ll have it all set-up to where a large part of it can be automated and you can dedicate a small, but useful, bit of time each day to give it your personal attention.

That then will afford you more time to fit in the occasional live/local business event and networking.

This way, you have the best of both worlds and your business doesn’t have to rely exclusively on live/local attendance, which takes far longer, is more costly due to the time involved away from the business, and the more limited scope of reach and connection.

The other thing I wanted to mention about in-person/local networking, don’t turn it into a sales spiel where you corner one person after another and shove your business card in their hands or force them to listen to your “elevator pitch.”

No one likes a salesman/saleswoman. And no one wants you looking at them like they’re your next possible meal.

Go to these events without any agenda or attachment to outcomes except to make new friends. That’s it.

I’m telling you, you will create far more meaningful business connections and real relationships with people when you go about things with that mindset.

So don’t go there to sell. Go there to meet and talk and most importantly ask questions about other people and their businesses.

Because the most interesting person in the room to others is the one who is interested in them. 😉

The paradox of this is that because you engage your curiosity about them, they’re going to be all the more interested in you and what you do.

Then, instead of a business card, you come equipped and give them a gift. 😉