Having been a personal concierge for over 10 years, one of the most popular questions I get asked by people starting a concierge business is “how did you get your first clients?”
If they are asking about my very first client, I tell them about traipsing around Adelaide streets on a 40 degree celsius day (ie. it was hot!) with my boyfriend and my mum, popping hundreds of flyers into letterboxes. My first client was a phone call as a direct result of one of those flyers, buying a gift voucher for a friend. That recipient became my first client and I did numerous jobs for her.
However, most of the time what concierge business owners are really asking is, "what is the easiest and best way to get as many new clients as possible?" My answer, especially when speaking to people new to the personal concierge industry? Networking!
Networking - Nup, no way!
I can almost seem them shudder and then shut down. They already know that networking isn’t for them. They can’t do it. They’re too shy. They find it hard to talk to people. They haven’t been in business long enough to talk about what they do.
You know what they are? Excuses!
They’re not the only ones to find networking hard. I have never been called quiet or reserved, and I still find networking difficult, especially when I am walking into a room of people I don’t know. Yet it was easily the most effective way of getting new clients. And even though this was in the days before facebook (I’ve been in business since early 2004) I still have the same answer. Even now, with hundreds of facebook followers, a website full of blog posts and testimonials, networking, consistent networking is the best way to gain clients.
So, why is networking the answer?
I imagine that many of you, if you are about to start or have been in business for many years, can relate to the challenges we can face when trying to succinctly explain what a personal concierge or lifestyle manager does. In essence, it’s really easy. We tick off your to do list! We’re your personal assistant for your personal life!
Yet, in reality, the best way to explain to people what we do, is to first ask them questions. You need to get in front of individuals, find out what the issues are in their life, the pressure points they struggle with. Once you know that, then it becomes easy to explain what we do by offering examples of how we can help solve their problems.
Start Asking Questions
Say someone asks what you do and you tell them, “Well, we can walk your dog, go to the chemist for you, or research your next holiday”. They could very well be standing there thinking, “Well, I don’t have a dog, I never need to go to the chemist, and if only I had time for a holiday! Nup, this person can’t do anything for me.”
However, if you ask them, “well, can you give me an example of an issue you’ve had lately? Have you run out of milk, forgotten to buy a birthday present, do you have a special event coming up?” People are very good and identifying struggles in their life, and most times they are more than happy to share! “Well,” they say, “I did lock my keys in my car last week so I ran late to my daugher’s recital. Oh, and I have a pile of photos sitting on my dining room table that I have been meaning to have framed for six months. Yes, and next week my husband’s boss is coming to dinner and I’m furious because I’ll be left to cook and I have no time to shop!” Ask to hear about someone’s problems and you will invariably get an answer!
Solve Their Problems
Now it is up to you to solve their problems by politely, and without judgement, offer suggestions as to how you, as an example, could help them.
“Oh yes, one of our clients rang us just last week because she had locked herself out of the house. Luckily we had a spare set of keys, just for moments like this, so she left for work, while we went to her house, found her keys, and dropped them to her at reception.”
“And talking of photo framing, one of the first things we did for one of our newest clients was have each of their child’s kindy photos printed, framed and hung. And the youngest is in year five!”
“Well funnily, the next job I’m doing is grocery shopping for a client as she is hosting her book club this week and they always match the food to the book. Do you know what they were reading this month, Picnic at Hanging Rock! So I’m not only buying picnic food, but I’ve bought a red checked table cloth, found a vintage picnic basket, and we’re setting them up outside in the garden under a tree.”
See how much easier it is to explain. Plus you can make things so much exciting when you tell stories and give real examples (pssst they can be slightly altered or exaggerated for dramatic effect!). The bonus is they are made to feel more comfortable knowing there are other people other there with the same issues they have, and you are providing no judgement whatsoever, only solutions.
Can you imagine trying to fit all of that in a paid advertisement or a facebook post? You may go ahead and write a blog post detailing many of these scenarios (which by the way, I think is a great idea), but it may not directly speak to those people who are reading it, and is unlikely to get an immediate response. I have found with networking however, that very often they can list of a number of things I could do for them immediately, and if they are really keen, they ask you to call them tomorrow to arrange a meeting. This doesn't always happen, but it certainly will resonate with them, and when they are next in a pickle, it just may be you who they call.
Leverage Your Networking
Other great opportunities to take advantage of at networking events is to give away a door prize. This way you business name and a bit about what you do will likely be announced to the whole room. If you are lucky (or in fact if you just have the courage to request it) you get to stand up in front of the group, introduce yourself and give a brief spiel. Be prepared to do this and just do it! I’ve had success numerous times with this. One client in particular took one of my flyers after hearing me give a brief spiel. It wasn’t until three months later that she called me and booked me in for weekly grocery shopping, without having even met me. Do you know what, over 10 years later we still do her grocery shopping every Friday – unless she is travelling, in which time we are usually doing things like getting carpets cleaned or meeting the gardener. It does work, I promise you.
But I Get So Nervous!
Do you know what, everyone gets nervous. Actors get nervous but that doesn’t mean they don’t go on stage. What they do is prepare themselves so that they can move beyond the nerves. Still now I need to psych myself up and remind myself why I am getting into my suit at 4pm to head to a networking event. I guarantee most everyone else is feeling the same. Here are some tips to help you handle the room.
1. Rip Off The Bandaid Immediately - When you walk in the door try and spot someone else who is standing alone and looking nervous. Walk right up to them and introduce yourself. Rip of the bandaid and you never know who you are about to meet!
2. Go It Alone - A lot of people make it a point of bringing someone along with them because it makes it easier. This is true, but the problem is that you often spend the whole time talking to this person, whom you already know and are not going to get any business from. If you do come with someone, perhaps suggest that you will separate for a time and then meet up again later. However, a better strategy is to get yourself used to attending networking events alone. It is much more effective in the long run, and it will greatly improve your confidence for the future.
3. Be Quirky - Let me tell you, in general people love what we do! To most people it is such a novel and fun business idea, and they end up wishing they could work for you. Have a quirky story in your back pocket for fun, and I assure you they will happily talk to you. Don’t forget to ask them questions in return about who they are and what they do. Networking is really about relationship building, so finding out about the other person and how they may be able to also assist you, is just as important.
Jump online and find a networking event to attend. Do it now! Book it in! I usually find something with a speaker I’m interested in seeing, or a workshop element that will increase my knowledge. Ultimately you want to find something that would be of interest to your ideal client, but to start with, just get out there, because, as they say, practice makes perfect.
If you’re part of our Member Forum, jump on to the Networking forum and please share your networking successes (and failures if you have them). We’d love to hear them and you might pick up some new strategies yourself.
Do you have networking failures or success stories? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!
Need some business advice? You can schedule a call with Abbie here – https://clarity.fm/abbieallen