Category Archives: Blogging

3 Keys to Marketing a Service Business

marketing

Photo by KROMKRATHOG

When I first began to market my virtual assistant services, I worried that it would be more difficult than marketing a product. After all, people can see, touch and sometimes even test the product before they make a decision to buy, but they can’t see your expertise or experience.  I wondered if there were any special secrets or methods to marketing a service.

What I’ve learned is that marketing a service can be more difficult, and I haven’t found the “secret sauce” to gaining clients. Marketing a product and marketing a service both take hard work and time. It’s all about showing your potential customers that you have something that will fill a need they have, whether it’s the latest gadget, the guidance of a counselor, or the office management skills of a virtual assistant.

There are three fundamental steps that, if pursued diligently, will bring in business. Those steps are laid out in this short video from Entrepreneur.

Did you catch the cautionary advice at the end?

So there you have it:

  • Become a pillar of the community you wish to serve, whether that’s local or global. Where do your ideal customers hang out? Conferences? Meetups? Twitter Chat? The gym? The local coffee shop?
  • Content marketing: Publish articles, make videos, offer email tips, build an email opt-in newsletter list, offer value and stay top of mind.
  • Build Social Proof. Get and publish testimonials on your website. Write and publish case studies about results you got for clients.

These three keys will show your competency and build trust. Once that trust is established, get ready to grow!

Do you have a service business? If so, are there any special marketing tips you can add to this list? Lay ‘em on us in the comments.

Until later …

Toni

Need a Host for Your WordPress Site? This One Checks ALL the Boxes!

sitegroundSiteGround® Rocks!

When I set out to re-brand my virtual assistant business, I knew I would use WordPress®, but choosing a host took some research. I had used traditional hosts before, and they were affordable and offered extras, but they were not WordPress®-friendly. As I looked around, I found quite a few managed WordPress® hosts. I read the information on their websites and read reviews by other people, both pro and con. My decision to go with SiteGround® was a difficult one, but I’m so glad I did!

Their hosting is fast and secure. The price is right, their security level is unmatched, and their support is awesome! Unlike some hosting sites, I can use any plugin I want, and I can choose to upgrade WordPress® myself, or let them do it automatically. They always make a backup before they do the automatic upgrade, and ensure that everything is working right after the upgrade.

UNMATCHED SECURITY

I am impressed with their philosophy about security.  They fix major security issues on the server level. They monitor the general security status of WordPress® and the most popular plugins. If a major vulnerability appears, they investigate it and develop fixes on the server level, with minimal intrusion in their customers’ websites. And, unlike some hosts, they don’t force a user to stop using a plugin.

They also have measures in place that separate the accounts on a shared server, so even if there is one account that is vulnerable, the other WordPress® sites on that server are safe. There is no additional charge for this service!

SPEED

When people click on a link to come to your website, they want to see it NOW, or they will move on. They will not wait forever for it to load. SiteGround® excels in speed! Check out the results of their benchmark tests below.

siteground speed

SiteGround® upgrades hardware regularly and entirely, so customers benefit from the latest technology and the best speed at all times.

They have three data centers on three different continents, so customers can choose the best location for their websites based on where their visitors are. To make sure the WordPress® loading speed is great everywhere, they have added free CDN service in partnership with CloudFlare®. It distributes a copy of my website to 23 additional data centers all over the world, and serves my site from the closest possible location.

siteground data centers

They also provide a caching service they developed, called SuperCacher, which accelerates the website by caching content to optimize its performance.

OUTSTANDING CUSTOMER SERVICE

SiteGround® has 24/7 ticketing, phone and chat support. They overstaff all shifts so there is not a long wait for the next available operator. There’s no extra charge for any of this.

I had a little problem a few days ago that turned out to be a user error (yes, that would be me), but the news had just broken about the Heartbleed situation and I was nervous. It was my first time to contact SiteGround® support. I am super-impressed with their response time! I was on a chat with them within less than a minute, was advised to submit a support ticket, and had a response back within less than 10 minutes! My experience with other hosting services was never this good!

siteground_customer_service

I also learned that many of their support team members are WordPress® fans, and they all receive continuous WordPress® training, so they often can resolve WordPress® challenges easily. How many other hosting companies can say that? Again, that’s all included in their low prices.

Their free WordPress® support services include free WordPress® transfer, free installation, and basic troubleshooting of WordPress® related problems.

Bottom line: If you’re looking for a reliable, secure and totally awesome WordPress® host, check out SiteGround®. They check ALL the boxes! Click here to get started!

Until later …

Toni

Top photo: “Programmer with Cloud” by watcharakun

Female Entrepreneurship – One Size Doesn’t Fit All

female-entrepreneurship

Photo: Flickr

 

A recent study (PDF) by Jennifer Merluzzi, Tulane University, A.B. Freeman School of Business and Ronald S. Burt, University of Chicago, Booth School of Business tried to determine why women choose to be entrepreneurs. They wanted to know what paths women took to get there. They found three:

 

  • Full-time entrepreneurs who remain entrepreneurs after first entry
  • Full-time entrepreneurs who left to be an employee, then returned to full-time entrepreneurship
  • Women who continued in a full-time job as an employee while pursuing their ventures.

They also studied the reasons women gave for pursuing entrepreneurship versus a corporate career, and compared the relative happiness of female entrepreneurs to women who held management positions in corporations.

Why do women become entrepreneurs?

They found that “while exceptions exist, a more common conclusion is that female entrepreneurship has either become the newest way for women to escape workplace discrimination or, that women are largely selecting into an entrepreneurship career path as a way to achieve work-life balance and flexibility.”

Average age and income

They asked female entrepreneurs their ages as well as their income and found: “On average, the women were 34.2 years old when they began their first entrepreneurial activity, and in their best year employed 6.7 full-time people including themselves with a gross income of $322,000. The negligible test statistics show that activities vary as much within, as between, the six business categories. There are within each category women who had dramatically successful ventures of many employees and a large income, and women whose best year was negligible.”

“More often, the ventures involved no more than the entrepreneur (61% “just self”), but these independents varied in gross income during their best year from some losing money, to one woman earning $500,000. Employees are no guarantee of income. Entrepreneurs with employees other than themselves had from two to 600 full-time employees, and earned from $2,000 to $14 million of gross income during their best year.”

Types of businesses

They found that “almost all of the entrepreneurial activities are services. The manufacturing ventures are varied, including a Massachusetts company that produces golf apparel (Avid Diva), a printing business in Ohio (Print All), a vineyard in Virginia (Abingdom Vineyard &Winery), a gourmet pet-food company in Illinois (Thompson’s Pet Pasta), and a confectioner in California (Robin Rose Ice Cream & Chocolate). Variation notwithstanding, rarity is the most conspicuous feature of the manufacturing. Of the 213 involved in entrepreneurship, only eight are in manufacturing.”

“Entrepreneurs came from all industries, but there are concentrations from management consulting, other consulting (especially accounting), and education.”

female-entrepreneur-activities

Does being married, having children, or getting a divorce make a difference in choosing entrepreneurship? Not necessarily, but it can. The study revealed that “Over the course of their lives, entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs are equally likely to be married, have children, get divorced, or re-marry. However, as a woman goes through one of these events, the odds of her becoming an entrepreneur go up.”

What about the trade-offs?

“With respect to trade-offs made for success, senior managers felt that they had given up
personal time, a balanced life, and meaningful relationships. These are all at the bottom of the
list for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurial work is inherently personal time and meaningful
relationships are the substance of their work, at the top of the entrepreneur’s list of what it
means to be successful.”

“What bothers entrepreneurs is the stress of their work: entrepreneurial work is fulfilling, but stressful. Entrepreneurs cite happiness and emotional calm as the things they trade for success, which is interesting because they report the highest levels of satisfaction with their work.”

personal-values-entrepreneurship-vs-corporate-managerOne thing is clear. While this studies’ focus was the path women took to entrepreneurship, it also revealed how far women have come since the days when women entrepreneurs had few choices. “Avon® Calling” was just the beginning.

Until later …

Toni

 

 

Need an Extra Hour? I’ll Give You One!

hour

Let Go and Grow!

I keep seeing comments on the Internet about entrepreneurs and solopreneurs who are hesitant to try a virtual assistant. I don’t blame them. When you work hard to build a business, it’s difficult to hand over a door key, even a virtual one, to someone you don’t know.

According to this blog post, (go ahead and read it … I’ll wait), the main three reasons for not contracting with a virtual assistant are:

  1. They feared their Virtual Assistant wouldn’t understand their client’s needs
  2. They felt since their Virtual Assistant didn’t have a vested interest in their business they wouldn’t treat their client’s as they were themselves; and
  3. They feared that there was too much for the Virtual Assistant to learn and it was faster to just do it themselves.

Before making the decision to provide administrative support from my home office, I worked for many years in brick-and-mortar offices, for companies large and small. Some key truths I learned over the years are:

1. Every business is unique, and it takes a little time to fully understand the needs of each person I worked for. Communication is the key to coming to this understanding quickly.

2. My philosophy was and still is: If I make YOU and your company look good, I look good, and that makes both of us feel good.

3. There is a learning curve in all new jobs, just as there is a learning curve when you get a new smartphone or upgrade the operating system on your laptop. Again, it takes a little time and good communication. Time and good communication are important whether your assistant is working from home or sitting right next to you in the office.

4. Once you and your assistant get more comfortable with one another, you will see how a virtual assistant truly is a part of your team of trusted associates.

To help you “test the waters,” I’m offering a “Let Go and Grow” special. It gives you an opportunity to work with a seasoned professional at a great price and get one hour FREE.

Just click on this link and fill out the form to get started: Let Go and Grow.

Until later …

Toni

 

Thursday Thoughts: Serendipity

connect

” Image by Salvatore Vuono

I want to tell you about a REALLY special person I met through a phone call. Anyone who looks at my picture can tell I’m no “Spring Chicken,” so when I say I think someone is REALLY special, it comes from my long experience of meeting and interacting with people — lots of people.

A few days ago, I received an email from someone who saw this post on LinkedIn and wanted to talk about it.  So I called him.

Being an introvert, I’m not the best at phone conversations with people I’ve never met, but this gentleman instantly put me at ease with his friendly, easy-going manner. We chatted about our shared philosophy of helping others, a little about ourselves and about our businesses , and agreed to exchange some information. Sounds pretty cut and dried, doesn’t it? But in that brief conversation, he conveyed such wisdom, business acumen, and genuine kindness and concern that by the time we said “goodbye,” I knew I had just met a REALLY special human being.

I want to share his company with you because I believe it’s a good thing for anyone who wants to broaden their horizons and grow their business. Liked LinkedIn, it’s a place to make contacts, but unlike LinkedIn, it’s more personal. It’s called The Expert Directory.

theexpertdirectory.comI hope you will explore the site. You may not be interested in it now, but perhaps you know someone who would be. I receive no compensation for telling you about it. I just know the man behind it wants you to succeed. I believe he would like to see every one of us succeed. Truly. He’s that kind of person.

His name? Bill Doerr. You can look him up on LinkedIn. Great guy. Here’s what three of his many LinkedIn recommendations have to say:

“Bill is one of those rare people who loves to help others by making mutually beneficial connections. He does it with generosity and professionalism. No one I’ve met does it better.”

“He is one of those rare human beings dedicated to making a contribution to the success all who come in contact with him.”

“Superlatives are the only descriptors possible for Bill Doerr. He is stellar in every single aspect. As a colleague he could not be more intelligent, wise or giving. As a mentor, he is unparalleled. As a friend his deep kindness, compassion and soul is unrivaled. Business is business and there is absolutely no doubt he is a master in so many arenas. Ultimately, it all comes down to basic humanity. Bill is a well rounded human and that is the heart of business. Anyone can spout numbers, facts and tactics. Bill does it with soul and a cheerful, wise nature. He loves his work and it shows.”

One definition of “serendipity” is “the act of finding something valuable or delightful when you are not looking for it.” That’s what I found when I called Bill Doerr. Our conversation not only lifted my spirits that day, but also made me get more excited about my business and make some changes for the better. I hope you get to meet him some day, too.

Until later …

Toni

Giving is Key to Getting

giving_key-to_getting

via Wikimedia Commons

‘It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.‘ … Ralph Waldo Emerson

For the past few days, I’ve had “bloggers block.” While I could think of a plethora of informative topics, nothing jumped out and said “write about me.” It’s been quite frustrating.

Then it occurred to me that the entire time I’ve been unable to write to you, I’ve been preoccupied with things that pertain only to me — a new business idea that excites me; a petty, but annoying, physical ailment; a social obligation. As I was sitting here looking at my blank screen, the thought hit me.

“Giving is the key to getting.” It’s certainly not a unique epiphany. People have been saying and practicing it for years. Great sales and marketing people like Zig Ziglar and Og Mandino made it a mantra. But I had for the moment forgotten it.

Once this thought struck me, I opened a browser, typed those words into the search box, and began to read.

There was an article in the New York Times about a year ago about Adam M. Grant, who is the youngest tenured professor and single highest-rated teacher at The Wharton School, and author of the book and website “Give and Take.”   The article says “The greatest untapped source of motivation, he [Grant] argues, is a sense of service to others; focusing on the contribution of our work to other people’s lives has the potential to make us more productive than thinking about helping ourselves.”

In my community, there are not many big businesses, but a lot of small ones. Many, no matter how small, seem to find ways to give back to the community. In return, the community supports them and they grow, or at least remain stable. It’s reassuring to see how it all works for the greater good.

If you’re bogged down with worry about your small business or stuff in your personal life, perhaps reading the article will help provide motivation to get outside yourself and do something to help others. We all have so much to share, and the satisfaction that comes with knowing you’ve helped someone else is well worth even a small amount of your time.

Until later …

Toni

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Drum Roll, Please – Let the Blogging Begin!

BlogHello to the one (so far) person (me) who is reading this post. It is my hope the numbers will grow, but for now, I will be content to get the blog rolling and let it be known what this space will be about.

My virtual assistance service is what is commonly known as a “micro-business.”  A micro-business is defined as one which has five or fewer employees. I am known as a “solopreneur” because until I decide to expand, I’m CEO, COO, and Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. If your business fits into at least one of these labels, you and I have something in common. The focus for this blog will be those of us who are trying to get, and keep, our feet in the door to customers/clients.

I’ll be throwing out ideas about the whole spectrum of operating a micro-business, from launch to marketing to growing pains, and everything along the way.

There will be serious discussion, as well as humor (because who doesn’t need to relax and smile in this crazy world?). I hope you will follow along and participate with your comments. Just click the feed button or sign up to get notifications.

Until next time …
Toni