Does the idea of face to face networking bring you out in a cold sweat?
As a new virtual assistant, it’s tempting to think that it’s OK to stay in the comfort of your home office and that you can find new clients just with digital marketing and social media.
It’s true that online marketing is a great way for you to find new clients, but nothing beats meeting potential customers FACE TO FACE to help them get to know the real you and build up the Know, Like & Trust factor.
So it’s time to hit Google and find the local events where you can bump into your Ideal Client. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:
1) Organised local networking groups
The words ‘networking group’ probably makes you think of soggy sandwiches, cold cups of tea and awkward conversations with men in bad ties but don’t be put off the idea straight away. Networking groups don’t have to be all about dreary chats with grey suits – groups like Girl Tribe Gang run monthly Power Hours across the country, where local female business experts share their knowledge and you can meet vibrant, like-minded women over a cold glass of bubbly.
The atmosphere is FUN AND FRIENDLY, rather than tedious and dry, which makes them more of an enjoyable social event than a test of how much boredom you can put up with before you sneak quietly out the back door. Networking groups are a great way to meet people who you might work with in future or who might inspire you to take action,
particularly if you have a little help from your COCKTAIL of choice to get the conversation flowing. The chat might not be all about work but it doesn’t matter if you come away with a list of names, and a couple of new Instagram followers. Every little helps, right?
A quick Google or Facebook search will bring up other local networking groups, so try out a few until you find a group that you enjoy and genuinely want to attend, as these are the people who will become your friends and cheerleaders, and who will gladly spread the word about how fantastic you are.
2) Start your own networking group
If you can’t find any organised groups in your area, why not set up your own? If you’re an aspiring VA you might have a group of mum friends who are thinking of setting up their own business, so get in touch with them and set something up.
It doesn’t have to be anything more glamorous than a group play date with a handful of FRIENDLY MUMPRENEURS, but by getting together you can bounce ideas around, make introductions and learn from each other from the comfort of your own home.
3) Industry conferences and seminars
In the VA and PA world there are loads of annual CONFERENCES AND EVENTS dedicated to networking and training for our industry. These types of events are packed full of expert speakers who’ll help you to increase your knowledge and skills, and there are always loads of networking opportunities.
February is definitely the month for it if you’re thinking of attending an event, as there’s loads going on:
You’ll find yourself coming home buzzing with new ideas and strategies to help you grow your business, and with a phone full of new contacts.
How can you make sure you are make the most of your face to face networking time?
Your TIME IS PRECIOUS, that’s goes without saying. It’s practically impossible to find the time to attend events when you’re juggling client work with marketing with family with staying healthy. That means you need to make every event count so that you’re getting the maximum return on your time. And here’s how:
Don't talk about yourself too much
This might seem counter-intuitive when you’re trying to sell yourself and your business to potential clients, but let people talk about themselves. Ask engaging questions, look interested, ask them to elaborate, expand on what they’re saying in an interesting way.
People LOVE to talk about themselves and their business and their problems, so you’ll come away from those conversations with them thinking that you’re a great listener and with a massive tick in the likeability box.
You’ll also gain some valuable insight into your potential clients’ PAIN POINTS which will help you to tailor your business offering and your marketing message directly to them.
Give away information, expertise and advice FOR FREE without asking for anything in return. If your new contact has an issue you can help with there and then, do it with no strings attached.
You’ll be SHOWING OFF YOUR KNOWLEDGE and helping to build up the trust factor which goes a long way towards getting potential clients to trust you. If they, or a friend of theirs, comes across a similar issue in the future, they’ll remember how super useful and helpful you were and be sure sure to give you a shout.
Have a well-rehearsed one-liner prepared
it’s important to let other people do MOST of the talking, but at some point you’ll probably be asked what you do (unless the other person is a total bore!). So it’s really important to have a punchy one-liner at the ready whenever you’re asked. Keep it short, clear and all about the end result you give to your clients.
Donald Miller, Author of Build Your Storybrand has a great framework for putting together your one-liner:
Whatever you do, don’t sigh and say, ‘Well, it’s complicated…’ or launch into the full history of your company. Potential clients will have switched off before you get to the good stuff.
Make your one-liner so powerful that people are begging for more information.
Communicate these four ideas: Who’s your customer? What’s their problem? How can you fix their problem? What will their life look like after working with you? For example:
I help busy entrepreneurs to plan and manage their social media campaigns so that they waste less time on jobs they don’t enjoy.
You might feel like a bit of an idiot but you should REHEARSE YOUR ONE-LINER so it rolls off the tongue when you need it. And say it like you believe it! There is nothing less inspiring to a potential client than someone who doesn’t love their own business.
Look the part
We’ve all heard the statistic that you only have 7 SECONDS to make a first impression, so make sure that you’re making the RIGHT impression by looking the part and standing out. If an event is informal you should still be dressed to give the impression of professionalism and competence.
Anna Mewes, Brand Stylist and owner of The Style Lounge also suggests having ‘A Thing’ so that you stick in people’s minds after an event. It could be a signature shade of lipstick, brightly coloured shoes or jacket, a noticeable hairstyle (but keep it professional!) which you wear at every event you go to.
It’s really helpful if two people who are talking about you can instantly draw on the same point of reference – for example they might refer to you as ‘The girl with the really cool glasses’. Be the person that everyone is talking about for all the right reasons!
If all this sounds a bit SCARY and UNNATURAL, don’t worry – pretty much every person in that room will have felt the way you do at some point, or is feeling the SAME AS YOU at the same time.
The more you show your face at in person events the more comfortable they’ll become until they’re really NO BIG DEAL. The return that you’ll see by showing up will make the investment in your time and the push out of your comfort zone completely worth it.
As author and screenwriter, Neale Donald Walsch says: ‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.’ It’s easy to hide behind a computer screen and tell ourselves that because we’re virtual, our relationships can be virtual too, but with all the technology in the world, there is still nothing more powerful than building a network in the real world too.
Make sure you come back next week to find out How to Find New Clients Online!
If you want to learn more about networking and relationship building here are some of my favourite LEARNING RESOURCES to help you to network like a pro!