A question I see asked time and again on the VA and business forums are ‘how do I find more clients?’, or ‘how do I get my name out there?’
The answer is, and always has been ‘networking’. Networking is one of the most important activities that is required of a business owner. You can do everything you can think of, set up great systems, design a fantastic website, have all your paperwork in place but if you don’t actually spend time connecting with people, very few are going to find you.
And it is very, very important that you don’t concentrate your networking all in one area, or in one place. Networking should be a mix of things – online and offline, peer groups and potential client base, industry based and community based. There are so many possibilities out there.
There is no way you can do it all and join all the networks there are, so I encourage people to make a selection and do a mix. For example, if you’re a Virtual Assistant then join 2 or 3 VA networks where there are active discussions, so you can learn from your peers, where you can join in so they can get to know you, and where there is the opportunity to have direct contact with clients. That’s online. But offline, I encourage VAs to find local business networks in their area and join at least two. They could be referral based networks like BNI, or community based groups like Rotary or Lions. They might be general business groups that are run by local councils or others. There are industry based groups like National Speakers, Business Coach groups, or any industry that might potentially be your target client base, and there are also social based groups where you share a common interest, like photography. Meetup.com is a great place to find some of these groups.
It doesn’t have to be a formal business group or activity for networking to take place. Regular readers know I’m a keen photographer, and I love to go out on photo walks with other photographers. And yet, conversation takes place and we get to learn about each other, and what each other does. It’s informal networking at its best. No pressure, we’re out enjoying a common interest and sharing information about ourselves.
What is important is the regularity and consistency of attending. Just going now and then, or every few months, isn’t going to cut it. We’ve all heard that networking is about building relationships, and you can’t build a relationship on occasional connections. You must be meeting together regularly, and over time, you’ll get to know other people really well, and they’ll get to know you too, and trust you, which is ultimately what you want.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking your business is global so therefore you don’t need to do local. WRONG! How do you know who the locals know unless you mix and mingle with them? That person down the street, or around the corner, might not only need your services but they might also know a key person in the country you are keen to build your business in too. Reach out, touch lives, get to know people and network earnestly and genuinely. It will pay off!