A speaker’s assistant plays a pivotal role in maintaining the speaker’s database and in ensuring that the information is accurate and sales leads and projects are tracked appropriately.
If a speaker has been in business for awhile he or she will have built a database and will probably be using software like ACT or Sales Force, and in some cases Goldmine. There is also an online service called www.eSpeakers.com with a calendar and database.
A newer speaker with a smaller database may be currently using Google Contacts or Outlook. Outlook cannot be shared so it is best for an individual and not for use in a virtual office. A free service like Google can be shared with a password and will take up to 10,000 contact maximum, but some speakers may be concerned about privacy and would rather have their own system.
ACT is probably the most popular Contact Relationship Management (CRM) software at about $70 for unlimited contacts. It also keeps track of much additional information and almost all database fields are customizable. ACT Pro is about $70 and ACT Premium (which has a web interface) is $359. You can attach emails to client records which means everything about a client will be in one place. These CRM systems all have “add ons”, such as the Card Scan Executive that scans business cards and automatically inputs the information to the right fields. There is another add on – eGrabber that will capture email signatures from web sites and enter those in ACT.
Goldmine ($250) is a much more complicated software, and is particularly used for small and mid-sized businesses who have thousands to millions of contacts. It tracks meeting notes, emails, phone conversations and more. It also integrates with Outlook if the speaker uses Outlook personally.
The other choice for the speaker is to use an online service, like eSpeakers.com. The negative of this is that you pay a monthly fee to use the service.
The main things you will be doing with a database as a VSA is:
1. Inputting names and addresses that the speaker brings back from the road. Names usually come from business cards, feedback forms and audience lists shared by Meeting Planners. It is important to note that you need permission to add someone to your database and you can’t just add everyone at an event. There are spam laws that prohibit sending broadcast emails without an opt-in permission.
2. Looking up names for the speaker to contact.
3. Sending e-mails from the database.
Setting Up the Database
If the speaker isn’t happy with the how the database is currently set up, you may be asked to do some research to see what might be best to use to upgrade.
First you will need to investigate what information the speaker wants to have tracked. Most of the time speakers will want:
1. A history, like a running log of conversations.
2. Contact information.
3. The type of contact – prospect, meeting planner, speaker’s bureau, audience member.
4. Referral – how the contact knows the speaker – signed up on mailing list, personal referral.
Emailing from the Database
Most databases will allow you to email directly to your contacts. To do this, create categories or groups of contacts. The speaker may want groups of clients, groups by industry, groups by prospects, etc. This is a great way to find out if a new topic might be popular by polling a specific group and to keep in contact with groups with only information they will be interested in.
The CAN-SPAM Act is a federal regulation that sets up guidelines for any emails sent that promote a product or service. One of the most important components is to have an easy way for the recipient to “opt-out” or communicate with you that they no longer want to receive email from you.
Emailing Using Email Marketing Services
Because of spam filters, many speakers use third party sources such as Constant Contact to distribute not only newsletters but also special announcements and promotional emails. These firms give you code to input into your sign up box so that the contact info goes directly to them.
The key advantage to working with a third party is twofold:
1. Higher delivery rate due to their “white hat” status – meaning that the Internet Service Providers recognize that they do not send spam
2. Statistics on delivery, open rates and click throughs – so you can see what is working and what isn’t
Discuss this issue with the speaker. If he or she doesn’t use an email marketing service, you can research options based on their needs (size of database and frequency of emails.)
The VSA’s role will be to manage the list (you can enter new subscribers one at a time or import them), to upload or key in the newsletter/message and schedule the distribution and send stats to the speaker at least monthly. Most of these systems are very user friendly.