Friday, October 19, 2012

Social Media Marketing for Small Business

Utilizing Social Media to market your business is becoming a popular type of marketing for many small businesses and many are benefiting greatly by developing and following a social media marketing strategy.  By using Social media you can really give your marketing efforts a big boost and it can help you achieve the success you want not only quicker but more efficiently.

So what exactly is the skinny on Social media, and why should you use it as a marketing tool for your small business?  

Social media  networks are communities online, think of it as a “place” online where people gather to communicate  and learn about things that they have in common. It gives them the capability to interact with each other. This can be through blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn forums and any number of online means of communication. Because of the way these networks develop, it often presents some great networking opportunities.  I love this infographic from Social Metrics on "10 Creative Secrets for Social Media Marketing" showing that over 93% of businesses currently leverage social media to gain more customers!

If you are wondering how and why you should use social networking sites to promote your small business, you are not alone. A fairly large numbers of small business owners aren't even sure what or which social media sites to use or how they work.  One benefit to small businesses is the ability to utilize Social media sites to share photo’s and video’s or run an online contest, all which will aid in gaining publicity and if you are on a budget, using social media networking sites is a cost-effective way in obtaining the publicity you are seeking for your products and services from your business website.

It can also be extremely valuable and worth the time and effort to join online forums like those on LinkedIn.  Within these online forums, you can answer and ask questions, learn from others, and use what you learn to develop relevant blog articles.  You can also post comments, promote events, and offer tips or advice.  Surveys and polls are also very popular in gaining the attention of not only your current customers but also potential customers.

The best part of using Social media is that it is a very cost effective means of communicating and interacting with your target market. Most networks are free and it only takes a little bit of time to keep interacting with the members of the network once you have gotten established. From there the growth is somewhat natural. As communities grow, so does the amount of exposure you get. The more exposure you get the more success you will have.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to share your thoughts.

Until Next Time

Friday, October 12, 2012

Small Business Tip - What About Using a Virtual Assistant?

One of the most advantageous aspects of using a virtual assistant is the ability to employ industry experts for the completion of certain tasks. This becomes beneficial in situations where a small business is faced with a complex problem which is beyond the expertise of the in-house employees. Using a virtual assistant gives the small business the opportunity to outsource the task of solving the problem to a highly qualified candidate. Plus, many small business owners find that the virtual assistant’s service fee ends up being significantly less than what it would have cost them to solve the problem with their in-house staff. The amount of time it would have taken coupled with the potential for costly mistakes makes it clear using a virtual assistant is the right decision in this scenario.

Another scenario where tasks may be outsourced to an industry expert is when the small business is faced with the task of performing more work than they are capable of handling in-house. During aggressive deadlines or unexpected delays, using a virtual assistant can be used to complete projects according to unyielding deadlines.

Flexibility in Scheduling

Many small businesses balance the workload they take on based on the number of employees they have on staff capable of assisting in each individual task. However, using a virtual assistant gives small businesses the ability to consider accepting more work than their in-house employees are capable of completing. An example of when this is beneficial is when consultants are awarded more projects than they had anticipated and are suddenly in a situation where they are not able to meet their deadlines due to larger than anticipated workloads.

Another advantage to using a virtual assistant is the ability to take on larger projects than usual. One of the most elementary factors often considered when awarding projects to consultants is the number of staff members who are available to work on the project. Clients evaluate this number with their project needs and schedule to determine whether or not they think the consultant is capable of completing the project on time. Consultants who outsource portions of their projects are effectively able to increase the amount of employees they can afford to have working on a particular project.

Reduced Operating Costs

Finally, using a virtual assistant can help companies to produce higher quality work by enabling them to reduce their operating costs. Using a virtual assistant can save companies a great deal of money because they often do not have to pay benefits such as social security, workers’ compensation and Medicare to those who perform work on a contract basis. Additionally, those who perform the outsourced work typically do the work from their own office meaning the company does not have to provide resources for the individual. Although these costs may seem trivial, they can really add up especially if using a virtual assistant is used on a regular basis.

Combined with the reduced operating costs, many companies find that productivity is increased through using a virtual assistant. By using a virtual assistant the in-house employees are freed of additional responsibilities and can focus exclusively on the tasks they were hired to perform. This is significant because without using a virtual assistant these same employees might be tasked with attempting to perform complicated tasks for which they are not properly trained or qualified. When this happens there is a significant decline in productivity as the employees take longer than necessary to complete the more complicated tasks and do not have time to complete the simpler tasks.

Do you have experience using a virtual assistant?  Please feel free to share any thoughts or comments.

Thanks for reading!  Until next time...


Friday, October 5, 2012

Small Business Idea - How to Increase Your Efficiency

Everywhere we look we are seeing a drive for efficiency. Waste is to be avoided and expenses have to be cut if the small business is going to survive, let alone prosper. Today it's more important then ever to get maximum value out of the money spent on resources, whether it is the direct costs of running a business or the substantial costs associated with employing personnel. There's no room for uncertainty when it comes to handling these costs and every reason for the small business owner to put in place systems to analyze where and why the money is being spent.

There are so many different reasons for employing a virtual assistant, for example. Each one of these reasons has in one way or another a lot to do with efficiency, so it is somewhat ironic when one of the reasons put forward by a typical small-business owner – faced with the question about hiring a virtual assistant – is one related to efficiency.

"I simply don't know how many hours work it should take to complete, so how can I employ a virtual assistant on an "as needed" basis, accordingly?"

Before any progress can be made moving forward it is important to get a feeling for exactly what work needs to be outsourced. This will require careful consideration for the executive, who will almost certainly be surprised as the list grows longer and longer. These are all the tasks that should be delegated and many of them may be tasks that can be handled on an "as needed" outsourced basis.  Just think how inefficient it really is to employ an assistant or administrator on a salaried or weekly basis.

This person is being employed for 40 hours whether there is sufficient work to fill those 40 hours or not. 

Invariably this leads to massive inefficiency as a salaried employee may simply "expand" the time that it should take to complete a variety of tasks in order to justify his or her salary. Some people might look at this as cheating, while other people would say it is also human nature to a certain extent. After all, this is the traditional way of handling administration and is it really the fault of the individual employee if there is not an "exact" amount of work to fill an exact number of hours?

In a drive toward efficiency this kind of operation of course needs to stop. Once that long list of outsource-ready tasks is complete a top notch personal assistant can be engaged to advise. The VA will know how long it should take to conduct and complete each and every task and can then agree with the small-business owner to take on this raft of tasks efficiently. A price will be quoted for each job through completion and there will be no need for the business owner to worry about an employee "expanding" to simply fill up their weekly timesheet. The more efficient the small business owner can be in this way the more likely they are to succeed and go on to prosper in the aggressive real world out there.

Thanks for reading!  Feel free to share your thoughts.

Until Next Time,