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4 Steps to Turning Your Offline Connections into Paying Clients?

TeamworkAre you looking for more clients? Do you ever wonder how to move your offline connections into your online world and, ideally, turn them into paying clients or referral source?

If you are like thousands of other entrepreneurs and business owners you know how important it is to get from behind a computer screen and show your face at various networking events. Once there, you connect with a ton of people but not all of them fit your criteria of an ideal client. That’s fine because it’s those people who may turn out to be your most valuable assets in growing your business. How?

1. Initiate the connection

The first step in the process is to initiate the connection and invite that particular person an option to connect with you online. For example, after meeting him or her, take a few moments and send a (personalized) email to each person you interacted with (this is supposed to be a common curtsey but a very few people actually follow up). In the email invite them to follow you on the social media and to subscribe to your newsletter. Be very specific in listing the benefits of doing so and what they can expect (answer their “What’s in it for me?”)

2. Maintain the relationship

Once people become members of your online community, engage with them. There are numerous ways to do so, but these are just a few:

–       Share their content on your platforms (of course, give them the credit)
–       Tag them in your updates
–       Share with them information you believe would be valuable to them and their business

3. Check in

Periodically, every few weeks or months check in with them. Pick up the phone and ask how they have been. Inquire about their business and offer to be their eyes and ears if they’re looking for any specific type of client or project. Do not turn this into a sales call, in fact – leave yourself out of the equation.

“Now how will this benefit my business,” you may wonder. Think about it – how do you feel when somebody checks in and offers to do the same for you? You feel inclined to return the favor, and that person is on the top of your mind for quite some time, right? Well, you’ll achieve the same effect.

Keep in mind that many times the people you meet are not your clients but will more likely become your referral sources.

4. Implement a referral program

People are more likely to refer you if they know there’s something in it for them. You may chose to pay them a fixed referral fee, a certain percentage of a value from the signed contract, or to send them a gift card. The decision is yours.

But first and foremost, the base for any type of working relationship is trust. Building trust takes time so be patient and give before you can ask to receive.

What is your “proven formula”? Share it with us on my Facebook Page.

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How To Give Your Business a Facelift

Off the charts Do you feel your website no longer represents you and your business? Did you “outgrow” your original business plan? Do you need to get your business back on tract in order to meet your long-term goals?

You’re not alone and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you and your business. I often hear entrepreneurs feel almost “guilty for allowing their business slide”. But the reality is, many times, being a business owner is a journey of trial and error; in a service providing business especially, and when a business owner is deeply connected with the services. As humans, we all change, grow and evolve. And so do businesses. As we go along, we see what works and what doesn’t; what our clients want and what we thought they would want; we discover new, better ways of running our businesses, offering our services, marketing ourselves. And these are the changes that can eventually lead into re-branding the business.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ― Thomas A. Edison

This is exactly where I am with my business now. (Today, I’ll focus on services and save the visual aspect for another time.) There are many services that I have offered initially that I no longer provide – there was no demand for them or they simply turned out to be unsustainable. On the other hand, I have repackaged some of the most sought-after ones and added new ones by demand. Growing a business is all about how quickly you react, and how well can you predict your clients’ next move (before they even know they’ll make it).

At this point, I would like to proudly introduce to you my two new products people have been asking for. Besides the virtual business management – Get It Done – these two services are now available to busy business owners:

–       Pick My Brain: you know the super flattering feeling when people keep asking you out for a lunch or coffee to pick your brain? It means they trust you and value your opinion to the point where they want to know all the ins and outs and how-tos of your business (or life) so they can apply them to their own. Luckily, all those requests were simply taking me away from my clients’ project too often and so it was clear that a Pick My Brain service is well over due. So now I am still available for brain picking and happy to share all I know, just with a little twist.

–       Coaching: this was another highly demanded expertise. It started with occasional calls from my clients, “Hi Sara, how do I change the name of my Facebook Page?” or “Sara, I tried to create a Constant Contact campaign but the email is not linking to the landing page, how do I fix that?” and escalated into “I don’t know where my days go and I have nothing to show for, Sara how can I get stuff done and still have a life?” So here are the four couching programs currently available.

Stay tuned because more exciting changes are on the way and I am super thrilled to be able to share them with you.

So, is your business ready for some serious reevaluation, reassessment and a facelift?

I came across this terrific blog-tutorial by another acclaimed business owner who went through the process of Strategic Planning Process. Here’s A Peek Inside Live Your Message HQ by Marisa Murgatroyd: “Strategic planning IS the process of creating the business you see in your mind’s eye. It’s the process of bringing that vision to life from vision and inspiration to clients and revenue. And it’s something that you can do not just once a year, but every day – whether that’s plotting your big picture Master Plan for World Domination or prioritizing your To Do list for the day around the outcomes you want to achieve.”

Tell me, when did you realize your business needs some serious facelift and how did you approach the process? Was the result of the “new you” what you have hoped for?

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What Do You Need to Know About The Social Media

With a little help from my connections on Pinterest, here is all you need to know about the Social Media – explained in pictures and numbers:

– Why to Embrace it
– Who uses it
– And what’s the difference among all the platforms

Why to embrace Social Media

Active SM users

SM explained

To see more, check out my pins on Pinterest, updates on Facebook and tweets on Twitter.

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Get Unstuck Part 3 of 3 – Step Back and See the Big Picture

SMALL-BUSINESS-STRUCTURE-organizational-chartNot so long ago, I read an e-book about how to monetize a message. The author is a successful business consultant and website developer and she brought up an excellent point. As a business owner (solopreneur or an employer), you constantly think about your business: its goals, struggles, all the to-dos, what needs to be improved, etc. Determined to make your business the best it can be, you work coaches or consultants, attend seminars in the areas of improvement, listen to webinars, and sign up for any appropriate free e-book you can find, correct? We all do that and there is absolutely nothing wrong with being proactive and resourceful. However, many business owners get stuck because they only receive one piece of a puzzle. I see this often with my clients, and the above-mentioned e-book author sees it with her clients.

SEE THE BIG PICTURE

In order to succeed not just in business, but in any area, seeing the bug picture is crucial. For example: one of the keys to attract more clients is to become visible and market yourself, most often through your website, Facebook Page, Twitter and LiknkedIn profiles, a blog and newsletter. But none of the how-to-build-your-own-website or put-your-marketing-on-autopilot-in-3-steps type of webinars will yield any new clients unless there is cohesiveness in all that you do: you have clearly defined goals, objectives and strategies.

–       What do you want to achieve with your website?
–       Should your FB Page generate new leads or be engaging for your existing clients?
–       How to convince people to give you their email-address so you can send them your newsletters and special promotions?

You must be clear on your purpose, clientele and brand messaging.

So be careful and make sure you have all this in mind when you resort to all the resources available to you.

TAKE A STEP BACK

Making sure you stay on the top of your game, continuously improving your business and coming up with new and new ways to grow can quickly become overwhelming. How often do you feel as if you have developed a tunnel vision and have become frustrated because you just can’t seem to put all the pieces together? Many times, all you need is to take a step back. Take a breather. Disconnect.

Arianna Huffington, chair, president, and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, for example, she implemented nap rooms within her company so her staff to take power naps during the workweek. She know that this helps them stay sharp and creative. Many other highly successful leaders and CEOs actually schedule a quiet, brainstorming time into their daily itinerary. They don’t do anything in order to allow their creative juices to flow, and to think.

While this approach may seem to be counterproductive, the researches have shown that everybody needs that quiet time. How often has this happened to you: when your mind is focused on something completely unrelated to your business, issues, goals you strive to achieve, you get it. While you’re playing with your kids or surfing the waves of the Pacific or planting shrubs in your backyard – it trucks you like lighting. The big idea. The answer you were looking for. It all seems to be clear and you’re ready to dive right into taking an action, taking your business to the next level. You just got unstuck!

Tell me, do you have any special approaches to finding the answer, to brainstorming, to seeing the bigger picture? And if you’re in a need for help, contact me and we’ll get you unstuck.

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Get Unstuck Part 2 of 3 – How to Attract More Clients

You want to know the secret formula, don’t you? Well, we all do, but there is none. There is one thing, though that I’ve been hearing more and more about, and I can tell you from my own experience that it can be a game-changer.

CLIENTS WANT AUTHENTICITY

27131_526340777411538_1389249352_nA few days ago, I attended National Association of Professional Women’s conference with some prominent guest speakers, all of them highly accomplished, independent and successful women. Each of them had a different story to tell and each one of them walked a different path. However, they all had one thing in common – they were authentic.

It is so easy to get caught up in the moment and to be overwhelmed by all the information, how-tos and must-dos. What works for some, doesn’t mean it will work for all, so you need to keep trying, you need to find your own voice.

To be authentic is especially important when you are a service provider, and when you are your own brand. Well, authenticity is just as important when you are selling a product. People buy you.

BUILD RELATIONSHIPS

Keep in mind that before people will buy your service, they first need to know you understand them and then they want to feel connected to you.

One way to build relationships is to create a community of people who are likeminded, who share same values and are looking to solve the same problem – and you have a solution for them. You can create your own community or become a part of one that already exists. It can be a real-life or a virtual one. With the technology available and accessible today, there are no boundaries and great distances.

BE VISIBLE

In order to be able to build a community, you need to be visible. If you want people to trust you, you need to first earn their trust.  Here are just a handful of ways to increase your visibility:

–       Organize seminars and workshops, participate in panels: there’s no need for you to start form the scratch. Simply contact organizations in your area that serve and have an access to your potential clients, and offer to educate and help their members. Empower them, be a source of information.

–       Write blogs and articles: in order to reach a wider population, these two vehicles are ideal to increase your exposure. Know your unique value proposition, your expertise and know what your clients’ pain point are. Then give them the tools, ideas to solve their problems.

–       Send out newsletters: similar than the blogs and articles mentioned above, publishing your newsletter and sending it to your contacts is another way of gaining credibility. Studies show that people need to see your name/brand at least seven times in order to be able to recall it.  No list is too small for you to start. And there are numerous of ways to build your mailing list, which is a topic I’ll discuss at some other time.

–       Be active on the social media: work within your virtual community as well as within others, already existing ones. I can hear many of you murmur that you don’t have the time, interest or knowledge to do that. Well, this is where a Virtual Assistant or a Virtual Business Manager steps in. But if you are managing on your own, there are numerous tools and systems available so you can automatize the vast majority of it.

–       Publish a book: not everybody can (or should) write a book, but if you have something valuable, unique and have the capability to do so, then writing and publishing a book is great.

–       Radio and TV guest: again, not everybody has the opportunity to be interviewed for a radio or TV. Oftentimes, assistance from a Public Relations team is needed to get you through the door.

My community and I would love to hear what’s been your secret recipe, share it in the comment section below of on my Facebook Page. And do the same if you’re looking for some additional advice, let’s start a discussion.

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Get Unstuck – What to Outsource to a Virtual Assistant? Part 1 of 3

ID-10072145Are you a small business owner or solopreneur who wears countless hats and is trying to do it all, but feels stuck and overwhelmed?

One of my clients nearly gave up on her business because she was so overwhelmed before the decided to delegate to Virtual Assistants. She tried to market her business by trying to write blogs, articles and newsletters. She tried to be present on the social media and tried to attend all the possible networking events. She tried to provide her clients with all the help they need, tried to grow her business and tried to sell her services. You get the idea – she tried to do it all but at the end of the day, she simply couldn’t cross off her to-do list and simply feel stuck.

A lot of people are not sure if they know what to delegate, how to delegate, and if they can even afford to delegate.  Well, you cannot afford not to delegate and I’ll show you why.

What Drives Your Economic Engine?

Let’s go back to the never-ending to-do list. With this exercise, you’ll be able to visualize your overwhelm and will get a clearer idea of what’s on your plate and which of those tasks and projects should be delegated.

  1. Take a piece of paper and write in one column all the tasks you do in your business on a daily basis, one task per line.
  2. Next to each task, mark the amount of time it takes you to complete it
  3. Be hones here – how many times are you interrupted while working? Think about all the emails, phone calls, visitors, breaks, (and if working from home, how many times you do the household chores during the “office” hours)?
  4. Now mark only the billable tasks and write next to them the amount of money you’re earning with them
  5. Now mark the unbillable tasks
  6. Calculate how much these are worth (the amount of time it takes you to complete them times your hourly rate). That’s the amount of money you’re losing.

How to Double Your Income When Working With a VA?

Take a closer look at all the unbillable tasks and projects and categorize them based on the nature of the work, whatever’s applicable to your business. For example:

–       bookkeeping
–       client support
–       affiliate management
–       marketing
–       project management
–       social media management
–       research

Outsourcing these projects to a VA will free up all this time and allow you to take on more client work/billable tasks and projects with a potential to double your income:

Let’s say that your hourly rate is $100. A skilled, reliable and experienced VA will charge anywhere from $25-$50/hour and up.

If you decide to do it all, you won’t have the time to work on your billable projects and hence will be losing those dollars. When you work with a VA, you’ll be focusing on the cash-generating activities and your VA on all the rest. With the rates we used in the above example, this leaves you with a profit of $50-$75/hour.

Depending on the nature of your billable projects and the VA’s expertise, she can also take on some of these billable tasks. Now you can “fit” two clients into your one hour, for example, and hence have a good chance to double your income.

The above-mentioned client of mine thought she couldn’t afford a VA and tried to do it all by herself.  She felt so exhausted she nearly gave up on her own business. Then she decided to make the change, to invest in a team of VAs (each one specialized in a certain services). Immediately, she was able to better use her time and energy and quickly signed up more clients. Within a few short months, she grew her business internationally, and never looked back.

To paraphrase Sir Richard Bransosn, a good (virtual) assistant will at first follow you. Then, she will walk next to you. Eventually, she’ll learn about your needs, expectations, goals and preferences and will be able to take the lead.

Read also:

How to Delegate Your Work to Virtual Business Manager/ Virtual Assistant

5 Biggest Mistakes When Delegating – And How to Avoid Them

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11 Online Tools & Systems That Will Save You Time

Here are some tools and systems you can implement in order to streamline your life and make time management easier:

Google Calendar – Can be managed from your computer or your mobile devices and can be integrated with other calendars (personal, business, spouse’s).

Google Drive – This is a free service that allows you to store and share documents, pictures, and videos. You can access the files from wherever you are from various devices.
http://drive.google.com

Dropbox – Just like Google Drive, Dropbox is a free service that lets you bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and share them easily.
www.dropbox.com

OneNote – Allows you to create numerous virtual folders and notebooks that can be managed via your devices. The content can easily be pinned through your Internet browser or added manually. It is ideal for storing notes when conducting a research.

HootSuite – Autoresponder/social media management software that allows you to schedule social media updates in advance as well as to measure the performance.
http://hootsuite.com/

ManageFlitter – It allows you to sort, filter and manage whom you follow on all your Twitter accounts. You can also find relevant people to connect with, with engagement tools and track your performance with graphs. Lastly, it allows you to schedule tweets at optimal times. http://manageflitter.com

Buffer – Social media management tool that makes your life easier with a smarter way to schedule the great content you find. Fill up your Buffer at one time in the day and Buffer automagically posts them for you through the day. Simply keep that Buffer topped up to have a consistent social media presence all day round, all week long.
http://bufferapp.com

OneShoppingCart – ecommerce software that allows you to sell online; you can set up an online store with reliable shopping carts, special offers. It supports contact and affiliate management, mobile commerce and more.
http://www.1shoppingcart.com

ShortStack – An app, designing tool to create custom tabs for Facebook. With ShortStack, you can create polls, surveys; display your blog, newsletter, Pinterest, Twitter updates, and more. For many cases, you’ll only need to add a few widgets with your links, and you’ll instantly have a custom iframe Facebook tab!
http://www.shortstack.com

Basecamp  – An example of project management software that allows for communication with your team, client, time tracking and progress reporting.
www.basecamp.com

Asana – Free project management software that allows for communication with your team, clients, time tracking and progress reporting. (Others are  LogMeIn, MyClientSpot, MyIntervals and DeskAway).
www.asana.com

Which are your go-to tools and systems?

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