After a year or two of hearing the biz-tech media trumpet consumers’ shift to the mobile internet, marketers are taking a closer look at responsive web design (RWD), the emerging technology that promises every user a simpler, more satisfying experience.
It Really Is What’s Next
RWD sites are specially designed and coded so that when a visitor’s device type is detected—smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop—they serve up content that’s appropriately sized for that specific screen size. This is exactly what visitors want. Benefits for you, the website owner, include:
Think Mobile First
More and more companies are recognizing the growth of mobile and its effect on the buying habits of consumers. Website viewers want instant access to information. So website design requires that files and graphic images are kept small to ensure all website pages load fast. It’s best to design your mobile website first and then the desktop version.
Get Set To Vet
When interviewing prospective web designers, before enlisting their services, consider the following:
Jump In Now
The media reports are true: mobile has tremendous momentum. And soon, says CNET, a third of Internet search traffic will come from smartphones and tablets. Amidst this explosive growth one enduring tenet will hold true: respond to the market’s needs and the market will respond to you. Having a responsive website might just be the place to start.
Do you know what kind of marketing leader you are? Wanna find out? The Chief Marketing Officer Council(CMOC) can help.
As part of its Succeed by the Way You Lead professional development program, the CMOC is offering a free online assessment called the 4P Leadership Footprint Audit. Developed by marketing leadership expert Thomas Barta, the online questionnaire takes less than 15 minutes to complete and provides immediate feedback via email in the form of an individualized report.
The test is based on proven models for leadership success and the advice of over 100 board-level executives. Assuming you answer all the questions honestly, the test will assess your marketing leadership skills and inherent abilities in four key categories:
Marketing collateral is an umbrella term that refers to the collection of printed media used to make the sales effort easier and more effective. Whether you hand it out, mail it, or it is picked up from a counter-top or trade show booth, collateral is meant to educate a potential customer by providing details about the products and services you sell. Collateral material should also serve to promote your company by featuring your logo and other branding elements, and include contact information to make it easy for someone to buy from you.
Generally speaking, collateral is tangible media, such as the following (although more and more companies are employing digital collateral):
Brochures: Whether a tri-fold or a fancy multi-colored catalog, a brochure can be handed out to prospective customers, used in a direct mailing, placed on a counter to be picked up or sent out when people want more information.
Business Cards: Every businessperson should have one, and it should include all contact information: your name, company name, address, telephone number, fax number, website and email address.
Newsletters and e-newsletters: Newsletters help keep your company’s name in your customers’ minds when sent on a regular basis. Avoid the hard sell by providing relevant information so your customers look forward to reading it.
Fliers: These “one-pagers” generally have less descriptive text than brochures, but include special offers and/or promotional pricing along with a call-to-action.
Sell Sheets: Sell sheets are similar to fliers, but instead of offers, they are meant to quickly and efficiently impart facts about your product or service.
If you’re going to go to the trouble of creating collateral to promote your company and its products/services, make sure each piece represents your company in as professional a manner as possible. When produced well, marketing collateral can help drive your sales. When poorly produced, it sends a negative message about your company (and often ends up in the trash).
Persistence often pays, especially when it comes to lead generation and sales. So it’s not unusual to want to send a second email to a prospect, especially if the first email and follow-up phone calls haven’t worked.
According to Jenny Vance, President of Leadjen, a B2B lead-generation company, the key is to make sure the second email is sent soon after your telephone attempts. If you wait too long to follow up after leaving a voicemail message, she says, the perception will be that you’re only emailing the prospect.
When developing content for a second email, Vance recommends the following six practices for delivering better results. All of this should be accomplished in just three to four sentences and no more than two short paragraphs.
Originality is overrated. In fact, it’s sometimes pointless and not even worth the effort. Maybe you’ve heard it said, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” And recall that the poet T.S. Eliot once wrote, “Mediocre writers borrow; great writers steal.”
Now, hold on a second. We’re not condoning plagiarism or encouraging copyright violations. It’s just that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel every time you need a pithy line for your next marketing campaign. There are a lot of perfectly round “wheels” out there that will serve your purpose if you’ll only take a moment to fit them onto your marketing “vehicle.”
At the risk of revealing insider secrets that could put some of us wordsmiths out of business, we’re going to give away some tricks of the trade that nearly every writer employs at some point.
Ready-Made Headline Formulas
Professional blogger Jon Morrow heard the same advice about stealing from a professor, but it took a few years for it to finally sink in for him. Since then, Jon has compiled a handy list of headline formulas that he calls “Headline Hacks.” His free ebook describes six different categories with 52 ready-made, fill-in-the-blank headline formulas that you can easily use for your own business writing. So we’re going to take Jon’s advice and steal a page out of his “Headline Hacks” (while giving him credit) to share with you.
Most headlines fall into the same basic categories. The reason you see so many “Top Ten” blog posts and “How To” articles is because they work. The reader knows exactly what to expect from such a headline, and knows they can skim the headings to quickly get what they need.
Six Basic Types of Headlines:
Virtual Real Estate Transaction Coordinator
Customer relationship management (CRM) tools are designed to make marketing, sales and support teams more efficient and effective, but CRM’s focus remains fixated on what you want customers to do.
Customer experience management (CEM), by contrast, is focused on what drives customers to do business with you. Tapping CEM insights allows you to tailor your product, sales, marketing, web and service campaigns to what customers really want and need.
Survey Says…Satmetrix, a provider of customer experience software, conducted its annual Customer Experience Industry Survey earlier this year. Over 1,000 companies around the world participated. Here are the key findings:
Customers build their perceptions about brands based on their experiences across all touch points or channels. It’s the sum total of every interaction. So, an effective CEM strategy needs to be built around a company’s ability to deliver on the wants and needs of its customers. A CEM program is definitely a worthwhile investment that pays off with increased traffic, stronger brand loyalty, and positive word-of-mouth sentiments.
Real Estate Transaction Coordinator
If your marketing has lost its luster and response rates have fallen flat, try wooing audiences back with a targeted pURL campaign.
Online Street Address
URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator, which is most easily thought of as the “street address” for information on the internet for websites and links. For example, http://www.tconpoint.com/transaction-coordinator is the URL for this integrated real estate marketing blog.
“P” is for Personal
A pURL is a web page or site that has been personalized to a singular individual, using demographic or other “variable” data you’ve collected (or purchased) about them. Variable data can include age, education level, income, family size, or similar information.
pURL marketing combines data-driven direct mail with targeted electronic mail. Messages drive recipients to a personalized “landing” page that’s been painstakingly designed to “convert” visitors by eliciting a specific action, such as clicking, buying or downloading something, or filling out a form.
Why pURLs Shine
Marketers who use pURLs often swear by them, because of benefits that can include:
The Wisdom of pURLs
Follow these time-tested guidelines for ensuring pURL marketing success:
With the aid of an experienced list management and personalization partner, pURLs can provide meaningful, long-lasting, one-to-one connections.
As the holidays approach, the temptation exists to ease up on marketing and put planning on hold—after all, the rationale goes, customers aren’t paying attention anyway.
Fact is, most companies would be better served to finish out strong, first by concluding and assessing 2017’s marketing efforts, then using insights gained to plan for the year ahead. These 10 marketing tips can help you get on the right track for 2018.
Conduct an Objective Critique
To accurately identify gaps and opportunities in your integrated marketing mix, sit down with your team and ask:
If you answered ‘yes’ to the last question, here are some ways to strengthen and round out programs in the coming year:
Integrated marketing is an ongoing endeavor, and these marketing tips only scratch the surface. Check back regularly for marketing tips you can you can use all year.
Remember when Oakley provided sunglasses to the Chilean miners as soon as they were rescued from their underground captivity? That wasn’t part of Oakley’s marketing plan. But by responding promptly to the situation, it paid off in tens of millions of dollars’ worth of publicity.
The days when you could plan long-range marketing and public relations programs on your own timetable are over. What counts today is speed and agility, i.e., the ability to act quickly, as soon as opportunities or problems arise. While your competitors scramble to adjust, you can seize the initiative, open new integrated marketing channels, and grow your brand.
Respond Rapidly To Problems
According to best-selling author David Meerman Scott, someone at your company needs to be in charge of marketing “right now.” Does your company have someone with the authority to act when circumstances dictate a rapid response?
In the book, “Real-Time Marketing,” Scott describes the value for businesses of all sizes to be able to respond to events and circumstances, even as they are happening. Applying the lesson to an audience of musicians and international music merchants at the NAMM Convention, Scott used the example of a professional touring musician whose Taylor guitar was manhandled and broken during a United Airlines flight. That musician, Dave Carroll, tried in vain for nearly a year to get United Airlines to take responsibility. Finally, out of frustration and a desire to move on, he decided to write three songs about the experience and post them to YouTube. His first song, “United Breaks Guitars,” quickly went viral (now with over 12 million views).
Yet even after the video and resulting press attention, there was still no response from United.
Capitalize On Opportunities Quickly
Taylor Guitars, however, quickly capitalized on the incident. Mere days after Carroll’s video, Taylor uploaded a response featuring helpful advice for touring musicians, letting them know that the TSA allows guitars to be brought onboard as a carry-on (that video now has over 500,000 views). Meanwhile, a guitar case manufacturer offered Carroll a free replacement and rebranded one of its products as a “Dave Carroll signature model.” Both companies benefitted from the valuable free publicity.
Real-time marketing is not about viral videos and social media. As Scott says, “Real-time is a mindset. Social media are just tools.”
Move over Gopher. Ahoy Captain Stubing. Here Comes the “Love Float” From Farmers.
During the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day, with fifty-something million viewers and parade-goers watching, the winning couple from the Farmers Insurance “Love Float” contest will exchange wedding vows on live TV, consummating a thoughtful and creative integrated campaign from which marketers in all categories can learn.
First Class Accommodations
For winners Gerald and Nicole from Virginia, Farmers and its “Official Dream Wedding” sponsors will furnish the bride’s hair styling, make-up and gown; the groom’s tux; wedding rings; Rose Bowl game tickets, and the kicker—an advertisement opportunity for the lovebirds featuring a photo from their nationally televised ceremony.
“… social media allows us to reach out across the entire country and let anybody who wants to participate, participate.” — Michael L. Linton, Farmers enterprise chief marketing officer
A Lot to Love
As integrated marketing, the Love Float campaign exemplifies:
One Little Niggle
Of course, materials should be branded. But by packing in so many logos, product links and agent quotes, Farmers made the campaign home page feel a little too promotional, especially given the intimate nature of nuptials. Still, after 53 Rose Parade appearances, Farmers’ blending of online and social media demonstrates fresh new thinking, and an innovative approach to an old creative challenge. Could your small business benefit by following Farmers’ lead? - LET US KNOW!!!
It’s not enough to just get email leads: there must be follow-up.
When prospects submit an online form for listing information, 40% expect an instant response, and 70% expect a response within 30 minutes. But only 20% of agents respond within an hour, and some do not respond at all, according to the National Association of Realtors® Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers.
That’s throwing money in the trash.
The latest upgrade to ConnectionSM for Co-Brokerage provides the most efficient online lead solution on the market. Now, ConnectionSM for Co-Brokerage offers these enhancements:
More importantly, ConnectionSM for Co-Brokerage helps agents connect to consumers. Increased engagement means higher conversion rates.
More than 43% of consumers found their homes online—up from 11 percent—according to N.A.R.
Internet leads are an irreversible trend the brokerage community must capture—or watch their business falter.
Today’s real estate agent has to work smarter, not harder. The best way to gain the highest return on time and money is to prospect more effectively— to prospect with verified email leads for faster results.
With ConnectionSM for Co-Brokerage, there are no cold calls. Each conversation is impactful and meaningful, because agents are armed with intelligence.
Successful agents know if their pipeline isn’t filled with potential buyers and sellers, they are quickly out of business. Quality leads mean everything.
It’s easy to get inundated with the day-to-day transactional business of selling real estate. There are inspections to schedule, showings to get feedback on, and appraisal issues to contend with. All of that must be juggled with cultivating new business.
Quality online lead referrals must be a spoke in your prospecting wheel.
Every agent needs multiple streams of business—referrals from past clients, family members and friends, as well as strangers actively searching for a new home or considering selling the house they own.
Buyers and sellers start their search online. If you’re not capturing those potential clients when they are without representation and searching for advice, you are not optimizing all of your resources.
At least 20% of home buyers said they found their agent on realtor.com®—compared to 13% and 12% on the two top competitor sites, respectively, according to the February Consumer Brand Tracking Study by Westerberg Consulting.
ConnectionSM for Cobrokerage Works for You
Unclaimed buyers searching active listings on realtor.com® are funneled to agents signed-up for ConnectionSM for Cobrokerage.
Because realtor.com® listings are updated every 15 minutes from more than 800 MLS systems across the country, buyers are searching current inventory. There are sites that sell leads from closed or expired listings; that does you a disservice.
“We know you have choices," says Steve Pacinelli, Vice President of Industry Events for Move, Inc., operator of realtor.com®. "Various companies offer leads. I say evaluate them on quality, time invested and ROI. Once you put that time in, you can’t get it back.”
Kimberly Grogan, a REALTOR® from Arlington, TX, won Rookie of the Year in 2012 for the national Keller Williams franchise. She credits ConnectionSM for Cobrokerage for her success as a new agent.
“There’s always that moment when you’re hesitant to call your sphere,” says Grogan.
She circumvented the fear by signing up for leads.
“When I first started, I was spending about $1,000 per month on leads,” she adds. “I was making about $8,000 a month off of those leads.”
She said she closed two deals a month as a direct result of ConnectionSM for Cobrokerage.
Realtor.com® delivers better leads, according to a June study by PAA research, an independent research firm. The study shows agents are 30% more likely to convert a realtor.com® lead versus the competition.
But it’s not just about getting the lead. Agents must also follow up on those leads quickly, as Grogan did.
“The moment a lead came in, I responded,” she says.
ConnectionSM for Cobrokerage Works Fast
For consumers thirsting for timely information, fast responses are the key to converting them into clients. A Harvard Business Review study noted 70% of buyers expect a response to an online inquiry within 30 minutes. Yet, it takes REALTORS® two hours to respond, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.
That disconnect has been addressed in the latest update to ConnectionSM for Cobrokerage.
Now, the system will automatically send a text or email response you can customize, to the client, within 15 minutes.
“It’s your words,” says Pacinelli. “Remember, the best agent is the available agent.”
ConnectionSM for Cobrokerage Just ... Works
Grogan sold $6.3 million in residential real estate in her first year using ConnectionSM for Cobrokerage. Now three years into the business, she has a team, The Grogan Group, with a buyer’s agent to handle online leads.
With ConnectionSM for Cobrokerage, leads come with an actual phone number and email address. It will even import useful demographic information about the lead such as household income, marital status, place of employment and job title, when available. It also shows the last three houses the prospect looked at online as well as the ones saved as their favorites.
The point is to move the conversation along. The first conversation is no longer an expedition into their wants and price range; it’s a revelation of how knowledgeable you are.
“We make you smarter," Pacinelli adds. "You can introduce them to new homes because you already know what they are looking for."
While it was once common for REALTORS® and brokers to divide their time between office space and field work, times have changed. Now, agents and brokers spend more time working from their laptops or tablets, and less time occupying those pricey office suites.
As a broker, switching to a virtual office space and working from home (or at a listing, or in a coffee shop), may seem like a cheaper way to manage the business, but is it practical?
If you are currently leasing office space for your team, switching to a virtual space could save you money. But the real advantage to going virtual and working in the cloud is that you and your team can always be connected.
“Being able to be very dynamic and having everything at your fingertips—always—is the biggest advantage,” said David Newcombe, designated broker for Habitat Urban in Arizona.
While most offices exist in a 9 to 5 world, having your office with you wherever you go makes it easier to work around your clients' schedules, or to set your own schedule.
If you do decide to go virtual, you will “have to work harder on broker communication,” Newcombe says. Without the water cooler around, you will need to set up times to talk with your agents and your office staff, send regular memos to keep everyone in the loop, and find more inventive ways to train new hires.
Virtual offices may also create some inconveniences on the client side. “The client needs more than just a Starbucks to meet in,” Newcombe said.
That doesn’t mean you will risk losing clients. You just need to find another way to meet and finalize deals.
“Think forward as to what affiliates might work with you to provide conference rooms for occasional special client meetings,” Newcombe said.
Finding the Right Equipment
If do decide to switch to a virtual office, having the right technology in place is key to a successful transition. Newcombe recommends starting with the right customer relationship management software.
“Don't always go for the obvious old tried and tested solutions," he said. "There are many great new products on the market that you can customize to fit your brokerage like a glove.”
Once you have a CRM system in place, a handful of productive tools will keep your business running smoothly. At the very basic level you will need an email client, online-based cloud storage, compliance and filing software, and word processing software. Newcombe recommends looking into:
Making the Transition
With the right planning, transitioning to a virtual office could be completely painless. Start by setting regular meetings with a time and place for all of your office administrators, marketing specialists, Web designers and REALTORS®. Having regular meetings will help smooth the transition.
Before you lose the office entirely, Newcombe says to “make sure your REALTORS® are as tech savvy as they can be and used to working without paper.” Also, offer training on any software you will be using and provide agents and staff with a list of equipment they will need to buy.
Many people live in smart homes, drive smart cars and use smart phones. REALTORS® should be no different, especially with all the tech tools at their disposal nowadays.
While some brokers still use paper documents, fax machines and push button lock boxes, mobile and connected agents can manage deals from their car using their iPad or other tech tools in their arsenal.
If you’re looking for an entry point into the connected world, here are the Top 10 tech tools to help you become more productive, efficient, and current.
1. Yesware. This is an email tracking add-on. It alerts you when the emails you sent have been opened. The mobile version of the software provides push notifications alerting you when an email you sent was opened. Yesware works with Gmail, but it’s also compatible with Top Producer® CRM, so you can track emails to groups.
2. Market Snapshot®. Create “Just Sold” and “New Listing” alerts for current, future, and past clients with this tool that works within Top Producer® CRM. Designed for mobile, Market Snapshot® sends agent-branded email alerts to deliver timely and accurate information, with your name and logo prominently featured.
3. HelloSign. This app targets those who want to go paperless. It lets your clients sign documents electronically. You can then send them to the co-op agent without ever printing, scanning or faxing a piece of paper. It works seamlessly with Gmail and Google docs. There’s even an option to create a form you can host on your website or send via email.
4. Vidcaboodle. Creates a video channel for your website from your phone. All videos can be displayed in one place fully integrated into your website. Video drives traffic to your site, not to YouTube.
5. EasilyDo. This is your personal assistant without the monthly expense. This free app accesses your digital life, finds the most important stuff and surfaces it for you. It gives you a daily snapshot of important reminders: flight information, order confirmations, and appointments. It even scans your social media presence to let you know when past clients have a job change, get married, or have a life event you can use to reconnect with them.
6. Ginger. Never send another email loaded with misspellings or misused auto-corrections. Ginger is an app following you online while you type and automatically spell checks everything. It makes you look smarter, because your text messages and emails will be corrected for grammar, synonyms, definitions, re-phrasings, and punctuation.
7. Mailboxapp.com. Designed for Gmail and iCloud accounts, the Mailbox app redesigns your mobile inbox to make email easier to use on the go. Swipe to hide a message from view, snooze messages you will get to later, and organize all of your confirmations to list. Mailbox learns from your swipes and organizes your inbox—leaving you with more time to prospect.
8. Sitegeist. For those pesky questions you can’t answer due to Fair Housing laws, direct your clients to Sitegeist. They can discover local demographics, school data and bevy of other interesting tidbits. Referring your client to an app shows you’re not just an authority on local real estate activity—but you’re plugged into resources they can depend on for useful information, as well.
9. MileIQ. Make tax time easy. This app knows tracks your auto mileage automatically. It separates business trips from personal trips—all you need to do is just scroll left or right to file your trip under the appropriate heading. At the end of the year, print your custom mileage expense report and hand it to your accountant—your mileage is done.
10. Rapportive. This Gmail extension allows agents to quickly identify who is emailing them. With Rapportive, every email address is linked to the sender’s social media accounts. Instantly, you see what city they’re in, their job title, employer and their Twitter, Facebook and Google+ accounts. Rapportive allows agents to see who is emailing them and have a face to look for when a client requests a showing.
Fewer new homes were sold in December than the month before—but it's not something that those looking for the home of their dreams should be too worried about.
There was a 9.3% monthly drop in newly constructed home sales, totaling 625,000 in December, according to a joint report by the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. December sales were up 14.1% year over year.
The monthly decline is thanks to a blockbuster November. Because of the shortage of homes on the market, buyers who couldn't find their perfect abode in summer, when buying typically peaks, extended their searches and finally closed in the fall. So fewer home shoppers were out during the holidays.
"Sales were unusually high in the previous two months, which means that sales dropped in December because people had [already] bought their homes," says Joseph Kirchner, senior economist.
The most sales were in the South, at 331,000, and they were down 9.8% from November. They were up, however, 15.7% from the previous December.
That region was followed by the West, at 190,000. They were down 9.5% month over month, but up 18.8% year over year. In the Midwest, there were 63,000 sales, down 10% monthly and showing a 3.1% annual drop. There were only 41,000 sales in the Northeast. They were down 2.4% from November, but up 10.8% from the previous year.
Nationally, the median price of a new home was $335,400 in December, according to the report. That's up nearly 0.15% from November and almost 2.6% over the previous year. And it was nearly 35.9% higher than the $246,800 median price tag of an existing home, according to data from the National Association of Realtors®.
“Affordability continues to be a problem," Kirchner says. "In general, new home construction is focused on more expensive homes.”
That's because builders are contending with construction labor shortages, rising land and materials costs, regulatory delays, and difficulties obtaining financing.
Just 4% of the new homes sold in December were $150,000 or under. An additional 13% were between $150,000 and $199,999. The bulk of the sales, about 47%, were of residences costing $200,000 to $399,999. About 11% of homes sold went for $400,000 to $499,999. New homes costing $500,000 and up made up the second-largest chunk of sales, at 25%.
Are advertising specialties (aka promotional products) the Rodney Dangerfield of integrated marketing? Not really. But with so many disparaging nicknames, it’s easy to forget just how much impact, value, cheer and goodwill promotional products can add to a campaign or event.
The fact is that advertising specialties is a multi-billion industry, trusted and relied upon by the world’s most successful brands and agencies. When a campaign calls for a memorable and tactile execution, offering great value and affordable cost-per impression, promotional products usually top the list.
Versatile, Flexible, Cost Effective
But for many integrated marketers the real appeal of advertising specialty products is their creative flexibility and versatility. An experienced promotional products consultant can help you develop a virtually unlimited number of ideas and executions to support external and internal marketing programs, such as:
What to Look For
As with most service companies, quality, selection, support and experience can vary widely among ad specialty providers. Whether you choose an established, nationally known provider or a small boutique, remember that their job is to help you select promotional products that:
For more advice and tips on developing better promotional products campaigns, use this handy checklist.
Advertising specialties, by any other name, remain essential tools in the integrated marketer’s toolbox. A well-conceived campaign, supported by an experienced consultant or provider, can help you generate leads, drive traffic, create goodwill, and leave an impression that lasts for years. Remember that the next time you’re tempted to call it “geegaw.”
Maybe you’re a doubter. You don’t see the value in “tweeting” miscellaneous marketing messages out into the “Twittershpere,” never mind sharing random thoughts and what you had for lunch. Don’t worry; you’re not alone.
Scott Stratten was once like you. Today, he’s considered kind of a big deal on Twitter. But a few years ago, he was about to give up on Twitter as a networking and integrated marketing tool. He just wasn’t getting it. But before he gave up on it completely, he decided to give it one last effort. That’s when Stratten came up with his “30-Day Twitter Challenge.”
At that time, the “UnMarketing” author had about 2,000 followers. So for the next month, he ate, slept, and virtually lived on Twitter. That was enough to do the trick. By the end of it, he was “hooked.” Scott Stratten had become a true Twitter believer.
After his 30-day challenge, Stratten had built up a 10,000-strong following (now 186,042 as of this writing). As he attests, “I had made better and stronger relationships in that time span than on all the other social networking sites combined. I had built a loyal following, booked speaking engagements, and gained consulting clients, without ever pitching a thing.”
What’s So Special About Twitter?
One of the main reasons Stratten believes in the power of Twitter is the lack of any barrier to engagement. Twitter doesn’t require permission or approval for you to follow and engage with anyone you like. So if want to use it effectively, take some advice from someone who’s learned to master it.
Scott Stratten’s Twitter Ninja Tricks
Perform your own “30-Day Twitter Challenge.” See if you become a true Twitter believer like Stratten!
Do you first consider your audience when preparing your marketing materials? Or are you writing for your CEO or marketing colleagues?
Integrated marketing campaigns require a strong strategy with consistent messaging, tone, and voice used throughout each leg of the campaign. Effective marketing needs content focused on driving sales. To do so, you need to write with your customer in mind, and write well. Here are eight writing tips that will help improve the quality of your sales materials and help increase your revenues:
TC On Point - Transaction Coordinator Company
Images help readers identify with your emails quickly. From a branded logo to photography, they add interest and can appeal to viewer’s emotions. Using images in email communications helps to get your point across more quickly than with text-only messages. And, when used as part of an integrated marketing campaign, it’s even more important that the email look and feel exactly like the other media in your campaign, so imagery is key.
The types of images to use in emails include logos, product shots, photography to support an article, maps, graphs, charts or a scanned signature. You can’t just copy and paste an image into your email, it needs to be stored somewhere first, either on your own website or in an image library supplied by your email service provider. Images need to adhere to file type, size and dimension requirements. In most systems you can’t add special effects to an image after you add it into an email, but you can change its dimensions, alignment, link destination, and caption.
The challenge with email images is that sometimes recipients will not be able to view them because the email system they (or their company) uses disables images automatically or does not allow them to enable images in your email. To best accommodate this situation, follow these best practices for using images in emails:
Constant Contact is a popular and powerful email marketing service provider. For more information including detailed instructions on using images in emails, download their Image Reference Guide from the Resources Learning Center of their website at www.constantcontact.com.
You may have a physical address, but is your business really on the map?
For old-school, brick-and-mortar businesses, it used to be that a quality sign, a Yellow Pages listing, and a targeted direct mail campaign was all it took to bring in traffic. Nowadays you need a well-planned integrated marketing program that includes a presence on a variety of location based services to ensure your business is found.
Here’s an overview of the five most popular location-based sites and apps that will help you get discovered by customers, all at no charge.
Five Ways to Get Your Business on The Map
Ensure your customers can find you when they’re in the vicinity. Fill out your free listings completely (with photos as appropriate), and take advantage of tools that allow you to offer customer incentives to grow your business.
What’s your favorite location based service? Share it and tell us how you’ve discovered new places.
Virtual Real Estate Transaction Coordinator
Pitney Bowes recently commissioned a study to identify factors that could influence when and whether recipients would open their direct mail marketing piece and read it. The survey of 1,500 U.S. adults, conducted by Leflein Associates, examined preferences, attitudes, and behaviors about mail as received at home.
Overall, the consumers surveyed showed a strong preference for physical direct mail, with 66% of respondents saying they prefer to receive catalogs by physical mail, 61% preferring to receive bills and invoices by physical mail, and 59% preferring to receive financial/bank statements by physical mail.
To determine what might influence open rates, participants examined an average of 16 screens, each containing four randomized envelope images, to test for variables including the presence of text, graphics, and color on envelope fronts and backs.
Color Reigns Supreme
What’s printed on the front of the envelope strongly influences when and whether it gets opened.
And, recipients are 69% more likely to open a mail piece with color text and graphics on the front, before opening pieces with no headline or graphic. Given a choice of color graphics or black-and-white text, mail recipients are 2.5 times more likely to open envelopes with color graphics first.
What’s printed on the back of the envelope is less influential. Six out of 10 (57%) hardly ever notice what is printed on the back of an envelope when sorting through or opening their mail. However, as with the front of the envelope, the study indicates the presence of color text and graphics on the envelope’s back is significantly more likely to influence the decision to open, rather than black-and-white only.
The bottom line is 1) based on consumers’ preference you should absolutely invest in printed mail communication; 2) you should absolutely NOT leave the envelope blank; and 3) text and graphics should DEFINITELY be in color.
Virtual Real Estate Transaction Coordinator
To play the home-buying game, you need to speak the language.
Real estate, like any other business, comes with its own language. The catch is that most first-time home buyers don’t speak it, which can lead to them being at a tremendous disadvantage in deal-making. Even an open house isn’t exactly what it seems to be!
Consider this your Cliffs Notes to being a first-time buyer.
1. Open house: An open house is when a real estate agent puts signs up all over the neighborhood inviting strangers to come tour a house that’s listed for sale. It’s certainly fun to check out houses, but don’t fall for that bait of freshly baked cookies in the kitchen. What’s really being marketed here isn’t so much the house for sale; open houses rarely sell the house being held open. They are sometimes held so that the agent can find prospective buyers and gain them as clients. Agents want buyers who aren’t being represented by anyone in attendance.
You can definitely go to open houses, just know what is likely going to happen after you write your contact info on the sign-in sheet: Agents will follow up with you and offer to show you something that they’re certain you’ll love. You just became “their” client.
2. Active listing: A house for sale goes through different steps. When no one has made an accepted offer on it, it is considered an active listing. Others may be contemplating buying it, but it’s up for grabs until both sides sign a contract.
3. Contingencies: Contingencies are the clauses in a buyer’s offer that basically say “unless.” In other words: “I agree to pay you $500,000 for your house unless I can’t get a bank to loan me the money or if I hire an inspector and he says the house is in need of a major repair.” If you aren’t a first-time homebuyer but need to sell your existing home in order to buy the new one, that would be a contingency you’d want to add in your offer. Contingencies are your escape clauses.
4. Seeking backup: When someone else already has a signed contract on a property ― in other words, they already have an accepted offer to buy the house you just fell in love with ― many sellers’ agents will seek an additional buyer in case that first person backs out.
Your backup offer acknowledges there’s an existing offer and says you are automatically in a contract with the seller if the first buyer cancels. Sellers can sign more than one backup offer, providing they disclose the position of each party. For example, you could be in the No. 3 or No. 4 position if there are four backup offers. Ideally, you would want to be in No. 1 position, the first back-up offer.
Having a backup buyer serves a few purposes for the seller, not you. Primarily, it holds the first buyer’s feet to the fire with the unspoken message that if they try to drive the price down after the house has been inspected or if they delay in securing financing, there is someone else ― you ― ready to step up and replace them.
If you decide you want to be a backup buyer, know that you are, in essence, taking yourself out of the house-hunting business. A backup offer is legally binding once it’s signed by both parties. Make sure you really are ready and able to pay the amount you agreed upon, that you are OK with having your earnest money tied up in escrow, and that the home itself is exactly what you want. If the primary contract falls apart, you just bought yourself a house ― and if you try to get out of it, you will risk losing your good-faith deposit.
5. Multiple bidding situations: When a house is priced under market value or is simply off-the-charts perfect, there is an excellent chance that you won’t be the only one interested in buying it. This term means the seller is getting more than one offer. Your agent will tell you how to make a strong offer, but don’t go crazy. Don’t drop important contingencies. In multiple-bid situations, the one with the most cash generally wins.
6. Disclosures: These are things a seller has to tell a prospective buyer about the house, and they vary by state. Smart sellers err on the side of caution and disclose everything, since nobody wants a buyer to come back later with a lawsuit for not being told that the basement flooded last year and there is now a mold problem.
As a buyer, take the time to actually read the list of disclosures yourself. It isn’t good enough to have your agent give you the highlights or say she sees “nothing major.” This is one of the forms you absolutely need to read before you sign.
7. Escrow: Once you and the seller have a signed contract, you enter the phase of the home-buying process known as escrow. An escrow officer is a neutral third party who makes sure that everything that was agreed upon in the contract is fulfilled by the deadlines. Escrow costs are generally split by both sides. A house isn’t considered “sold” until escrow is closed.
8. Inspections: Every sensible buyer in escrow hires a professional home inspector to go over the house with a fine-tooth comb. You can accompany the inspector and learn a whole bunch about your house in the process. Expect to pay a few hundred dollars or more. And yes, if the inspection shows something that causes you to withdraw from escrow, that’s money you won’t see again. Still, it must be done. Your very-handy uncle may be a great guy and offer to do your inspection for free, but unless he’s a licensed home inspector, offer him profuse thanks and find someone who is.
9. Title: Just like a car, a house has a record of ownership. It’s called the title, and what is written on this piece of paper is of paramount importance. How you hold title will determine what happens to the property in case you die. Title is the legal way of saying you own a right to something. In real estate, it means that you have the rights to use that property. It may be a partial interest in the property or it may be the full interest. However, because you have title, you can access the land and potentially modify it as you see fit. Title also means that you can transfer that interest or portion that you own to others ― you just can’t transfer more of it than you own.
10. Property deed: Most people wrongly assume that property deeds and titles are the same thing.
Deeds are actually the legal documents that transfer title from one person to another when a home is sold or transferred in an inheritance or gift. To be valid, they must be a written document, according to the Statute of Frauds. Deeds must be recorded in the courthouse or assessor’s office to make them fully binding in most states.
Real Estate Transaction Coordinator
Getting things in writing may save heartache down the road.
Buying a house or condo with someone who hasn’t put a ring on it is fraught with serious financial risks.
Plenty of laws help protect married couples when they split up and divide their property. No such legal sympathy exists for those who are unmarried and do the same.
Yet according to a widely quoted Coldwell Banker study from 2013, 1 in 4 unwed millennial couples had bought property together. The reasons were and are clear: Low-rate mortgages, rising rents, and the ability to deduct mortgage interest and property taxes from income taxes all make being a homeowner an attractive option. Some fear that if they don’t buy now, they won’t ever be able to afford it.
So unmarried couples will keep purchasing homes together, and then, sadly, many of them will fall out of love. To mitigate the financial pain of breaking up, here are some issues they should discuss before they buy.
How will you split costs?
Owning a home means coming up with a down payment and closing costs, covering property taxes and utilities, and paying repair and maintenance bills. Rarely can those financial responsibilities be split 50-50.
One person may have the savings for a heftier deposit. One may earn a higher regular salary and find it easier to make mortgage payments. One may be saddled with student debt or a low credit score. One may be skilled with tools and ready to do repairs around the house, raising the issue of whether in-kind contributions have a monetary value and what that value should be.
But if the contributions aren’t divided equally, should ownership of the home be divided equally?
How do you hold title to the property?
Certainly, one person can hold the title alone. That means the couple isn’t really buying the property together ― one person owns it and the other is essentially paying rent and probably shouldn’t be expected to cover home repairs or taxes. Of course, the couple can still buy furniture together, decorate together and call the place home together.
Two (or more) people can take title to a house as tenants in common. The percentages of ownership don’t have to be equal. Upon the death of one such tenant, that person’s share passes to their heirs, whoever they might be.
Here’s how it might work and where the problems can arise: A widowed man who has two adult children buys a house with his new girlfriend as tenants in common. They each contribute half of all expenses, including the down payment. If the man dies, his share of the house passes to his designated heirs ― likely his adult children. His new girlfriend still owns her half of the house, but she may not be able to continue living there unless an agreement can be reached with his kids. They may want her to start paying them rent. Or they might be eager to get their whole inheritance by selling the house. A tenant in common can bring a lawsuit to force a property sale if the other co-owners are unwilling to sell. The court can order the property sold, with the proceeds split among the co-owners according to their ownership shares.
Alternatively, two unrelated people can own a house as joint tenants, where the full title to the property automatically passes to the surviving partner upon the other partner’s death. There isn’t even a formal probate process.
Joint tenancy is a popular way to hold title among married couples. Unmarried couples may or may not be willing to pass that big an asset on to the other person.
What happens if you split up?
Before unwed couples leap into homeownership, they’d be well advised to draw up a legal document spelling out all the “what-ifs” and “what-we’d-do-thens.”
What happens to the house in case of a breakup? Address the issue of buying each other out and how to resolve the matter if both of you want the house. You may want a contract to automatically give one of you the first right to buy out the other at fair market value within 90 days. Or you may opt for a coin toss to decide who gets to buy out the other. (Yup, that can be legal if you agree to it.)
What if one partner wants to break up, move out and let somebody else live in the house in their place? What if one partner wants to break up, not move out and bring somebody else to live in the house with them?
What happens if one partner gets a great job offer in another city and the other partner can’t afford to stay behind and maintain the house alone, but doesn’t want to move?
If you have a child, will anything about the ownership arrangement change?
Talk these things through and get your solutions down in writing before you close the deal.
Mortgages don’t disappear when love does.
A pre-purchase contract shouldn’t cover just questions of how you hold the ownership title. There’s also the matter of the mortgage. Taking your name off the title isn’t necessarily enough to wash your hands of this chapter of your life. If you co-signed the loan, you’ll still be on the hook.
That means their credit limit ― the amount of money they can borrow from financial institutions ― could still be tied up in the house. As long as their name remains on the loan, their credit will be affected by their former partner’s ability to pay the mortgage on time. And if the one who stayed actually misses payments, the one who left is still responsible.
One suggestion is to agree in advance that if the relationship dissolves, the home will be refinanced, removing the departing partner’s name. Decide who pays any refinancing costs. What if the mortgage can’t be refinanced because, say, the original loan was granted based on two salaries and the remaining partner’s income isn’t enough to obtain a new loan? Perhaps then, you agree that the house will be sold to a third party within a fixed period of time. Spell it all out.
What happens in real life?
HuffPost talked to two unmarried couples ― one younger, one older ― about how and why they decided to buy property together. Then we ran their situations by an estate planning lawyer for some general advice.
Radio producer Evan Chung and wedding DJ Karin Fjellman began dating in 2011 and moved in together in 2013. Last year, when their out-of-state landlord wanted to sell the Chicago condo they were renting, they raised their hands to buy it.
“We really hadn’t been in the market to buy, but faced with the prospect of moving, we looked around a little bit, saw this was a good deal and went for it,” Fjellman said.
They bought the unit for about $265,000, with Fjellman, who had more in savings, contributing more money toward the down payment. They have an understanding that Chung will repay her the difference and that they will be equal partners in ownership.
Did they get a legal document drawn up laying out the terms of ownership, as her mother suggested?
“No, we didn’t,” Fjellman said. In the rush of buying, they just didn’t ― which speaks to the point, she said, that they love one another, feel committed (they’d already adopted a beagle together, she noted) and are both comfortable with their co-ownership.
“We never thought owning a place was even a possibility until the opportunity basically fell into our lap. We trust each other, so we figured, what the heck?” Fjellman said, adding, “Famous last words, maybe.”
They opened a joint checking account and each of them deposits an equal amount a month to cover their living expenses. They also use the Splitwise app to keep track of those expenses, including Chung’s ongoing repayment of the down payment. For a few years now, Chung, who gets health insurance through his job, has covered Fjellman as a domestic partner. They’ve been using Splitwise to keep track of that, too.
“We have been very open about our finances,” she said.
What would happen if one of them received a job offer elsewhere or wanted to move out for whatever reason? Fjellman said they would deal with the situation, noting that they could always rent out the condo to cover the monthly mortgage if the market wasn’t strong enough to sell.
“This is an investment for us,” she said. “We would work it out.”
Even now, it isn’t too late for Chung and Fjellman to put in writing what they want, said Laurie Murphy, a partner at Valensi Rose PLC in Los Angeles, who was speaking generally. She suggested that their agreement include, at the very least, what happens if one wants to sell and one doesn’t, what they’ll do if one loses a job and can’t contribute financially, what happens if they break up or decide to marry, and who will inherit the other’s interest if one of them dies.
“Bottom line: Owning property can be complicated, and in my opinion it is always best to have something in writing, especially if you are unmarried,” Murphy said. “When and if they go to document their ‘agreement,’ it will of course force them to confront some uncomfortable issues ― similar to those confronted by couples who document pre- and post-nuptial agreements.”
‘I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect arrangement.’
Elizabeth Lees and Mel Schwimmer were both married to other people when they met at an Alzheimer’s support group for patients and their caregivers.
“The four of us would go to dinner sometimes,” said Lees. “But then our spouses worsened and had to be moved to a facility, and Mel and I were left.”
A relationship blossomed. “We got on together really, really well,” she said.
Three years ago, they decided to move in together. They sold their respective houses and paid cash for a 1,900-square-foot condo in Marina del Ray, California. In Lees’ case, the sale of her house also provided the money to pay for her husband’s care.
Both Lees and Schwimmer have adult children and they went into their condo co-ownership with a “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours” attitude. They continue to keep their finances separate. They have one joint checking account from which all household expenses, including property taxes and the homeowners association bills, are covered. They pay their own way on vacations, buy their own cars and their own insurance, and are not responsible for each other’s medical bills.
Lees and Schwimmer went to a lawyer to help them set up their ownership terms and were transparent with their children to avoid potential conflict down the road. They own the condo 50-50 in a life estate, which means that when one of them dies, the other can live in the condo until that person dies or moves. When they are both gone from the condo, the ownership reverts to their respective trusts. At that point, their heirs can sell it.
Although both their spouses have died, Lees said they have no plans to marry each other. “It just would be too complicated. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect arrangement,” she said.
Purchases made by later-in-life unwed couples can present especially complicated issues, said Murphy, who advised Lees and Schwimmer. Their financial affairs may differ significantly. “One will have more money than the other,” the lawyer said. Plus, there can be adult children, minor children, grandchildren and sometimes elderly parents to be considered.
“But any time two unmarried people of any age want to buy property together, it’s imperative that they plan for an infinite number of what-ifs,” Murphy said. Without a legal document, there are no rights or rules to protect them if they split, she said.
Just get it in writing.
Whether or not you’re investing in property together, there are “such things as cohabitation agreements, which set forth the who-gets-what in a breakup, much like a prenup,” Murphy said.
Otherwise known as “no-nups,” these written contracts are designed to ensure that the assets a person brings into a relationship remain under that person’s control if the relationship ends. They can also address what happens to property acquired during the period of unwedded bliss.
Finally, don’t count on the idea of common-law marriage to sort things out for you. There is a mistaken belief that people who live together for seven years are automatically married somehow. Only 15 states and the District of Columbia recognize common-law marriage by statute, and even those states offer little uniformity in how real property is divisible. On top of that, there’s this big problem: You may have a common-law marriage, but there is no such thing as a common-law divorce.
Murphy’s advice for those buying a house is simple: Get married or get a legal agreement.
Virtual Real Estate Transaction Coordinator