3 Things You Need To Include In Your Marketing Strategy

Marketing your business can be a confusing thing if you aren’t all that familiar with the concept of marketing. We talk a lot about your ideal client, and how identifying them will help you to build a more effective marketing strategy.

When you are getting started, it can feel like no one even notices you, and if you are just putting up a list of services that you provide that might even be the case.

That’s why it’s important to get specific about a few things and use those things to build a strategy to get clients to notice you.

1. Know who you can best support or serve. The services you provide are probably ‘in need’ in several industries, especially if you work in administration. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can help everyone. You need to really get clear on what you do best, what you are an expert at, and then figure out who you can help the most, and then you will ‘target’ that market to connect with and work with.  By being really specific about who your client is, you will be able to get in touch with them quickly and speak directly to them, and you will sign more clients in a shorter time frame than by trying to put your services out there to everyone on the Internet.

2. Know exactly what they need. By studying your target market and your ideal client, you also need to determine their needs. You need to know how their business runs, how they interact with their clients and the specific kind of support they need in their business. By getting to know their needs better, you can tailor what you do so that you are the perfect person to help them in their business. It’s not enough to be able to provide a long list of services; if you can’t explain to a prospective client how you know you can help them in their business, they probably won’t buy your services. Be clear and be confident and you will sign them.

3. Know the benefits of your services. One common mistake small business owners make when discussing their services with prospective clients, is to tell them the features of the services they provide (turnaround time, process by which you complete things, specifics of packages and rates). While features are important from your own perspective, it’s really not important to the client. What they want to know is how you are going to help them and their business.  So you need to know how each of your services will benefit them: ie, save them time, save them money, give them more time to work with clients, broaden their audience, etc.) This is a key area to present your expertise to your market as well, so really be sure to work on this when you are doing your marketing strategy.

Look carefully at these things to develop a successful marketing plan. Figure out who you can best support, research them so you know what they need, and determine what benefits you can provide them with. Then all you have to do is find them and connect with them. If you do your research and you speak directly to them, you will build up a loyal following of great clients before long!

Do You Recognize Your Own Value?

I have been reading Harvey Mackay‘s new book The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World.

It’s a terrific, easy-to-read book that takes you through the various components of how to sell effectively – by being you and by knowing what your customers want. That is some serious paraphrasing, but you get the point!

One of the chapters in particular spoke to me and I wanted to share it with you. It’s called Sell Yourself.

Harvey talks about the three toughest sells being Company, Product and Self. As a small business owner and a mentor, I know how difficult selling yourself can be.

Selling yourself can be one of the most difficult things to do, if you do not recognize your own value. If you can’t see and describe the value you provide to your clients, you will have a more difficult time finding new clients.

If you find yourself having endless conversations with prospects … and coming up without the sale more often than with the sale … your problem may be value-related.

Prospects can come up with every objection in the book, but the bottom line is that people spend money on things that they consider to be valuable.

Exercise: Try recording your sales conversations for the next month. Revisit them after you have finished. Note what you did right … and what you did wrong. Listen for missed cues or things that you can fix or tweak for your next call. Improving your skills on sales calls will definitely help you to see if you are missing opportunities to show your value to your prospects.

When you are working on your marketing, be sure to place big emphasis on your own value – what makes you the best choice to work with, your expertise – but always bring it back to the client … and how that expertise you provide will benefit them, and be of value to them. When you look at your marketing message from a value perspective, it’s much easier to sell yourself.

After all, how can your prospects recognize your value if you don’t?

Five Ways You Can Change Your Focus

As the seasons change, it’s a good time to step back and check out your business to see if things are going the way you want them to go. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day tasks you need to do. Don’t forget to stop and have a look around to be sure you are staying on track.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself. The answers might surprise you! If you decide that any of these areas needs change or ‘tweaking’ to keep you on the path to success, now is the time to get that done!

Do you analyze your billing when you send it out each month? When you put together your invoices or retainers for clients, do you stop to look at them to see how you spent your time? This can be a really good time to do some quick analysis of what is filling your days. If you see things in there that you don’t love to do, get a plan in place to move those things along to someone else, whether that means getting subcontractors or speaking with your client to keep your services limited to those you are great at and love to do. Remember, you are a business owner – McDonald’s does not sell fried chicken, simply because someone asks for it at the cash register. :-)

Do you spend too much time filing or reading email, or is your inbox overrun? No matter which email system you use to process your email, you probably have folders set up to file things in various places. Whether you set up message rules to do this automatically or whether you do it manually, take note of those things that you are filing. Are they things you come back to look at on a regular basis or do they just pile up in folders? I have that syndrome … file it and forget it. I just deleted all of my ‘read later’ emails this weekend. Why? Because I didn’t read them. I decided that it’s time to start fresh again and really analyze whether I need the items coming to my email address. Now that it’s empty, I can analyze what comes in and decide whether I am getting value from it or whether I should unsubscribe.

Do you get distracted by social media, phone calls or email? What kinds of boundaries do you have set up for clients, family members and yourself? Do you allow yourself to get distracted by things that are not earning you money on a daily basis? How much time do you waste on personal distractions? You should be sure to set business hours (even if your business hours are only a few hours a day!) and stick to them. Be sure to do only billable work during that time, and you will ensure that your revenue increases. Focusing on bringing in money to your business is the only way to succeed.

How do you market yourself on a daily basis? In order to keep your business always growing and reaching ahead, you need to always be marketing. Whether you are trying to get new clients at this time or not, you should always be sure that you are marketing yourself through whatever channels you use. You never know who will find you, and certainly it’s important to keep cultivating relationships all the time, for that time when you are looking for someone new to work with. By marketing yourself every day, you can keep yourself ‘out there’ for when that time comes.

How many potential clients do you have in your pipeline right now? Do you have any? Or do you have just enough clients now? In my experience, you should always have potential clients in your pipeline – there are various stages of people’s readiness to work with you – it usually starts with your freebie, or your ezine, and can progress rapidly into your marketing funnel – from a small purchase or a project, to a more regular gig, to a full time retainer. It’s important to keep this pipeline busy and active. You never know when you are going to be looking for a new client (even if you don’t think you are now), and your pipeline is the first place to go!

Are you staying on track and in focus in your business? Ask yourself these questions, and make adjustments where necessary to ensure that you are!

6 Tips to Help You Manage Your Mindset

When you go into business for yourself, it is important to build and maintain a mindset that you are more than an employee to your clients … you are a business owner that is collaborating with them on their business.

This can be a difficult place to break through, particularly if you come from the corporate world, but it is so important to keep tabs on where your mindset is regarding your business.

Even when you do start working with clients, as a coach, speaker or consultant, you are taking a support role, and at times, boundaries can start to get crossed and sometimes you may get treated like a colleague or even a friend. It can be a difficult thing to manage your mindset at these times, to be sure that you remain a business owner working with another business owner.

Here are a few tips to help you integrate your strategy and business plan with a positive and strong mindset:

Treat your business like a business. When you set up your business, be sure that you treat it as such. You should have regular business hours, you should have an up to date ‘shingle’ (your website), and you should plan to make money to provide your services. If you constantly give away your services for free, you will not get ahead and that can lead to resentment. See the value in your own services and go out there and find people who want to work with you! When you treat your business like a business, clients will see it that way also.

Make your own business decisions and stick to them. While it’s great to ask around for advice, once you decide to do something in your business, don’t waver on it. Make a decision and stick to it. If you decide to change the way you do something because it isn’t working for you, that’s fine, but always be sure to have a plan of action that is yours. Hold yourself accountable to work through it. If you have boundaries set up, honor them. If you have policies in place, adhere to them. Clients will understand as long as the rules are always clear.

Develop strategies and procedures in all areas of your business. Set up a strategy for everything you plan to do – service offerings, networking, bookkeeping, sales calls, follow up, conflict resolution and so on. The more you have written down the more you will have to refer to. By developing strategies and procedures, you will be more prepared to deal with every situation that can arise. Really think everything through! Nothing speaks louder to a client than having the answer for them when they ask.

Analyze results in each area of your business. Sometimes our best business plans don’t work out the way we expected them to do. It’s important to analyze the results of each area to see if they are working for you. If they are not, revise and then analyze the next set of results. Analysis will help you to identify weak areas in your marketing or business plans and it can help you tweak your business to keep it on the path to success. If this means letting go of a long-time client, then so be it! When you find the strategies that work well for you, repeat!

Strive to stay in integrity to your business and in your business. Your business will always be an extension of yourself. By being in integrity you will be able to give more of yourself to your clients, which is who they are ‘buying’! Be honest and open with your business practices, pay your bills on time and deal with conflict as it arises (or before it does!). Be authentic, be you, and just get out there! Your clients and potential clients will find you when you are!

Stay positive! Remaining positive when things go wrong, or don’t go exactly according to plan, is probably the most difficult thing to manage about your mindset. Maybe you have a client who hasn’t paid on time. Maybe you have had hardware or software problems. Maybe you are finding it difficult to sign clients. There are challenges in owning a business, and you will get through them faster by maintaining a positive attitude. Seek help when you need it. Fix what gets broken. Steer your ship when it starts to go off course. You can do it!

How are you managing your business mindset? I’d love to know how – send me an email traceydaviero@rogers.com.

Which Email Service Should You Use?

There are so many different newsletter services out there, how do you choose one to use for your newsletter? How can you be sure it’s the right one for you?

Here is a list of a few features of five very popular services, to help you make your decision easier:

1ShoppingCart – 1SC is a great all in one solution for all of the things you will need as a coach, consultant or speaker, but it has levels of service for different prices that make it affordable before you need everything they offer. For just $29 per month you can get a basic email service that allows you to send HTML newsletters and set up auto responders (messages that are sent automatically when someone signs up for something that you have them opt in to). It’s easy to use, and allows you to set up templates to make sending emails a breeze. Many VAs are familiar with 1ShoppingCart, as it’s a very well-established service and quite popular as well.

You can also set up multiple lists with 1SC so you can keep your marketing projects separate when necessary. I always recommend 1SC when you start out simply because you can grow with it as your business grows – and then you can use the shopping cart and the affiliate software make up the professional package for $99/month, when you start selling things and working with partners and joint ventures.

Aweber – another very simple and popular email and autoresponder service, Aweber also allows you to set up separate lists for different events. Their templates for newsletters and opt in boxes are just great, and easy to customize. Aweber’s basic price is $19 per month, and I know many of my clients and colleagues like it because it is so simple to use. it doesn’t require a whole lot of technical expertise to send your own newsletter and that’s a big selling feature! It also integrates with your Facebook and Twitter easily, so you can reach your whole audience when you send out your newsletter. Aweber is a service that you can learn to use yourself, so you can split the workload with your support staff if you like.

Vertical Response – Vertical response is another good newsletter service that has an interesting feature – you can pay for it monthly or you can pay per email sent. It also offers great templates to build your email and is very easy to use. It supports multiple lists as well which is helpful if you work with events or if you work with partners. You also have the option to run surveys through Vertical Response, and it integrates with Facebook and Twitter as well. Vertical Response pricing starts at $10 per month or around a penny an email if you choose that option.

Constant Contact – many of my clients and colleagues started off using Constant Contact as their email provider. Some still use it and some have moved on to other systems (usually to a shopping cart system). Constant Contact is famous for being user friendly and they also allow you to set up autoresponders with your basic email marketing service. They also have optional add on services for online surveys and event marketing as well. There is great functionality in using these services as they are designed precisely for what you need to use them for. They have a huge inventory of templates for each of their platforms and they really require very little technical skill to set up professional looking correspondence. Pricing starts at $15 a month for their basic services.

Mailchimp – Mailchimp has become much more popular  lately due to their new list of features. I always hear great feedback from people who are using it. It is also very simple to use, provides many templates, has a great deliverability rate and also has some great ‘power features’ that you will want to check out. It’s easy to set up custom templates and send campaigns, and the reporting is very complete as well. The coolest thing about Mailchimp… it’s free for up to 500 subscribers or 2,000 emails a month. If you are just starting out, it sounds like a pretty easy decision to me!

Whichever email service you decide to go with, be sure to try out a free trial. Most services offer a 30 to 60 day free trial along with tutorials so you can learn how their features work, and if they are the right fit for you. If you are planning to work with a VA for your email marketing, be sure that he/she knows the system you are planning to use, inside and out.

Starting a Newsletter or Mailing List

One of the most important parts of marketing your business will be to get in touch with your ideal client, and then to continue to maintain regular contact with them. It is essential that you build a relationship with your ‘people’ so that they will want to buy from you.

Building a relationship of course begins first by finding your ideal client, but after that you want to build the know, like and trust factor (KLT) with them. Once they know, like and trust you, they will be more likely to buy from you. One of the best ways to start to build that relationship is to send out a regular newsletter like this one!

The first thing you want to determine when you are setting up a newsletter is what kind of content you will have in it on a regular basis. Determining this will be almost entirely based on what your ideal client wants to read about. Newsletters really are a dime a dozen these days and everyone’s inboxes are so filled up with so many things, that you will want to be sure to provide good content for your audience, so they don’t unsubscribe.

A great newsletter layout is one that is similar to this newsletter: a personal note from you at the top, a feature article (or tips), and then something you recommend. This newsletter setup is an effective way to build KLT because it has three key elements: the personal note helps people feel more connected to you on a personal level; the article shows them that you have expertise in your area; and the recommends area helps you to share things that you want to share with your people.

How often to write? It may seem overwhelming to put together a weekly newsletter but it really is important to stay in touch with your people at least once a week. Once you get going it really isn’t that difficult, and the feedback you get on a regular basis is really good – you can adjust your content based on questions you receive from your audience too.

What to do when you can’t write an article? You don’t even have to write an article each week. You can just touch base and send out a few tips on something you came across through the week. You can send out some of your favourite resources. You can even send out a notification for someone else’s event (don’t forget to use your affiliate link for passive revenue!) The key is to provide that contact point weekly, and once you start, be sure to keep it up!

Once you know who you are writing to, and what you are writing about, then you need to determine a service to use. Many of them make building your newsletter so easy because they provide templates to get you started. There are all different kinds of services at different price points. You guessed it … we’ll talk about some of the most popular ones next week!

Planning for Success

Many Virtual Professionals go through phases of overwhelm in their business.

Anyone who owns a small business realizes that there are ebbs and flows of business, and there are also ebbs and flows of overwhelm as a result of that.

But a little bit of planning can go a very long way when you are working with your Virtual Assistant or other support professionals.

There will always be times that something has been ‘forgotten’ or is scheduled to do last minute, but in order to build a successful working relationship with someone, it’s important to keep the last minute requests to a minimum.

Most VAs work with multiple clients, and as such they work with many different schedules. It’s important to honor the time and schedule boundaries that are set when you start working together, so that you can both be productive and get the most amount of work done when needed.

Here are a few tips on how to manage your time regularly in terms of your support requirements.

1. Set deadlines to complete time-sensitive work. When you have a project or a task, be sure you set a realistic deadline for the work to be turned around. When you need something done, ask when you will get it back. Respect the scheduling of your VA, and if something needs to be turned around more quickly than they initially tell you, let them know. Work together to make sure your project gets done on time, and be sure to identify issues that can be corrected for the next project to make sure more time is allowed for the implementation or production part. For instance, if you couldn’t get registration started for an event because the graphics person you used was swamped, get a new graphics person or allow more time the next time.

2. Develop an editorial calendar. For ongoing tasks such as newsletters or broadcasts, set up a Google calendar that you can use to plan your writing, so you are not doing things last minute. By determining what you are going to write about each week you can get ahead and make your writing process smoother. For instance, if Thanksgiving is coming up, you have an idea what your personal note will be about. If you have a product launch coming up or a colleague is having an event, you have an idea what your ‘recommends’ section could be about. And if you develop a regular routine of what you will write to your audience about (ie week 1 marketing, week 2 business tips, etc.) then your articles will practically write themselves.

3. Plan product or service launches properly. This is one thing that a lot of people make mistakes with. It’s important to have enough ‘lead’ time to properly launch a new product or service to your audience. By trying to do things too quickly, you can often sabotage yourself in terms of sales. Decide what you want to do, when you want to do it, and then step back from your calendar to set up the launch process properly. Never rush something that you want to do well, and be sure you have enough time to set things up properly so you can make the connections with your audience as part of your launch. If you don’t allow yourself enough time to set up a group program, for instance, you could find that you have low enrolment because you start to panic when you begin to run out of time to promote. Or worse, you send multiple emails to your list in a short period of time because you didn’t plan correctly. By allowing enough time for your launch, your support team will be able to help you build momentum instead of panic!

4. Use checklists so nothing gets missed. Whether you are working with one team member or several, it’s a good idea to set up a checklist of things that need to be done (or have your VA set it up) so that you make sure nothing gets missed in the planning, production or launch phase. You can make an actual checklist or use a Google calendar that will track the tasks and deadlines for each piece. By determining deadlines for each part, you will know at a glance what needs to be taken care of during a given day, week or month. It’s a really simple planning tool that can work for so many applications, and it helps to keep everyone on task.

There are so many ways that you can keep yourself organized so that your team can best support you. These are just a few, but they are really easy to implement and will be sure to help you work well with your support team.

I’d love to hear your comments on this article.

Making your support ‘wish list’

When you are considering getting support in your business, it can sometimes be difficult to figure out where to begin.

I say, begin at the beginning!

The first thing you need to do is to make a list of all of the things you are doing in your business – and that means everything – so include your client work, but also your marketing, your bookkeeping, your scheduling, your networking, your emails, writing correspondence or newsletter materials, customer service, anything at all that you are physically doing in your own business.

The second thing you need to do is to look at that list and really think about whether you are serving yourself and your business by doing each of those tasks, or if you can get support in any of those areas.

If you look at that list, you will see that most of the things on it are not actively generate revenue in your business … and that means that most of them should be outsourced or automated in some way.

There are many reasons you would want to get support for something – you don’t like to do it, you aren’t good at it, you don’t have time to do it … these are just a few. But also think about this – if there is something that you will eventually not be able to do (because you get too busy with client work, for instance) then you should flag those items as well.

Anything that can be outsourced or automated in some way should be. I like to tell my clients that the list they have created is their ‘wish list’.

Now that you have identified things that you would like to get support with, pick one thing and get started.

You will realize how much easier it is to have someone support you once you actually do have them doing it. You don’t really realize how much time you are spending on non-revenue-generating activities in your business until you write it down, and then get support with those tasks.

Finding help is also a lot easier once you know specifically what you are looking for. You can put out a request for proposal, you can ask colleagues for referrals, or you can hire an intern who is studying in your field. There are many places to find help but knowing what you need is the first step.

I’d love to hear your comments on this article.

5 Easy Things To Outsource in Your Business

“Why is it that with all the information available today on how to be successful in small business, so few people really are?” ~ Michael Gerber

Whether you are looking to build your business from the ground up, or grow from where you already are, it’s important to look at how you are filling your days. Essentially your time should only be used to do two things in your business – working with clients (and therefore directly generating revenue), and doing specific marketing tasks (to plan revenue strategies, and to network with potential clients). If you are doing anything else during the day, you are possibly leaving money on the table.

Here are 5 things that you should look at outsourcing in your business:

Scheduling. Ah the dreaded appointment book! Have you ever had one of those situations where it takes 5 emails/phone calls to settle on an appointment time? There are two ways you can outsource this task. First (and easiest) is to automate it. You can do this by setting up a public calendar and having people select an appointment from that (do this free using Google calendar, of use a paid service like TimeTrade). This will save so much back and forth time you will wonder why you ever booked appointments manually.

The other way to outsource this is to have a scheduling person in place. If you have more appointment management to be done, it can be helpful to have someone managing your schedule for you (ie regular appointments that need to get set up, or changes to appointments once they are booked). In any case, this can be a serious time drain if you manage it yourself. When there are so many easy options to outsource this to, you need to take advantage of one of them!

Bookkeeping and Finance. You know it. I know it. The last thing that you think about each day is booking your hours and doing your billing. Although it’s the lifeforce of your business, so many business owners leave this part until they absolutely have to deal with it. Again there is more than one way to outsource this. As a small business owner, it’s important to know how you are spending your time – to ensure you have enough billable time in your calendar. You can outsource any portion of your time tracking and invoicing – there are systems like free MyHours where you can record all of your time. I have my VA enter mine, and then I just run and check my reports each month before sending my billing to my clients. That’s as simple as it gets. You can use many other online systems to track hours and invoice your clients. The key is to get into the habit of having someone help you do this part – as you grow this will be something you will outsource entirely, so start early!

Client Care. Although it’s important for you to work with your clients as a service professional, the ‘administrative’ part can be handled by someone else. It can be so easy to get bogged down in paperwork and things like that with a client. By setting a process to outsource things like proposals, contracts, payments, renewal dates, resources and reporting, you can free up a lot of your valuable time. Again, this is something that you will eventually outsource anyway, so you may as well get systems in place to start it as soon as you have any clients at all.

Technology. From websites to social media, technology is an important part of any virtual business. Many, many business owners get wrapped up in trying to learn these things ‘to save money’. There is no way that learning something new (and unrelated to your business) while you should be finding and working with clients is a good use of your time. From the start, have someone set up a simple web presence / social media presence for you. Your online presence is a very important of how people perceive you – they will check you out before working with you. It doesn’t have to be complicated … just a simple page or profile, and you are on your way.

As you grow, so can your online profiles and presences. I can’t stress enough that you just need to get something up there, so get a professional to do this for you. It’s one of the biggest ‘excuses’ I have heard from virtual professionals as to why they are not marketing yet. You can always tweak and adjust as your business grows and changes, but you need to be out there.

Copywriting. One of the places business owners get stuck the most is writing marketing material. It can be daunting to ‘get it just right’ … why? That’s easy … because you’re not a copywriter! By finding a good copywriter who can work with you for your projects, you will be leaps and bounds ahead of your colleagues! If you are building your business, you will always be marketing something, so it makes good sense to think about outsourcing this piece as early as possible in your business. Doing so will help you launch products and services faster, thereby helping you earn money faster with each item.

These are five simple ways to outsource things in your business, no matter what level you are at. When you are first starting out, it’s easy to get these things looked after, very reasonably. As you grow, you will be glad you have people in place (it’s a lot harder to outsource when you are used to doing everything yourself!). Take a look at your business and see where you are handling things that you shouldn’t be … and find some help!

I’d love to hear your comments on this article. Please share them below!

5 Great LinkedIn Tools

LinkedIn has proven to be a great business networking tool for me. It is different from other social networks that I use in that there is no real personal connection being made with people. What I mean by that is that we are connecting for business reasons. Of course I am drawn to people because of their personality, but I am really networking with people who fit into my business as part of my niche or my colleagues. On my other social networks, I often connnect with family, friends, and people who have similar interests as I do.

LinkedIn works differently and I think it’s very effective. People will connect with you based on what you say in the various groups, discussion areas and so on, but they will almost always check out your profile first (at least I do!).

So you should have a look at your profile to be sure that you look as professional as you think you do! LinkedIn has some applications and tools that you should be taking advantage of to help maximize your profile.

Here are my favourite five:

1. Recommendations: Reach out to people you have worked with before and ask them for recommendations. Also offer to give recommendations in return! Having recommendations on your profile establishes you as a real person, and can instill confidence in people who are wondering if they should connect with you.

2. Groups: Get involved after you set up your profile. Your profile will never serve you if you do not get involved in discussions with people who have similar interests. I have made some wonderful connections with people that I would never have met except that we joined the same group. It’s about networking!

3. WordPress: Install this application to pull your blogfeed into your LinkedIn profile. When you publish a post, it will automatically display in your profile, so people don’t have to leave LinkedIn to see what you have written.

4. Twitter: Your twitter feed will display on your profile, and you can even update your Twitter status while surfing on LinkedIn. There is so much great information shared in groups on LinkedIn that you will find this to be a quick sharing tool!

5. Events: I love this application because you can see at a glance the events for all of your connections.  It’s easy to add your own events and invite your connections.

There are plenty of others (and they are adding new ones all the time), but these are my favourite five, and ones that I use all the time with my profile.  Check out the application directory to see what apps you can add to your LinkedIn profile!