How to Become a Virtual Assistant
 

Mail Merge and CRM for your Virtual Assistant Practice

Outlook

MS Outlook is the most popular mail program and should not be confused with Outlook Express which is the free mail program that comes with Internet Explorer. With the options in the program you will be able to 'look after' your clients mail while they are out of the office. This is done by 'sharing' Outlook folders via the Internet. This is easy to do and if you want to practise it is easy to create a test folder and follow the instructions in the MS Outlook help or go to the Microsoft website and follow the instructions. This product is an integral product for most who want to become a virtual assistant.

E-mail merge, a good basic service that many virtual assistants offer

E-mail marketing has undergone a revolution with regard to the layout and also the ethics of this method of communication.

It is possible using Word and Outlook to send mail-merge e-mails and documents. This does depend on what version of Word and Outlook you have. Many clients send out regular e-mail newsletters to their clients and if the numbers are not too great this can easily be done by a Virtual Assistant.

You need to take into consideration the following if asked to send out an e-mail newsletter for a client:

  • Check your country laws on Spam as many countries have Spam laws and require that recipients 'opt in' to newsletters.
  • Your Internet Service Providers rules on sending bulk mail. My ISP only allows me to send 50 mails at any one time
  • Never put more than one address in the To box - this is breaking data protection in some countries
  • It is best to send one mail to each recipient with their name within the mail (ie Dear Joe). This personalises the mail and makes it less likely for the mail to get deleted
  • If your client wants more than 50 mails sent it is best to use one of the newsletter programs available on the Internet. They are usually free up to 250 or 500 names a month and chargeable above this. They also conform to Spam laws.

For document Mailmerge you can use the contacts details in Outlook if the addresses have been entered. You will also need to respect the bulk mailing laws for your country.

Outlook is a very powerful e-mail tool that you can not only use on behalf of your clients but you can share their folders and send mail on their behalf while they are on holiday. I once offered a 'Business Babysitting Service' where I took over the e-mail and general contacts for clients when they were on holiday or not able to be contacted - ie a Management trainer when they were away on training courses. This proved a very good source of income during the summer when other work was slack.

Customer Relations Management (CRM) - ACT

To maintain a larger list of clients, calls to clients, mails and sales processes, products such as ACT are used. These are Customer Relations Management products and track all contacts between the client and their clients. It is easier to work within the Spam laws as any client wishing removal from the database can be deleted quickly. If you are marketing for a client, a product such as this will enable you to send the client regular reports as to who has been contacted, the position of the sales process and any other details that have arisen with that contact. You can also use the product for more than one client - each client having their own database. I have used ACT for many years with various clients and also for keeping track of my own marketing.

Outlook 2003 has an add-on called the Business Contact Manager which allows similar reporting but does not allow bulk e-mailing. There are many products on the Internet that you can use for bulk mailing and broadcast messaging.

Microsoft have recently bought out a larger CRM system and there are also corporate systems that will work via the Internet but are normally outside the cost range of smaller companies. These are called ERP products and further details can be found on ERP specialist sites.

Specialising in these sorts of products can give you the 'edge' if you want to become a Virtual Assistant.

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