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Your Marketing Plan Goals Check Up

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

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

You’re rocking!

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

Some questions to ask yourself:

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

You’re sucking!

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

Some questions to ask yourself:

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

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

Why You Need a Niche Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• you attract significantly more business

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

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

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

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

• your creativity and strengths get to shine through

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

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

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

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 Choose a Niche and Why It Matters

Are you going to specialize? As a virtual assistant, will you offer specialty services? Or will you offer anything and everything? Experts strongly recommend specializing. Here’s why:

Specializing makes you competitive.

When you specialize in a service or an industry it helps set you apart from your competition. When a potential customer is looking for a virtual administrator chances are they have a very specific task in mind. If you provide that service or specialize in their industry then you’re going to make it to the top of their list.

Not specializing can make you crazy.

Choosing a specialty means you don’t have to juggle too many tasks and responsibilities. It’s challenging enough to own and grow your own business. The last thing you want to do is add more challenges to your day. If you specialize in a task or an industry then you can focus on being the best provider possible.
Specializing helps you raise your rates.

The truth is, specialists make more money. It’s not limited to the VA industry either. It’s everywhere. If you specialize, there’s a presumption that you have specialized knowledge and skills too. People pay more for that knowledge.

Specializing helps you market.

It’s tough to market your business to a target audience if you offer everything. However, if you offer forum moderation and blog management for the parenting and child care industry then it’s much easier to market your services. You know exactly who you’re marketing to and the benefit you can provide them.

So How Do You Choose a Specialty?

There are a few considerations when choosing a specialty. First, it should be noted that you can specialize in:

An industry. For example, parenting and childcare.

A task. For example, blog management and creation.

An industry and a task. For example, blog management for the parenting and child care industry.

You might think that this degree of specialization limits you. However, consider this. If there are 500 blogs on parenting and child care and you gain five of them as clients. You probably have a full schedule. There’s plenty of work to go around. Specialization simply makes your business easier to manage and grow.

Back to choosing your specialty…

Specialize in what you know. If you are skilled at transcription then specialize in transcription. If you’re an expert blogger or bookkeeper then specialize in those tasks. If you know the ins and outs of coaching then specialize in virtual administration for coaches.

Specialize in what you like and enjoy. If you love social networking then specialize in managing and creating social networking profiles. You’ll be much happier and productive if you’re doing something you enjoy.
Specialize in something that’s in demand. Take a look at the job boards. What jobs are commonly posted for virtual assistants? Chances are, that’s an in demand niche. If it’s also something you enjoy and are skilled in then you have a winner.

Remember, you can grow and change.

You might be worried about limiting yourself if you specialize. However, you can always add more services to your portfolio. Your needs, tastes, and business will grow and change. It’s perfectly acceptable to change your services as you grow. Specializing simply helps you attain the success you desire.

Five Ways to Find Great Article and Blog Post Topics

There comes a time in every business owner’s life when they run out of things to write about. There are many solutions to this problem. You can hire someone to come up with ideas for you. You can hire someone to write the content for you, too. You can even purchase PLR.

These are all great solutions. However, you can also write the content yourself. You just need a little inspiration. Here are five ways to find great article and blog post topics.

1. Grab a magazine from your coffee table. It doesn’t even have to be a magazine in your niche industry. Just about any magazine will do. Now take a look at the cover. Write down the headlines as they appear. Chances are they’ll look something like this:

* The __ secrets to ____
* Learn how to _____ today
* ___ tips to ____

Once you’ve written down the headlines, replace the keywords with your own. Fill in the blanks. If there are ten headlines on the cover of your magazine, you now have ten articles or blog posts you can write.

2. Jump on a social networking site of choice and read posts in your niche. Visit the pages of your industry guru and read their latest posts and information. Chances are you’re going to find many content ideas.

You may take issue or disagree with something someone said. That’s a perfect blog post. You may think that a topic needs to be expanded upon. You may read a comment to a social networking post that is the foundation of an article. Social networking sites are packed with content ideas. You just have to look for them.

3. Read your own blog and review the comments. Skim past the ones that say “Thanks for the information.” Those don’t offer any value to you right now. Instead, look for the questions or the meaty comments. Those are ideal for inspiring content ideas.

4. Read your forum and blog comments on other sites. Often these comments are enough to be an article or blog post all by themselves. Just polish it up and format it for the web and you’re good to go. If the comment or forum post is short, expand on it. Use your feedback to create article and blog content on your website.

5. Make a list. Lists are easy to make and they’re well received online. If you’re struggling to find content ideas, write down three to five list ideas and tackle them one by one.

Article and blog post ideas are out there just waiting for you to find them. With a little creativity and inspiration you can turn an unmotivated writing session into a productive afternoon.

Software for Professional Billing

time is money!As a business owner, you will need to send invoices to your clients in order to get paid. Sending a professional-looking invoice not only creates a good image for your business, but it also aids in helping you get paid on time.

Clients are going to treat you in a more professional manner if you treat your business in a more professional manner. Plus, as a business owner it is imperative that you are able to manage invoicing and billing in an organized manner to keep your business running smoothly.

One way to manage invoicing is to use invoicing software. Today there are a variety of different invoicing software options available that you can use to manage your invoicing in a professional, organized way. There are both free and paid options around. Here are a few that you can consider.

FreshBooks

This is cloud-based professional invoicing software that allows you to send professional-looking invoices no matter how your client likes them - by email, in the mail, or even directly to their Freshbooks account. It also allows you to track time and manage expenses on each project so that you can track profitability of everything that you do. FreshBooks syncs with a variety of other systems such as Outright.org, Basecamp.com and Zendesk.com to help you manage your entire business.

QuickBooks

Available both as cloud-based software and as local software on your computer, QuickBooks offers advanced invoicing options. If you often send estimates first to your clients, you can convert your estimated invoice to a regular invoice automatically. You can also schedule automatic invoices to be created and sent to clients on a particular date. You simply keep track of all the work you do for that client and the system will grab it and make the invoice for you.

Wave

This is a free unlimited invoicing software that allows you to create professional-looking invoices. You can customize your invoices by altering the template with your own logo and colors. You can even add a pay now button to your email invoices that allows your customers who use credit cards to pay your invoice automatically. This free software is also totally mobile ready and completely in the cloud.

PayPal Invoicing

Many people don't realize it, but you can also use PayPal's free invoicing tool to send professional invoices via email to all your clients. If you have a business account, you simply go to "Request Money" then choose Create an Invoice. You can save invoices and client information so that each time you create them you don't have to re-enter all their information. You can't customize them as much as the other offerings but you can add your logo to them. They are free and a lot of people like them.

No matter which software you choose to use, you'll be sure to look more professional if you use a professional program for invoicing. Not only that, you'll be more organized because you'll know who owes you and who has paid you at a glance.

References:

FreshBooks
http://www.freshbooks.com/

QuickBooks
http://quickbooks.intuit.com/invoicing/

Wave
https://www.waveapps.com/invoicing/

PayPal Invoicing
https://www.paypal.com

How to Stay Committed To Your Business

YES!When starting your own business it’s often easy to get yourself started, but a lot harder to keep yourself going when things get a bit more tough.  Here are ten tips to help you stay committed.

Set goals.  Without goals, there’s really not much reason for you to be in business.  If you want to stay connected to your business, it helps to make yourself realize why you’re in business to begin with.

Keep goals in mind.  You started your business for a reason.  You need to keep that in mind so you don’t get weighed down by the day-to-day of your work.  Keep little pictures or other memorabilia around that remind you of why you’re doing this is the first place.

Be flexible.  There’s not a one-size-fits-all method to success; you might have to try a lot of things before you find what’s right for you.  The key is to be flexible and willing to try new things when things aren’t working for you.

Be persistent. While you may want to change when things aren’t working, you can’t give up on everything so quickly.  You have to be willing to keep trying and keep going even if things don’t go well.

Make it fun.  We all want to do things that are fun, and shy away from things that aren’t.  Make sure the avenues you pursue are not only profitable, but enjoyable to you.  If you have stuff you need to do that isn’t as fun, try turning it into a game, just like you probably do with your kids to get their chores done.

Find supportive people.  It’s a lot easier to stay committed to something if there are people on the sidelines cheering you on.  Take time to talk to people who are supportive of your business.  If you don’t have many, try finding people like you online and at local classes so you can encourage each other.

Get help.  If you’re like most people, you probably think you can get your business going on your own.  And if you’re like most people, you probably can’t.  Starting your own business is a big job, and it’s perfectly normal to need a little help or guidance.  Try to find a mentor who has already been successful in your area to guide you and give suggestions.  They will also be a constant reminder that what you’re

trying to do is achievable.

Review what you’ve done.  If you’re feeling like you want to give up or just feel beaten down, take out a pen and paper and write down what you’ve accomplished since you started your business.  Even if it’s just little stuff, write it down.  By the time you’re finished you’ll probably feel better realizing how much you’ve accomplished.  Then keep the list and review it and update it every so often to keep yourself going.

Expand yourself.  You’ve probably found that when you have a new idea or project, you get very excited about it.  Try to constantly expand yourself by going to seminars, reading ebooks, getting newsletters, and doing other things to keep yourself coming up with new ideas and getting new projects.  The more new things you do, the more excited you’ll be about just doing your work.

Stay positive.  A positive attitude goes a long way in keeping you motivated.  Take steps to keep yourself looking on the bright side of life and work and it will be easier to keep yourself going.