The absolute hardest part about building any business, right? And it’s no different for virtual assistants.
Luckily I have friends in high places – one of them being Kai Davis, an outreach expert. And Kai was kind enough to share with you all of his top secret advice when it comes to finding clients as a VA.
In fact, he has a whole system for you to start implementing today. You’re WELCOME! (And thanks Kai, you rock!)
When you’re starting out as a virtual assistant, your challenge is finding clients. In this guide, you’ll learn how to get more clients as a virtual assistant with a Referral Outreach Campaign.
You might be in an excellent position of having a contact or connection to serve as the first of many clients for your new business, but when it comes to striking out and finding your first new client, that’s where you may start to experience challenges.
How do you make contact with a client?
As a freelancer and marketing coach to freelancers, I can tell you that one of the most powerful tools for getting more client is a coordinated outreach campaign: a repeatable process for identifying people to contact, emailing them to start a conversation, politely following-up to keep the conversation going (even if they don’t respond), and then making a specific ask to see if you can help them and their business.
At the heart of this is an outreach system that will help you, first, build your client base and, second, serve as a repeatable system for you to get more clients while you run your business as a virtual assistant.
But how do you get started? What is outreach anyway?
What You Need to Know About Outreach
Outreach is about building and maintaining relationships by providing value to the other party.
Just like you maintain friendships and relationships by demonstrating that you care about the other person, in Outreach Marketing, you’re working to:
- Build a relationship;
- Learn and understand the needs motivating the other person;
- If appropriate, offer to help them with a solution to those needs.
Let’s talk about the most important questions of an effective campaign:
First, understand who you’re trying to reach.
What is your positioning? What is your niche? Who is your ideal client? Who do you work best with?
It is always easier to reach the “best buyers” in the market than to reach all the buyers. And if you have a specific type of client in mind, focus your marketing on reaching that type of client.
Go narrow and direct, not wide and loose.
Gina’s Tip: Picking a niche is something we talk a lot about on the blog and in the courses. If you’re still not sure what virtual assistant services you can offer, we’ve put together a list of over 150 services that webpreneurs need help with.
Then, understand the expensive problem you’re solving.
Your ideal client – why would they hire you?
What problem are they experiencing that motivates them to hire you? What will be the outcome of hiring you for their business?
Once you understand and answer these two questions, you have everything you need to get started with your referral outreach marketing campaign.
The Referral Outreach Campaign
In a referral outreach campaign, your goal is to email 5-10 people that you know (colleagues, acquaintances, friends, co-workers, past clients, etc.) and create a referrable moment where the recipient instantly thinks of someone else they know who would benefit from knowing you or knowing about your services.
Your existing network collectively know more people than you could ever know. So by tapping into the power of your network and asking for referrals, with your precise positioning (“best buyer” or ideal client) in mind, you’ll reap the rewards of a well-orchestrated referral campaign.
Here’s how to run your referral outreach campaign, in a nutshell. We’ll go over the details throughout the post:
– Identify 5-10 people that you can reach out to. These should be people in or close to the industry your ideal client works in.
– Draft an initial email (a template for you to copy is below) that explains that you’re launching a new business (or side business) and then explain in specific who your ideal client is and the problems your ideal client is experiencing that you can solve for them.
– Then — and this is the important part — ask for referrals to two or three people that your recipient knows that matches your ideal client (your ‘positioning’) and the problem you solve (your ‘expensive problem’).
Will everyone respond with a referral?
But some people will.
Some people will have that moment where they go “Oh, hey, I know the perfect person to connect you with!”
If you use this campaign — just this, just a simple referral outreach marketing campaign — you will get more clients as a Virtual Assistant.
Get More Clients With A Referral Outreach Campaign
With your referral outreach campaign, you’re manufacturing “moments of serendipity,” expanding the number of people that you’re telling about the work you do, increasing the chances that one of them says “Oh, this is excellent, I know someone who can use your help!”
But the key part in this?
You’re investing the time in telling the people you’re in touch with that:
- You specialize in helping a particular type of client;
- You’re excellent at solving a particular problem for those clients;
- You’re currently accepting new clients and thought that they’d be someone ideal for you to reach out to who could connect you with 2 or 3 people in their network.
Let’s break this down a bit more.
The “Why” of Referrals
Why are referrals such a powerful way to get clients? Because referrals are someone saying “I appreciate the work you do so much that I am willing to tell a third party about it.
Referrals don’t only need to come from clients. When you think about referrable moments, you see that anyone can give you a referral to someone who matches your ideal client criteria: a colleague, a previous co-worker, a past or current client, a friend or family member.
By taking the time to periodically ask for referrals — stating who you work best with and how you can help them — you create opportunities for people to refer projects and clients to you directly or indirectly.
(Gina’s Tip: Never underestimate the value of having strong social support when you’re starting a freelance biz.)
The “How” of Referrals
When it comes to running your outreach campaign, there are four elements you want to be focused on:
- Identifying the right people to contact;
- Knowing what to say (with your customizable templates);
- Finding the email address of the people you want to contact;
- Having a follow-up system in place to politely, persistently follow-up with them, in case they miss your first message.
Let’s look at each one these elements and discuss how you can know who to talk to, what to say, and how to reach them.
1. Identify the Right People
Who are the right people for you to contact as part of your outreach campaign to get more virtual assistant clients?
As you get more advanced at outreach marketing, you’ll start to identify more advanced segments of people that you can reach out to — people you already have an existing relationship with or people you’re building a new relationship with.
But as you get started, I recommend focusing on a small, simple outreach campaign.
Pick 10 people you know (colleagues, friends, acquaintances, family).
Email them using the provided templates and say:
Hi! Hope business is doing well. Do you know any [TARGET MARKET] who need help with [EXPENSIVE PROBLEM]? If so, I’m refining my business to emphasize working with [TARGET MARKET] who need help with [EXPENSIVE PROBLEM]. If you know anyone, just hit reply and let me know. Your introductions and referrals will be incredibly valuable.
When you get started with your referral campaign, focus on the lowest hanging fruit: email your friends, family, acquaintances, past clients, past projects, past co-workers, and other people you have a relationship with and ask for a referral.
(Gina’s Tip: Using your social network is one of the first steps you should try when starting a business. there’s a reason we dedicate lesson-time to that in VA Foundations, our cornerstone course in The #FullyBookedVA System – it works!)
2. Know What to Say
You have to be focused on giving value in every email you send. Giving, not taking.
You can use a quick email like this:
Hope you’re doing well. Just a quick question — do you know any [TARGET MARKET] who are experiencing [EXPENSIVE PROBLEM]? I’m refining my [TYPE OF BUSINESS] to focus primarily on that type of client.
Do you know anyone who would be a good fit? If not, that’s fine, just hit reply and let me know. However, if you do know some people who you think would be a good match, just hit reply and let me know.
I’ve put together a collection of Referral Outreach Email Templates that you can download and use. To claim them, just visit this link and enter your email address.
Follow up. If you don’t hear back after your first email, have your second and third emails already drafted and ready to send. Make the emails you send focused and provide additional value, rather than simply following up.
3. Find the Right Email Address
To email someone in an outreach campaign, you need to know their email address, obviously. There are a number of tactics and tools you can use to find someone’s email address, but the best (and most simple) way is to register for a free email finder tool like Hunter or Voila Norbert and use them for your email identifying needs.
These tools make it incredibly easy to find someone’s email address. Visit their site (or their LinkedIn Page) and these email finder tools will let you know what email addresses it finds associated with that domain.
And, in the case of Hunter, if it doesn’t find the email address of the person you’re looking for, it will tell you the most likely format (firstname.lastname@example.org) of email addresses on the site.
4. Set Up a Follow-Up System
You have to be willing to follow-up — even if they don’t respond to 1, 5, or 10 of your emails.
How important could the service you’re offering actually be if you give up after a single email and no reply?
Instead, you must prepare for your outreach campaign by writing your first 3, 5, or more emails ahead of time. If you send an email and no one replies, that is not a reflection on your ability as a service provider. Rather, you’re emailing a busy person who cannot respond to every email instantly.
By following up — politely, persistently — you ensure that your email connects with the recipient when they most need your services. Even if that takes 3, 5, 10, or more individual emails.
But how do you know what to say in your follow-up emails? How do you provide value instead of simply saying “Did you get my last email?”
Make the emails you send focused and provide additional value, rather than simply following up. You can link them to testimonials or case studies. You can share links to market research or market data that talks about the pressing need the problem you solve is causing. You can share resources or guides you’ve created along with interviews or audio essays.
You want to focus on following up with information that contributes to the conversation, not simply adding noise.
To help you get more virtual assistant clients using outreach marketing, you can claim a free gift of everything you need to get started with your outreach marketing campaign.
Want to learn more about outreach to get clients? I have a Free Outreach Guide that teaches you how to use Outreach Marketing to get more clients. If you’re interested in using outreach to get more clients as a Virtual Assistant, then this guide will show you how.
Ready to learn more strategies for finding and landing quality Virtual Assistant clients? Join The #FullyBookedVA System and let’s do it!
Kai Davis is an Outreach Consultant who helps bootstrappers, product creators, self-funded startups, and single founder companies grow their audience through Digital Outreach and Public Relations. Kai Davis writes at at KaiDavis.com and Double Your Audience. He sends out a daily newsletter on marketing tips for consultants to get more clients.