by Tracy Kelly
1. How The Virtual Assistant Provides That All-Important Oxygen. It’s no secret that we have been embroiled in one of the most difficult business climates in history.
Although we had, prior to that, prided ourselves in our ability to be competitive, technologically astute and ready to take on the business world, we all learned some very swift and harsh lessons. No sector of the business environment was spared and we all found that we had to practice a little bit more of that essential business attribute, being able to think quickly on your feet as you go.
It’s not very nice when you have to change direction in midstream, as many business owners and entrepreneurs discovered during the height of the grand recession. Many plans that had been in process for quite some time were dashed and emergency provisions were rushed into place. In short, our very trading environment seemed to change right in front of our eyes and it’s not going too far to suggest that many of us were quite literally stumped and didn’t know what to do.
In such a business environment expansion can seem to be one of the last things on our minds. When this kind of a downturn arrives survival is paramount and only the strongest will make it through. We will no doubt look back at this period and marvel at our ability to survive, even while we’re reading numerous new textbooks that are in turn trying to explain what on earth happened.
Here we are in post-recessionary times, yet absolutely nothing feels “normal” at all. Have we really reinvented ourselves and have we really learned all the lessons that we needed to? One important lesson that we must have learned is the ability to be flexible and to be able to have room to move without getting bogged down.
In these environments our ability to turn to a virtual assistant to help us out cannot be overstated. The virtual assistant can be pressed into service at very short notice to do a wide variety of tasks, skilfully and on time, when we need them most. No longer do we have to rely on the ability of internal staff, many of whom may not have been “updated” with the latest information and technical know-how. Remember that we simply cannot afford to have a burgeoning administrative staff if we are to be competitive and be prepared for the great unknown ahead.
Each and every business in the future must be leaner, fitter and be in a position to access skills and support on an “as needed” basis. This is exactly what the virtual assistant can provide. If anything good has come out of the great recession, it is that virtual assistants can provide the new business world with a level of support and availability that was hitherto downplayed or in some cases ignored. Now, skills and technical know-how are available to the entrepreneur and business owner without an associated, significant training and availability burden attached. With this kind of an asset at their fingertips, the business owner can breathe just a little bit easier.
2. How Virtual Assistants Are The Right Kind Of People
In virtually any business the cost of manpower is dominant. Did you know that it could represent as much as 80% in some cases? Yet business owners are often faced with a quandary. They know that taking on manpower is a considerable challenge and that there are many added costs, yet they understand that skilled labour is absolutely essential if they are to expand as they want. Quite simply, they cannot achieve what they need to achieve without the “right kind of people” helping them.
Taking on new staff can be a lengthy and time-consuming process, often fraught with dangers and pitfalls. To start off with you have to look for the best staff and have to have a clear job description in mind. Do you have enough actual work to justify taking on a new member of staff for 40 hours or so per week on an ongoing basis? If not, is it possible to find somebody who has a range of skills so that you can allocate more than just a specific set of tasks to this person?
How many other costs are associated with taking on a new staff member? As business owners know only too well it’s simply not “just” about the actual wage or salary itself. You have to take into consideration payroll taxation, contributions, the cost of holidays, sickness, etc. Then, you have to remember the costs associated with the employee’s workstation and overheads. Some experts calculate that these costs could far more than double the initial cost of the worker’s salary alone.
In today’s economy, each business is faced with tighter margins and needs to justify each and every penny of spending. Government advisers anticipate that the unemployment level will remain stubbornly high for such a long period of time, post recession, mainly because business owners are just “gun shy” of taking anybody on. They have so much at stake and there is so much that can go wrong if the process of hiring is even in the least bit faulty.
Let’s imagine a situation where the person who you take on is not as competent as you might’ve thought. They simply don’t “work out.” Not only are you starting to lose money due to a lack of productivity, but you face additional headaches and heartaches associated with finding another replacement and indeed going through the process of redundancy.
Compare all these pitfalls to a much simpler and infinitely more palatable alternative. Turn to a virtual assistant. The VA will be fully trained, skilled and competent, by definition. You will not have to worry about endless overheads and questionable productivity. The work will be completed, carefully and methodically and on time and your associated costs will be fully transparent.
While the trading environment will undoubtedly improve, we can be sure that every business owner will be casting a very careful eye on expenditure as time moves forward. Labour costs can be consolidated and general efficiency improved by outsourcing to a virtual assistant.
3. Why Virtual Assistants Make Such Good Bloggers
Business owners realise that there is a new way to promote their organisations these days. Social media has become as much a part of our daily lives now as checking our e-mails first thing in the morning. While this trend has not arrived overnight, it nevertheless represents quite a sweeping alteration to the way that we approach our marketing and advertising.
No longer is it sufficient to focus on conventional marketing methods, advertising campaigns and traditional media outlets. Our business customers are increasingly engaging in a social networking world, which puts a lot of emphasis on word-of-mouth, social proof and testimonials.
As many as one in two people now admit to maintaining a Facebook account and we also know that Twitter has become the rage for the transmission of short messages, which often convey opinions, positions and propagate that “social buzz.”
The majority of forward thinking business owners long ago realised that they had to have an online presence. Yet it’s not good enough to simply maintain a corporate site anymore. You have to have a dynamic presence that, in itself, interacts with your clients and potential customers. You have to do whatever you can to convince prospects that they should engage with you, that you know what you’re talking about and that you can meet their needs.
Today, blog writing has long ago left its roots among those ardent technical enthusiasts and those who may have had some kind of an axe to grind. Now, it is a tool to get a business message across, a new focal point for the organisation altogether.
For an organisation to create and maintain a blog, a considerable commitment is required. Material must be sourced that is very pertinent and timely and pages must be updated on a regular basis, if not daily. For the typical business with much on its plate and existing advertising and marketing channels to feed, this can be a daunting prospect.
However, it’s a perfect task to outsource to a virtual assistant. Given the right brief, the virtual assistant will be able to generate material that is perfectly tailored to support the organisation’s message and to promote its all-important keywords. The assistant will be able to update the blog regularly with tailor-made and purposefully written content.
Many businesses treat the blog as the centre point. This web portal is the place that they direct all their prospects and new web traffic to. Within the blog visitors can find information that helps to convince them that the company is, itself, a thought leader, an expert in this field and worthy of consideration.
Blog creation and maintenance is undoubtedly a significant commitment, but it is a perfect task to be outsourced to a virtual assistant. Formation doesn’t have to be a stumbling block either, as the good virtual assistant is very well aware of what information needs to be gathered and the kind of brief that the client should provide in order for the whole process to be engaged. This all-important, additional level of marketing activity is now a fundamental consideration.
4. Find Out Why Virtual Assistants Have Their Finger On The SEO Pulse
At one time, less than 50% of typical business owners maintained an online presence, but this situation is rapidly changing. In most recent times the financial downturn forced business owners to look into alternative ways of enticing customers to consider their products and services. Conventional methods of marketing didn’t seem to be working as well anymore, if at all. Yet those who kept a keen eye on business trends soon realised that online marketing by itself was not showing anywhere near as much of a decline as other categories. Indeed, in many markets, online marketing seemed to buck the trend and moved strongly forward during those down years.
There is of course a lot more to it than simply building a website. We cannot say that “if you build it, they will come” as this is simply not the case. The website presence can be very powerful and aesthetically pleasing, but it has to be marketed and promoted correctly and in the right places in order for traffic to actually visit the site, let alone purchase anything. Certainly it’s involved, but it’s not an area that can be ignored anymore.
This is where we first came across search engine optimisation, or SEO. For the majority of people who are not used to Internet marketing, or have no experience in this area, this can be a daunting proposition. They know that search engine optimisation essentially involves the process of “optimising” a website, so that it eventually shows up in front of those people who are searching for products or services in your particular niche.
But where does somebody start? While there are any number of e-books and manuals available to help a newcomer understand and come to terms with search engine optimisation, it’s far from intuitive and can also be a time-consuming process. The typical business owner does not have time to go through a “trial and error” process here. This may be an important step forward for the business, but it can also be a time and money hog if you’re not careful.
This is where a good virtual assistant can be very beneficial. The virtual assistant understands what SEO is all about and knows that there are literally dozens of different approaches here. The virtual assistant will work with the business owner to explain, in layman’s terms, the variety of different approaches and what’s needed to be successful.
SEO is far from a static activity. It’s a dynamic process that requires ongoing attention. Virtually every niche is highly competitive these days and you need somebody who is in tune with the latest, cutting-edge developments. The virtual assistant ensures that he or she keeps up-to-date with this entire arena and is perfectly placed to provide the services necessary for the business owner.
Why struggle with difficult processes, definitions, targets and traffic flows? This is the perfect task for a virtual assistant and is sure to save the business owner considerable time and effort, to say nothing of opening up a new marketing avenue.
5. How Virtual Assistants Can Help You Interpret “The Signal”
There is scarcely a business task that cannot be outsourced to a virtual assistant. This is particularly true when it comes to marketing and promoting a business. Marketing is of course the lifeblood of any organisation and cannot be ignored, even when times are lean. The company that is not focusing on marketing is essentially falling backward when compared to its peers and opponents.
There are so many different facets to marketing, yet it’s essentially about that all-important USP, or unique selling proposition. Once you have determined your unique selling proposition, market research needs to be engaged and a variety of different tactical marketing approaches considered on an ongoing basis.
These days, technology has provided us with a number of new and exciting marketing avenues, which complement those traditional or conventional “off-line” methods. Most business owners realise that an overall marketing approach has got to be composed of both traditional and “new world” initiatives, but often they struggle to maintain their efforts internally.
Marketing tasks should be outsourced to a virtual assistant to help the business owner and the core team focus on day-to-day, hot button issues. While a business owner does, of course, oversee marketing policy and direction, there is a tremendous amount of work to be done to feed all these various avenues and to make sure that the marketing message is, in fact, being disseminated.
As the company strives to understand its market, research is paramount. This is where a virtual assistant can be very beneficial. Market research can be entirely outsourced to a VA, who clearly understands where and when such research has to be undertaken and will be able to consolidate and help interpret the data once it comes in.
Every business executive must understand that there is a specific “signal” out there which represents the buzz, or the chatter surrounding their own products or services, or their niche. Market research needs to be able to dip into this “signal” and understand what it’s saying. Every niche has its own signal and this dynamic flow of information, opinions, positions and trends helps to shape the market itself.
There are a large number of forums and focus groups online where this signal is discussed, interpreted and developed. The virtual assistant can be the company’s eyes and ears, its representative within these communities. No business can afford to be on the periphery of this signal as it’s developing, yet it can be a very time-consuming and confusing arena for those who are not accustomed to online marketing.
It’s important to remember that a virtual assistant is not merely an outsourcer who can help with the more mundane, administrative tasks. The best virtual assistant can be an integral part of business development and marketing policy. If the company owners really want to be thought leaders and be instrumental in manipulating and modifying their product and service related signal, they need to be “in the game.” It’s not sufficient to be passive and to be merely gathering the information anymore; you have to be involved in creating the actual message.
6. When You Finally Realise That You Are Wasting Your Time, What Are You Going To Do?
We are seeing an explosive growth in the number of people who want to take their own future in their hands and set out on their own, to become an entrepreneur. Undoubtedly, this has been fuelled in large part by the recent economic downturn and the huge number of layoffs in supposedly “cast-iron” industries. No longer could you rely on a job for life and the slow realisation that nobody’s job was secure anymore prompted many to sit up and take notice.
Many individuals decided that they could create a future for themselves based on their abilities, skills and experience. They decided that they would set up their own small business to focus on something that had always been a passion. After relevant research they came to the conclusion that there was indeed a market for their particular product or service and set out to join the ranks of the self-employed.
Far from being an easy way to earn a living or to try and safeguard one’s future, being an entrepreneur called for significant dedication, longer hours and a nice big helping of stress. Now, you had to be “head cook and bottle washer” and needed to know how to juggle all of these tasks within the dwindling number of hours available to you in any given day. Those weekend lay-ins become a thing of the past too and before you knew it, your new baby was occupying your time seven days a week.
It would be nice if, as an entrepreneur, you could clone yourself and achieve much more within your workday. It would be nice to cut down a few of your hours so that you had some time to spend with your family and friends once again. In fact, even though your business is now doing particularly well, will you be able to cope with this stressful situation going on into the future?
No matter what kind of business you are in, or in fact whether you are a one-man band operation or not, it’s time to consider hiring a virtual executive assistant.
Before you do this however, consider this exercise. Tomorrow morning, before you start work at all put a sheet of paper and a pen to one side and use it to log everything that you do on that day. Don’t leave anything out because it seems to be mundane, because this is the actual point. At the end of the day when you tally up the amount of time that you spent on administrative and more “mundane” tasks, you can begin to see how employing a virtual assistant could make a significant difference to you.
Remember that every moment of time that you spend doing those administrative and essentially non-productive tasks is a moment of time that you are not engaged in development, marketing or the search for new clients. The executive virtual assistant could be a highly cost-efficient way of outsourcing so many of those tasks that eat into your productivity and your potential for success.
7. Calculating The True Cost Of A Virtual Assistant
Have you ever calculated what an hour of time is worth to you? As a small business owner can you put a value on every task that you perform on any given day? It’s surprising to learn that many entrepreneurs and successful business people still do not really understand what their time is worth. In business, time is probably the most valuable asset of all. It is fleeting, comes in an instant and goes and you can never get it back. Yet with each passing moment an opportunity to be productive and to help you along the road to ultimate success may be squandered.
Time stands still for no one and we all have the same amount of it in any one day. Yet those who are going to be the most successful fully understand how they must manage their time efficiently. You cannot expect to get the biggest share of your particular market if you are not focusing on productive ways to help you achieve this goal throughout your workday.
Whether you are a one-man entrepreneur or whether you have a small business that employs a couple of hundred people, your time is very valuable. You cannot afford to be wasting it on purely administrative tasks or mundane initiatives that do not, in the finest analysis, contribute to your bottom line.
Remember that your time is not simply worth what you pay yourself, your salary or whatever you take out of your business. The value of your time must also include the cost of your overheads and other business costs and has to take into account the fact that a lot of your time is essentially non-productive. In other words, when you bill your time to a client, are you being realistic?
You may well be in business because of your expertise in a particular subject area or niche. You make your money by selling your knowledge or your ability to other people or organisations. You need to be able to maximise your billable time if you are to be totally successful at what you are trying to do. If, in your market, you are able to bill clients at the rate of, let’s say, €100 per hour, you need to maximise the number of hours per week that you can realistically charge that rate.
If you find that you are bogged down with administrative tasks, bookkeeping, online marketing or correspondence you are certainly not earning €100 per hour for each of those hours, so spent. If you take all of those hours into consideration the actual amount you are earning for your time spent in any given business week is a whole lot less.
When you look at it in this cold light you understand that you really need to employ the service of a virtual assistant to do all those administrative tasks, to free you to focus on revenue opportunities. You only need to spend a few moments calculating how much a virtual assistant would cost to release all those hours to you, to understand how sensible and cost-effective this approach should be.
8. Why There’s More To A Virtual Assistant Than Meets The Eye
The process of recruiting somebody to help you in your business is one of the most difficult tasks that any business owner can face today. Even in a hiring environment that is so densely populated with people who find themselves to be newly unemployed, the task of finding somebody “good” is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.
If you are a really focused individual, who knows exactly what he or she wants in life, is dynamic, proactive and driven, you represent gold to the business owner. It is truly quite amazing that the majority of people who are applying for these jobs just do not fall into this category.
When you are in business you have to surround yourself with people who are driven in this way. They may not share your entire vision in exactly the same way as you do, but they should nevertheless “buy into” what your company represents and must be able to contribute to its long-term viability and growth. It’s a business owner’s dream to be surrounded by people who are motivated, self-starters and who instinctively know exactly what to do in any given moment of crisis.
While finding staff at the executive level to help head various departments or roll out new ventures may be one thing, we should never underestimate the importance of finding staff that can help us with the day-to-day operation of each department within our business. While there may be less at stake here, these individuals nevertheless contribute to the greater good of the company. Without their focused and well delivered effort, the company is likely to flounder.
It’s unfortunately true that many would-be employees still view their employment as a means to an end. They may be in fact relatively good at what they do, but they’re not inspired and not likely to seize an initiative should it be needed. For example, if there were a better way of doing a particular task, a really good and forward thinking employee might suggest it and know how to implement it. Unfortunately, this kind of employee seems to be few and far between.
This is a good reason why business owners should consider outsourcing many of these positions to virtual assistants. You see, a virtual assistant is invariably a small business owner him or herself and knows full well what it takes to drive the business forward proactively. The virtual assistant can become not only someone who takes on, very cost-effectively and efficiently, many of those outsourced tasks, but could also become a valuable partner, advisor and someone who contributes in many more ways than one to the business growth.
Next time you complain about the lack of star quality among potential new recruits, consider outsourcing that particular position to a contributory virtual assistant. You will find that not only will the associated task be completed carefully, correctly, on time and within budget, but you may well be able to draw on the experience of the VA to help you further consolidate.
9. Putting Pen To Paper – How The Virtual Assistant Comes To The Business Owner’s Rescue
Many business owners today find that writing is simply not their forte. Certainly, they are able to deal with contracts, agreements, invoicing and so on, but they simply do not feel in their element if they are asked to create an article, or even a white paper of some kind. Content creation is not for everybody, yet it has become increasingly more important in the small business world.
There are a number of ways for a business to market itself online and to help to consolidate its presence. We know that simply having a website is not good enough by itself, as we have to be able to convince people that we not only exist, but that we have something viable to say in that particular niche. We also know that the typical consumer tends to need as many as seven exposures to our product or service before they actually engage. Can we rely on them visiting our website seven times without any further input on our behalf?
Online businesses frequently use the power of the written word to help them promote their presence and viability. Article writing and marketing is the most established method of Internet marketing for many reasons. Firstly, when you create a well-written, optimised and focused article you are showing that you know what you’re talking about and you are also providing information to a marketplace. When such an article is distributed throughout the Web to various authority destinations, it becomes available for potential clients to view. The entire process begins to link your authority as the author of this content to your company’s ability to provide solutions within this niche.
While there are many other ways of marketing your organisation online, article writing and marketing truly helps to provide that all-important social proof. You see, we are entering a new era in online marketing, where relationships are more important. In short, you have to show that you are an expert, can be trusted and that you know your subject inside out, in order to have the best chance of attracting and keeping those all-important prospects.
As many small business owners find that not only is article writing difficult but also very time-consuming, they are increasingly turning to virtual assistants for help. This is a core competency for the typical VA. Not only can they help to compose and distribute the information appropriately, but they can also help to determine what keywords should be used in the first place.
A virtual assistant can handle the entire process of content creation. This will begin with market research to determine what these articles should be written about, to the actual process of creation and optimisation and on to distribution. One way or the other, content is and always will be “king” in online marketing. Unless you’re able to establish and communicate your position, your authority and your expertise, how are you going to convince people that you are worthy of consideration? How are you going to convince them that you know exactly what you’re talking about and can help them with their particular issues?
10. It’s A Technological Minefield Out There – How The VA Can Help
These are exciting times for any business owner. In the space of only half a dozen years the face of marketing has changed almost beyond all recognition. Conventional methods of marketing, while still in existence, are being increasingly overtaken by new methodology. This new approach was until fairly recent times known as “Web 2.0,” but such is the pace of development and technological advancement that many are now starting to refer to a completely new era in Internet marketing, even a “Web 3.0.”
How is the business owner to keep pace with this kind of development? There may well be exciting opportunities ahead, but how are you going to tap into them if you truly do not understand Web 2.0, let alone this new wave? Amazing as it may seem, there are yet still business owners out there who do not understand how important it is to have a web presence, so they do indeed have a very steep learning curve ahead of them.
In the economy of the future, more and more businesses will need to be focused on building solid relationships and in understanding semantics. Semantics is the study of “meaning” and is now beginning to drive how the massive search engines provide information back to those all-important online searchers. In short, when somebody searches for a particular keyword, the search engines are increasingly interested in providing them with tangential information, making them aware of synonymic alternatives and, in point of fact, trying to get “inside their heads” to determine their actual needs.
As relationships between individuals and between products and services become intertwined with semantic analysis the business owner must be increasingly focused on the position. This may all sound rather complicated and hypothetical, but the bottom line is this: The business must be able to “own” its authority within its market, be highly competent and be able to communicate this competency to its marketplace.
In the “Web 3.0” world, more relevance will be placed on what people are saying and what people are doing in relation to any given market or niche. Social media communications, comment streams and trends are going to be used by the search engines to help them determine how each individual topic within each niche is related to other topics, either horizontally or vertically.
We can therefore see that each and every business must be engaged in social media channels. This extends far beyond the mere creation of a Facebook page or a Twitter account, into a deeper understanding of exactly how people within your market or niche operate.
As this area continues to emerge, the business owner may be wondering how on earth to proceed? This is where a virtual assistant can help to lead the business owner through the minefield of new technology and new opportunities. A good virtual assistant simply must keep on top of these new trends and will not only advise the business owner, but fundamentally, implement the tasks and procedures necessary to help them engage.
July 24, 2016
July 24, 2016
July 18, 2016