Virtual Assistant Marketing Plan
Weirdly 3 times this week I've been asked about virtual assistant marketing plans for start ups... And it seems there are a lot of VAs who are using only one or two strategies to get clients and only one or two different types of contact and wondering why there aren't clients battering down their doors from 2 weeks in!!!
I have a background in marketing - I've worked with big brands such as Famous Grouse, Celebrations, Bounty, and M&Ms plus smaller ones like property companies, call centres and local businesses. So even before I started as a VA, I knew marketing was going to be key. So I wrote a media plan... But it's not quite the same doing it for clients as doing it for yourself - firstly because I was actually footing the bill myself! Ouch!
But I thought it would be interesting to share the strategies I had in place back then and what worked/didn't work. My recommendation is always to have at least 10 different marketing strategies to get new clients. You can edit these if they aren't working - but that involves making sure you note where new business has been generated from too. My (very sophisticated!) method for tracking this in the early days was a tally on my whiteboard of each strategy where I made a mark for each new client, so it doesn't need to be fancy, it just needs to be consistent.
Disclaimer: This was a plan developed in 2004 for existing technology back then for a full service VA business offering everything from Call Answering, to Accounts, to Personal Services, to Typing... SEO was in its infancy, social media did not exist, email marketing was basic and seen as a dark art! I've not edited any of it, this is as it was presented to the bank, most of whom had no idea what a Virtual Assistant was!
The marketing documents:
The Virtual Assistant Marketing Strategies Used:
Networking & Recommendations - Firstly I told everyone I knew about what I was doing, and gave all my family and friends my business cards to give out to anyone they knew who owned a small business. I joined Glasgow Junior Chamber of Commerce, did regular networking at Elevator and Women Into Business.
Direct Contact - I used flyers, posters and direct mail. The posters went up in local shops, the flyers got handed out as people asked for them and also inserted into daily and weekend papers from our local paper shop - much cheaper and more targeted than using the newspaper's advertising team and I could make sure it only went into affluent areas.
Advertising & PR - We had some PR via Enterprising Glasgow, a publication targeting small business in our local area, some advertising supported by editorial in the Evening Times, The List and also The Sunday Herald.
Promotions - These were done via email newsletter to my original list of about 75 names... Lots of themed stuff on Christmas, summer, etc one per month and people were able to add their email address on the website. We also did a New Start Scotland exhibition.
Website Optimisation - As I said SEO was somewhat basic! But tweaking keywords and adding meta tags (how old-skool!!) all helped get the website popping up at the top of the Google search rankings quickly.
So when you total those up it actually came to 14 different strategies being used, using 7 different contact methods.
What worked as a virtual assistant:
Whilst I got work from the networking events, I eventually realised it wasn't a good return on investment considering the amount of time and money I spent - a networking lunch at £30 + 2 hours of my time had to net at least £80 worth of business to pay for itself... And they were always little bitty jobs rather than ongoing work since the people at these events were mostly there to sell their own services. They were not the time-poor, cash-rich clients I had on my marketing plan.
I also realised that the majority of the personal services I offered weren't used, but required a lot of set-up... Digitalising an address book would involve picking up the original (or arranging a courier) and then doing the work plus usually guiding the client through how to use it and having stock of labels/envelopes etc. We dropped this service quite soon after launching it, as it simply wasn't being used.
Virtual assistance being a relatively novel concept back in 2004, we got some cracking PR without spending all the advertising budget - which freed up some cash to do a few new start exhibitions too...
Strangely even though the media mix has rapidly changed over the last 13 years, our core marketing belief of time-poor/cash-rich clients still remains.