Testimonials from clients and customers are one of the finest tools a virtual business owner can use to promote a service or product.

Testimonials increase a business owner’s credibility. Period. You can buy your own ad and create your own business card and tell everyone how wonderful your service or product may be but it means so much more if a third party is offering that same message.

A testimonial offers ‘proof’ that what you say about your product or service is really true!

Many business owners have website pages devoted to testimonials while other business owners dot their web pages with quotes from satisfied customers.  Most business owners simply copy in quotes from satisfied customers and include a link back to the clients’ web pages, however, another more interactive means to get the word out is through the use of audio and video testimonials.

We will discuss audio testimonials in today’s post.

I believe that offering both textual and audio testimonials offers a varied experience for the website visitor. While reading a testimonial uses the visual sense; listening to an audio uses another human sense. An audio testimonial allows the listener to hear fluctuations in the voice and if spoken well, an audio can allow the listener to conclude whether the words are pure and honest. Reading a testimonial does not dig quite as deep into the human psyche.  So I recommend using both audio and textual testimonials on your website or blog to allow the listener to have a heightened experience.

Audio testimonials not only help to personalize the individual behind the website but it tends to keep the user parked on a web page much longer than if they were to simply read a text testimonial and then move on.

An audio testimonial is easy to create using Google Voice.  Once the call-in numbers are established, customers simply dial the number and speak into the telephone verbalizing words of praise.  Once recorded in Google Voice, the audio files are then copied, saved and uploaded to a website where they can be heard by anyone who simply clicks the designated blue ‘start button’. Refer to this blog post for how-to set up and use Google Voice to create an audio file.

Once the audio files are created…now is the time to circulate the good news on the social media sites. Placing your audio on your site or blog is wonderful…if someone is perusing your site. But using social media to get the word out will attract many more interested parties.

Facebook: Update the status area with a link to the audio testimonial. Announce your good news to your fans and friends.  In the status area type in, “I am proud to have received an audio testimonial from XYZ. Click on the link to hear my good news!”  Then provide the link where the audio is located.

Twitter: Use similar verbiage as you would for Facebook. You may need to shorten the link to the audio testimonial using an online link shortening program such as bit.ly.

LinkedIn: Update your status and announce to your business associates that you have received an audio testimonial.  Provide the same link back to location of where your audio testimonial is stored.

Quick tips to remember when creating an audio testimonial.

1) Ask your clients early into your relationship to provide an audio testimonial.  Once you have Wow-ed! them with your good work, provide the phone number they can call to leave their good news.  It is important to ask while enthusiasm for working with you is high.

2)  Provide a short outline as to what a client should say in the testimonial.  Have the client state their name, their business name and their relationship with you.  Ask them to provide an example of how you solved a problem for them. An uninteresting example of a testimonial might be, “Janine Gregor is my virtual assistant and her work is wonderful”. A better example of an engaging testimonial might be “Janine Gregor has been my virtual assistant for two years and without her encouragement, I would not have entered the world of social media marketing.” An even better testimonial might be, “Janine Gregor has helped me to grow my customer base by 50%.”

Providing numeric results in a testimonial speaks volumes!

3)  People are busy so offer to write the testimonial for your customer and ask them to call in and just repeat the words into the telephone. Ask permission to use their name and company name along with a photo. Overall, this should take your customer about 2 minutes of their time since most of the work will be done by you!  The results are quite effective.

4) Ask your customer who will be providing the testimonial to include a headshot that can be used alongside the testimonial link. Seeing a real face instead of a company logo will make experience much more personal for the listener.

When posting the audio link on Facebook, include the headshot of the individual using the Facebook link ‘photo’ feature. When you update your status announcing the new audio testimonial the individual’s photo appears alongside the link. Quite effective!!!

5)  Before posting the announcement on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, if you are not already networked with the customers who will be offering the audio testimonial make a point to ‘like’ their pages first then add them to your network and send friend and follow requests.  When the time comes to post the audio testimonials on your social networking pages you can:

Facebook: use the @name within the status update so that your good news appears in the customer’s news feed.

Twitter: use the @twittername in the tweet so that the individual’s followers can receive your tweet

LinkedIn: use the customer’s name in your status update so he/she can view their name if they are in your network

Ask for audio testimonials regularly and update the page where you store them.  Listen to the files when you are having a bad day as surely they can be a great pick-me-up!

Feel free to Tweet this post below or Share on your Facebook page!

 

If your marketing strategy includes a newsletter or any type of email marketing always, always include a CTA or a Call-to-Action within those materials. It’s the Golden Rule for all marketing plans.

Never expect that people will automatically do anything without being prompted to doing so.

People must be ‘told’ to do whatever action you want them to take.  They must be solidly informed in a very short period of time WHY they need to take action. This is a difficult task to accomplish given the small envelope of time and space in which to get that message across.

Remember that you can send out marketing materials until you are ‘blue-in-the-face’ expounding all the great features about you and your business but if you don’t get people to ‘do something’ you are throwing your time, energy and money into a bottomless pit.

Know the Audience

If you want your audience to ‘do something’ useful such as leave an email address for a monthly newsletter then you need to offer something your own audience will desire.

You wouldn’t necessarily offer tips to upstart a lifestyle coaching program to an accountant.

So know who your market is and then gear your offering toward that audience.

If you have more than one target market such as in my case, coaches, speakers and authors, you can offer more than one ‘freebie’ geared to that audience or find one common denominator such as ‘small business tips’ to offer to your entire audience.

On the backend, your social media marketing, your printed materials and your website should all be geared toward your chosen audience.

  • Add your CTA to your Facebook page which directs people to the sign up page either on Facebook or on your website.
  • Add your CTA to your LinkedIn profile in the website area. LinkedIn offers 3 places to input your linked URLs. You can use one of those links to direct people to your CTA page.

Use Powerful Verbs

Your CTA needs to direct people to do something in one or two words. Make a list of powerful, leading verbs that will get people to take action immediately.

Such verbs may be:

  • Click
  • Read
  • Call
  • Act Now!
  • Do
  • Sign
  • Enroll
  • Register (although not so powerful)

Make Your Offer Easy to Understand

If you have a CTA that tells people what to do, you want them to have all the information they need to act at that moment. For example, if you want them to sign up for a newsletter in exchange for their email address, make it short, but clear what the newsletter will be all about.

Sign up to receive useful social media marketing tips which will help to increase your fan base.

Or

VA’s – Want to land that job you saw in a Request for Proposal (RFP)? Sign Up to learn how you can bag that opportunity.

You may need to play with these sentences, which should be kept to one or two simple statements. Don’t provide links to other pages (for an explanation of what you are touting), which gives a description of what you will be sending them. Once they leave your sign up page, they may never come back.

Use a fancy button image such as ‘Click here’ instead of providing a link (above for an example).  Buttons almost always get the better responses over providing a link. Search around for ‘free CTA images’. www.Hongikat.com often gives away free Photoshop images that can be used for this purpose.

Statistics

Try to use statistics in your short pitch to get people to do something. Never make up a statistic but see if you can find a statistic you can use. Take a survey of your customers using your product using www. Surveymonkey.com and see if you can create a statistic you can use.  For example, “97 percent of my customers who have signed for my service state they are very satisfied with my services”.

Use common terms

Nothing galls me more than when people use industry-specific acronyms expecting everyone else to know what those acronyms mean.  (An acronym is the first letter of a string of words used to shorten the way the word is stated. In some cases, the acronym becomes the word if commonly used such as DMV, FBI or DUI.) However, never assume that everyone that comes to your website will know what industry words you may be referring to. So always spell out all words and place the acronym in parenthesis. By doing so this gives you leeway later to use the acronym in your text safely.


Test

So you have your call to action up on your site and you notice no one is signing up for your freebie.  Your marketing is good and you have provided good advertisement on social media for the freebie.

So change the words around. Instead of ‘Click here’, use ‘One Click Sign Up’ or ‘Act Now to receive…’. Then see how that campaign goes.  Stick with the terms that work for you and for your targeted audience.

If you spend any time or money at all on your business, invest in a CTA that works consistently!

If you have ever written a blog post and would like to receive more mileage from the content consider repurposing that post into a video.

I’ve created a video below to show you the process in action.

Here’s a brief overview…

We will use Microsoft PowerPoint, the TechSmith’s Pro version of Jing ($14.95 per year) and a prior post to create a cool video that can be uploaded to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, your blog or your website.

Download Jing here www.techsmith.com/jing . It is important to note that the free version of Jing captures video in the swf format which is not uploadable to YouTube. You can use a free video converter but the quality lacks and most imprint a watermark when converted. The $14.95 version is a steal and will convert video to MP4 easily.

Let’s use last week’s social media post,  Super Event Woman’s Quick Tips for Using Social Media to Promote Your Next Super Onsite Event as an example.

Begin by opening PowerPoint to create a few slides…let’s say 5 slides to keep this short.

Slide #1 – Return to the post you have already written and extract the main topic for that post and create a title slide.

Slide #2-3 or 4 – Next, extract 3 or 4 bullet points from your post and copy that to a slide.

Slide #5 – Closing points – wrap the show up!

Open Jing, run your slide show and record the show using Jing. Plug in your microphone and narrate.

Now you have reused your prior blog post in a new way!

Here’s the video:

 

Facebook QR code If you are a virtual assistant and looking for another innovative means to promote your services and those of your clients’ then QR codes may be useful to your quest.

What is a QR code?

A QR code is a two dimensional matrix code that has embedded data, text or a URL designated with in the code itself.  This code can be read by a QR reader device or by a Smartphone using a QR Reader application.  Many Smartphones have QR reader apps installed at no charge.

Once the codes are created, downloaded and embedded into a website or printed materials, the possibilities for promotion are limited only to the VA’s imagination.

Why use a QR code?

Anyone who owns a Smartphone (with installed QR reader) can take a picture of the coded image and be directed to an exact location that the virtual assistant has designated.

This is both direct marketing and permission marketing…the best of all marketing worlds! The user wants to see what is behind the code (permission) and the virtual assistant who has created the code points the user toward whatever needs to be marketed (direct).

A combination of marketing motivations most traditional advertisers can only dream of implementing!

How can a virtual assistant use social QR code effectively?

Let’s say that a virtual assistant has a Facebook business page and wishes to direct potential customers toward this page to gain more ‘Likers’. The virtual assistant can write a blog post and use the Facebook URL and only hope that people will be interested in ‘fanning’ the VA’s page.  The virtual assistant can also use the Facebook URL in her signature which again means those who are interested in ‘liking’ can click on the URL to be directed to the landing page.

Using QR codes: The VA can do perform both of the above described options (to share the Facebook link), however, using QR codes can take that same initiative (to gain more ‘likers’) and reach more people; and better yet, reach a much more targeted audience.

What to do with a QR code?

So the virtual assistant creates the social QR code and embeds her Facebook business page URL in the code.  This image is now printed on the back of a VA business card or on a flyer and then passed out to a number of potential clients who might not have ever seen the VA’s blog post with the ‘regular’ URL in the signature.

The virtual assistant might embed the code into her blog or better yet, upload as an image on her website instructing folks to take a photo thus directing the potential client to the business page.

If the VA uses the Facebook feature on SocialQRcode.com when the potential client takes a picture of the VA’s QR code, the LIKE button appears right on the user’s Smartphone!

I created (below) a tutorial entitled, “Social QR Codes for Virtual Assistants” which reviews three social QR code generator sites and I offer a tip as to how to use the lightbox feature in the Facebook business page photostrip as yet another marketing tool for promoting to the page audience.

If you have a Smartphone with a QR reader, scan the coded image above and it will take you directly to my Facebook fan page. Like the page, please! You will learn from the video how to use QR codes for social media and I also give a little tip as to how QR codes can be used as part of the Facebook business page photostrip to promote a product or service.

Note that the Facebook feature on SocialQRcode.com as mentioned in the video is not functioning at this time however, the Facebook code in this post (above for scanning) which was generated from Beqrious.com  is functioning properly. You will be directed to my Facebook Business page.

Update on the Social QR code for Facebook Business page as featured in the video should be input with only the page name…no www.Facebook.com needed – so for my example only input YourVirtualWizard in the SocialQRCode.com website under Facebook. Email me if you have any questions – Janine@YourVirtualWizard.com

Please Don’t Take My Email Away

Have you heard the latest on the demise of email? Sheryl Sandburg, COO of Facebook says, “Email is probably going away.” Here’s the YouTube video clip.

Ms. Sandberg states, “If you want to know what people like us will do tomorrow, look at what teenagers are doing today.” She continues, “…only 11 percent of teenagers send daily emails while text messages and posts on social networking sites have become the norm.”

This is quite a monumental prediction…

Email is THE communication mode that I use for my virtual assistant business. I also conduct personal correspondence through email. This medium, of course is not the same as a phone call or a face-to-face meeting rather, it is the next form of communication in which I can create a meaningful message from afar to be re-read, sorted and acted upon. I could not conduct business through text messages nor could I tell my friend Julia about my weekend in 140 words or less.

So I am not sure I buy Ms. Sandberg’s forecast of the demise of email.

But then I noticed a news item on BizReport, Ben & Jerry’s drop email in favor of social media marketing announcing the decision to eliminate its email campaign and newsletters in favor of text messages, social networking posts and use of an iPhone app called ‘Scoop of Happiness’.

Hubspot also posted on the Ben & Jerry’s decision remarking, “This is the first major corporation to completely discontinue email marketing, a mainstay of internet marketing since the 90′s, for other internet channels. Ben & Jerry’s customers had indicated that they disliked the email despite loving the brand, which means that it wasn’t building the positive relationship that the famously brand-conscious ice cream company wanted.”

Read more: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/6217/Ben-Jerry-s-Drops-Email-Marketing-In-Favor-of-Social-Media.aspx#ixzz0uAMPBiFX

Let it be known, I received both referenced reports via email…I must have missed it on the social sites!

I still do not buy it…

Email and social network marketing have always worked together.

Diverse audiences receiving the same message…this is a marketer’s dream! Although many marketers use Twitter and Facebook for posting messages, it is easy for a recipient to miss a Tweet or a Facebook post. Volumes of information are passed through social media at any given moment that it is impossible to read everything on the social sites. And for this reason, email picks up where Twitter and Facebook may wane.

An email can sit in an Inbox until the user is ready to open it.

Email can be flagged for future use or downloaded at anytime in the case of a coupon or sale announcement. This is not the case with Twitter or Facebook. Links to sites where pages can be downloaded and printed are offered on the social sites but this can be a hassle to ‘get to’ particularly if the marketer requires the use of a coupon; ultimately depending upon the use of a computer and a printer. While mobile coupon applications such as Groupon may be the wave of the future, the cost is still prohibitive for small business retailers.

Social sites create the buzz while emails promote the details.

There is no getting around the fact that if a marketer sends an email which the recipient wants to read, email is the bonafide tool to securing uninterrupted message-reading time. While the social sites are certainly significant in the promotion of marketing information, user attention spans are much shorter. This leaves retention of details at risk. Pertinent marketing information is more likely to be overlooked or scanned without fully grasping the entire message. Emails can be re-read while social marketing messages move to the bottom of the page as other messages take their place.

Ben and Jerry’s brand does not need email to promote its product…but not every brand is as ubiquitous.

It is true that a quality product like Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream does not need an email to remind me to purchase their brand. Just walking past the ice cream case and seeing the adorable cartons sells itself. Think Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey and the shopping cart traverses on its own…

But for small business owners who do not have the same brand recognition, email in conjunction with social sites and texting is still the best way to reach a captive audience.

Certainly food for thought…anyone have a spoon? I’ll send an email.

 

I posted a question on Virtual Assistant Forums asking,  “What’s Stopping You From Starting a Blog?” . Some responses were expected and one was rather interesting.

In summary, the obstacles for starting a blog were:

1)  Not enough time
2)  Not sure what the blog topics should be about
3)  Not sure what the blog itself should be about
4)  Topics are overdone – not much more can be said

I will answer all of these concerns, however, it is the 4th obstacle addressed that actually was cause for pause. It surprised me was that some VAs felt that blog topics had been covered over and over and that little more could be written.

As a blogger myself, I do get what the VAs are saying!  The respondents felt that there are so many VA blogs out there covering every conceivable topic that they did not see how their blog posts on said topics would matter.  It’s a concern I had not thought about but ventured to explore and explain.

VAs who believe that a topic is overdone need to know that as each VA is unique, consequently so will become each completed blog post; no matter what topic is offered.

Every VA has her own perspective based upon personal and professional experiences. So while your topic may be,  for example, ‘How to Find Clients’, which has indeed been written about a thousand times over,  it is YOUR view point that would make that topic different.

Perhaps you found a client on Twitter…well, your blog post would educate other VAs how you found that client on Twitter. You can blog about the conversation and what might have prompted an interest in your services.  Your blog post would encourage other VAs to use Twitter and you may explain what led you to Twitter to use as a source for finding clients. While I might have found a client on Twitter, my experience is quite different from your own. So while the topic, ‘How to Find Clients’ might have been previously addressed, it is your blog post expounding up how you find clients and what advice you can give to other VAs that makes the post distinctive.

So my advice is not to worry about a topic being ‘overdone’, rather take a topic that is of interest to you and put your own spin on it.

Back to the original objections – Obstacle #1 – Not enough time – Like anything else, you find the time.  You set up a social media calendar and make an appointment with yourself to write a blog post. This particular blog post is being written 2 days before the publish date. I started thinking about this post last week, jotted down some notes and started writing a few sentences here and there.

It’s not so overwhelming if the task is done in smaller chunks.

Nike said it best, ‘Just Do It’.

Obstacle #2 – Not sure what the blog topics should be about – Change your mind! Think of LIFE in terms of blogging. While you are cooking dinner, think about what you are doing and how this action could this be relative to your blog. You can use cooking as a metaphor for starting a business. For example, you can write about creating a business plan which is much like using a recipe. Talk about how you change that recipe to meet your tastes and how to modify a business plan as the business progresses.

If you are exercising at home, use that activity to tie into a topic that you want to write about. For example, you found a new WordPress plugin that you would like to share on your blog.  Start your blog post creatively by stating that while you were exercising and suffering during a round of abs crunches (that would be ME!), it occurred to you that you needed to solve a problem on your WordPress site.  Explain how exercising gets your creative juices flowing. Then write about the plugin.  End your post with advice to VAs how to make time to exercise and that the benefits of this plugin allow you more time to exercise.  Viola! You have a fun, educational, interesting and unique blog post.

Take a picture and ask yourself, “Can I use this picture in my blog?” So write around the photo and use it for inspiration.

Obstacle #3 – Not sure what the blog itself should be about – The blog should be targeted toward the customer you are trying to reach.  If your target market are real estate agents, then your blog should contain topics geared toward the interests of real estate agents.  You can blog about ‘the market’, real estate trends, tips for selling, tips for buying, how to run a brokers’ open house, how to attract other agents, etc.

However, let me also state that while your blog should be targeted toward your customer, you do want to infuse a little of ‘who you are’ into the blog.  So, it is OK to write about ‘when you purchased your first home’ or ‘funny things you found in your home when you moved in’ or, ‘improvements you made to your home’, for example.

You want your blog to reflect who you are as a virtual assistant while writing for the customer you are trying to reach.

A few extra blogging tips:

  • Use shorter sentences when possible
  • Break up the paragraphs so there is white space between paragraphs
  • Use bold and italics to stress important words
  • Use your keywords in the title of the blog posts
  • Use your keywords in the first paragraph of your blog post
  • Use bullets to list important features of the post
  • Ask people to share your posts – go ahead, use this post as a blog post and write a little something in the first paragraph from you. Now you have a blog post!
  • Add share buttons to your blog so people can share your posts
  • Did you know you can Pin a blog post to your Pinterest board? Do that.
  • Create a graphic that can be pinned – and be sure to include your website address to the image as I have done here. Pin the post!

So go ahead and share this post on your blog and/or in your newsletter.  Be sure to pin the graphic and change the link so that you can share this on your Pinterest board.

Let me know what you think and if my post can help you get started with that blog.

Monday mornings I have a date…and it’s hot!  It sizzles…it’s my ‘get up and go’ Monday morning Meet-Up group sales call with Howard Howell who is also known as, That Sales Guy. We’ve never personally met but I am one of his biggest fans!

One of Howard’s many talents is to create landing pages, which he has cleverly coined Webrosures .  These cleanly designed pages successfully increase businesses’ internet exposure in the search engines.

This past week, on the Topical or Local discussion meeting subject, Howard shared several excellent tips he uses for his clients when creating custom landing pages. His keywording techniques increase the chances that a potential customer may find [your] business in the search engines.

#1)  If someone types in specific keywords for your business they will often begin by keywording by a city or state.  And while many virtual business owners may not advertise locally, people will still type into Google or Bing the service or product they desire by locale keyword. It is common to search for that which we are most familiar…namely our locale.

For example, my research shows that people in my state will search for the terms ‘Virtual Assistant in Florida’  when looking for a virtual assistant. 

To gain the ‘Google Juice’ so necessary for people to find a business, Howard suggested using tags in the blog posts which include the locale name.

Here’s a photo of a tag in my blog post using the locality state name, Florida.

This technique helps to narrow down someone’s search through the use of specified words. So if they search for virtual assistant they will receive pages of VA business names. But if the search has the locale in the blog post, the chances increase that the post will appear higher up in the search engines ‘above the fold’; most noticed by the searcher. (Of course the post would need to be keyworded properly as well. See #3 below.)

I also own the domain, ‘www.VirtualAssistantinFlorida.com’ which is directed to my main website. Howard agreed that purchasing the domain with the locale in the name was an option as well.

2)  Howard took the locale name idea one step further by creating a subdomain using the location….which I have done here.  I created a subdomain www.florida.virtualassistant.yourvirtualwizard.com which is redirected to my website www.yourvirtualwizard.com . This can also be done for individual landing pages. So if you have a sales page on your website domain instead of calling this www.yourdomain.com/salespage you can add the locale www.localesalespage.yourdomain.com or in real terms www.NewYorkHats.yourdomain.com so when folks keyword New York Hats your domain will come up in the searches more frequently.

He’s a clever guy, That Sales Guy.

3)  Howard (always) suggests using the Google Adwords tool  to find those keywords which people consistently will search for.

In the screenshot below the term ‘virtual assistant’ is a huge search term with ‘get a job’, ‘starting a company’, ‘business services company’ and so on. That Sales Guy suggested using these terms in the title and the subtitle of the blog post, with a sprinkling throughout the post.  (Keyword stuffing is never recommended and unnecessary.) But writing blog posts about the terms people search the most for will also bring the blog post higher in the searches.

But remember, the screenshot below shows there is enormous competition for popular keywords so the blog posts need to stand above the rest with great keywords, locale tagging, subdomains and of course, great content.

Great tips! Check Howard out at Sensible Selling. And join us on Mondays 9:15 a.m. Pacific or 12:15 a.m. Eastern at the meeting on BizChatz.

It’s very rare that I endorse online small business coaching programs. I am very, very choosy.

As an internet marketing virtual assistant I see numerous scams and hypes on the web that appear authentic but in reality are wolves in sheep’s clothing.  And, it takes  extensive research to sort through the online coaching program mire!

Like many entrepreneurs, I want to continue my small business education. I want to develop my capabilities as a business owner and strive to attract and retain my ideal clients.  But I am so leery of the many ‘get rich quick’ programs which pop up endlessly in my email box day after day. It has been difficult to choose the right coach with the right business program for my agenda.

After several months of intense online research I finally decided at the advice of a trusted VA, to sign up for Marisa Murgatroyd’s course, “Message to Money” (M2M). I haven’t looked back!

So today, in this post, I share my experiences with my Business Darling readers who may be seeking to expand, improve, develop and polish their businesses in 2013 with the help of a coach without having to feel as if they’ve been  ripped off by trainers offering false promises.

[For the record, this post is not about what I have been learning in Marisa’s course. You can check that out here.  Rather, this post is what you need to look for when choosing an online business coaching course. And you can read my testimonial  here.]

Here are 12 tips to for choosing an online business coaching course. (VA’s you will love my #12!)

1) Ask for recommendations.  I trust only a handful of other virtual assistants. Their opinions are gold.  And it was one VA who sealed the deal for me…so do ask your peers for their opinions.

2)  Spend time reviewing the coach’s online profiles. Check out LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.  Look for inconsistencies, poor grammar, too many ‘get rich quick’ phrases and the overuse of ‘multi-six-figures’ in the description of the course. Run don’t walk.

3)  Check out the coach’s Tweets. Much can be said for someone’s tweets. Are they coaching through Twitter? Do they offer free advice to the Twitter-verse or are they only self-promoting with affiliate links?

4)  Check out the coach’s websites. Log into any ‘freemiums’ in exchange for an email address and carefully look over what the coach is offering for free. If the free items offer value, chances are the coach will offer greater value in the paid course.  Does the coach stop at one freebie or do they offer more than one item?

5)  Look carefully at the splash page (promo page) for the coaching program you are considering.  Does the text clearly define what you will get for your money?  The first paragraph should address what the course will do for you in REALISTIC terms. If the promises are too lofty, again, run, don’t walk.

6)  Look for a video from the coach to see if you can connect on some personal level. Does the coach’s personality resonate with you? Is the coach speaking to you or AT you? Some sales coach videos are ‘in yer face’ type speak so stay away from those!

7)  Something often overlooked is the QUALITY of the sales video…is the coach well dressed? Is the video of good quality and sound or is the coach just sitting at a desk with a webcam with flowered wall paper in the background and the dog barking downstairs? (Yes, you know…run…) So much can be learned from the coach’s sales video …whether he is a good listener or just likes to hear himself speak…whether he even knows HOW to communicate.

Look at the environment in which the video is filmed. Does it appear the coach put some time into determining a significant background for the sale of the product?  The videographer will try to create a mood with a particular background so key into that while you want the sales video.

==> An outdoor video taping may mean the coach is laid back. Indoors in front of a fireplace denotes that the coach is looking for a ‘fireside chat’ with the student and therefore the classes may be less structured and more open mic style.  Is the video filmed in a studio? If so,  then the videographer may want the coach to appear particularly polished which may clash with a student looking for a coach who is more casual in their learning process.  And finally, the absolute worse background any coach can use to film a sales video is in the dining room, under bad lighting, recorded from a webcam, with that flowered wall paper I mentioned earlier. 

Look for a coach's money back guarantee

Look for a coach’s money back guarantee

8) Look for a money back guarantee that specifically states, ‘100 percent satisfaction’ guarantee. Make sure that is in writing and prominently displayed on the sales page. 9)  Look for testimonials from people like yourself. A good sales page will have an assortment of testimonials from all walks of business. Read those testimonials and find ‘ah-ha’ moments.  Look for text which shows a transformation in their businesses which occurred as a result of enrolling in the coaching course.  Some of the testimonials look ‘canned’ and simply say how grateful someone is for taking the course. Any coach who uses only the grateful testimonials and doesn’t have any action-oriented words may be selling a “dud” coaching course.

==>Another tip about choosing a good coach that I like to look for is this…does the coach give the students who offer testimonials a chance to have backlinks to their own businesses?  As minor as that might seem, I am drawn to coaches who want to ‘share the SEO’ and therefore hyper link testimonial students’ websites on the splash page. To me, that detail (a backlink) from that the coach truly appreciates the students who took the time to write the testimonials.

10)  Does the coach offer more than one payment plan?  Does the coach offer a discount for paying in full? Does the coach offer a graduated payment plan? So if the course is 7 months, can the student make payments over a period of 7 months without penalty?  Look to see how easy a coach will allow you to pay for the course. If they only offer 2 forms of payment, (credit card and PayPal) and you can only send a wire payment, then contact the coach directly.  See if the coach will work with you.  Flexibility in making payments can be a deal breaker!

11)  Does the coach personally answer your questions?  I simply won’t pay for a course where I don’t have at least one-on-one email communication with a coach.  I don’t expect phone time unless that comes with the course but at the very least, email communication should be considered.

12)  Who is the coach’s VA?  As a virtual assistant myself in business for 6 years, I have to tell you that it is just as important to me to know who the VA is that works with the coach as it is to know the coach themselves.  If they don’t work with top-notched VAs, I won’t sign on with the coach. The selection of a quality VA to partner with a good coach tells me that the coach knows how to gather an effective team. I only want to pay for coaching services by an effective coaching team.  So how do you know who the VA is that works with the coach? Google.

==>  Google the coach’s name and the words, ‘virtual assistant’ or ‘online business manager’ and then all the corresponding acronyms, i.e., VA, OBM AVA, etc. Chances are the coach has given a testimonial to the VA so you can find out a name.  Check out the coach’s name on LinkedIn and search for any recommendations the coach may have given to a VA.  Check out the coach’s email addresses…in many cases the coach will send student to the VA’s email address to take care of admin issues that the coach doesn’t handle.  Check out the coach’s Facebook page and search for LIKES for VA services. Once you have that, then go to the VA website and see if the coach is listed as a referral or a testimonial. This may take a few minutes to research however, if the coach is working with good VAs, this often means the coach partners with only the best.

If you have any questions about Marisa Murgatroyd’s Message to Money course, feel free to email me. I will tell you she has made payments very affordable and manageable here . You will never find greater value in a business coaching program so do check it out…

Sadly this will be my second to last post here on Business Darlings since its inception February 14th, 2011.  Check back in 2 weeks for my Business Darling reflections…and final social media tips!

Virtual assistants (VAs)work primarily with small business owners who offer services or products to the public.  VAs specialize in marketing products through social media, web design, event planning, blogging, article marketing and ad promotion.

It is my firm belief that while many small business owners will partner with virtual assistants, a good majority are missing the mark by not looking to the virtual assistant industry as a prime audience for buying, selling and as a referring market.

This is a huge, missed opportunity for business owners with product and services to sell.

My primary function as a virtual assistant is to assist small business owners with the online promotion of products and services. However, I often receive ‘raised virtual eyebrows’ when I suggest to clients that we promote not only to the client’s specified market but to the virtual assistant industry as well.

And here’s why virtual assistants should be targeted by small business owners:

1)  Most virtual assistants work with more than one client.  When making product or services suggestions to a client, the possibility of multiple sales increases.

2) Virtual assistants are trusted sources for their clients.  When a client asks, “What kind of project management software should I buy?” VAs are a KEY-influencer; nearly 100% of the time a client will take the VA’s word for the recommendation. It’s an easy sell. The VA’s word is golden.

3)  VAs are loyal buyers.  When setting up a client account, chances are the VA has had a thorough consultation with the client. Since VAs have made a number of purchases for their own clients, recommendations for good products will repeat themselves. Ask a VA for a favorite stock image company and chances are the sale will perpetuate from client to client.

4)  VAs are well-connected to other VAs. VAs depend upon peer recommendations for products.  It is not uncommon for a VA to ask other VAs for product recommendations.  One good referral of a particular product on a forum or a blog can be seen by many VAs so the potential for passive income (for the seller) increases.

5)  VAs use products over and over so they know the ins and outs of software and devices.  They test beta sites and they use their own time to self-train and test.  This expert-status is extremely valuable to the promotion and the evaluation of a product. Most small business owners with products to sell under-utilize the expertise of a virtual assistant as product testers.

6)  VAs write recommendations, evaluations and reviews; and they are good at it!  These are often posted to forums, blogs and websites.  In fact, there are categories on forums and blogs specifically designated for VA recommendation and reviews.  These written testimonials are a valuable resource for business owners touting product.  VAs want content for their sites and businesses want the publicity. It’s a win-win situation to work together.

 Here’s what you can do to get your product into a virtual assistant’s capable hands:

1) Visit forum sites such as Virtual Assistants Forums and check the directory for VAs who are writers.  If you have a ‘how-to’ coaching product, scan the directory for VAs who work with coaches.  Contact a few VAs and ask if they would like to evaluate your product in exchange for a product review. Offer to coach a VA in exchange for a product review.

2)  Offer virtual assistants a free copy of your product in exchange for an ad in your newsletter or on your website.  Offer to send referrals to the virtual assistant in exchange for referrals from other VAs for purchase of the product.

3)  Offer to demonstrate your product for virtual assistants by way of a free webinar or teleclass.  If you are a coach who teaches a class such as The Power of Pinning, offer the VA a free or reduced entry ticket in return for a testimonial and referrals for her own business. If you are launching a new coaching program, create a contest just for virtual assistants and offer a free or reduced entry to that class.  Ask VAs to leave an email address in exchange for an entry into the contest. The winner receives free coaching and you can now nurture a new market through email.

4) Target virtual assistants with your affiliate program. If you have an affiliate program already set up for product, create an affiliate link just for virtual assistants.  Offer a higher percentage of return for the recommendation of your product to their clients.  Write a blog post explaining why VAs would consider the recommendation of your product.  Create a marketing campaign geared toward VAs encouraging them to sign up for tips and tricks when using your product.

5)  New VAs are always looking for ways to build testimonials and a client base. Many new VAs have years of traditional job experience but little online reputation. Offer to mentor a new VA in exchange for use of your product or service.  Look for new VAs on LinkedIn and on Facebook groups. Ask the  VA to write a recommendation and promote this on social media.

6)  Mentor a new VA or ask a seasoned VA if she can offer reduced priced services for you in exchange for use of a program.  VAs want to learn real estate programs such as Top Producer and Sales Force and will spend the time learning on their own time through the use of tutorials and manuals. I once had a client take a chance on me where I learned 1shoppingcart and Aweber in exchange for services rendered.

On a personal note, I have sent hundreds of dollars of business to companies such as istockphoto.com, Aweber, Themeforest , Hostgator and Elegant Themes  and Amazon (direct links to books).  I refer new VAs seeking a great resource for getting started to VAF’s Become a Virtual Assistant and to Mari Smith’s Extreme Fanbase Growth .

So think about the virtual assistant industry as an important segment of your market.  Include VAs in your marketing strategy and build life-long, important affiliations.

YouTube has a great new branding tool for those who create videos.  In this video I show you how to add your channel avatar and a feature video box which appears when someone opens a video.

Before viewing vlog (video blog), take a look at blogger Jeff Bullas’ fantastic blog which features astonishing statistics about YouTube, which interestingly is the 3rd most popular website on the planet.  And check out his infographic in the blog post.  Here’s a quick sample of YouTube’s astonishing statistics:

YouTube Traffic

  • 60 hours of video are uploaded every minute, or one hour of video is uploaded to YouTube every second.
  • Over 4 billion videos are viewed a day
  • Over 800 million unique users visit YouTube each month
  • Over 3 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube
  • More video is uploaded to YouTube in one month than the 3 major US networks created in 60 years
  • 70% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the US
  • YouTube is localized in 39 countries and across 54 languages
  • In 2011, YouTube had more than 1 trillion views
  • In 2011 there were almost 140 views for every person on Earth

Read more at http://www.jeffbullas.com/2012/05/23/35-mind-numbing-youtube-facts-figures-and-statistics-infographic/#i1F0m5bh6SXMUWwh.99

So go ahead and brand your videos with your logo, your photo or even a custom graphic.  Attach a feature video within your videos making it easier for people to view even MORE of your videos.

Janine

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