Successfully running your VA business is not just about getting on with the day-to-day stuff. In order to sustain it you’ve also got to plan for the future.

This is where a good marketing strategy comes into play.

I can hear you all cringe at the mention of the ‘m’ word, but marketing doesn’t have to be the time-consuming mission we think it is.

In fact, one of the best ways of marketing with minimum effort is by building an email list of prospective clients and reaching out to them on a regular basis.

Why you need an email list

Imagine a small business owner starting his search for a Virtual Assistant, they’ll most likely start off by window shopping.

They’ll take a look at a few VA websites online, read about each one, maybe take a look at the testimonials and then try to determine if any of them will suit their business needs.

Then once they’ve looked around for a while, they’ll most likely shut your site down.

Perhaps they’ll come back, perhaps not.

By adding an opt-in form to your website, that same business owner who thought you might be a good fit for her business but isn’t quite ready to contact you yet, decides to sign up to your mailing list.

What you have now is the perfect way to reach out to her, provide her with quality information, regularly bring her back to your website, and ultimately start to build a relationship with her.

Then when she’s ready to work with a VA, you’ll be top of mind.

So let’s get to work.

Here’s how you can start developing your email list today…

Step 1: Create a free newsworthy giveaway

First thing’s first – how will you lure prospective clients into parting with their contact details?

The easiest solution is to give them something for free – in exchange for their name and email, you provide them with something of value.

Many VA’s create a free downloadable eBook targeting their ideal market.

Here are a few examples of the kind of freebie you could create:

  • Top Tips for working with a Virtual Assistant
  • How to become more a productive small business owner
  • Why you should outsource work so you can focus on growing your business
  • How to manage a successful virtual team
  • 21 Tasks you could outsource to a Virtual Assistant

Or if you’re a specialist VA, think of a giveaway more in line with your specialism.

The possibilities are endless, so get your thinking cap on and come up with the perfect bait for your mailing list.

Step 2: Add an opt-in form to your website

When you’re ready with your giveaway, add an opt-in form to your website.

There are plenty of providers to choose from – Mailchimp, Aweber, Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor – some are free and some are paid for services. Decide which is the best fit for your business. But don’t spend too much time on it, as you can always switch providers later down the line.

And it’s never too early to start.

Add your opt-in form to your website, regardless of whether it’s getting any traffic or not. Those that wait until they feel ready, or their site is established, could be losing out.

Two things worth bearing in mind here:

1. Don’t ask for too much information.

Studies have proven that the more information you ask for, the less likely it is people will sign up – irrespective of what your giveaway is.

Simply capture a name and email address.

That’s all you need at this stage. Later down the line, once you’ve established a relationship with them and you feel it’s necessary, then ask for more information.

2. Make sure your opt-in form is prominent.

There’s no point spending time on a brilliant giveaway for it to be hidden at the bottom of your website.

Best places for an opt-in form on your homepage are:

  • Header display section (if applicable)
  • Top of side column

In addition, display it on all inner pages of your site, as well as on your blog. The latter could display a pop-up box that appears when people near the end of your article, or as closing copy.

Step 3: Create regular quality content

Best way of doing this – via a blog.

It’s the easiest, most effective way to display your professionalism, skills and knowledge.

Of course your blog shouldn’t be about selling. Blog articles should be informative, offering information for free as a way to build relationships, build your authority and gently enticing people towards your business offering.

Create a blog schedule. Allocate adequate time. Then stick to it!

Step 4: Share your content on social media sites and group forums

The simplest way to get new traffic to your website is by sharing your quality content on social media sites or via niche forums.

Most businesses these days have a social media presence. In fact many will use social media as a way to find potential clients (like us) or potential support (like business owners).

Each time you publish an article to your site, broadcast it via your social media channels. And don’t just do it once, you can re-cycle old articles – as long as they’re still relevant.

You may not see immediate reward for this, but over time and by consistently broadcasting quality content, you will start to see more people clicking through, and then, more people signing up to your email list.

Step 5: Create your first email campaign

The best email campaigns are those that continually provide quality content, but at the same time share their personality.

Of course, your emails should not be overly salesy. If they are, you’ll soon see the majority of those who opted in, opt out. At most, stick to the 80/20 rule – 80% of the time provide quality relevant information. 20% of the time promote you and your services.

So if you’re a bookkeeper, an example of your email / newsletter could be:

1. Providing tips to small business owners for keeping on top of their accounts. Since these tips will be helpful to your target market, they’ll be grateful, see your value and be more likely to hire you if they decide to get outside support.

2. Give away a little piece of yourself. Help prospective clients get to know you better, but always relate it back to your work.

For example, you could initially tell people how you became a bookkeeper. Then as you continue with your email campaigns, you could recount amusing stories about bookkeeping, share your experiences – good and bad.

Injecting your own personality will help establish relationships quicker.

People like doing business with people. So be yourself. If not – it’ll certainly trip you up in the long term.

3. Tout for business. This is not the main focus of your email, but if you need more clients then you could offer a new client deal. Or promote a new service offering.

And my final point on sending your email campaigns, don’t be a pest.

If you start sending out campaigns more than once a week, two things could happen:

  1. The quality of your emails will decline. Inevitably. Unless this is all you do, there’s little chance of coming up with quality emails every week.
  2. Those people you worked so hard to have opt-in in the first place, will start disappearing pretty fast.

But I should say that if you can continually dispatch quality content via a newsletter each week, do it. The people on that mailing list of yours won’t opt-out unless the information you provide is poor.

Step 6: Be responsive.

Remember that many small business owners work on-the-go or will view emails later in the evening away from their desktop, in front of their smartphone or tablet instead, so make sure your email campaigns are responsive.

If not, and many in your mailing list use mobile devices, they’ll start opting-out.

Step 6: Track performance

And finally, don’t do all this hard work without tracking performance.

Whatever provider you choose, you’ll be able to monitor open and click through rates. The information presented can help you improve your subject lines – if the emails aren’t being opened – or the body information – if people aren’t clicking through to your website.

Starting an email list is a long term plan. It won’t necessarily bring in new business overnight, but it will increase the potential of finding new business more easily over time.

So what’s stopping you?

Start your email list today and let us know how you get on.