Why I Love My Prairie Garden

by Nicole Paull

No other garden I’ve known has given so much for so little.

Today, the smooth penstemon is in full regalia, the flower-decked stems curtsying to every passing breeze. Given just a little more coaxing, the rest of the garden sways and ripples hypnotically. The yellow coneflower and sweet joe-pye weed are heavy with buds, the monarda soon will be (therafter to be guarded ardently by the local hummingbirds). I await the show the cupplant will treat me to: the saw-toothed leaves are a dramatic focal point in themselves but will soon be eclipsed by flower stalks that may stretch eight feet tall.

For no small time today, I watched a little song sparrow perch on the fence over my little square of prairie, his speckled throat pulsing impressively as he warbled forth his claim to all would-be intruders, “This land is my land!” I wonder where his lady-love is. Puffed up broodily over a clutch of eggs, nascent with life? In one of the trio of yellowwood trees by the driveway, maybe; he’s in and out of there a lot, too.

This is a garden abuzz with bees and dancing with butterflies, home to a swelling chorus of crickets that greet the evening. What birds will come to feast on seeds as the light grows long and the asters and goldenrod reign supreme? This is a garden bursting with life in all its moods and seasons.

And all for a little cossetting in its babyhood and an annual mowing…

Why I Like My Hens

by Nicole Paull

On the “Meet Nicole” page of my website, one of the things I mention is my hens and I thought it would be fun to talk a little bit about just why I like chickens.

First, they hearken back to my childhood. Growing up, we had bunnies, hens and roosters, ducks, geese, and even a pheasant named Fred. My brother went to the county Agricultural High School and one summer (they were a school project), we even raised some baby steers. If you’ve never bottle-fed a calf, it’s a lot of fun. :)

Second, baby chicks are incredibly endearing little balls of peeping fluff. They’ll fall asleep in the palm of your hand. One of my hens hatched in an incubator I set up in my office and initially, she imprinted on me. If I sat on the ground and rested one hand on my thigh, she’d jump up to my knee, hop onto my hand and run up my arm to sit on my shoulder.

Third, a flock of hens is fascinating to watch…it’s an entire society in miniature. (It’s fun to see a rooster strut and “dance” for the hens and scratch around for little love-offerings for them, too, but roosters are loud and not all neighbors will tolerate them! The career of Horatio Hornblower was therefore, alas, short.)

They chase each other around, strike poses to determine who’s dominant, dust bathe, brag about eggs deposited, and find sunny spots to nap. They quickly learn who usually brings the food and will run to meet you at the door.

They have an entire language of bawks and squawks and after awhile, you get to know what they’re saying. (“Hawk!” sounds much different from “Yum” which sounds much different from “I wonder what that is?” A hen croons softly to her eggs when the chicks are close to hatching, too, and the chicks will peep back at her from within the eggs.)

Fourth, there is an incredible array of breeds and some are really, really beautiful. There are hens that lay brown eggs, hens that lay white eggs, and hens that lay blue or green eggs. Black Copper Marans lay “chocolate” eggs. There are speckled, laced, checkered, barred, partridge, and splash feather patterns, to name a few. There are little bitty bantams and great big Jersey Giants.

A flock of different-colored and -patterned hens, foraging contentedly on a lush green lawn, is a wholly satisfactory sight (although you have to watch yourself if you walk on said lawn barefoot!).

Finally, the eggs from hens who get to go outside, scratch around, and find some of their own forage really do taste better. My friend Sharon calls them “happy eggs”.

This is a photo of Rose with Matilda, Lucy, and Iris when the chicks were just two or three days old. (Click on the photo and you’ll be able to see it full-size.)

My Most-Meaningful Accomplishments

by Nicole Paull

I subscribe to Cheryl Richardson’s newsletter and a few weeks ago, her “Take Action Challenge” of the week was to create a list of 15 accomplishments. Well, it got put off a few times, but this morning, I sat down and created one.

So, here is a list of successes that are close to my heart, in no particular order of importance:

  1. Got our property certified as “Wildlife Habitat” with the National Wildlife Federation
  2. Helped a baby chick be born who’s since grown into a beautiful, glossy-feathered, speckly hen named Harriet
  3. Started a business (it’s five years old at the time of writing) which is profitable both financially and in the most rewarding sense: It is filled with clients whom I care about and who show that they value me
  4. Healed myself holistically from Crohn’s Disease
  5. Read the Bible from cover to cover (Reading is one of my great loves and I do a lot of it. However, this is the reading I consider my greatest accomplishment…it took me about a year to do it.)
  6. Designed the layout for our finished basement, helped build it, and paid it off in full (a joint accomplishment, but still one I’m proud of)
  7. Designed my office, from the wall and and carpet colors to the desk, hutches, and windowsill shelf, which were custom-built to my specifications, to the pictures, houseplants and objets d’art; my office truly is an expression of me, besides being a comfortable, welcoming place of productivity
  8. Am raising two boys who show that they are growing into quality young men
  9. Designed and helped to transform our deck from a bare, uncomfortable space into a sanctuary
  10. Have raised a Meyer lemon tree to the age where it’s bearing fruit (at the time of writing, it’s almost time to harvest my first home-grown lemon)
  11. Although it was out of my power to actually bring peace to everyone involved, at a time when it would have been easy to get drawn into a situation where relatives were in-fighting, I didn’t add any fuel to the fire
  12. Learned that sometimes the way you get your needs met is not by complaining, but rather by seeking to fulfill someone else’s needs from a place of love
  13. Made it possible for my husband to start his own business by taking on the role of primary breadwinner for a few years. This has had long-term positive effects for our family finances.
  14. Was told by a cashier that I was the first person to come through her line all day long who was smiling and friendly. I was glad I was able to do that for her. (My first job was cashiering at a supermarket and I know both how miserable people can sometimes be as well as the difference it makes to serve someone who’s nice.)
  15. I married a close friend and he’s remained a friend through our marriage (which is just shy of eighteen years, to date)

So that’s my list. When you look back on your own life so far, what are the successes you look back on?

The Story of Stretching My Comfort Zone

by Nicole Paull

For years, I was very content with the fact that I was never again going to fly in an airplane. In fact, I was so content that I couldn’t imagine not being content with it.

If asked, I could point with triumphant emphasis to a particularly harrowing flight, the memory of which remained undimmed years later and say, “Never again. No way. No how. Don’t even ask me!”

Then something happened.

I really wanted to attend a business retreat with the fabulous Anastacia Brice in Minneapolis and my planned traveling companions needed to cancel. (We were going to drive and sight see along the way.) I enjoy a road trip, but I didn’t want to drive all by myself from Massachusetts to Minneapolis, which would involve twenty-four hours behind the wheel, best case scenario. A flight would take less than three hours. It was the practical solution.

So, heart in throat, I booked it.

Now, just because I felt flying was my best option doesn’t mean I suddenly felt good about it.

In fact, I was pretty overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to expect in security. I didn’t know what order things went in at the airport, between getting dropped off at the terminal and boarding the plane. I was nervous about getting disoriented in the airport and having trouble finding security or the gate where I was supposed to board. I didn’t know how to figure out which carousel to go to to pick up my luggage after landing. I didn’t know exactly where to go to find the people who were meeting me in Minneapolis. And then there was the flight itself to worry about, literally putting my life in someone else’s hands.

All this probably sounds silly to someone who’s confident traveling (shouldn’t you just be able to watch what everyone else is doing and imitate?), but truthfully, fear can make you almost blind.

For someone used to feeling strong and – most importantly – in control, this was heavy stuff.

Well, one of my clients, Cheryl, picked up on how I was feeling and I’m so thankful that she kindly spent time tapping with me (using EFT) for my fear. That helped immensely. She also gave me some advice about packing, told me just what to expect through security, and encouraged me not to be afraid to make myself vulnerable and ask airport staff for help if I felt nervous about finding my way at all. All of this relieved my anxiety.

A further help was the fact that Anastacia offered to meet me at the airport in Minneapolis. It was comforting knowing I had someone familiar to look for.

Cheryl also told me that flying is a great metaphor for freedom and that addressing my fear on this was going to free me up to do other things, too. I accepted that statement and at the same time, had a hard time imagining just what those other things could be.

So how does the story end? It hasn’t. But here’s what has happened so far:

My flight went well. I did ask for help from airport staff along the way because I wanted to know where I was going, not walk around until I figured it out, and you know what? Every single one of them was friendly and acted glad to help. The airplane was comfortable. I had a nice seat mate both ways. The flight attendants seemed happy. I liked the pilot’s voice; it inspired confidence. I even napped on the flight to Minneapolis.

And the additional freedoms?

I’d say the biggest change so far is that I’ve noticed myself being a lot more open – and comfortable with that openness – than I have been.

I know I let a vulnerable side of myself show at the business retreat that I believe would have stayed hidden otherwise, most likely even from myself. And just like at the airport, no one made me regret that.

I’ve asked people to help me with things.

I’ve told someone a truth I’d been trying to protect that person from for years – and that felt very freeing, because now we can look for a solution.

If you want to know the truth, it’s felt a little like a second childhood – that’s how much growth I’ve done in a relatively short time. I’m curious about what might come next.

What about you? If you’ve gone through a similar shift, what helped you as you stretched your comfort zone? What were the rewards of doing so for you?

Is It Professional For a Certified Virtual Assistant To Lead The Interview With Potential Clients?

A businesswoman who felt insulted when she learned that the certified virtual assistant she contacted had a consultation process asked me this question, whether it’s professional for a certified virtual assistant (VA) to interview a potential client. The businesswoman felt that the VA was out of line interviewing her, when she’d be the client paying the bills.

It’s actually a great question and one foundational principle hints at the answer. Let’s explore that.

Are you looking to tango or line dance?

A great book called Dance Lessons by Chip R. Bell and Heather Shea uses five types of dance as metaphors for business relationships.

They compare working relationships that require a great deal of trust, confidentiality, loyalty and the ability to “move as one very quickly, with minimal explanation or discussion” to the tango. At the other end of the spectrum, line dance working partnerships are not symbiotic but work when “the convenience and comfort of an ongoing relationship is preferable to a temporary, transaction-specific encounter”.

the relationship is going to be more successful if both partners are working to the same end.

Now, is the person who wants to “tango” better than the person who’s looking for a “line dance” partner?

Of course not. Naturally, however, the relationship is going to be more successful if both partners are working to the same end.

And that’s where it can get a bit complicated for the business owner seeking a VA, because with no industry-wide standards for virtual assistance – not even a single, accepted definition of what a VA is – there are many “flavors” of virtual assistants out there.

You have VAs who define virtual assistants as professionals who provide virtual, across-the-board administrative support to a few clients in long term, collaborative relationships.

And you have VAs whose businesses are built around providing project support. They may have repeat customers, but the relationship is more of a transactional one.

As the potential client, you need to know what you’re looking for.

When is an interview process appropriate? And how does an interview or consultation process benefit you?

As I’ve shared in many other posts on this blog, I hold the belief that fit is the single most important factor in determining whether the relationship between client and virtual assistant will be a happy one.

For the client who’s looking for occasional, transactional support, line dancing as it were, there’s probably no special need to spend a lot of time talking with the VA ahead of time. You just need to know if the VA has the necessary skills and is reliable and the VA needs to know whether you’re going to be pleasant or difficult to work with and whether you’ll pay promptly.

When a VA and client begin to work together closely without a good foundation, nobody is served well.

But for the client who’d like someone to tango with, it’s a very different story. In this close, collaborative type of working relationship, you need to explore whether the two parties really mesh. Are their work styles, their personalities, their missions, and their values complementary? Are the required skills there? Do you see a basis for trust in the other party?

The only way to find out is by talking at some length ahead of time, which includes the potential client having the opportunity to ask any questions he or she may have.

When a VA and client begin to work together closely without a good foundation, nobody is served well.

So, is it professional for a certified virtual assistant to interview potential clients? I think so. But as aforementioned, the extent of the interview or consultation process really depends on the structure of the VA’s practice – what level of support she offers.

The businesswoman I mentioned earlier was looking for a transactional working relationship, but she went to a certified virtual assistant who specialized in providing tango-style support to just a handful of clients. My advice is to do some research into virtual assistance ahead of time. Know what it is you want and need. Once you do, the smart thing is to reach out to businesses that cater to that.

Where Can You Find A Certified Virtual Assistant?

I need to begin this post with a disclaimer: I’m only going to write about resources I’m personally familiar with. The ones I include aren’t the only resources available; I simply can’t put my name behind something I don’t know well.

So, with that behind us, now that you’ve learned about virtual assistance and determined that you’re ready to partner with a certified virtual assistant, where can you go to connect with a pool of qualified candidates?

Why not start close to home? Ask other micro-business owners with values similar to yours if they’re partnering with a virtual assistant (VA), if they’re happy with that relationship, and why or why not. If you like what you hear, contact your colleague’s VA to explore whether there’s a good fit between your business and the VA’s.

If nobody you know is using a certified virtual assistant, here are some additional suggestions for you.

In my mind, the best place to start is by looking in the mirror. What’s important to you? Just as a horseman is likely to turn to a Thoroughbred for steeplechasing and a Quarter Horse for cutting cattle, different resources for finding a virtual assistant shine in different ways and appeal to different people.

So, which resources fit which business owners best?

AssistU

Look at AssistU first and foremost if the following describes you well:

  • You see value in relationships. You want a VA who fits you, like two puzzle pieces fitting together. You’re looking for skills, yes, but also style and personality. On the whole, the virtual assistants at AssistU are looking for fit, so you’ll be best served if you share this value.
  • Your own standards are high and you seek and respect high standards in the businesses you partner with. AssistU has rigorous standards for the virtual assistants who are allowed to enter and to remain in their community. Virtual Assistants certified by AssistU (holding the CPVA or CMVA designation) are held to an even higher ongoing standard. All AssistU VAs must sign an Ethics Pledge yearly and a board is in place to deal with ethics violations. As long as Anastacia Brice, the founder of AssistU, runs the company, the bar will be set high and standards will be upheld.
  • You’re comfortable with the idea that VAs are business owners and experts in their own right. You see them as a dynamic resource, not as a commodity.
  • You believe in being an educated consumer. There are a number of informational resources available at AssistU and it’s generally evident who has availed themselves of these resources and who has jumped ahead to the referral form. The VAs at AssistU value and respect an educated business owner.

As a side note, there is an option to get help from Anastacia Brice, founder of AssistU, in connecting with your “just right” VA. (There is a fee attached to this service.)

VA Classroom

VA Classroom does a fantastic job of providing skills-based training and can be an excellent resource for connecting with certified virtual assistants who have demonstrated skills in the following areas.

  • Social Media
  • Internet Marketing
  • Product Launch Support
  • Virtual Events Management
  • Traffic Geyser

You’ll find that AssistU is geared toward ongoing support, whereas you can connect with VAs via VA Classroom even if all you’re looking for is help with a single project.

Look at VA Classroom if the following describes you well:

  • You want to be able to quickly screen candidates by skill set, location and/or rate
  • You want someone else to do initial screening based on skill set and/or rate and send you their top three recommendations within the criteria you set (there is a fee for this service)
  • You’re okay with the fact that a monthly fee is the only requirement for a VA to be included in VA Classroom’s database. (You will be able to determine which of these virtual assistants have been certified in a particular skill by VA Classroom and which have not.)

Other respectable resources include:

  • The Virtual Assistant Chamber of Commerce (transitioning to the name of Administrative Consultants Association at the time of this writing)
  • International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA)

Again, those are by no means the only resources available to you. They are simply resources that I myself know, like, and trust – ones I would be comfortable recommending to a friend who’s looking to partner with a certified virtual assistant.

About the author: Nicole Paull is an AssistU-trained Certified Professional Virtual Assistant who provides a range of administrative services, including support with Internet Marketing and product launch management.

Product Launch Management Tips To Achieve an Outstanding Pre-Launch

The pre-launch is a crucial part of product launch management because it helps to build buzz, generate anticipation for the product release, and grow the know-like-trust factor between business and audience. But just how is an exceptional pre-launch achieved?

What is the Big Idea?

Another way to put this is that you need to give a compelling answer to the “What’s in it for me?” question. You need to view your product through your customer’s eyes.

For instance, “Registry Cleaning Software” is flat. What does it mean, and who cares?

Whereas, “The Easy Way to Get Your PC Performing at Blazing Speed” hints at relief from a problem. I know it would make me perk up my own ears! It’s a Big Idea that you can build a marketing campaign around.

Take your time developing this lynchpin in your product launch management strategy.

Develop a free offer that supports the Big Idea

Now that you have someone’s attention, you have the opportunity to start delivering on the promise you hinted at in your Big Idea.

Your free offer could take the form of a PDF, video series, slide share presentation, or more.

The important thing to remember is that it needs to be relevant, contain solid information, and be well-produced. This is another chance to build your level of likeability and trust with your audience, so don’t stint on quality!

Get connected with social media

Using social media channels, you can quickly and easily make connections based on particular demographics. Don’t overlook relevant niche social networks, as they can be a particularly valuable tool for connecting with your target audience. Used well, social media is a product launch management dream tool.

Having made connections, interact. Listen to what your audience is saying. What are their problems? What’s their feedback on your solution? Seek to get them involved in conversation.

Continue sharing quality content via social media throughout your pre-launch. Creating an editorial calendar will help you to do this in an organized way.

product launch management planning

A lot of details and planning go into making a wedding a success. The same is true of Launch Day success. Don't skimp on planning.

Get ready for traffic before it arrives

Good management of your product launch means that you’re organized. You have support structures in place ahead of time, so that when visitors come, you give snag-free delivery of great content to them.

Squeeze pages still work. Before you start building buzz about your new product in the social media realm, have a supporting squeeze page ready.

You want to appeal to the people who’ll view your page, and you also want the squeeze page to be search engine friendly.

You can make your page appealing to people with elements such as the following:

  • Strong headline that highlights key benefits of your product
  • Attractive graphics
  • Strategic use of bolding and bullets, again concentrating on end-user benefits
  • Highly visible opt-in form with a strong call to action

Be search engine friendly by using your key phrases in your page title, meta data, headline, and content. Always, always, always do keyword research first, so you’re choosing your keyword phrases based on solid data, not on a wish and a prayer.

You also want to have an autoresponder series ready that will add value and generate anticipation for launch day. Toward this end, you might include some of the following in your autoresponder series:

  • Relevant videos and demos
  • Audio interviews with experts
  • Testimonials
  • Relevant blog posts
  • Tips lists
  • Surveys
  • Launch announcements and information

Assuming you’ve got a great product that addresses a market need, implementing these pre-launch strategies into your product launch management plan will help to ensure that launch day is the success you’re aiming for.

About the author: Nicole Paull is an AssistU-trained Certified Professional Virtual Assistant who provides a range of administrative services, including support with Internet Marketing and product launch management.

Why the pre-launch is such a crucial part of product launch management

Now that the hard work of market research and product development is behind you, you’re eager for your great new product to generate profits on Launch Day. In this post, discover why a smart and well-executed pre-launch is such a critical component of successful product launch management.

Dialog is a crucial part of product launch management

Getting conversations started is crucial to successful product launch management

In a way, launching a new product is akin to unveiling a new website. You can create a website with stellar content and compelling copy, but if you do nothing to promote it, your traffic is almost certainly going to be disappointing. In the same way, pre-launch promotion tactics set the stage for product launch success.

So, just what are some of the benefits of a well-rendered pre-launch?

By utilizing social media channels, a pre-launch enables you to:

  • Build buzz around your new product
  • Generate anticipation for the actual release of the product
  • Get a conversation going between the business and its target audience
  • Develop a quality list of prospective customers who have demonstrated an interest in the solution offered by the new product

The conversation mentioned above offers many of its own inherent benefits, such as:

  • Building influence and credibility in the marketplace if the content offered during the pre-launch is well-written (or produced well, in the case of other mediums) and is relevant to the target audience
  • Making a good product even more appealing by listening to feedback from the target audience and making tweaks accordingly
  • Helping the observant business owner to craft a marketing message in the audience’s own language

In a nutshell, done well, a pre-launch can help to foster growth of the know-like-trust factor between the business and its target audience.

The size of the launch, four-figure or a seven-figure, doesn’t really matter. The benefits are so compelling that a concentration of effort into a great pre-launch is part of every good product launch management plan.

About the author: Nicole Paull is an AssistU-trained Certified Professional Virtual Assistant who provides a range of administrative services, including support with Internet Marketing and product launch management.

Is Article Marketing A Worthy Addition To Your Internet Marketing Management Strategy?

Good management of your Internet Marketing efforts means taking consistent actions to increase online visibility, establish your reputation as an expert, and generate targeted website traffic and conversions. So how does article marketing fit into that? Is it really worth the time and trouble?

The short answer is that yes, it can be. The more important thing to know is why that’s true…and how you can profit from it.

Why use article marketing in the first place?

Article marketing, as part of your overall Internet Marketing management strategy, can help you to accomplish the following:

  • Expand your brand visibility on the web
  • Validate your authority and thought leadership
  • Enhance your SEO efforts
  • Create pathways for the people who want what you’re offering to find you

Additionally, as you promote your articles, there is the opportunity for them to go viral.

Keys to making article marketing effective

The key to make note of is that marketing via articles can accomplish all this only if:

  1. You do it well
  2. You’re consistent in your efforts

Let’s look at the first of those criteria. Article marketing well means, first of all, that you’re providing quality content. Your content needs to address the pains, needs, or wants of the people you’re seeking to reach. Furthermore, it means that you’re presenting your content in an interesting, easy-to-understand manner.

Not a writer? You can hire the work of article writing out.

I would encourage you, though, to outline or create the rough draft for each article and then let someone who’s a good writer polish it, rather than abdicating the task entirely. If you want to establish your thought leadership, then your ideas should be the ones shared and yours is the voice that should shine through.

Second, any marketing effort builds momentum through consistency, not just with one big push that then fizzles out and dies.

A lot of people don’t stick with article marketing because of the time involved. Know, however, that while marketing with articles is powerful in the long term, it’s not a quick fix.

So start with a schedule that you know you can stick to. For myself, I strive to publish one article every week, because that level of effort is sustainable for me. You need to realistically assess what’s sustainable for you.

So, is article marketing worth including in your Internet Marketing management plan? As long as you’re committed to doing it well and consistently, then I vote yes.

About the author: Nicole Paull is an AssistU-trained Certified Professional Virtual Assistant who provides a range of administrative services, including support with Internet Marketing and product launch management.

Internet Marketing Management Tips For Choosing An Email Marketing Platform

An adage in Internet Marketing circles is that, “The money is in the list.” Consequently, building up a list of email subscribers (who will hopefully become customers or generate referrals) forms part of most online businesses’ Internet Marketing management strategy.

email marketingGiven the importance of your email list, you want to make sure you make a wise choice in the email marketing platform provider you partner with. Having worked with several email marketing platforms over the years, I thought I’d share my thoughts on various criteria to help you do this.

Deliverability

First of all, know that ISPs (Internet Service Providers) have the interests of their customers in mind. To them, spam is anything the subscriber doesn’t want in his or her inbox.

Therefore, deliverability of your emails will partly be based on your own reputation, as the ISPs perceive it. Do you build a relationship with your subscribers, creating expectations and meeting them with relevant, value-added content?

However, it’s also based on the reputation of your email marketing service provider. Do they take an active role in meeting CAN-SPAM guidelines and building win-win relationships with ISPs?

It’s worth finding this out, because all the great content in the world has limited value if much of it goes undelivered.

In my experience, AWeber remains a leader in this regard.

Capability and Flexibility

The various email marketing platforms all have their own strengths and limitations.

Do you have a single email list, and want to create a short (five messages or less) autoresponder series for new subscribers? A service such as Constant Contact may work well for you.

Do you want the ability to create multiple, unique lists within a single account? Is it important to you to be able to segment these lists, so that you can adjust your marketing messages to subscribers’ behavior? Do you want a platform that can integrate with other service providers, such as 1shoppingcart.com? AWeber may be the best service provider for you.

Do you sell multiple products and want a particularly robust system that ties together a shopping cart, email marketing platform, POP email accounts, calendar, task management, and more, in a single, cloud-based solution? InfusionSoft may be the answer for you.

Naturally, the best solution is going to depend on your individual needs. The important thing is to think through what your needs are…and what you anticipate them to be in a couple of years. Because it’s a fairly major undertaking to migrate your subscriber list from one service provider to another, you want to find a solution that’s sufficiently robust, without swinging too far in the opposite direction and overbuying.

Ease of Use and Quality of Training

This is highly subjective, of course, but here are a couple of things to consider when you’re choosing the service provider for the email marketing branch of your Internet Marketing management plan.

  • How do you learn best? For example, do you like to learn by reading instructions or by watching videos?
  • If you prefer live training (for instance, by webinar), is this offered?
  • What support does the provider offer to help you hit the ground running with their service? Is this included in the monthly subscription fee, or does training incur an additional fee?

Another place to look is on the service provider’s blog, if they have one. The quality of the content there can give you hints about what you can expect later.

Quality of Technical Support

Finally, you want to be assured that when you’re stuck, effective help is available.

A great way to check on what other people are saying about a service provider is to do a keyword search in one of the major social media channels. It isn’t necessarily a red flag if a problem is noted. In fact, it’s particularly enlightening to see how the provider handles it when a problem does arise.

Other things to think about may include whether technical support is included in your subscription fee, what the support hours are, and where the support is based.

For instance, if you’re on Pacific Time and your email marketing platform’s live technical support is available 9am to 5pm Eastern Time, that’s something you want to be aware of. It’s not necessarily a deal-breaker, but it’s good to know ahead of time. As another example, if you’re going to incur an additional cost for live technical support, does it involve a separate monthly fee, or can you pay by the incident?

Additionally, do you care whether you’ll be speaking with technicians who share your native language? I’m not making a value judgment on this one way or the other, simply saying that if it’s important to you, find out more about who’s providing the technical support before you sign up for a service.

I will share that I’ve had good experiences with the quality of training and technical support provided by AWeber, Constant Contact, and InfusionSoft.

Making the Choice

If your Internet Marketing management strategy includes email marketing, you want to find the solution that provides the best combination of features, ease-of-use, cost, and support. With some forethought and research, you’ll be able to find the best solution for your unique needs.

About the author: Nicole Paull is an AssistU-trained Certified Professional Virtual Assistant who provides a range of administrative services, including support with Internet Marketing and product launch management.