Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nothing Beats Low-Cost Email Marketing for Boosting Sales

If email newsletters are not central to your real estate marketing strategy, you are missing the boat. Email marketing gives more "bang for the buck" than any other form of promotion:

Advertising Medium


% Viewers




Direct Mail






Newspaper Ad






Email marketing offers real estate professionals significant advantages:

1. As seen above, the return-on-investment can be astronomical!

2. Whereas other forms of advertising are shot-gun approaches, email marketing can be very targeted by using segmented email lists.

3. By building opt-in email lists, recipients have already agreed to receive emails about certain topics, and email delivery percentages dramatically increase rather than winding up in a spam folder.

4. Opt-in email lists available from third parties can also be utilized to target specific demographics or geographical locations.

5. Email marketing also promotes relationship building for future real estate business and client retention..

6. Email marketing often enjoys viral benefits, wherein your emails are forwarded to friends, family and colleagues.

7. Email marketing can be used for a variety of purposes, such as promotions, newsletters, event management and online surveys.

8. Autoresponders allow automated email responses and follow-ups to be preprogrammed, enhancing sales productivity.

9. Email results can be tracked - the number of opens, the number of clicks, etc. Moreover, you can actually determine who clicked on what link in a newsletter, for example, and then further segment your email list according to interest. Eventually, one can derive highly-targeted email lists consisting of pre-qualified recipients.

In short, email marketing is the least expensive, most productive means of reaching clients, nurturing prospects and pushing your message to the marketplace.. If your company is not doing email marketing, you are foregoing a huge opportunity to boost sales!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Plan Now for 2011

The week between Christmas and New Years is the perfect window for small and home-based businesses to reflect and plan for the coming year:

* What is working and what is not?
* Look at Google Analytics for your Website to identify areas for improvement.
* What industry and economic trends are likely to affect your business next year?
* Are there any opportunities which you can take advantage of?
* Set goals and develop a business plan for 2011.

Taking a day or two to perform this useful exercise can have immense payoffs for your business in 2011.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Online Email Newsletter Preparation Service - Constant Contact Product Review

Constant Contact is a popular entry-level Web-based service for the creation, distribution and management of email newsletters. It is optimized for non-techies who want a fast, easy answer for low-to-moderate volume email promotions. Over 200,000 small businesses, associations, non-profit organizations and Realtors are said to be utilizing their online service.

While not "hiccup" free, the service fills a market need. I found Constant Contact to be an affordable answer for small organizations that lack inhouse technical resources, but wish to leverage low-cost email marketing to promote their products or services.

Constant Contact provides easy-to-use tools for developing attractive email newsletters, managing email lists, and handling distribution issues (compliance with spam laws, bounces, unsubscribes and filters). It also provides tracking tools and reports for evaluating results. Moreover, they have added the ability to set up autoresponder message for newsletter sign-ups. And of course, you can also schedule a series of emails to a segment of your contact base in an autoresponder-like fashion.

Recently, Constant Contact added two optional upgrades - the abilities to conduct online surveys (with results analysis) and manage events. So, if you are looking for feedback from your customers and prospects, now you can conduct a survey as part of your monthly email newsletter. Want to hold a product or service seminar? Now everything - broadcasting the event, sign-ups, emails to participants, etc. - can be accomplished with Constant Contact. If you have ever created and managed an event, you'll realize how powerful this canned capability is.

If you are familiar with the features and functionality of any word-processing program, then you can easily use Constant Contact for your email campaigns. They have a plethora of templates, tutorials, guides and "step-by-step" screens which ensure that anyone can create email masterpieces. Email pieces can contain one or more links to landing pages on your Website or even PayPal buttons for direct purchases.

Constant Contact makes it easy to sign up for their service. They offer a sixty-day free trial without a credit card requirement (for up to one hundred email contacts), pricing is attractive (starting at just $15 monthly for up to 500 email contacts, but no limit on the number of emails that can be sent each month), there is no software to purchase or install, and no long-term contract is required.

As with any Web-based interactive service, however, Constant Contact is recommended only for those who have a DSL or cable Internet connection. Otherwise, you may be in for a frustrating experience -- it can take a while for your newsletter editing inputs to show up on the browser screen.

The newsletter creation process itself is simple. It involves modifying your choice of several newsletter templates with your own content and images. Constant Contact has worked hard to make this an easy process. In addition to modifying overall appearance (background color, font, etc.), you can customize the content and look of each template section employing tools familiar to any Microsoft Word user.

A word of caution here. There are some quirks. Sometimes, what you want to happen doesn't happen. For example, I found that font and spacing actions sometimes produced unsought results. Despite an "undo" button, you might just have to close the newsletter editing function, then re-open it to eliminate unintended results. It thus pays to "save' your work frequently as you go along. But, if you know a little HTML, you can open a "code" window and usually resolve these mishaps in quick fashion.

Here is a hint -- copy any text prepared in a word-processing application or copied from a Website to the Microsoft Notepad before inserting it into the Constant Content newsletter template. This will remove any underlying formatting code that could affect your newsletter display.

I particularly like their list import capabilities. Constant Contact offers a downloadable tool for easily importing selected contacts from Microsoft Outlook. Other lists can be imported in.csv,.txt and.xml formats. And your lists can be segmented for targeted email campaigns.

A newsletter sign-up form or button is automatically generated for you. All you have to do is copy its underlying HTML into one or more pages on your Website to promote your newsletter to site visitors. Obviously, you will get more subscribers if you also offer an incentive, such as a free report or discount, to sign-up for your free newsletter.

But Constant Contact is about more than just sending out newsletters. It also allows you to set up email promotional campaigns. For instance, you can modify their templates to promote events, seasonal specials, or product announcements. These can then be sent to targeted segments of your email list(s) along with embedded coupons or links to special offers.

In summary, Constant Contact gets "two thumbs up" for being an affordable, hassle-free solution for low volume emailings (up to a thousand or so contacts). Its ease-of-use, extensive functionality, variety of templates and helpful learning resources make Constant Contact an excellent answer for small businesses and real estate professionals. With Constant Contact, you can quickly launch and easily manage professional-looking newsletters and other email promotions without a steep learning curve or breaking your wallet.

If you need help setting up a Constant Contact account, template or managing your newsletter, please contact us at (866) 284-4955 or by email at info@SmallBizSMartMarketing.com.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Advice for Baby Boomer Entrepreneurs

Either through retirement or because their job evaporated, Baby Boomers are becoming entrepreneurs and their medium of choice is the Internet. Why? Because less resources are necessary to get started and a worldwide audience awaits. But don't be fooled - it still takes a lot of planning, hard work and expertise to be successful.

Starting an Internet-based operation offers Boomers the chance to take their "great idea" and turn it into a profitable business. But don't expect overnight success. It takes as much time and as much work to create a successful Internet business as it does to launch a "brick and mortar" equivalent. Plus, one additional piece of expertise is required - an understanding of how Internet marketing works and what it takes to gain online visibility among a target audience.

I would say that 95 percent of all newly launched online businesses are doomed to failure. People put up a canned Website and wait for the business orders to show up in their email. Months go by and nothing happens. They can't understand it and are at a loss about what to do next.

Here is some advice for new Baby Boomer entrepreneurs:

  • Before Baby Boomers spend any money, I urge them to do their homework first and give your "great idea" a sanity check by subjecting it to the rigors of a business plan. For those who do not understand how a business plan screens ideas for feasibility, click here for a free guide.
  • If you have not mastered the technical aspects of gaining Internet visibility, hire an expert to help you. Otherwise, your Website will not show up within the first three pages of Google, Yahoo or MSN Bing when someone searches for your product or service. For all practical purposes, the only people who will even know your site exists are those to whom you directly communicate your site address. Otherwise, your business will remain invisible on the Internet.
  • Being successful with an Internet business requires continuous work. Your site must be frequently updated and constantly promoted via a variety of online avenues. This requires money, time and effort. Again, if you are not an Internet guru, hire one to relieve yourself of this burden so that you can focus on running your business.

A word of caution. There are countless schemes appearing that offer Boomers turnkey solutions to running their own Internet business. They contain gushing endorsements from other Boomers who have enjoyed overnight success and become wealthy while working part-time. Do yourself a favor and thoroughly check these out before giving money to anyone. Many of them are multi-level marketing schemes. Others fail to disclose that you will be entering a saturated market or that members actually compete against one another on the Internet. Usually, just googling the outfit will turn up any negative feedback from dissatisfied customers. Checking them out with the Better Business Bureau is also a good idea. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

The key to Internet business success is to leverage the wisdom and experience you gained during your own career. Don't rush into something. Take your time and thoroughly evaluate opportunities. And be committed once you make the decision to proceed. Expect it to take time and hard work. Set out benchmarks to gauge your progress. Celebrate your successes and adapt accordingly when you discover that something isn't working. If your "great idea" is solid, eventually you will enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Managing your own Internet-based business your home office is an exciting way for Baby Boomer entrepreneurs to supplement their income and remain engaged in the business world. It can be a part-time or full-time endeavor - you set your own pace. Ultimately, you may even create an online enterprise that can be profitably sold when you feel ready to fully retire or explore other opportunities.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Zen of Running your Own Business

When it comes to satisfaction, nothing compares to owning and operating your own business. Everyday is exciting. You wake up energized, full of ideas and objectives to be accomplished. When you launch a business that is something you really want to do, your chances of success are high and (as the psychologists say) you become "self-actualized."

I spent over twenty-five years in entrepreneurial and corporate environments. Sometimes it was fun. Sometimes it was drudge work. And then there was the corporate politics, artificial deadlines, and incompetent bosses to deal with, not to mention driving at two hours daily through exhausting traffic. I don't miss it.

Now, I work out of my home office and have a virtual company made up of knowledgeable executives who like myself leverage our vast experience to mentor start-ups and small businesses. We hold meetings (when necessary) at Starbucks overlooking the Pacific Ocean surf.

It is amazing how much you can accomplish in a day when you're not bothered by the minutia and frustrations that are the price of working for someone else in exchange for getting a steady paycheck. Your workday becomes very targeted. And if it's a nice day, there's always time to "smell the roses," go for a bike ride along the beach, or just take a break to reflect on life.

Don't get me wrong. Starting a business takes a lot of work. You will work harder and longer during the first couple of years than you ever did when employed by someone else. There will be victories and defeats. Some days you will wonder how you are going to pay the bills this month. You will learn and overcome adversities. You will grow. You will grow a lot!

But mostly it doesn't seem like work, because you are making your own decisions and building a future for yourself. You are your own boss. You get to be creative and test new ideas. And when you succeed, it brings a special sense of joy and satisfaction.

I look back over the past five years since launching my own consulting business and my only regret is that I didn't do it sooner. With the ugly economy and layoffs, maybe it's time for you too to take an entrpreneurial leap. One door closes and another opens. If you do your homework upfront and are prepared to dedicate yourself for a few years, you may find the rewards in both your business and personal life to be overwhelming.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Five Low-Cost Marketing Activities for Small Businesses during a Recession

With the recession gathering steam, 2009 looks to be a tough year for small businesses. Belt-tightening on marketing budgets is a natural reflex to diminished sales. However, it would be a huge mistake for a small business to shut down marketing in a recession because marketing is essential to surviving a downturn. And fortunately, there are effective marketing activities that can be conducted for little or no cost to help keep your sales alive.

Marketing promotion doesn’t have to cost a bundle to yield results. Some of the most effective marketing activities are inexpensive and require little more than investing your time to make them work for your business.

Here are five inexpensive marketing activities a small business can do to keep existing customers coming back while creating new ones:

  1. Fine-tune your Website. Go over your site from the perspective of a first-time visitor. Are visitors able to discern what your site is about and why they should do business with your company within the ten seconds that you have to capture their interest? Is the site easy to navigate – can visitors readily find what they are looking for? If your business is selling online, is the purchase process simple to use and fool-proof? Do you offer complementary items for sale during the checkout stage? And finally, have you at least performed basic search engine optimization by including meta, alt and header tags, as well as populating your page titles and textual content with keywords relevant to each page? If that sounds like gibberish to you, check out sites like www.WilsonWeb.com to get helpful non-techie site tuning tips. Take an hour or so to perform an audit of your Website – it will ultimately yield big returns for your business!
  2. Nurture your customers and prospects with a monthly email newsletter. Use “push” marketing through an email newsletter to stay in touch with your customers and prospects. Gain their ineterst by providing valuable information. This allows you to promote your products or services directly to potential buyers. Include incentives and create a sense of urgency. Insert click-through links to special pages on your Website that are germane to any offers or subjects promoted in the newsletter. Use low-cost ($30-$50 monthly online services like www.ConstantContact.com which offer professional newsletter templates and email list management. Just remember to “drip, drip, drip” on your clientele to remind them of the value your business provides.
  3. Include your Website address on all correspondence, especially business cards and emails. Add a tagline to emails under the signature block that promotes your business. For example, “World’s Largest and Most Affordable Supply of Custom Widgets.”
  4. Do press releases. These can be simple one-page releases announcing new products or services offered by your business, your latest achievements, new employees, management changes, new markets, discount programs, etc. – basically anything of public interest. Press releases are free advertising! Distribute them online to targeted geographical locations or audiences by using inexpensive services like www.PRWeb.com ($80). Don’t worry - these services show you how to set up the release. Make sure to include a link back to your site to provide interested readers with more information or drive traffic to an online sales funnel. And since online press releases get picked up by other Websites, newsletters and blogs as “filler content,” they help to create one-way links to your Website from a variety of complementary sites, thereby enhancing your search engine ranking. Don’t forget to mail your press release to local hard-print publications as well!
  5. Advertise weekly or monthly promotions on your Website and in your newsletter to generate new sales and keep your customers coming back. If appropriate, you can even get a unique Website address (e.g., BigSale-TailorMadeSuits.com) for about $10 that points to a page in your Website where the promotion is presented in detail along with possible online purchase options. You can also add this unique online address to flyers or small ads in your local paper or industry periodicals.

With a little effort, your small business can have an effective marketing program for minimal expense. And now is the time to try new things and learn new marketing skills while you may have some slack. If you master the above activities, they will continue to provide a foundation for inexpensive marketing once the economy recovers. So make an investment in your future by starting with just one of these proven marketing techniques. Then tackle the others. You will be surprised and pleased with the results!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Small Business Marketing During a Troubled Economy

Is there any doubt in your mind that we are entering a deep recession, perhaps the worse one since the Great Depression? How will your business survive this downturn? Bet that question has been keeping you up at night!

When the economy tightens, there is often a natural inclination among small businesses to cut costs across the board. This can be a healthy move. Certainly, there are business expenses you are now incurring that could be curtailed or eliminated. However, drastic cuts in marketing is not one of them.

In an economic downturn, continued marketing is key to survival. It's simple - without sales, you go belly up, and effective marketing generates sales even in a recession. The key to survival is to step back and re-orient your marketing dollars to activities which contribute to cost savings while still effectively maintaining visibility among targeted audiences.

For example, if you run ads in a trade periodical, just start running smaller ads if this medium is critical for your business. If you do television or radio ads, cut back to just those time slots that generate the most sales.

And most importantly, invest your valuable marketing dollars where you get "the most bang for the bucks." In good or bad times, this means placing an emphasis on Internet marketing. Why? Just consider:

  • Internet marketing reaches a worldwide audience on a 24x7 basis. And over 70 percent of people now surf the Internet when looking to buy a product or service. A Website and domain name costs about $60 annually. Figure another $1,000 to $6,000 (depending on complexity) to have an experienced pro develop a site for your business and optimize it for Internet search engines so it eventually bubbles up on the first or second page of Google for your keywords. This is a pretty cheap price to gain a worldwide sales vehicle that works around the clock for your business.
  • Flyers, direct mailings and hard-print advertising in newspapers and magazines are expensive...very expensive. On the other hand, online pay-per-click (PPC) advertising (when done right) delivers high-quality sales leads for pennies or a just a few dollars each. A typical medium-size newspaper ad might cost $600 or more for a short run. For the same amount, you could run PPC advertising for one or two months. Hard-print advertising is a shotgun approach whereas PPC advertising targets potential customers at the exact moment when they are looking for a product or service just like the one you offer. And, you are only charged when a prospect actually clicks on your PPC ad. Otherwise, it's free advertising! Plus your business gains immediate Internet visibility while your Website gains search engine ranking.

So don't cut your own throat by discontinuing marketing during this economic downturn. Rather, make your scarce dollars go further by shifting promotional activities to Internet marketing. But employ a professional to help your business. As many before you have discovered, you'll get results sooner, avoid costly pitfalls and save money overall.