I’m a professional VA…and I’ve got your back, too

Even though I’m a virtual assistant, there are times I have met with clients or gone to meetings with them.

One of my local clients is having her website redesigned. The current design…well, to be plain, it sucks rocks from a managerial standpoint.  Not easy to edit and update without having the web people do it.

As an advanced WordPress user, I advocated moving to a WordPress platform.  This particular client isn’t techie and knows I am.  And since I’ll be the one doing 99% of the content updating, she’s interested in what I have to say.

Her web people advocated Concrete5.  I hadn’t heard of that before, but I was willing to check it out.  So we set up a meeting with her web people.

I went into this meeting a little skeptical of these web guys because they claimed that they couldn’t keep the website format as is in WordPress but they could if my client went to Concrete5.  I’m not a programmer, so I have no way to refuting that, but given that I’ve worked with clients who have had websites built in WordPress, from scratch, it just wasn’t sitting well with me that this website could not be converted to a WordPress platform and keep its aesthetics.

During the meeting, the web guy demo’d Concrete5 and shared the features and benefits. I specifically brought up the statement that my client’s website could not be converted to WordPress and wanted to know how that was determined.  The web guy basically said something along these lines…

“WordPress is an easy way for people to just have a website.  It’s not very professional and it’s not as user friendly as Concrete5.”

Excuse me?  Wordpress is not professional?  What rock have you been hiding under to make that broad statement?

I asked the direct question, “Has your developer team created any WordPress websites?”

His answer, “Well, no.”

I felt that the web guy was completely unprofessional to make a broad statement about WordPress the way that he did. In his defense, he couldn’t know that the person sitting next to him created two WordPress sites and manages several others.  (And yes, they all look professional.)  As much as I would have liked to tell my client to hold out for WordPress, my advice was to go ahead with the Concrete5 conversion.

Why?  Especially after this web guy was a completely uneducated and professionally insulting?

Because I’m not him. My client needs that website fixed yesterday.  These web people clearly aren’t experienced in WordPress or we wouldn’t have had Concrete5 shoved down our throats as the be-all-end-all of all website platforms.  I don’t want them honing their WordPress skills on my client’s website.  Let them create a website that they know how to create and I’ll learn how to manage it.

I told my client that it’s important for her to have a working website and I’ve got her back on the best choice for her business. And in this case, Concrete5 is what is best for her.

A good VA is not only professional in her business, but she’s got your back and looks out for the best interests of your business as well.

LinkedIn Skills – Share More About You!

I love LinkedIn.  I probably have made more meaningful business connections using this oft-thought-of third wheel of the “Big 3″ social networks.

LinkedIn recently rolled out a new section for your personal profile called Skills.

The above is a snapshot of my LinkedIn Skill section.

Why would you want to fill out the Skill section?  If someone on LinkedIn is looking for someone with your skill set, the more information you share in your public profile, the greater the chance you have of being located by the people who are looking for someone like you!

What can you share?

  • General skill categories.  The bonus is you can add whatever skill you think applies here.  You can list the number of years and rate what your proficiency status in each skill would be (eg Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Expert)
  • Certifications.  If you have certifications that are pertinent to your job, include them.

The nice thing about this new profile feature is that it’s very flexible. You should be able to add whatever you’d like and really personalize your profile with this.

This is a great tool that can help you make more meaningful and engaging connections.

Email Marketing Is Not Dead

I’ve been loosely following the SXSW conference as there’s a lot of emerging technology and such that might affect small business owners and entrepreneurs.

I came across a great YouTube video (shot by YouTube user constantcontact) that is a 45 second interview/comment from Guy Kawasaki.

Social media is all well and good, but email marketing is still a great way to connect with and engage with your clients, peers and friends.

Google Profile – Have you done your personal branding today?

Did you even know that you could have a Google Profile?

It looks like Google’s attempt at a Facebook profile.  You can have a profile picture, a scrapbook of other photos, personal info, etc.   Like all things Google, it’s simple, clean and straight to the point. I like that you can add links about yourself, whether it be websites, articles, or blogs.

How is this personal Google profile business related?

Well, this can help you with your personal branding.   If someone is searching for you in Google, if you have a Google profile, you’ll probably find yourself pretty high on page 1.   Add in your personal and professional links to your profile, and you have yet one more way people can find you.

Right now, I have links to MaryAlbright.com, CanDoVA, a business spotlight page, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Google posted in its blog that it’s working on ways for businesses to engage their customers.  But for now, think about doing some personal branding and check it out.

Accountability – As a Small Business Owner, do you have it?

As small business owners and entrepreneurs, we have a lot that we juggle.

Sometimes, the ideas come fast and furiously.  So fast that we can be distracted from what we really should be doing because that idea is just so exciting.

What happens with distraction?  You end up moving your focus from what really needs to be done.

No one means for that to happen – it just does.  Then before you know it, you are behind on your work.  Or you lost a lead because you forgot to follow up.  Or you missed a deadline that was really important for your business goals.

I find that as I am talking to potential clients, the subject of accountability is coming up more often.   When you are a solopreneur or the person that is *the* decision maker, who holds you accountable?  You are the boss.  But can you be the boss of you?

We see this is a lot when people talk about losing weight.  It’s easy to let things slide if you aren’t held accountable.

As a virtual assistant, I can be your virtual partner.  Not only completing work that needs to be done, freeing you to focus on more incoming-producing activities, but I can be that accountability person and help you stay on track so you can reach your goals.

Look at your business and self-assess:

Are you focused 100% of the time?

Do you get a lot of great ideas and flit from one to the other?

Do you feel overwhelmed with everything that you are doing?

Are you so busy that the thought of one more thing just boggles your mind?

Do you see that you need to delegate but you just haven’t made the time to figure out how to do it?

If you fit any or all of these, having an accountability partner like a virtual assistant might be a great fit for you.

I’d love to see your comments on what you think of accountability for small business.

Google Cloud is now available!

Why didn’t I see this for yesterday’s post?

Google Cloud is now in general release.

Why is this a cool tool?

Because it integrates with Microsoft© Office.  It works with Word, Powerpoint and Excel files.

You can share, backup AND simultaneously edit while working with others.

Watch the video walk- through.

Two words for this:  Freakin’ awesome.

I’ve already downloaded it and can’t wait to try it out with others.  This will not only be a cool tool to use, but be great for time management.

Working in the Cloud – Tools to Check Out

I love working in the cloud.  I’m definitely a Google groupie.

But there’s more to life than Google (gasp!  Did I just say that?) and there are some great tools that operate in the cloud that you just need to check out to make your life, personal and professional, a lot easier and a lot more accessible.

1. Dropbox

dropbox

I love Dropbox.  You use it to share files with others.  But the cool part is when you save a file to your Dropbox, whoever you have shared that file with could work on it in their Dropbox.  And when that same file is updated by one person, it’s updated for everyone that shares it in the Dropbox.  This is a great option for collaborative work.   There’s a small download piece that sits in your taskbar, but otherwise, it works all online.

Need a little more security? Add DropITtoMe to your Dropbox.

2.  Google Docs

Ok, I already mentioned I’m a huge Google fan.  And maybe you know all about Google Docs.  But did you know that Google recently announced that they now support 12 new file types?

  • Microsoft Excel (.XLS and .XLSX)
  • Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 / 2010 (.PPTX)
  • Apple Pages (.PAGES)
  • Adobe Illustrator (.AI)
  • Adobe Photoshop (.PSD)
  • Autodesk AutoCad (.DXF)
  • Scalable Vector Graphics (.SVG)
  • PostScript (.EPS, .PS)
  • TrueType (.TTF)
  • XML Paper Specification (.XPS)

This means you can more easily share these types of files within Google Docs with your collaborators.  Awe-some!

3.  Remember The Milk

remember the milk

Don’t be fooled by this name.  This isn’t your grocery reminder, but an awesome task managing tool so you never forget to do something again.  It integrates with Gmail and Outlook.  It also has apps for Android, Blackberry and iPhone and Windows mobile devices.

The best part of this list – they are all free or have free options.

Have another cool cloud tool to suggest?  Share with us in the comments section.

Constant Contact now compatible with Chrome and Safari!

Very exciting news!

Chrome is my default browser for everything else and I’m so glad that I can use Constant Contact there now rather than switching over to Firefox.  And I’m sure the Mac people will be delighted that Safari is now supported as well.

Constant Contact really does come out with updates about every 8 weeks.  It’s very cool that they are staying on top of what we, the users, are asking for.

Haven’t tried CTCT yet? Give it a trial run.  If you decide to go with a paid account before Feb. 28, you can get a free Website Match template from Constant Contact.  Normally, they’d charge you $99 for it.  So this is a pretty sweet deal.

Getting Started with Constant Contact & Engagement Marketing Seminars – 2/17

Email Marketing Solution from Constant Contact

Free to attend – Just bring your business card

When: Thurs. Feb 17
8:30am-9:30am NEW! Engagement Marketing Seminar
10am-11am Getting Started with Constant Contact

Where: MSP Airport/Mall of America Hilton
3800 American Blvd, Bloomington, MN

Space is limited – Register in advance.

Engagement Marketing

Building lasting relationships with your existing customers and members drives business success. Making that happen is called “Engagement Marketing.” Having an Engagement Marketing strategy is the key to inspiring your most passionate customers and advocates to: have conversations with you and fellow customers, share stories and opinions, and share your content with their own social circle. In this seminar, you’ll discover the three components that lead to Engagement Marketing success:

• Providing an excellent customer experience,
• Making connections that engage your audience and enable an
ongoing dialog, and
• Using social media to continue the dialog and engage a broader
audience.

Come see models of how other small businesses, non-profit associations, and organizations combine email marketing and social media marketing in order to build connections, monitor feedback, share interesting content and drive toward business success.

Reminder: A copy of the presentation, Downloadable resources, and other helpful links will be emailed to you after the workshop. Please bring a business card with your current email address

Getting Started with Constant Contact

Learn how to use Constant Contact to design email newsletters:

* How to brand your emails to match websites & logos
* How to work with links and graphics for a polished, professional look
* How to analyze results and target your most profitable customers
* How to link Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In into your newsletters
* How to use the most recent Constant Contact new features.

Reminder: Downloadable resources, and other helpful links will be emailed to you after the workshop. Please bring a business card with your current email address

I’m back to blogging

I need to follow my own suggestions and blog here more often.

I know how it goes – you try to manage everything you are doing and sometimes you let things slide.   I’m guilty of that just like anyone else from time to time.

But I’m also one of those organizer/planner types.  If I have stuff I want to talk about, but I don’t want to have to worry about coming back on a regular basis to post…it’s just better if I can schedule it.

I found this great plugin simply called Editorial Calendar. It rocks.  It helps you schedule your posts.  So if you get on a roll and have stuff you want to say, you can schedule it out so you don’t forget about it.  It helps you consistently get your message, content, news, whatever out there in a timely fashion.

That doesn’t mean you can’t be spontaneous; you sure can!  It just helps if you are a planner like me.

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