The Ways a VA Can Help Small Businesses
by Tracy Kelly
The VA really should be an extension of the small business owner in so many different respects.
Whenever the business owner makes a concerted effort to establish a strong, professional and long-lasting relationship with a virtual assistant it can pay off exponentially. Let’s have a very specific look at exactly how powerful such a relationship could be.
- Ideas For Outsourcing Your Social Media Online
Social media, as a business tool, is a relatively new phenomenon. As little as five years ago when Facebook first started to enter our lives few businesspeople really looked at it as an opportunity to spread the word about their products or services. However, when social media is used thoughtfully and carefully by the entrepreneur it can make a considerable difference to the way that people perceive the organisation. Yet still, most small business owners do not understand how to approach the subject. They don’t know how to use the potential, or to figure out whether they should choose one particular outlet over another. When this type of confusion is evident, the result is predictable. Nothing is done and an opportunity goes to waste.This is the perfect solution for a virtual assistant. Outsourcing your social media online is one of the most astute things you can do and a core component of any relationship that you have with your VA.
- Social Bookmarking.
Let’s start off by looking at social bookmarking. Essentially we are using the power of crowd sourcing here. When more people talk about a particular subject more focus is given to that subject. In other words, the topic is given credibility. On the web, a great way of spreading the word is by “bookmarking.” This is when other people essentially vote for the topic in question within a variety of extensive networks, such as Digg. The virtual assistant will write a compact description of a particular product, solution, service or whatever storyline you would like to publicise. This compact story will then be distributed through various networks by a variety of people and this will serve to provide links and awareness.
Facebook is at the centre of anything to do with social media. It has swiftly become an essential part of many people’s lives. It’s a place that a lot of people visit not only every day but several times each day. A business can and should have a dedicated Facebook page. Your virtual assistant can create one using some very sophisticated tools and technology these days. It can be branded so that it appears very similar to your actual website. Here, however, you will be able to interact with friends, new prospects and can gain exponential exposure by proactively working to establish your organisation as the expert in your field.
If Facebook is the king of social media, Twitter is the crown prince. This is essentially a micro-blogging platform. Here again the VA brands a business page carefully so that it has the appearance of your website and other marketing collateral. Your virtual assistant will work to engage with people who are by definition also interested in the area within which you operate. By constantly keeping in touch with pertinent news, information, updates and advice, an organisation that uses Twitter can be at the forefront of the social media scene.
These three solutions represent just the beginning of the story when it comes to social media and business opportunities.
- Ideas For Outsourcing Your Daily Schedule Online
Most small business owners are aware of the concept associated with outsourcing. However, they might think that it is only applicable for things such as article writing or maybe some website work. These people tend to feel that they simply must keep on top of a lot of their routine, everyday work. If they don’t, won’t they lose control of the company? It can be difficult to let go, but in reality your virtual assistant is ideally placed to help with so many different elements of your daily schedule.
- Calendar Management.
If you feel that you are running around from pillar to post, always seem to be late for appointments and can never seem to fit in time for meetings with important prospects, then you should outsource your calendar management to a VA. When you’re busy doing other things meetings can be scheduled and you can be given plenty of advanced notice so that you are in the right place at the right time without feeling flustered.
- Trip Planning.
Have you noticed how long it takes to try and plan a trip these days? Those airline travel consolidator sites may offer you many different choices but you’ve still got to try and sort out your hotel, car and do so within your budget. Before you know it you’ve spent hours trying to arrange just one trip. Outsource this to a virtual assistant. Once you have given them the appropriate parameters they’ll do the rest with maximum efficiency.
- Customer Support.
Now that you’ve got an increasing number of important clients “on the books” you will find that there will be an increasing number of customer service issues to deal with. This is something that you must prioritise as poor support in this area will quickly gain you a bad reputation, to say nothing of lost clients. A VA will ensure that everything is handled carefully, professionally and promptly, with your input only required in predetermined circumstances.
- E-Mail Management.
Time management and efficiency experts tell us that one of the worst ways that we can waste our time is to constantly drop everything to deal with e-mails as and when they arrive. So many of these e-mails can be time wasters. Other e-mails represent an attempt by the originator to control your time according to their schedule. By putting a virtual assistant at the gateway you know that you will only be prompted to deal with emergency situations and all other e-mail can be handled by the VA in the background.
- General Tasks.
As there are only so many hours in the day the small-business owner will invariably find that there will be many calls for their time that may not necessarily be related to business at all. For example, running errands, gift shopping, social event organisation. All of this can be handled by your VA.
Treat your virtual assistant as an extension of yourself. There’s no need to feel as if you giving up control when you outsource all of those general administrative tasks that in truth are simply non-productive and holding you back from becoming successful.
- Ideas For Outsourcing Your Design Projects Online
Have you ever tried working with Corel, Adobe or some of the other desktop design programmes? Maybe you have tried working with one of those proprietary banner design makers. They can all be intriguing and quite fascinating, but if you like most of us do not have a propensity for graphic design then you are certainly wasting valuable time. As a small business owner you should be working on business creation and not on all of these ancillary elements associated with positioning and marketing your business. This is where your virtual assistant can shine, after all.
- Blog Design.
For a small business owner a blog is a “must have.” You can treat this as a transitional medium as you reach out to people to convince them that you are someone who should be trusted in your particular field. While your website may sell your products or services, the blog is much more interactive. Here you impart knowledge, advice, entertainment, information and prompt people to comment and build a relationship. WordPress is a fantastic tool to use as a blog platform and your virtual assistant will be able to configure it so that it looks the part. There are so many different ways that this can be done, but it does require certain knowledge and experience to make sure it is done right.
- Banner Ad Creations.
Today, there are many different ways of advertising your products and services. You may choose to do so by placing banner ads through networks such as Google’s Adwords. You must ensure, however, that you ad does your organisation justice. Don’t be tempted to try and do this yourself as remember how important those first impressions are. A virtual assistant can create a very professional looking banner for use in these campaigns.
- Logo Design.
Your logo tells a story about your organisation in graphic form. Get your virtual assistant to work on a number of different options rather than wasting your time by spending hours on designs that you may ultimately discard. Somebody with a flair for graphic design can come up with a variety of possible alternatives while you work on more important, business-related matters.
- Graphic Design.
Are you thinking of revamping your business appearance? Maybe it’s been quite some time since you updated the look and feel of your business image. Maybe you have branched out into other areas and feel that you need to create a separate marketing presence with its own distinct imagery. Whenever it comes to essential graphic design work a virtual assistant can help. To start with they can do all of the hard work in creating the initial imagery. Once this is approved by you the VA can work to integrate the new logo artwork within all your marketing collateral materials. This can include letterhead, business cards, adverts, promo items and so on.
When it comes to design work as the business owner you really should only be saying yes or no as part of the approval process for new concepts. Everything else should be outsourced to the VA if you want to ensure that your time is productive.
- Ideas For Outsourcing Your Website Development Online
When was the last time that you, as a small-business owner, updated your website? For many of us the answer is quite a long time ago. We seem to be so engrossed in trying to make the business “tick” on a daily basis as we deal with clients, order fulfilment, marketing initiatives and a whole host of other distractions. A website is not simply something that sits there and hopefully garners some interest and possibly some leads. It must be a dynamic property that is a joy to visit and is often updated. Delegate this to your virtual assistant so that it is in a constant state of development.
- Website Build.
It is said that 50% of businesses do not have a website at all. This is a remarkable statistic and it’s probably as much to do with the fact that small-business owners just don’t know where to start. A virtual assistant can get a website up and running for a business in a remarkably short amount of time given the correct initial guidance and direction.
- Website Re-design.
When people visit a website today they expect to see something that is exciting, enticing and vibrant, otherwise these people click away. It’s almost certainly time for you to redesign your old static website, but you are not the expert in these matters the virtual assistant is. So much changes on a weekly basis in the world of website design but your VA will be able to keep on top of these changes and integrate the latest and best.
- Website Content Creation.
Your website is only as good as the content within. People are looking for information and you must tell them that you have the correct information, together with the products and services that can help them deal with their problem. The material on your website must be regularly updated, very pertinent and directly related to the problems faced by your business prospects.
- Website Management.
There are many regular “household chores” associated with owning and operating a website. For example, dedicated organisations host the site and will require payment on a regular basis and will sometimes raise questions according to bandwidth allocations. Your valuable domain names will expire from time to time and will need to be renewed. As a small business owner if you overlook or ignore some of these chores it can lead to disaster. This is why a virtual assistant is an essential ally here.
- Website / Blog Search Engine Submission.
If you don’t promote the existence of your website nothing will happen. In the Internet world the majority of people look for information by interacting with search engines. Many small-business owners don’t realise that you have to go through a concerted procedure to notify the search engines not only of your existence, but what your site is all about. The biggest engine of all Google has webmaster solutions and a specific dashboard. The virtual assistant can make sure that everything is updated correctly and consistently in order to ensure that your website is at the very least seen.
Website creation and administration are two of the core fundamental tasks outsourced to virtual assistants by small-business owners.
- Ideas For Outsourcing Your Multimedia Projects Online
There is no doubt whatsoever that when it comes to the various different types of media online, video has become the undoubted favourite. Maybe it shouldn’t come as a complete shock to us as almost everyone prefers to watch a moving image rather than read something else in order to pick up the same information. Both video and audio represent dynamic media options as they are now available and accessible to every small-business owner online. There is quite a lot to appreciate, technically, however but your virtual assistant knows exactly what to do.
- Video Creation.
Based on the fact that as a small business owner you have a story to tell or rather a multitude of stories to tell you can repurpose the content and promote it in the form of a video. A virtual assistant can help you to create a video, with audio overlay based on voice or music. These videos can be based on a slideshow format or they can be a lot more sophisticated. Today, due to technology, there are many options available when it comes to displaying the video, so that is not an issue anymore. Outsource the design work associated with creating the video to your virtual assistant to start with.
- Video Imagery.
No longer does the small-business owner have to play second fiddle to any larger organisation when it comes to the sheer impact of the video imagery associated with the company. The virtual assistant can be responsible for creating a truly professional, dynamic and hard-hitting “intro” that can in turn be used whenever an informational video of yours is displayed to a prospect online. Never underestimate the importance of portraying your organisation, no matter how small, in a very powerful light using a variety of special effects and audio.
- Video Hosting.
Not too long ago video files used to represent quite a problem for webmasters as they were very large and would use a lot of bandwidth. This could represent issues in terms of the cost associated with bandwidth but also limitations imposed by some web hosting companies. Now, there are options available “in the cloud” and many different ways now available when it comes to rendering the actual video file itself. Your virtual assistant can ensure that there are no hurdles associated with the display of your video, without interruption, buffering and so on, to whoever wants to see it.
- Video Marketing.
Just as it is important to distribute articles to top line directories and other authority sites online, it is important to market the videos that your VA produces so that they are seen and can be found through various dedicated search engines. You will often notice that videos are displayed as an option in the Google search engine whenever you’re looking for information about a particular topic. When your virtual assistant is in charge of your video marketing this can give you added flexibility in terms of your overall business exposure. Your VA can even develop and manage your own YouTube business channel.
- Ideas For Outsourcing Your Blog Maintenance Online
A blog is a wonderful tool for any small business owner. Yet it is only powerful and purposeful if it is updated on a regular basis and carefully positioned in relation to the business owner’s growth philosophy. A blog may be seen as a way of communicating with clients and prospects, something that a typically static website is not easily able to do. A website, after all, represents something like a snapshot in time whereas the blog, if properly maintained, is able to keep up with the times and helps to prove that the business is “on top of” all new developments. So how can the business owner use a blog successfully?
- Blog Research.
A marvelous way to use a blog is to ensure that whenever a news story breaks that’s pertinent to the particular niche the business owner has a position to take on that story, with potentially positive benefit to clients or prospects. This requires the business to keep a finger on the pulse and can be a time-consuming prospect. The virtual assistant, on the other hand, is ideally placed to look for potentially powerful breaking news stories in a variety of different source locations.
- Blog Content.
When information has been sourced it has to be converted into consumable data. This will require the virtual assistant to create a blog post, focusing on how the particular topic can affect the company’s clients and prospects. This blog post should be ideally 350 to 400 words and laser targeted.
- Formatted and Tagging.
A blog post should never be too cumbersome, tedious or difficult to read. It should be formatted in just such a way that it is easy to consume, quick to interpret and also of benefit in terms of search engine optimization. The virtual assistant is the expert at formatting blog posts correctly and tagging the post with the correct keywords in favour of SEO.
- Block Imagery.
Any webpage that has no graphics whatsoever is likely to turn off a visitor. It has been proven time and again that purposefully imagery can focus the attention of a potential reader and is more likely to get them to read the associated content. The virtual assistant can locate appropriate imagery for each and every blog post and can ensure that it is inserted correctly as part of the configuration of the page.
- Blog Commenting.
Part of the power associated with blogs is the fact that dynamic, two-way, commenting can help to attract further interaction and is likely to attract more visitors. The virtual assistant will arrange to be kept in touch so that whenever somebody comments on a blog post a reply can be generated. The virtual assistant is aware that the entire purpose of maintaining a proactive blog is to ensure that dynamic commenting activity is encouraged. Likewise, the VA can help to ensure that spam commenting is not accepted or erased as and when it appears. Keeping up with commenting can by itself be quite a challenging task.
- Ideas For Outsourcing Your Financial Record Keeping Online
Even though it is becoming increasingly evident that outsourcing is the way to go for any small business owner who wants to expand and grow, it’s still difficult to pry those tight fingers away from the helm. It does seem to take a certain amount of education, after all, to convince the small business owner that other people can do many of those mundane tasks equally as well, freeing up time for creativity. Having said that, there seems to be even more recalcitrance when it comes to anything to do with the business’ financial records. Yet the virtual assistant can be a fantastic bookkeeper, helping to keep the accounting records in shape and ready for the end of the year. How can the virtual assistant help with control of those purse strings?
- Accounting Software and Systems.
The virtual assistant keeps up to date with the very latest developments when it comes to accounting software and financial record keeping online. The VA will invariably be able to advise the business owner about the best financial accounting approach to take in this specific case. Once an accounting platform has been chosen, the business owner will be kept up to date on a regular basis with the financial position of the company. This will invariably represent an improvement over the status quo, as a typical small business owner is not very good at record keeping and just does not have easy access to a snapshot at any moment in time.
- Business Receipts.
How often does a typical small business owner keep a stack of receipts in a cardboard box somewhere on a shelf? Due to having so many other things on the plate this is a standard mode of operation for many. Yet, unless those business receipts are categorized or classified as and when they originate there is a good chance that, with the passage of time, they will either become difficult to read due to fading ink or difficult to categorize due to fading memory. The VA can immediately record the exact details of these receipts.
- Account Monitoring.
Cash flow can be a major headache for any business owner. It’s all very well establishing a budget at the beginning of the year, but the issues associated with cash flow can become more of a headache and can even be challenging to the business survival if not constantly monitored. A virtual assistant can and should help to create monthly or even weekly financial summaries and help to ensure that cash flow issues are clearly identified well ahead of time. It’s also important to ensure that a monthly bank reconciliation is cleared, so that the business never runs into problems with adequate funding.
A business owner should always seek to generate and maintain a highly professional, two-way relationship with a virtual assistant. This should never be a “hands-off” type of relationship and trust should be established very early on. This will enable the business owner to delegate financial record keeping matters to the VA with confidence.
- Ideas For Outsourcing Your Content Creation
In our information hungry society any business that really wants to establish itself as a market leader and an organisation worthy of trust when it comes to the sale of products or services must also be an avid content creator. In short, it’s very important for the business owner to ensure that a steady stream of content is being created in order to keep pace with and ahead of competitors. What type of content is crucial and how can the business owner ensure that this time-consuming task is constantly engaged?
- Website Content.
Whenever a website is created and published it must have a purpose. This purpose must be clearly in line with the wants and needs of the organisation’s prospects. Initial research must be conducted to find out exactly what a prospect may be looking for in relation to specific keywords. Once the keywords have been established content must be created to populate the pages of the website with highly relevant and targeted information. This can be a very challenging proposition to the typical small business person due to its specificity. The virtual assistant, however, is very well aware what needs to be done.
- Copy Writing.
A powerful website combines the provision of information with an enticement to buy. Many of the pages within the website will be full of pertinent information, advice and knowledge designed to help convince the prospect that this is the place to be when it comes to the particular topic. Other webpages, however, will be specifically written to convince the prospect to buy. This is known as copywriting and requires a very particular approach to writing. The virtual assistant knows just what kind of language to use and how to couch the content on this page to help draw targeted visitors toward the “buy now” button.
The web is basically a giant repository of information and it’s truly amazing what you can find by searching. Indeed, millions upon millions of people search for an incredible amount of information on a daily basis and often find this information in authority pages, or in article directories. As such, a powerful technique in the Internet marketing world is to create and distribute articles to specific authority sites and directories so that they can help to direct information back to a specific sales related website. The virtual assistant knows how to generate keyword targeted articles and the best way to distribute them.
- Content Curation.
In recent times new trends have emerged in the world of online marketing associated with the power of social media. Many small businesses have decided to get a branded Facebook page and other social media outlets in order for them to keep in touch with people on an even more dynamic basis. What kind of information should be included in a typical Facebook page on a regular basis? This is where content curation by your virtual assistant can be really powerful. Essentially, this involves taking a particular stance on a breaking news story or providing a link to some great, targeted information elsewhere, together with a few sentences as a specific comment.
- Ideas For Outsourcing Your Project Management Online
Project management is all about drawing together a variety of resources and the input of relevant individuals to ensure that the common goal is achieved. In order for any project to be successful there must be a tremendous amount of oversight, but there must also be a strictly defined structure in place in order to ensure that everybody is “on the same page.” Yet establishing such a structure and then keeping on top of its maintenance and management can by itself be a very time-consuming task for the typically busy small business owner. The good news is that there are a variety of first-class software solutions available these days and a virtual assistant is very familiar with how these systems operate and should be managed.
- Project Management Tools.
As cloud computing has become more and more established in recent months and years, so it has become a lot easier for geographically dispersed members of the team to keep in touch. This has led to a proliferation in the growth of specific project management tools designed for this purpose. However, many of these tools are designed for targeted purposes and it can be difficult to choose what tool to use. Nevertheless, the virtual assistant will invariably have had experience in using many of these tools and can advise the small business owner about initial selection.
- Project Management Establishment.
In consultation with the business owner a virtual assistant can readily establish the infrastructure associated with project management and can reach out to all the necessary individuals to bring it all together. Many of these individuals may be part of the virtual assistant team in any case, but others may be specific vendors, business partners and even clients in many respects. Of course not every engaged individual should have access to every element associated with the project or specific information related to it. Therefore, the virtual assistant can delegate responsibility and set up accessibility accordingly.
- Project Management.
The virtual assistant can effectively be the eyes and ears of the business owner when it comes to daily project management. In other words, the business owner does not need to dedicate valuable time to supervision here as the VA can instantly keep up with any issues, deadlines that are not met by specific individuals, work that may not be completed “to spec” and so on.
- Project Management Reviews.
At predetermined intervals the virtual assistant can provide a specific summary of how each project is unfolding and can provide advice to the business owner regarding steps forward into the future. As and when required the VA can also review and assess any revisions to the way that a project management solution is engaged, advising whether a new platform should be considered if it is seen to be a lot more powerful and practical.
The secret to expansion when it comes to any small business is to outsource and delegate and then move on to the next subject. Whenever a new project is initiated it should therefore be handed off to the virtual assistant, as soon as possible.
- Ideas For Outsourcing Your Administration Online
It’s amazing just how many individual tasks you have to deal with as a small business owner if you simply do not delegate. In fact, you can find that more than 50% of your valuable time is taken up by tasks that really should be outsourced to a virtual assistant. Any small business owner should really take the time to record what he or she does very clearly and accurately, each day for at least a week. Upon review, you can then see just how much time is essentially wasted when it comes to pure business creativity and onward development.
Let’s have a look at just half a dozen random examples of how a virtual assistant can relieve a lot of that administrative headache from you:
- Usernames and Passwords Handling.
It’s really amazing just how many individual web pages these days require registration, the creation of a user name and password. Some of the sites must be secure, of course, while others do not really contain any sensitive information but want to restrict access. A virtual assistant can help keep a secure database of all this information.
- Time Tracking.
These days there are some great tools available to help everybody keep on track of just how much time they spend online, to see whether it is productive or not. When a number of different individuals are involved in working for the business, the business owner never really knows whether productivity is being maintained. A virtual assistant can help to oversee this area and report back to the owner.
- Gathering Testimonials from Customers.
The business is only as good as its reputation. In order to maintain a reputation it is important to get testimonials back from customers. The virtual assistant should be engaged to do this on a proactive basis. It’s easy for the small-business owners to forget this, after all.
- Data Entry / Word Processing.
Information and data is powerful, but only if it is used correctly and with purpose. A virtual assistant can help to ensure that all of the individual pieces of data that you generate, whether it be numeric or alphabetical can be included in the relevant database, spreadsheet programme or contact management application.
- Receiving Calls.
Not all business is conducted online and many people still want to talk with a real ‘live’ person before they decide to buy your product or service. If you’re responsible for answering the phone as a small business owner, or simply do not have a dedicated service, then you should consider how a virtual assistant can do this professionally and practically.
- Internet Searching.
We all know and use the power of Google. It can be a wonderful resource but searching can also be very time-consuming. The virtual assistant can be charged with the responsibility of searching for information that is relevant to any specific issue or topic. They have the added ability of being able to find information through resources that may otherwise have been invisible, adding to the knowledge base of the small-business owner.
July 24, 2016
July 24, 2016
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