- Build a blog so you can regularly and informally keep in touch with your readers. Post tips, links to related online articles and information.
- Build your newsletter or Ezine subscriber list by offering something for free in exchange for their email address, perhaps an article or report for example.
- Syndicate your articles online to article directories to attract new visitors to your web site and Ezine subscriber list.
- Write regular press releases and send them to publications aimed at your target market. Even if your particular story is not run, you will be seen as the expert in your field and may be approached later.
- Give your website a revamp. Is all the information up do date? Does it show a good photograph of you?. This is your virtual shop window and the first impression most potential clients will see.
- Write articles useful to your target market then add them to your web site. You can also include them in your ezines. This showcases you as the expert in that particular field.
- Set up a newsletter or Ezine to keep in touch with both clients, prospects and visitors to your website. Start by sending out simple tips that are useful to your target market.
- Build your newsletter or Ezine subscriber list, put a sign up box on your web site, include a link to your sign up page in your Twitter updates, Facebook posts, blog posts, etc.
- Join at least one online networking site, which can be a strictly business site like LinkedIn or Ecademy, or more social site (but often equally effective) such as Facebook and Twitter. Don’t forget as a ‘virtual’ worker you can work with anyone, anywhere.
- Send your existing clients a questionnaire. Ask them what they like about your service and what they would like to see added. If they are happy clients, ask them for referrals to other potential clients.
You know how it is, you’ve been in business for a few years, you’ve got a few clients on your books, but things are feeling a bit stale.
Do you feel that your business needs a Gok Wan style make over for the new year, but where do you start? The following is a series of tips for a virtual assistant business revamp.
- If you’re not already doing it, create pre-paid packages to entice clients to pay in advance for blocks of time. They benefit from a small discount, you benefit from not having to chase overdue invoices and increased budgeting capacity.
- Join a local networking group to gain local visibility and meet some like minded small business owners. Don’t forget to follow up after events and meet up with contacts outside the events too.
A website that is “me” focused.
While back in part 1 of this series we talked about personalising your website, don’t spend all of it talking about yourself and how wonderful you are? Although your visitors need to know a bit about you, what holds their interest is the knowledge that you understand their problems and issues and have ready-made solutions that resolve those problems. Your visitor will always ask, “WIIFM?” (What’s In It For Me). Answer that question by making your web site about your visitor, not about you.
If you are not sure how to WIIFM your text, hire a professional sales copy writer if you can afford it or try the following format:
Do you struggle with getting your VAT return in on time, we offer a full book keeping service which means that your VAT return will never be late again and you will save expensive fines and a whole lot of stress.
Replace the italics with their pain followed by your solution and the bold italics are your WIIFM.
In summary: Your web site can function as an attractive online brochure, or it can be a client-generating tool to help you grow your business. As a virtual assistant, you need to generate clients from your website in order for your business to be successful, make the necessary changes and you will get more clients online.
About the Author:
Justine Curtis is the director of her own successful virtual assistant business My Virtual Assistant http://www.my-va.com and founder of The UK Association of Virtual Assistants (UKAVA) which offers free resources and information to its subscribers – sign up at http://www.ukava.co.uk. Justine is the author of Setting Yourself Up As A Virtual Assistant and is delighted to be able to pass on the benefits of her vast experience of the VA role to aspiring and progressive virtual PAs as a co-founder of the VA Success Group. If you are thinking about starting a virtual assistant business, visit http://vasuccessgroup.co.uk
No testimonials or case studies to demonstrate your expertise.
One of the easiest ways you can create customer confidence in you and your business is to post testimonials on your web site. Don’t even think of writing these yourself (I’m sure you wouldn’t) but ask your clients to write something that clearly states what you do for your client and how working with you has improved their business or life, etc.
If you are new to virtual assisting and don’t yet have clients you can ask for testimonials, prepare some case studies outlining a problem and how your service helped solve it. These case studies are also very powerful in convincing a potential client that you can do what you claim.
Lack of additional resources and links.
One way to gauge the usefulness and helpfulness of a business is to have a look at their websites resources and links section. For example, the Resources and Links section of the UKAVA website lists a whole range of resources to help new and established virtual assistants and they are often featured in my email newsletter. In many cases the Association receives no compensation for the resource I recommend—I just know that it’s the best source to do a particular task.
Your clients want the same help and advice from you. The more you know about your industry, its problems, and how to find solutions – whether you offer the solution or not – the greater the perception of your expertise and, consequently, the greater value you offer your client.
Copying every other virtual assistant web site.
As part of vetting the websites that we list on the UKAVA Directory, I have the job of personally checking every potential members website before it is added. It is quite obvious in a lot of cases that virtual assistants have simply visited the websites of their competition and formatted their own site in a similar fashion, but with their own information. I have found elements of my own VA website and articles on many of them, one time even finding a whole website that contained nothing but my website text added to a different design. The designer was blamed for this and it was soon changed but you see my point.
Don’t fall victim to such behaviour and make sure you pique your readers interest by injecting your personality throughout your site. Give visitors a great experience of “you” when they visit. And, flagrantly flaunt your Unique Selling Proposition (USP), so that your visitor instantly realises why they should do business with you instead of your competitor.
Not mentioning what makes you different, your USP.
When I’m doing online research for a particular product or service, I want to know right away what makes any company unique or different from their competition. Most virtual assistant websites just display a whole list of services they provide. While I agree that you do need to let your prospects know all the bases you can cover, if you love designing databases or have a passion for project management, tell the world about it on your website.
The beauty of this is that you will then tend to attract clients that need those services so you will be doing more of what you love. How great is that?
Missing or hidden contact information.
Have you ever visited a web site that you think offers the ideal solution to your problem, but you’ve got one question to ask before making your purchasing decision? You go to the Contact Us page to look for the phone number or an email address, and all you find is a contact form to send your question. How annoying is that. There you were, credit card in hand, and already to buy and now you have to fill out a form and wait…
Web site owners are often reluctant to have their contact info readily available on the web site, as they fear having their email address harvested by spammers or having their phone number added to a telemarketing list. There are ways to lessen the likelihood of either issue by using an email spam filter on your computer and, if you a residential line for business, registering the number with the Telephone Preference Service.
Not Turning Your Website Visitors Into Prospects.
Lots of virtual assistants complain that they get a lot of visitors to their website, but few of them convert into customers. Most marketing texts will tell you that it takes approximately 7 ‘touches’ for a prospect to decide to buy something from you. A visit to your website is just one touch. If you don’t have a system in place for capturing information about your website visitors so you can keep in touch with them, when they are ready to buy they will simply purchase from someone else they have got to know, like, and trust online.
The best tool you can have in place for this purpose is an email newsletter. You can create a regular publishing schedule to be in touch with your contact database, and you can easily demonstrate your expertise via the articles you write and resources your provide.
Nothing to demonstrates your expertise.
Virtual Assistant websites often boast about how proficient they are at solving their clients problems and I’m sure that they do, but where’s the proof?
If you’ve been in business for awhile, you’ve got a good idea of the many problems your customers face, so providing relevant content that addresses these problems moves you into “expert” status. If you are an expert prove it by publishing articles, free downloads and resources for your prospects and clients.
Don’t think of it as giving away your expertise for free — think of it as developing a better educated consumer for your services and products. Will you lose customers because they read your information and implemented the solution without hiring you? It’s possible but unlikely because most prospective customers are unable to do it on their own and will need your expert assistance to help them solve their issues.
A Lack of a clear call to action on each website page.
Have you ever been to a web site and been completely overwhelmed with all the directions you can go from the home page? There’s navigation buttons left and right and so many options you don’t know where to go next? Then in frustration you click back to the search results and go on to another website. Sound familiar?
Or perhaps you have found a website that had some interesting content or answered some of your questions but you weren’t ready to buy what you were researching just yet. You want to remember the site for future reference but you’re not sure if you’d find it again. You may bookmark it but if it had a newsletter or a free download of some kind you’d sign up just so that you know they’d contact you from time to time and you wouldn’t have to go looking for them next time.
The most effective call to action you can have on your home page and every other page of your website is to offer something for free, whether it’s an eBook, Newsletter, White Paper or Report, but something useful that’s attractive to your target market so that they’ll be eager give you their name and email address to receive your offer.
Many times the call to action is to telephone or email the business for a free consultation. That call to action is effective to some degree, especially if someone is shopping for an immediate solution to their problem. Overall, however, people want more time to make a decision about doing business with you. They want to determine your credibility and make a decision about whether or not they trust you before deciding to have a personal conversation with you. Expecting someone to call you upon first meeting you (viewing your web site) is not very realistic. However, if they’ve seen enough on your site to want to know a little more, there’s a greater likelihood they will part with a tiny bit of personal info (first name and email address) to get a better sense of who you are while staying anonymous…and without making a commitment. Once you have their contact information, they then become a prospective client, and you can market to them as you would to any other prospect in your business.
LinkedIn is more of a business networking tool than strictly a social one. It is structured in such a way that your occupation and education are featured more than hobbies and interests for example. However, it works in much the same way as Facebook in that you can invite people to connect with you and join common interest groups. It also has a feature where you can recommend people so it’s great for asking for testimonials.
Twitter has become increasing popular over the past year or so with everyone who’s anyone Tweeting their little hearts out. Twitter is a micro-blogging site which limits the length of the comments you can post to 140 characters. It’s no go for posting large chunks of content but ideal for posting links to interesting information.
Twitter is highly interactive and users re-post other peoples comments (Tweets) if they are useful and also respond. You choose who you ‘follow’, i.e.: whose Tweets you read, so it is a great platform for making contacts and establishing relationships.
There are various social media platforms you can use to deliver messages to your readers and followers which we’ll look at through the remainder of this series. But before embarking on any marketing activity, it’s important to know why it’s useful.
vvSocial media is instant so your messages can be delivered as they happen, and most importantly, it’s interactive – you are actually inviting comment and suggestion. Of course the most important point to remember is that the search engines love social media is its content is current and fresh. Your comments will be picked up by the search engines – how exciting is that?
We’ve all heard the phrase social media, but what actually is social media and how can you use it to help your business?
In short, social media is a term that encapsulates a number of online communication platforms which make it easy for people to not only publish their own news and views but also comment on that posted by others.
If you go to the effort of writing an ezine, don’t forget to tell you readers what you want them to do next. You are writing in order to build a relationship so do you want them to go to your website to read the rest of the articles or download something for free, do you want them to buy a product or service? If so give them a reason to do it now and a link to click so they can make the purchase now. If you don’t tell them what to do next, they won’t do anything apart from read your ezine then delete it. Tell them what to do and if they are interested, they will.
It can be very tempting to fill each of your ezines with information about your latest service or product, and indeed, your readers will be expecting to hear a certain amount of that. But don’t forget also to include some free tips or an advice spot. Giving a measured amount of information for free marks you as an expert in your field. And a generous one at that.
Just a quick note so you can all put the date in your diary…
The UKAVA’s founder Justine Curtis will be part of a panel of experts taking part in a discussion about the virtual assistant industry on Radio 4’s Womens Hour on Tuesday 12th January between 10am and 10.45.
Tune in if you can!
The UK Association of Virtual Assistants founder Justine Curtis was quoted once again in the national press this weekend on the subject of the virtual assistant industry. The Independent on Sunday featured an article entitled “Virtual way to beat jobless blues”.
The full article can be found here: http://www.independent.co.uk/money/spend-save/virtual-way-to-beat-jobless-blues-1825267.html
Virtual assistant features on “Keeping The Tax Man Happy” and “Virtual Assistant Business Breakthrough Strategy Mentoring”
Read it now at: http://www.ukava.co.uk/html/inthenewsnov09.html