There’s a saying in business and marketing that “content is king”.
It might have been Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates who first coined the phrase.
There’s a lot to be said for it – though maybe today it should say “content is queen”.
Whichever way you prefer, there are bags of common sense behind the phrase.
For the smarter-working VA, content is your ally.
And it’s your friend in two distinct ways.
Firstly, you can use it to build up your portfolio of marketing materials, sometimes called marketing ‘collateral’.
The great thing is you can chunk up and chunk down to create a valuable bundle of content for building your VA business.
Let me show you what I mean.
You could create a checklist – perhaps of things to look out for when hiring a professional and reliable VA.
Write a couple of paragraphs about each point on the checklist – to say more about each one – and you have a summary guide for a pdf.
Add more detail and some examples and you can turn that into an eBook – which could be used as a lead magnet, a free giveaway or a bonus gift.
You might even create a little sales brochure, to tell people about the services available and highlight what you do so well. That’s another pdf right there.
That’s the chunking upside of things.
Very quickly you have built up some resources for marketing yourself.
Some VA’s won’t bother or they may not do themselves justice with the content. If you do it well, you’ll automatically be at the front of the field.
And another benefit of creating guides, eBooks and reports is this.
You can chunk down.
The content in your guides, eBooks and reports – sometimes called ‘pillar’ content – can be broken up into smaller pieces.
Use the words and images to create any or all of the following:
🌹 Blog posts
🌹 Videos (share the written words on camera)
🌹 Social Media posts, e.g. for Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn.
Maximise the value of the content you create.
Repurpose. Revise. Re-use.
And there’s a second distinct reason why content is your ally.
Creating content for your VA business can be used to impress your prospects and clients.
You can show them what you are capable of producing. Demonstration and illustration are powerful forms of persuasion.
You can talk to your clients as an expert or specialist.
You can guide and advise them on how they could use the content for their business. If they like what they hear and don’t have an in-house team, guess who they are most likely to ask to take on the project?
That’s right. You.
It’s all perfectly possible when you know what you are doing with Microsoft Office 365.
A good reason for making sure your “how-to” skills in the different applications are up to the mark.
You don’t need to know every single thing that Word, Excel, PowerPoint or Outlook do.
But it does help to know how to do the most essential and most commonly-used tasks.
You can’t seem to escape the phrase climate change on the news these days.
Those terrible fires in Australia. The big floods in Dubai and Indonesia. The severe storms sweeping across the UK.
With more and more focus on climate and the environment, there is plenty about the subject in the media. And I read an article the other day which caught my eye.
In the piece, Microsoft says it aims to be ‘carbon negative’ by 2030. That means removing more carbon from its activities than it emits each year.
Which sounds like quite a challenge.
I’m not an expert but my understanding is that carbon emissions are one of our planet’s biggest problems.
Carbon in the atmosphere builds up a blanket of gas that traps heat – and warms up our planet. This is changing the world’s climate. Many scientists are saying we have to act now or the consequences could be dire, irreparable, catastrophic.
The loss of forests, woodlands and trees is also a big factor in what’s happening to landscapes across the globe.
World leaders are being challenged to do more to tackle the problems.
Microsoft is in a position to make a stand and it looks like it has ambitious targets beyond 2030 as well.
And it’s not just the big corporates looking at green matters.
It feels like growing numbers of people are asking what they can do, as individuals, to help protect the environment and save our planet.
As a VA, you can also play your part.
In fact, as a user of Microsoft Office and 365, you probably already are.
By using the applications and embracing the electronic and digital age, you are helping the planet.
🌟 No need for sticky notes (use OneNote).
🌟 No need for staples or paper clips (file and organise your documents online).
🌟 No need for highlighter pens (you can highlight text or data in Word, Excel, etc).
🌟 No need for flipcharts (you can use online collaborative and sharing tools)
🌟 No need for unnecessary travel. (Working ‘virtually’ means you can communicate easily with clients and prospects. It reduces the need for in-person meetings, car or train journeys, flights, packaged food on the go, and so on). Use Microsoft Teams for client meetings and calls and client documents.
Here are some other ways to do your bit for the environment. Some simple. Some more involved.
Use 100 per cent recycled paper
Use remanufactured or renewable ink cartridges
Recycle your old desktop computer, laptop, tablet or mobile phone.
Switch to an energy supplier for your home or office which supports renewable energies like wind and solar (up to 100 per cent green).
Consider adding solar panels to the roof – to reduce (possibly to zero) your electricity bills. This may be a decision for your workplace or office manager if you work in a building.
Encourage your clients to do their bit for the environment – share some of the tips you use.
Specialise in providing VA services to businesses with strong green credentials. You may even find it helpful to promote yourself as a ‘green’ VA.
We’re probably not quite at the paperless office stage in the business world but every little helps.
The more you use what Microsoft Office and 365 can do for you, the less reliant you will become on traditional stationery.
Not only saving on your business expenditure but a move towards a more modern and sustainable way of working.
If you want to get the most out of your Microsoft Office applications get your skills up to date.
But there’s a colourful analogy to share which may help you develop your VA career and business.
Picture a box of Quality Street.
The flavours of the tiny chocolates inside can be recognised instantly by their shape and the colour of their wrapper.
Everyone has their personal favourites.
So many to choose from, including Strawberry Delight. Toffee Finger. Caramel Swirl. Chocolate Coated Fudge. The Green Triangle (Hazelnut Noisette). Coconut Eclair. Orange Crème.
Which of these do you like best?
It’s also fair to say many people have at least ONE flavour in the box that they do NOT like – or would rather avoid.
So what has all this talk of chocolate got to do with running a VA business, I hear you say.
I’m going to share this analogy and you can let me know if it makes good sense.
Imagine the box or tin of chocolates as an assortment of services a client or prospective client might ask a VA to do.
For example, it might look like this.
Write a report (Coconut eclair)
Create a spreadsheet (Green Triangle)
Put together a PowerPoint presentation (Strawberry Delight)
Send the same message, but customised, to different people (Toffee Finger)
Create an Infographic (Chocolate Coated Fudge)
Sort and summarise a set of data (Orange Crème)
Produce an eBook (Caramel Swirl)
When you first start out as a VA, you will probably find yourself being asked to do a wide range of tasks.
All the flavours of the tin (those you love and those you are less sure about).
Clients, fairly or not, tend to have certain expectations. They will want you to:
Know the core essentials of Microsoft Office
Be competent with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook
Understand their brief and be able to deliver on time
Be trustworthy and reliable
Have the ability to solve problems and make their life easier
It’s a fact of life that some VA’s can struggle at first. They have the heart to do well but not yet the skills and experience to manage or cope.
In the more extreme cases, clients find the person they hired goes AWOL and incommunicado.
That’s definitely not good for either party.
Sometimes it just means VA’s are working all hours under the sun – often juggling that with raising a family as well. That can leave even the most motivated professional short on sleep, energy and focus.
The VA market is expanding and the number of professionals offering services is rising.
How you start and serve your first few clients can be the difference between sadness and success.
Reputation in this business is everything.
The way to become competent, confident and calm under pressure is to learn the necessary skills. Get to know the basics inside out so you don’t even have to think about how to do it.
One of the tasks you may get asked to do as a VA is create a lead magnet.
This is part of a list-building strategy suitable for most businesses.
You ask people to share their name and email address – and give permission to hear more from you – in return for a piece of valuable content, or ‘lead magnet’.
This allows your business to build a relationship with prospects – and nurture them towards a first sale.
The lead magnet could be a video series, checklist, webinar or other resource. It is, however, more often than not a short eBook or PDF guide.
If you are able to put together good lead magnets you will find businesses keen to put work your way.
They may even ask you to suggest ideas for titles, content and how best to present the information.
Here are seven tips to help you create a strong lead magnet:
Tip #1 – Come Up With an Attention-Grabbing Title
Your lead magnet needs a strong title as much as a sales page requires a powerful headline.
This is a big part of what will tempt people to download it – and provide their email in return.
The reader wants to know ‘What’s In It For Me?’ – so a lead magnet should provide relevant tips, advice and knowledge. And this can help you create the wording for the guide’s title.
This really is a topic for a training all on its own but here are some examples to give you some inspiration.
“How to Create a Dazzling PowerPoint Presentation Your Bosses Will Love”
“The Secret to Successful Sales on a Shoestring”
“How To Get Your Business in the Press – Without Paying a Penny for Advertising”
“How To Double Your Income Without Doubling Your Work Hours”
“Seven Things Your Website Designer Will HATE You for Knowing (because it means they’ll have to work harder for your money)”
“OUCH! – The 5 Most Painful Ways to Lose Money to the Taxman (And How to Avoid Them)”
You get the picture.
The title is a hook to draw people in. Then all you have to do is make sure the content inside lives up to the headline act.
Tip #2 – Include a List of Contents
There are five good reasons for including a list of contents. It:
Helps people find the information they want
Provides a fast-track to precise pages, especially if there’s a ton of content
Adds a professional touch – and gives a good impression
Gives the reader an at-a-glance summary of the key content
Looks good on a page, with enhanced visual appeal to the eye
You can create a template for this and fill in the details (like page numbers) when you have the complete content done.
Tip #3 – Make Sure The Content is of Value To The Reader
It’s one thing to grab people’s attention with a great lead magnet title. It’s another to get people to read it once they have done the download.
Get used to the idea that some people will sign up for a freebie – and NEVER get around to checking out the content.
But others will read the resource, so you want to ensure the content is up to the mark.
Include a short introduction. Set out your points in a clear, logical order. Match the tips, advice or information to the target audience and their current experience – their problems, their challenges, their issues.
Most importantly, show how the content you are providing can help them with these matters, even if only in part.
Tip #4 – Use Simple Words and Short Sentences
Even if the lead magnet is aimed at a corporate or business audience, keep your content easy to read.
Use simple words instead of long ones, where you can. Only use technical terms or jargon if it is relevant to the reader. And explain what they mean if it helps people to understand. Don’t assume people will know.
Use short sentences. It makes it easier for people to read.
A simple way to know if a sentence is too long is to read it out LOUD. Notice your breath, where the pauses are and how the words flow. Adjust and edit if necessary.
Use short paragraphs. Ideally, no paragraph should be longer than five lines on the page. A reader faced with a big block of text may not be encouraged to read it.
Tip #5 – Use Images
You don’t just want great content for your lead magnet. You want it to look good, look professional.
Using relevant and good quality images can help. You might want something for the front cover, or a picture of the author(s), or a visual to tie in with information being shared in the copy.
Also consider whether charts, tables, graphs, illustrations or a cartoon might help to present the information or make a point.
Tip #6 – Have an About Page
It’s a good idea to include a section about the author or organisation who is putting out the lead magnet.
This helps with credibility, trust and connection with the reader.
It gives people an answer to the question “Why should I listen to you?”
Keep the copy short and to the point. The reader doesn’t want ‘War and Peace’.
If you’re not sure what to write, just go to a book store and see how authors are presented to you. Take a few tips from the crisp and catchy bios on the shelves.
Tip #7 – Include a Call to Action
The primary aim of the lead magnet is to get new people on the mailing list – so you can carry on the conversation with them.
So the resource you give away for free is largely about providing the content you promised in return for the reader’s details.
But it doesn’t harm to make an invitation or offer inside the lead magnet. As long as it is relevant to the audience and appropriate for the type of document. For example, you might not include it in a research-focused White Paper report (though you could if you wanted to).
Your call to action should be clear and simple.
One offer. One or more ways to take that offer up (e.g. via phone, email, website).
You could invite people to have a free consultation with you. You choose the amount of time… 60 minutes, 40 minutes, 20 or 15… that you want to give.
You could ask them to book a paid session or a review (e.g. Social Media audit, website review, IT audit, copy review or training skills assessment).
If you’re creating a lead magnet for a client, remember to ask them if they have an action they would like the reader to take.
And there you have it.
Seven quick tips for creating a solid lead magnet – for clients or for your own business.
Do tell me how you get on.
P.S. Have you heard? I have an online course called Creating E-books and Lead Magnets in Word. It’s where I guide you step-by-step so you can start doing this kind of task with your eyes shut. (Well, you know what I mean).