Author Archives: sdagostini

Hour 25 Virtual Solutions

A Virtual Assistant for Wine – Wait…What!?

This article was originally published at Liquid Lounge – The Liquid Careers Blog

What is a Virtual Assistant?

The use of the title ‘virtual assistant’ is so widespread it’s become at once both stereotypical and multi-faceted which equals – you guessed it – plain, old confusing! It’s like saying “bring me a glass of wine” if asked what you’d like to drink when out for dinner. Well, would that be red, white, orange, rose, sparkling, light, medium or full bodied, dry, off-dry, sweet, a suggested pairing for your entrée….? You get the idea.

From the $4/hour telemarketer to the $60/hour professional freelancer and on to the army of Virtual Assistants working together under the umbrella of an agency, the term applies to a mind-boggling soup that is ultimately overwhelming for a busy entrepreneur, small business owner or executive that needs immediate, efficient assistance.

For the purposes of this article a virtual assistant is a business owner (a real, individual person) who provides a service from a remote location. (Yes, there’s Siri and Alexa but we’re talking about real people here. Now, if Siri could do my laundry…..)

Virtual Assistant skills and experience levels range from entry-level administrative assistants all the way up to highly experienced (and often formerly office-bound) executives that simply transitioned from an office location to work remotely.

These individuals often specialize in a certain area such as business management, marketing and communications, to specific expertise in copywriting, website design, social media, CRM and they may also offer specific software expertise such as with MailChimp, Infusionsoft, WordPress, ConvertKit, etc.

(Click here to access 3 excellent articles that answer the question ‘What is a Virtual Assistant’)

Who Can Benefit from Working with a Virtual Assistant?

One of the great advantages of engaging a virtual assistant is that a business owner can tailor exactly what type of services their business needs at a specific time and work within their budget to obtain these services.

Hour 25 Virtual Solutions Increase RevenueThis is especially wonderful for smaller or remote businesses or consultants that don’t yet have the budget for full time employees or contractors with a defined expertise such as a Digital Marketing Manager, Content Creator/Manager, Social Media Manager, Communications Specialist, etc. These businesses have reached a point where they can no longer handle everything as a one-person show and their company cannot grow successfully without another pair of hands for knowledge and support.

Companies that have traditional office based positions can also benefit from working with a virtual assistant. Those with a large sales staff or other professionals such as architects or designers where their industry or business model doesn’t typically allow for individual support staff for senior and/or deadline driven positions.

Depending on how progressive a company is they could bring on just one virtual assistant to provide administrative support to a group of these professionals allowing them to focus on the higher ROI tasks and improve their performance as well – and not have to provide for any extra office space (which is typically at a premium in any major centre these days). Travel booking, expense reconciliations, appointment booking – these take up considerable time from a busy executive’s schedule but could easily be taken care of by a virtual assistant.

Virtual Assistants have also become an asset to families where both parents are working demanding jobs and really need to protect their personal time. Choosing to outsource a few hours for someone to process health claims, keep calendar items up to date (school recitals, car maintenance, appointments etc.), shop and send gifts/greetings to friends and family, source contractors such as plumbers, painters, or landscapers or to research and assist with vacation planning can free up a large portion of time that a busy family can then spend together. Similar to a Personal Assistant in this instance they perform many of the same tasks yet do so remotely thanks to modern technology.

(Click here to read about How a Virtual Assistant Can Save You Money)

Benefits of Working with a Virtual Assistant for Wine:

For the drinks industry, working with a Virtual Assistant that provides a wide range of business support and systems services along with the added value of wine, beer and spirits knowledge. This specialized experience provides both context for specific industry needs and the ability to create related content for these particular businesses.

I’m going to get specific and give you an example:

Your last blog article/newsletter/product offer was more than 3-6 months ago. You need someone to research, draft and/or create brand specific content for your newsletter or blog (Knowledge required: wine, beer, spirits knowledge & marketing, content creation/writing/proofreading skills).

Virtual Assistant can help

HOWEVER, you also need someone to put that content into your WordPress site, with SEO and images and distribute that post out to your social media channels. (Knowledge required: WordPress, SEO, Graphics, Social Media Management).

But wait! Before you can even address the issue of problem #1, your email inbox is overflowing and your bookkeeper/accountant is hounding you because your tax deadline is just two weeks away. You definitely need someone to organize your overflowing email inbox, set up folders and rules/filters and then e-file all of your paid invoices into Dropbox for your accountant. Rounding up all that junk mail and unsubscribing would be super handy as well! (Knowledge required: email management/executive assistance, online application skills).

Uh oh, HOW do we get back to Task #1?

THAT is where working with a Virtual Assistant for Wine adds value: the ability to provide a wider range of technical and administrative skills while adding knowledge with WSET or other formal wine and spirits education to respond to the specific needs of the industry.

A Virtual Assistant for Wine’s Story:

I arrived at this career direction through an extensive work history in a variety of office based administrative positions over many years, which translated into a wealth of varied business experience. I really enjoy business systems and processes, protocols and conventions, and organizing like crazy. I take great satisfaction in making someone’s life easier by creating the systems and organization needed to help them become more efficient. I am also fascinated with everything to do with wine. Perhaps it is that wine requires the same passion for multi-faceted processes – from vineyard to bottle – to achieve a satisfying result.

One day it occurred to me that I should – and could – do both.

At the time, I was already working from my home office providing administrative services to an investor relations, merger & acquisitions consulting business and had begun my WSET studies. My ‘light bulb’ moment came to me after a particularly enjoyable glass of wine at a local restaurant and the subsequent search to get my hands on a bottle for myself! Consequently, I discovered the importer whose business was at a pivotal point of growth, and the rest is history – we’ve been working happily together every since.

Hour 25 Virtual Solutions WSET ClassSo, I married my administrative passion, knowledge and experience with my love of wine, a WSET Level 3 certification and mixed in a healthy dose of modern online business technology. Thus, I’ve essentially become a ‘Virtual Assistant for Wine’.

You can find a Virtual Assistant for whatever business tasks you require whether it be general administrative or a specific area of expertise, BUT if you want to work with someone that can provide added value for your business with a variety of services PLUS a higher level of knowledge of wine, beer and spirits then you should consider a Virtual Assistant for Wine.

Click here to read my original (but short) missive about being a Virtual Assistant for Wine.

So if you find yourself exhausted from performing everything for your business as a one-person show or your staff morale and performance is sagging because of lack in support staff I encourage you to seek out an alternative to the traditional – try a virtual assistant. A few hours outsourced to someone else can really make a difference in your efficiency, productivity and ultimately your bottom line.

Click here to read my blog post on Getting Started With a Virtual Assistant.

or here read my blog post on Questions to Ask your Potential Virtual Assistant.

I hope this article has shed some light onto what a Virtual Assistant for Wine is and how you can utilize their skills to your benefit.

There is so much information out there in the vast expanse of the internet and after spending a couple of years sifting through it myself for my own business I hope to save others even the smallest amount of time by providing real, useful information.

Feel free to contact me with any questions you might have or simply to connect through social media. Cheers!

Sylvana Dagostini
Email: sdagostini@hour25vs.ca
Website: http://www.hour25vs.ca
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/hour25vs

Social Media:
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https://www.instagram.com/hour25vs/
https://twitter.com/Hour25VS
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#VAforWINE

How To Spend Less Time on Social Media

(2 minute read)

An online business presence is an essential component of your marketing strategy regardless of your industry. Social Media is an important piece of your online presence.

With 3 billion internet users and more than 2 billion of them engaged with some form of social media it just makes sense to have your social platforms in place and working for your business, generating brand awareness through engagement.

Social Media Sharing

(See this great article from Duct Tape Marketing on creating a strong online presence.)

But let’s face it – Social Media takes time. For business owners it takes up valuable time you could be spending on higher priority tasks. Social Media involves an initial and ongoing learning curve and there is value in being engaged in your strategy and following your plan as it happens.

The secret is that you don’t have to do it ALL yourself. Have your Virtual Assistant take care of it. They don’t have to be an expert at Social Media – are you? Probably not. However, you can delegate all your social media scheduling and posting to your VA, taking an hour or two off your hands. (See my  Services Page and my post on How a Virtual Assistant can Save (Make) You Money).

Hour 25 Virtual Assistance

What about engagement? Do you want to be personally involved with your public? Your VA can check your accounts regularly for feedback and either respond to comments on your behalf or forward them to you in one easy report so you can deal with them all at once.

Haven’t built your social presence yet? Not sure what platforms to use? Talk to your VA about this. Many VA’s have more experience with social media than you might realize and may have a separate Social Media Marketing service they can wrap into your own service package. If the scope of what you would like implemented falls outside of their skill set they can let you know and quite possibly refer you to someone that can provide the services you need.

A Virtual Assistant can also source information on anything you might be interested in pursuing such as Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Company Pages, creating Live Video content, new platform features etc. to see if it’s right for your business and how to approach it.

Social Media Marketing can require an extensive knowledge base – it’s not just about tweeting event notices or product offers and running the odd Facebook Ad – but if you’re a small business that needs to get an online presence established and/or you need help with maintaining your presence to free up some of your time, a Virtual Assistant can fill that gap for you, keep your presence relevant and consistent without getting complicated.

A Virtual Assistant Gives You Back Your TimeIf you’re frustrated with spending time on Social Media tasks and need someone to take control, organize your presence and keep it consistent, reach out and get some help. For a couple of hours a week (the time is specified by you and your budget) by delegating these tasks to your VA, you can rest easy knowing your business is:

 

  • accurately and consistently represented through your social media channels;
  • directing customers back to your website;
  • improving your online presence; and
  • Ultimately adding to your revenue.

That’s why we’re in business in the first place isn’t it?

If you need help with your Social Media or are overwhelmed with online administrative tasks, or are simply curious about what a Virtual Assistant (aka Online Business Service Provider) can do for your business please contact me for a free consultation.

RESOURCES:

Here are a couple of resources with great information to help you:

Duct Tape Marketing: Creating a Strong Online Marketing Success

Social Media Examiner – excellent resource for anything and everything social media.

Hootsuite: How to Create a Social Media Marketing Plan in 6 Easy Steps

Social Media Examiner’s Top 10 Social Media Blogs for 2017  (Agora Pulse, Buffer Social etc.)

Fast Company – 10 Surprising Social Media Statistics that will Make you Rethink your Social Media Strategy

 

 

Increase Your Sales with a Secret Weapon

Winery Direct SalesThe 2017 Wine Season has officially kicked into gear – are you ready? 

Apparently, wine sales in April and May of 2016 counted for 20% of all wine sales in B.C. That means, if you haven’t already – it’s time to get on top of your Digital Marketing efforts before these sales pass you by.

Many wineries struggle to keep up with the rapidly evolving tools and technologies needed to stand out from the crowd or even just to maintain a professional online presence especially throughout the growing season when event and tasting room demands take over.

Online presence – social media, website maintenance, blog posts, etc. – tend to fall into the background resulting in an unprofessional, lackluster message and contributing to a decrease in tasting room visits, tours, and subsequently, wine sales.

Think you don’t need Social Media for direct to consumer sales? Well, you need to forget about instant ‘likes’ and focus on social search and re-marketing to create brand awareness (online presence) to attract a larger audience – which translates into sales.

Each social media platform has different capabilities for finding your audience and you don’t want to spread yourself thin using every platform under the sun – but you do want to use what will benefit your business the most and keep it consistent and up to date.

Here’s a great article from Social Media Examiner.com on how one winery uses Social Media to increase sales and brand loyalty. By using the correct social media platforms to partner with complimentary brands, reward loyal fans and educate and tell stories vs. selling, the winery increased their direct sales, wine club sales, wine club member retention, wine dinner sales and wine club sign-ups at the dinners.

But what do the wineries that don’t have the budget for a full time employee to take care of these ‘back-end’ functions during the time when attracting customers is critical?

Candidates with the skills to perform digital marketing functions are usually employed full time at larger wineries and agents leaving the little guy with excess work for their operations and tasting room managers.

Well, I’m going to offer you a solution – a Secret Weapon!

The Secret: most digital marketing functions can EASILY be performed off-site.

The Weapon: An online business service provider (that’s me) can blend the just tasks you need performed into one convenient package – pay for a one time package, the whole season or buy a monthly retainer and use only the services you need.

If you’d like your full time staff focussing more time and (renewed) energy on critical sales operations instead of toiling away formatting MailChimp newsletters and social media posts, sifting through customer email inquiries, e-filing and the like, then let’s talk.

Wine poured for tasting

I can format a service package to cover those loose ends and time draining tasks so that your sales can soar this season. Your online presence will be more professional and attract more customers all without the hassle of hiring another employee.

I’m offering a 2017 Seasonal Online Winery Service Package for a limited time. From as little as $250 to $500 per month you can reap the benefits of consistent online presence for your winery this season from a WSET Certified professional. 

There’s no need to fall behind this year!

Contact me anytime and let’s start taking some time off your hands so you can focus on your priorities. I look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

Hour 25 Virtual Solutions - No Soliciting

How To Disconnect from a Connection on LinkedIn

This may be old news to a lot of you, but it’s recently come to my attention via a contact in my network being sent email marketing as ‘messages’ only because they are connected through LinkedIn. This of course is illegal (CAN SPAM) and really, it’s also just inappropriate for the LinkedIn platform and unprofessional.

So, I myself had this happen to me in the past couple of months, from the same person and just haven’t really had time to look into it further. But today, I took the time to Google the solution and thought I’d share it with you.

Here’s how to disconnect from a connection:

  1. Go to their profile.
  2. Click the … to the right of their profile picture name;
  3. The dropdown menu will give you both an option to Disconnect and also to UnFollow if necessary.

That’s it.

Whether you want to let the person know why you’re disconnecting is of course up to you – it would be helpful to them but be warned, they may not take it that way. My connection that had this experience, informed the individual that their behaviour was inappropriate but was then targeted with angry messages from this person after the fact. So in this case being helpful could backfire on you.

I hope this helps anyone that has run into this situation. Have a wonderful day!

Questions for your potential Virtual Assistant

To me, the most important aspect of working with a client is our relationship. Clear communication is vital to this partnership, so much more so than when you are in a conventional office setting, because it’s so very easy to convey the wrong tone via an email message. It is also very easy to let accountability to each other fade away, because we do not see each other face to face every day.

Hour 25 Virtual Solutions

This communication begins when you meet with your Virtual Assistant for the very first time. It is important to have your questions ready and also to realize that your Virtual Assistant will have questions for you. Remember, a VA is in most cases, a business owner and is looking for their ideal client as much as you are looking for your ideal Virtual Assistant. This is a factor that is valuable to you and your business as it reflects the quality of your Virtual Assistant’s services.

Step 1: Prepare

Before speaking with a Virtual Assistant prepare the following items:

  • A specific list of tasks or functions you need your VA to perform – email/calendar management, social media, CRM maintenance, blog research/posting etc.
  • Your process, tools and desired results for each task – programs, training, time requirements etc.
  • Your budget for these tasks – estimated time, hourly wage, monthly retainer, etc.
  • Your communication plan with your VA – frequency, method (Skype? Email?) etc.

All too often business owners embark on a relationship with a Virtual Assistant with the sub-conscious attitude that even thought it might take them 4 hours to do a task to completion it should only take their Virtual Assistant half that time. So be very realistic in your expectations when you format your information. (To see my post on how a Virtual Assistant saves you money by doing the same tasks you do look here).

If you have found a VA you want to approach it’s also advisable to have taken a look at their website and hopefully the links to their social media sites – especially their LInkedIn profile – before meeting with them. By doing this beforehand, you can make the initial contact more efficient by checking your tasks and questions against information from these sources leaving  more time for other things you might want to ask about such as any special interest in your particular industry or their own business experiences and direction.

Questions for Virtual Assistant

Step 2: Questions to Ask

I’ve gathered a few questions to ask your Virtual Assistant upon your initial meeting/consultation that you may find helpful. You need to think about what is important to your specific business needs but these will get you started.

For your Virtual Assistant:

  1. First, start with an introduction of yourself, your business and your business goals.
  2. Ask your Virtual Assistant about themselves and their business. Although not essential, ideally, you probably want to work with a Virtual Assistant that shares either a common business related interest even if it comes from their personal interests or current situation in life.
  3. What are your Rates/Terms? Hourly, per project, retainer etc.
  4. What experience do you have in the areas I have indicated on my task list?
  5. Which items do you not have experience in and would you be willing to learn?
  6. What are your areas of strengths and what areas are you looking to strengthen or gain experience?
  7. What are your hours of operation and preferred method and hours of communication?
  8. Do you have any questions you would like to ask me about my business?

Questions your Virtual Assistant may ask you:

The nature of a Virtual Assistant is to be able to work with a variety of different types of businesses or have specialized in a specific area of interest/expertise. Many Virtual Assistants are operating in one stage or another in the overall process of finding their niche, be it a General VA or a specific niche such as a Virtual Assistant to Life Coaches, Social Media Management or Real Estate Virtual Assistant and some Virtual Assistants only offer particular services to clients or certain services exclusive to one industry or another.

Regardless, Virtual Assistants are always looking to work within a healthy, profitable, working relationship and so they will have questions for you as well:

  1. Have you ever worked with a Virtual Assistant and what was your experience like?
  2. What skills and experience do you think the ideal Virtual Assistant should have?
  3. What is the biggest problem you are facing that you’d like your partnership with a VA to solve?
  4. What are your strengths and what areas are you looking to improve upon? Are there challenges I might face in agreeing to work with you?
  5. Specific questions regarding technology, communication methods & styles, business goals and your expectations of working with a Virtual Assistant.

I hope this post has given you some encouragement and tools towards finding and working with a Virtual Assistant. I really believe that the right fit can truly make an incredibly beneficial difference for you and your business.

If you like this post and would like to receive future posts, please subscribe to my blog. I post regularly but I promise not to clutter up your Inbox so you or your Virtual Assistant has more work to do!

If you would like to contact me regarding my Virtual Assistant Services just click here to get started!