GUEST POST BY ABBY HERMAN
Truth here: I’m not a coffee drinker. Never have been.
But I have been able to use “coffee” to grow my business beyond what I ever thought possible.
COFFEE CHATS, THAT IS.
I spent six years working my business as a side hustle to my full time teaching job. And when I finally quit the day job in 2013 to grow my business, I discovered something I had no idea existed: Facebook groups.
Who knew that groups of women could be supportive and helpful? I certainly didn’t. In my experience, large groups of women are catty and competitive and forever trying to push one another down. (Have I had bad experiences in the past? Yep.)
When I started dipping my toes into Facebook groups, I learned that female entrepreneurs (the ones I was meeting, anyway) were amazingly uplifting and dedicated to helping one another excel. It was amazing to watch.
But it took me a while to get the support and encouragement I so desperately needed. As an introvert, I felt like an outsider. I was afraid to comment on posts or reach out to others. I didn’t want to be seen as “salesy” or pushy—and I didn’t want anyone to know what I didn’t know. Which, at that point, was how to grow my business.
I also wondered how in the heck were all these women BFFs with each other? And how could I make some friends?
The Start of Something Wonderful /
In early 2016, I made a huge leap and registered for a rather pricey conference. Investing in myself is not something I do lightly, but the conference was being held in my hometown so it felt like a no-brainer to me. No traveling necessary, so it kept the cost down.
Again, as an introvert, I knew exactly what was going to happen at that conference. I’d go to the day sessions, sit by myself and then hide in my hotel room in the evenings. Being around large groups of people I didn’t know made me sick to my stomach. I didn’t know anyone. And everyone else was already best friends.
I needed to do something about that. I needed to get to know some of the other attendees—before the conference.
SO I STARTED REACHING OUT.
I kept my eyes open and started asking people who I knew were attending the conference if they wanted to get together for a virtual coffee chat. Heck, it didn’t matter if they were attending the conference; I had a coffee chat with them anyway.
AND IT WORKED!
By the time the conference rolled around, I’d connected with about a quarter of the attendees. I was able to walk into the first day of the conference and focus on some friendly faces so I was more comfortable and ready to talk—in real life.
What do you talk about in a coffee chat?
Here’s the thing: a virtual coffee chat is not a sales pitch. It’s two friends getting together to talk about life, kids, hobbies and a little bit of business. But it’s not a time to sell your products or services.
Coffee chats are about building relationships and getting to know one another.
They’re about creating the connections that we don’t always get when we work in our home offices all alone (often in our pj’s). They’re about having those water cooler conversations with women who get the challenges of balancing a growing business with friends, family and kids (and often a 9 to 5)—especially when no one else in our “real world” really seems to understand. They’re about exchanging ideas and offering support.
And while they’re not about selling or promoting, coffee chats can often lead to business growth.
When we take the time to cultivate relationships with others in this online space, we allow people to grow to know, like and trust us.
Our coffee chat dates start to follow us. They shout us out in Facebook groups (that’s how everyone seems to know one another!), they refer us to their clients and friends and they become the people we turn to when we need a little support.
Since I forced myself to start having coffee chats in early 2016, I’ve talked to almost 100 women I didn’t know before. I’ve reached out to women I admire, women who I see struggling, women whose businesses I’m interested in and women who I just think would be fun to talk to. And while I haven’t clicked with everyone, I’ve clicked with so many women that I think I have more virtual friends than real-life friends. (And some of my virtual friends have turned into some of my favorite people in the world.)
Quick Tips for Successful Coffee Chats /
- Visit her Facebook page and website to find out more about what she does.
- Write down three things you want to find out more about.
- Find something you have in common so you have a go-to topic to chat about.
- Ask about where she lives. This is kind of one of those “talking about the weather” topics, but it’s also a good way to break the ice.
- Since you’ve already done some light stalking, ask her about her family members (spouse, children, furry friends).
- Ask about her business: how long she’s been in business, her favorite people to work with, long-term plans. This helps you get to know her business a bit more and how you might be able to support her in the future.
- Tell her something you admire about her business or compliment a recent post she’s made online. This shows her you really do pay attention and you know who the heck she is.
- If you feel like you really made a connection, friend request her on Facebook.
- Follow her on all relevant social media platforms.
- If you have a referral for her or want to collaborate in some way, follow up with an email.
- Stay connected to her, especially if her business complements yours. You already have that first introduction out of the way, so working together in the future will be that much easier.
Abby is a content strategist and coach for small business owners, helping to get her clients $; written message out to their audience, in their own voice and on their own terms. She specializes in working with female-owned, service-based businesses to generate ideas and strategies that help to move their businesses forward with content that attracts the perfect clients. Abby firmly believes in the power of educating and empowering business owners so they can grow their businesses without breaking the bank.
Community over competition is truly her jam!
When she’s not crafting words or coaching her clients through their own writing roadblocks, you can find her exploring the mountains near her home in Phoenix or finding new ways to get her teenaged daughter to take a break from the school books and technology.