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One of several articles originally published during 2000
in Virtually Speaking, the AVS newsletter
Please see the Article Index to read the other articles.
Copyright reserved - Irene Boston


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CHRISTMAS AS A MARKETING TOOL

There is a tide in the affairs of men
which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune
- Julius Caesar

Traditionally Christmas is seen as a time to wind down.  A time when you can switch off the computer and forget about business.  A time to over-indulge both in food and drink (at least it is in our household!)  It may be all of those things but have you ever thought that it’s also a means to market your VA services?  It’s the perfect opportunity to cement relationships with existing clients and nurture new ones.

What do you do at Christmas for your clients?  At the very least you should send them a card.  You could also consider sending some kind of offer along with your Christmas greeting – either a discount voucher for your services or a percentage off a retainer service.  Or perhaps you could place an advert offering a “New Year Sale” slashing your fees for a limited period.

The human race is a peculiar animal.  It has a rather odd understanding of “perceived value”.  The mêlée surrounding the January sales in department stores should tell you that.  People will queue for hours to obtain a small discount for something they were perfectly prepared to pay full price for just a short time before Christmas.  If they  believe they’re getting a “bargain”, they’ll be happy, whatever the real value of the item.

For your regular (and therefore more lucrative) clients, a personal gift might be more appropriate.  Something like a gift basket, a bottle of wine, or chocolates.  Or perhaps a pen, a note pad, a coaster, or a key ring.  It all depends on your budget and how much you think each client might be worth in terms of future business.  But make sure your business details are plastered all over every gift.  It’s a perfect way of putting your contact details in front of your clients and their customers for a prolonged period.  These promotional gifts are relatively inexpensive when you consider the potential exposure for your business.

I am perhaps fortunate in that I have two other business “hats” which serve me in good stead at this time of year.  I’m a landscape photographer and writer.  I sell my images to, among others, greeting card and calendar companies and I write travel books.  So at Christmas I invariably have a stock of sample cards and calendars to distribute, all displaying my photographs.  Or I’ll send them a copy of a guidebook I’ve written.  This ploy nearly always grabs my customer’s attention.  I often receive comments along the lines of “I didn’t know you did this?!” 

While my photographs or books don’t reveal much about my abilities as a VA, they do serve one very useful purpose.  These gifts are remembered and one of the first rules of marketing is to be noticed.  This method certainly achieves that and I’ve even been known to sell a few photographs or books in the process!  Clients who are looking for innovative ways to send their own customers a gift at Christmas, sometimes commission a calendar of photographs or order a batch of books for the following year.  So if you have a talent in another sphere apart from virtual assistance – exploit it, whether it’s photography, painting, needlecraft or whatever. 

You can also seize the opportunity to make contact with all those who made enquiries throughout the year but who didn’t, at the time, become clients.  I’ve often sent cards or a voucher to previous enquirers only to find they’d lost my contact details but were about to need the services of a virtual assistant.  Such serendipity is worth the effort.

Carrying out free research for clients at Christmas is an excellent way to earn useful brownie points. One of my clients is a life coach and I often stumble across possible markets for her articles or her services, both online and in the business press.  I compile a list of these resources and send them to her on a semi-regular basis.  As a consequence, this client has referred me to other companies who have since become regular clients themselves. 

Don’t restrict this service to Christmas time.  This is something which can be done as a matter of course all year round.  In a world where very little is genuinely free, it will always be appreciated.  If you go that one step further or do that little bit extra for clients free of charge, it could reap rewards for your business in the future.  A case of “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours!”

Tel/Fax: +44 (0)1485 543746  Boston@ibss.fsnet.co.uk

 
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This page was last updated 19th January 2003