Archive for the ‘Mailing Lists’ Category

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.

A Little Bit of Mailing List Etiquette

A Little Bit of Mailing List Etiquette

This situation has happened enough times that I thought it would be a public service and good mentoring to address it for everyone…

Every once in awhile out of the blue I will receive an ezine email from a colleague. And I immediately unsubscribe.

Why? Because I never signed up for it.

And how do I know that? Because I intentionally do not ever subscribe to the ezines and mailing lists of colleagues.

In response to my unsubscription, it’s also not been uncommon that the colleague whose mailing list/ezine I have unsubscribed from will send me a nastygram.

These have run the gamut from making personal attacks to the childishness of a five year old: Well, if you don’t want to be on my mail list, then I don’t want to be on yours.

(I have news for them, if that’s their level of business maturity, I will unsubscribe them myself.)

Here’s the difference: They subscribed to my list. I didn’t subscribe to theirs.

This is nothing personal. Let me tell you why I don’t subscribe to the mailing lists of colleagues AND why you don’t need me on your mailing list:

  1. I’m not your target market. I am neither client nor prospect.
  2. As mentioned, you signed up for my mailing list; I didn’t sign up for yours. Signing up to someone’s mailing list does not grant you automatic, implicit permission to sign them up to yours.
  3. As an industry mentor, I am dealing with far more people than you. If I subscribed to everyone’s mailing lists “just to be nice” and avoid the morons getting bent out of shape if I don’t, my inbox would be inundated, and I’d never get anything done.
  4. You are not my target market. When I’m wearing my industry mentor hat, granted, the things I have to teach and share do apply to you. But that’s why you signed up to my list, not the other way around. When I’m wearing the hat of business owner in my own administrative practice, I’m only interested in being on the mailing lists of my target market and my own mentors, not colleagues.

So, as a rule, I do not sign up to any colleague’s mailing lists or ezines. As I’ve said, this is nothing personal.

It’s also not something to get upset about. That’s just silly.

Those people who get upset are only thinking of themselves. They certainly aren’t considering the needs and wishes of the other person. And that’s the complete opposite of good marketing and business.

What IS important here is that you understand the dynamics and etiquette of mailing lists when it comes to your business, target market and potential clients.

You’re going to annoy a whole lot of people by signing them up to your list without their permission.

That is bad marketing/mailing list/ezine practice all the way around. Just don’t do it!

Mailing lists are not about you adding people to your list yourself simply because you know them or had a conversation with them.

And just because you signed up for someone else’s mailing list or ezine doesn’t give you the right to add them to yours.

Mailing lists are about letting people self-subscribe by providing information and resources that are of value and interest to them so that they opt-in to your mailing list of their own accord.

It’s okay to connect with people on social media: follow them on Twitter; friend them on Facebook; connect on LinkedIn and so forth.

But never, ever add someone to your mailing list without asking. Instead, give people a reason to join your list and then invite them to your website where they can opt-in themselves.

And remember who your real audience is.

You don’t need anyone and everyone on your list. You don’t even need a huge list. You just need the right people on there which includes those who want to be there and made the choice to be.

That’s how it works, folks. 😉

Are You Dripping with Friends?

The term “drip marketing” comes from the direct mail industry.

Studies indicate it takes at least 7 to 10 points of contact before a prospect even remembers a business, much less buys from it.

So, the idea is to mail a series of printed promotional pieces (drip) to current and potential customers, and thereby keep the company in front of their eyeballs long enough to establish brand awareness and develop them into leads.

That sure doesn’t sound very warm and fuzzy, though, does it? In fact, it sounds pretty impersonal and a little too cold and calculating.

People want to be cared about.

They want to connect with other human beings, not be a cog in someone’s marketing machinations.

That said, you’re still a business. You have to somehow find a way to get in front of your would-be clients or customers. Marketing is a necessary evil.

But guess what? It doesn’t have to be evil. Let me tell you how you can create authentic drip campaigns driven by heart (you might even be doing one of these already):

  1. First, shift your perception. Instead of “marketing,” look at these efforts simply as a way to make new friends (prospective clients/customers), help those you are already friends with (past and current clients/customers) and continue to nurture and solidify those relationships. People do business with and refer those they get to know, like and trust. So what you’re really doing in all your reaching-out efforts is simply allowing people to get to know the real you and leaving a door open for them to enter a little further.
  2. One way you can do this is to publish an ezine for your target market. An ezine (electronic newsletter) is a form of drip marketing because it allows you to keep a line of conversation going with your audience on a regular basis. It’s a heck of lot cheaper and easier to publish than a print newsletter, and there’s a much greater return for the effort. The keys to a successful ezine are:

    a) make it about your target market (what do they want to read about? What are their challenges and obstacles? What advice, tips and solutions will be of value and interest to them? How can you make it fun?), and
    b) publish regularly—weekly, every other week or at least once a month. You know you’re doing something right when readers email you when an issue is missing or late!

  3. Publish a blog. Like an ezine, frequency is key. It doesn’t have to be on the same kind of schedule as an ezine, but you should post regularly to maintain a momentum of interest. Posting twice a year just isn’t going to cut it. If you do blog, you can be more personal and less formal, the content less structured. It’s another avenue for allowing prospective clients/customers to connect with you as a person, which makes you much more relatable and approachable.
  4. Offer a free e-course via a series of autoresponders. Say you have some sort of how-to guide that you’ve been offering as a single download. Divide each step/section/bullet into separate messages to be sent out one at a time each week. If you have 10 messages, that’s 10 weeks you can be helping those on your list and keeping in touch with them. Encourage questions and feedback, which will help you better understand their needs and challenges and develop further useful content and information for them.
  5. Continue to consistently keep in touch with your list subscribers. Send out a message whenever you come across news and information you think will be helpful to your target market. Send a message linking to an article you think is of interest to them. Tell them about happenings or products you recommend. Let them know whenever you have a special event or offering for them. Periodically spotlight one of your skills or services they might not be aware of and how it might help them in their business. Make a list of all the reasons you could contact those on your list. The possibilities are endless. Continue to add to it as you come up with ideas. There’s nothing wrong with letting folks know what you do and what you have to offer them. Just try to strike a balance. Remember that the point is to be helpful, not spam them with constant marketing and self-interested promotion. The simple act of being a helpful, knowledgeable resource for them promotes you in all the best ways possible.

All of this is about creating rapport and trust. When you show people who you are and what you are passionate about, you instill rapport. When you demonstrate that you understand their business problems, needs and interests, you demonstrate your competence and authority and show that they can trust you. Nothing evil about that! It’s simple consideration. Commit to more of that.

RESOURCE: Aweber is the most versatile autoresponder service out there in my book. Not only can you use it to deliver your ezine, it can be used for all kinds of other purposes including capturing subscribers, managing unlimited lists, communicating with those lists (separately or together) via sequential and scheduled broadcasts, setting up automated message campaigns, distributing blog post notifications and even incorporating those messages with social media. The reporting features are phenomenal and it integrates nicely with shoppingcart systems. Its double opt-in policy makes it one of the very top rated services for email delivery and open rates.

Dear Danielle: Should I Give Away Free Work or Offer Free Resources to Start Getting Clients?

Dear Danielle:

I am very interested in becoming starting an administrative support business and want to focus on schools in my city. There are many private schools here that operate the choice (or private) school program and need lots of information from the state and Dept. of Public Instruction. Would you advise offering these potential clients newsletters prior to offering services to them? I want to offer them information on what they need from the state, mini reviews of educational programs, etc., until I am able to properly offer them services. I read your post on not giving anything away for free, but would this count as a free service or as a client builder? School starts in about four weeks and I’d like to get started on this yesterday. Thanks for the help! –KM

Oh, client builder absolutely!

When I talk about not giving away free service, I’m talking about actual work — what you are in business to do and the thing that earns your income.

Don’t confuse marketing and networking and creating your client pipelines with free service. Sharing useful information is not giving away free admin work.

Remember, you’re going into the admin support business. You sharing industry information that is relevant to your target market doesn’t compete with that in any way. What it does is demonstrate to your target market that you know their business and understand their interests — which is exactly what is going to attract them to you over the competition.

So, be a resource. Be a fountain of information. Freely and generously share with your target market your insights, opinions, helpful advice and resources that are of value and interest to them.

If you ever worry about where to draw the line in making sure you aren’t giving away the farm, a good general rule of thumb is this:  Share with folks the “what” not the “how.”

I really like seeing how you have applied some thinking about your target market. I always tell people to be sure to do some research to make sure an industry will be a viable market and has a need for the type of solution we provide. It looks like you’ve done some deliberation on that by distinguishing private schools from public schools.

It also sounds like you have some inside knowledge and experience about what information will be useful and of interest to this market. And you can never do too much homework. Go out there and talk to some of the people who would be your clients. Ask them what information would be valuable to them, what would make them sign up for your newsletter.

While you’re at it, find out what would make them consider working with an outside administrative expert.

I can imagine that one selling point might be that they can streamline and pare down their administrative operations, have you get that work done more effectively, thus allowing them to put more in-house staff focus on community outreach and relationship-building with parents.

Learn as much as you can about what kind of administrative work they do so you can hone your message and offerings to them in a way that will clearly and meaningfully resonate with them.

As far as when to do your newsletter, you might want to weigh that with how soon you think you might be ready to open your doors.

On the one hand, now is as good a time as any. It takes a while to build up a subscriber base so you probably have plenty of time to do that before anyone contacts you about actual services.

But do have a plan for how you’d handle it if someone did want to talk with you about your services before you were ready to take them on. This might be an opportunity to also build some anticipation for your official “door opening.”

One way you could do that is to set a “my doors are open for business” date and then promote that in your newsletter.

Encourage folks to get on your waiting list and maybe even conduct some consultations in advance for anyone who contacts you before the date.

Meanwhile, your newsletter will be working to build the anticipation while at the same time helping establish the “know, like and trust” factor and start those relationships growing.

Keep in touch and let me know how it goes. I love seeing smart people entering our business!

Dear Danielle: What List Management System Do You Recommend

Dear Danielle:

I have enjoyed learning about becoming a better administrative support business owner through your newsletter and forms. My question now is I have a client that wants me to manage his membership database and newsletter formatting and sending. Is there a system that you have used or recommend for this? His database contains over 800 email addresses and names and is done as an excel spreadsheet. His newsletter content is coming from another source and it is expected that I manage that. Any Hints? Recommendations? Thanks –BD

I’d need a bit more information about the context of his membership database to share any thoughts there (e.g., who is added and how and when, and what are his objectives for collecting and using the information?), but as far as ezines, I always encourage clients to go with a list management, autoresponder and distribution tool such as Aweber.

Managing ezine subscribers via an excel spreadsheet is so inefficient and archaic.

Tools like Aweber not only automate the function of opting in subscribers, it provides the tools to create ezine templates, schedule them ahead of time for publication, utilize autoresponder capabilities, allow subscribers to manage their own subscriptions and the client to leverage and maximize their networking and marketing to a greater, more consistent degree.

With Aweber you can use one of the many basic ezine templates they provide for free, modify one of their templates or upload your own ezine format in HTML. It’s super flexible and easy to use.

You can also upload as many issues ahead of time as you wish and set each of them to publish automatically according to whatever dates you have indicated.

The broadcast messaging allows you schedule ezines or any other kind of one-off communications you wish to go out to your lists. And you can have as many lists as you wish: one for your ezine subscribers, one for your members, one for teleseminar registrations, etc.

The autoresponders are another great tool you get with Aweber. With autoresponders, you can set up a series of follow-up communications to go out automatically in sequential time intervals rather than specific dates.

For example, some people use autoresponders to offer e-courses. Subscribers who are interested will opt-in to the list and the autoresponders will issue the first lesson, then the second lesson 7 days after that (or however many days interval you indicate), and so on.

Aweber’s tracking, reporting and analysis tools are incredible, and it’s got the highest whitelist ratings and best delivery rates of all the other services.

So you see, simply storing names and contact info in a spreadsheet really doesn’t do much for you. With an autoresponder/list management service such as Aweber, not only are you streamlining all the work and processes that go into list building, but also automating and making dynamic use of the information and actually putting it into action. I would definitely encourage your client in that direction.

Aweber will allow him to import an existing list, but it must be washed clean first of any obsolete email addresses and the subscribers will have to confirm their desire to opt-in again.

Moving to any new system like that he can expect to lose some of the people on his current list (some experts say the rule of thumb is about 50%) so it’s not entirely painless.

However, you want to help him understand that communicating or trying to maintain a relationship with folks who aren’t interested in the first place isn’t effort that is well-placed.

Aweber will help him build his list back up and what’s better is that he’ll be gaining people who really do have an interest and want to hear from him (as opposed to continuing to send out messages to people he’s merely collected business cards from who may not have any interest in his business or hearing from him).

Dear Danielle: Why Do I Need a Newsletter?

Dear Danielle:

I have seen a lot of colleagues putting “sign up for my newsletter” on their websites. Who would sign up for them? And why? Does it generate future clients? Also, where do they get the content for monthly newsletters? I can’t imagine that each of them are writing their own, but maybe they are. This is an area I’m a little confused about, but would love to get up-to-speed if it’s something that generates clients. –MM

Hi, MM. You’re seeing a lot of people in business doing this because a newsletter is a way to continue the dialogue with your prospective clients.

By building a list through an opt-in offer (such as a newsletter), you can continue to talk with those folks on a regular basis, which keeps your name and face in front of them, helps them get to know you and your company better, and helps you develop a rapport with them.

You’ll hear it said often that “the list is the thing,” and this is very true.

Your list keeps prospects in your pipeline which is a very good thing because there will be times in your business when your roster isn’t full.

If you build a list of subscribers with whom you follow-up and stay in contact, you’ll always have a ready-made audience of prospective clients and referrers who have already indicated (by virtue of their continued subscription) that they are interested in you and your company.

Some things to keep in mind… I see a lot of colleagues put out newsletters that are either talking to other people in our own industry (these are not who you should be talking to if you are trying to get clients) or are very self-centric (your content needs to be of compelling value and interest to your would-be clients and be talking about them, not you, you, you).

To do well with a newsletter, always keep in mind who your intended audience is: your would-be clients, not your colleagues!

Write about things that are going to be of interest to them.

Write from their perspective and talk directly to them. If you’re using a lot of “I,” “we” and “us,” flip those sentences around to use more “you” and “your.”

Offer advice that is genuinely helpful to your target market in their businesses. Doing so will also demonstrate what a smart cookie you are (and what a great partner you would be to work with).

If you’re going to do a newsletter, I recommend also interspersing your articles with news about your company that is client-centric. Clients aren’t going to care so much that you joined your local Chamber of Commerce. Big woop, right? Save that stuff for filler.

What will be more interesting and relevant to them is hearing about how some work you just completed for a client simplified their business, automated part of their operations saving them X hours a year, brought in X number of new subscribers, or generated $X more in revenues.

That’s the kind of stuff that will perk up their ears because they’re looking to achieve those things in their own business, and it gives them a clear illustration of how your support could be implemented and what kind of results they can expect.

And don’t assume they know or remember all that you can do. You have to keep reminding them. Each week (or month), talk about a different skill you have or special service you offer and give your readers ideas and suggestions on how they can leverage that in their business and what they will gain from it.

Of course, you don’t necessarily have to do a newsletter.

There are lots of ways to build your list including offering a free report (something that is highly relevant and of keen interest to your target market), weekly tips and quips, or an e-course to be delivered over the period of several weeks.

You don’t want your website to just be sitting there passively online. You want to put it to work capturing those leads and turning your site visitors into subscribers on your list.

To start building your list, it’s important to use an autoresponder/distribution service to automate things and save time. I highly recommend Aweber. It’s easy to use, very affordable, the uses, functions and integrations they offer are virtually limitless, and they have absolutely fantastic customer service. If you don’t invest in any other tool in your business, this is definitely one you should not go without.

Oh, and I should add that your offer should be free. You’ll hear this referred to frequently as your “pink spoon” in the marketing funnel strategy. It’s a way to get them in the door so that you can become a resource and maintain regular communication thereby increasing your “know/like/trust” quotient.