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Cheryl R

Interesting marketing idea

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I recently saw a comment from a marketing person who suggested that we VAs create products rather than simply selling our time. He suggested that busy people are not thinking about where they can find part-time help or someone to take care of various tasks. They are wondering who can update their database or do a mail merge or mail out their monthly newsletter? they are wondering if someone can update their web site or blog or send out Christmas cards / Thank you notes?

And they are also concerned about the bottom line naturally. He mentioned that it is hard for a non VA to translate $ 35.00 per hour into how much it will cost to enter all of the business cards they have collected into a database and suggests that if we offered to update a database for $ 1.00 per name the client who has 200 business cards will know it will cost $200.00. Its easy to calculate.

 

He also suggested offering a Mail Merge product. Mail merge a letter with a database, print the letters and labels for say $ 2.50 per letter.

 

If you offer to create mailing labels for $ 1.00 per name that they can print out when they need them it is something that they need and they can quantify.

Or perhaps a 2 page monthly newsletter to 100 clients for @2.70 per newsletter. Then the client could decide if they want to hire us for $270.00 rather than tying to figure out how long it will take us and calculating their needs from that.

 

His feeling was that other business from that client would follow.

 

What are your thoughts and do you or would you consider doing business this way?

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I see your point that clients want to know how much a project will cost up front and this is a great question.

 

My opinion is, if they had a secretary doing this work for them in house, they would "most likely" be paying them per hour to do it. VAs are secretaries who work virtually from their own home office rather than in the client's office. Independent entrepreneurs instead of employees. The way the majority of VAs bill is through hourly retainers.

 

But that doesn't mean it is the "only way" to charge clients. Sometimes we have to consider looking "out of the box" in search of payment options to keep our clients happy too.

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I'd be interested to hear how that works out. A lot of the time it depends on what you do as to whether or not you can sell "products" or packages, rather.

 

For instance, I have "Ezine" packages which, for one charge includes building the database and formatting the ezine (different rates depending on the size of the database - 'cuz I'm not going to charge the lower rate for a 10,000+ name database!) and then there are monthly rates if they want them put out monthly, bi weekly or weekly. I currently have 3 on the bi-weekly plan. So basically, if you want an ezine, and don't have one, but have about 800 names, I can build the database and format the ezine and then either train the owner to do the ezine themselves, or, more often, they just say, "So how much for you to just do this for me every month?" Two of the three tried it for a month and then I got the phone call turning it over to me.

 

However, the rest of what I specialize in - research, project management and customer/client services - that's strictly hourly. There'd be no way I could package that. Just today I got in touch with someone on behalf of a client that had been trying to reach this particular person for several weeks. And at other times, its taken a lot of time to do things that clients have asked me to do.

 

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I agree Dana, I think it depends on what kind of work you do. For me, design and marketing stuff is really easy to 'package' and I'm in the process of getting all that info up on my website. But when it comes to some stuff I prefer to do it hourly - the time something takes can depend a lot on what the client provides, in what format it's provided etc.

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The picture the clients are needing may not be the $$$, even though they would tell you that. Marketing tasks and packages without stressing the money could give them that vision of what ou would do.

 

I work at a JOB; my boss asks me regularly, what do you do here that means we should keep you? At first (and sometimes still) that is disconcerting. But, it did send me thinking and when he asks, I can tell him in some jest, but truth as well, "I don't know how you got along without me before".

 

The secretary package opened up makes a reality statement about what REALLY goes on and how that service keeps the wheels of the business running smooth.

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Dana, I really like the e-zine package idea. I'm thinking of adding some "package" type deal to my offerings and that might be a really good one.

I don't know that I'd want to get into the $1 per name database kind of thing though.

 

Judy, I also think your idea of packages without necessarily accenting the $$$ for them might be a good idea.. spotlighting what you're good at.

Edited by Cheryl R

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