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Archive for June, 2009

Cool Idea Hits it Big with Publicity

I recently found out about this business called Klymit, www.klymit.com. If you’re a scuba diver like me, or just like to spend time outdoors, it’s pretty cool stuff. With this in mind, I tracked down some insights from Klymit’s CEO, Nate Alder. Here’s what he had to say: Tell us how and why you started [...]

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Why the Time is NOW to Hire a Virtual Assistant

With over 70% of the economic experts expecting a last quarter uptick in the economy, now is the perfect time to start preparing for the extra business.  I am a big fan of using virtual assistants to help build out my team during peak seasons.  This is an especially useful business strategy in today’s market place.  One of the best lessons a recession can teach us is that in many circumstances variable costs beat fixed costs any day.  To survive the feast or famine rollercoaster of entrepreneurship, you need to make sure your expenses mimic those same ups and downs.

Benefits of Virtual Assistants

Adding virtual assistants to your workforce is a terrific way to turn a traditionally “fixed” expense, like payroll, into a more cash flow friendly variable expense.  Let me explain how it would work.  For example, most business advisers suggest that payroll expenses should average 20-30% of your sales.   This would mean that when sales are flush at $250,000/month that translates into payroll expenses of $50-75,000.  When sales hit a downturn at only $50,000/month, your payroll would then move back to a more manageable, $10-15,000.  As a business owner, how closely you adhere to this ratio means the difference between bleeding red and staying in the black.

Additional Benefits Include:

  • No payroll taxes or employee benefit expenses
  • No “on site” office space requirements
  • No costly training programs when hiring experienced VA’s
  • No long term commitment
  • No morale draining lay offs during slow seasons

Understanding the Relationship

When considering virtual assistants to help manage business tasks, there are a couple considerations to keep in mind.   For starters, they are not your employee but independent contactors.  This means they will most likely have other tasks and deadlines on their schedule while they are working for you.  READ: They are on their clock- not yours.  Make sure you are respectful of time constraints and provide as much advanced notice of tasks, deadlines, and special circumstances as possible.  As with many business relationships, communication is critical.  You can’t blame a virtual assistant for not living up to your expectations if you never made those expectations clear.  In other words, don’t just say you need something “right away”, make sure you define “right away” as within two hours.

Getting Started

I also think it is wise to start slowly when building a new relationship with a virtual assistant.  For example, instead of requesting that they create a new website for you, start by having them update your blog template first.  As each task is completed satisfactorily, and communication strengthens, you can then proceed to larger and more complex tasks.  Also, be sure to discuss with potential VA’s their strengths and weaknesses to ensure the best experience possible.  If you are in the real estate field, consider searching for VA’s with backgrounds in real estate.  If you an entrepreneur looking for marketing help, be sure to search for VA’s with a background in marketing or who are currently active in social media.

Tips from an Experienced VA

For more tips, I turned to Dawn Martinello of Monday Morning VA.  As an experienced virtual assistant herself, she had some great insight to share.  She can be found at MondayMorningVA.

  • Be sure to have an exit strategy.  Does your contract give you an out if you don’t mesh well?  This is especially important for first time clients.  For example, our services are non-refundable, but for first time clients we give a 7 day grace period in which they can bow out of the contract if they aren’t working well with their VA.
  • When you’re considering outsourcing keep the price in mind.  My rule of thumb is that an entrepreneur shouldn’t be doing anything in their business that doesn’t earn them at least 2/3 of their regular rate.  That means if you’re a bookkeeper who charges $30.00 per hour, you should consider outsourcing anything that doesn’t earn you $20.00 per hour.  The reasoning behind this is that business people need to spend their time and energy on what generates revenue for them.  Spending 4 hours trying to update your website doesn’t earn a bookkeeper anything!

If you have never considered hiring a virtual assistant to build out your team, I strongly suggest taking a second look.  As technology continues to advance and better networking platforms are built, virtual work relationships will only become even easier.  A couple great places to start your search for virtual help include Guru.com, Freelance.com, RentACoder.com, or a simple “virtual assistant” search on Google.

Business Owners, feel free to leave any questions or experiences you would like to share in the comments. Virtual Assistants, be sure to leave any additional tips and your contact information including your area of expertise.

I’d love to hear your comments below and please be sure to follow me on www.twitter.com/glamajama! Want more DIY PR tips? Sign up here

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With over 70% of the economic experts expecting a last quarter uptick in the economy, now is the perfect time to start preparing for the extra business.  I am a big fan of using virtual assistants to help build out my team during peak seasons.  This is an especially useful business strategy in today’s market [...]

Continue Reading

The Simple Tools of Control

In Western culture, the word “control” has an undeserved bad rap. It conjures up the image of a type-A personality gone wild with power, who, headed down the road of personal self-destruction, cuts wide swaths of anxiety among all those encountered. “Control freak” is a term that often surfaces. But if hyper-control is a bad [...]

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Keep Your Business Sizzling This Summer

Hi everyone, I am the other face you see in the picture on the far left. My name is Sarah Benner and I am a Senior Marketing Manager at VerticalResponse. I’m going to be contributing to this blog along with Jenna Jantsch. Summer is here, believe it or not! The sun is shining (in most [...]

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11 Reasons Your Business Needs a Blog

With social marketing vehicles such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube all the rage, blogging has become somewhat of a forgotten stepchild. But this doesn’t make sense. Blogging can be one of the most effective marketing tools for the small business owner. It’s easy to start, it’s easy to maintain and it’s easy to leverage in [...]

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Is Twitter Part of Your PR Activities?

Twitter, http://twitter.com/, is a great way to build buzz about your products and services. But if you are using it for media relations activities, here are a few tips to keep in mind: 1. Keep it professional. Although you want to reach out to followers on a personal level, keep it professional and provide valuable information. [...]

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Go Paperless and Grow-David Durick, gotoBilling.com

On Tuesday, we heard from David Durick of gotoBilling, www.gotobilling.com. This business experienced a 307% volume increase during the recession so I sat down with David to get his insights for other small business owners. Here is the rest of that interview and more of David’s tips: What kind of marketing and publicity activities have helped GTB [...]

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Personalization Can Make the Difference

Adding personalization to your email marketing campaigns is just one of those extra steps you can do to connect with each of your customers, especially if you have kept good records on your recipients actions. And we all know how far that extra step can go towards increasing your bottom line. A simple example of [...]

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The Mid-Year Website Checkup

We’re approximately halfway through the year. Do you know how your website is performing? Do you know the site visitor trends? Do you know the most important site fixes or upgrades that need to be made? June and July are great times of the year to review and evaluate your website’s performance, and to give [...]

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How Do You Grow During a Recession?

Some companies are doing well during these tough economic times. That’s why I sat down with David Durick of gotoBilling, www.gotobilling.com, to find out the secret to their success (and how marketing has played a role in their significant growth over the past year). Here’s what David had to say… What do you do at [...]

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Facebook Vanity Usernames…for Facebook Beginners

Heather Nolte notified the StartupNation community last week about Facebook’s new offering of vanity URLs (Facebook.com/YourNameHere) for individuals and businesses. Check out her post: Facebook Vanity Username…Get Yours June 13th 12:01am!. Although any individual and many businesses were afforded the opportunity to secure personalized URLs from June 13th, business pages with fewer than 1000 fans [...]

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Small Business Profile: Night Helper Watch

To follow up on a previous post requesting feedback on topics and offering to highlight members of the community, I learned of NightHelpWatchers.com.—a company based on an invention by Lisa Charleston. Lisa started NightHelpWatchers.com in 2004 after being laid off from a nursing job in a home-hospice facility. She transitioned into being a stay at [...]

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How to Find and Pitch Media Contacts on Twitter

When you’re on a bootstrap marketing budget, you can never have too many friends in media.  If you don’t have those connections now, there’s still hope.  You just might be able to win a few new media friends with the social media darling, Twitter.  Twitter has been a favorite of the media and public relations professionals since its beginning back in 2006.  The quick, “cut to the chase” 140 micro blogging site is perfect for sending out quick editorial queries, source requests, or soliciting feedback on headlines.  I’ve put together some tips below to help you transform Twitter into the latest weapon in your PR arsenal.

How to Find the Media

One of the easiest ways to find relevant media contacts that cover your beat is to check their current publications.  With the rise of Twitter’s popularity many reporters, journalists, and bloggers are adding their twitter handles to their bylines.  If their twitter contact information isn’t listed, try a search on Twitter itself or one of the many search directories such as Twellow.  Another great resource for finding media on twitter is MediaonTwitter.  The directory is pretty self explanatory and includes a list of over 1,000 contacts from publications such as FOX News, USA Today, Business Week, and many other blogs, radio shows, and regional magazines both in the states and overseas.  With HARO’s Peter Shankman helping promote the list, you know it has to be good. (P.S. Make sure you’re signed up for that too!)

Making Contact

Once you have found contacts handling your beat, jump in there and “follow” them.  It’s also a great opportunity to send a quick tweet to say “Hi” and mention that you” liked their article on __________.”  Nothing overly gushy, but just a quick “Hey, I’m here and sincerely interested in what you have to say…” type of greeting.  If they respond, great!  If not, no big deal.  Either way, this is about building a relationship and not instant gratification.  You have along way to go if you want to “friend” a meaningful media contact.

How to Truly “Follow”

Once you start to gain momentum on Twitter, it can become hard to catch everyone’s tweets in your twitter stream.  This brings me to my love/hate relationship with Twitter.  I love the amazing access to people, information, and culture, but hate the overwhelming nature of it all.  To break it down into smaller portions, I rely heavily on “groups” in Tweetdeck.  This is the best tool I’ve found to ensure that I use my Twitter time productively.  Without these groups, the ADD sets in and I get caught up in all types of random rants, Etsy shopping, and web surfing.  I have a “PR” group that I use to follow all my media contacts.  The result is a perfectly edited tweet stream that allows me to keep up with all my “media friends”.  Check this group regularly and be sure to answer any questions, comment on posts they’ve written, or just mention you had a garden omelet for breakfast too.  Everything helps as you work to build the relationship.

Just remember that friendship should be a two-way street with you listening twice as much as you talk.  In other words, DO NOT spam media contacts repeatedly with self-promoting tweets.  If you do, I guarantee you’ll learn the true meaning of “fail whale” the hard way.

When to Pitch

The best time to pitch is when specifically asked.  For example, when a writer tweets they are looking for sources on “short selling in real estate”, be sure to let her know you’d be glad to answer any questions.  While this is the most obvious time to pitch, it isn’t necessarily the most common situation.  You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you?  More likely, you will be the one initiating the pitch.  If done well, it has a good chance of being well received.  If done poorly, you’ll burn bridges and lose your newfound “friend.”  My best suggestion is to be sincere, concise, and informative.  For example, I sell baby clothes and often design pieces that are inspired by current events.  Recently, I designed some “Little Republican” and “Little Democrat” onesies to celebrate the upcoming election.

In this case, I would send this tweet, “Love ur article “ObamasSenseofStyle”! Election is great 4 biz, our political baby clothes r selling out! Wld love 2 share stats! link.bit.ly”

Please note that the tweet is only 140 characters.  This doesn’t give you much space to sell your story.  The key is to make sure your link seals the deal.  The link that I attach will have all the information regarding the product including a description illustrating the news worthy significance of the product, any celebrity fans or political figure customers, a downloadable 300 dpi picture, interesting customer testimonials, and maybe a counter showing which political party has the highest percent of sales.  Ideally, the goal is to include information that demonstrates the newsworthiness of the product.

Follow-Up for Your “Following”

As with anything in marketing, the follow-up is your key to success.  The same rule applies to your following strategy on Twitter.  If your @ replies go unanswered or if your pitch falls on deaf ears, don’t get discouraged.  Go ahead and send a little reminder if you don’t hear a response back in 24-36 hours.

To continue with my example, I might send the follow-up tweet, “Update! Obama may have style, but McCain has the most sales…Curious if this is an indicator for Election Day??? Is there an upset brewing?”

Regardless of what happens, stay vigilant, courteous, and helpful.  If you can’t help with a story, suggest a contact that might be a great source, re-tweet their posts, and be sure to take your interaction outside of Twitter.  This means commenting on their blogs, reading their books, and adding their blog to your personal blogs “blogroll.”  The more you understand their writing style and interests, the easier it will be for you to craft your pitches.

The Bottom Line

I hope you can see the value in adding Twitter to your PR arsenal.  As always, remember to be respectful of the media and stay on topic, concise, and informative when pitching.  Your good intentions will be rewarded.  Even if you don’t receive press from your intended media contact, you are greatly increasing you odds of being picked up elsewhere.  One of the many lessons I’ve learned in my endless pursuit for publicity is that Google can be your greatest ally.  Google never forgets, and it all but guarantees your publicity efforts won’t be forgotten either.

I’d love to hear your comments below and please be sure to follow me on www.twitter.com/glamajama! Want more DIY PR tips? Sign up here

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When you’re on a bootstrap marketing budget, you can never have too many friends in media.  If you don’t have those connections now, there’s still hope.  You just might be able to win a few new media friends with the social media darling, Twitter.  Twitter has been a favorite of the media and public relations [...]

Continue Reading

Small Business Profile: Crossing Gaps

To follow up on a previous post requesting feedback on topics and offering to highlight members of the community, I learned of a company called Crossing Gaps — they help bring creative people (writers, artists, musicians, startups) online. Crossing Gaps helps them with everything from web design to marketing and monetization strategy so they can [...]

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Making Newsletter Topics Fun for Readers

I just received one of my favorite newsletters today. It is from a chiropractor I went to awhile back, her newsletter is full of the new happenings at the office but it also contains a monthly fun fact (usually something totally cool you learn about your arm or leg) and a healthy recipe. Newsletters are [...]

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PR Does Not Equal Press Release

The first thing that many new entrepreneurs think about when they hear “public relations” is sending out a press release. Sure, a press release can help build buzz online.   But if you want a feature story written about your business, it’s essential to pitch specific media members directly.   And with today’s economy, this [...]

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eCommerce: 45 Tips to Turbocharge Your Sales

If you are the owner of an eCommerce website,  you are continuously looking for ways to improve the conversion rate on your site and to drive more sales. To that end, here are 45 tips to turbocharge your eCommerce site: Define Your Audience Segment your audience by lifetime value. Segment your audience by recency (When [...]

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Small Business Profile: Visible Logic

To follow up on a previous post requesting feedback on topics and offering to highlight members of the community, I learned of visiblelogic.com. A well-designed message can position your organization, product or service to look unique, capable and strong enough to go head-to-head with any competitor of any size.  That is just what Emily Brackett (founder of Visible Logic) [...]

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How Not to Write a Subject Line

Hello everyone, I just wanted to take a minute to introduce myself my name is Jenna Jantsch and I am the Marketing Specialist at VerticalResponse.  I’m going to be contributing some posts to this blog going forward, starting, obviously enough, with today’s post on Subject Lines. One of the most important parts of an email [...]

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