So many business cards, so little time

ToEarlier this month Time Saving Heroes had the pleasure of exhibiting at The Big Bolton Expo, hosted by thebestofBolton.  Having attended a number of different expos, both as an exhibitor and a delegate over the past three years, I can honestly say this was hands down the most professional, friendly and well run event I’ve been to.

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The organisers did a great job of being on hand to help with any questions, and were always friendly, calm and fun to talk to.  At other events I’ve seen the people “in charge” running around like headless chickens, which I always think leaves a poor impression.  It also makes them very unapproachable if you do have a query.

With such a well-run event it’s impossible to come away, no matter what side of the stand you were on, without a handful of business cards and a bunch of new contacts to follow up with.  While it’s always important to follow up, after splashing the cash on a stand, it’s imperative. You need to justify that time, effort and just as importantly the financial expense.

This is where a VA can come in handy.  I know some businesses have a team behind them, and some may even have a whole marketing department, but for sole traders and SMEs this is not the case.  After spending a whole day exhibiting, you’re going to want to crack on with “work” the second you’re back in the office the next day, and then, before you know it, an entire week has passed and you’ve not sent a single email.

Admittedly, the contacts aren’t going anywhere, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow up in a timely manner.  The longer you leave it the harder it might be for someone to remember you, and any conversation you might have had.  Sending an email the next day leaves a good impression – it shows you’re organised, if nothing else.

How a VA can help

Here at Time Saving Heroes we have a number of clients that we only work with after expos and conferences.  It’s the only time they need to use our services.  Whilst every client in this situation is different, here’s what we do for most:

  1. If the client is local they will either drop off their new pile of business cards, or we will collect from them. If they aren’t local, they tend to take photographs and send them to us via email/Dropbox etc.
  2. Once we have the business cards we collate all the information in to a spreadsheet, which can then be easily uploaded in to their CRM systems. If we have access to the CRM system itself we will upload the data directly.
  3. If any information is missing from the business cards/leaflets we will take the time to search this out. It might be that there’s no Twitter handle on the card – so we will look to see if the business or individual is on social media, and find all relevant links.
  4. For most clients we will have pre-written their initial contact email, and now we will send it out on their behalf. It might be a specific email, or it might be in the form of a newsletter, depending on the client’s preferences.
  5. We will ensure we make contact with all businesses and individuals on behalf of the client via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other platform they deem to be relevant.

 

After that we can help schedule certain individuals for further follow-up, as well as writing any other emails and/or newsletters that the client might want to send.

 

If you have been to an expo, conference or any other networking event and are worried that you don’t have time to capitalise on the new contacts you’ve made remember Time Saving Heroes. We are your secret weapon in the fight against time. Call 0161 883 2024 for more information.

 

 

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.

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.

Why are you wasting time on non money making tasks?

Here at Time Saving Heroes we know when you work for yourself you’re constantly trying to juggle the tasks you need to do to keep things ticking over, and those that will generate more income.  It’s not too bad at the beginning, when you’re just starting and maybe the phone doesn’t ring as much as you’d like. Then, the second the work starts pouring in, that takes your attention and everything else starts to slip just a little bit.

If you want to keep your eye on the strategic side of your business, why not consider outsourcing any of the following tasks to a Time Saving Hero?

  1. Receptionist duties (call answering, customer support)
  2. Lead generation (for example, LinkedIn)
  3. Creating forms
  4. Client invoicing (and sending quotes/estimates)
  5. Bookkeeping
  6. Expenses/mileage claims
  7. Preparing agendas for meetings
  8. Creation of document templates (or email templates)
  9. File organisation
  10. Data scraping/management

 

There’s so much more a Virtual Assistant can offer, but these are some of the key tasks that will allow you to focus on what you need to achieve to move your business forward.  Imagine how much more productive you could be if you weren’t constantly bogged down in the non-money making tasks that demand so much time?

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

 

 

 

It’s not about the money, money, money

When I was younger I had a number of customer facing jobs. For the largest part, I loved them; however, the downside was often the customer. Despite what they tell you at Front of House School, the customer is not always right. In fact, the reality is, on occasion, the customer is just a pain in the proverbial.

As is often the case when you are a lowly waitress, retail assistant or bar maid it is easy to imagine what it might be like doing a job where you aren’t directly at the coal face, having to put up with people’s bad moods and attitudes. Of course, it doesn’t take long to realise that actually, no matter where you are in the hierarchy, the chances are you’re going to have to put up with someone’s sh!t. That’s employment.

So then, when you decide to embrace the life of the self-employed bod, it can be tempting to think you’ve finally broken free of the shackles, and you really can tell people where to go if you feel like it. Of course, you can even if you are employed, though it’s safe to say you’re unlikely to be welcomed back for your next shift (and yes, there does speak to the voice of experience).

My point is, when you run your own business you can be forgiven for thinking, initially, that you are completely autonomous; but you’re not. At least, not if you actually want to earn any money, which is kind of the whole point. If you want to pay the bills, you need to be able to send the invoices, which means, for at least a while, you’re going to have to take jobs where you can find them.

They might be poorly paid, not really worth it jobs; they might be too time consuming or it might be that the customer is a complete and utter [insert word of your liking here]. We’ve all been there, and that’s just one of the realities of business.

However, it doesn’t have to be for long. I remember when I just started out, a much respected client of mine told me that the ultimate goal, for him at least, was being able to cherry pick the work he did, and the people he did it for. His plan was to be in a position whereby he wanted to earn the money his clients would pay him, rather than having to earn it.

I didn’t think much of it at the time, other than being pleased his goal meant he needed an extra pair of hands, and therefore secured me a regular income stream. Now though, over three years later, I completely understand what he meant, and confess to having embraced the ideology myself.

When it comes to my clients I have one job: to make their life easier. It doesn’t matter what task they need completing – social media, content writing, credit control, research – I’m there to save them time so they can get on with the more pressing aspects of their business. And I’m damn good at my job. Not being arrogant, it’s just true.

That said, I realised while I was great at helping other people out with their time issues, I was getting bogged down in my own. I’d be chasing after potential leads I’d been passed, and spending not insignificant amounts of times warming people up. I’d go over proposals with them, sketch out complicated editorial calendars, listen to their insane to-do lists and come up with plans to help them move forward.

I invested.

After chasing and chasing I’d invariably get to the point of securing the deal, and starting work. Then, the inevitable happened. The client, who was never 100% in to begin with, didn’t engage. Therefore they didn’t see the benefit, and when cash flow became the slightest bit of an issue (which it invariably did because they weren’t actually engaging), I’d get binned.

And my invoices would go unpaid.

And my emails would go unanswered.

I am a huge fan of trusting your gut, sometimes you just get a feel that someone is going to be a bit too difficult to work with. Don’t get me wrong, I love a challenge, and I have clients who do challenge me; however, that’s because of the nature of their work, or the tasks they need me to do, not because of their attitude.

While I understand the argument that you have to be consistent and relentless in your pursuit of particular clients, I actually don’t bother myself. If you don’t want to work with me, that is fine; I have no interest in forcing you and badgering you. There are other clients who do want to work with me and they are deserving of my time, energy and efforts, so it’s no loss to me.

Laid out bear on the cold digital screen I know I may sound a little bitter and twisty, but actually it’s not about that. It’s about knowing my worth.

Do you know yours? Ask yourself, honestly, how much time do you spend chasing down things that are genuinely a waste of time at work? Maybe it’s not leads, or clients, maybe it’s using the wrong social media platform, or not automating your invoicing. Perhaps you’re spending too long managing your email, or you’re not compiling effective to do lists. Are you mis-managing your time, or taking forever to write a blog post that could easily be outsourced to someone else?

Now is as good a time as any to ensure you are using your time more productively.