Monday, April 30, 2007

 

Hand-written notes stand out

Most of what we receive these days – at work and at home – is type-written.

When we receive a hand-written note, it stands out. Why? Because it rarely happens anymore.

But rarity breeds opportunity.

What if you made an effort to send just 1-2 hand-written notes each week. It could be a thank-you to a recent client, a congratulatory note to a colleague or peer, or even just a "great job" note to a speaker you recently heard.

Add a business card to the note if you want, but at a minimum make sure your name and "from" address are on the envelope, so that it's clear (despite your penmanship) where the card is coming from.

I guarantee you’ll be amazed by the response.

I'm starting this week in Las Vegas, at an interactive marketing conference sponsored by ePrize.com. When I arrived last night, the front desk clerk told me I had a "letter" waiting for me.

When I opened the envelope, it was a hand-written "thank you for attending" card from the ePrize Vice President of Business Development.

How many times have you received a hand-written note from the vice president of any company?

Kudos to ePrize for adding the personal touch, and starting the conference off right.

This small effort made a big impression.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

 

Improve Your Instincts

Some of us have better instincts than others.

Some of us make decisions or suggestions based on "our gut", and they turn out right more frequently than the decisions of others.

Historically, we've attributed this to natural smarts and intelligence. And there very well may be some truth to that.

But I don't believe we're generally born with good instincts. I believe we learn them.

When we read a book, most of us quickly forget most of the contents. We remember maybe a few specific passages or ideas, but the rest is forgotten. Or is it?

The "rest" that we thought we had forgot isn't gone, it's just deep in our subconscious. But those insights are still vividly with us, and manifest themselves in our instincts.

We forget the case study, but remember the lesson. We forget the test, but remember the answer.

We can't always consciously recall the specific details or context of our instinctual decisions, but those decisions aren't random. They aren't generated just based on raw horse-power.

It's no coincidence that those around us with the best "instincts" also happen to be the best read - they have the largest libraries, read the most magazines, tend to forward around the most "FYI" articles for the rest of us to read.

Ask these people the details of a business book they read six months ago, and they likely won't be able to help you.

Ask them a business question based on the tenets of that book, and they'll give you an insightful, quite helpful answer.

How are you controlling, and improving, your instincts?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

 

Double-Down in Soft Markets

It was announced earlier today that monthly home sales volume declined by the largest amount in nearly two decades.

The news clearly isn't good. At an aggregate level, this is a much softer market than we saw a couple years ago. And many real estate agents are staying extra-careful with their marketing budgets.

But if I was a real estate agent right now, I'd double my marketing budget. I'd kick my customer acquisition efforts into overdrive. I'd invest everything I could into my business.

Why? Because market leaders are made in times like this. While competitors shrink in fear, emerging market leaders double-down. They invest in the future, while taking firm hold of every present opportunity.

Maggie Mouscardy is a fantastic example of this. She's a real estate agent in Long Beach, California, and was just promoted to direct the Internet business for her Prudential California Realty office.

Her business has skyrocketed the past two years, thanks to careful planning and aggressive marketing. And last week? She increased her investments in marketing to fuel faster growth.

"While other agents complain about market conditions, I just keep making money and building my pipeline," she said yesterday.

When economies slow, when your industry softens, don't slow down.

Speed up.

 

Web marketing for small business

Blogging has been light the past couple weeks as I finish work on a book to coincide with the launch of a new suite of Web marketing tools for HouseValues customers.

This book focuses on helping small business owners (including real estate agents) build and harness a profitable Web marketing strategy.

More information is available here, as well as a pre-order opportunity on Amazon.com. Copies should be available for shipping by mid-May.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

 

MoM Links for April 12, 2007

Give your customers sprinkles: Same message, different author. Delight your customers. Small, inexpensive things can make an enormous difference.

The TV is dead. Long live the TV: Compelling story in Wired proving that television is as powerful as ever.

10 Ways to Make Your Words Captivate: Great advice from Michael Stelzner.

20 Ways to Make Your Blog Work: Works for Web sites, podcasts and all other kinds of content too.

Credibility via your employees: Outstanding post by Jennifer McLean on why your employees offer the fastest, straightest line towards establishing greater credibility for your business and brands.

Create your own referral sales force: John Jantsch shows you how.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

 

Yes, it really is your job

It's quite easy to get too attached to job descriptions. It's quite easy to be narrowly focused on what you were hired to do, what you've been specifically asked to do by your boss, and forget about what the customer wants, or is asking for.

Let's say I'm at a restaurant, and I need a fork. I can't find my waiter anywhere. The first restaurant employee who walks by is going to hear my request for a fork.

That employee might be a bus boy, or another table's waiter, or even the owner. It's probably not "their job" to get me a new fork, but it's equally unacceptable for them to say they can't help me.

Our jobs aren't defined by our job descriptions. They're defined by what our customers want, what they need, and our ability to deliver on that desire quickly, efficiently, and to the satisfaction delight of the customer.

Geno Church delivers a great riff on this on the Brains on Fire blog today. It's a good reminder that great customer experiences, and remarkable businesses, are built not on narrowly-defined job descriptions, but on going above and beyond to make our customers happy, successful, and coming back for more.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

 

The problem with free

Way too many marketers with bad intentions are ruining the word "free" for the rest of us.

Do a quick Google search for "free press release distribution" and you'll find more than 15 competing offers, all promising to promote your press release for "free" on search engines, to interested reporters and more.

Alas, few are free. Those that are somewhat free essentially do no more than host your press release on their Web site, with zero distribution or visibility to anybody that will care.

Oh, you wanted reporters to actually SEE your press release? That will cost you...

Kevin Dugan tackles the problem of "free" as well, going as far as to say that any level of registration for a particular "free" product or service means it isn't really free. There's a cost to giving up your email address, a cost to diluting your anonymity online.

Any marketer that disingenuously offers something for free (that isn't really free), is damaging their own credibility and longevity. Tricking customers into paying for something they thought was free is no way to start a new customer relationship.

Consumers today are skeptical enough. This isn't helping.

 

MoM Links for April 3, 2007

How many days ago?: This little device will tell you. Smart, narrowly-focused product.

How to hold a great meeting: Good advice from MSNBC and Forbes.

Write a book!: You can do it, Seth can help.

Reminders sent to your cell phone: Thank you, rminder. It's like a reverse-Jott.

Risk-free is a very risky marketing message: Paradox? Not so much. Ron agrees.

The Best (and Worst) Lead Generation Ideas of 2006: Great report by Marketing Sherpa, with plenty of good (and bad) examples we all should find practical.

Are you rewarding the right goal?: Great debate by MarketingProfs on whether your business (and your sales team) should focus on revenue or margin.

 

Matt's first book (yours is next)

Yes, you read right. After being inspired by Seth and Ron, I'm in the process of publishing my first book, a collection of marketing ideas, insights and inspiration from the past year or so.

If you want a sneek peek, here's the pre-design version.

Below is the book's introduction, which makes it clear that the next book like this should be yours.

You should have written this book. And you still can.

Every day, each of us has ideas and inspiration based on the world around us. These insights come simply by sitting in meetings, in traffic, or in the Lazy-Boy at home. We see things in our everyday lives that make us think about their past, their future, and their implications.

How we think about these things is impacted significantly by our worldview. Five of us can see the same movie, and come away with very different opinions and reactions – all based on the perceptions and experiences that shaped us up to that point.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of those ideas and insights are gone from our conscious almost as soon as they materialized. Yet I’m convinced that if more of us were to write down or otherwise record those insights, and make them available to others, we’d all be far richer as a result.

That’s what this book is about. My hope is that it gives you a new idea or inspiration that you can apply to your life and/or your business.

All I ask in return, is that you do the same. Start writing your book today, by recording your reaction to the world around you. Start small, in whatever format, length and frequency feels right to you.

Thank you for reading, and I look forward to being inspired by you in the near future.

Monday, April 02, 2007

 

The most important day of the year

I've said it before, I'll say it again every year right around the first Monday in April.

Today should be a national holiday.

If you're a baseball fan, here are a couple links to enjoy over your morning coffee:

ESPN's expert predictions for the season, including division and Series winners, MVP and Cy Young predictions and more

Home-town newspaper coverage of your favorite teams

MLB.TV - Worth checking out for the die-hard!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

 

Work to enrich your life (not define it)

There's a great scene (among many) in the latest version of The Italian Job, in which a retiring thief played by Donald Sutherland is giving advice to his protege, played by Mark Wahlberg.

After a particularly successful heist, the master tells the apprentice:

"There are two kinds of thieves in the world - those who steal to enrich their lives, and those who steal to define their lives. Don't be the latter."

Many of us put our heart and soul into our work. We do this because it's how we were raised by our parents, or because we love what we do, or because we're driven by various financial or career goals, or all of the above.

But work as the means and the ends is largely hallow. Although I love what I do, and truly enjoy the work I'm privileged to do each business day, it is a means to an end for me.

I've worked with many people who use work to define their lives, and too often these people end up lonely and unhappy. They get incredible satisfaction out of the success they achieve in the office, sure, but it's at the expense of the joy and fulfillment they aren't able to achieve outside of the workplace.

It's far easier to both write and practice this on a Sunday afternoon, rather than a busy Wednesday afternoon. But time and experience has already taught me that, although work can be incredibly fulfilling, it's a means of enriching the purposeful life I choose to live outside of work.

The right balance between personal and professional time is a personal decision, but few of us at the end of the day want our time in the office to truly define who we are.

As you start another work week, and a new quarter of the year, it's a great time to set aggressive goals for yourself at the office. Push yourself to be better, to work smarter. But also challenge yourself to define how you want to live your life - this week, this quarter and beyond.

There's no reason you can't continue to be a superstar at the office, but use that success to enrich the life you really want to lead.

 

MoM Links for April 1, 2007

Tell More Stories: This article is about how to be a more effective blogger, but has a very good lesson about how we can all make our messages better connect with audiences.

Corvette Not Included: But not a bad way to get your real estate listing to stand out online.

Tell your CEO to rent: According to this study, the more real estate your CEO buys, the worse your company will perform.

77 Ways to Learn Faster: Seriously, this stuff works.

Ready to Take the Plunge?: Here's some great advice on making the transition from employee to business owner.

Free Wireless Internet from Google: That's right, read more on how to install here. (disclaimer: remember what day it is...)

The Top April Fools Jokes of All Time: Pick something for next year...

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