Real Assistants in an Online World

So You Want To Be My Friend?

You’re on Facebook. You’re on LinkedIn. You’re on Twitter. Now it seems like everyone wants to be your “Friend”. Should you accept them all? Deny them? Aliza Sherman at Web Worker Daily recently posted a great article to help you navigate the waters:

“Like anyone using social networks for my work, I struggle with the friend feature. There are a number of theories of how and why to friend other people and when to accept friend requests. Clearly, having more “friends” on your social networks has its benefits, but if friending is done randomly, how much value are those very random “friends” for your business goals?”Web Worker Daily, Oct 2008

Check out the rest of the article here.

Personally, my policy depends on the platform. On Twitter I do exactly what Aliza suggests in her article. On Facebook, I limit it to those I actually know of or have some sort of existing relationship with. On LinkedIn, I’ll accept most anybody.

What’s your policy? How are you friending?

Want to be my “Friend”? Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn!

Can’t Beat It Advertising: Sometimes the best things in life really are free

Have you ever stopped to count the number of ads received in your inbox on any given day? Isn’t it ironic that most of those ads are selling some form of advertising? Advertising and promotions are big business and, unfortunately, most of the programs promising miraculous results are designed to make money, but not necessarily for the advertiser. Caution is the word of the day for a small business owner with a limited advertising budget.

So what do you do? You have to promote your business. The “build it and they will come” theory only works in fantasy movies.

Many will say that you can’t be in business these days without a great website or that a newsletter is a must. Some join link exchange programs and others buy space in business directories. There are probably more ways to spend your advertising dollars than there are ways to earn them. The trick is in making sure that you don’t spend more dollars than your advertising brings in.

I have a confession to make. I have never sent out a regular, consistent newsletter, and my website has always served more as a place to send people to learn more about my business than as a vehicle for bringing in new clients. This may sound shocking, but business is good – better than good – business is great!

My secret is simple. My business grows because there is no form of advertising more powerful than word of mouth, especially when the word is a good referral.

Before you can get a good referral, you have to have a client. So to begin with, the person talking about your business should be you. And you should be talking about your business at every opportunity to anyone who will listen.

Networking is a very effective way of promoting your business, and you can advertise this way without spending a dime. The oft touted “elevator speech” was actually invented to be used in the elevator between floors as a way of introducing your business to strangers.

For a relatively small investment, you can narrow the focus of your networking by joining associations and getting to know business people who are likely to need your services. When you’ve identified your target clientèle and are ready to make an investment in promoting your business, trade shows and conferences are also a great place to meet a lot of potential clients in one place and at one time. No matter where and when you find yourself networking, be sure to remember the golden rule: always have business cards with you and don’t forget to follow up.

Get to know others in your industry and work cooperatively with them. IVAA offers some great opportunities to meet and work with other Virtual Assistants through discussion groups and message board forums. Referrals and sub-contract projects can come from other VAs when they know your specialty and are familiar with your work.

Once you’ve told everyone you know about your business (often enough that some of them start to leave the room when you walk in) you’ll find that you aren’t the only person talking about your business. You may start to get calls and emails from people who heard about you from your trainer at the health club or your child’s teacher or even the checker at the grocery store where you shop.

Referrals like these are great, but the ones that really grow your business are the ones from happy clients.

Every project that you complete to the client’s satisfaction is an opportunity for growth. Not only does a satisfied client continue to give you work, but they also provide the most powerful method of advertising available to you. When a satisfied client refers your services, their recommendation is:

  • more relevant than the best ad copy,
  • directed toward your target market,
  • trusted and believed,
  • and it’s free!

To make the most of this powerful promotional medium, you have to do two things; first, you must make sure that every client is a satisfied client. Then, when a client compliments you on your work or tells you how happy they are with something you have done, ask them to spread the word. Don’t be shy about asking.

Many clients will happily recommend you once you’ve planted that seed where they might not think to, otherwise. Sometimes, simple really is best. How much more simple can you get than providing great service and letting your clients sell your services for you?

Debbie Tester of Outer Office, LLC leverages over 22 years of management and administrative experience to lead a team of virtual assistants specializing in full administrative support to speakers, trainers and coaches. For more information, visit

Make Networking Work!

by Sandy Geroux

I’ve been to many networking events where introductions are routinely done near the beginning of the meeting. Yet at most of these events, despite the awesome opportunity to make a big impression and become memorable to the group, most professionals go through a weak, unimpressive litany of what they do… and end up sounding like every other professional in their industry (and most in the room), therefore failing to make a memorable impression.

Contrast this with the Event Promoter who had such a catchy “jingle” that when he stood up to give his elevator speech, everyone in the room recited it with him! Or the Children’s Party Clown who blew a funny whistle before introducing himself, then stood up with a red nose on his face. Or the car wash/car detailing company owner who stood up and blew bubbles in the air as he introduced himself… and then gave a bottle of bubbles containing his company name and contact information to everyone in the crowd. Or the business adviser who gave out casino-style chips with the words, “Don’t gamble with your business” printed on one side and his contact information on the other.

Compare the humdrum words of those who merely state their name, occupation, and company name (as if stating name, rank and serial number) to the lawyer who stood up and said, “If you’re working with a lawyer (or trying to work with a lawyer) who isn’t calling you back, call me. I’ll call you back!” BAM! In one sentence, he let everyone in the room know he knew one of the biggest customer problems in his industry – and let us know that he had a solution for it. I contacted him myself (because I was experiencing that problem at that very time with a different lawyer!); I later referred another client to him, who eventually put him on retainer with his company… simply because he let me know at our very first meeting that he could solve one of the biggest problems with lawyers!

Compare this, as well, to the people who toss unfamiliar jargon around in their introduction, leaving the rest of us scratching our heads trying to figure out what they actually do!

Many of us spend an awful lot of time driving to, attending and driving back from networking events because relationships are the name of the game in this competitive climate. What are you doing to differentiate yourself right from your introduction, let your customers know you understand their problems, show them that you ARE the solution to those problems – and get them to notice and remember you?

Let’s look at some important concepts when networking and trying to make an impression, so we can ensure that our time and effort are not wasted:

If I don’t know what you do, I can’t use or recommend your services. Don’t toss around jargon, abbreviations or terms that people outside your industry don’t recognize or understand. Never assume that everyone has the same knowledge you do. If you must use an acronym or industry term, be sure to explain it by saying, “In other words…” or “which is just a fancy way of saying…” (remember that using humor ALWAYS helps!) Explaining terms never hurts; but not explaining them will practically ensure that someone will not know them and will not ask, for fear of looking foolish for not knowing their meaning.

If I don’t know what to listen for after the meeting, nothing will trigger my memory so I can recommend you. Don’t simply tell people what you do; tell them what situations occur out in the real world with which you can help. For example, the financial adviser who started out telling us he “worked with business-people and entrepreneurs to help them with their financial needs” wasn’t helping me recommend his services until he came to a meeting one day and said, “If you know of someone who has just had a change in their life circumstances, such as having a baby, getting married or divorced, or retiring, they can use my services.” BAM again! Hearing the words and situations I could listen for out in the real world helped trigger my memory that my neighbor had just had a baby… and I could then make the recommendation. What life circumstances, conversations and words can you have others listen for outside of the networking meeting that would trigger their memory of you and what you can provide, so they can recommend you?

If you don’t make a memorable impression, I will forget I saw you at the meeting. Most business is not closed right at networking meetings… it’s closed after them, by people who connect, begin and nurture a relationship and create trust with each other. Remember: one meeting does not a relationship make. However, you can’t even begin a relationship if you don’t get someone to notice you and become interested in you in the first place.

Follow up with people after the meeting is over. Once you do begin a relationship, nurture it – don’t stick people’s business cards in a drawer and forget about them. However, don’t assume you can send automatic e-mails, such as newsletters, either. Always get permission to send automated items… and make personal contact occasionally through hand-written notes, cards, clippings, and phone calls.When you follow up (or even when you first meet someone), seek to serve rather than to receive. Ask people what you might be able to do to help them, connect them with a resource you may have, or give advice without expecting anything in return. Remember the old adage: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” The principle of giving back is wonderful; the principle of giving before is better. When you show others you’re willing to give, they respond in kind and give back to you.

The whole purpose of taking the time to network with others is to establish relationships, begin communications and build trust and rapport… all of which help others as well as helping you build your business over time.

Networking events are not sales efforts per se, in that they don’t always (or even usually) produce results immediately. Effective, high-impact sales efforts are still needed to continue to build “NOW” business.

But if you don’t want to waste your time when networking, you must do it effectively. This will build future business quickly and effectively… making it much easier to foster those relationships and have them come to fruition when the future becomes the “now.”

Sandy has been a national speaker, trainer and coach since the year 2000, speaking to organizations and individuals across the U.S. to help them achieve breakthrough performance in sales, customer service and personal and professional productivity through effective risk-taking.

She is a member of the National Speakers Association, is a former Dean of the Speakers’ Academy for the Central Florida Chapter of NSA and now serves on the Board of Directors for that Chapter. For more information, visit Sandy’s website at

Make Your Networking More Productive!


  • Before attending another networking event, ask yourself, “What is my objective in attending?” Are you looking for potential clients? Business alliances? Getting your name out there? Socializing? Define your purpose & goals: “I want to add x number of new contacts to my newsletter”, “I want to find 1 new business alliance”, “I’m looking for a contact from xyz company”.
  • Who will be attending the event you’ll be attending? Attending every networking event in town leaves you little time for actual work. Maximize your time and pare down what you attend to those events where your clients will be. Are your clients Human Resources managers? Then connect with the local HR association. Are you looking for Realtors? Attend a meeting of the local Realtor association.


  • Pay attention to the use of your business card at the event you attend. Are you handing your cards out like a Vegas dealer – giving one to every person you meet then quickly moving on? Or do you engage them in conversation and only hand out a card when they ask for one? Will your card be of value to them? If not, it will just end up in the trash can and your name forgotten.
  • Ask intelligent questions to learn more about the business of a new contact. Otherwise, how will know if they are your client or if their clients could potentially be yours? What’s their target market? What’s their niche? What sets them apart from their competition?
  • Become a resource. Find out what your new contact is in the market for – both personally and for their business. Are they looking for a CPA, are they in need of marketing materials, do they need a house painter? Then introduce them to those you know and trust. By providing value to your contacts, they will see the value in you. They will remember you.


  • So what do you do after the event is over? Do you have a plan of action ready to put into place? How will you follow up with these new contacts? Call them to follow up, perhaps schedule a B2B meeting. Send a thank-you/”nice to meet you” note via e-mail or snail-mail. Add them to your newsletter list (but no spam!). If you sit around waiting for them to call you and use your product or service, it probably won’t happen. You need to initiate contact and begin developing a relationship that will lead to referrals and business down the road.
  • How are you organizing your contacts? It’s never too late to start your client database. It doesn’t have to be fancy and there are many free or inexpensive products out there – even inputting them into Outlook or an Excel spreadsheet is better than leaving them in a pile on your desk. The important thing is to enter all new names within 24 hours after the event – including notes about where you met, what you spoke about, their level of interest in your product or service. If you don’t already have a system in place, start by entering all new cards as you receive them then slowly add your previous contacts later.
  • Have email templates and voice-mail scripts ready to use when following up with your new contacts. While you’ll customize them for each person, this will save you tons of time and help keep you from procrastinating!

I know this can seem overwhelming. Start with one step at time and slowly add on the others. I know of many resources to help with each of these steps and would be happy to refer you to them for assistance – just let me know!

The Art of Follow-Up

Great timing on the below article from Robert Middleton, since I’ll be speaking on this very subject this Thursday at our local Chamber of Commerce!

Enjoy… Cindy

What’s the most important marketing skill? You might be surprised at the answer.

It’s not having a great marketing message, powerful marketing materials and a bullet-proof marketing plan. All of those are certainly important but not as important as…


In my teleclasses and talks, I joke how people are looking for a “killer marketing message” that will make people jump up and down with excitement when they hear it. Sorry, but that’s as much of a myth as unicorns or a balanced national budget.

But people want to believe that myth, so they spend forever trying to perfect their message. Look, all your message can get you is some initial attention. That’s all.

And virtually every single marketing action after that is follow-up.

When someone shows some interest in your services (when you deliver a decent, but not mythical, marketing message), you need to follow-up with some more information.

Once they’ve read that information, you need to follow-up to determine if there’s a deeper interest. And if there’s a deeper interest, then you need to follow-up to set up an appointment.

But it doesn’t end there.

Once you have an appointment, you need to follow-up to confirm that appointment (yes, people flake out). And once you’ve had the appointment you need to follow-up with a proposal or to close the sale. Follow-up never ends.

Follow-Up Secrets

Here are some follow-up secrets I’ve learned over the years that are important to understand and master if you’re going to attract more clients.

1. Know where you are in the game

When you follow-up with someone, the purpose is to move the prospect from one base in the marketing game to the next base.
If you try to jump bases (or move too fast), you tend to get rejected by the prospect. If you move too slow with your follow- up, you loose the interest you’ve generated up to that point.

2. Don’t move too fast

When you get someone’s interest (say at a networking meeting) and then say you’d like to call back to talk with them, that’s fine.
But when you make that call and immediately try to set up an appointment, you’ll likely get some resistance.

Remember, people want more familiarity and some information before they meet with you. So your follow-up system needs to build that in. One way to do this is with pre-written emails and links to articles or to your web sites.

3. Don’t move too slow

If you give a talk and get cards from people who are interested in knowing more about your services, how soon should you follow- up? The very next day. For each day you don’t follow-up, interest wanes. If you have only a few follow-ups, use the phone. If you have many, send an email to set up a time to talk in the upcoming week.

Stale follow-ups are just that. They’ve forgotten what interested them in the first place, so when you call back after several weeks it’s like starting all over again.

4. Balance fast and slow

The key to effective follow-up is balancing the fast and the slow.
Fast to get back to someone when they show interest; slow to get to know them. Fast to provide information requested; slow to discuss what this information means to their business. Fast to get a proposal in the mail; slow to discuss the details of that proposal.

5. Watch your assumptions

What if someone doesn’t get back to you? You’ve followed up promptly and you don’t hear back right away. What does this mean? Only one answer: Who knows? It could be anything.

But we are quick to jump to the conclusion that it’s bad news. Not always. They might be very busy with a big priority or could even be out on vacation. So don’t jump to conclusions. Just keep following up. Just watch that you don’t sound desperate!

6. When to stop following-up

Let’s say you have a prospect you’ve either met with or done a proposal for. You thought everything was going well, but they aren’t returning your calls. Do you keep leaving messages or do you give up? What I recommend is leaving one last message that goes like this:

“Hi John, I’ve been trying to get back to you about the project but haven’t heard from you for a couple weeks. I don’t want to keep pestering you, so if I don’t hear back from you, I’ll assume you don’t want to move ahead. I’ll leave the ball in your court. Please call if you want to take the next steps, but this is the last message I’ll be leaving. Hope to hear from you. My number is …”

This approach works. If they actually are interested, they’ll call you back. If they don’t, well there’s your answer. It’s time to move on.

7. Create follow-up systems

To streamline your follow-up, create systems you can use over and over again. A follow-up system consists of specific steps you take each step of the way.

It might work something like this:

a) prospect learns about your service and visits web site
b) prospect fills out form on the web requesting more information
c) prospect receives an automated email from you with web link
d) you send out personalized email requesting an appointment
e) you follow-up by email until appointment is set
f) you meet with prospect by phone
g) after phone appointment you send agreement
h) after a few days you send another email
i) after a few more days you leave a phone message
j) prospect ultimately gets back to you with a yes or no

Once your follow-up system is designed and fine-tuned, you can use it reliably to turn many prospects into clients. This is exactly how I built my business. It didn’t happen by chance.

I invite you to use it to build yours.

The More Clients bottom line: The skill of follow-up is the glue that holds all of your marketing together. It’s what bridges the gaps between initial connections, information, meetings and proposals. Make it a priority to master this skill as soon as possible.

By Robert Middleton of Action Plan Marketing. Please visit Robert’s web site at for additional marketing articles and resources on marketing for professional service businesses.

Business Networking Articles The Networking Gurus

Business Networking Events: How to Know Where to Go

You’ve heard all the buzz about networking being one of the best ways to grow your business or advance your career and you’re ready to give it a try. You know it’s through your relationships with other people that you will make the connections you need to be successful in your career or business.

But how do you find these places to network? What do you need to get ready before you go to a networking event? What’s the best way to work the room once you’re there? And when it’s all over, what kind of follow up should you do?

Don’t worry, help is here!

This month’s networking tip focuses on how to find places to network. To find networking opportunities, it helps if first you know who you want to meet. Once you know that, it’s easy to discover where to go. Start by creating a list of the type of people you want in your network. Ask yourself:
- Who do I want to build relationships with? Customers, clients, colleagues, competitors? People from a specific industry or profession? What interests do these people share? Where do they spend time?

Networking opportunities occur almost every day, practically anywhere and at anytime. You’ve got your business functions, chamber events, the golf course, association meetings, and leads groups. And that’s just the beginning. What about your athletic club, your yoga class, the PTA, the chair lift or an airplane?

You can network at any of these places, and we recommend that you do, however, there are at least five types of groups where you can go to grow your network:
1. Business Networking Groups
2. Leads Groups
3. Professional Associations/Industry Specific Groups
4. Community Service Groups
5. Special Interest Groups

1. Business Networking Groups – A wide variety of groups fall within this category, most of them meeting monthly. These groups are set up for the primary purpose of networking and usually include people from a mix of industries. They may meet at breakfast, lunch, or after work. Some groups have a structured format, while others have an unstructured mix and mingle format. Some require membership and allow guests; others are open to anyone and everyone. If you are shy, you may find that groups with a more structured format work better for you than the informal mixers and receptions.

2. Leads Groups – The primary purpose of a Leads Group is to exchange leads and contacts. These groups tend to meet weekly, usually at breakfast or lunch, and have a very structured format, which can be good if you’re shy or new to networking. Leads groups require membership and are “exclusive,” meaning that only one member in each category of business can join. Each group will have only one financial advisor, one coach, one massage therapist, one realtor, and so on. There are private Leads Groups and Leads Groups within most Chambers of Commerce.

3. Professional Associations/Industry Specific Groups – These groups are organized around an industry or a profession. While networking happens at these events, their primary purpose is usually educational. These are a great place to meet colleagues or competitors. You could also attend the groups your prospects, clients, or referral partners belong to.

4. Community Service Groups – A large number of public and private organizations exist whose main purpose is providing service to others. There are charitable or fund raising groups, civic, community, political and religious groups, to name a few. These groups allow you to meet like-minded people and to contribute at the same time.

5. Special Interest Groups – These are the fun groups! Another way to meet people is to participate in activities of personal interest to you. Whatever your interest, there’s probably a group you can join. You’ll find book clubs, chess clubs, and hiking clubs. There are dance classes, yoga classes, volleyball leagues, and more.

Now that you know who you want to meet and what types of groups these people might attend, it’s time for you to find some events to go to. Here are five ways for you to begin creating your own list of places to network:

1. The easiest way to find networking events is to ask people. Ask your friends and colleagues if they belong to any groups or attend any networking events and let them know you’re interested in going with them.

2. Your local newspaper or business journal will often list business networking events, but more and more these papers are publishing this list online rather than in their printed paper.

3. The Internet is a good place to look for events. Typing “networking events [your city name]” into a search engine will pull up a variety of events.

4. You can also look in the Yellow Pages or directories of associations for the names of associations and professional organizations. Your local library will have copies of these directories.

5. If you live in the Denver area, one of the easiest ways to find a comprehensive listing of business networking events is to subscribe to our free e-mail newsletter, The Networking Gurus News, a monthly listing of all major networking events in the Denver area. You can view it and subscribe online at

To decide which groups to attend, ask yourself some or all of the following questions:
- What kind of people attend?
- How often does the group meet?
- What is the usual structure of the meeting?
- Is there usually a speaker?
- How much time is allotted for actual networking?
- How many people typically attend?
- What is the cost of attending?
- What are the time, place and dates of upcoming meetings?

Once you have gone through this process, you will be set to find groups that are right for you and your networking needs. Enjoy, and happy networking. Be sure to read next month’s tip, which will tell you how to prepare for an event before you go.

This article, copyright Donna Feldman & Cindy Rold, The Networking Gurus. All rights reserved. The Networking Gurus web site is a comprehensive resource of business networking events, skills and information for busy business professionals. For free networking resources visit