As we approach a new year we think about how we can boost our business and increase our clientele. In order to choose the best strategies for you and your business, you first need to define your specific goals. It's not enough to say "I want more clients" or "I want my business go bring in more money this year." How many new clients do you want to add to your business this year - 1, 6, 12? How much more income do you want this year - $1,000 more per month, $10,000 more this year? Write your specific goals down. Now you need to decide on the strategies to meet those goals. I've used many strategies in my 10 years as a Virtual Office Professional. But there are four specific strategies I've found most successful.
1. Network in person.
Networking in person has always been a very successful way to grow my virtual business - particularly when I was new to the business. Many times virtual workers find this strategy challenging. They chose to work from home because they didn't want to go out to an office or wanted to stay home with their children. So going out to networking events and having to find someone to watch the children when you do so may not be something you really want to do. However, until you establish your business, and if you want to continue to grow your business, meeting people in person will be immensely valuable.
People want to work with others that they know, like, and trust. Or at least others that have been referred to them by someone they know, like, and trust. The best way for someone to get to know, like, and trust you is to meet you i person. We can tell a lot about a person when we can see them face-to-face and watch their facial expressions, eyes, and mannerisms.
Even if the people we meet in person don't need our services, they may know someone else that does. When I first started actively networking in person I only had a couple of clients. In less than six months I added another six client and within a year over a dozen. Those were all people I'd either met in person at networking events or people who had been referred to me by those I met at networking events. One of those people I've been working with for over six years now. I've also had four generation referrals (the initial person referred me to someone, who then referred me to someone, and that person then referred me to someone, and so on).
To find networking events, check with your local Chamber of Commerce for networking mixers. Online you can check meetup.com for local groups that meet regularly. If you can't find anything, you can start your own group.
2. Network online.
Online networking can also be very successful. I've had some great clients I met online and never have met in person. It's important to do this right if you want the best results. When you set up your online profiles, be sure to be as detailed as possible in your bio, description, education, and work. LinkedIn is a very good place to create a detailed online presence. There are groups you can join related to your specific skills. When you join these groups, share in the discussions and add value to the group. Don't just promote your services. That's going to turn people off if they don't yet know you well.
When you do reach out to connect with other people in the groups to add them to your network, make the invitation personal. Don't just use LinkedIn's automated invitation. In the message let the other person know why you want to connect. You may say something like, "Hi Donna. We both belong to the Social Media Networks group here on LinkedIn. I saw in your profile that you specialize in Twitter management. I'd like to learn more about that. Let's connect. Sue". This message lets them know how you know them and that you're interested in them - it's not just all about you!
Other online networking can be done by joining appropriate Facebook groups and Google+ communities. Always reach out by sharing something of value - a tip, a short report, your current blog post, etc.
3. Ask for referrals.
In the 10 years I've been working as a Virtual Office Professional, 90% of my clients are word-of-mouth referrals. Don't underestimate the value of referrals. You may be hesitant to ask for referrals. But if you've done a great job for your clients, you'll find they want to refer you. Let your clients know that your business is based on referrals and ask if they would mind referring you to someone they know. I don't pay for referrals but I have offered a discount on a client's fee for a referral. Plan to ask your clients every six months if they know of anyone they can refer.
4. Work ON Your Business
This may be the most important strategy you can implement to boost your business in 2015. Too often we get so wrapped up in doing client work that we forget to work ON our business. This is essential for business growth. I take time at the end of every year to work on my own business. Clients are informed that I'll be taking time off and I put into place a backup plan if they need something urgently. During this time I review what worked best the previous year and what didn't work well. Then I create a plan for the new year. Write a one to two-page business plan with your specific goals and the strategies you are going to use to reach those goals in the new year. Now is the time to find those in-person networking events and scheduling to attend one or more monthly. Update all of your online profiles. Reach out to new connections. Ask for those referrals. Make sure you have procedures in place. Is it time to add a subcontractor or find another virtual assistant to collaborate with? Do that now. (You can post your job/project free at VirtualAssistants.com - just register as an Employer.)
These are just four strategies that have worked for me and that you can use to boost your business in 2015. There are many more. Take some time before the new year begins to decide what your successful strategies will be and then put a plan in place to succeed!