Author Archives: Michele

The world of outsourcing work to a virtual assistant is a very broad landscape.  There are so many options for a small business owner, and knowing what is right for you may be confusing.

Are you looking for a long-term relationship with a virtual assistant who you can outsource work to on a consistent basis?  Or, do you need a concierge-type virtual assistant to do small one-time projects like ordering lunch for a meeting, making dinner reservations or sending out thank you cards?

Does time-zone availability matter to you? Will you be outsourcing any writing or correspondence for your business? Is it important to have your virtual assistant understand grammar, and punctuation?

Once you determine what makes sense for you and your business, then you will need to figure out how much time you want to invest in finding, interviewing and working with your new virtual assistant. This is also a good time to consider if having your work sent overseas will cause any potential problems for you or your business.

A full service virtual assistant company, like Assistant Match, will do the following for you:
•    help you assess your outsourcing needs
•    write the job description that will be used to screen candidates
•    pre-screen US-based virtual assistant candidates
•    present you with the top 3 candidates

Many other virtual assistant companies will require you to do all of that, which is a huge time commitment and often something outside your area of expertise.

When clients have come to us in the past after going through some of the low cost VA companies, the main complaints they share with us are;
•    having to write their own job description
•    having to screen too many responses
•    not knowing how to work successfully with someone virtually
•    miscommunication between them and an overseas VA
•    no real business relationship

A full service virtual assistant company will provide you with more than just a virtual assistant.  Assistant Match offers a team of professional US-based placement specialists who provide an on-going relationship with both our clients and our team of US-based virtual assistants. This ensures the working relationship is as successful as possible.  But, in the event the VA/Client relationship doesn’t work out, than we find someone new and transition that person in as smooth as possible. The low cost VA companies do not help with that, which then puts the business owner back at square one and contacting us for help after lots of frustration and lost time.

We know that a small business owner puts their heart and soul into creating their company, building a professional reputation, and attracting clients.  Your business is generally a reflection of who you are and what you value. Professionalism, quality, and dedication is how a you want your business to be perceived by clients, investors, and the general public.  So risking your hard earned reputation is not worth saving a few bucks, is it?

No matter who you are, there are only 24 hours in a day to get things accomplished.  For a small business owner, most of those hours are spent working to keep their business running, growing, and staying competitive.  It is not an easy thing to do, and a smart business owner will usually realize that they can not (and should not) try to do everything  by themselves.

When the time comes to find help and delegate some of the daily job duties to an assistant, the first thing a business owner should consider iswhat are my expectations and are they realistic”.
Here are 4 things to consider about job duty expectations when delegating work to a new  virtual assistant.

  1. It is important that you have an idea of how long it would take you to do the same task, so you can have a reasonable expectation for the VA.
  2. If the delegated task would take you an hour to do, you should expect it to take longer for a VA to do the same task (until they understand your business and processes).
  3. An unreasonable expectation on a new VA will frustrate them (and you) and cause the initial relationship to go south even before it has a chance to develop.
  4. With some patience, time and reasonable expectations a virtual assistant can become a great asset to you and your company.

The world of marketing has changed drastically over the past decade, but one thing is certain, getting your message or offer in front of your customer, potential customer, or past customer is still the basis of a strong marketing campaign. But what is the best platform to do that on? There are many choices, but the email inbox is still a very personal way to communicate with them.

Email marketing is generally subscription based, meaning the recipient has given you or your company permission to email them. This list needs to be treated like gold, because what is given can be taken away, meaning there is usually an UNSUBSCRIBE option on all the emails sent to your list. Unsubscribe is often clicked on when you are sending out too many emails that are not providing value or relevant information to your subscriber list. Can you hit a “home-run” every time you send an email out? Not likely, but if you are strategic in your email marketing campaigns an provide useful information or exclusive offers your emails subscribers should grow and not shrink.

When you offer an opt-in box on your website for a visitor to be added to your email list, you need to have a welcome email setup in an auto-responder through your emailing marketing or e-commerce service. Some popular services are Constant Contact, MailChimp, Aweber, 1ShoppingCart, Infusionsoft and Shopify. Marketers have a huge opportunity with welcome emails. According to Skyline Technologies, welcome emails have an average open rate of 50-60%. With a high open rate you can see the importance of the welcome email to new subscribers.

According to Hubspot, a typical welcome email content should include:
• A link to confirm the subscriber did indeed subscribe to the email list
• A message of thanks for subscribing to the email list
• A request to mark you as a safe sender, or save you to their address book
• Some information about what content future emails will contain
• Your privacy policy to ensure their information will be used properly

The welcome email is also a great time to introduce your subscribers to your blog, with a direct link and description, ask them to join you on social media, again with easy links to your accounts, and give them the opportunity to contact you directly about your product or services.

After the initial welcome letter, be sure to have your email marketing plan in place so that your subscribers continue to receive your emails on a regular schedule. Managing your email marketing can be a lot of work, but you can’t ignore a list of people who have asked to receive updates from you. If you can’t handle it yourself, find someone who can help you with managing it. Don’t let your subscriber pot of gold turn into dust!

It’s not always a good feeling to know that your business needs help with digital marketing.  It can cause a lot of different emotions — hopefulness, excitement, dread, or even anxiety, but you know that doing nothing is no longer an option.

A website is not just a business card anymore. Everything you put on your website, along with your social media channels and digital activity, educates your visitors and contributes to your public image.  So making sure this part of your business is managed is important.

Unfortunately, writing and publishing takes time and not everyone is a born writer or social media enthusiast.

Here are a few suggestion to help you.

  1. Outsource the Work:
    There are many virtual marketing assistants that can do an excellent job either ghost writing for you, or taking content already created and repurposing it for online use.  They are also usually skilled in researching topics, or your competitors.  A lot of these virtual assistants have held traditional marketing positions, but have branched out into the digital marketing profession, so they often offer a broad range of marketing skills that can be utilized.
  2. Invite Client Contributions:
    Why not ask your clients to write for you occasionally? Ask clients for marketing tips, advice on how they built their company, leadership tips, etc. They’ll get a plug on your website and social channels, and you’ll get expert resources for your website.

If you plan to write your own website content, good for you!  But you can’t forget that web content needs to be linked on social media and then social engagement, commenting and moderation are vital in keeping your digital presence attractive to the search engines. The content writing is just the first step to having success with your digital marketing.

Making the decision that you need help in your business is easy, however taking the next step to delegate the work out to another person is not as easy.  We tend to think we can do it all, but the reality is we can’t, and we really shouldn’t try to do everything required to run a successful business.

Hiring a virtual assistant to take some of the burden off your plate usually turns out to be the best decision you can make for yourself and your business.  But how do you find someone that will fit your needs, the culture of your business and relate to your personality?

The easiest way to do this is to start making lists that include the following information.

List #1 : business operations that you would like to delegate.
List #2 : business operations that you hate to do.
Is it book-keeping, marketing, online research, scheduling appointments, etc…?
List # 3 : professional skills that you want a virtual assistant to have.

List # 4 : your personality traits and what kind of personality you think you would work well with.
Do you want to work with a creative mind, an analytical mind, someone who is not afraid to share their thoughts with you, or someone who will just take direction and do the job?

Once you have your lists completed, the best thing to do is to work with a professional placement company who can review your needs and discuss exactly what your objectives are for hiring a virtual assistant.  You will want to be matched with professional VA’s who have been pre-screened for you. Someone that you know will be equipped to accomplish your goals and will be an asset to your organization.

Working with the right virtual assistant or virtual team can give you the time to devote your full attention to your business growth and development.  Investing the time to build the right virtual team will help you scale your company to the next level.

What helped you choose your virtual assistant?

When you think about spring cleaning, you generally think about your surroundings- -your home, your car, the backyard.  As a business owner, spring cleaning should include your digital “house” too.  That could include, email inboxes, electronic documents & folders, web browers, and online bookmarks just to name a few.

Digital clutter is a reality that many of us deal with on a daily basis as we conduct much of our business electronically through computers, tablets and even on our smartphones.

Sometimes digital cleaning is about restoration. Spring may be the right time to get your online accounts back in order.  Go through your Amazon wish lists, work on organizing your social media accounts or revisit learning how to use them.

Dealing with digital clutter or digital restoration is a great task to delegate to your virtual assistant.  Feeling empowered by your digital world instead of bogged down by it can help you be more efficient, more productive and ultimately more successful.

Some tasks to delegate to your VA could include:

Sort & Delete Email Messages

  • Go through your inbox and identify the emails that you want to keep vs. discard. Keeping emails takes up storage and can also potentially be a security risk if your account is compromised.
  • Take out attachments! Attachments take up a lot of room and shouldn’t be kept in your email. Make sure you create a folder on your hard drive for important attachments. If you need online access to those attachments, consider saving them in the cloud.
  • There may be some emails that you don’t want to delete. Move the “keepers” into specific folders. Create specific folders by topic or by sender’s name.
  • Delete all the emails that you know you will never need or want to look at again, they are just taking up space.
  • Unsubscribe from newsletters, retail offers, or others industry specific emails that you don’t look at and find no value with.

Web Browser

  • Organize your bookmarks. The best way to do this is to look through all your links and determine which ones you still need. Create folders that makes sense to the links you are bookmarking.
  • Clear the history, cache, cookies, and old temp file.  Your VA should know how to do this with whatever browser you are using.

Documents (files)

  • Sort files into 3 categories…Keep , Trash and Backup.
  • Delete documents you no longer need.  That would include files that you haven’t opened up in the past year or two– chances are you won’t need it. It’s time to delete or remove those files and remember to empty the recycling bin!
  • File e-docs sitting on your computer deskop that you use all the time or are project or customer oriented.  Have your VA create folders that make sense to you, for easy access.
  • Determine if you have any irreplaceable documents or projects that you are particularly proud of.  These should be backed-up on an external hard drive, CD or other back-up system.  Photos should be included in this process.

Social Media

  • Unfollow people that do not influence or add value to you or your business.
  • Follow  social media users that add value or are influential to your business.
  • Join industry related groups on Linkedin.
  • Attend or host a TweetChat that interests you.  Learn how to use #hashtags.
  • Organize your followers/friends into lists.
  • Re-engage with social media if you stepped away from it.
  • Get suggestions on what Social Apps to load onto your smartphone for easy access to each platform.

Business events are designed and implemented in many different formats.  There are online events (webinars, & video training) and events that require a physical location, like a hotel banquet room, conference room, or restaurant space.  Executing any of these takes time, preparation and planning.

A virtual assistant is the perfect solution to helping you with the following tasks when it comes to event planning.

  1. Researching possible event locations or online tools, including catering needs room setup or technical requirements.
  2. Creating the marketing and publicity through social media, email marketing or affiliate links.
  3. Managing the registration process either through your website with 1ShoppingCart or through an online event registration page link through Eventbrite.
  4. Preparing any and all training materials, including Powerpoint presentations, marketing sheets, and take away items.
  5. Keeping you on target by creating or managing a checklist for facilities, attendee information, speaker needs, etc…

There are plenty of other details and prep work required when doing an event, but these are just a few to get you thinking about delegating some of the work to your virtual assistant,

As the event approaches it’s a fact that you can expect last-minute alterations and possible drama. You really don’t want to be dealing with those especially if you are the main speaker at the event or training.  You equally don’t want to be bogged down in trying to find a solution in terms of any event you’re planning. Most Virtual Assistants have far more dexterity and problem solving ability than you do in these situations, if you’re honest with yourself.

Virtual assistants skilled in event planning have experience in negotiations, online tools, and much more .Executing a successful event should be your goal, and working with a qualified virtual assistant can make that goal a painless reality.

 

 

Earlier this week we discussed the many different social media platforms businesses are using in their marketing plan. Updating your social media accounts, monitoring and responding to the engagement is key to having a successful social media marking campaign, but most of us just don’t have the time in our day to devote to one more task.  Having a virtual marketing assistant is an investment you need to make in your business now.

A virtual marketing assistant can:

      1. Pull content off your website, blog, e-books and training materials and create short concise social posts that lead someone back to your website.
      2. Update your social sites by scheduling posts using tools like:
        Hootsuite
        Buffer
        Social Oomph
        TweetDeck
        SproutSocial
      3. Monitor and respond to engagement, or notify you if engagement is needed.
      4. Set-up contests or promotions using 3rd party tools like:
        Upickem
        Wildfire
        Shoutlet
        ShortStack
      5. Research and share trends or information related to  help educate your followers about your business or services.
      6. Monitor your reputation management on review sites like:
        Yelp
        Epinions.com
        AngiesList.com
        MerchantCircle.com

Remember that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter help drive traffic to your website so that someone buys your product or service, joins your email list or makes a donation. Publishing useful content on a blog and promoting it through social networking also helps you achieve better organic search engine optimization (SEO) results.  Sharing tools on social sites creates a viral opportunity for your business that didn’t exist before the launch of social media.

Have you invested in your social media marketing yet?  Are you attempting to do it on your own?  How is that working for you?

Social media is a term no one had even heard of 10 years ago.  Today it is a vital part of every marketing campaign of major brands and retailers.  As a small business owner we tend to watch what the “big brands” are doing and scale it down to fit our time and resource budgets.
Social media is an increasingly important business tool for communication, promotion, recruitment, and lead generation, and there are many different social media sites.  Understanding what site you should be on and why can be daunting.

The social networking sites businesses are utilizing today include:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • Foursquare
  • Yelp, and many more.

The options can be overwhelming and many small business owners are not sure which social media tools may be most effective or the best way to get started. .  A professional virtual marking assistant can help you determine what social networking site you should focus on and he/she can help you set up and mange your social marketing strategy.

Later this week we will discuss specifically how a virtual marketing assistant can be a vital part of your social media marketing team.

Every year during tax time, the stress can pile on thick for small business owners.  Tax time is the perfect time to outsource some of that workload to your VA. Whether you need help with organizing and prepping your things for the accountant, or just lightening your current workload so that you, yourself can concentrate on tax priorities.  Now is the time to allow a VA to step in and relieve some of that stress from you.

Below are few tax-related items that can be outsourced:

  • Scanning receipts for electronic submission to the IRS
  • Going through your “shoebox” of receipts and categorizing them.
  • Creating an Excel spreadsheet of your travel, office, and misc business expenses
  • Organizing or finding emails that may help you document your expenses
  • Setting up Shoeboxed.com to turn your 2014 receipts into digital data that will make next year’s tax prep much easier

We have plenty of virtual assistants that specialize in book-keeping or administrative tasks.  Please contact us if you need help.