Archive for the ‘Getting Clients’ Category

How to Talk About Mistakes with Clients Before They Happen

How to Talk About Mistakes with Clients Before They Happen

You are going to make mistakes.

I can tell you this right now with absolute, 100% certainty.

It’s just a fact of life as a human being.

They may not be convenient. They are often messy and untidy, but mistakes and imperfections are the patina of life.

At the very least, you have to accept this. You might even embrace it and have it work in your favor.

Talking about mistakes with clients before they happen and how those situations are handled can be really useful in any truly authentic consultation discussion.

In fact, as crazy as it sounds, talking frankly about mistakes actually puts clients at ease.

They trust you more because you aren’t making far-fetched promises they know in their heart simply aren’t feasible.

Someone who says they never make mistakes is full of it (or delusional).

No matter how attractive fantasies and wishful thinking are, we all recognize this at a very basic level.

And so you become someone much more trustworthy and believable in their eyes when you admit the truth of the matter.

That’s not to say you should be telling clients, “Yeah, I’m gonna make mistakes left and right, all day long.”

You wouldn’t be a competent professional worth paying if that was the case.

The point is that while you should absolutely be at the top of your game and always giving your best to clients, there are going to be occasions when a mistake happens.

You might misunderstand something or lack information. It’s also not always clear when you need clarification and you proceed with what you think is the complete picture.

Whatever the case, there are simply going to be occasions (and they should occasions, not the norm) when either external or internal factors foul you up.

When it comes to conducting consultations with prospective clients, you want to get a feel for how they will handle those situations as well as be upfront and clear about how you expect to be treated in any circumstance.

Talking about these situations before they come up lets new clients know how to behave if/when they occur. At the same time, it helps you weed out potentially wrong-fitting clients and bring everyone’s attitudes and expectations to a more conscious level of awareness and mutual understanding.

This is what is formally called in business as “managing client expectations.”

What I like to tell prospective clients is basically this:

“I am exceptionally good at what I do. I can absolutely, confidently declare this. I’m also human and once in awhile, I am going to make a mistake. I very much need and want to know if/when that happens so I can fix it and work to ensure it doesn’t happen again where that’s possible. I welcome your input and feedback. To make sure our relationship remains happy, mutually respectful and most importantly, helpful to you, I look to work with clients who aren’t so quick to be upset, but rather will trust and have confidence in the fact that I will make things right once it is brought to my attention. And I will always strive to earn and maintain that trust and confidence. At any time that I fail to maintain your trust and confidence in my service and abilities, I would fully expect that you’d want to end our relationship. In any situation, I always, always expect to be treated and spoken to respectfully, with the same courtesy, respect and professionalism that it is my standard to extend to you and all my clients.”

This, of course, is always delivered conversationally, but those are the main points I like to cover.

We then have a discussion about their thoughts on the subject. Based on their tone and responses in this discussion, I can usually tell (or at least simply decide) if someone seems like he or she would be a good client to work with, one who will be likely to maintain calm composure, respect and professionalism towards me in the event a mistake is made.

[Important Side Note: You naturally want clients with whom you can have great relationships. Plain and simple, it’s just not profitable or energizing to work with poor-fitting, abusive clients. And so you choose clients well as best you can. That’s all any of us can do, and it’s one of the important reasons to conduct thorough consultations. But if it turns out a client isn’t so great to work with, you always have the option of ending the relationship. You are never stuck. Always remember that.]

Unrealistic expectations are often rooted in impossible ideas of perfection. In talking about mistakes when I conduct consultations with clients, and how they should be viewed, I like to use proofreading as an analogy.

I explain that the value of a proofreader is not that he or she is going to be absolutely perfect 100% of the time. That’s unreasonable and humanly impossible. We should never proofread our own work because we can’t see our mistakes much of the time. Even if you give that work to five other people, each of those five people is going to miss something, guaranteed. So while all of us (including clients) might work and strive for perfection, we always need to keep in mind that it’s not “perfectly” attainable. Likewise, the value in great proofreading is not that the proofreader will never, ever miss something. Even if they are pretty darn close to being perfect, their true value is that they have a firm command of the language and rules of grammar, punctuation and usage to know what to look for in the first place. Skill is important, but without that knowledge and sensibility at the core, there would be no skill.

So this is the part of the conversation I have with clients during our consultation to help shape their expectations and feel them out with regard to how they deal with mistakes (or any other situation for that matter) and what ideas they may have about perfection.

The more you conduct consultations, have these discussions and work with clients, the more you’ll develop your own green and red flag intuitions for deciding who is likely to be a great client, and who is more likely to be a demoralizing soul sucker with unreasonable standards of perfection.

(Hint: Prospects who have realistic expectations about mistakes and give all indications of being able to maintain an even keel and professional demeanor towards you tend to make for better, more ideal clients. 😉 )

Breaking the Ice: Your Complete, Step-by-Step System for Confidently Leading the Consultation Conversation and Converting Prospects into Well-Paying Monthly Clients Who Can't Wait to Work with You (GDE-03)

If you are looking to grow a practice of ideal clients who pay you a monthly retainer fee for your administrative support, check out my guide on successfully conducting client consultations: Breaking the Ice: Your Complete, Step-by-Step System for Confidently Leading the Consultation Conversation and Converting Prospects into Well-Paying Monthly Clients Who Can’t Wait to Work with You (GDE-03). In this guide, I share with you my entire, fool-proof system—based on 20 years successful experience in this business— for getting every client I want, every time.

You Don’t Get Clients by Sending Them PMs; Here Is What to Do Instead

You Don’t Get Clients by Sending Them PMs; Here Is What to Do Instead

You don’t get clients by mass-messaging people who don’t know you.

You’re going to waste a lot of time and energy (and annoy a lot of people) that way.

There are far more effective methods that will have people come to you of their own accord and interest.

In the professional services business, it’s not about soliciting strangers and indiscriminate cold-calling.

In our business—the administrative support business—the name of the game is trust and credibility.

And that is established through relationship-building and nurturing the know-like-and-trust factor: allowing a group of people to get to know you and come to you after becoming interested in how you might be able to help them.

When I was having this conversation on LinkedIn, someone asked me:

“I was just thinking about this today! I want to let everyone know about me venturing out on my own, but I don’t want to annoy people either. I thought about sending out an email with some very brief information and then asking them if I can send them more information. Is this a good approach or would you advise a different way?”

This falls in the same category of soliciting people that you don’t know are even interested. It’s a waste of your time, money and effort when 99.99% of these people are just going to toss your letter in the round file.

Instead, I have a Business Letter of Introduction that does this job in the right way so it doesn’t look like you are desperate and begging for business, which turns people off. This letter comes as a free bonus with my Administrative Support Business Set-Up Success Kit (Set-01 in the ACA Success Store).

Beyond that, here are some basic steps to make getting clients faster and easier (and this is where I would have you focus your time and efforts more productively for more fruitful results):

  1. Choose a target market. A target market is simply a field/industry/profession that you cater your administrative support to.
  2. Learn about your target market inside out as much as you can. When you know your market intimately, you can better and more easily identify their problems and pains and cater your solutions accordingly.
  3. Get out there and interact with the people in your target market, online and off! When you have a target market, it also makes it vastly easier to figure out where to find them.
  4. In all of your marketing communications and networking conversations, direct everyone to your website. This is the vital link that educates your site visitors about what you do, who you do it for and how you help and moves those who are actually interested further in the process so that you are wasting your time willy nilly on every Tom, Dick or Harry who isn’t going to ever be a client.
  5. Make sure there is a lead capture system on every page of your website. What this means in simple terms is give your site visitors a gift in exchange for their email address. It could be a free how-to guide, a free report, some free DIY training, a form or e-book, you name it. It just has to be highly compelling and of value and interest to your target market (which is another reason to have a target market: it’s easier to identify what will be of great, specific interest to them.). This is so you can get them on your mailing list and continue to keep in touch with them and nurture the relationship. This is where an autoresponder/list management service like Aweber comes in; it automates this process and allows you to send out personalized messages to thousands of subscribers all at once.
  6. Keep in touch with your subscriber list of client prospects on a regular weekly basis. Consistency is critical here. If you are irregular or there is too much time between communications, they’ll forget who you are and why they are hearing from you. You want to allow people to get to know you so this frequency is very important in keeping those on your mailing list subscribed and interested.

What next? The best place to start is to get my free guide on How to Choose Your Target Market.

Dear Danielle: How Can I Turn this Employer into a Client?

Dear Danielle: How Can I Turn this Employer into a Client

Dear Danielle:

I work for a small business and the majority of my job is done offsite and remotely. When I came into the business there were no systems in place, no manuals or training tools available and patients accounts were all out of balance. I have worked to restore these areas in addition to the accounts receivables. I am no longer able to ignore the nagging pull to launch out and begin my own administrative support business. However, I feel that I can retain my current employer as a client. I am costing them more I believe. I have been paid by the hour as an employee and it has been a tremendous cost to get things up and running more smoothly. Now that I understand all the inner workings of the business, offered my advice as well as support, I feel my inside job has come to an end. There are many more factors to list but I don’t want to take advantage of your time. Please tell me your thoughts on this. How I should move forward? —Anonymous by request

Hi Anonymous :)

Thanks for your question.

If you feel you can turn this employer into a client, go for it.

Since you asked me, though, I’m going to let you know why former employers don’t make for the best of clients.

  1. Employers tend to want to keep working with you in the same old ways. That’s a problem because when you are running a business, there is necessarily going to be a difference in when and how you work together. You can’t be at their instant beck and call the way you were when you worked for them as an employee. They had your undivided time and attention because you were their employee, being paid to be dedicated solely to them 9-5. But as a business owner, you have other clients to serve, other important duties to attend to (or you will have, and you have to operate and plan your business around that eventuality). You simply are not going to be able to work with them in the same way as you did when you were an employee, not if you are going to grow your business and have time and room to work with other clients. And that’s not a transition that many employers are able or willing to make.
  2. Not all, of course, but generally employers are employers for a reason. Many very specifically want employees who are dedicated solely to their interests and to whom they can dictate hours, roles and duties. Likewise, some workloads simply require in-house dedicated staff. Contrary to popular belief, not every business/client is a good fit for what we do. Trying to fit square pegs into round holes is an effort in futility. Why bang your head against that wall when there are others far more suited to (and interested in) being clients rather than employers?
  3. Past employers tend to resist changes. They only know you and the relationship they had with you in one context — employee. This can be problematic and make it incredibly difficult for them to see you in a new and different light, which is necessary if the business relationship is going to be successful. It is absolutely vital that clients understand the relationship in a business-to-business context and that there is going to be an entirely different dynamic at play. But past employers tend to be stuck in employer/worker bee mindset and want to keep you in that box and treat the relationship like that. What that means is, instead of extending you professional courtesy and respect and viewing you as their administrative expert and trusted advisor, many can be stuck in a pattern of barking orders at you and thinking it’s their place to dictate everything. A client who doesn’t understand he is a client, not an employer, has a whole different demeanor in his communication and behavior, and not for the better. And that just does not work in a business-to-business relationship.
  4. Their preconceived notions or relationship with you can limit their thinking and keep you boxed in. When you start a business and consult with fresh potential clients, it so much easier to educate them and manage their expectations in the way you need them to be because you’re working with a clean slate, so to speak.

That said, if you think this employer has good client potential despite the above, there are things you can do to help facilitate a successful new business-to-business relationship:

  1. Have a consultation process. If you don’t have one, you can get that with my Client Consultation Guide.
  2. Never take shortcuts with your consultation process. What I mean by that is, many people think because they already know and have a previous relationship with a potential client (such as the case with a former/current employer) they don’t have to conduct a full and thorough consultation. And that’s a really bad idea. Because part of what the consultation process does (at least if you are following my client consultation process) is it helps give proper context for your new business-to-business relationship with each other. This helps employers-turned-clients understand the new relationship so they can treat it and conduct themselves accordingly. It helps these past employers view you not as their employee/worker bee, but respect you as a business owner, someone who is going to now be their administrative partner/expert and trusted advisor. It also helps them understand that there are going to be necessary and significant differences in how and when you work together.
  3. Have a Client Guide ready to give to new or prospective clients. A client guide is a map, or decoder ring, if you will, written in friendly, positive, client-centric language that informs clients about how things work in your business, what your policies, procedures and protocols are, what your standards and expectations are for working together, and what rights and expectations they may have with regard to the work and results. This is another tool that helps facilitate a successful relationship moving forward and gives former employers/new clients proper context. It helps them see you as a business and no longer their employee. If you don’t already have one, you will get a free Client Guide Template included as a bonus when you purchase Set-01 (the Administrative Support Business Set-Up Success Kit) from the ACA Success Store.
  4. Have a proper business website and direct your past employer/potential client to it. And by “proper” I mean it is set up and populated with content that will inform and educate prospective clients about what you do, how you do it and how it helps them. This is another way you pre-educate clients in the way you need them to be and set and manage proper business expectations and understandings in them, which in turn helps them view and interact with you as a business owner (and not their employee). If you don’t have a website yet or your current website isn’t getting good results, be sure to check out my Build a Website that WORKS guide. This guide tells you exactly how to create a business website that gets results — i.e., more consult requests and ideal clients.
  5. Always use a contract. This is another area where people do themselves a huge disservice by taking shortcuts. They think just because they already know the person, they don’t have to go through those motions. But here again, a contract is another tool the use of which extends far beyond its mere practical application. Besides making sure the terms of the relationship are clear and in writing, just having a contract and going through the contract signing process helps former-employers-turned-clients understand the new business-to-business context, which helps ensure a successful working relationship moving forward.

There was something else I wanted to address that is a common misstep for new business owners: thinking your value is all about being cheaper than an employee.

Let me say this loud and clear: your job is not to be cheap.

Your job as a business is to deliver a service that improves the life and business of the client. And that costs whatever it costs.

Value, in the context of a professional service business, is not about discounts and savings and two-for-one specials.

Value is about how the results of your work improves their circumstances and makes business and life better and easier for the client, how it helps them achieve their overall goals and objectives.

This is a frequent topic on my blog so I have a little bit of homework for you. I want you to read these blog posts to help you overcome the scarcity/poverty/employee mindset that new business owners are so commonly susceptible to:

In fact, I have a whole category on my blog on this topic that is extremely eye-opening and empowering for everyone: Value Is Not About the Money

And remember that you are not your ideal client. You can’t base your business decisions and fees on what you would pay or could afford to pay.

Because that’s not how your ideal client thinks or operates, and you’ll never build a financially solvent, sustainable or successful business if you stay stuck in that mindset.

Your ideal client is one who is quality-minded and can well afford professional services. This client values administrative support because he understands this is the work that will help achieve his big picture goals and objectives. This client therefore wants a highly-skilled administrative expert and partner (not an order-taker) who will lead, guide and advise him in the administrative process with a view toward results.

As Seth Godin so elegantly put it recently: “You are not a task rabbit. You’re a professional doing unique work that matters.”

Marketing Tip: Attend Webinars and Teleconferences in Your Target Market’s Industry

Marketing Tip: Attend Webinars and Teleconference in Your Target Market's Industry

Every industry conducts webinars and teleconferences for its members. These present yet another great opportunity to connect, learn more about and interact with your target market.

For example, my target market is solo attorneys in business, intellectual property and entertainment law. The legal industry has thousands upon thousands of continuing education webinars and teleconferences many of which are open to anyone in legal services, not just attorneys, and many of which are free or low-cost.

So be sure to attend the webinars and teleconferences in your target market’s industry because it puts you smack dab in the middle of a “room” full of them. Then be sure to ask at least one question or otherwise participate in the discussion.

When you do that, you have a non-salesy, legitimate reason to introduce yourself, give the name of your business (and/or URL) and briefly explain that you provide admin support for those in the [YOUR TARGET MARKET] industry.

Sometimes the Q&A/discussion is also done by chat which is yet another opportunity to state your name, biz and provide your biz URL.

Plus, when you ask smart questions relevant to the topic, it makes your business look good, too. It inspires confidence and credibility because it’s a demonstration of the kind of smarts and sensibility you’d bring to table for your clients.

If you haven’t chosen a target market yet (a target market is simply a field/industry/profession that you cater your admin support to), be sure to download my free guide How to Choose Your Target Market. 

Ideas for Finding Clients

Ideas for Finding Clients

Here are some ideas for where to find potential clients to help get your creative thinking going.

Since I work with solo attorneys (specifically in the business, intellectual property and entertainment law realm), that’s the target market I know best. However, anyone can extrapolate from these ideas to fit their own target market.

One of the reasons and benefits to have a target market is that it helps you more easily identify where to find clients. Because once you know who you are focusing on, that will tell you what support they need, how to craft your message, and where to begin looking for them.

(By the way, a target market is simply a specific industry/field/profession that you cater your administrative support to.)

For example, if you work with attorneys, the next step is to identify any and all places where you may be able to meet, connect and interact with, and get in front of said attorneys.

What do attorneys deal in very often? Lawsuits.

Where do they go when they litigate those lawsuits? To the courthouse, right?

So, are there any opportunities there? Are there attorney bulletin boards where you can put your business card, flyer, brochure or other handout? Is there a lawyers lounge where you can do the same? What about a law library?

What about your local and state bar associations? Do they have any online forums and listservs you can hop on? Do they have a print newsletter or online blog? If so, you could offer to contribute some articles (and thereby market your business in the process). Find out what advertising opportunities they have. For example, my state’s bar newsletter has a $50 advertising fee which is a small price to pay to get a targeted ad in front of all their attorney subscribers that gets them to my website or video presentation.

Ideally, you are focusing on the solos and boutique firms because they are the ones who truly have the need for our solution. Big law doesn’t need or care about what we do; they really have no real need for our solution. So keep your message, content and efforts geared toward the solos/boutique firms.

Are there special groups that these solos/boutique firm attorneys belong to, online and off? Find out what opportunities might be there for you to speak to their group or offer a webinar or give a presentation. You could teach them about what you do as an Administrative Consultant and all the ways your support helps their practice. Or, it could be about all the ways they can continue to operate in the online realm and further systemize/e-vitalize their practice and operations. (These are just a couple ideas, put your thinking cap with your own target market in mind. What would their ears perk up at? What are their common problems, challenges and obstacles, and what can you share that will help them?)

Talk to your area attorney associations and ask them if they have ideas on how you can connect with their solo attorney members.

If you know of some solo attorneys, TALK to them. And to be clear, don’t market to them. This is a knowledge and information gathering effort. Just see if you can speak with them informally and pick their brain. The goal is to learn as much about them as possible, what their interests are for their practice, where they are hanging out, online and off. The more you talk directly with people in your target market, the more inside knowledge you can glean that will help you in your efforts to support them, gear your solutions toward their needs, goals and interests, and find and connect with them.

Who/what are some of the vendors these lawyers use (locally, geographically and online)? There’s case management software services. There are process services. There are investigators. There are couriers, court reporters… the list goes on and on.

Contact these people and businesses. See if there are some advertising or co-marketing opps where you can take advantage of their own established footing in the industry to get in front of new prospective attorney clients. Maybe they have a blog or newsletter you can contribute to or advertise in/on.

Keep in mind that your services don’t compete with theirs; you are in complementary industries with the same audience. If you talk with them, you might be able to come up with some mutually beneficial referral partnering arrangements. Start the conversation; you’ll be surprised at what you might come up with, what ideas you hit upon.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and try new ideas. Get creative. Be up to try anything once.

At the same time, get good at recognizing when something or some place is a waste of time so you can move on quickly (and stay positive).

Do any of these ideas jump-start your thinking and how to apply them to your own target market?

PS: If you don’t have a target market yet, at least start thinking about one, especially if you’ve been struggling. Download my free guide on How to Choose Your Target Market

I Can’t Work for Pennies, How Are You Making This Work?

I Can't Work for Pennies; How Are You Making This Work?

I am still trying to lock down clients. Any suggestions as to how to obtain clients? I have been using Fiverr for sample gigs (decent income for small projects). I am reaching out to people on Linkedin as well as my previous employer (we have a great relationship so it’s no fluff, but no clients need me yet), but once I move to the pricing for everyone else, they are no longer interested. I feel my price point is comparable, but I can’t work for pennies on the hour. How are you guys making it work? —RB

Fiverr might be good for pocket change if that’s all your needing out of it. But you’re never going to find real clients there (i.e., the kind that pay the kind of money you can actually live on), much less retainer clients who pay a monthly upfront fee for across-the-board administrative support.

“Decent income” is relative. What does it mean to you? Have you done any cost and pricing analysis on what it takes to run your business, earn an income (yes, they are two separate things) and earn a profit? (Profit is yet a third category of earning; you don’t have a business unless you are earning above and beyond your operational and income needs.)

It’s important to understand that there’s a big difference between the economics of employment and the economics of business. That is a huge area of education for a lot of people who are new in business. They often don’t initially understand that $12/hour employee wage will not begin to earn them a living as a business.

You’re also looking at things from the wrong angle and going about the process too generally. Because it’s not about the price point.

(Don’t worry. Everyone goes through this thinking when they’re new in business—it’s a process of education, and I’m here to  help you with that). 

Getting clients begins and ends with WHO your target market is. Have you done that work yet?

RB: I have my target market (insurance), I guess it’s that I am not known maybe? Yeah, I love Fiverr for some quick cash, but trying to convert the folks I am talking to is what I am having trouble with (none from Fiverr). Maybe I need to reevaluate.

You’re not going to be able to convert those people because they aren’t the right audience, and it’s the wrong process/intention on the wrong platform. You’re trying to fish in an empty pond basically.

It’s not about being known. You don’t have to be known. Prospective clients don’t even need to have ever heard about our industry whatsoever.

It’s about YOU understanding THEM (your target market), their business, their industry, how their business is run and how you can support them, a
nd you understanding what they gain and how they benefit from this solution (this is how you will articulate your value to them).

And, of course, choosing the right market.

“Insurance” is pretty broad/generic. What does that mean? What kind of insurance specifically? Who in the “insurance” field are you focusing on?

Because insurance “companies” don’t need what we do. When a company is large enough that the workload inherently requires in-house staff, and has their own staff, you are barking up the wrong tree.

You want to target solo/boutique business owners. They are the ones who have the highest/greatest need for the solution we’re in business to offer, value it more, and are thus more interested and willing to pay for it.

Once you get clearer about all of these things, that is going to tell you where you should be focusing your efforts for more fruitful results.

And the smarter you get about that, you’ll find that you won’t want or need to waste your time in places like Fiverr. 😉

Here’s what I recommend:

1. Get my free ACA Income & Pricing Calculator and go through those exercises. It’s important to get very clear about your numbers and know your pricing baseline.

2. Download my free guide on How to Choose Your Target Market and go through those exercises. This is a necessary part of the process of getting clients. If you don’t know and specifically define who you are talking to, how can you ever find them much less know how to support them administratively? 😉 Once you get clearer about who it is you are seeking, that will inform all your next steps and answer all the questions you have about how to find them, where to find them, how to support them, how to craft your solution and speak their language. This is such a vital step that will make finding clients so much easier.

There’s a lot more to it than this, of course, but these two exercises are the best place to start.

You CAN do this! It’s work, but it’s legwork that must be done first if you’re going to start seeing results. The alternative is to keep plodding along for years on end as many people do.

SEE ALSO:

Dear Danielle: What Do You Think of Odesk and Elance?

Dear Danielle: Should I Market on Craigslist?

Trust and Confidence: Are Your Potential Clients Feeling It?

Trust and Confidence: Are Your Potential Clients Feeling It?

Here’s what you have to always remember about clients looking to hire you: They don’t know you.

You know you, but they don’t know you.

Sure, they might have seen something you wrote–an article or a post on a forum, perhaps–and had their interest piqued.

Or they were given your name by someone they know and whose opinion they value.

But other than that, they don’t really know you.

And so they are nervous, understandably.

It’s a big commitment to decide to work with a business they don’t know.

They have a lot riding on the line. They have a challenge to solve or need to make their business run easier. They dread having to start all over again with someone new and want to make sure their decision is the right one.

This is why they are always looking for evidence.

They want to see clues that demonstrate you actually may be every bit as great at what you do as you say you are.

They want to feel trust and confidence.

So how do you do that? How do you help instill the trust and confidence potential clients are yearning for?

It’s surprisingly simple:

  1. Present a website that demonstrates your competence. What does that mean? Here’s an example: If you say you’re the grammar queen, but your site is littered with misspellings and incorrect punctuation, you can forget about clients thinking you are any good at what you do. No matter what you say you are, it must be backed up visually and in practical demonstration. Even if the thing you do for a living has absolutely nothing to do with spelling, writing or typing, people still buy with their eyes (an analogy coined by Harry Beckwith). They will directly correlate the professionalism and competence of your website (and other marketing collateral) with your actual skills and qualifications for the thing you are in business to do. It all has to match. It’s called walking the talk and looking the part.
  2. Present a website that shows you care. When you care about the presentation of your own website, you are telling your site visitors that you take pride in what you do (a pride-filled service provider is a MUCH better service provider) and that you are invested in their business and the work you want to do for them. Soooo many people think this isn’t important, but it is actually one of the most important things you can do to instill trust, confidence and rapport. If your site shows a lack of effort, if it’s sloppy and lacks any originality whatsoever, what gets communicated is that you are someone who will only exert the least amount of effort possible. That’s not very inspiring, is it?
  3. Give them someone to connect with. Whether you are a solo or the head of a big company, people do business with people. Put your name and face up there prominently so they know who is talking and they have someone to relate to. It’s an instant rapport builder and will make them feel so much safer and more comfortable.
  4. Speak and write like a real person. Corporatespeak is soooo over. Please know I say this in the most loving way, but you really gotta take the stick out of your arse and be a human being! Stop with all the pretensions and being so stiff, formal and uptight. Speak directly to your site visitor as a person, as if you were in a real conversation with him or her. Do this in your writing and in your recordings and videos. Look in their eyes and smile. Let your words be warm and human.
  5. Talk about them, not you. Sure, there’s going to be a sprinkling of “I” and “we” in there, but overall you should be talking about your ideal client and his/her goals, challenges and objectives and what you can do for them. Your copy should mostly be using the words “you” and “your.” If it’s not, go in there right now and turn those sentences around.

CHALLENGE: Today, go through your website. Fix typos and misspellings. Ask someone else to proof. Reword your sentences to focus on “you” and “your.” Make sure all your graphics are rendering correctly and fix any sizing that make them appear wonky. Double-check that all links are active and go to the right pages. A site that is checked and updated regularly is a site that will instill trust and credibility in clients.

(This post originally appeared in The Portable Business ezine on November 22, 2010.)

Dear Danielle: Is It Difficult to Rank or Be Found in Search Engines Using the Term Administrative Consultant?

Dear Danielle: Is It Difficult to Rank or Be Found in Search Engines Using the Term Administrative Consultant?

Dear Danielle:

I am only two months in to this business, but I wanted to know how to handle SEO, keywords and marketing using the term Administrative Consultant. Is it difficult to rank or be found in searches? —DW

This is a question that is frequently asked. For example, here’s one I got from someone back in 2011 who was wholly misinformed how SEO works:

This is terrific advice (as always!), but here’s one problem: for the purposes of search engine optimization, the term “virtual assistant” is invaluable to attract people to your site. People don’t know to look for an admin consultant, so SEO advice says the VA terminology needs to appear repeatedly in out web copy. I’ve gone through my site (which already had an unfortunate domain name chosen before I found YOU and all your amazing insights) and I’ve taken out every instance of the word “assistant.” Now I feel better, but also utterly unsearchable. What’s a girl to do??

She could not be more wrong. Keyword stuffing has been poor website/SEO practice and obsolete for I don’t know how many years now, well before 2011.

Here’s how to understand this:

Your title isn’t for marketing (or SEO) purposes.

It’s for setting proper expectations, understandings, mindset and perceptions in prospective clients, which is a whole other topic that has nothing to do with SEO.

No one even needs to know your term/title to find you. (Remember, there was always a first someone in every new industry; how do you think they survived and succeeded?)

Because how they find you isn’t due to what you are called, it’s what problem, pain or challenge you can solve for them. Your title has nothing to do that that.

Marketing is about having a target market (which is simply an industry/field/profession that you cater your administrative support to) and then networking and interacting with the folks in your target market to create your own pipelines for those people to get to know and come find you.

People who randomly find you on the Internet are few and far between and rarely are they qualified, ideal candidates.

SEO is the least relevant, and poorest quality way people will find you (at least in terms of how the misinformed person above was advising).

SEO is also a highly specialized, sophisticated area of expertise. It most certainly cannot be reduced to merely “just add your keyword all over your website and you will be found.”

Most laypeople these days do not know how SEO works, and especially not now in the age of the Google Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird algorithm updates.

SEO simply does not not work anymore the way most people think it does. They’re stuck in outdated understandings from 5, 10 years ago.

If getting clients was as simple as slapping an industry term all over your web pages, everyone would be rich and overflowing with clients. (This is the erroneous logic of those who think the only way clients will find them is if they call themselves a virtual assistant.)

But that’s just not how SEO (or marketing, for that matter) works, and you’re not going to get found that way.

Plus, results are personalized these days. When you see these people crowing about how they’re on the first page of search results, what they fail to realize is that’s only because the search engines are smart enough to know they’re interested in their own website.

They might be on the first page of their own search results, but page 10, 20 or 200 for anyone else.

And, if your site is new, your site is going to rank even worse. No over-saturated industry term is going to change that; in fact, your results will be worse with an overused search term.

Forget SEO right now. It’s the least important thing for you to be focusing on.

Paradoxically, the less you worry about keywords, and the more you focus on simply writing like a real person specifically and conversationally to your target market and providing in-depth educational information for them, the better your site will fare organically in the search engines.

This is because search engines these days value high quality content written by people for people and the fact that those characteristics foster more and higher quality inbound links and referrals. They are that smart.

If you are going to worry about keywords and phrases at all, it’s your TARGET MARKET’S industry search terms and phrases you need to be focused on using, not ours.

Here again is where having a target market makes everything in business so much easier.

When you have a target market, you stop wasting time and energy trying to be found by anyone and everyone and focus instead on that just that specific group and where those folks are hanging out in large groups, online and off.

You should be networking amongst them, and if you are, then you should also be directing everyone you meet (through your signature line, through your calls to action, through your free offers, etc.) to your website.

When it comes to SEO for your website, stop focusing so much on our industry terms and focus instead of the industry terms and search phrases of your target market. What topics are they frequently conversing with each other about? What problems and pains are they trying to solve? How can you include or adapt your content on your website to address these subjects?

For example, someone in your target market isn’t going to set up Google Alerts for our industry, but they certainly are for their industry and the related kinds of things they do and are interested in.

Those are the kind of keywords and phrases you want to use in your search engine marketing and optimization.

But SEO is never the lead driver of traffic to your website.

It’s your networking and relationship marketing efforts that create the real and better qualified pipelines. You’ll get far better results placing your focus there.

Download Your Free Copy

How to Choose Your Target Market

Happy Sunday! :)

I just completed an updated version of my guide How to Choose Your Target Market.

Clarified some concepts and instructions that I think will help people more easily wrap their brains around target marketing and how to choose the right one for them.

Even if you already have this guide, this is a new and improved up-to-date version so you’ll definitely want to grab your copy (it’s still free!).

You will build your business, get clients and make more money more quickly and easily with a target market.

Having a target market makes EVERYTHING easier in your business.

Here’s the link: How to Choose Your Target Market

It’s My Birthday (and a Special Deal for you Today Only)

It's my birthday (and a special deal for you today only!)

It’s my birthday! I’m eating cake today and no one is going to stop me, lol.

In honor of my birthday, I have a special deal for you:

Today only, you can get my Build a Website that WORKS marketing guide for half off!

Just type this code into the discount field when you check out and you’ll get this guide for only $74.50: itsmybirthday

One of the biggest problems in our industry is a proliferation of websites all saying the same things. Here’s how this happens:

When someone is new in business, they have no idea where or how to start crafting their website and marketing message.

So what do they do?

They look around at everyone else in the industry, see what they are doing and saying, and just imitate that (or worse, straight up copy and plagiarize).

They think, “Oh, this is what everyone else in the industry is doing and saying. That must be what I’m supposed to be doing and saying on my website, too.”

And then that’s exactly what they do.

So this is a common practice, but it’s not a good one when it comes to putting together your website and crafting your marketing message in a way that gets you results–i.e., CLIENTS.

The problem with this is they are assuming the masses know something they don’t.

What they fail to realize is those people did exactly the same thing as they are doing now, without any more knowledge or understanding–or success.

It’s this crazy, self-perpetuating cycle of monkey-see, monkey-do with people copying people who aren’t doing any better than they are.

On top of that, all copying what everyone else in the industry is doing and saying does is make you and your business that much more invisible in the marketplace. You need to stand out, not blend in.

In fact, websites that all do and say the same thing is one of the top complaints I hear year after year from clients who contact me. It’s completely frustrating to them.

And when you don’t give prospective clients any reason to see you as different, they always resort to price-shopping. Because all you are to them then is another box on a shelf… a commodity (the kiss of death).

You have to keep in mind: you are not your ideal client. And our own industry is not your prospective client or target market. You can’t look at things through your eyes or the lens of our own industry.

So now you might be thinking, “Well, if I shouldn’t do that, what DO I do? How DO I figure out how to write my own marketing message in a way that differentiates me and resonates with those I’d like to be my clients?”

That is exactly what you get with my guide, Build a Website that WORKS!

You don’t even need to be a good writer (which is another myth people believe).

Not only do I share with you my own conversion system and exactly how to implement it on your own website in a way that is unique to you, I walk you step by step by step through the process of writing your own unique, compelling marketing message that speaks your target market’s language.

With my original patented, proprietary plug-n-play tool, your copy will practically write itself. There is no easier way to put together a website and craft your marketing message anywhere that I’ve seen.

So check out Build a Website that WORKS!, and if it’s for you, be sure to take advantage of this one day half-off offer. It’s gone tomorrow so act now.

(Have some cake today, too!)