So you’ve checked out the competition and determined who your target clients are (local or virtual), so the next few tasks require action on your part. It’s time to put your money where your mouth is and get this show on the road so to speak! Success or failure depend on your next steps and many who have tried to make it as virtual assistants found that this was the part that let them down as they were not prepared enough.
First examine your available resources and see how you can best use them to your advantage, ie, opportunities to achieve an audience, increase your visibility and therefore sales. Make the most of your resources to ensure maximum exposure and impact on the AC world. Look back at the “Business Goals” section of your business plan as the foundation of your marketing strategy.
The main point of your marketing strategy is how to attract clients, the driving force of your business. What will be most effective for you? Unfortunately, it can take a while before you are able to impress a client with your skills and gain the much needed referrals afterwards so a well thought out strategy is vital to snagging your first client early on in the game.
The methods you choose will again depend on your target client as not all will apply to both local clients as well as virtual clients but do not fall into the trap that many a AC before you has fallen into by trying to attract absolutely every type of client, limit yourself a little and decide on a particular group or a few groups of clients that may get you noticed. Focus on why a potential client would call on your services, how to show the client your solution to their problem and what makes you unique and stand out from your competitors as this is what will eventually persuade them to choose you over another AC.
Here are some ways in which you can market your business either for free or for relatively small amounts of money. Some are pretty self-explanatory but we will go into some detail about others:
- Word of mouth
- Using every opportunity to hand out your business card
- Registering on business directories
- Registering on forums and regularly participate on them
- Website (very soon I’ll write a whole article on this subject but suffice to say your website should look professional and be informative)
- Public speaking
When marketing your business you really need to sit down to develop a brand. If you’re successful it will mean that your business will be easily recognizable to others by means of your logo, colour scheme and tagline. If you are not confident about this part, seek the advice of a professional designer either locally or online to help come up with a great logo that stands out and reflects the business name and purpose that you should have already chosen by this point.
A traditional approach in getting noticed is to write newsletters whose main goal is to remain fresh in potential client’s minds. This is the “Keep In Touch Strategy” not the “In Your Face Strategy”. Perhaps you’ve initiated contact with a prospective client but you’ve not managed to lock them down as yet but by sending out newsletters every so often to include your business news, tips, services, awards, achievements etc, these potential clients may in the near future decide to contact you so don’t give up. It also shows your staying power as so many businesses appear but seem to fall by the wayside after a short period of time so some may be dubious about giving a brand new business a try. You can also write letters, make phone calls, send out postcards and Ezines.
Use any opportunity to create exposure for your business to ensure you’re remembered, yet another reason why a relatively simple name is more sensible than a complicated or difficult to pronounce name.
Some have even ventured into public speaking to attract clients. Talk about client needs in your sector and the business solutions you offer. Practice your talk so that it comes across as professional, well thought out, informative and above all persuasive. Investigate how you may be able to participate in such seminars as well as requirements, locations etc.
Networking is another way in which to get noticed. You can register with your local Chamber of Commerce, with professional groups and associations and in recent years social networking tools such as Twitter and Facebook have become popular and effective methods. See which ones suit your purposes best.
When applying these marketing strategies, be memorable and remain visible. You never know who may have picked up your business card, stumbled across your website, read your newsletter or heard you speak at a seminar. They may not contact you straight away but if you stand out, hopefully you’ll be at the top of their list when they do need the type of services you offer.
PRICING YOUR SERVICES:
How much are you worth? It’s definitely crunch time… Pricing your services and establishing your fees is probably the hardest part of your market strategy. How do you calculate your rates? Three words; research, research, research (yes, I know I’ve just repeated the same word three times but it is just to emphasize the importance of carrying out good research before reaching a decision). Compare the rates of others and then sit down and work out your own but think about the following while you do this:
- Honestly critique yourself and determine your worth. What skills do you have? Did you go to university or specialize in a particular field?
- How much do you need to make per month to live comfortably?
- What expenses do you expect to have?
- Price by time – Set a rate per hour
- Price by value – Set a total fee per project
- What will you do if a client wants to negotiate your fees?
Setting your rates is one of your most important tasks. Think carefully about how much your time is worth. This section may seem pretty basic but it contains key points to help you price your work. One thing you must keep in mind is that your time is valuable and so are your skills so don’t undervalue yourself or think that just because your rates are low, you will attract more clients and quicker. Perhaps that will be your case but at the same time this method may not do you any good in the long run because at the end of the day your business has to survive and will it be able to if you establish low rates? Maybe you aim to up your fees once you have a few fixed clients but how willing will they be to pay higher rates when you have them accustomed to paying very little for your services? Something to think about…
By putting these pointers into practice, in time you’ll gain your first client, impress him with your mad skills and if all goes well you will also gain referrals with the hopeful snowball effect that all VA’s would die for! Your market strategy is a vital part of your overall business plan. Good luck!