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From Puppet to Puppeteer


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  • 1. From Puppet to Puppeteer: Three Questions to Ask Every Client © 2009 Erin Blaskie · 1
  • 2. From Puppet to Puppeteer: Three Questions to Ask Every Client From Puppet to Puppeteer: Three Questions to Ask Every Client That Will Change Your Business and Your Mindset The Introduction This e-book is not solely a how-to guide. This e-book will help you shift your thinking out of the puppet mode (the non-thinking, say yes to everything mode) and move you into the empowered role of a partner to your clients... aka the puppeteer. I wrote this e-book because it took me five years to realize why I had become so good at what I was doing. I realized it’s because I was never willing to say “Yes!” to everything. I’ve always voiced recommendations and suggestions in a very honest yet compassionate way - ways that I’ll be teaching you throughout this e-book. The three questions are: 1. When do you need this back by and how does this fit in with the other projects we have open? 2. I really love what we’re doing here, what do you think of adding in x, y or z? Or, I don’t really like this – what about…? 3. I noticed you aren’t doing … Have you ever thought of x? You’ll also learn, in this e-book, why this attitude is appreciated by your clients and so, incredibly needed. Not only that, you’ll find yourself personally making a difference in their businesses and in their lives. That is why we’re all here. © 2009 Erin Blaskie · 2
  • 3. From Puppet to Puppeteer: Three Questions to Ask Every Client When do you need this back by and how does this fit in with the other projects we have open? Often, when we’re working with a client, we’re not looking at things from the big picture perspective. Instead, we’re usually just taking down notes and to-dos and saying, “Yep!” and “Got it!” and then we’re rushing back to our systems and trying to make it all make sense. Then, we start to do the work and we find out we’re doing the unimportant tasks before the important tasks. So, we then over-compensate by doing the important tasks and run out of time thus becoming overwhelmed. It’s a common issue that drives the client crazy and can drive you crazy too if you don’t handle it properly. Baby Got Back The perfect way to approach this is to ask your client the first part of this question first – when do you need this back by? This will provide for you some structure and will allow you to schedule or slot it into your calendar. My suggestion is to put it on your calendar on the very last date they need it and then count back three days and put another copy of the same milestone/reminder. This way, you have it marked three days early but are giving yourself some buffer space. © 2009 Erin Blaskie · 3
  • 4. From Puppet to Puppeteer: Three Questions to Ask Every Client The beauty of asking the first part of this question is that you’ll be holding your client accountable as well to giving you a timeline. Then, there isn’t the expectation that everything is due today or tomorrow but you’re actually planning things out. It will also show your client that you are in charge and organized. Clients LOVE this. If there is anything I’ve learned in the past five years, it’s that clients love being taken care of and being assured that things will get done when we say they will. Now, Say What? Once you’ve decided on the when, don’t forget to then lay out the what. Although that goes outside of the original three questions, I do feel it’s as important as the three questions. Take the what and figure out the intricate, moving pieces of each of the projects and tasks you’ve been given. Determine what you need from your client and what you can accomplish on your own. Then, put this into your system. We highly recommend Basecamp by 37 Signals for laying out deadlines, to- dos and for keeping messages in an organized fashion. If you aren’t sure about project management or it’s just not a strong point for you, also be sure to check out our Project Management Course. © 2009 Erin Blaskie · 4
  • 5. From Puppet to Puppeteer: Three Questions to Ask Every Client You Have the Keys but Which Keyhole? The second question of how does this fit in with the other projects we’ve got going right now is also a key question. This allows you to gauge priority of things as it relates to all of the other work you’ve currently got open and active. Here’s the thing. Your clients are not going to know if you become overwhelmed or bombarded with too much work. You need to be the one to sort out what they give you BUT give them really clear deadlines and the understanding of what you can do and when. The reason clients love this question is because it gets them thinking in terms of the big picture AND allows you time to strategize with them. We’ll get more into that with the other questions but that is why this question is so popular with your clients. It’s Not All Clouds in the Big Picture Try out a service like Mind Node (if you’re on a Mac) and Mind Jet if you’re on a PC. These programs will allow you to lay out the bigger picture vision for your client and will make you look like a star. It’s a great idea to keep this in a binder or somewhere nearby your client’s notes. © 2009 Erin Blaskie · 5
  • 6. From Puppet to Puppeteer: Three Questions to Ask Every Client Here’s what you want to capture: • Goals (both short and long term) • Projects • Primary Product / Service Offerings • Scheduled Joint Ventures • Anything Else Worth Noting Once you have that down, you and your client can align to the same vision for their company and you’ve just become a bigger thinker which means more value to your client. The importance of changing your mindset falls into this big picture vision becoming a part of everything you do. You can look at opportunities, tasks, deadlines, etc. and ask, “How do those things fit in with the big picture?” and, “What do we need to do first, second, third, etc. in order for this to make the most sense?” You may not feel like it’s your role to do this as an assistant but I assure you, it helps your relationship with your client fully. If you know what you need to do and how it all ties in together, it allows you to come from a strategic perspective and do the things that you need to do instead of doing things that are not needed. © 2009 Erin Blaskie · 6
  • 7. From Puppet to Puppeteer: Three Questions to Ask Every Client I really love what we’re doing here, what do you think of adding in x, y or z? Alternatively, this question may also be phrased as: I don’t really like the direction this is going in and I think we might be more successful if we consider x, y and z instead. What do you think? This question starts to move you from puppet to puppeteer. The reason we use this phrasing is because we see an all-too-familiar trend in a lot of assisting positions. Most Assistants Do As Their Told Now, that’s not generally a bad thing... except, when your client is a solopreneur with a limited budget and needs support that goes beyond the “Yes ma’am” and “No ma’am” kind of response that a puppet provides. What your client is likely looking for and needing desperately is someone to give feedback and suggestions but in a non-threatening way. Here are some great examples: • Your client shows you a website page they created themselves but it’s very amateur looking. You might say, “I really love the copy you’ve created but I was wondering, may I try my hand and creating something a bit different that goes against the grain but still stays true to your brand?” • A client says that they’ve been trying to get their customer support department in order forever. Instead of saying, “I can do © 2009 Erin Blaskie · 7
  • 8. From Puppet to Puppeteer: Three Questions to Ask Every Client that, what do you want?” You could say instead, “I heard that Google Mail is a good option for people looking to share an inbox. Do you want me to set that up for us and put together a few pre-defined responses? We could then test it out with one of your email addresses to see how it goes?” In each of these examples, you’ll notice that instead of saying “YES!” to your client all of the time, you’re actually saying, “Awesome but...” and pushing back on your client a bit. Some clients may find this uncomfortable at first and if they do, that’s great! ;) It means that what you are doing is working and you’re challenging them to something greater. Pushed to Greatness I remember when I first hired my graphic designer, Lukas Bott of Spineless Design. We began working on the website makeover for and he did something that no one up to that point had. He pushed back on me. Challenged me to go further than I had before comfortably. Tested me against technological boundaries. At first, I was really angry. I hated that he wasn’t just letting things go and letting me just do what I had always done. I completely and utterly hated it. Except... I realized quickly that what he was doing was helping me move out of a comfort zone and into greatness. © 2009 Erin Blaskie · 8
  • 9. From Puppet to Puppeteer: Three Questions to Ask Every Client The website could have come out looking like any other website except that it didn’t. It came out so different than anything I had done up to that point but here’s the killer point of it all – it was more me than anything I had ever done. Pushing me brought out the authentic me and for that, I loved the work we did together. Everyone has this comfort zone that they stay in and that keeps them safe. However, greatness is not accomplished in the safe spots of life. So, challenging your clients to step out of the safe will mean their business will grow as a result. If you find yourself losing clients in this process (which, you shouldn’t if it’s done correctly) just remember that they may just not be in a place yet where they can move out of “safe”. However, when they do, they’ll look back and remember you pushing them gently and they may come back to thank you. It’s Not About Ego The flipside to this question is not getting “huffy” if the client doesn’t accept your feedback. Ultimately, this business is theirs and they get to make the final decision. However, nine times out of ten, something that you suggest to them will make them go, “Ah! I never thought of that”, and they’ll incorporate at least a part of what you’re suggesting. Business is never about an ego struggle and if it is, you’ve either got the wrong mindset or you’re working with the wrong people. You need to know © 2009 Erin Blaskie · 9
  • 10. From Puppet to Puppeteer: Three Questions to Ask Every Client that business is give and take and suggestions are merely that. Things that you think about a project you’re working on but that may not get implemented. I’ve had many virtual assistants say to me in the past, “I know what I’m suggesting is right but the client just won’t listen.” To that, I have to say that you just need to do your job as assistant and guide the client in the best way possible. Make your recommendations and suggestions and provide valid points and if the client chooses to do something different, ultimately they can and you’ll need to stand by that decision. We’ll explore this in the next question section. Providing Answers to All Although some of the clients you work with will be at varying degrees of experience with technology, new trends, etc., do your best to do continual education with your clients. Start a blog to answer their common questions, create a knowledgebase or anything else you can do to aid them in their journey through entrepreneurship. Stand in the service of your clients and that will allow greatness to happen. © 2009 Erin Blaskie · 10
  • 11. From Puppet to Puppeteer: Three Questions to Ask Every Client Have you ever thought of x? This can become the most important thing you ask your clients. The question, “Have you ever thought of x?” is one that should be asked spontaneously in the middle of a project or completely outside of a project. These are the things that you have come across, heard about, implemented yourself and have seen successful results from. This is how you begin to elevate your client to where they need to be. Show Me the Money! Okay, so we’re not working with Jerry Maguire here but one magnificent way to get your clients to fall in love with your business and your practices is to suggest ways that they can increase their income or decrease their expenses AND suggest it randomly. To accomplish this, you want to be looking for opportunities all of the time. If you’re on Twitter and you see someone requesting joint venture partners for something that your client would be perfect for, let your client know and suggest ways that you can go about setting it up. For example (said in your voice): • Jane Doe is launching her new book in August and is looking for bonuses as well as speaking opportunities. I was thinking, the speaking opportunity portion may not be good for us as you have a few events lined up already in August but why don’t we offer your new © 2009 Erin Blaskie · 11
  • 12. From Puppet to Puppeteer: Three Questions to Ask Every Client e-book on systems as a bonus? We could also throw in a free fifteen minute consult at the end of the book for participants? Do you see how that starts to make your clients eyes widen? You are providing them an opportunity to get in front of a new market and a lot of extra people thus resulting in more publicity and potentially, more income. The best part is that you’ve already suggested exactly how the client should do this. What would make this even better is if you added: • We could use a previous sales page template, throw up an opt-in box connected to your shopping cart and provide the ebook as a download in the autoresponder. Also, we can setup an Icebrrg form to collect responses for the free fifteen minute consults to make that process automated. BOOM! Your client now doesn’t even have to think. One Big, Happy Family Here is one opportunity area that is always missed. If you’re a virtual assistant who has clients – and many of them – you have a HUGE opportunity right in your own family of clients. The client to client connection can be powerful and most people are under utilizing this. Have you introduced your clients to each other? Have you pointed out similarities or joint venture possibilities in the very people you are working with? © 2009 Erin Blaskie · 12
  • 13. From Puppet to Puppeteer: Three Questions to Ask Every Client We created an Inner Circle for our clients awhile ago which was a simple Ning site where our clients could connect, talk and share details about what they were doing in their businesses. The coolest part was, we just made the introduction – they took it from there. Now, sometimes you’ll be bringing these things to your client as not everyone has time to read through a social networking site but just by giving them the opportunity, you’ll see a huge change in your clients. The Best D-I-Y How much of what you are suggesting to clients have you actually tried for yourself? There’s a chance you’ve done very little for yourself and in some cases, you may never have implemented some things for yourself. Here’s your challenge. I want you to go out and DO some of the things you’re recommending to your clients and test them. Do they actually work like you thought they would? Are certain business tactics actually successful? About two years ago, I decided to do a membership-based site to test the viability and profitability of this business model first-hand. I joined forces with a friend of mine and we launched a membership site for virtual assistants. It bombed. © 2009 Erin Blaskie · 13
  • 14. From Puppet to Puppeteer: Three Questions to Ask Every Client Now, I am the type of person that doesn’t look at anything as a failure as each opportunity to fail is an opportunity to learn. What I did take away from it was various pricing structures that didn’t work, how to launch a membership-based business properly, what to include and so much more. Would I have known that otherwise? Nope. I would have bought into the hype that membership-based businesses are easy. Just cash hounds that get setup and run automatically. Truth be told, they are a lot of work. A LOT of work. So, test things out before you suggest them. Then, when you find things that work really, really well, bring them to your clients with the proof of their success. It’ll benefit your client and it will also net you some additional hours on a mutually beneficial project. Don’t Assume Your Leader is a Great One Not all leaders of companies are standing in their place of greatness yet. Some leaders are still nervous, scared and unsure of their next steps. In fact, some people manage the outer world of their business in a much more graceful way than they do the inner. Due to that fact, take the reins and do so often. This isn’t to say that you should do things that you haven’t been given permission to do or been empowered to do but rather step up and become the partner that your client may need. © 2009 Erin Blaskie · 14
  • 15. From Puppet to Puppeteer: Three Questions to Ask Every Client He/she may need to be led a bit so that they can end up where they wish to end up – with goals met and a successful, happy business. A Closing Note However you run your business and however you interact with your clients, one thing is always going to be highly needed. Care. In a service-based business, we need to care. We need to reach out to our clients and give them a hand and not just because we’re getting a pay check there. We need to care as much about their businesses as we do our own. Why? Well... why not? What have you got to gain by staying safe, not asking questions and not pushing people to greatness? However, you’ve got everything to lose if you don’t. Someone else will begin to push back on your client a little and next thing you know, your client is realizing they have needs that you aren’t meeting. Start asking the three questions and see what happens. The three questions are: 1. When do you need this back by and how does this fit in with the other projects we have open? 2. I really love what we’re doing here, what do you think of adding in x, y or z? Or, I don’t really like this – what about…? 3. I noticed you aren’t doing … Have you ever thought of x? © 2009 Erin Blaskie · 15
  • 16. From Puppet to Puppeteer: Three Questions to Ask Every Client About the Author Erin Blaskie is a born entrepreneur, yoga enthusiast and passionate fashionista. At the age of 21, Erin launched her very first business – Business Services, ETC. When BSETC first launched, it was started as a virtual assistance company – providing top notch administrative and technical support to companies around the globe. It quickly morphed into a multi-VA team and took the Internet Marketing world by storm. At the age of 23, Erin then launched her coaching business – The VA Coach. Through this medium, Erin coached, trained and inspired individuals to create virtual assistance businesses and turn them into thriving, six-figure businesses. Erin delivered group coaching programs which can now be purchased as self-study programs on her website. After supporting entrepreneurs for over four years, Erin has now moved into her latest transformative role. Erin is now an Internet Marketing Strategist who provides solid business savvy and Internet Marketing advice to entrepreneurs from around the world. Erin’s clients are in all stages of business growth – from infancy to the multi-million dollar level – and Erin’s mission is to help her clients reach their goals. Using the latest technology trends and new business ideas, Erin helps her clients catapult their businesses forward with strategy that works and her team implements the strategy into specific to-dos, key milestones and of course… results. © 2009 Erin Blaskie · 16
  • 17. From Puppet to Puppeteer: Three Questions to Ask Every Client Featured in three books “Becoming an Online Business Manager” by Tina Forsyth, “My So-Called Freelance Life” by Michelle Goodman, and “The Official AWE Emerging Trends Guide 2009“, honored as Office Arrow’s 2008 Runner-Up Business Woman of the Year, interviewed by countless gurus and media personalities (John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing, Sheri McConnell, Stacy Karacostas, Gina McNew), featured in major news publications (, Ottawa Citizen, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Employment Journal) and asked to speak at major events (Forum on Virtual Assistance, WordCamp Toronto and WordCamp Chicago) – Erin is certainly making an impact on the entrepreneurial world. Learn more about Erin at and She also maintains a lifestream/blog at © 2009 Erin Blaskie · 17