If you’re just starting out, or you are finding that you’re short on funds, you may need to find ways to market your virtual assistant business on a shoestring budget. Just because it’s inexpensive doesn’t mean it’s not effective, though. In fact, some of the most effective forms of marketing are the least expensive.
Use the Good Old Business Card
You can get inexpensive business cards online from websites like Vistaprint or make them on your own printer with your computer. There are really cool business cards now from Avery that don’t look like you made them from your own computer. I don’t recommend using the free versions of business cards if you order them online (usually these will have the printers logos on them somewhere which looks cheap), but you can usually find a coupon or get a discount code or you search for them and can get cards inexpensively.
Now, you need to actually use these business cards.
When you go to any event, be sure to bring your business cards. When you have any reason to hand out your phone number to anyone, for any reason, even if it’s not totally related to business, give them your business card. You never know when someone will need the services you offer, or when your friends and family will meet up with someone who needs your services. Hand your cards out freely.
Build a Website with a Blog
It’s very important to watch your budget, but don’t be cheap. Using self-hosted WordPress.org makes having a website with a blog that looks professional really easy. You can get free themes off WordPress.org, buy a domain for about 15 dollars, and host your website for as low as 10 dollars a month. We offer reliable web hosting (by reliable I mean our host never goes down and has a 99.9% uptime) for VAs at $99.95/yr which works out to around $8/mth. Every penny of that cost is worth it.
If you’re technological deficient and can’t afford to hire someone, consider using a website builder that offers a blog function. You want the blog to be on your website and not separate from your website like Blogger or WordPress.com blogs. However you choose to do this, the next step is to write regular informative, keyword-rich blog posts that you promote via social media.
Use Social Media to Promote Everything
Set up branded social media accounts for your business. But, you don’t have to be on all social media networks. Instead use the knowledge that you have about your audience to choose which social media networks that you should be present on. Make good profiles that represent your brand in a cohesive way.
When you write a blog post, post it to social media. When you take a picture of something, or have a question about something you’re creating, mention it on social media. Use social media to engage with your audience in creative ways. You can use social media to get email list signups, promote events, and more – all free.
Find a Joint Venture Partner for a Project
A JV partnership is not a real business partnership. It’s a joining of forces or collaboration between complementary business owners who share an audience but are not in direct competition. Finding a project to work on like this can essentially help you both double your audience.
Make the JV partnership a time-limited project that has a definite beginning and ending to start. Determine all the rules and how money will be handled up front and put it all in a contract. Define each aspect of the work that each of you will be responsible for completing. Be clear and stick to the plan and you’ll both come out successful.
Write a Book
If you’re an expert on anything, you can write a book about the topic. You can publish it easily on Kindle, or promote it as a PDF document right from your website. You can sell it, or give it away for free. It’s up to you. But, a book can push you forward in the eyes of your audience as a true expert and become a calling card.
Get on the Speaking Circuit
Using your book as a foundation, put the word out that you’re ready to give talks locally and for the cost of a ticket, room and board, go to other speaking events. Sometimes, you can even get paid for speaking once you’re established and in demand. So, not only can speaking become a good marketing opportunity, but it can also become a new revenue stream.
TIP: Test the waters by speaking for the first time at our Virtual Assistant Conference. What better way to learn to step up to the podium and speak than at a conference for your own industry. Apply to be a speaker here.
When you really have no money, a great way to get the word out is to create a lot of buzz. You can do this in a number of ways. Create a viral video, write a controversial blog post, or have a contest with videos that get voted on by the video creator’s friends, family and audience. It’s a great way to get people talking and to get free advertising. Offer a relevant and amazing prize package and it’ll also create buzz.
Build Relationships through Networking
Choose networking events wisely. You want to network with people who can become clients, or who can send you clients. Since your budget is limited, try to find online or local networking events that you can attend. There are many mastermind groups online that have a fee for joining, but are awesome ways to find clients once you spend the time building relationships and developing trust.
A really great way to increase your customer base is to convince your customers to refer you to others. Most of the time satisfied customers will tell others about you, but in some cases they may not because they want to keep you to themselves. This is especially true with service-based businesses. So, a great way to overcome this issue is to give your customers a reason to tell others about you such as a discount coupon, or additional freebies for each paying customer they send your way.
If you sell products, consider starting an affiliate program as a way to get more people to tell others about your products and make more sales without it costing you anything more than a percentage of sales. Here’s an example of my affiliate program for my VA Products.
Using these marketing ideas when you have little to no money will take mostly time, especially if you need to learn how to use the technology. However, putting to work even a couple of these ideas will push your business forward.
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