Business Plan for
On-Demand Virtual Assistants

The service you never knew you always wanted. By Neil


We want “someone” to get this right. The latest hot space “Facebook M” enters, has been percolating for a decade and some.

Many of us have had some version of this idea cross our minds one time or another. Ourselves included.

But it didn’t just cross our minds, we spent time and
some money on this concept.

There is a flood of these services out and many on the horizon, just head over to Product Hunt to get a snapshot of them.

In a humble effort to see this space flourish, we want to share our perspective on the possibilities and why.

Sharing some of what could be a road-map to 3.0 with anyone and everyone to tear apart and come to their actionable conclusions.

The post consists of some very transparent blueprints while other pieces were left out intentionally to save some mystery.

We hope you enjoy!


SetUp

There are well over 2 million apps for various devices across mobile operating systems.

There are directory services that have been around for a long time.

3rd party services, IoT (Internet of things), Share economy, on-demand services and of course, online search.

Every single one of these has provided all of us with “empowerment.”

Apple even advertises this.

© Apple Screenshots

Problem

The “empowerment” we enjoy takes a lot of time!

Yes, we can book, order, reserve, review, search, tag, bookmark, and swipe everything we want and need.

While this convenience is amazing, it still takes the time to
navigate and search.

“Why does it take so much time?” is the better question to ask,
than just “How can we get our time back?”

It takes a lot of time for three reasons:

  1. Context
  2. Qualitative
  3. Monetization

We want to enjoy the fruits of empowerment,
but we also want the best result.

Solution

411 (information) + concierge reimagined.

Most new services are referring to this concept as a “virtual assistant.”

After all, that is the easiest way to describe it.

Combine the best of these elements:

Humans = Hospitality, Context, Vocation, Service
+
Technology = Resources, Tools, Knowledge, Convenience.


We’re Ready!

There are SMS, phone, social, email based tools with Twilio combined with Front integrated with Slack then you fast track a monetization model with Stripe, and you’re golden right?

Wouldn’t it be nice if it were only that simple?

History has shown us that tech investors will gamble and wait out the growing pains to see which one of the first to market services can make it.

It is tough to be patient,
but it is even tougher never to realize an idea that is possible.

Let’s explore how this can work if time and money were on our side.


Define What Is Being Built

If we are truly reimagining 411 meets a premium, but attainable concierge and personal assistant.

Then we need to understand what we are doing.

We are connecting people to their requests.

We utilize the very “empowerments” described earlier to fulfill the requests.

We provide 1st level services to build equity in the user relationship.
i.e. waiting on hold until an available operator is ready to speak to the user.

Doing this right, is to be disciplined with hospitality and service.

Establishing a new space entirely as “connection services.”

The people who handle requests are “curators.”

We enable users to make better decisions through curated options.

We need to establish our #1 goal. To help people find what they are looking for, in the exact context in which they are requesting.

Also, we need to share information that may be relevant based on their specific request.

Establishing Culture

You might ask, “Why is this important for a business model article?”

To know our motivations to create this model, is to know how it would be “real” creating a compass of which to gauge the company decisions and plans.

Emily Post and Vocation

If we are in the business of “people,” these two attributes are how to best to connect with humans.

Not to side-track with an education lesson the two biggest takeaways are:

Emily Post = For clarification, “etiquette” for our purposes is to show respect to another in orderly fashion, not to establish social rank.

Vocation = a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation. This definition leads us down a path to understanding how humans can provide value in the world where technology continues to challenge the balance of the two.

Now Combine These With Being An Even-Keeled, Solution Provider

Manage the high and lows of your day to be effectively open to arriving at the best possible solution, not just point out what may be wrong.

As you move through the remainder of this, everything we are recommending to be done is navigated by these principles.

Keys To Execution

You need to focus on all three of these elements to make it work.

  1. Utility
  2. Quality
  3. Monetization.

Overarching Strategy

The decisions you make the benefit more than one element and focus.

Focus

On your environment and the ecosystem.

For The User

Establish the services as a utility.

In doing so, you will build trust and create repeat use.

The gold by-product of the best utilities is the dependency.

For The Marketer

Flat rates and targeting based on “context.”

Now is the time for the same companies who place so much ingenuity into getting the eyeballs, into delivering a better monetization model.

With the SaaS to manage it.

For The Empowerment Tool Providers

Establish relationships that are meant to spotlight the tools, not to take away or compete with them.

For The Staff

A HUGE ingredient to making this work is the human side.

Both temperament and knowledge are important.

The internal software built to fulfill requests needs to allow the staff “curator” to focus on the users experience.

The software is almost invisible in terms of understanding for curator use.

Operations

A mobile workforce will predominately do this.

A full suite of software allows for a transparent view into the day-to-day of all elements.

Maintaining quality control throughout the organization requires as much ingenuity as the service that the users experience.


Nuts & Bolts

To be cognizant of the platform on which you’re reading, we are presenting the remainder of this in a Q&A fashion.

Question and Answers To The Elements

Real Help Is Free

Question: Is the service free to use?
Answer: Yes. To get as many people using this as possible, it needs to be free and stay free.

It is excessive to charge users for this service. The real revenue opportunity is the relationship with the 3rd party.

How can the service stay free?
The short answer is by creating a truly contextual suggestion and discovery platform.

The next phase of advertising is “context.”

More information is available down in the “Monetization” section.

Will the service ever charge a user?
In growing the service, you may discover there are needs that can only be met by directly charging the user.

Curators

What type of staff “curators” to hire?
Right off the bat, Bloggers.

Bloggers are inherently trained and equipped to be on the front line of this service.

Key traits can consist of just some of the following:

  • Self-starter
  • Self-awareness
  • Experience based knowledge

Veterans. Yes, there is good PR to this. But, they to have certain skill traits that would allow someone to thrive in this work-mobile environment.

Any class in society can do Human Services, even for a brief moment in time.

A great and relevant example is the type of people who work for Uber or Lyft.
How many of them drove a taxi for a living prior to working for either one?

How are curators paid?
W2 after 90 days.

If for short term or specialized, use a temp + model agency infrastructure to 1099. That would mean they would also provide services to other companies, which can be done.

How It Works

Is this just an app?
The flagship product is an app. After registering, this app can be used on a variety of devices.

Where can I make requests?
To attract a larger base of “active” users, you need to diversify the ways in which you communicate.

To make this a widely used utility, you need more than just SMS. You need to combine Email, Voicemail, Messaging Apps, Call-Backs, for starters.

By doing so, you pave the way for future use cases. i.e. Using the service instead of On-Star while driving.

How do I register?
Register from your cell phone or by going through a human verification process via a web portal.

Why do I have to register?
We need to make sure that it is a real person signing up.

The goal is to be able to handle and archive your requests to become more efficient and to provide the best possible service to you.

The experience we have envisioned is being able to know who is making the request right off the bat in what general area. e.g. “Hello Deville, how can I help you find the nearest coffee shop?”

More information on “Privacy” is available below.

Using the Services

What are some examples of what can be done?
Services are only limited by the user’s creativity. Here are some examples:

  • Travel arrangements
  • Events
  • Clerical
  • Hiring professionals
  • Discovery
  • Shopping
  • +

The real key to making the people aware of what they can use the connection service for is to create a use case for ALL of the services on the website/app.

What would be a random request that would be helpful?
Finding a place to park when you are going to an event.

You only provide a limited number of options, why limit the number of options?
Being contextual is about creating action from what is curated.

Limiting the number of options to only the best in class allows for a better experience.

Otherwise, why wouldn’t the user just search the web themselves?

ChaCha can Google for the rest of the public.

How many options do you provide?
Five total at the most, per request iteration.

  • Option A
  • Option B
  • Option C
  • Sponsored Suggestion
  • Sponsored Discovery

How do you determine “best in class” for options?
Utilize reviews and posts based on the request for due diligence.

We want to utilize all of the pertinent information available to present back to the user to make the most informed decision, based on the context of the request.

Keep in mind the requests from users may already have a specific brand or product, which would take our curators down a different experience.

What happens if there are more than three“best in class” options?
This is the best part of being human curated.

We make a decision based on context to present three options.

If all of the options are equal and won’t dilute the user’s experience, we will present the options that are working with the service before the ones who are not.

How far to go with requests?
As far as the same tools that provide empowerment will allow, legally, of course.

A case could be made that other services have already demonstrated how “high” the bar is raised 😊

What is the best way to offer a payment solution?
There should be a period for users to establish a relationship with the connection service.

To that end, at the beginning of the relationship Stripe can serve the function.

After a period of time and defined milestones have been met, a user could end up having a payment profile for which the connection service receives “real-time” reimbursement for purchases.

Monetization

Ok, it’s free but how?
You understand what we are doing, we are “connecting” people to their requests. With Google you “search” and they present advertisements based on the relevancy.

With “connections” you are essentially providing “leads” therefore we are in the lead-generation business.

Knowing that changes how you approach the way to monetize, this is a great opportunity.

Most advertising tactics are “disruptive” to take the consumer out of their focus to receive the message.

Creating a utility based on context affords the ability to evolve advertising.

Who would pay for this?
Any company, event, service, or product is looking to advertise directly to potential consumers.

We know options are limited but doesn’t that affect making money?
By limiting the number of options for the sponsored set, the Marketer does not have to compete with anything more than what is curated.

Can you give an example of how a sponsored suggestion would work?
If a user is looking for a restaurant that sells hamburgers and has a wine list, the options provided are based on due diligence.

As a sponsored suggestion, a competitor to those three other establishments would be shown. Always being mindful of context.

i.e. You would not see fast food chain as a sponsored suggestion next to this request.

Can you give an example of how a sponsored discovery would work?
Using the same scenario as referenced above, if we know the user is out on the town, the curator will ask questions that would help inform a contextual discovery.

If we know the user enjoys music events, we will let them know there was a music event nearby with the promo from a sponsored discovery option.

So let’s say that you know that a user may go to Las Vegas a lot; do you suggest specials to the user frequently?
No.

Everything is governed within the context of the request at the given time.

However, users can customize the service to receive emails and notifications that are contextual in relation to their previous requests.

All requests are archived and easily accessed on the app or web portal. The sponsored suggestions and discoveries could automatically update if the user is reviewing previous requests.

Also, if a user were to choose location based services, and they made a request while in Las Vegas. The discovery side could take the context element into a proactive nature.

More information on “Privacy” is available below.

Why is it so important to create flat rates?
Flat rates have a substantial number of benefits for both the marketer and operations sides.

An example for the marketer is in the form of dependable budgeting and the ability to deliver linear lines to Sales and ROI.

An example for operations is in the form of efficient software to be built to manage and run the service, all the while evolving ways to drive revenue.

The way we perceive this type of contextual advertising is flat rates create an effect CPGs (consumer packaged goods) have.

It changes the dynamics of how you establish and market your sales efforts.

Why not follow “what the market will bear” mantra?
With “context” in delivery, you need “context” in pricing.

Similar to price segmentation, but with more transparency.

By doing so, you can generate fast adoption and advocacy, with competitive encroachment strategies.

A contextual flat rate system that beats out current market positions will make the sales pitch potent.

What would be a guaranteed suggestion cost?
Rates begin at $1.00 each

What would be a guaranteed discovery cost?
Rates begin at $1.00 each

What would be a click-through rate?
Rates being at $0.25 each

What would be a conversion rate for professional leads?
$5 to $100.00 each

What would be an affiliate percentage of items sold?
2% to 15%

Would charges be multiplied on each other?
In some use cases, yes.

Can’t you charge a monthly premium? Yes. But we have to create real value to justify.

Here are two ways we could do so:

  1. SaaS For Lead Generation Management, not just from the connection service but from all areas the marketer engages with online services.
  2. FAQ Service. A profile based service that would allow the connection service to handle the FAQs most companies receive emails or calls on.

What does “FAQ Service” do?
We are of the belief that there is a great deal of information on many business websites, especially brick-n-mortar.

But, people may not spend the time looking for it, even though they need it.

Having this service, we can provide people with those answers at the touch of a button. Simple things such as specials, business hours, calls that are usually handled by the company.

We would handle those for free, but we would place sponsored suggestions against the free accounts.

There would be exclusivity for those that pay the monthly premium.

We are providing value to the company through an app/web portal to update FAQs to do that facet of customer service.

What value would you provide to validate a monthly charge per business/location?
In the case of a grocery store, ex. Whole Foods would be charged per location due to each stores specific information and contextual experience we need to provide.

Another example for a small or large company is the use of the user-base to create a rewards program that would make the experience as frictionless as possible.

Can you provide an example of “exclusivity” that a company with a monthly membership would get right away?
If a user requests specifically for a local Whole Foods.

“What are today’s specials?”, “Where is the nearest location?”, or “What time do they close?“ the response given will never show a competitor’s sponsored suggestion.

If Whole Foods did not have a paid monthly membership for the given store.
We would present an alternative in context to their request. Alongside the Whole Foods information.

Software

What is to be built?
Aside from the consumer-facing app/web portals. You would need to create an OS (Operating System) in a sense.

  • Group CRM (Customer Relations Management) Curation software
  • Remote Staff Management (Human Resources — HR) software
  • Marketer Ad/Lead Portal software
  • Consumer Profile software
  • Peer-To-Liaison-To-Peer software (3.0)

It should not go without saying, that each software component has value.
Take a look at Oracle and SAP to justify.

Curator Software

Why does the staff need software?
Nothing is built to accommodate this fulfillment process currently.

The #1 reason, CRM software is not readily available to curator the introduction to set of 3rd parties.

A custom solution for these key reasons: A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Contextual Database, and Allowing staff to focus on the user experience.

What is the structure of the CRM software?
Software built for the marriage between humans and technology.

The ability to refer leads and maintain the “liaison” quality assurance through fulfillment.

We have built a working prototype to handle fulfillment of this, and we can genuinely say that it has the tangible road map to white label.

Marketer Software

What could the Marketers software be?
Since you have flat rates, imagine what you can build without the bloated need for auctions and tool sets.

Treat the build and UI as a music app. Beats original station setup and Spotify’s curated stations.

What would be an example of a benefit to not having auction-style?
The learning curve is not as challenging while offering more transparency.

You can focus on building software that becomes a part of the service offering at no additional cost.

Small business can get started and run campaigns easier.

In contrast, the Starcom’s of the world can run robust campaigns.

HR Software

What could the HR software be?
Since you are in this system that communicates together, treat the build and UX as “Slack and Skype meet Things.”

Privacy & Ethics

What information is needed?
First name, gender, email, age, verified phone number

Can users manage what is shared?
Yes.

Establish a UI that allows users to select what is or not shared beyond what is required.

What information would be shared?
For brands to better provide rewards or experience to the user.

We would prefer to be able to say this many genders requested, in these locations, in this age range, X amount of times, over this time period, in the exact context.

In the event of a rewards effort, the company would not have access to your email and would only be able to submit incentives through the system based upon a custom filter system.

Also, for customer service issues, the company could directly accept requests through the connection service. Thus removing the wait on-hold and get to the right directory.

Benefits

Right off the bat, it’s A.I. right?
A lot has already been written about this.

But yeah, to truly create A.I. that works you need the base to input contextual information on which to enhance continuously such an effort.

Is this next phase of search?
We believe “context” is.

Context is at the heart of finding what you want.

As veteran users of search engines, the empowerment has turned into an entitlement for the younger generation. Search needs to evolve because the next generation will expect it so.

What are examples of other benefits?
Just topline a few;

  • Giving people back their “time” will open new doors.
  • The ability to make company and brand communication programs for users less intrusive and beneficial.
  • Once people get used to this type of convenience in service that plays on the “entitlement” angle. We can move into the next phase of what it can become.
  • The ways in which this service can monetize will create ways that do not make brands feel a “bait switch” or fear of ghost clicks.
  • Operations can run leaner.

Marcom

What is the best way to market this service? Grassroots and ambassadors on a large local and targeted scale.

Keep in mind, your very team of curators are some of your best advocates.

Online, you have the opportunity to establish an actionable Wikipedia of curations, thus creating an additional revenue generator.

Are any other companies doing something similar to market their services ?
A great point of reference is the energy drink, Red Bull.

They have never wavered on distributing sample product to establish, manage, and solidify through their users.

For connection services, you need to sample service to gain the most potent of adopters.

Road Map to 3.0

How far does this go?
Our declaration of a possible outcome.

The evolution towards a referral/affiliate network model based on context, relationships, and reputation.

What is 1.0?
1.0 is the connection service’s core functionality of filling requests and building the OS framework.

Building the OS framework.

What is 2.0?
2.0 is the service at scale to a large number of users across borders and the evolution of the curator.

The curators would become progressively specialized based on areas that have more activity, i.e. food requests would get curators who are “foodies.”

The OS would then begin to take full shape.

What is 3.0?
3.0 is the service at scale with enhanced contextual tools and offerings, including beta testing of peer-to-connection_service-to-peer services.

Does 3.0 have the same revenue, model?
With any scale and evolution, there are changes. Ours is a big one.

Reinventing the affiliate network model from “soup-to-nuts” is the objective with 3.0.

How does “Peer to Connection Service to Peer” (P-CS-P) work?
There are a few services attempting to do this in some version. Jelly is one that comes to mind.

Not essentially crowdsourcing for the best answer, but a more intimate approach.

In the end, we are offering any person to become a “curator” and receive benefits.

Take the model the app developers have with Apple, but curators would become the developers, and the iTunes store is the connection service.

Why not fast forward to P-CS-P?
A different version would need to be done. A critical mass of people is needed to get used to having a “connection service” available and used so that it educates them subtly.

Wouldn’t P-CS-P cannibalize the initial service offering?
Yep.

But it has to because the great A.I. that is being built would mandate that the human curator’s tasks would need to evolve as well.

Recap of Strategy In Action

We had declared our strategy was to have dual benefits for the plans/decisions made.

Here are some of the examples of how we achieved that.

Staff = Bloggers are also part of the marketing efforts. They will also become some of your best sales people.

FAQ Services = Offer a “free to use forever” model that helps mitigate customer service requests and contextually generates revenue drivers.

Marketers as Users = We make sure to maintain that many of if not all Marketers are also Users and as such we make sure they get the type of service they need. i.e. assistants for their assistance.

Software = The software built allows for a robust API and SDK opportunity for 3rd party developers to create integrations for each area of the ecosystem.

Use Cases = There is such an opportunity to tell this story that it has implications to offer not only user acquisition but also revenue drivers, PR, marketing, and engagement.

Providers = The very tools that provide this empowerment take center stage. We utilize their services to run ours and drive business to theirs. Some of the best tools have failed because they couldn’t build a user base.

In Closing

Thank you for reading!

Please leave a response or a recommendation if you enjoyed or want to have a conversation about this post.

Reach out to us directly if you would like to have a more detailed discussion.

Go forth and build this 👍 by Neil

Links to Resources we utilized in creating this post.

About Vocal Visual

We are solution providers. Focused on insights, research, and actionable due diligence on digital and technology prospects.

The creation of Vocal Visual was after 10+ years of owning and operating a full-service boutique marcom agency with Fortune 500 companies as clients while creating startups of their very own.