Thursday, May 03, 2007

Welcome to Sharon Williams, the Blog Hopping VA. Thank for answering my questions!

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Virtual Simplicity Throws Marketing Questions at Podcast and Blog Hopping VA during Industry Chat

Hi Sally, you really don’t need a fancy blog for my visit. I’m just glad to be here today. This tour has me hopping everywhere and I’ve heard today’s questions relate to marketing and networking – two of my favorite subjects. So, fancy or not – I’m ready!

  1. What is the best way for a VA to market herself?

The best way to market a business is to tell clients how you will solve their problems. That’s the full and complete answer! Satisfied customers spread the word like wildfire about your business and eventually your marketing machine will run on automatic. But, what are some ways to get the word out about your problem-solving capabilities?

  • Networking and building relationships
  • Word of mouth – providing outstanding service to current clients
  • Creating a web site focused on client wants and needs
  • Media exposure – press releases, article marketing, ezine distribution, etc.
  • Search engine marketing – Google adwords, etc.
  • Search engine optimization – strategically place keywords and optimized text
  • Email signature files – promote your business in your signature line
  • Offline marketing – car signs, business cards, postcards, etc.
  • Registering with business directories and VA networks
  • Participating in online discussion forums (industry and client-focused)
  • Volunteer in your local community, join local business groups

I’m reluctant to proclaim any of the above as the “best” way to market a virtual assistant business. I believe the VA should implement a combination of several of the above methods – and at some point all of them – to achieve the ultimate income-generating, productive marketing program.

  1. What online forums do you suggest an aspiring VA join?

A few years ago, I could only recommend a few forums. Now, I can recommend a huge list of forums and associations aspiring VAs could join. However, I will not name any particular forum/group, because the aspirant should actually conduct research before joining a group. She should lurk a while to actually determine how supportive the group is, and if it addresses her needs. The VA can also contact members and ask questions about the group. She can participate in several and eventually narrow her selection down to the few she feels most comfortable with – and then become a very active, contributing member. To assist the aspirant, the Alliance has a comprehensive list of VA online forums and member groups. Take a few moments to visit these links and begin your research.


3. What is the best way for a VA to network off line?

There are many, many ways to network offline. But before you begin, identify member groups/organizations consisting of your ideal clients/target audience. Then take the following actions:

  • Introduce yourself to the group’s leaders and ask them to introduce you to others in the group/or identify someone who is very knowledgeable about the membership and willing to “be your group sponsor”. (I believe a warm introduction from a well-liked, knowledgeable member is always better than a cold hello, my name is introduction).
  • Attend networking activities and listen for issues, problems, etc., that you can solve. At the opportune time (during the event or in a follow-up conversation) inform the individual of how you can assist in resolving the issue/problem OR, that you can refer the person to another resource that can assist them.
  • Identify ways you can showcase your business and the benefits of using your services to the entire organization (5 minute presentation, ezine, mini-training program, etc.)

Of course, there are many other ways to network offline – i.e., volunteering for social causes, joining hobby-related groups, etc. Whichever method selected, if its face-to-face networking, I strongly recommend you institute a process. Ironically, during the upcoming OIVAC, two seminars on this subject will be presented by internationally renowned networking experts Robyn Henderson of Networking to Win, and Donna Messer of ConnectUs Communications Canada. See Robyn, Donna and 25 other scheduled OIVAC seminar summaries here.

  1. Will the online conference have the free entrance to the exhibitor halls like it did last year?

Absolutely! And, the public is invited to visit and learn about individual virtual assistant businesses, associations, networking groups, etc.

  1. I attended last year and have to say I got a kick out of the restrooms with flushing toilets... a group of us kept going to the restroom together just to flush the online toilets. Will there be restrooms at this year’s conference?

You are joking, right? How can anyone attend a three-day event and not need to take a break! Of course we will have restrooms available for your use. In addition, we also have viewing lounges and formal and informal networking areas. So everyone, come on in and enjoy the fun – one flush at a time (smile).

Well Sally, this has been a really interesting chat – and I hope I’ve responded to all your questions. I invite you and everyone else to experience the OIVAC and sign up for the informative seminars given by exceptional presenters. This year’s agenda is stocked with information covering business growth, networking, entrepreneurship, marketing, podcasting, subcontracting, writing sales copy making info products, and much, much more – all material a small business owner needs to sustain a profitable business. And its occurring over a 3-day period from the convenience of a desktop computer. It can’t be any easier or more convenient.

Let’s see, yesterday I actually visited our home blog and tomorrow I’m off to Canada and stopping by the VA Talk Show for a chat with my good friend Tawnya Sutherland. Tawnya is the founder of Virtual Assistant Networking Association (VANA). Just as a heads up, I’ll also be a guest on her upcoming podcast show scheduled for May 9th. In the interim and to insure everyone is on track with the scrambled puzzle game clue, #32 is ednsig.

About Sharon Williams
Sharon is the Chairperson of the Alliance for Virtual Businesses and OIVAC, and president of The 24 Hour Secretary an administrative, secretarial and internet-based marketing support services company. She is the 2006 recipient of the Thomas Leonard International Virtual Assistant of Distinction Award and co-founder of Virtual Business University an e-learning environment for entrepreneurs ready to step towards their greatness.

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