Online marketing is too great an opportunity for a virtual assistant to pass up. It can be a great way to win new business. There are several methods – most of them cheap or free – that can be used to market your services online.
The days when a business could credibly say ‘Oh, we don’t have a website’ are gone. A website should be the foundation of all your online marketing. It’s the place people will be referred to, the place they’ll find out what you can offer them, and most importantly how they can get in touch.
A professional web designer will be able to create an impressive site quickly, and there are many freelancers out there who specialise in small business work.
But there is no reason why you can’t do it yourself. A DIY job is much cheaper than a designer, and there are many free services, such as WordPress with 123-Reg, that simplify the process. With a little help from free web design tutorials like those at W3 Schools, it doesn’t take long to create a professional-looking website.
Once you have a site, keep it up-to-date with regular blog posts, a list of services, contact details and testimonials from happy clients.
Include the web address in your email signature. Install traffic monitoring software, such as Google Analytics, to gather data about who is visiting your site and help assess the effectiveness of the content.
Using social media can have a slow-release marketing benefit. Social networks offer a great chance to build contacts.
It is a good idea to experiment with all of the main social media platforms, to work out which best suits your purposes. LinkedIn, for example, could be much better for developing contacts within your industry than Facebook. Twitter is great for reaching people in your local area, as is Foursquare.
Don’t expect immediate results. It takes time to build up a following, but there are certain things you can do to make social media work for you, as explained in more detail in our article How to build your following on Twitter and Facebook.
Pay per click advertising
Pay Per Click means that you pay for the advert based on the number of times people click through to your website. One such service, Google AdWords, allows you to get an advert on the first page of Google search results for certain phrases or keywords.
These adverts appear on the right hand side of the Google results page.
This means that your advert will be seen by people already interested in your type of business. PPC campaigns can be very flexible, and costs can be kept within budget by setting an upper limit on the amount you want to pay each day.
Showing off your expertise can be more effective than an advertising campaign. Writing a guest blog for a popular industry website can help build your profile amongst peers. It also looks impressive to potential clients who search for your business and see your words on a respected website.
A more direct route to potential clients could be through local news websites. For example, the local newspaper may profile a local business person each week, or feature a directory of links to local businesses. Be proactive – approach popular local websites and offer to write something for them.
Email marketing is like direct mail, but with the possibility of an instant response from the recipient. This makes it a powerful marketing tool when used effectively. It can be used to keep people up to date with your services and any special offers.
You should only email people who have given you permission to do so by signing up to your mailing list. A list can be built by offering a sign-up option on your website. For an example, scroll up the page and put your name and email address in the box marked ‘Sign up for our newsletter’ on the right-hand side of this page. Cheeky, eh?
Email marketing works best when messages are narrowly targeted and used sparingly. Too many will annoy recipients and get you marked out as a spammer.
There are some great email marketing services out there, such as MailChimp or ActiveCampaign, that can automate a lot of the process for you and give you useful insights. Have you ever wondered how many people actually open an email?