February 2008  
All of your business needs. One easy solution.
Volume 5 Issue 2   www.offassist.com
Love to Love You

It's February and love is in the air!

I love that I'm done with W2s.

I love that I'm done with 1099s.

Oh, don't get me wrong, I love what I do. I'm a bookkeeper and a darn good one too, but everyone that knows me knows that I lose my mind around January 10th each year. I usually threaten to quit and go flip burgers somewhere at least two or three times.

But, you know what? As much as I stomp around and argue every January, I really do love it. I love every day that I get to spend working with my clients. I am one of the luckiest people in the world - I get to do what I like to do and make a living doing it! Not many people can say that and I think it's important to love what you do - or at least not hate it.

This month, our spotlight is on VA resources. The people behind these great books and websites are some of the most outstanding individuals I've ever had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with. Now these ladies are clearly women who love what they do every day. And you know what? Here at OffAssist - we love that :)

In this issue...
  • Get Viral! Tips on starting a viral campaign to promote your business.
  • February tax deadlines.
  • Serious about being a VA? Check out our top VA resources in the Spotlight.
  • Learn about customizing the built-in forms in our Quickbooks Tip.
  • This month's Tech Talk tells you how to find your files in XP & Vista.

Designing a Viral Marketing System for your Business
by Brett Nordin

Viral Marketing campaigns refer to the self-perpetuating spread of a brand, product or service. The awareness can be spread by word-of-mouth (slower) or accelerated by the network effects of the internet. A viral marketing campaign encourages people to voluntarily communicate the brand message to a plurality of others. Viral promotions are typically thought of as funny emails, videos, texts or images, however, at a more sustainable level, they are becoming items of high value such as free information products, samples or trial services.

The promise of the internet has always been a price of "free" and online users expect to start a new relationship without paying for it. As an online or offline business owner, you must find a way to initially give a user something of value for free. Studies have shown that satisfied customers tell an average of three other people about products or services they like, and eleven people about a product or service they didn't like. By providing a valuable giveaway, there is a higher likelihood of customer satisfaction and no financial risk in telling others.

The giveaway becomes the cost of building an ongoing a relationship with a user and the opportunity to get a sale. If the initial viral message creates the right motivation, it may exponentially spread to other users who also start a relationship with your brand. Although there is sometimes a cost to building the viral message components, they should support the consumption of your primary product or service and can be re-purposed in many ways to drive sales.

The design of a viral marketing campaign should cover the life-cycle of the relationship with the future client. This includes the initial viral message, an ethical bribe used to get permission to continue the relationship and converting the prospect into a paying client.

Viral marketing system components:

1. Viral Message:
Create a selfish motivation that makes someone want to tell others. The selfish motivation comes from the emotion your viral message, product or service creates. This is the bait that lures someone into a conversation with your business. During this first phase of the relationship, the prospect doesn't trust you and the most a business can hope for is future brand recognition.

2. Ethical Bribe: Provide the visitor a free gift in exchange for an email address. The free gift inspires the prospect to opt-in and give you permission to start a deeper relationship. The ethical bribe can be a free ebook, consumer guide, informative report, tip list, product sample, give a donation to a charity, a contest, newsletter subscription, etc.

3. Conversion: The content you give away as an ethical bribe or in the ongoing email communication should be related to your product or service and written to create trust, build a burning desire for what you are selling and lower the barrier to a sale (make an offer). This is where well written copy can make or break your conversion rate.

Once you acquire a new email address, the biggest mistake you can make is to spam your brand message to a potential client. Depending on the sales cycle of your product or service, more time may be required before the prospect has a problem that you can solve. If you immediately make offers for sale, give an uninterested subscriber the ability to unsubscribe from your list.

A more benign approach to keeping a high-touch relationship is to provide valuable information about your product or service. An example of this is a monthly newsletter. Newsletters can be written in an advertorial style which promotes your business and also provides a benefit to the reader. Outside the body of the newsletter, offers for sale can be made in dedicated ad space.

Article Courtesy of www.bestmanagementarticles.com

Brett Nordin is an entrepreneur and small business owner who writes about various topics including sales, marketing and business development.

QuickBooks Tip
Q: Can I create company branded form templates in QuickBooks?

A: Absolutely! QuickBooks gives you the ability to easily customize the standard templates to match your company branding, allowing you to change things such as font style or size--you can even include your company logo.

Always start by making a duplicate template (just in case) from the Lists menu, selecting Templates and Duplicate. QuickBooks will ask for you to choose your Template Type: estimate, purchase order, invoice, sales order, credit memo or sales receipt. Your selection determines the default fields of information that appear for on-screen input and printing. Using an invoice as an example, select Basic Customization to change the template name under Managing Your Templates. You can now add, change or delete Fields as needed by your company using Additional Customization. Select Layout Designer to arrange your invoice template components, insert an image of your company logo, and add custom text boxes. All elements can be moved and properties can be modified. Remember to save the invoice template as you go.

Once you've created your first company branded template, you can duplicate it and select a different template type such as an estimate, following the same process. QuickBooks keeps the formatting structure and adjusts the information fields for that template type. These elements can be modified in the same way. Developing custom templates is an easy means of supporting your company's branding efforts and allows you to maintain consistency throughout your business forms.
Tax Deadlines
February 15 - IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits due for January issued payroll

February 20 - Texas Sales & Use Tax Return due for monthly

February 28
- Forms W-2 and W-3, Annual Wage and Tax Statement, to be submitted to the Social Security Administration
- Forms 1099 and 1096, Annual Summary and Transmittal of U.S. Information Returns to the Internal Revenue Service

March 15
- IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits due for February issued payroll
- U.S. Corporate Income Tax Return
- U.S. S-Corporation Income Tax Return

March 20 - Texas Sales & Use Tax Return due for monthly filers
Tech Talk With Tom...
Easy My Computer Access in XP and Vista

I haven't really gotten to play with Vista much, yet. I can tell you my overall impression thus far is that it seems like more of the same with a pretty new wrapper. If you have a good computer and a decent video card it becomes a VERY pretty wrapper.

I don't know about you but one thing I require from an operating system is easy access to my hard drives and files. With Windows XP Microsoft started making it harder to reach your own information - i.e. automatically hiding the files in certain (Windows) directories unless you override it. In Vista, Microsoft has put your files even farther out of reach. If you're like me and want to get to your files quickly and efficiently, the best way to do this is through Windows' My Computer.

Here is how you can make it fast and easy to access My Computer in both XP and Vista:

Windows XP
In Windows XP, the best place to put My Computer is back on the desktop, where it was in Windows 95 and 98. This will open the standard My Computer window.

- Right-Click the Taskbar in an empty space.
- Select Properties.
- Select the Start Menu tab.
- Click the radio button next to Classic Start menu

The My Computer icon should now appear in the upper left-hand corner of your desktop.

Windows Vista
In Windows Vista, the best place for My Computer is on the tool bar. This gives you direct access to your drives simply by clicking the arrow next to the Computer label.

- Right-Click on the taskbar
- Select Toolbars and click on New Toolbar
- Select Computer
- Click on Select Folder

The Computer label should now appear right on your task bar.

And there you have it - quick and easy access to your drives and other storage devices just like it was meant to be. I plan on doing a lot more "cross tips" that pertain to both Windows XP and Windows Vista over the next few months. If you have any questions regarding either, please send them to me at the email address listed below.

Tom Beauchamp is the marketing and tech expert behind OffAssist. He can be reached at tom@offassist.com.
Spotlight On...
Virtual Assistant Books and Links

Some of the calls and emails fielded most often around here are from people wanting to know, "How do I become a VA?", particularly since I added IVAA President to my resume. Here are a few of my favorite VA books and links - the one I refer people to when they ask me about becoming a virtual assistant.

Entrepreneurial Freedom by Jeannine Clontz and Lauren Hidden (www.entrepreneurialfreedom.com)
Even though I read it 4 years after I started my business I still came away with a lot of good info. It really is a great book! The authors were featured in the December issue of this newsletter.

The Virtual Business Startup System by Tawnya Sutherland, the woman behind VANF - (virtualbusinessstartups.com)
I admit I haven't read through this myself, but I've heard great things about it! You can get a free 48 page sample here.

Virtual Assistant: The Series, Become a Highly Successful, Sought After VA by Diana Ennen and Kelly Poelker -
If you are just looking at becoming a VA or are starting to take those first steps, this is a must-read book. It has some very basic information about VAs and numerous tips quotes from leading VAs around the world.

www.ivaa.org - They are the only VA organization that is not-for-profit. Of course, I'm currently the president so I may be biased. My largest client found me through the IVAA directory, so it's nothing to sneeze at.

www.vanetworking.com - Another wonderful resource. Take time to read through the posts, there is a wealth of information out there. Portions of the site have become paid access only, but there is still a ton of fantastic info to be found in the free areas.

There are other VA organizations and message boards, of course, but these are the two that I have gained the most information from and find to be the friendliest.
Have you nursed a secret longing to be in the spotlight, center-stage, all eyes on you?

If you would like to be featured in the OffAssist spotlight column, and have not been featured in the past twelve months, contact Candy@OffAssist.com and we'll see if we can put you in the limelight.

Humor: A 21st Century Marriage
A man stopped at a florist shop after work to pick up roses for his wife. As the clerk was putting the finishing touches on the bouquet, a young man burst through the door, breathlessly requesting a dozen red roses.

"I'm sorry," the clerk said. "This man just ordered our last bunch."

The desperate customer turned to the first man and begged, "May I please have those roses?"

The man asked, "What happened? Did you forget your wedding anniversary?"

"It's even worse than that," the younger man confided. "I crashed my wife's hard drive!"
Have an article you'd like to write for our monthly newsletter or want to be spotlighted? Have a QuickBooks question or something you'd like to see in the Tech Tip?

Email candy@offassist.com.

The OffAssist newsletter is made possible by the copywriting/editing skills of Ink Think VA, and the coding talents of VA Lab Designs.