How to Get That First Client

Congratulations! You’ve set up your Virtual Assistant business and are ready for your first client. It’s a big step and one that deserves celebrating. So now that you’re ready to work, how do you get that first client? Consider these options:

Job Board

Job boards are a wonderful tool. They can help you launch your business. They can provide a consistent income while you’re building your business. And when you have the eventual dips in your schedule or slow season you can use them to provide additional income.

As a virtual assistant you may want to focus your attention solely on job boards for virtual assistants. There are all encompassing freelance job boards. These generally require a membership. The freelance job board can serve its purpose. However, you may find better clients via a VA job board. Check out both options and choose the opportunities that are right for you.

Always research your potential client. Make sure they’re legitimate and that they follow through on their commitments. Some job boards simply work like classified ads. You apply for the position and communicate directly with the client. Others work as a go between. All agreements, payments and work are managed through the job site. Both situations have their pros and cons. Again, make sure you’re working with a legitimate company and job site. Check references. Read reviews. Most opportunities are legitimate. However, it always pays to be safe.

Use Your Resources

When you’re ready for that first client, tell your friends and family. Make a list of 100 people you know and begin to determine who you can contact regarding your business. Send an email to your associates. Let everyone know what you’re able to provide. Your rolodex of contacts is a great place to get started. With a few simple email messages and phone calls you’ll likely land a few great clients. There’s no shame in using your resources. And there really are no better clients than those who are referred to you from friends, family and associates.

Network

If you’re not already active on a social networking site, get a profile and start connecting. Networking online is a wonderful way to market your services. It’s also a great way to meet new people.

Network offline too. Join your local business association or networking group. Become a member of your Chamber of Commerce. Participate in local meet-ups and networking events. Make sure you have a business card and a positive attitude when you’re networking. (An online presence is a must as well. )

Also consider:

• Making sure your business is listed on your local online business directory
• Advertising
• Article marketing
• Blogging/guest blogging
• Posting flyers around town

There are many ways to market your VA business. Knock on doors. Connect with people online and in your community. Use your resources and explore your opportunities. You’ll have a full schedule in no time.

 

Get the Most Out of Your Marketing Message

Your marketing message describes the core of your business and your clients. It's essential that it accurately reflects your offerings so that new and future prospects and customers know exactly what you offer and how you can help them.

The whole idea of a great marketing message is that it helps prospective and current clients, vendors and partners understand quickly and easily how you can help them. You will use it in all of your promotional, sales and marketing materials and activities.

Your marketing message serves as your message blueprint and will be where you go every time you need to write marketing copy. By referring to your marketing message whenever you create marketing you'll ensure your marketing communications are always on target and consistent.

You can take the elements of your marketing message and put it into different forms to suit different marketing purposes and situations.

Below are many of the ways you can use your marketing message (or components of it):

• Social media profile bios
• Social media posts
• elevator speech (what you say when someone asks you what you do)
• headline on your webpage
• headline for a sales page or ad or flyer
• your voicemail message
• author resource box on articles and podcasts
• tagline for letterhead
• email signature
• title for an article
• title for a seminar or workshop
• use in creation of a logo
• content for an email campaign
• include in your bio for talks, books, website, teleseminars
• create a product, service or program
• website copy
• business card

Schedule an hour every week for the next while and use this time to look at all of your current marketing communications – your website, brochures, ads, emails, direct mail, business cards, social media profiles, sales literature etc. Choose one or two at a time to look at, and rewrite or tweak it to ensure that it is current and clear.

Your marketing message needs to grab your prospect’s attention immediately, and describe how you can solve their problem, why they should trust you and why it’s in their best interest to do business with you.

Your business, you, your products and services, your target market – are all in flux and will change and grow and develop over the course of being in business. As a result, your marketing communications will change too – as will your core marketing message.

Take the time to ensure that all your marketing communications say exactly what you want them to say and accurately reflect you and your company. Then start reaping the rewards of a fulfilling, lucrative and successful business, providing a valuable and needed service!

 

Your Marketing Plan Goals Check Up

It’s a good idea to check where you’re at in terms of your marketing plan goals and objectives. Some people check weekly, others do it every month – but you should definitely check at least once per quarter.

Your goals might include revenue, number of sign-ups to your list, number of products sold, number of visitors to your website and blog – and so on. Regardless of what you measure, you want to make sure you take time out regularly to see how you’re doing.

You’re rocking!

If you are humming right along and reaching your objectives - that’s fantastic.

Some questions to ask yourself:

• Have you been working like a mad dog to reach your objectives and can you now slow down a bit?
• If you are easily managing your current level of marketing, are there a couple new tactics that you’d like to add to the plan?
• If there’s extra revenue, is it time to hire a Virtual Assistant, bookkeeper, or other help to free up your time to work on new ideas, products and
services? Or to be able to service the extra clients and business your marketing is bringing in?

You’re sucking!

The reason we have goals and objectives is so we know if we’re meeting them – or not. If you’re not, don’t despair! There are a few things that could be impacting this and you can tweak or change these.

Some questions to ask yourself:

• Have you been doing the tactics on your marketing plan consistently? Did you fall off of your plan?
• Does your plan have enough marketing tactics or are you relying on only one strategy?
• Are you giving prospects enough different ways to reach you?
• Does your marketing message come across loud and clear in all your communications (website, sales letters, emails, ezine, blog, etc.)
• Did you add any new services or products?
• Does your marketing plan have tactics that work off of and build on each other?
• Has your target market or niche changed? Is your marketing still aimed at the “right” market?
• Has there been any dramatic change in the competitive environment that could be impacting you?
• Where in the marketing process are you falling down? Attracting new leads? Converting into clients? Keeping clients?
• Do you need to revise or create new marketing materials? Update your website content? Do an overhaul of your ezine?
• Have you given enough time for the marketing tactics to work? Some tactics take longer to show results than others.

Incorporate regular assessments of your marketing plan goals and progress into your business workdays. There are lots of variables that can affect your success, and by being proactive you can keep on top of any changes, good or not-so-good, and keep heading upwards and onwards!

 

Why You Need a Niche Market

A niche market can be thought of as a narrowly defined group of potential customers - usually a portion of a larger target market. For example, a target market is working women, but a niche market is working women with kids at home, or working women in executive positions, or working women in the financial sector.

As a small business owner, you usually do not have the money, resources and time to market to a larger target market. You need to focus your marketing efforts on those people most likely to buy what you offer.

Think of narrowing your niche as simply positioning yourself more closely to the people or companies who could benefit most from your services.

Many of us like to believe that the number of people who want and need our product or service has no limit. Also, most of us truly want to help as many people as possible and so therefore believe we almost have an obligation to let everyone know about what we offer.

But the truth of the matter is if a small business tries to market to everyone, they'll eventually lose money and quite possibly go out of business.

I know it seems to go against common sense that we make more money and have more success when we limit the scope of who we market to. However, it is true and its been proven over and over again by very successful small businesses.

There are many reasons why it makes good business and marketing sense to have a niche market:

• you can focus your marketing efforts and not dilute them by trying to appeal to everyone

• it allows you to stand out as an expert in your niche which makes people come to you

• you attract significantly more business

• you have a natural competitive advantage because you can dominate your niche

• your marketing materials and communications are more targeted and therefore more effective

• people more easily refer business to you as they have a very clear idea of who you appeal to

• you can easily determine what opportunities to say yes to and which ones to pass on

• your creativity and strengths get to shine through

• makes it easy to find suitable strategic partners and joint ventures

• you spend less money on getting your message out there because you're not wasting time and resources on talking to people who aren't
interested in what you have

By taking the time (and the deep breath!) to narrow down your target group into a niche market that your company, products and services are best suited to serving, you'll be making a huge investment in a successful future.

You Need A Marketing Plan - Period!

All virtual assistants need a marketing plan! A marketing plan makes your marketing more effective which means your business is more successful.

Most VAs do not have marketing plans. This means that their marketing tends to be inconsistent, ineffective and inefficient.

Below are all the good reasons you need to have a marketing plan. As you read these reasons, you'll probably think to yourself, "I know this, this is common sense or I've heard this before".

And you're right, but I would like you to REALLY see yourself and your business enjoying these benefits and reaping these rewards of having a marketing plan – and implementing it.

1. Easy for you take action

A marketing plan makes it easier to do your marketing because it helps you market consistently. Anything we do on a regular basis becomes much simpler and faster to do. You also get into action because a plan will break your marketing tasks down into smaller steps or chunks. You feel less overwhelmed about tackling each task and therefore, can reduce your procrastination too!

2. Save you time and money

Taking the time to sit down and create a marketing plan will save you time and money in the long run. That's because you don't have to waste time scrambling around every time you try a new marketing activity – your marketing plan lays out the steps you need to take.

A plan also helps you be more focused which means you work smarter and faster. Being focused also means that you don't get distracted and waste time and money on tactics that seem like a good opportunity but don't really fit your marketing goals outlined in your marketing plan.

3. Help you keep customers

Because your plan keeps you focused and saves time, you don't have to sacrifice client relationships due to inability to make time to follow-up with customers or create new products and services that would appeal to your clients.

4. Bring in more prospects and clients

Having a marketing plan ensures that you constantly are attracting new leads and clients, because you're actually marketing your business! There is no way around it – marketing is how you grow your business.

5. Help you run a successful and profitable business

A marketing plan will give you time, money, freedom and focus – all necessary ingredients to a successful business. It will also save your sanity and reduce your stress – so you can enjoy your work and your business!

 

What exactly is marketing?

If you do not understand what marketing is, you will not be able to market well.

It makes sense - doesn’t it? How can you successfully do something if you’re not even sure what that “something” is?

If you ask business people to define marketing, you’ll get as many different answers as there are types of companies. Some people will start spouting jargon like the 4Ps of marketing, or go into detail about the different components of a marketing plan.

Others will say it’s all about sales and some will rhyme off different marketing theorems.

Some people will say that marketing is the activities involved in making sure that you meet the needs of your customers and get appropriate value in return.

All of these are correct but they are concerned more with the mechanics of what marketing is, not the underlying principle or philosophy of marketing.

The whole reason behind marketing, particularly in a service business such as a VA business, is to build a relationship between the person who needs something (the problem) and the person who offers something (the solution).

Build a connection with your clients and your prospective customers - that’s marketing!

You may already have a well known reputation in your niche market. Or maybe you want to grow your business and attract some new people and markets. Or you may be starting off with a great attitude but no one really knows anything about you.

Regardless of where you are at right now, your marketing must accomplish the same thing – build a relationship and make a connection. Where it differs for someone who has been in business awhile versus a new company is in the marketing strategies you employ.

Marketing is not about getting someone to buy something from you. It’s not about “getting” at all, but instead it’s about “giving” – your experience, your help, your encouragement, your knowledge.

By building a relationship, you allow the prospective client or current customer to get to know, like and trust you. Only then will they sign up for one of your assistant packages.

And if you keep building the connection and providing valuable information, these people will keep working with you. That’s how you build a successful and lasting business.

Just look at yourself - do you spend lots of money with people you dislike, don’t trust or have no respect for? I highly doubt it – I certainly don’t. So why would it be any different for people who are in need of your services and products? They will only become, and stay, customers if you build a relationship with them.

 

The Art of Follow-Up

Follow up marketing strategies are the most underused strategies – you may have heard that it takes 4 to 10 connections with a potential client before they actually sign on to work with you.

That’s why follow up is so important. Do miss out on those valuable connections!

Here are 8 tips for you to do better follow up:

1. Follow-up needs to be timely

Always follow-up sooner rather than later. For every day you wait, you lessen the impact of the follow-up communication.

For follow-up strategies such as acknowledging referrals, testimonials, new acquaintances, new business and so on, do your best to follow up in one or two days.

2. Follow-up needs to be frequent

The frequency and amount of follow-up needed depends on the reason and method for your follow-up. For example, if you are following up regarding an upcoming teleseminar, you may be contacting your list a total of 5 times over the two weeks leading up to and including the date of the teleseminar.

Or if you're following up after someone has downloaded your free giveaway, you may have 20 follow-up emails in your autoresponder sequence that goes out over a six month period to them.

Don't be afraid of following up too frequently. And remember to always provide a way for them to remove themselves from the conversation (virtual or other) you've started with them.

3. Follow-up needs to be consistent

Not only does follow up need to be frequent, it needs to be consistent.

As with any marketing strategy you choose to do, if you do not do it on a regular basis and do it haphazardly, then that's what you'll get in return – haphazard results.

Remember that marketing (including follow up) is about building a relationship and if people hear from you a couple times and then not for a few months, they're not going to get a warm, fuzzy feeling about you. Consistently following up shows people that you value them, are reliable and committed to providing a service to them.

4. Follow-up needs to build momentum

Frequency and consistency with follow-up marketing allows for momentum to occur. I define momentum in marketing as each strategy and communication builds on each other and are linked together.

For example, you might start your second email by saying, "8 days ago I sent you an email..." Or after they've purchased a product or downloaded an ebook, send them a handful of emails that highlight something specific about the product or in the report that can help them.

Referencing the previous communication links what you’re saying with what you’ve already said, and reminds your prospect that you care enough to continue the conversation.

5. Follow-up needs to be organized

To ensure that your follow-up marketing is consistent, you need to organize it by putting it in your calendar and on your to-do list.

When you carve out time in your daily and weekly schedule for follow-up activities, then you go a long way towards actually doing them! How many of us get things done that we haven't made time for? Not very many of us I'll bet!

So put a half-hour aside each Friday to write some thank you notes, and schedule an hour each Monday to write your weekly ezine, and an hour every second Wednesday to write a new email message to send to your list.

6. Follow-up needs to be automated

Try to automate your follow-up marketing as much as you can. All of us are busy and the more we can systematize our marketing, the easier and quicker we can start reaping the rewards.

Luckily there is an abundance of tools and people you can use to simplify and automate your follow-up activities – from autoresponders to full contact management systems to Virtual Assistants.

An example of automating your follow-up marketing would be an ecommerce program that sends out automatic emails in a series after someone purchases your product, or a company that formats and sends out your ezine, or a VA who produces and sends out electronic greeting and thank you cards for you.

7. Follow-up needs reliable data

To take advantage of many of the ways to follow up with your prospects and clients, you need to have a system in place that captures information about people and keeps track of interactions and communications you have with everyone.

Use a CRM to gather and store information like client's birthdays, business anniversary dates, purchasing information, emails that were sent, and so on.

8. Follow-up needs to have varied delivery methods.

Keep your follow-up marketing interesting and keep people intrigued by using different methods of delivery. Incorporate email, telephone, direct mail, audio and so on, to provide variety in how you connect with people and grab their attention.

If you incorporate these 8 components into your follow-up marketing – or actually any marketing tactics that you employ – it will go a long way to helping you market more quickly, easily and consistently.

 

Make Your Marketing Calendar Work For You

A very important part of doing a marketing plan is to also have a marketing calendar.

This is where you’ll put in all the important dates and milestones for your action plan – so that you can keep track of what you need to do and when you need to do it.

Activities that will be on your marketing calendar include:

• Date your ezines or newsletters go out
• Dates of teleseminars when you’re hosting and/or are a guest
• Dates of emails going out to your list – both autoresponders and broadcasts
• Dates you are submitting your articles
• Dates of blog posts

• Dates for sending out Facebook group invitations
• Dates for speaking engagements

• Dates of networking events

It’s great that you have a marketing calendar but now you need to do a couple more things to make sure it works for you. You don’t want to have wasted your time putting together a marketing plan and calendar if you don’t actually use your calendar!

Put your calendar somewhere that you’ll see it every day! Put it on your bulletin board or in a prominent place on your desk. If you use an electronic calendar, make sure it pops up first thing in the morning.

You want to be able to see this calendar all the time – as it will be a reminder of the actions you need to take. This calendar is your marketing To Do list and as such, it’s vital you look at it all the time.

As well, you can have electronic reminders set up so that you have help remembering the tasks and when there are due!

Look ahead – at the next week, month and quarter. When we’re using our calendar as a To Do list we can sometimes keep our nose buried in that particular day. But it’s also good to look ahead at what’s coming up, to see if things need to be shifted or changed.

Every Friday I look ahead to the upcoming week so I get a feel for the next week’s activities. I also usually pick one day each month to look forward to the next month and next quarter – to take a look at the bigger picture and also to see if anything needs to be tweaked. Don’t forget to make the corresponding changes in your calendar.

It may sound like a lot of work, but believe me – it’s essential to have a marketing calendar and use it daily. You’ll lessen your chances of missing deadlines, double-booking activities and events, sending too many emails out at once – and your stress level!

 

Ten Ways to Improve Your Website Credibility and Why It Matters

Credibility matters. Your website is one of the only connections your prospects have to you. They don’t know if you are trustworthy. They don’t know if you know what you’re talking about. Yet, when you can establish that you’re a credible company and resource, then you’re golden. Why? Because people buy from companies they trust. They recommend them to others. They become loyal customers and visitors.

Here are ten ways to improve your website credibility:

1. Facts and data - Demonstrate your credibility by backing up the claims you make with hard evidence. Cite statistics and data that support your statements.

2. Let your customers do the talking - Testimonials, reviews and endorsements go a long way toward convincing others of your credibility. In addition to strategically placing testimonials, reviews and endorsements on your landing page, consider creating a separate page, too. That way, visitors can click on the ‘testimonials’ page and read all the wonderful things people have to say about you.

3. Simple navigation - If a website is confusing to navigate we tend not to trust the source. However, if your website is streamlined and designed to enhance the visitor’s experience, then prospects can tell you’ve put them first.

4. Clean look - Have you ever landed on a web page that was so cluttered you didn’t know which way to turn? These pages are often littered with advertisements. It seems the only goal is to get you to click on something so they can earn a nickel in PPC revenue. Make sure your website doesn’t give off this vibe, even if your primary source of income is PPC. There are better ways to earn the trust of your prospects and thus earn a click.

5. Quality information - One of the best ways to earn a reputation for credibility is to consistently provide quality content. Share information that matters to your prospects and visitors. Show them why they can trust you. Be a source of information.

6. Quality companies - Represent or endorse companies that make you proud. Whether it’s an affiliate relationship, a partnership or you’re simply trying to provide a benefit, make sure you’re sending customers and prospects to websites and companies that you respect.

7. Organizations and affiliations - Join organizations that have earned credibility and respect. For example, become a member of the Chamber of Commerce. Join DMA if you’re a marketer. When visitors see logos and know you’re a member of a reputable organization, you earn credibility.

8. Win awards - Awards provide instant credibility. Find awards in your industry to apply for and make sure to post any wins and logos on your website.

9. Contact information - Make sure that your contact information is easy to find. In fact, consider placing it in the footer of every web page. Then also create a separate contact information page. IF a prospect or visitor cannot contact you, they'll wonder why you’re hiding.

10. Policies and procedures - State your policies and procedures up front. Make sure your statements are easy to find. Communicate your policies whenever appropriate. For example, mention your privacy policy and link to it when people sign up for your email list. Include a page or link on your site where visitors can find your policies. Consider a privacy policy and a guarantee or return policy if you sell products.

Bonus Tip: Finally, make it easy for visitors to find the answers to their questions. Provide a FAQ page and a contact form or customer service system. When you’re completely transparent and up-front about your business, you earn credibility.

 

Four SEO Tools and How to Use Them to Build Your Business

Search engines matter. They send traffic to your website. Use them well and they send very targeted traffic to your website. Targeted traffic turns into customers and repeat visitors. This means it’s not only where you're placed on the search engine rankings, but the keywords you use as well. You want to make sure you’re attracting targeted traffic to your site.  
  
The world of search engine optimization and keyword development can feel overwhelming. It seems there’s a lot of information to learn, know and use. However, when you drill down, it’s actually quite simple. You want to optimize your website for a few primary keywords. These keywords ideally will have an acceptable amount of demand and supply. They’ll also be keywords that your audience is likely to use to find your information.  
  
Then you optimize your pages for those keywords. You also choose some secondary keywords to support the primary ones. These may be keywords with less demand and less supply. However, they’re still keywords your audience is using to find your information.   
  
How do you use these keywords? Content, content, content. Content gives the search engine spiders something to index. It also provides material that others may link to. This is an important part of SEO.   
  
To help you manage and master your SEO efforts, there are literally thousands of various tools and gadgets. Some of these tools help you check the keyword density on your web page. They make sure your keywords are represented enough to help but not so much that your content reads poorly. There are also link checkers, keyword research tools, and so on. Here are four SEO tools you might find useful.  
  
Keyword suggestion tools - This is where it all begins. Keyword suggestion tools help you learn and research your primary and secondary keywords. The most common of these tools is the Google AdWords tool. It’s free and quite useful. There are also keyword tools that you can pay for. They offer a bit more information than the Google tool.   
 
Ranking checkers - Ranking checkers help you determine where you rank for various keywords and search engines. It’s a great tool for setting goals and tracking your progress. For example, you might set a goal to move up two pages in the rankings using article marketing. You can use a ranking checker to test and track your success. (You can also check to see how your competition is doing.)  
Link checking tools - Link checking tools help you determine the effectiveness of your back links. You can learn who is linking to you and how popular their links are. Again, you can also check to see who is linking to your competition. There are some basic, free tools that provide basic information. Or you can hire a service to analyze your back links for you.   
  
Keyword density tools - These tools can analyze a page or your URL for keyword density. There are a number of keyword density tools. Again some are free and some are paid tools. If you’re going to pay for this service, make sure it analyzes keyword phrases and not just one or two word keywords.   
  
New SEO tools are being developed every day. Take advantage of these resources to strategically position your business. The easier it is for your prospects to find you, the faster you’ll achieve your business goals.