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Often we go into the online industry with the desire to ‘work from anywhere’, but in the midst of working from anywhere we are often ‘working everywhere’, which is much less attractive and desirable in the scope of work life balance. It’s great that we can take our laptop, iPad, mobile device anywhere and work from there – or is it?
I want you to take a look around you… is your environment really supporting you to where you can be the best you in the work you are doing today? Are you at a desk with proper seating, lighting and ambiance? Are you on your couch, TV going, kids playing, dog barking? Are you at a local coffee shop, daydreaming and people watching? Are you at your kid’s sport event, music practice, ect? Where are you right now?
Is it where you want to be?
Does it support your ability to be completely engaged in the work you are producing for your clients? All too often I hear of support professionals who are working on the go… and trust me I get what it means to have a very busy life. But can we really produce at the level our clients deserve (and are paying for) when we are fitting our commitments in amidst the already over scheduled day we have before us. I ask this, not to point the finger or make anyone feel badly but instead to say:
Is this what you wanted? Is this really what you created your online business for? Or did it morph into something quite different from what you expected in the reality of your day? If we go with the idea that ‘How you do anything is how you do everything’ then I ask:
Are you partly working while partly managing your life? If so, when will you be WHOLE?
This month is all about you, the Online Business Manager! The first tip I have for you is to: DO YOU! Be the OBM (or Virtual Support Person) you are meant to be.. not in comparison to anyone else.
Many times we look around (or browse around other’s websites) and we start thinking “maybe I should offer this, or maybe I should offer that”… but it is not stuff you love and really want to be doing.
If we are not taking ownership of the unique gift we bring to the table we start thinking we need to add other stuff into our services packages.
If you really want to enjoy the work you are doing and do GREAT work with your clients, you first have simply to DO YOU! Do what you are best at, what your strengths are, working within your skillsets. If your clients need services that you do not love, then hire someone and manage them in doing, that service (doesn’t mean we have to miss out on the opportunity).
One of our OBM Mentorship clients said to Tina a few years ago: ”I realized I do not want to be the kind of OBM you are”.. that was AWESOME! Of course, her skills, experiences, expertise were different then what Tina brought to the table, so her style of being an OBM was different from the ‘role description’ and that was perfect for her (and for her ideal clients). See she understood what it was to “DO YOU”.. just be herself!
Often I go to LIVE Events and the speaker will say (in an attempt to motivate): How you do anything is how you do everything! This is exactly what I am talking about. This month’s tips are all about how YOU show up in your business.
If you are supporting your clients in a launch here are 3 strategies you can help implement:
1. Work with referral partners.. if you really want to reach the numbers and make the biggest impact with a launch you simply MUST involve referral partners. The trick to this is really not working with a lot of people but instead working with a few that are committed to the outcome. Give me 10 strong referral partners willing to have client do a class for their list, send multiple solos emails, and keep social media going over 100 that are willing to send 1 solo (usually amidst multiple other promotions). Have client work with key strategic referral partners, and be sure to compensate them for their efforts so they will stay strong partners.
2. Create (or have created) Dynamic Copy… the truth is most copy is: blah, blah, blah.. buy this blah blah blah. And people are NOT reading it and they are NOT buying. Encourage the client to do video, have interactive content, be smart and propose provocative questions for the potential buyer to really have to think about. Think about how you deliver the copy in a way that no one else is.. if you can be an out of the box thinker when it comes to delivery folks will be impressed and that will assist the buying potential.
3. Don’t forget those who have previously purchased from business. Encourage the client to do a special for those who have been loyal.. this is why so many grocery stores have the VIP or BONUS card. They want to reward people who are faithful purchasers from their store.. this works.. do it. Give a discount to those in other programs, to those who have opened 9 out of the last 10 emails.. ect. be creative in bringing people that are already loyal into the process… most of the time they will become your best referral partners.
As Online Business Managers, it is our role to manage the team we are working with. (Let me clarify that the Client is part of the team.) There is a saying: a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. I believe this is true for teams as well. If any one member of the team is not functioning at the same level as everyone else, then you have a weakness in the team dynamic and essentially in the operations of the business.
It is important as OBMs that we understand our roles as leaders in the business… that we take ownership of the development of the team we are working with and ensure that we are creating the environment in which everyone on the team can produce at their strongest ability. The leader (you) should be the inspirer of the team… the person who creates the wind that everyone is soaring in on to perform their tasks in the business.
How do we do this?
We must understand the difference between motivating and delegating.
Motivating someone is all about inspiring them to show up and be the person they want to be… not just to complete a task, but also to feel good and empowered around the way they serve every element of their business and their role in the business you are managing.
Motiving is purposeful and thoughtful. You have to take the time to know your team’s goals and desires to effectively motivate them.
For example, by knowing what is on Tina’s YES list (the priority tasks she wants to be doing on a daily basis in the business), then I know how to motivate her to keep only those tasks on her plate and get the rest of the tasks off to the rest of the team. On team calls, that may look like keeping the conversation going toward what is coming up next or the vision she has for the business. When she gets bogged down in the details (which she is brilliant at but doesn’t really want to be in them), then I try to motivate her toward the big-picture stuff and reassure her I have the daily details handled.
With a VA, it’s always trying to encourage them… beyond the efforts of the business, but into their lives, their personal development or business development. I think of it as sowing and watering seeds of encouragement and power into their lives to ensure they desire to do their best work with us and for themselves.
I hope you can see the difference in this type of interaction over simply delegating a task… “here do this, here do that… thanks.” No one wants to work on a team where they do not feel cared for. There is a saying in our house (around raising our teenage kids): rules without relationship = rebellion. The same is true here… if you are not purposeful in building the relationship, then the request, processes, “rules” of your client’s business will be less important to the team member, specifically in comparison to the client that is taking the time to motivate and empower them by building a relationship with them.
When I talk to potential OBMs who have been in the VA community, their #1 complaint is not feeling valued! OUCH! As OBMs, it is our role to ensure our support knows the value they bring to the business… that we are developing their ability to continue to offer us great support. Here are just a few ways we can do this effectively:
1. Communicate Clearly – Expectations and Encouragement
I am so guilty of this… just sending out partial requests. Unfortunately, what this does is create a confusion and frustration in our team’s ability to fully perform the task at hand… therefore robbing them of the power they hold to do great work for us. We must be clear and decisive with the expectations we need from our team. That goes both ways too… let the client know what you need to be fully engaged in what ya’ll are creating together, as well as ensure you are fully communicating what the team needs to accomplish to be successful.
First thing you want to do is ensure there is a role description for the position they hold in the business. This is the easiest way to create a measurable for both you and them to ensure the partnership is a success.
Second, make sure you have a fully functional SOP that will lay out the expectation of each task so your team is not playing the guessing game with their obligations to the business, as this is frustrating and time consuming.
Thirdly, ensure you are scheduling out tasks in a timeframe that allows them to know what is going on. Nothing more morale-breaking than planning to go to lunch with a friend and have a task hit your inbox or virtual office that has to be done within a few hours.
Encourage, encourage, encourage… it only takes a moment to say “I appreciate your commitment” or “thanks for always having my back, you make my work so much easier.” A little bit of encouragement will go a long way when creating an environment of success.
2. Develop an Attitude of Ownership
Give people the opportunity to show you what they can do. By empowering them to make decisions based on their level of experience and expertise, most of the time you will be pleasantly surprised by the creativity and ingenuity of your team. This is an Attitude of Ownership.
Now with any opportunity to be creative or take ownership of something, until they have proven themselves, they will need you to mentor them more closely through the process. But be there to watch for obstacles for them while allowing them to soar. Give people projects within their strengths that will help them build confidence in their ability to take ownership and have the pride of accomplishment.
For the VA who has an eye for detail, you could ask her to skim through the website to ensure all the links and grammar are as they should be. Or someone who loves formatting, let them take some of the client’s articles and create an eBook. These are projects they can work on in their own timeline that take little instruction, but will give them a great sense of ownership. If they need a great deal of instruction around it, it might not be the best project for that person to own. Consider that, but then you can see their potential and motivate them to that next level if needed.
3. Be Grateful – Say Thank You
Honestly, gratitude, when offered sincerely, is one of the greatest rewards we can get in this industry… to the client as well as to the support team. A truly heartfelt “thank you for what you do” is rare… a quick “thanks” is everywhere.. but really who receives that? If you take the time to tell someone thank you for how they make the business a better place, that motivates people to continue to do great work.
When you say thank you, be descriptive in what you see is the greatest asset the team member brings to the table. Tell them what you are most appreciative of in the support they offer, and if possible send them a token of appreciation.
Closing thoughts… be the leader OBM! Develop and motivate your team… step into the shoes of empowerment to ensure your team knows the value of their efforts and the appreciation of their commitment. When you do, everything in the business will begin to soar on the wind of your leadership.
As a follow-on to our last tip, here are 3 things you can add to your ongoing marketing plan for your clients:
1. Set up an editorial calendar for social media – the truth is social media is easy.. super easy! Unfortunately it is time consuming, so set time aside once a month to create everything needed for the social media marketing for the month. Especially when it relates to brand/business marketing. Write out 90 tweets from ‘one liners’ out clients: blogs, products, books, etc. then schedule them in an automated program like Hootsuite. This can be delegated as most anyone can read through material and pull out a few sentences that bring the point home. You will also want to have material that is Facebook and LinkedIn appropriate.
2. Promoting the free offer.. here at Online Business Manager we call it the Pink Spoon. Most all of our clients have some type of free offer they are using to build their list, unfortunately we often forget to promote it.. duh! Make sure you have full marketing around that free offer. It should be in front of someone new everyday. And it should be automated.. so create the copy and set it and forget it.. (again we use Hootsuite).
3. Building Twitter Followers and Facebook Fans.. this is important should be done on a weekly basis where someone on the team is working on these two things. There are hundreds of articles online re: how to do this..so do some research create a plan and start doing it. This is quite possibly the easiest way to get the brand in front of new potential ideal clients. But if it’s not a priority it will never get done..
When it comes to marketing there are two necessary strategies for the online business:
Ongoing Marketing and Visibility for the Business / Brand
Launch Promotions (for products or services).
Personally I love to do brand/ business marketing. Here’s why: It’s all about the giving.. giving tools, resources, tidbits of info that will help encourage, empower and equip folks. When marketing a brand you are really just sharing what that brand is about and how it helps others. This is fun and exciting and it allows an opportunity for the business to really shine in it’s market. It is not asking, selling, or requiring anything other than the opportunity to share and give to others.
It is vitally important that we as OBM’s have a solid brand marketing plan in place that is ongoing.. should be set on auto-pilot as much as possible. This would look like: pre-loaded daily tweets of topical truths from a clients book or products, it may look like weekly tips (wink), it may look like optin pages with free offerings, it may look like coupons, or specials offered into the market… it truly is a giving opportunity.
Put a schedule in place for these types of efforts to ensure they do not get overlooked in the day in and day out of putting out fires.. as this type of marketing isn’t closest to the money, it isn’t exciting, it doesn’t demand attention but it is concrete and solid in the continual growth of the brand or business.
Launch Promotions being the sprinter, need to be extremely strategic, unlike the brand marketing which you can play around with, do different things, flow with, launch promotions need to be very hard hitting. The strategy needs to be very targeted to be most effective you will have researched the market, understand the language of the potential customer, got in their heads and began to understand the buying style therefor understanding the elements needed to market the product or service to target.
Many times an OBM may suggest bringing in a launch marketing expert to assist with the strategy of a launch promotion, or receive clear instruction from the client on the marketing plan for that launch. If you are in a spot as an OBM where you are not certain what to do in a launch situation, it is important you speak up and let your client know. I say this because we must always keep what is best for the business at the core of how we run a business. If the business needs a programmer (and I who know nothing about programming) attempt to create the code this business will be in trouble when we go to apply the code.. I would never do this. If the business needs a solid marketing plan and you don’t have it, please let the client know and get the resources you need. Now understand it is still the responsibility of the OBM to ensure it is implemented properly, but of course.
Think of it like this: Brand Marketing is a marathon… it’s long and slow, but steady and sustainable. Launch Promotions are sprints.. they hit fast and hard, carry a big wow factor and should be as impacting as possible with every effort.
As the Certified OBM Training Manager now for almost 3 years I have had a lot of people ask “is the OBM also the Marketing Manager?” And I would like to make this as clear as mud: YES and NO!
Before you start thinking I am talking out of two heads let me explain why I am saying this.
No, you do NOT need to be a marketing strategist or expert. Knowing what kind of marketing strategies to employ is ultimately up to your client or their own marketing coach to decide.
Yes, you DO need to manage marketing activities to make sure they are getting done… same as you would with any other project in the business.
The OBM is the Manager of EVERYTHING… so stop trying to ‘get out’ of the stuff you don’t want to do, manage or be responsible for. Best to just step up I get that ‘marketing’ in this 24/7 communication environment looks a bit like a monster.. but as the OBM you need to be willing to step in and make sure that marketing activities are being completed, especially if you are on incentive.
Now here’s the tricky part. As an online business manager, the simple truth is you can’t manage where there is no business, and without marketing there will be no business, no clients, no revenue. So don’t escape the opportunity to learn and grow in this area. There is no such thing as an OBM who says: “well I just don’t like marketing so I am not going to help here.” Visibility for a business is the only way it grows.. plain and simple.
So though you don’t need to be the marketing expert, you do need to have a sound knowledge of what it takes to manage marketing initiatives.
The truth is, even the best laid plans can be found trailing a bit “behind.” Whether because of emerging priorities or procrastination, there are times when we just get behind on the tasks before us. Seems an oxymoron to say “behind on that which is before us”… the truth is, it is.
Survival Step #1: Reprioritize and put the tasks before you.
The first thing you need to do is look at the list of tasks you have fallen behind on and and get them in front of you. I know this seems a bit simple, but the truth is, as long as the stigma of “defeat” or “failure” in not meeting a deadline is hovering over the tasks, it will take you twice as long to complete it. Now the task has become an emotional energy and usually one that is negative. So instead of just accomplishing the task, you have to feel the burden of having let it fall behind.
If you need to email a client, change a milestone, update a calendar… whatever your process is, you need to get that task in front of you (because honestly, it IS in front of you… we simply can’t go backward).
Be realistic in your priority and understand the importance of meeting the next deadline for this task. And if it needs to be done right now… then DO IT RIGHT NOW! But first change the deadline for it to RIGHT NOW (not last week).
When you remove the negative energy around a task that has fallen behind, you will have a different mind frame around completing the task.
Survival Step #2: Assess: why didn’t you get it completed to begin with?
This step is important because if you don’t know why you didn’t complete it to begin with, the reality is you will likely just miss the deadline again. I currently have a marketing project in my task list that I have changed the timeline on 3 times… why? Simply put, I don’t want to be the implementer of this process. I don’t have time and I know someone else could do it much better than I. Currently, I am working with a new team member to get them trained up to do the tasks needed to complete this project. However, the development of the new team member is moving at a slower pace than I would prefer and I refuse to give up on this initiative, so… it stays as a “behind” project. Knowing this allows me to understand why and how I am going to accomplish this milestone and move it into a successful, complete project.
So I ask you… why is that task behind? Why are you not completing it? What do you need to complete it? Many times when we let a task or project fall behind it’s because there is a piece missing for us. A missing element in the strategy, implementation or resource will cause us to lag behind. But if we do not evaluate what that is and begin to fill that missing piece, we will just continue to lag behind on the project and not complete it to the level of excellence we have started out with. So find out what you need to find out, implement what needs to be implemented, and get the resource you need BEFORE your next deadline.
Survival Step #3: Get Over It.
Many times, we stay behind because we can’t get out of our own heads. Let’s be honest, as Online Business Managers, our core purpose is to help people. We take it very seriously, and take our ability to get things done very seriously. I deem myself as the “Master Implementer” meaning… I get things done! So when something doesn’t get done on time or I start running behind… the first thing that happens is that I get caught up in my head… building a big, tiresome bridge that needs to be crossed to get the task accomplished.
Assuming I am not the only one who does this, I want to say: Get Over It!
Take the complication out of the “doing” of the task and simply DO IT. Push through the discomfort, the negative energy, the feelings, and simply do the task. Do not be ruled by what seemed a failure of yesterday.. but determine to make it a success today!
You can’t go backward, you can’t change with is “behind” you.. push it forward and then own it, rule it, master it and COMPLETE it! When you change your mind and determine to do that thing that is haunting you from yesterday, it will be the freedom you need today.
There is this misconception that we can somehow manage people… truth is all we can do is lead people. Folks have to manage themselves, especially when we are dealing with contractors. For me to manage a person in the truest sense would be for me to determine the priority of that person at a nitty-gritty level. No thank you…
But what I can do is lead. We can lead by example, we can lead by expectation and we can lead by motivation. When it comes to your team you have to be a leader! Think about how you would want to empower someone to be the best they can be in that role. What does that look like, do they have all the information they need to accomplish this? Do they have the skills necessary? Are they the right person for the role, do their strengths lend to their success? Have they seen you do it sloppy or with excellence? Do they know your passion for the success of their role? Do they know you believe in them? That you want to support them?
Think about it.. how are you showing up as a leader for your team?
When it come to management, you need to manage the process. Ensure that the highest level of productivity is being created in the process for the purpose of streamlining the operations of the task. This needs to be managed, decisions need to be made, tests need to be run, discussions need to be had. When a process is tried and true then it needs to be implemented correctly, this can be managed (even though it is a person doing the implementing). What this means is you need to LEAD them back to the process.. this will maintain the process being managed correctly.
So lead people, manage processes.. go ahead give it a try and see if your world does not become much simpler