I was at a BNI presentation last week and the guy speaking was a salesman for a window company. He raised the subject of a marketing budget and encouraged us to consider that even our BNI membership fees are part of that budget.This is something I’ve always felt with respect to VA network memberships too. The networks are active in providing exposure for the industry and are proactive in attracting the attention of clients for their members, amongst other things. And yet so often I see (new) VAs complaining about the membership fees and that they can’t afford them, or don’t think they’re necessary.
Peter was saying he felt that 4-5% of your income should be spent on marketing for your business and the key word here is ‘business’. Running a VA practice is a business and as in all businesses, money does need to be invested into it, to keep it running, or to get it up and running in the first place.
Throughout the years of running my own VA business I’ve paid out thousands of dollars for Yellow Pages advertising, printing of flyers, some local newspaper advertising (although I don’t bother with that these days) online advertising such as Google Adwords and directory listings, my own website which includes hosting fees, and of course VA network fees. I do belong to a few networks and yes, I do pay fees. I also pay out for sponsorships for different events, like the forthcoming OIVAC next weekend. Even your business cards are part of your marketing expense – and they should be constantly given out, not left in a drawer at home.
Of course, you should track your marketing efforts and give it a reasonable time to see how it goes. If you’re going to try the local newspaper you probably need to have ads in there weekly for at least 8 weeks to measure the response because the paper is thrown out weekly. Yellow Pages should give you an idea over a one year period as to whether it will work for you – but then again, you might need to reword it and try again the following year.
Google Adwords – you can constantly tweak your adverts and split-test to see which keywords and text ads are working. I recently created some new ones for my coaching course after attending a copywriting course (another marketing expense if you like?) and found that the new adverts are getting better attention and clickthroughs!
So, in using Peter’s guide of 5% of your income for marketing, if you are earning say $10K a year from your business, then it would be reasonable to expect to invest $500 (note I say ‘invest’ and not ‘spend’), $1000 for $20K income and so on. In fact, I believe I’ve probably spent well over the 5% mentioned every year in my business but I do believe the returns have been well worth it too.
So, do your sums and get on with marketing your business!
Kathie is the owner of VA Directory and is former past President of the Australian VA Association. She founded the Virtual Assistant industry in Australia in the mid 90s, having already been operating a home-based secretarial service. Today the VA industry covers a multitude of office-based services for clients worldwide.