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Goodbye & Congratulations: Why Losing a Client isn’t Always a Bad Thing

November 2nd, 2010

I recently lost a really great client and believe it or not, I’m kind of happy about it. No, the client wasn’t a pain in the neck, they didn’t call me 50 times a day, or send me nasty emails, or bombard me with irrational requests. The client truly was a great client. Actually, losing this client affirms to me that I am in fact doing a good job. In most professions losing a client is almost always a bad thing. It means that the client is likely dissatisfied with the product or service you provide. But, as a Virtual Assistant, losing a client can actually be rewarding.

You see, I began working with this client a few years ago when their business was relatively small with a handful of in-house employees. They needed someone who was web-savvy to help them bring their business online, but didn’t have the budget to hire an additional employee. That’s where I came into the picture. I was able to help them expand their business online to the point where now, a few short years later, the company has grown enough that there is no longer a need to outsource. They recently hired a full time employee to fill the roll once occupied by me.

As a Virtual Assistant it is my job to help business owners grow their businesses. When that happens, I can’t help but be happy even if it means I lose a great client.

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Is Your Business Ready for the Holidays? 6 Ways a Virtual Assistant Can Help

November 30th, 2009

Ah, it’s that time of year again; time to decorate the tree, or light the menorah, and spend time with loved ones.  It’s that magic time of year when little ones walk around with grins from ear to ear with anticipation of events to come.  No matter how magical the holiday season is, the fact is that for many small business owners, it’s a time of year that means stress.  Everyone has gifts to purchase, feasts to prepare, decorating to do, travel to plan and so much more; add to that the fact that you need to arrange for replacements for vacationing staff, send gifts and/or cards to loyal customers and maybe even arrange for a staff party, and you have a great recipe for chaos.

There is really no need to let the holidays make you tense.  There is a cost-effective solution to the surplus of holiday work that most small businesses experience.  Most of the duties on your holiday to-do list are items that can be completed by a professional Virtual Assistant.  Here are just some of the ways that a VA can relieve your stress this holiday season:

1.    Have a Virtual Assistant order your gifts and/or cards.  This is a task that can quite easily be taken care of virtually.  A Virtual Assistant will even be able to send the cards out for you, and arrange to have the gifts wrapped and sent to your customers, suppliers, colleagues or employees without you ever having to lift a finger.

2.    Do you have a holiday promotion you would like to publicize?  Have your Virtual Assistant write a press release about it.  A press release is a great way to generate publicity for your business and in fact, there are quite a few online services to which your VA can submit your release for free.

3.    Does your business offer a solution to a problem that people commonly face during the holidays?  Have a Virtual Assistant write an article about it.  An article is an excellent way to drive highly targeted traffic to your website and generate some extra sales.

4.    If you have a staff shortage during the holiday, but don’t want the hassle of placing job ads, reading resumes and conducting interviews only to hire someone for a few weeks, consider outsourcing some of the employee’s tasks to a qualified Virtual Assistant.  A VA can be hired on a per-task basis, or can be contracted for a brief time during the holidays and after the holidays are over, the contract can be too.

5.    A Virtual Assistant can make all the arrangements for a memorable staff party; from booking restaurants or halls and handling staff invitations, to directions and entertainment.  A VA can take the hassle out of the staff party, so that you can just show up and enjoy yourself.

6.    If you are planning a vacation during the holidays and need to have someone monitor and respond to your email, a Virtual Assistant can handle this as well.  By either forwarding your email directly to your VA, or by setting up a web-based email account which both you and your VA can access, you can be sure that all of your important clients are well cared for in your absence.

The holidays should be a time of year that you look forward to, not that you dread.  By getting the qualified help you need, you can alter your focus from business stress to family and enjoyment.

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Fall in Love with your Job

June 23rd, 2009

I was listening to a song by Colby Callait and Jason Mraz called “Lucky” on the radio the other day and it got me thinking about how lucky I am. The song is actually a love song, but in it the artists sing about how lucky they are to have all that they have. It made me think about how lucky I am for my own family and for having the best job in the world. I basically have a different job each day. I work for different clients on different tasks all the time, which means no monotony and no boredom.

Few people are in a job that they can truly say that they love, but some are in a position to love their job and they simply don’t know it. For example, many entrepreneurs are living out their dream of owning a business, but the tedious, long hours and repetitive paperwork involved makes them unhappy. Others struggle because, although they know their area of expertise inside and out, they can’t figure out how to manage some of the other aspects of their business such as marketing, bookkeeping, or creating a web presence.

Falling in love with your job all over again is actually quite easy and can be done in a few simple steps. Start by taking out a sheet of paper and making two lists. The first will be a list of all the parts of your job that you love; the parts that you truly enjoy and that give you the most pleasure. The second list will be of the tasks that you don’t like; the ones that are tedious or difficult, or at which you are not skilled.

Next, review the tasks that you don’t like. Of those, decide which tasks can be done by someone else without affecting your company’s revenue. Review the tasks that can be handed off and, if you have employees, distribute the tasks among them. If you don’t have employees, don’t worry, you can still delegate. Outsourcing is incredibly cost-effective and is becoming more and more common among solo entrepreneurs, small businesses and even some medium sized companies.

Many companies are outsourcing bookkeeping, web design and maintenance, as well as administrative support with incredible results and are saving money in the process. With outsourcing you pay for only the tasks you assign and you can assign tasks in small or large chunks.  For example, if you just can’t stand keeping your books, hire a bookkeeper to do it, If you don’t like updating your blog, hire a virtual assistant or a ghostwriter to write for you.  Handing off these tasks allows you more time for the parts of your job that you love, or that bring you more profits.

By leaving the tasks you don’t enjoy in someone else’s capable hands, you can love your job all over again. Increased enthusiasm about your job will most certainly increase your effectiveness. It can also give you the time to focus on the more important aspects of your business, likely resulting in increased profits. It is a win-win situation; love your job, make more money. What are you waiting for? Fall in love again.

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How to Increase Traffic to Your Website: The Art of Article Marketing

March 25th, 2009

Every business owner with a web presence and good sense wants to drive traffic to their website.  After all, more traffic will mean more sales, and more sales means more profits.  There are many ways to drive traffic to your site.  Some are better than others, and some are great, but are just too expensive.  As well, not all traffic is of equal value.  Just because you get hundreds of visitors to your site, doesn’t mean that they will necessarily be converted to customers.

The most important traffic to your site is targeted traffic.  These are the people who are actively searching the web for information relating to your product or service.  There are various ways to attract this traffic.  Optimizing your website for keywords that your target market is searching for is one way.  But it can take months for the search engines to pick you up, and it’s often difficult to get good rankings for popular keywords.  Another method to get targeted traffic is using pay-per-click campaigns.  If you know how to use pay-per-click properly, you can gain traffic almost immediately.  The downside is, it could be costly.  So how do you gain the type of traffic that wants what you have to sell, without having to compete for search engine rankings or spend money?  The answer is article marketing.

When you use articles as a means to market your business, you are positioning yourself as an expert in your field.  The individuals who read your article are people who have either searched for one of your article keywords, or are looking for articles to publish in their ezine or newsletter that may go out to a large number of people in your target market.  After reading your expert advice, these individuals will decide whether they want to hear more, and if they do, they will likely click on the link in your resource box leading to your website.  This is not just targeted traffic; it’s highly targeted traffic.  If an individual has clicked on your link, they have found value in what you had to say in your article, and want to learn more.  This type of traffic is much more likely to buy from you than the less targeted kind.

Your business is your area of expertise.  Share some of that expertise and permit your target market to see that you are knowledgeable in your field.  Be sure to spell check your work and watch for words that are frequently misused that won’t be picked up by your spell checker, i.e. “than” versus “then”,  “their” versus “there” etc.  Have someone proofread your article.  When you proofread your own writing, often the mistakes get overlooked because the material is not fresh to you.  Get a trusted friend or colleague to check for errors and ask them for feedback on the article.  This will only make it better.  Next, perform a search for “free article submissions”.  Select both the most popular sites and the ones that your target audience is most likely to frequent.  As they say, “practice makes perfect”; the more articles you write, the better you will get and the more easily the words will flow.

If writing really isn’t your cup of tea, or, if you simply don’t have the time to write articles, you might want to consider outsourcing this task.  The highly targeted traffic that results from a well-written article containing fresh, useful information is too valuable for you to pass up.  Contracting this work to a professional Ghostwriter, or a Virtual Assistant that offers this service, shouldn’t cost you as much as running a pay-per-click campaign.  The articles will look like they came from you, because your name will appear in the resource box, and you own the rights to the article because it was paid for by you, so you can use it, and reuse it as you see fit.

The benefits of article marketing are too great too ignore.  If you are not article marketing, you are missing out on one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to drive highly targeted traffic to your website.

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5 Ways to Keep Your Customers Coming Back for More

March 11th, 2009

At times it seems as though quality customer service is a thing of the past.  Some companies just don’t appear to care about keeping their clientele happy.  If only they knew how damaging this is to their business. Consider the following statistics from the White House Office of Consumer Affairs:

•  For every customer who bothers to complain, there are 26 others who remain silent.

•  The average “wronged” customer will tell 8 to 16 people.

•  91% of unhappy customers will never purchase services from you again.

•  It costs about five times as much to attract a new customer as it costs to keep an old one.

•  Each one of your customers has a circle of influence of 250 people or potential customers who hear bad things about you.

    In view of these figures, companies that don’t make customer care a priority could be losing thousands of dollars.  The following are some simple ways to ensure that your customers remain happy and will keep coming back:

    1. Say thank you. This is the simplest possible way to keep your customers happy, but it is all too often overlooked.  A customer that feels appreciated is much more likely to bring you repeat business and/or refer you to a friend.  Your clients are the reason for your business’ continued existence, so they should be appreciated.  Saying thank you is often enough, but imagine how much more valued a customer would feel if something more personalized was done to thank them, such as a thank you card, or a simple coupon sent in gratitude for their business.

    2. Respond to customer inquiries promptly. People simply don’t like to wait.  Today’s world of high speed internet, microwaves and cell phones are evidence of this.  If a customer has to wait days to have questions answered by you, they will likely take their business to a company that responds to their inquiries quickly.  This situation could be rectified by setting up an autoresponder to answer general questions, leaving you more time to respond to more specific inquiries.  If you still can’t find the time to respond promptly, then consider delegating this task to an employee or outsourcing to a Virtual Assistant.

    3. Know when to say sorry. Learn to be accountable, not only for your own mistakes, but for those of your employees as well.  When you consider that it is estimated that 35% of dissatisfied customers would not go to the competitors if they received apologies, you realize the true value of “I’m sorry”.  We all know that there are difficult people, who will never be pleased, but the vast majority of your clientele are not these people.  Being sincere and genuinely trying to make a disappointed customer happy will undoubtedly help you to retain more clients.

    4. Value your customers by giving them a little extra. This is a small step that doesn’t have to cost you a fortune.  It can be as simple as a small, unexpected free gift after a purchase, or providing a little extra service above and beyond that for which you were hired.  Going the extra mile for your customers will make them feel appreciated and might even generate some referrals.

    5. Personalize your service. Call your customers by their names and ask them how their day is going.  Even if your business is conducted over the internet, there are ways to personalize emails to let your customers know that you care about them.  If a client feels you know them, even a little bit, they are much more likely to show you loyalty and not move on to your competitors.

    Without your customers, you don’t have a business.  Customer service should therefore be high on your list of priorities. Treating each of your clients with genuine respect and gratitude by following these simple steps is sure to merit your clientele’s loyalty.

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