Why size really doesn’t matter

Whenever I talk to people about their current business activity on social media, they often complain about the number of people who follow them. It doesn’t matter if it’s Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook – the number of followers or fans always seems to equate to success as far as they’re concerned.

Big is better, and biggest is best. Apparently.

The problem seems to be even worse when they start to compare the size of their following with those of their competitors.

“Well, John has 500 followers, and we only have 390. No wonder he’s doing better than us.”

I confess in this instance I’m always keen to discover how they know John is doing better.  Because he says so? Well, he’s hardly going to admit sales are down and he’s not sure how he’s going to pay the bills next month is he?

We always assume others have got it together and we don’t, but that’s rarely the reality.

However, let’s make one thing perfectly clear – a larger following does not necessarily mean more business.

Forget online and social media. Let’s look at the real world.

Imagine you have a shop in a dingy back street with very little passing trade. Your competitor, on the other hand is located in the middle of the High Street, and has over 1,000 people pass by their door every day.

Who is doing better in terms of trade?

In all honesty, you have no idea.

More people have the potential to see their shop than yours, but does that equate to more business?  It all means nothing if no one is actually going in and buying anything.

For all you know the five customers you have who actually pop in and purchase exceeds the one he has who window shops.  Plus, your rent is probably lower.

Who’s doing better now?

Social media works in exactly the same way.  Having more followers simply means there is more opportunity for your posts to be seen by people, it doesn’t mean you’re going to do any better from it. In fact, if you have a smaller community of fans who do engage and interact with your content you are most definitely going to do better than someone who is receiving no contact from their audience.

This is the precise reason why I find it so frustrating when people “buy” followers.  Yes, for a mere £20 (or less) you can bump your audience by 20,000.  You may think that looks impressive, you might even assume it gives you a certain amount of credibility – but does it?

There is no “search pages with large followers” option when it comes to Facebook.  The only way a complete random person is going to stumble across your page is if you pay for an ad, or one of your genuine followers interacts with your content.  A paid for, made up profile is not going to do that, and therefore there is simply no benefit to going down this route.

Instead of looking for quick fixes that you think make you look good, take the time to build genuine relationships with your target audience and existing clients.  Reach out to them, ask them questions, thank then when they do respond and most importantly, stop just trying to sell to them.

If you’re not sure how to build relationships online, get in touch with Lu at Time Saving Heroes today – we are always happy to offer some advice. Call 0161 883 2024 or email hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk

 

 

What are your core skills and services?

I recently wrote a piece on questions I think you ought to ask a Virtual Assistant before you contemplate hiring them.  Now’s probably a good time to start thinking about answering some of those questions myself, so you can get an idea as to whether Time Saving Heroes is the right partner for your business.

We might as well start at the beginning, so today I will be answering “What are your core skills and services?”

Organisation

Once upon a time I had a reputation for being completely disorganised.  I never handed my homework in on time (in fact, I rarely did it), I could barely remember what class I was meant to be in, I never had the right books with me and I’d invariably be late if I had to be anywhere.

Over the years it’s safe to say a few things have changed.  Yes, I grew up but also life experiences have meant I’ve learnt how to manage my time, and myself better.  The biggest catalyst for that’s probably becoming a parent.

Having five children definitely means you’ve got to be on the ball.  You have to know who needs what, where they need to be and when and how to predict disasters before they happen.

To say I’m quite organised these days is an understatement, and it’s definitely one of my core skills.

That means I’m able to prioritise my workload, ensuring a client’s tasks will get done, even if I have other clients I need to complete work for.

Logical

I’ve always been a details person, and that’s one of the reasons I ended up doing a Forensic Science degree. I am a scientific thinker. I enjoy being logical, and approaching things methodically. Give me a mess to sort out, and I’ll tackle it sensibly and get the job done.

It also means that I’m able to stay calm under pressure (again, the kids helped with that training) and pass this on to clients.  If they’re flapping or stressing about something, I can usually talk them down and get them to think about things calmly too.

Passionate

I’m really passionate about what I do because I love seeing other businesses thrive.  That’s my “why” in many ways.  I want a client to come on board, and whilst they’re working with me to see the impact it’s having.

That passion means that if you care about your business, your products, your customers then I’m going to.  I’ll care as much as you do. Like you, I will wake at 2am in the morning and have that wonderful idea that I simply have to write down.

You really do get so much more than simply someone who can do admin.

Social media and content

I absolutely love being creative, and adore writing. Anything that requires me to put thoughts and ideas down is really going to get me engaged, and that’s why content writing and social media are one of my core services.

I love doing them, and I’m good at them so it makes sense it’s the sort of thing I’m going to plug as much as possible.

Equally though I love inspiring other people to get involved.  I haven’t met anyone who couldn’t handle their own social media (apart from those who don’t have the time). Therefore showing someone how to do it, getting them to think about their own business and what they can post, and then seeing them let loose on it all really gives me a happy.

Virtual Assistance

Any aspect of VA work really interests me too. It’s a great way to see behind the scenes of a business and make a huge impact. No, maybe sending out invoices isn’t the most thrilling thing in the world, but it’s essential for cashflow. It has to be done, and contributing to the health of a business is a wonderful feeling.

I take a lot of pleasure out of establishing what needs to be done, making a list and then working my through it.

Maybe that makes me sad, but it also makes me a good VA.

 

 

 

Your message is not important to us

Despite the impression I like to give, I am only human, and that means even I the-ever-writing-Lu can find it hard at times to come up with content.  Thankfully this week I’ve been given a bit of a hand by some really bad customer service experiences on social media.

One of the most popular services we provide at Time Saving Heroes is social media management.  Whilst we offer a whole host of services in this area, for the most part people just want regular content posting out via their networks.  However, I always try to remind people that it’s not about what they sell or do, but how they engage and build relationships with their audience/customers.

Some people get that, some just don’t.

Never is this more pronounced than when you look at how people manage their business pages Facebook Messenger.  On countless occasions I have stumbled across a page, found the content interesting, liked it, commented and proceeded to follow.  In time I have found myself actually needing to find out something – so I hit the trusty “Send Message” button and wait.

Sometimes I have to wait a few hours – which even the most impatient of individuals can probably live with.

Most times, I have to wait a week, or longer.

In some instances no reply comes at all.

For those of you who have Facebook business pages can I just ask – why are you taking the time to set up a page, fill it with content and to add all your contact details only to ignore your potential customers when they bother to reach out to you?

What the Hell is the point?!

Not only are you potentially missing out on a sale in the here and now, but actually you are leaving a really bad taste in someone’s mouth.  Having managed numerous business pages over the last few years I totally get how annoying “the public” can be.  The seemingly endless barrage of questions that are time consuming to respond to – and they don’t end up buying anyway.  Yes, I get it, but sorry buttercup, that’s what you’re there for.  It’s called customer service.

It’s like having a phone, and never bothering to answer the bloody thing!

If you really don’t want people to get in touch with you via direct messaging, don’t offer it as a method of communication.  And if you are going to offer it, make sure you manage it properly.

If you don’t have the time, then you need Time Saving Heroes.

If you leave your marketing until you have time, it’s too late

What do you do to promote your business?

Every business is different, but the one thing that’s always essential is marketing.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve got people forming an orderly queue for your services, you still need to market. NEVER make the mistake of thinking you’re busy, so it doesn’t matter.

Yes, you might well be busy, and therefore remembering to do all the important things like updating your blog or posting on social media can seem impossible.  But, the reality is, you should never wait until you’re quiet to promote your business.

That’s just insanity.

Hiring a virtual assistant can ensure that you can juggle everything that your business needs.  You can stay focussed on meeting new clients, or doing the physical work whilst a Time Saving Hero takes on all the time consuming, yet essential, digital marketing aspects.

Here at Time Saving Heroes we can:

  1. Manage your business blog
  2. Moderate comments via your blog, and respond where necessary
  3. Add images and tags to your blogs
  4. Create lists for email marketing campaigns
  5. Keep email lists up to date (adding and removing subscribers as necessary)
  6. Creating and scheduling newsletters and marketing emails
  7. Write blog posts
  8. Update content on your website
  9. Produce other content marketing material (infographics etc)
  10. Do research on keywords

 

If these are things that you keep meaning to do, but just can’t find the time for, get in touch with one of our Time Saving Heroes today.

Just give us a call on 0161 883 2024 or email hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk and we’ll be happy to help.

 

 

 

Are you making the most of the power of word of mouth?

What’s the most important thing when it comes to growing your business? Is it the amount of money you have in your marketing budget? Perhaps it’s your current customers? Maybe it’s developing a new product line or USP.

The reality is there’s no one right answer.  There are plenty of things you need to take into account, and must stay on top of if you really want to make a massive impact and take home the lion’s share of the potential market.

However, one thing I find that often gets overlooked is referrers.

When I talk to business owners looking to get in to social media marketing they often want to focus on their target audience – the people they can immediately sell to.  Of course these people are essential to the success of your business; without these people you won’t make money. However, you don’t just access these people from direct sales. You also rely heavily on word of mouth. And if you don’t currently, you should.

Advertising costs money.

Marketing costs money, and a heck of a lot of time.

You can’t necessarily avoid either of these expenses, but you could add to it for free if you utilise the power of your brand ambassadors.

Last week I had a chat with a woman who runs a domestic cleaning company. She is doing well enough for herself, has 25 members of staff, and isn’t exactly panicking over how to pay her bills at the end of the month. However, she’s the first to admit that sales are stagnant.

She doesn’t spend money on adverts, but does three separate networking events in her local area which takes up over 10 hours of her time each week, and costs her over £300 per month.  When challenged, she admitted she didn’t get as much back as she’d like for her efforts to be cost effective.

When challenged further, she confessed she did get “leads” from her networking colleagues, but by the time she got them, and had a chance to react to them, they’d gone cold.  Further discussion lead to her realising part of the problem was the fact her networking buddies couldn’t easily tag her in to conversations.

For example, one night her colleague saw that a friend had posted on Facebook looking for a recommendation for a cleaner. Dutifully he had posted the right contact details – but as the company in question didn’t have a social media presence he was only able to supply a mobile contact number.

When that number is placed in a list alongside tagged Facebook company pages, which provide all the information a potential client might want, along with photos and independent reviews, it can’t really compete.

It didn’t take long for the woman in question to realise that relying on word of mouth without social media wasn’t really working for her as well as she thought it would.

No matter what your primary focus is when it comes to advertising and/or marketing, social media adds to it.  An up to date account, full of interesting information, reviews, photos and other contact information provides your business with credibility. It gives people an easy way to get in touch and keep track of you.

If you don’t bother with social media, the people on it won’t bother with you.

It really is that simple.

 

To find out more about how social media could benefit your business please get in touch by calling our hero hotline: 0161 883 2024, emailing hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk or messaging us via Twitter or Facebook.

 

 

 

 

10 Questions to ask a Virtual Assistant BEFORE you hire them

If you’ve ever wished there were more hours in the day, or if you could clone yourself then it’s probably time you took on help.  For some people that might mean hiring staff, but not all businesses are in a financial position where they can handle that level of risk. Equally, some people really don’t want to deal with everything that having staff brings.

That’s where a Virtual Assistant can come in. No upfront costs, no training, no employee benefits, no need to find space for them or provide them with equipment, and you can be up and running within minutes.

However, we know finding the right Virtual Assistant isn’t always that easy.  It’s not a case of finding one online and saying “yeah, you’ll do”.  This person is meant to be your right hand (wo)man so you need to make sure you can work together. If you can’t, it doesn’t matter how good they are at their individual skills, it’s not going to work.

How do you find out though, at interview stage, if it’s a match made in heaven?  Whilst there’s no hard and fast rules, we’ve pulled together ** questions we think you should ask to find out more about your potential VA.

#1 – What are your core skills and services?

As with many roles, a VA doesn’t just do one thing, but equally that doesn’t mean they do all things brilliantly.

A good VA should have strong skills and extensive experience in admin settings, but they might also be proficient with social media, graphic design, website management, research, customer service, general organisation etc.

It’s important for you to know what they can offer, and what they might not be strong at so you can ascertain if they are right for your business needs.

# 2 – What’s your favourite way to communicate?

We all have a preference, for some they live on their phone, others are tied to their email. If you’re a phone person the last thing you want is to be forced in to emailing your VA if this isn’t natural of comfortable for you.

A good VA should be comfortable communicating whichever way feels best for you, but ask for clarification.

# 3 – What would you do if you realised you didn’t know how to do a task?

We all like to think we know everything, but the truth is, we don’t.  There might well be a time you ask your VA to do something they’re not able to do, which isn’t a problem; however, if they don’t handle it well it might be.

A VA that says “well, errr, I don’t know …” probably isn’t that experienced.  It’s happened to us all at some point, and there’s no shame in it.

# 4 – How do you manage conflicting deadlines, and what do you do if you realise you can’t meet them all?

Sometimes you take on work and suddenly realise there is no way you’re going to get everything done. We’ve all been there, and believe it or not, VA’s aren’t immune to this either. Whilst it might happen rarely, it is important you know what your VA would do if they were faced with it, and one of your tasks was going to get dropped.

# 5 – What do you think the biggest challenge would be in this role?

Every client brings their own challenges, and whilst no one wants to be potentially criticised, it’s also good to know your VA has given this particular relationship some thought.

A really good VA would already have highlighted potential sticking points, and will have come up with ways to handle them.

# 6 – You’re working on an urgent deadline, and your computer or internet crashes. What do you do?

Again, none of us are immune from the terrors of malfunctioning technology so it’s important to know what your VA would do if this happened whilst they were working on an urgent task for you.  Yes, they’re likely to have backups and contingency plans, but are they enough to make you feel happy should the need arise to use them?

# 7 – What are your schedule restrictions?

You might well want your VA to be available to you 24/7, but that’s unrealistic.  They are allowed a life too. Equally, you might want them to be able to respond to you during office hours, but is that practical if they have other clients?

They might be able to set aside specific days and times where they are open to your calls, or they may have a set turnaround time. Each VA works differently, and you need to make sure you’re happy working within their restrictions.

# 8 – Give an example of when you’ve proactively addressed a client’s needs

A good VA should do everything you ask them to, but an exceptional VA will do the things you don’t ask for. It can take a while, but if you have a good working relationship with your VA they will be able to anticipate your needs based on your previous requests and work habits.

# 9 – Have you ever challenged a client and suggested an alternative way of doing things?

We think one of the best things about a VA is that they’re not an employee.  They might be there to help you, but one of the best ways to do that is to bounce ideas around and provide suggestions.  They have their own experience, and they have no doubt worked within a wide number of businesses, and may have a few ideas you could benefit from.

A good VA won’t sit there and stay quiet.

# 10 – Have you ever sacked a client?

Sometimes relationships break down, and when this happens a VA is no longer effective.  It is a good idea to know if your VA has ever experienced this, and if so, what they did about it.  It will say a lot about them and their confidence.

What three years in business has taught me

Today is an important one for me, personally and professionally.  Three years ago Time Saving Heroes officially came in to being, after rattling around in my head for a few months.  Admittedly nothing changed, really; I was still doing exactly the same work, in the same place and with the same clients – I was just doing it under an official name.

Although it was a Sunday, I remember sitting at our kitchen table, finalising my five year plan.  As I look back I’m amazed how far I’ve come, and what lessons I’ve learnt along the way.

# 1 – Failure is an opportunity

I’d be lying if I said everything had gone to plan over the last three years, and I hadn’t put a foot wrong.  Actually, if we’re going to be completely honest about this, I’ve made some monumental cock ups along the way.

The good thing though about wandering off the path is that it doesn’t necessarily mean you are lost.  Such events can provide you with an enormous opportunity to learn – what to do, and most certainly what not to do.

The end of 2015 was challenging, for many reasons, but I have to admit everything I went through in those last few months have made me far more sure-footed as I move forward.  It was hard at the time, but looking back, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

# 2 – Don’t listen to every piece of advice

When I started TSH I hadn’t done any networking, so when I got thrown in to this world of other businesses, expos and 121’s I felt like a scared little newbie.  To be fair, I was.  Looking around the room at my peers I was in awe of their knowledge and experience, and was convinced they all had their shit together and were so much better than me.

As a result I listened, and took every bit of advice that was offered in those first few months.  I mean, they knew what they were talking about.  They had it all sussed, and I’d be an idiot not to listen to their pearls of wisdom.

James Altucher once said “Anyone who gives actual advice is a fraud. We’re all just trying to understand the planet from our own tiny perspectives” and it’s so true.  Now while I listen to what people say and suggest, I don’t follow it blindly. I accept it for what it is – just their opinion and viewpoint.  They might be right, but it doesn’t mean what they are saying is right for me.

After three years I have learnt to make that all important distinction, and to trust my gut when it comes to my business.

# 3 – Forget the “rules”

Many people work a certain way because that’s the way they’ve always worked.  That’s fine for them, but I don’t want to live that way.  I started this business in my kitchen, and three years later, here I sit again, surrounded by my dogs and listening to the sound of my children laughing.

I tried the serviced office, I tried the rented space, and yet I came back home.  I was advised, by many, that it would be more professional to have a dedicated work space; that I’d be taken more seriously, that I’d earn more money, if I stepped away from the kitchen table.  Bollocks.

The reality is my professionalism comes from me, not my location.  I am no better writing in an office than I am sitting on my bed.  The words are the same, it’s only the environment that’s different, and as I don’t write with clients present, what does it matter where I do it?  Even when I had an office I would meet clients at their place of work, or in a coffee shop.  I still do that now.  Nothing has changed. Except I am now £600pm better off.

Equally, three months ago I embraced a new approach to my emails.  I have an auto-responder that lets people know I check my emails three times a day, and will respond as soon as possible at those specified times.  If you need me before that, phone me.

Some people have taken the utter piss out of me, and that’s fine.  However, I am now not tied to my inbox, people’s expectations are managed and I am generally far more efficient.  Laugh all you like, but my inbox, my rules.

# 4 – My dreams are mine

I learnt the hard way that when you tell anyone and everyone your dreams, they get battered and bashed up along the way.  People will always have an opinion, and whilst some people will be on hand to offer support and guidance, share their stories or just lend a sympathetic ear, other people will not.

I’ve had people tell me I can’t, that it won’t work or that it will cost too much – all comments that are so negative they make you want to just say “OK, I won’t bother”.  I’ve also had people take my ideas, my dreams, my plans and ambitions and steal them; screwing me over in the process.

The truth is you don’t have to share your dreams with anyone.  Now I work quietly towards mine, and when I get there, I will shout about my arrival from the roof tops.  My nearest and dearest know where I’m heading, and enjoy the journey with me; no one else needs to.

# 5 – It’s better to do something rather than nothing

It’s far too easy to overthink things when you run your own business.  Should you share that post?  Should you write that blog?  How will people react to the use of the word “bollocks”? How much should you quote for that job, what can the client afford?  The problem with thinking is that it has this nasty tendency to get in the bloody way of doing.

You can waste hours, days or even months pushing thoughts around whilst you try to find the perfect path, by which time you have lost out.  The reality is that until you do something you’re not going to know 100% whether it’s the right thing or not.

My advice? Trust your gut, move and hope for the best.

But, that’s just my view, from my own tiny perspective.