Be Careful What You Wish For...
So I decided to beef up my profiles on some of the Social / Business Networking sites and I thought a good way to do that was to get some of my contacts to write testimonials for me.
In an effort to be efficient I sent out a request to ALL my contacts and asked them to write a little something about me. Well...many of them did and that pleased me very much.
Then came the surprise. I then got a prompt that said "now that this person has written something nice for you, it would be nice if you returned the favor and wrote something nice about them."
Now don't get me wrong, I was happy to do so and will always be happy to do so. The mistake I made though was that I sent it out to over 200 people in one shot. So when I got an abundant response I was now in the position of writing a large number of testimonials.
It took some doing but I was able to get it done in a timely manner and was happy to return the favor to all those who had done the same for me. But next time, I think I will do it in smaller chunks.
Go Video and Get The Message Out There...
A picture is worth a thousand words and a well done video can really drive the message on YouTube, your Website and your BLOG.
Updated Smarter Agent Information...
A while back I hosted a webinar with www.smarteragent.com and they had some great tools and services. Recently I took another peek at what they are up to and it is impressive.
One important piece of information I found out is that you may want to check with your MLS system. It seems that some MLS systems impose an additional fee to the agent for the data feed. One MLS was going to charge an agent an extra $35.00 / month to provide the data.
That aside, it is still a service that is worth looking into.
According to the Smarter Agent site...
"Smarter Agent’s mobile phone application allows consumers to view all available MLS listing information on homes for sale around them anytime, anywhere from the convenience of their cell phone, iPhone or BlackBerry. They can search for properties based on their GPS location, address, city, or zip code. The application shows them detailed MLS information, including price, beds/baths, taxes, estimated mortgage, maps and photos! When a consumer is ready to see a property they simply hit the "Call To See" button and they are routed directly to an agent. That agent could be you!"
You can find out more information and when they will be holding their next Webinar by clicking here and watch an informative Video by clicking here.
What Language Do You Speak...
When it comes to buyers / sellers who search on the web, do you you speak the same language they do?
Just like you when you browse the web, they are looking for information. Many times though, what I see agents providing is a testimonial to how wonderful they are or that the information isn't available without contacting the agent.
If your website has a customer registration and tracking system, send the customer the full MLS information for the listing that got them to register. If they visit your site again, send them the full MLS information of one of the last listings they looked at while they were there.
The key though is to not include a little personal message that you noticed they were on your site and thought they might want more information about the listing they looked at and that you would be more than happy to schedule a showing.
Why? The last thing you want to do is give the impression that you are monitoring them while they browse your site. It's one thing to think there is some automated system that is generating the email, it's another to think you are sitting on the other side of the screen.
Some websites other than your personal one that have your listings on them also provide forums where buyers / sellers can post questions that you as an agent can post a response to. If you are going to post a response, try answering the question.
So often I take a look at these forums and most of the responses are "Well it's hard to say without having more detailed information. Please contact me directly so I can provide you with the best possible answer." and that's it.
While that may be true, you could probably go just a little bit further and continue the answer by saying something like "In general the answer is...". Based on the feedback I have seen from buyers / sellers as well as agents who provide at least a general answer is that works best as far as getting a follow up contact from the potential customer.
I recently asked a Customer Service person at a store when a particular item might be back in stock and they told me while they were not sure, they were expecting a a truck on the 15th and to check back then. I was much happier with that answer rather than just being told they had no idea.
What is Flipping Pad...
According to their site ( www.FlippingPad.com )...
"It's important to create an open dialogue in the real estate "flipping" community to further progress responsible investing. Less get rich quick plans, more honest advice! We want to encourage real estate investment in ways that are sustainable for the community, the environment, and of course your own finances... Talking, sharing and communicating were immensely helpful when we got started. So, whether you're full-time or just interested in learning about investing, there is a place for you on the Flipping Pad."
So if you are looking for a website targeted to the real estate "flipping" community, it's at least worth a look at their home page.
Whole lotta scraping going on...
Ever been told by a client or peer that they saw you or your listings on a site you never heard of? Did you go there only to realize that not only did you not put the information there but in some cases it is wrong?
If so, you are part of the latest marketing craze. Companies are "scraping" data from websites and putting it on their own.
They get you to "claim" the data and even enhance it to some degree with a FREE account. Once you do that, they try to sell you an even more enhanced package.
The problem as I see it is that many of these companies do not take into account the many Rules and Regulations that you have to follow with regards to advertising and they don't keep the data up to date.
I have found clients on sites with their names not appearing properly and even listed with their old company with old contact information.
So who is responsible if and when a fine comes down and more importantly are you losing business?
Why I don't Like CraigsList...Anymore...
So now that everyone is posting their listings on CraigsList, the spammers have decided to ruin what was once a good thing.
Have you been getting emails that read something like...
"I am XXXXX with XXXXX Properties and I have been asked to contact you regarding a property that you currently have listed on Craigslist. Is this property still available? We are currently interested in purchasing real estate in your area and the property that you have listed seems to be a good fit.
If you are looking to place a tenant in the property, we also have the ability to rapidly place tenants into rental units.
We are however highly interested in your property and would like to work with you to reach a deal. Please visit our site and submit some basic info about the property as well as your contact # and I will get in touch with you ASAP. I am in the office on the weekend so I can call you pretty quickly.
Thanks and have a great weekend.
Property Aquisition Specialist
Well I have tried to contact these people and they don't respond. They are carpet bombing Realtors with these meaningless emails and aside from being annoying, they have made posting on CraigsList more of a hazard than a good marketing tool.
I have decided that the hassle now exceeds the benefit and unless a client insists their listing be posted there, the policy is to not bother.
Now there are markets where CraigsList is of great benefit and if it is really working for you then you should continue to post.
But if you are getting more junk than exposure I say move on to something else until such time that CraigsList figures out a way to clean up the mess that seems to be infecting an otherwise good service.
What Internet Home Shoppers Really Want...
Buyers and Sellers come to your site and are sometimes required to provide contact information to gain access to "VIP" services. So what do you send them?
My experience is that the following three things are the most effective.
Some sites have the ability to keep a record of what listings a customer may have been looking at. This is valuable information.
Depending on how detailed the information is, you should at least have town and price range. Sending them listings that match this basic criteria 2 - 3 times per week gives them a reason to come back.
People looking at Real Estate on the web probably visit any number of sites during a single session and may not save yours to their "Favorites". By delivering listings to their Inbox you are pushing content to them that they are hopefully interested in and reminding them of who you are.
Some people will opt-out or ask you to stop sending them emails but most will continue to visit your site.
Easy Way To Update Your Website...
Have you thought about installing the Twitter widget on your home page?
The agents and offices doing this are using it as an easy way to post upcoming open houses, just listed, just sold, just reduced and even information about community events to their sites.
Website visitors get easy access to information and are even able to follow updates via their own Twitter account.
It's also a great way to keep the content on your site from getting stale and another vehicle to make a connection with your web traffic.
Clicks - Impressions...Targeted Advertising...Where Is A Good Value...
By now many of you have put a face on your sphere using FaceBook, but have you thought about buying advertising on there?
I have thought about it and this week I started an ad campaign.
My ad has been running for some time it has worthwhile.
The interesting thing is how well you can target who gets to see your ad. You can choose demographics like age, gender, what groups people belong to and so on. I chose a Realtor related group for obvious reasons. As you set your demographics it tells you how many different people you can potentially reach.
The best part is the price for this exposure. My daily budget is $1.00 and my average CPM (cost per thousand impressions) is $0.25.
So lets say for example that you specialize in First Time Home Buyers in New Jersey. You can set the age to 25 - 35 and have your ad only shown to FaceBook users in New Jersey. Since your budget is only $1.00 / day you know the most your ad will cost and you can pause or stop it at any time. You could also use it to advertise a new listing or highlight a property you just sold.
I have seen a few Realtors advertising on there, but not many. Why is that? You are on there as a user and so are many of your friends and family. That being the case, it stands to reason that many of your potential clients probobly are as well.
Trulia Good Idea
I was checking some listings on www.trulia.com and I noticed that many of them state that if it is your listing, you can claim it. Turns out, you can set up a FREE account to claim your listings and even add additional contact information for yourself.
They also offer a paid service to enhance your presence even more on their site. That part is up to you whether it is worthwhile, but I would atleast suggest that you set up the FREE account and claim your listings. It really helps make them stand out and is yet another thing you can add to your listing presentation.
Trulia Good Idea - Follow Up...
A while back I wrote a Tech Tip telling you all to sign up for a FREE account on Trulia and Claim your listings so they could be better branded to you.
Since that time many of you have done just that.
Lately I have been getting asked more and more about the source of the data found on Trulia and how come some listings have the address shown and some don't. Some of this was brought about by you wanting to edit your listings and some of this was brought about by your clients asking why they appear the way they do.
Fact is, I don't know the entire answer as to where the data comes from and why their appearance is not consistant.
What I would urge you to do is take a closer look at how your listings appear on Trulia and if you have any questions about where the data comes from or why they appear the way they do, you should contact Trulia directly at email@example.com.
I am in no way trying to throw Trulia under the bus, nor am I passing the buck to you. However, they are your listings and you should have the answers to the questions and concerns that you have regarding their presence on any website.
SEO Made Easier and maybe even FREE...
There are many methods and companies ( including mine ) that have an idea of how to best get your website ranked in Search Engines. They ALL have their merits and the best advice I can give is to shop around, ask for examples and compare cost.
What I advise clients to do is run your domain through a Meta Tag Analyzer such as...
then make changes to the content of your home page and the content of the Title, Description and Keywords so that you get a 100% match.
Relevancy of your Meta Tags to the content of the page you are trying to maximize on your Search Engine Optimization is a key factor in moving your site up the rankings for the phrases you are looking to be found under.
You can also get from Google a custom Meta Tag that should be installed in your site by signing up for a FREE account at www.google.com/webmasters.
Once you are satisfied with the results of the Analyzer, you should then submit your site to Search Engines for consideration. You can go to each site and submit manually or you can use services like www.submitexpress.com which offers both a FREE and Paid method for having your site submitted automatically.
Take care not to submit too often as that can get you banned from a site. Not all sites will post your site or rank you very high right away. Some can take 60 days or even longer. Patience is the key here.
You may also want to take a look at some of the sites that come up on the first page of a Search. They are already ranked very high and it may be cost effective for you to have a presence on their site.
New Year Resolution Suggestions...
I have compiled a list of my Top 10 suggestions for New Year Resolutions.
Even if ( like most resolutions ) they don't last, have a Happy and Healthy New Year.
Depending on which MLS you put your listings into, they may not be all they can be on Realtor.com.
Some listings have maps and some don't. From what I can tell and from what I have been told, the common thread seems to be the MLS that the listing is in. It appears to have nothing to do with whether you have a paid program with them.
In some cases this may not cause a problem since your service area may only use one MLS and all the listings will look the same.
Many agents however work in areas where they put their listings in multiple systems and in these cases, it looks like some get maps and some don't.
So what do you tell your seller when they see that their home has no map and others do?
Check your listings on Realtor.com and if they don't have the map feature turned on, find out why. I have been told it's just a matter of some paperwork to get a map on all your listings.
Maximum Exposure with Minimum Effort
All the steps are important, but Step 8 will allow your listings to be found on a Google search. In some cases, it will result in multiple entries on page 1 of the Google results.
You Have an Assistant, But Are They Efficient?
Many agents have assistants. Some are part of a in house team and some are virtual.
Either way makes sense because your primary mission during the course of a given day is to list and sell real estate. The question is, how much of what they do is repetitive and are they making the best use of their time.
We are bombarded every day with new sites and services that offer to get you more exposure for not only your listings, but for you as well. It's easy to go to a convention and visit 50 booths and have every one tell you that all you need is one deal and it pays for itself. That's fine, but does that mean you have to do 50 deals to break even? Do you really need to do them all, or are 3 or 4 enough to get you the needed bang for the buck?
No one is to blame, many of these tools are very good and deliver the promised results.
I have been getting asked lately what the most efficient way of getting exposure is and what is working for other agents. I have also been getting asked how much is too much and when do you reach a point of diminishing returns.
In fact, I have even been doing private training seminars for assistants to help them cut through the clutter and get to the most efficient means of marketing while still being able to have a life.
All of my methods can be found in my Tip Archive which can be accessed via my home page at www.btsoom.info.
More than a question of how is a question of time. How much time do you or your assistsant need to spend to maintain your internet presence. It might be time to take a look at what you are doing and is it worth while or is it redundant. You may be surprised at what you find and you may even be able to save some money in the mean time.
Got an email from a client who wanted to know about Automatic Article Submission Software. Had not really given it much thought so I started researching it. This is where it gets interesting.
So I went to Google and started looking for articles about it and what I found was that most of the articles regarding the topic were in fact advertisements for the software itself. They were written with subject lines like "10 Reasons Why you Should Get Involved in Article Marketing" and they did have the 10 Reasons, but at the end was a little sales pitch about how a particular software or website could help you with writing and submitting your articles to over 1200 websites.
So I went back to Google to find the best FREE sites to submit your articles to and again I found articles titled "10 Best Free Sites To Submit Your Articles To" and they did have 10 Sites listed, but at the end was a little sales pitch about how a particular software or website could help you with writing and submitting your articles to over 1200 websites.
Do you see the pattern here?
In researching the topic I did find exactly the information I was looking for written by a company or individual who could help me take the next step and how to contact them.
As I see it, the lesson here is to make sure your listings are posted everywhere on the Internet as well as some well written and helpful to the consumer Real Estate related articles that are optimized for search engines to find as well. For example: Short Sale Information, Foreclosure Information, FSBO Information.
So where do I post these articles?
Assuming you have the time to write them, I would suggest your website and blog for starters.
I also found a site called www.ezinearticles.com that kept coming up in my search for Real Estate related articles. Now I did not sign up for a free account nor did I post any articles there. But I did find an interesting tutorial on how to set up your account and more importantly how to write a good, content rich and search engine friendly article that would include your sales pitch to come to your website. I don't know enough about their service to give it a thumbs up or down, but they did come up on the front page of Google when I was looking for content the way a home seller or buyer might.
I am sure that some sites are better or worse than others and you need to read the fine print before signing up for anything. This is the case no matter what you get involved in.
I am also somewhat suspicious of software or websites that make it "easy" to get published to over 1200 websites with a single click.
Pretend you are a consumer and go searching for information and see what comes up, do some research and if everything checks out submit an article to some other sources.
Where do you get the content for such articles?
You probobly already have tons of it. In your listing presentation, in binders or on CDs you have bought at seminars over the years or maybe you have already written some stuff and put it on your website or blog.
Consumers are not just looking for houses anymore, they are looking for information. If you can provide them with both you might just stay ahead of the competition.
Your Sellers Want to Know Where Their Listing is Online.
Sellers are becoming more and more concerned about how many websites their listing can be seen on.
"Will my listing be on...?"
The short answer and one that has been effective is that it will be on every major real estate company website that participates in IDX. That way you can counter the claim that more of your competitors lawn signs are seen in the area than yours.
I would even go so far as to print out copies of your listings from your competitors websites and have them as part of your listing packet. Better still, introduce them into the conversation before even being asked.
"Not only will your listing be on our website, but it will also be on..."
But beware. Some real estate portal sites get feeds from your website provider and some get the data from the mls. Before you go around bragging about how many sites your listings appear on, you better do two things.
Take the time, do some research and make sure that the listings appear corectly and that your listing packet is up to date.
Not only will this make your sellers happy, but it will make sure that buyers are able to find you and your listings and hopefully get you an offer.
You Can Get Them There, How Do You Get Them to Come Back?
There are plenty of great ideas and programs to get consumers to come to your website. Pay Per Click, Search Engine Optimization, Farming, etc.
The real trick isn't to get them to come to your site the first time, it's how to get them to come back. All you need to do is give them a reason.
Customers on the web want information and the easier you make it, the more likely they are to be loyal to you. So why not deliver to their Inbox instead of relying on them to come back to your site?
Not all real estate websites work the same way and some of the following features may not be available or enabled. If you are not sure, check with your webmaster or web consultant.
Even though the opt out rate may run about 25%, I believe these 3 steps to be mission critical when it comes to building consumer loyalty.
How Many Domains Do You Need?
Which is different than how many websites you need. Usually I encourage approaching that question from a couple of directions.
1: Branding a Niche or Name - The example here would be a targeted niche like "waterfront homes", getting a domain that speaks to that niche and buying the .com, .info, .net, etc. The thinking here is that you lock up a brand, can use the domain with different extensions as an easy way to track traffic and down the road you may be able to sell or pass along the brand. All point to your home page and your home page reflects that niche. ( as opposed to a jack of all niches and a master of none )
2: Create a Site within Your Site - No content is really bad content, so you should make the content of the interior of your site strong. For example, your home page could reflect that your service a region of the state, then create single or multiple page sub-sites with separate domains with specific information using blank pages within your existing site. Examples would be townhomes in a specific town, financing and foreclosure information, etc.
The lesson here is that you don't need to have multiple sites, you can spend far less money and just have multiple domains. Some people like to buy their name and that's ok, but drive bys looking at sign riders are more likely to remember a phrase than a name.
Go Google Yourself.
Why? Good question.
Just for fun I put a few agents names in Google to see what came up. No surprise that I found them. ( I was searching for their name )
What was interesting was the websites they were listed on and the contact information for how to contact them.
In many cases, the least of the things that were wrong was the company they worked for.
Over the years we have all signed up on a variety of websites and for a variety of services. Problem is in most cases, we don't go back and make updates when our information changes.
One of the agents said "but who does a google search using my name". My answer was, "I did".
So go Google yourself, see what comes up, make the necessary changes and get back to doing what you do best.
Get the Most Out of What is Available.
Just wanted to throw together a few random thoughts of how and where to get help with your business.
April Showers Bring Snow???
Nothing says a listing has been on the market for a while like snow shots or even worse, fall foliage. It's time to get back to some of your listings and freshen up the photos. This time of year is especially important because things are changing so fast. Even if snow is not in the picture, the grass is getting green and the trees and flowers are starting to come back. So get some new photos and give your listings an updated look. It will help them stand out and lets your sellers know you are on top of your game.
Sellers want to know...
You track how many visits you get to your website and you may even provide that information in your listing presentation. But do you keep your sellers informed of how many times their listing in particular has been looked at? I bet if you asked the seller, they would love to know.
An Easy Reach to the Roll.
In the years I have been working with real estate professionals, I have found one thread that seems to be common with all of them. They seem to take great care to use photos that present the best of what the home has to offer and write descriptions of the room that fit what is pictured, with one exception.
The bathroom photo always seems to have the “bowl” in the middle of the shot and yet they never mention if it’s “an easy reach to the roll” or if there is “ample room for a magazine rack”.
Every bathroom has a bowl and most have similar appearance and function. I am not often enough surprised to see a photo of the bathroom that features the vanity or walk in tub.
My personal opinion is that if the best feature of the bathroom is the bowl, then maybe the bathroom need not be featured in a photo.
This may not be my most serious tip I have ever sent out or generate any additional leads or income, it’s just an observation.
I guess the advice here is to try to take better care when taking photos of the property and try to present it in the best possible light. Viewing properties online is important to buyers and sellers and with all the talk about home staging lately, it might be important to stage the photos as well.
Google has a page set up to help you get your site better visibility on their search engine. It can be found at www.google.com/webmasters. You can easily set up an account and use the tools to make sure that you are getting the most out of optimizing your site for submission to their search engine.
Getting a Good Domain
"They" say all the good domains are already taken. Well I have never been sure who "they" are, but recent experience has proven that this is not the case. With just a little brain storming and a credit card, some really good domain names have been purchased lately. One of the pieces of advice I have been giving agents is to look for a good one that is available across the board and buy the .com, .net, .biz, .org, .info and .us. There are two reasons for this.
1. It creates a brand for you that may help you in getting business in your niche market.
2. It prevents someone else from buying the rest of the domains and using it themselves.
So give it some thought and see what's out there. Don't be so concerned with the length of characters since most of you are advertising online anyway. Think ouside the box ( I hate that phrase ) but who knew what a Google or Yahoo was not too many years ago. Sometimes you can add or subtract an "s". ( home instead of homes ) Add words "search" or "find" to the domain name that is already taken. Don't be afraid to buy what is available even if it is not the .COM. .INFO seems like a logical choice for a site to get real estate information.
Sometimes "they" want you to believe what "they" are saying because "they" have another agenda. (Like buying up all the good domains)
Get twice the exposure at the same price.
People on the Internet search in round numbers. ( i.e. 200 - 300 ) If you price your listing at $300,000, not only will people see it when they search 200 - 300 but they will also see it when they search 300 - 400.
Twice the exposure and the people who search from 300 - 400 are more likely to easily qualify for the mortgage.
I have more than one site, which one should I use?
The simple answer is the one that generates business. The problem is that both sites have features you want, but not necessarily the same ones.
The solution is to use the best features of each and even provide links from one site to the other.
Give your Listing it's Own Site Address.
Agents have started buying domains just for a particular listing. Usually it is the address ( i.e. 123mainstreet.com ) and having it forwarded to a page that just has that listing on it.
This can be useful in a listing presentation, on a listing flyer or in a print ad. No matter where you use it, make it prominent so customers can see it.
Buy a Domain Name and Advertise It
One of the things I do in my travels is look at the many print marketing materials that I see out in the field. One thing I have noticed is that the web address is either the default address you were provided when your site was built, or worse yet no address at all.
Domains are very inexpensive to buy and should be made prominent in all your marketing. I would suggest www.godaddy.com where you can purchase the Domain Parking option for a minimal cost.
Once purchased, it can be easily connected to your site. Detailed instructions can be found under the Domains section of the USER tab.
How About Some Low Tech For A Change...
Agents are always looking for ways to do things that are different from other agents. One of the most obvious places to make you stand out is when it comes time for a Thank You Gift.
Do you remember Balsa Glider Airplanes, Sock Monkeys, Slide Whistels, Teaberry Gum, Bonomos Turkish Taffy and Pop Rocks?
All these things are still available, but made regionally so you may not have seen them in some time.
At http://www.oldtimecandy.com you can get all of the above and so much more. They have Party Favors, Gift Baskets and boxes of assorted candy.
I bought an assortment box one year and everyone had great fun enjoying a piece of candy they had not enjoyed since they were a kid.
It's worth a look just to see what they have.
Some Feedback About Freedback...
Do you have a form on your website for visitors to fill out that is about 90% of what you would like it to be?
At http://www.freedback.com you can easily create your own form and embed it into your website. You decide what to ask, how to ask it and how much information is required to be filled out.
As with many products these days, they have FREE and PAID levels that offer a variety of options.
Once you create the form you copy and paste the HTML code into your site. Submission of the form returns your website visitor to the page they started on and has the option of displaying a "Thank You" page.
What's Under The BigTent...
www.bigtent.com is a site where you can create a private or public group for your organization.
It can be for your company, family or civic organization. The cost is FREE since they do have sponsors on the site. They don't allow just anyone to sponsor so the advertising you see is within the bounds of being ok to view by all age groups.
If you want to take a look without going through the steps of setting up a group, feel free to join mine. The public site is...
It is a work in progress as I just set it up last night. You won't find much in the way of content (yet), but hopefully it will grow over time.
You have seen the ads, been sent emails and read articles on SEO. Most companies promise big numbers and that they will get you on the first page of Google and other websites, but what are they REALLY going to do for you?
Anyone can get on the first page of Google for a particular phrase or multiple phrases by simply signing up for Google AdWords and swiping their credit card. It's so easy to do you probably won't even need to hire or pay anyone to do it for you and it only takes a few minutes.
Then there is the "we will submit your site to 1000's of search engines and directories every month for a set fee". In this case it is probably a better use of your time to pay them to do it as they already have the mechanism in place to easily do it and you have never heard of most of the sites where they will be listing your site.
Finally there are the companies who will write articles about you and your site, which is known as Article Marketing.
So where do you invest your time and money? A good place to start is by asking them to provide you with a sample report of the documentation they will provide to you about how well the marketing is working.
The problem is I can tell you that I placed an ad for you on a website and tell you that it is being seen by a million people everyday and how would you know any different. While being seen is good, you also want at least a few of the people who see it to actually visit your site.
So while they give you great numbers about "Impressions" and "Click Through Rates" is it really generating business for you and do you have an independant way to verify the numbers? That's really the problem and not all Agent websites have the ability to track the traffic coming in.
The next logical step in protecting you from the traffic dealers is for your website to have a way to identify the source of your traffic and even tell you what the person looked at and if they registered or requested information from you.
Google Analytics does a nice job of telling you where the traffic comes from and some agent website systems allow you to track the traffic source and even tell you which lead was generated by that source.
If your site has that ability, then you need to take advantage of it and make sure you are getting value from the money you spend. If not, you should talk to your website host about adding that feature.
The United States Department of Agriculture has a number of programs available for people in Rural areas with regards to homeownership.
Single Family Housing - Direct Loan Program, Loan Guarantee Program, Mutual Self-Help Housing Program and Home Repair and Preservation.
Multi-Family Housing - Rental Assistance Program.
If you want to read more, you can visit www.rurdev.usda.gov/rhs/common/indiv_intro.htm.
Training classes are something I encourage everyone to attend when they have the time. But are you really getting the most out of the classes you attend?
I used to find myself in the position of either going to the same class a second time a few months down the road or having some remorse about not having received as much benefit from the class when I attended it the first time. Why is that?
The problem 99% of the time is not the format or the instructor, but rather my preparation for the class. I did not do my homework prior to class day and ended up wasting time and money. So how do you prepare for a training class?
The best advice I can offer is to learn as much about the topic of the class as possible prior to actually taking the class. It does not matter if the class is about software you will be running on your computer, a web based program or even your website. Take the time to struggle through learning how to use as much of it as you can prior to going to the class. Why is this important?
You are spending the day with an expert who can answer questions on how to get the most out of the topic of the class. The best use of that time is to ask questions that will take you to "the next level" instead of being lost in the basic set up and functions.
Since most classes are designed to help as many people as possible, you will most likely have a lot of information thrown you way. Not only can't you do it all, you may not even need to.
Many times I talk to other people in the class who are feeling overwhelmed by the first break. If you go into the class thinking you have to learn and then do it all, you will most likely learn and do little. Try to pick five or less "to do" items that fit well with your style of doing business and focus on them.
Remember that the purpose for you taking the class is to enhance your ability to use the tools you have available to you and make you more efficient. Coming home overwhelmed and frustrated is not going to be of any benefit to you or your clients.
What Happened To My Domain...
So you have your domain set up to auto-renew and your domain registrar has your credit card number. So what could possibly go wrong?
Well ( as I found out this weekend ) there could still be a problem.
My domain, email and website were all set to renew automatically on Friday night so I went to sleep feeling sure that all was well. When I woke up Saturday morning everything was down and I was left twisting in the wind until first thing Monday morning when I was able to get in touch with someone in the billing department to get it sorted out.
The short answer to what went wrong was "zero". That's right, the number zero. Somehow the billing information on my account was all correct except that my billing zip code was "8087" instead of "08087" and when my hosting company tried to renew my service, it was declined by my credit card company.
So if your domains / websites or other services that are mission critical to your business are set to auto-renew, you may just want to get a jump on things and make sure they do.
I was lucky, but I know of other people who were less fortunate.
I once worked with an agent who owned a domain for 10 years and because it failed to auto-renew and they did not realize it in time, someone else was able to buy the domain. The agent was able to buy it back from the new owner, but they paid a premium price for it.
Another agent allowed a domain to expire and it ended up being pointed to a porn site.
Domains are cheap, but the money you invest in creating consumer awareness of them runs into hundreds and thousands of dollars each year.
Protect your investment by consolidating your domain renewal dates, where they are registered if you have them at several registrars and put reminders into your PDAs and on your fridge if necessary to stay on top of this.
As I am writing this I am thinking to myself that I might sound like an alarmist. That is until I remember the sinking feeling I had Saturday morning when everything was down.