The Truth About “Low-Cost” Outsourcing

Champion Assistants Virtual Assistant TeamYou’ve probably seen the ads yourself, “Quality Virtual Assistants, $3 per Hour.” Wouldn’t it be great if those ads were true? The truth, however, is that in outsourcing as in most other things, you get what you pay for.

Let’s look at the kinds of tasks being outsourced by small business owners and Internet entrepreneurs. They’re finding new freedom to build their businesses by using Virtual Assistants for a variety of needs. They’re trusting “VAs” to do things like responding to client email, keeping their schedules straight, making appointments and travel arrangements, and updating their websites.

A well-trained Virtual Assistant is someone who’s committed to helping a client grow a business by minimizing the owner’s involvement in day-to-day tasks. Not only do these virtual wonders handle tasks with little supervision, they’re also motivated to suggest improvements that save you time and money. They can help you find additional markets for your products, ways to streamline product delivery and better solutions for business automation.

Is it reasonable to expect the same from someone making less than minimum wage? Here’s the reality, based on feedback from frustrated business owners who tried “cheap” first: the time they spent redoing poorly done work and constantly supervising virtual support outweighed their original savings.

Great VAs will look for ways to increase your business while saving you money. But they don’t work for three dollars per hour! They’re highly-trained professionals running their own businesses, and they charge rates appropriate to their expertise.

As you’re looking for someone to help run your business, consider the benefits of outsourcing to a well-trained Virtual Assistant. Why waste valuable time wondering if the work’s being done correctly? Make the investment in a quality VA and spend your time growing your business, instead.

You can learn more about using a VA by listening to a teleseminar Heather Nelson did about outsourcing: Champion Assistants Virtual Assistants teleseminar

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4 Quick Ways to Make Money Selling Online

Champion Assistants services for online salesI have often been asked: “What is the quickest way to make money selling online?”

This is such a hard question to answer because it depends on each person’s ability, financial back up and knowledge.  What I can do here is list some of the ways that do make money fairly quickly once it is up and running.   What a solopreneur would need to do is look at how long it would take them to get a particular business opportunity making money.

INTERNET MARKETING

  • Selling products online from your own blog site or website
  • Selling affiliate products (other people’s products for commission)
  • Promoting a service that you are going to run, like a consultancy business

With products you may choose to buy them or make your own.  There are so many choices in this field.  It is important to choose something that you like doing so that you can keep your motivation up because as a solopreneur you are it.  You have to keep yourself motivated.

SELLING ON EBAY

Some people selling on Ebay are making thousands of dollars a week.  There is a system that works and it would probably be a good idea to buy into that or research how these people are doing so well when others are making nothing.

PROVIDE WRITING SERVICES

Many people write for a living.  With the popularity of the internet there are thousands, if not millions of people who do not have either the ability or time to write for the internet, but really need to.  Very good money can be made from writing for the internet if you make it a full-time job.  There are writing sites like Elance, Guru and others where a writer can earn money.

SELL PHOTOS ONLINE TO PHOTO WEBSITES

Because of the growth in promoting online, site owners are always looking for Public Domain Photos.  What you do here is take photos and upload them to the photo sites and they pay you a commission on each photo that is downloaded by a buyer on the site.  This is quite a good way to get passive income coming in because once it is set up you can just leave it there.  For example, a site that uses these photos is http://www.isistockphoto.com

Microsoft cuts jobs – time for entrepreneurs to flourish!

lightbulbsglobeThe news that Microsoft is making its first mass layoffs in its 34-year history (according to the The Associated Press) is big news here in the Seattle-area as all of us are directly or indirectly impacted by the job cuts.  Microsoft is one of the Northwest’s largest employers and everyone in Seattle either works for Microsoft or has a family member, friend or neighbor working at Microsoft.  Whether or not someone we know loses their job, we know how difficult it can be working for a company undergoing an unprecedented internal transition. Champion Assistants is headquarted in Kirkland, just a 15-minute drive from Microsoft’s Redmond campus and we greatly value the impact the company has had in our region – providing jobs to so many and boosting the level of technological-savvy and development in the region.  Champion Assistants is a registered partner with Microsoft and we’re always keeping an eye out for what Microsoft is innovating.

In addition to Microsoft, the Puget Sound region is also known as being a region where entrepreneurs flourish – especially for minority-owned businesses according to Prosperity Partnership.org.  According to Washington State, women are considered minorities in business and therefore 51% majority women-owned businesses qualify for special loan rates as well as business counseling services from organizations such as the Community Capital Development Washington Business Center.  There are a number of free resources available to small business owners and entrepreneurs both nationally through the SBA and in Washington State.  I always recommend starting with free resources and exhausting them before paying for advice.

With layoffs being announced across various industries and company sizes, I think this economy will present innovators with an excellent opportunity to develop their ideas and go into business for themselves.  Being layed off can be discouraging, but realizing creative talent and ambition while working from home is tremendously rewarding.  I strongly believe that home offices will become micro-power centers of innovation over the next couple years.  Good talent rarely sits idle.

With the convenience of the home office and low barrier to entry for online sales, there is tremendous opportunity for small business to capture niche market share and sell online with extremely low overhead costs.  It isn’t all doom and gloom with layoffs.  Now is the time to fulfill dreams and stay productive at what we all do best and are passionate about.  Carpe diem!  If you are one of the many being affected by restructuring and layoffs, now is the time to develop your ideas and sell online.

Best,

Heather

The Benefits of Giving

gift_givingAny successful business owner will tell you that hands down the #1 way to bring in prospective customers is through marketing. What they might not tell you is what that marketing includes. Oh sure, the standard media announcements, articles, sales pages and what not. But what else? What made them stand out from the crowd? The answer, surprising or not, is in the freebie.

What is a freebie? In general a freebie is something for nothing. A freebie in a marketing sense is a little something that entices prospective customers to buy. But freebies aren’t just for prospective customers. Wouldn’t you love to get something for nothing? Especially if it comes from someone you have done business with before? After all, if you purchased from them don’t you trust them? (Bad experiences aside for a moment)

Customers new and old want to feel special and wanted and the holidays are a great time for this. Think of the possibilities. With so many holidays so close together your only option is to either close up and hide or reach out and share. There are many ways to reach out, but the simplest and most meaningful is with an incentive.

There are many ways to share an incentive with your customers just as there are many different types of incentives to choose from. Incentives such as seasonal sales, special item promotions, special seasonal rates and more are simple to implement and will mean the world to you customers. The key to an effective incentive is communication. Did you stay touch with your customers before, during and after their purchases? If you did, great! Send them a holiday card with your incentive mentioned. If you didn’t, well what can we say about lost opportunities?

Making your customers feel special doesn’t have to cost you money. In fact, it should make you money. One of the simplest things you as a business owner can do to reach out to your customer base is to send them a seasonal newsletter. Include links to new products or a special discount only those receiving that letter can get. Also, include something of value to them. Since we’re talking newsletters, that something of value will likely be information. Whatever it is you specialize in, whatever it was that drew those individuals to you in the first place can and should be built on. Share with them something new that will help them this season. The results might surprise you.

There are so many ways to connect with people over the holidays. Don’t let another opportunity pass you by.

InfusionSoft – Think twice before sinking your money in this CRM tool

Champion Assistants Technology TeamI’ve seen a number of clients invest in CRM tools that are far more powerful than their businesses require – and more expensive than they can currently afford – because their business advisers have told them that they should invest in technologies now that will support their future business plans.  These business advisers instill the fear  in their clients that their company won’t be prepared in the future when their prospects and clients outweigh the capability for the company to manage them.  I have never witnessed a case where this was the reality.  In reality, the sudden onslaught of clients never comes, and even if it were to, most CRM systems are built so that all current data can be easily migrated with a learning curve for using the technology.

The biggest example I have seen in unfortunate CRM purchases is InfusionSoft.  I have seen InfusionSoft touted by so-called industry experts and gurus (think Dan Kennedy, Bill Glazer, Ali Brown) who advise info-marketers to invest in this CRM solution now in preparation for future business.  InfusionSoft has a number of drawbacks like not being able to paste text in various modules and difficulties pasting links to name a couple quick irritants.  The biggest thing about InfusionSoft is that it is NOT for info-marketers.  InfusionSoft is for businesses with actual sales teams.  To use InfusionSoft effectively the business needs to be sales-oriented, equipped with a multi-person sales force, have a database with hundreds of thousands of contacts AND have the budget to effectively implement this technology.  The time to migrate data, implement the tool and train a salesforce how to use it – and continue to update it – is extremely time intensive.  This is not the responsibility of a business owner either.  This is the responsiblity of an IT Leader.  While Champion Assistants provides the service of IT Team Lead, we are very careful to only work with clients who have a business that is both financially and mentally prepared for a company-wide CRM rollout.

Sadly, I have seen a number of solo-preneurs buy InfusionSoft on the recommendation of their marketing or sales advisor and start implementing the software only to find that it’s extremely cumbersome to use and their business only requires a fraction of the power of the tool.  InfusionSoft is not for contact management.  It is in fact a full-scale CRM tool.  Also, I have seen that the people referring this software get a handsome referral bonus, and I know there are ulterior motives at play as well.  For instance the Dan Kennedy – Bill Glazer Inner Circle has made huge amounts of money through their referrals to InfusionSoft.  They make so much money they actually hold presentations on buying InfusionSoft at their SuperConference and InfoSummit conferences!  It’s great business for them, but not necessarily the right decision for all of those people trying to follow the Dan Kennedy – Bill Glazer methods.

I advise against purchasing any technologies that require your business to grow into.  It’s difficult to predict if the tool will be outdated by the time you need it or if there would have been a better solution based on what your business actually needs at the time. Save yourself time and aggravation and focus on strategic growth instead.

Best,

Heather

Sales Strategies That Really Do Work!

Selling is not rocket science. In fact, if you know the basic principles behind why we buy, sales can be the simplest part of doing business. I know, you are staring at this article going, yeah right! But it’s true. No matter what culture we come from, what country we live in, or how old we are at some point in almost every day we will buy something. If you understand the reasons behind each sale, than increasing those sales becomes child’s play.

One of the basic fundamentals to remember, when thinking of human nature in relation to sales, is that everyone loves a deal. The reason we like deals varies from person to person. So what can you do to make people feel they are getting a deal? There are several paths you can take to reach this goal.

Short Term Availability – When something is only available for a short period of time there is usually a reason. If you let your customers know the reason they are more inclined to buy during that short window of availability rather than miss out on the product or the special price.

Have A Sale – Again, the time thing works in, but here they also feel like they are getting a deal. A bargain if you will. Would you rather pay full price for a book or get it at half off? Here again, describing the sale is a sure way to entice buyers. If something, especially something online, is marked down but doesn’t give a reason our first thought is that the product has a fault.

Quantity Customer Discounts/Rewards – Making someone feel special is a good way to make them return and when they do let them know you appreciate it by giving them a deal. A customer who returns and gets the same or better treatment is more likely to tell their friends, colleagues, or peers about it, which will in turn bring more potential sales your way!

Free Samples – The idea of giving something away for free is hard to swallow for some people, but it is a good way to draw in those unsure customers. When you give something for nothing it should represent your company and your products. This item will give potential customers a chance to try out your company and see if they truly want to do business with you or not. If they like what they get, they come back for the rest. But don’t go overboard with this item. Whether it’s a gift bag or an article on sales tactics, freebies are meant to give a glimpse of the possibilities your products hold.

Up Sell – When it comes time to checkout make sure to mention products that your customer may have missed that complement what they have in their cart. If they are buying shampoo, suggest a conditioner along the same lines. Whatever your products are, there are bound to be complementary products in your stock room.

There are so many possibilities when it comes to sales tactics, but the number one thing to keep in mind is that your customers are human. They are not numbers to be added or subtracted. Treating everyone with a personal touch will make them feel special and they will have the desire to come back and bring others.

Best,

Kristi

Considerations When Doing Business Internationally

If you are considering doing business abroad there are likely many questions running through your mind. What products sell well in that market? How do I market in other countries? Do I need a separate website? These are all very important questions, but the most important question has nothing to do with your business. Do you know and understand the culture in the country you wish to do business in? If you don’t, than you will need to start researching.

Human culture drives our every decision. From what we buy, what we eat, to how we interact with one another. Every aspect of our lives is centered by our cultural beliefs. For businesses this means adapting to each culture’s needs and desires. In order for a business to succeed internationally they must be flexible, ready for change, and well informed. It may be necessary to change how you do business in order to make doing business possible in some instances.
A culture is more than just its people. Culture, as defined by wikipedia, is generally referring to patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activities significance and importance. You will need to take into consideration the language, the environment, habits, and religion. All of these will factor into what products you offer and how you market those products. Different cultures have different buying triggers. By learning about the culture and what is expected, you will also cue into these triggers.

Know your competition. There are very few uncharted waters in the world of business these days, which makes it a lot easier to get where you want to go. By reviewing your competition and speaking with them, you will have a better idea of where to start without repeating their mistakes.

Another good idea is to talk with an international business adviser before taking that final step. An adviser can help you hone your ideas and plans so that they will be more effective in the market you wish to do business in. There are a number of government organization dedicated to trade advancement, and they are an invaluable free resource. These organization can connect you with trade representatives in intended countries of trade, provide statistics, and advise you based on your trade strategy.
What is some of the best advice you’ve been given about doing business internationally?
Best, Kristi