Is Finding a Niche Necessary For Your VA Business?

Is Finding a Niche Necessary For Your VA Business?

Virtual Assistants who are starting out or struggling often end up asking if they need to find a niche to be successful.

My answer to this question is a definite YES and NO.

Choosing a niche is actually a personal choice, like everything else in your business.

There are advantages and disadvantages to deciding to work with a particular group of people.

What is a niche?

If you’re not sure what I mean by finding a niche, it’s basically choose to segment a group of people to target your networking/marketing/work with. You can choose a group by the industry they are part of (ie travel industry), orby type of person they are (married with families, female solopreneurs) or the service you provide (WordPress websites).

There are so many options to specialize your services.

Usually, the experts will tell you that you need to specialize in order to be successful. I disagree with that because I think that your level of success can only be determined by you.

What do you want to earn?

No one else knows how much money you need to make to live the life you want.

I have never wanted to be a 6 figure VA. I make a comfortable living as a VA and I work as hard as I want to work. But to break through that $100K level doing what I do would mean having a team of people to help me generate more work for clients, which then turns me into a project manager – which I do NOT want to be.

So I have a threshold of income I need to make, and I target to make that each month.

And you can do the same.

Everything is your choice in your business!

If you are making the amount of money you need to make each month and you have good clients that you enjoy working with, then you don’t need to change a thing.

And most certainly if you think you ‘need’ to specialize or you can’t find good clients, you couldn’t be farther from the truth. Don’t let anyone tell you that!

But if you do want to build and grow and your vision for your business is to have a lot of people on your team then finding a niche is the fastest way to do that.

Why a niche is a good idea.

There is nothing like networking with a large pool of potential clients who work in the same industry, who need the same services. You can bring on new clients consistently and really hone your skills to be THE go-to person in their community. Great business tactic!

Or deciding to be the BEST WordPress VA around and building a solid clientele of repeat customers. Continuously improving your skills and knowledge so you are highly sought after. Able to set your rates so that you can work with fewer clients and make more money. Or finding a really great service that not too many others offer like this VA.

So is finding a niche really necessary? Yes and No. It totally depends on your perspective. And what you want to do in your business.

Ask yourself THAT question instead, and then decide what's right for you.

But if you are having difficulty finding clients, then maybe looking at a niche is the right thing for you now. For more information about choosing a niche, read this blog post:  How to Choose a Niche and Why it Matters.

Tips for Planning Your Content

As an online business owner, you know that content is one of the best tools you have. It drives traffic. It provides your audience with the value and information they seek. It also helps you market your business, products or services. Content is essential for online marketing success. You can achieve greater success if you take the time to plan your content.

What Is Content Planning?

Content planning is simply the process of taking a look at your calendar and deciding what to write and where to publish it. Content planning involves a few primary criteria:

• When will you publish the content?

• Where will you publish it?

• What will you write about?

• What’s the purpose of the content?

• What are your keywords?

• How can you repurpose the content?

Consider how far ahead you want to plan your content for. Many online business owners take a tiered approach. They plan large content projects for the entire year. For example, they may publish a report each month. They also take a look at their content on a quarterly or monthly level.

If you don’t plan your content or are struggling to plan it effectively, consider the following tips:

Use a calendar that gives you a big picture and you can write on. A paper desk calendar is a great planning tool. You can write your content ideas in pencil for easy modifications. Then, if you prefer electronic organization, you can transfer the paper plan to your Outlook or e-calendar.

Plan how you’ll integrate your content into your marketing strategy. For example, you could decide that in March you’re going to publish ten articles on article directories. You’ll also want to make sure this content ties into any season or holiday.

Ensure that the content you post supports any new products or services you are offering. Content must have a purpose. It may be simply to drive traffic to your website. Or it may be to drive traffic to a sales page or increase your opt-ins.

Leave room for change. The best content plans leave room for inspiration. The greatest ideas often come out of the blue. If you’re a stickler for your plan and don’t allow room to add your content inspiration into the mix, then you’re missing out.

Finally, don’t forget to take a look at how you can repurpose your content. It’s not only a great way to get the most return on investment, it can help fill content gaps.

When you plan your content, make sure you’re looking at both the macro and micro picture. Make sure you look ahead and take the entire year into consideration. At the same time, plan your content right down to the keywords and topics.

Planning your content for the entire year may take a day or two to accomplish but it’ll save you tons of time down the road. Instead of wondering what you’re going to write on, you’ll have the answers all worked out. Best of all, your content will fit with your other marketing efforts to create a comprehensive business growth plan.

Why Every VA Needs An Online Presence

Building a VA business? Great! Congratulations! Being self-employed is a fulfilling and rewarding lifestyle. Before you get too far into that business plan, are you planning on having a website? If you’re going to be a virtual assistant, you need one. Here’s why:

Your Clients are Online

You’re a virtual assistant. Emphasis on virtual. That means your business operates online. Via the internet, email and perhaps instant messaging and conferencing. If you’re without an online presence, you’re missing out on clients. The majority of your clients will be online business owners. That means they’re very Internet focused. They’ll turn to the internet first to search for a provider.

Now that’s not to say that you won’t have local clients. You might. However, they’ll still likely search for you online. It’s how our society buys products and services.

Your Website Establishes Your Credibility

Many VA tasks are focused on the Internet. You might be managing a blog or forum. You might be proofreading and uploading articles into article directories. You might be managing affiliates for a business. All of those tasks require a good degree of comfort using online technology. Your website helps demonstrate your ability to use the internet. It demonstrates that you’re comfortable online and skilled with using technology.

If you don’t have a website, many of your clients may wonder why not. They may simply disregard you because you’re not online.

Your Website Markets Your Services

Your website accomplishes a number of marketing tactics. It communicates your services and fees. It answers any questions a prospect might have about your services, practices and policies. It also showcases your personality. You’ll likely have an “About Me” page. This is useful for telling your story. However, the word choice, design and feel of your site also helps communicate your personality and brand your business.

Your website can also broadcast your successes. You can list your testimonials. You can cite awards you’ve earned. You can communicate organizations you’re a part of. You can also list the companies you’ve worked with. All of this helps establish you as a credible service provider. Your website can be used to build trust with your prospects.

Finally, you can use your website to facilitate many of your business functions. Communications, payments and even inquiries can be managed through your website. You can also use your website to generate more income by affiliating with products or services and by selling advertisement space.

In short, if you’re going to be a Virtual Assistant, do it the right way. Create a website that helps you build and grow your dream business.

How to Make Time for Marketing

To start getting business and success, you must make time for marketing. Most small business owners and solopreneurs know this…let's face it, they've heard it over and over again.

Virtual assistants are no different. We are often so busy doing client work that we run out of time to do our own marketing.

People insist that they don't have enough time to do everything, and certainly not to do marketing!

I know that it's tough – believe me it's the same for me sometimes. But I have seen the results when I do make time to market and so that keeps me finding time, even when it seems impossible.

I have also seen the results that other successful business owners get…and it's because they make marketing their #1 priority.

If you've made marketing a low priority, here are some things for you to do TODAY to start to change that:

• go to your calendar, make a 30 minute block every second day, for the next month and label it: Do Marketing!

• turn off your email/phone/social media and work uninterrupted for 20 minutes on making simple connections on social media, or on follow up from an event you have recently attended.

• make a list of your time-wasters during the day (internet surfing, computer games, yakking with friends, surfing Facebook) and the next time you start to do one of these activities, stop and do a marketing task instead: call a client, jot down 5 ideas for new articles, write a blog post, research a guest for your next teleseminar, write a special email to your list, etc.

• take a look at all the ezines you get and ruthlessly start unsubscribing – keep only the ones you actually open, read and take action on.

Marketing is an ongoing process for you for the lifetime of your business. The sooner you start cultivating consistent marketing habits, the sooner you'll start reaping the rewards you want.

Try taking these small steps...they may seem big, but they are doable. With consistent effort you will see consistent results – attracting more clients and prospects than you think!

You will also feel really good about your ability to market effectively and this increased confidence will show throughout all areas of your business and personal life.

So what are you waiting for?! Get going on those steps….

Marketing Activities You Need to Schedule

Scheduling your marketing activities is key to ensuring you are consistently and successfully getting the word out about you and your company and all the great services and products you have to share with people.

There are several formats that people use to schedule things – to- do lists, activity lists, calendar items, list of projects, sticky notes all over their desk, and so on. It doesn't really matter how you do it as long as it works for you.

There are going to be three general types of marketing activities that you'll want to put into your schedule:

Ongoing everyday marketing activities include those that you do regularly.

Some examples are:

1. writing your ezine

2. adding new auto-responders to your email series

3. writing blog posts

4. contributing to online forums and blogs

5. networking events

6. writing content for your monthly teleseminar

7. adding content to your website

8. writing articles for submission

9. checking your website analytics

10. communicating with your affiliates

11. sending out press releases

12. networking on social media sites such as Facebook and Linked In

Specific one-time projects would be marketing tactics that occur as a special or one-time opportunity. For example:

1. a workshop you're putting on

2. creating a new product

3. setting up a referral program

4. a joint venture with another company

5. flushing out the specifics of a new service you're going to offer

6. a speaker series you've been invited to share at

7. setting up your affiliate program

8. running a special promotion

9. writing a book

10. a new website

11. setting up a blog

Time set aside for idea generation is important. You need to schedule this in just like any other marketing activity. Things you'll "think" about during this time can include:

1. researching possible joint venture partners

2. thinking about ideas for a new product, service or book

3. taking a look at some colleagues websites and blogs to see what they are up to

4. daydreaming about the direction you'd like your company to go

5. brainstorming about your professional and personal goals

Write down a list of all the different marketing activities you currently do and start scheduling them into your calendar and to-do lists. Make sure you look at your schedule first thing in the morning and different times throughout the day to make sure that you're staying on course.

Commit to your marketing by having a schedule and you'll see your business grow and attract new and old clients on a consistent basis.

How to Get Low-Cost and Free Advertising for Your Small Business 

computer work

If you want your business to make you money or even just get off the ground, you’re probably going to have to advertise.  For many companies, advertising becomes a huge chunk of the overall budget, but it doesn’t have to be.  There are plenty of free or inexpensive ways to let people know about your business and get them coming back.

Email

Email is a great, cost-effective way for get your name out there, contact potential customers, and keep existing customers up to date and coming back.  And while developing an email list may take some time and effort, sending out an email once you have a list takes very little time.

You can get email addresses by simply asking for them on your webpage about a related topic to your products, asking for them from your customers when you take an order, or offering a free product or service in exchange for an email address.

Many people get emails by offering people products in exchange for the email addresses of their friends, but these are often far less useful than when people give you their email addresses themselves.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, the friends really aren’t going to be interesting in what you have to offer.

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth is also a great way to get word about your business out there, and it generally costs you nothing.

The key to starting word of mouth business is not only to tell people to pass the word on to their friends, but more importantly, to treat the customer right so they want to spread the word.

Social networking sites are a great way to start a word of mouth campaign about your business.  These are sites like MySpace, Facebook, and other sites where people can ad their friends, bands they like, and businesses or products they might be a fan of.

Then, if someone is a friend, the site will often automatically suggest they become a friend with or a fan of the same things.  Soon, you’ll have a bunch of people who are all fans of your business - then you can use the page to send updates to all of them about new products, services, and promotions.  It’s all free and pretty simple to get started.

Blogs

Blogs are another way to get people interested in your products and keep current customers up to date.  Starting a blog is simple, there are tons of blog sites that will pretty much set the whole thing up for you.  The trick is actually getting people to read it.

You can use different SEO techniques including microblogs like Twitter, but you also need to provide quality content that people actually want to read.  Start your blog by not only talking about your business and ideas, but also those of other people.  If you refer someone to a good article or great deal, they’re much more likely to keep reading.

While you may decide to spend some money on your advertising, you can still supplement with these methods to boost your exposure even more.

Advantages of Webcasting (Video)

Webcasting

With social networking being at a high point and increasing steadily, the drive for interactive websites is on the increase.

A lot of people want a website that’s not simply static and they’re looking for interaction when they log onto the net – from Twitter to Facebook to YouTube – we want to connect.

As an online business owner this means that adding a webcast to your online business is a great move.

First, what is a webcast?

In simple terms it’s a video recording placed on the web. Just like a TV offers traditional viewing, a webcast does something similar - but the video is streamed on the internet rather than the TV network.

A webcast can be anything from a video of you explaining how to do something to your viewers, to a two (or more) people interview, to an interactive online class.

The point is that you’re adding an interactive feature to your website and making it easier for visitors to give their feedback and get involved.

Anyone can start a webcast with a simple video recorder. One of the easiest methods is the Flipcam. It makes getting your videos on the internet drop dead easy. You can also use more sophisticated equipment to create news programs on a very high-end level.

There’s a lot of different equipment you can use and a little research will help you find the best. Once you’re set up with your video recording mode you can take things a step further and use a video editing service to add features to your recording which will really make the video stand out. There are many services online and a simple Google search will help you find the right one for you.

Webcasting is a great addition to your website. You’re making it easy for your visitors to interact with you while offering valuable information. This will keep them coming back to your site over and over again.

Boost Your Business With A Press Release

Press ReleaseseA press release is an excellent way to gain publicity and exposure for your business. A press release is a document containing information that you would like a media organization to feature, such as general information about your business, a special event that you are holding, or a special incentive you are offering.

By having a story featured in a newspaper, magazine, or other form of media, your business will receive publicity and credibility. You can also use the clippings of paper stories and links to stories featured through electronic media as part of your press kit.

You can submit a press release at any time, however you may find that the media features stories about businesses when something special is happening, such as a grand opening, special event, or special offer.

There is a simple format to use when writing a press release. If your story can be published at any time, the words “For Immediate Release” should appear at the top left hand corner. However, if the information should only be released after a certain date, use the phrase “For Release After [insert date]. Under that, include your contact information.

The next area of the press release is the “body”. This is the part of the press release where you include the information you want to publicize. Try to keep your press release under two pages. If it is more than one page include the word “more” at the end of the first page. At the end of your press release insert three number symbols (###).

As you write the body of your press release, keep it focused, clear, and concise. Try to answer the five basic questions – who, what, why, where, and when. Who are you, and what, exactly, are you promoting? Why is your target market interested in this? When and where is this taking place?

Once you are finished with your press release, you will want to submit it to the media. This can be to your local media outlets, such as newspapers, regional magazines, radio and television stations, or media outlets in geographic areas that you want publicity in. If you are promoting a event that will happen on a specific day, submit your press release early enough so that it has time to be received and facts can be checked, etc.

You can also submit your press release to electronic media, such as newswire services, Internet Talk Radio programs, and more.

If your story does not get picked up, don’t give up on press releases. Try a different media source, or rewrite your press release and submit it when you have something to promote. The media receives many, many press releases and cannot publish a story on every one of them. If you keep trying, you will find publicity.

How to Create a Marketing Strategy that Builds Authority

AuthorityThere are many different triggers that convince prospects to become customers. One of the most significant buying triggers is authority. We buy from people and companies that we consider to be experts. Your marketing strategy can and should ideally include building a reputation as an industry expert. Here are a few tips, ideas, and tactics to create a marketing strategy that positions you as an authority.

Make a Difference in People’s Lives

There are actually three steps to the authority process. The first step is to make a difference in people’s lives. From the perspective of building a marketing strategy around this step you can turn to both content and to your products or services.

-Make sure your products or services are valuable and that your customers receive the intended benefit

-Provide consistent value in the form of content. We’re talking about providing valuable tips on Twitter, sharing information, news, and ideas on Facebook and your blog. Write articles for notable publications and strive to use your content to provide consistent value. Whether you’re emailing prospects, connecting with them on social media, or reaching out on your blog, make sure that the information you’re providing has the power to change lives for the better. Provide value, build authority.

-Connect on a personal level with your clients and learn how you can help, provide value, and make a difference. Leverage that information into better business systems, products, and information.

-Respond to blog comments in a manner that helps not only the commenter but also any people reading the comments to further their understanding. And leave insightful and useful comments on industry blogs where your audience is present. Make a good impression.

Demonstrate That You Can Make a Difference

While the first step is to make a difference, the second step in becoming an authority is to demonstrate to your prospects that you can make a difference. It’s the proof step so to speak. In terms of your marketing strategy this could take many forms.

For example, you might use case studies to demonstrate your capacity to make a difference. Testimonials, reviews, and a strong word of mouth or referral marketing campaign can also help spread the word about your expertise and authority.

Connect with industry leaders. Follow them on social media, comment on their blogs, and invite leaders to be interviewed or to partner with you on projects. For example, you might invite an industry leader to contribute a chapter for your next book or to host an online fundraiser with you. Partnering with industry leaders demonstrates to your audience that you are respected in your community and considered someone to turn to for assistance and guidance.

Communicate With Integrity and Authenticity

Finally, in all communications whether you’re establishing authority or sharing that authority with your prospects, make sure to communicate with integrity and authenticity. Consumers are savvy and they can smell a fraud from a mile away. Be genuine both in your efforts to make a difference and the way you share that information. Building authority can take time but when it’s done from a place of integrity you’re on the right path.

Canada’s New Anti-Spam Laws

Are You Prepared?

Have you ever found yourself working during a busy day thinking,  “Gee, I really wish the government was more involved in the everyday operations of my business”?

Well, if that was you, today is your lucky day!

As of July 1st 2014, a new law from the Government of Canada will come in to affect as a way to prevent spam emails from being sent.  The Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) will require consent (implied or expressed) from all recipients before a commercial email can be sent to them.  Mass emails, bulk emails, broadcast emails (whatever you want to cal them) to a mailing list will require a mechanism for unsubscribing, as well as the sender’s contact information.

Pre-existing business relationships will not be affected but contacting new potential customers may be made more difficult.  Unless an email is publically listed on their website or a customer has contacted you directly first, consent must be acquired via email before any commercial messages can be sent.  In terms of a contact list you may already have, you can continue to send promotional messages to them for the next 3 years while the law is phased in.  After this point however, you will be required to get consent from each individual before any further promotional messages can be sent.

The easiest way to stay out of trouble going forward is to ask for consent whenever possible and establish a mindset that is anti-spam.  Individual violators can be fined up to $1 million and corporations up to $10 million.

Connect with your employees on the provisions of this law and make sure the consequences for violations are understood.

You may need to reconsider some of your company’s marketing practices but in the long run it is always better to be safe, and certainly better than paying millions of dollars in fines.
More information can be found at the website for Government of Canada: http://fightspam.gc.ca/eic/site/030.nsf/eng/home.