Case Study: Email and Diary Management

Over the last two weeks I’ve been talking about how you can outsource your inbox to a Virtual Assistant, as well as providing top tips for how to better manage your email yourself. This week I wanted to give you an example of the work I do for one of my clients, and how it’s helped.

Jon runs a hugely successful property management business in Essex. To keep his overheads low he runs a virtual office, with the vast majority of tasks associated with the business either being undertaken by himself and his wife, or outsourced to experts.

He has a marketing firm handle all of his branding and social media, his wife Reenie manages the admin, a bookkeeper comes in twice a month and then there’s me. I’m in charge of Jon’s email and calendar.

So, what exactly do I do?

Although Jon has his own email, only the members of his team know what it is. Every other email comes to the generic “office” email address, which I manage. On an average day we can receive anywhere between 50 and 120 emails per day.

My job is to whittle this number down significantly. Ideally to less than 10.

Every morning I therefore filter the emails and delete any obvious spam. Any newsletters that might be useful in terms of content production I forward to the marketing team, and then delete.

I then answer any obvious queries, for example, requests for information on when work will be completed, or a property will become available again. The answers are all easy to find, thanks to the processes we have already put in place, and it just takes a few minutes to grab what I need and send it over to the enquirer.

Next I focus on meeting requests. These can be 121’s from his various networking activities, meetings with existing landlords or new ones, property visits etc. To save email exchanges taking place I tend to pick up the phone and call people to book them in there and then. There is nothing worse than suggesting a time and date, only for Jon to have filled that slot himself in the time it’s taken the person I am speaking to to get back to me.

Finally, I forward directly to Jon any emails I am unable to deal with myself. Usually these will simply be brand new contacts or potential prospects, as he always likes to be the first contact. Over the last two years, I have never sent him more than 8 emails in one day. Everything else I save him from, which saves him an insane amount of time each day.

The process is repeated during the late afternoon, at which point I also check his calendar and confirm any appointments he has for the next day to avoid wasted time.

Where necessary I also arrange travel, both domestic and international, and send invitations to his database for viewings and any events he is speaking at.

The time he saves in not having to deal with the mundane day-to-day management of his inbox is worth far more than what he pays me to deal with it on a daily basis. He’d be the first to admit that he was sceptical about it all at first, but after working with each other for a few weeks, we got in to a great routine, and he’s never looked back. Most people know that it’s me they’re going to be hearing from, and none of them realise I am not based in the same area (though, my accent probably helps out with this a bit).

If you want to find out whether outsourcing your email could bring benefit to you and your business, please give me a call on 0161 883 2024, email hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk or send me an InMail. I am always happy to discuss your options, or provide tips to help.

The One With The Migraine

I honestly don’t know where this week has gone. Actually, I do – sort of. It was a blur of painkillers and hospital trips. After suffering for 9 days straight with the migraine from Hell, I finally decided to go to the doctor on Tuesday, who immediately panicked and sent me to hospital for an MRI.

After initial concerns over a potential brain bleed proved over-cautious, I was sent home with orders to rest. I confess, that didn’t happen. Thankfully though what started as a headache now seems to have turned in to an infected lymph node on my neck (tender, but manageable) and I am now able to function properly once again!

Hurrah!

While I am of course relieved that I don’t have either meningitis or a subarachnoid haemorrhage, it has been quite frustrating not being able to work a full week. In fact, as I write this at 2pm on Friday I have only managed to clock up 22 hours of work since Monday morning. I feel like a positive part-timer!

That said, it has still been a productive week, so I perhaps shouldn’t complain too much. I have had two great 121’s which have been really thought provoking, and have opened up lines of potential collaboration which I am very excited about. Hopefully more on that in the next few weeks.

One thing I love most about what I do is that I never know what’s going to come through in terms of work from one day to the next. This week I have had a whole host of audio transcription come through, which has really kept me busy. It’s one thing that I find really fascinating, maybe because it satisfies my need to be nosey as I listen in to what other people do.

This week I have transcribed three grievance procedures, one appeal, a round table discussion on electric vehicles and various interviews with bell ringers in Surrey. Like I said, you just never know what’s going to come in – or what you might learn in the process. For example, I now know bell ringers are actually called campanologists and I have found out lots about the SS Princess Alice disaster in 1878.

My biggest challenge

I have a wonderful client who runs a performing arts academy in Bury, and we have been working together for a little over two years now. I help her out in a variety of ways including social media and every day to-do lists. However, last night she threw a new challenge at me, which at first I confess I felt a little iffy about accepting.

On Sunday her kids will be performing a panto, which they have been working on since September. Realising a scene and costume change was going to take longer than originally anticipated, I was called upon to write a bit of filler script.

“What, you’re a writer, aren’t you?”

Eeeek. No pressure.

With a quick run through of what the panto was about (it’s a mash-up, rather than one particular show), what was happening and what was actually needed I armed myself with the necessary props for writing: Pen, paper and a hazelnut latte.

I am pleased to say one hour later I had six verses of Panto-rhyme (I can hear you saying “oh no you didn’t”, but I assure you, oh yes I did!). Hopefully a group of five and seven year olds will be able to learn this last minute addition in time for the opening curtain on Sunday.

My highlight

At the end of last year I started working with a new client, and one of our challenges was to get them running their own social media accounts. This week they went solo, and it’s been really great seeing them not only start posting their own content, but also getting interaction from their audience.

I’m hopeful making such a positive start will give them the confidence to carry on, but either way, I will be touching base with them next week for an update. I love seeing people learn something new, and do it for themselves (where they can).

 

Hope you have all had a great week, and I will see you again on Monday!

Why is content marketing important for your business?

It seems we are constantly inventing new ways of doing things, and communicating is just one of the things affected by advances in technology.  One thing that has never changed is the need for a business to reach out and interact with its customers.  The only thing that is different now is the fact there are so many different ways of doing it.

No longer are you stuck with simply face to face conversations, letters, emails or leaflets. Consumers are used to obtaining the information they need through social media, and how they interact with the companies they use.  Social media allows brands to develop their own personalities, and consumers react to them in the same way they would other people.

In essence this interaction is won or lost on the strength of your content marketing.  If you’re not sure precisely what content marketing is, check out our blog from a few weeks ago.

What we’re looking at here, is why content marketing is so important to your business and the ongoing relationships you have with your customers, and prospects.

Who says content marketing is important?

Many people who have no real experience with content marketing have a tendency to assume it’s just one of those jargonistic buzz-words, and will soon die out.  Just a fad.

Let me assure you, it’s not.

Equally, it’s not something that “us types” bandy around in the hopes of making a quick buck. Trust me, the buck isn’t quick enough to be worth the pretence.

The reality is content marketing’s important because consumers say so, and so do search engines.

Your audience expects to be able to find out as much as possible about you, your business, your products and services without actually having to talk to you. Within a few swipes and swooshes they want to know what you offer, why you offer it, what your values are and why you’re better than your competitor.

Equally, they want to feel that you stand for something, that you embody something.  Key here is the idea that you’re not just another faceless company that doesn’t care about them.  They want to feel engaged, they want to be part of your story.  They can’t get that level of connection simply from a logo and a website’s product list.

For many potential consumers they’re likely to come to your site through a search engine, having sought the answer to a particular problem.  The best way to be the answer to their problem is to appear on the first page of a search engine result.  There are lots of different ways to achieve that, but the best one is to have good quality and consistent content.

 

Content marketing is important, and can make a huge impact on your business, whether that’s through increased revenue or improved customer loyalty.  If you’re reading to start thinking about how to improve your content and what you offer your audience, call 0161 883 2024 and speak to Lu, or email us on hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk

Where are your customers?

Recently I’ve been looking at how you can determine the best social network to use in your digital marketing. Last week I talked specifically about the amount of time you had to be social, and why this was an important thing to bear in mind.

When I start working with a new client on their social media one of the things I ask during my fact find is “what platforms do your customers use”. Usually I’m given one of two answers:

1.      I don’t know

2.      All of them

Depending on the mood I’m in I might start asking how many of their customers use QQ, We Chat, Baidu Tieba, Viber, Kiwibox or Skyrock. If I’ve had coffee and am therefore slightly less sarcastic, I may just explain that “all of them” does not simply mean Facebook or Twitter.

In fact, there are so many social networking sites it’s impossible to really keep a handle on a comprehensive list of what’s available. “All of them” is never a realistic answer.

With that in mind then, I ask again, where are your customers when they’re online? Chances are you won’t know the actual answer (unless you are stalking them) but you can take an educated guess.

Facebook remains the most popular platform, closely followed by YouTube, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Some people may have accounts on a variety of different networks, but most will favour just one or two. Personally I live on Facebook (to keep in touch with friends and share sarcastic posts) and Pinterest (great for Home Ed ideas and knitting projects). Professionally I prefer Twitter and LinkedIn because it allows me to share information quickly, and interact with others who have similar interests.

When it comes to deciding where you should focus your attention you need to think about what you have to offer, and what interactions you are looking for. If you’re a handyman is it worth posting videos showcasing your skills or offering top tips for simple DIY? If so, YouTube could be a great channel for you, followed by Facebook so you can share your videos.

I used to do a lot of work with a wool shop in Devon who started posting simple video tutorials on YouTube for basic knitting patterns. Knitting newbies would see the video, get inspiration and then be directed to their online shop to purchase the materials they needed. Sales went through the roof.

If you sell products that are visually pleasing then Pinterest may seem like the most logical choice; however, the audience for this site still has a huge US bias, which is great, as long as you can ship there. It might well be that Instagram is a better option instead.

Do you want people to like and share your content, or do you want them to interact? Do you want to start conversations and debates, sharing information and knowledge, or do you want people to passively digest your message? Again, a lot of this will come back to how much time you have.

These are all things to think about before just jumping in to a particular platform because everyone else is there.

Top Tips for Managing your Email

Last week I wrote about outsourcing your email management to a VA, and why this can be hugely beneficial. While I am a great advocate of this approach, I am also a realist and I know for many people this is just not something they can consider, let alone get on board with.

With that in mind I thought it might be an idea to share some of my tips for getting on top of the Inbox Hell so you can work towards Inbox Zero.

# 1 – Set limits

If any of you have emailed me over the last few weeks you will have noticed I have an auto-responder set. Essentially it explains that my inbox is not monitored constantly, and is instead checked at specific periods throughout the day.

I find this is a great way to manage other people’s expectations. Some people when they send an email, expect an answer immediately; however, others are happy to wait up to 24 hours. For the largest part it depends on the precedent you have set, but also the urgency of the email itself.

Personally I find checking my inbox repeatedly throughout the day is a huge distraction. It is also a great way to procrastinate. If I have a task I don’t want to do, or am struggling with for some reason, you can bet anything I will just hit refresh to see if anything has snuck in that demands my attention. Nine times out of ten, even if it isn’t urgent, I will deal with the new email before tackling the task I’m avoiding.

Even I have my imperfections it would seem!

I know I can’t just change the way I am, so I have to remove the temptation full stop. Instead of spending a day with my inbox open (and therefore easily accessible) I close it throughout the day, and only open it at my pre-specified times.

This can be a great way to ensure your inbox doesn’t rule you, though I admit it can take some getting used to. How often you choose to check your inbox, and when those times are, will greatly depend on you. I have opted for three – early morning, mid-day and approximately 4pm. These times might work for you, or you might prefer to add in a couple of extra ones as well.

The point is, allow yourself time away from your email so you are not being dictated to constantly, or distracted by new requests.

# 2 – Introduce “One Click”

If you have adopted tip 1 you have suddenly drastically reduced the amount of time you have to spend on emails per day. This means you have to be far more efficient when it comes to actually dealing with them.

Over the years I’ve found many people handle their inbox very badly. They will open it up, see a number of new emails and then proceed to browse; perhaps opening a few, reading them, and then moving on to the next one. They might even hop around, cherry picking what they want to focus on. This is a complete waste of time as nothing is being dealt with, which means, at some point, you will have to go back and re-read an email to actually action it.

Stop the madness!

The One Click approach is simply that. Open an email and then click on just one of these buttons – reply, delete or archive/move.

Force yourself to do something with that email.

Does it warrant a reply? If so, provide it there and then. If it’s not your job to handle it, then forward it to whoever it is and CC the original sender in. Get it out of your inbox and in to someone else’s.

Is it simply for information purposes? Is it junk? Is it completely irrelevant? Then delete it! Just get rid of it and move on.

Maybe it’s not something you need this second, but will do later, in which case archive it. Hopefully you will have suitable folders set up so that you can assign such information to the right client, job, category etc. so it’s easy to locate at a later date.

# 3 – Keep it short and sweet

This is actually my favourite tip, and it concerns what to do when you are replying to an email.

Keep your reply as short as possible. In an ideal world, no more than three sentences! If your response is likely to be wordy, and therefore time consuming to produce, you are better picking up the phone and having an actual conversation. Remember those?

Not only is a lengthy response difficult for you to compose, it is also difficult for the recipient to read. Long emails tend to be skip-read, which means important information is lost, and valuable time is wasted. Why take all that time for no benefit?

Complex scenarios and concepts are often much better explained in real time, via an actual conversation. You are then better placed to answer specific questions as and when they pop up, and clarify anything in more detail if required. If you don’t have the time to explain it there and then, make an appointment for either a telephone or face to face meeting.

Get off the email merry-go-round and take back control.

Hope these help, feel free to let me know how you get on, or if you have any tips of your own that help you stay on top of your inbox!

The one with Blue Monday

It has been another crazy (but enjoyable) week in the life of this Time Saving Hero. CVs are still proving popular, with many people looking for customer service roles. One thing I have seen this week is a huge increase in the number of people thinking about their LinkedIn profiles. I’ve already completed seven LinkedIn reviews, with another 15 scheduled for next week!

It’s great that people are being serious about getting involved in this platform more for 2017, and making sure their profiles are completely up to scratch is a fantastic way to start. Personally I really enjoy doing the reviews and providing people with top tips, especially when they say “I never knew you could do that”. LinkedIn is a fantastic network, but, like many things, a lot of what it’s capable of is done behind the scenes.

Work started in earnest this week on an event I am helping to organise for later in the year. I confess, this is the sort of thing I adore doing – a big project you can really get your teeth in to. Everyone is so passionate, which is infectious, but they want to do the fun things and not have to worry about the admin. I totally get it, pulling timetables and lists together is the cruddy end of the process, but it needs doing, and it’s lovely being able to take that off their plate so they can get on with the razzle-dazzle bit at the other end.

My BforB Ladies group met again for the first time this week since the Christmas break and I didn’t realise how much I’d missed them! I am lucky enough to be moderator for this group of lovelies, and it is such a joy seeing a group of individuals working so well together. I am excited to see where the group is going over the next 12 months and look forward to being a huge part of it.

My biggest challenge

Parts of this week have been tough because it’s been the doom and gloom week. A lot of people really seem to have been hit by Blue Monday, and at times it’s been hard not being one of them. For many of the clients I’ve spoken to, they are starting to feel the weight of their resolutions now that they have fully returned to normal work life. Many of them are getting follow-up calls today – it is Fail Friday after all and I want to make sure they’ve not cracked.

I’ve heard a lot of “I don’t know why I thought I could do that …” and “It’s never going to happen, it’s too hard” from people over the last few days, and it’s been tough not to slap them. My favourite saying has been pulled out a fair few times this week: “If you want to do something you’ll find a way, if you don’t, you’ll find an excuse”.

I firmly believe that, and I hope everyone will be slightly more positive next week.

My highlight

I am well aware this is going to sound odd, but my highlight this week was a client telling me they didn’t need me anymore.

I have worked with this client for four years, and I have enjoyed every crazy minute. There is no part of his business I haven’t been involved in, and I’ve had some pretty random tasks as a result. My favourite might well be viewing properties in Chester for him to buy. The sorts of places I couldn’t afford to buy a garage for.

Anyway, I digress. Over the years we have built an amazing relationship (so amazing that we actually feel comfortable enough to properly argue with each other now), but I always knew this day would come. I was hired because he didn’t have the time to do things himself, or the need for a full time member of staff. That has now changed. He has an office in London, already kitted out with staff, and he has just interviewed two new team members to replace me.

I’m just going to say that again – he needs two people, to replace one me. Yeah, that gives me a happy.

The point is, while I am of course sad not to be working with Baz any longer, it’s a perfect reminder of what I actually do. The whole point of having a VA is to help you move your business forward, in whatever way you want to. That might mean increased sales, expansion or simply keeping your head above water.  He wanted to grow, and he has. Where he is now it’s hard to imagine he once operated out of a tiny box room in his Mum’s flat!

Were it not for the fact that I’m still stuck with Dry January I’d be raising a glass of champagne to Baz and the part I played in his journey. For the time being, I shall make do with my cuppa. I’m proud of you kid!

 

Have a great weekend everyone and see you next week, ready to start all over again.

Does your content have these three things?

Last week we tried to answer what the term content marketing actually means.  Hopefully now you have a slightly better understanding, and how it can impact on your business, and more importantly, your relationships with your customers (and prospects).

When it comes to creating good content you have to look at three main factors, and this week we wanted to look at these in a bit more detail.

Valuable

Your content has to be valuable to the people who are reading it.  Ultimately you have no control over who stumbles across your blogs or articles, so what this means is the people you are specifically targeting.

No matter what your business sells you need to have a good idea of who you are trying to sell to.  It is these people that need to find value in what you are offering in the way of content.  For everything you choose to share, you need to ask yourself what they (the audience) are going to get out of it. What makes it worthwhile?

Your audience should finish reading your blog, or watching your video feeling as though they have learnt something, or have been entertained in some way.  Your content needs to resonate with their lives and values.

Relevant

This follows on from value. Not only must your content be valuable, but it has to be relevant to them and what you’re able to offer.

The best way to do this is to become their trusted expert; demonstrate that you know everything there is to know about your industry, so they can turn to you with any questions they might have.

Show them that you understand them, and they will turn to you the second they need something.

Consistent

There is no benefit to posting three times a year, or just when you remember you’ve not done anything for a while. No matter how good your content is, if it’s not consistent no one is going to remember it. Which means no one is going to remember you.

Posting regularly over a period of time will ensure you are instantly recognisable, and therefore in the forefront of people’s minds when it comes to looking for a solution to their problem.

 

If your problem is coming up with content, or writing posts that are entertaining, factual and engaging then we have the solution. Give us a call on 0161 883 2024 or email hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk and ask for Lu.