These days, you can outsource just about anything, from highly technical tasks such as programming, to basic tasks that just about anyone can do. Because there are a fair number of menial, repetitive tasks involved in online marketing, you may want to hire virtual assistants (also called virtual admins or VAs) to do those tasks. Online marketers commonly use VAs for link building, scrubbing websites for contact information, sending emails to recruit for affiliate programs, etc.
However you get one, you need to make sure you have a good way of managing your VA. Otherwise, you may spend just as much time managing a person as you did doing those tasks to begin with. The most common (and least effective) way of managing a VA is through email. Often VAs live halfway around the world, so phone calls are out, and even Skype works only if you’re both up at the same time. So marketers usually ask VAs to BCC them on every email they send out, and to send them a direct email updating them on their daily efforts, as well as alerting them to any special developments.
A better way to manage this is to use a multi-user database, such as customer relationship management (CRM) software, that both you and your VAs can access. Because I’m most familiar with eSilverBullet, I’ll explain how it is used by online marketers to manage their VAs.
First, the system is hosted, so regardless of where your VAs live in the world, they’ll be able to access it with an Internet connection.
Second, users get assigned permissions. So if you have multiple VAs and you don’t want them seeing what each other is doing, no problem. Because you’ll have the manager permission, you’ll see every record they create or modify. That way, you can check up on their activities without them taking an extra step to push that information to you.
I mentioned that most online marketers use VAs for emailing. That will all takes place within the system. The VAs can upload and choose from any number of email templates, then send mass emails to the addresses assigned to them. Rather than copying you on each one, you can run an activity report to see what got sent, by whom, to whom, and when.
The system includes a calendar that can be shared (again, based on permissions) among users. You can also assign specific tasks with due dates for each of your VAs. So instead of sending an email to a VA and hoping it doesn’t get lost in the inbox, you’ll create the task within the system. That alerts the VA of the task and automatically puts it on the to-do list. Once the task is completed, the VA can close the task. That lets your VA know what needs to be done each day, and gives you a quick idea of which tasks were completed and which are still outstanding.
Likewise, your VAs can assign notes, tasks or calendar events to you as well. So if they’ve discovered special offers that you should look at, they can record those in the system and you’ll see them the next time you log in.
The system also records all emails going out, regardless of what email accounts are used. Online marketers often use multiple email accounts to communicate with potential or current affiliates, so their VAs end up managing multiple email accounts. Outsourced program managers (OPMs), for instance, may have an email account for every affiliate program they manage (e.g. affiliatemanager@BrandXCompany.com). Their VAs will choose which email to use for a particular email blast. The system allows you to do a global search for emails in the system based on any keyword. That is much quicker than doing a search within each folder in your typical email application.
And just like with employees, there is no telling how long a VA will stick around. This causes people who manage their VAs with just an email application a lot of headaches because there is no easy way, shy of forwarding all the copied emails, of transferring that institutional knowledge to the new VA. With eSilverBullet, however, transitioning an old VA with a new VA is as simple as giving the new VA a user name and reassigning all records owned or created by the old VA to the new one. It takes less than a minute.
Ultimately, you’ll want to know the ROI on your VAs. Rather than following your gut feelings, or waiting for your VAs to convince you of their effectiveness, the system will show you specific numbers. If you are an affiliate marketer using VAs for recruiting, for instance, you’ll be able to run a report that shows the number of affiliates each VA successfully recruited into your affiliate program. That will show you which VAs are responsible for bringing the most money to you through their efforts.