1. Allocate Marketing Resources Effectively
How should you allocate your marketing resources—your time, energy, effort, and your marketing budget? The key is to find just the right balance in marketing to three groups: existing clients, prospective clients, and the broader market.

Without question, your best source for new consulting work is from your existing clients and the referrals they can provide. Your current clients should generate the largest share of your profits, so plan to allocate 60% of your marketing efforts to your existing clients.

Prospective clients represent the next generation of work for your practice. Your goal is to convert prospective clients into paying ones—if they fit your targeted client profile and have problems that you can solve. Commit 30 percent of your marketing resources to win work from this group.

It’s always important to maintain visibility in the broader market. This includes everybody in the business world not represented in the two groups above. Invest 10 percent of your marketing resources in the broader market. Focusing on this group is less efficient, but the effort has the potential to generate important contacts and leads.

The 60/30/10 percentages are rules of thumb, and are not set in concrete. If you’re just starting a practice, you’ll expend more of your marketing efforts attracting prospective clients. As your practice grows, move toward the 60/30/10 percentages.

2. Create a Plan You Can Stick to
Marketing literature is full of advice on building a marketing plan, so if your eyes are rolling about now, bear with me. The fact is, the most potent weapon to battle feast or famine is a long-range marketing plan that’s realistic, will achieve your goals, and has your buy-in.

Where do you want your practice to go? What clients do you want to work with? What sets you apart from other consultants?

Without a real plan that addresses those questions, your marketing will always be a hit or miss proposition. You might make time for marketing when it’s convenient, but you will put it aside when more in-your-face activities overwhelm your schedule.

The most effective marketing plan is short—seven sentences to be exact. It should fit on a single page. Feel free to add as much detail as you’d like, but begin with the basics. Even if you already have a marketing plan, try to re-craft it using these seven points:

  • Explain the purpose of your marketing.
    What results will you achieve for your practice through your marketing efforts? Maybe you want to increase your market visibility, attain a certain market share in your industry, develop new business with existing clients, or launch a new service offering.
  • Explain how you achieve that purpose by articulating the benefits you provide.
    Why are your services needed? Why should clients choose you instead of a competitor? Spell out the substantive value you provide for clients.
  • Describe your target market(s).
    Who do you want to reach with your marketing message? You might, for example, target specific industries, segments within an industry, or a particular business function, like Human Resources.
  • Describe your niche.
    What’s your specialty? Maybe you excel at improving employee productivity through training programs, or helping clients retain their best people by implementing career development programs.
  • Outline the marketing tactics you will use.
    How will you convey your message to your target market(s)? Select the marketing tools you’ll use, such as publishing, publicity, speaking, or direct mail, to name a few.
  • Define the identity of your practice
    How do you want clients to think of you—collegial, objective, analytical, creative, tough, collaborative, results-oriented, or generous with ideas? Identify the culture and reputation of your practice.
  • Quantify your marketing budget
    How much will you invest in marketing? You can specify a dollar amount, or you can commit a percentage of revenue from the business to marketing activities.

The process of creating your marketing plan will force you to make choices about the future of your business and about how to allocate your time and resources, especially if you are serious about achieving the objectives you’ve described in your plan.

3. Build a Marketing Road Map
Have you ever been convinced that you knew where you were going only to find out that you were totally lost? When you’re lost, looking at a map—assuming you have one—can quickly get you back on track. A Marketing Road Map spells out the details of how and when you will implement your marketing plan to steer your marketing activities in the right direction.

Preparing your Marketing Road Map is a strategic and tactical activity. It begins with your ideas on how to present your practice to the market and sets a precise schedule for each marketing activity on your plan. Your Marketing Road Map will always show you where you are and what you need to do to arrive at the future you’ve designed in your marketing plan.

You should derive energy and enthusiasm from your marketing plan and Road Map to keep you driving toward your goals—in spite of the fires raging in the short-term.

4. Be Consistent
The most successful consultants know that marketing is a continuous process. Marketing success is about creating momentum through consistent action over a sustained period of time. You must be the constant force behind that process.

Once you have momentum, it’s easier to lose than it is to maintain. Stop paying attention to your marketing activities and you’ll lose your hard-won marketing gains—you’ll have to start from scratch.

How much time is enough to maintain your momentum? Opinions vary, but try to spend a minimum of 20% of your time on marketing your practice. Variations of this rule are everywhere, so assess your own situation. But keep at it, no matter what.

You should schedule marketing time at the beginning of every month and every week. Treat your marketing “appointments” with yourself like client time: It’s uninterruptible, unless there’s an emergency. Reserve marketing time on your calendar and watch your market presence and success grow.

The consulting business can seem like a roller-coaster ride, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Keep your practice in the mind’s eye of your targeted clients, no matter how busy you are serving others. That will smooth out the ups and downs and pay dividends down the road. Take time every week to advance the visibility of your business, and you’ll experience continual feasts—without the famine.

by Michael W. McLaughlin

Less than $1000. Only eight-tenths of an inch thick. Speaking at the Computex trade show in Taipei, Intel Executive Vice President Sean Maloney promised forty percent of the consumer laptops built around Intel’s chips will fit that description by the end of 2012. Maloney calls the new category of machines “ultrabooks.”

The obsession with thin and light is part of Intel’s effort to blunt the threat posed by the ARM-based processors built by Nvidia, Qualcommand Texas Instruments that dominate today’s smartphones and tablet computers.

Lower power notebook processors will let computer makers build machines that look much more like today’s smart phones and tablets than yesterday’s notebook computers. Think of Apple‘s MacBook Air as a peak at what’s to come: components such as bulky fans will be left behind.

Server farms built to support all these new devices, meanwhile, will thrive. At least, that’s what Intel is hoping. Maloney figures one Intel-based server will be needed for every 600 new smart phones or every 122 new tablets hooked up to the Internet.

To get there, Intel has put its processors on a crash diet. A new wave of new laptops, such as the ASUS UX21 built around the company’s 2nd generation Core processors will arrive by year-end.

Meanwhile, Intel will be working on a new generation of laptop processors. During the first half of 2012, new “Ivy Bridge” will arrive during the first half of next year, and will rely on a new manufacturing technology that will create processors with features as little as 22 nanometers wide.

In 2013, a new generation of processors, code-named “Haswell,” will slash the amount of power consumed by notebook processors to half of those on the market today.

Intel will also continue to push its Atom processors — now found chiefly in cheap ‘netbook’ computers — into smaller and smaller devices.

Atom will be hustled from Intel’s 32nm manufacturing process to its new 22nm process and then its 14nm process within 3 successive years, Maloney said.

That should let these chips do more work, using less power, as Intel looks to push into the heart of the tablet and smartphone market.

Intel’s next-generation netbook platform, codenamed “Cedar Trail,” based on Intel’s 32nm manufacturing process, will result in netbooks with more than 10 hours of battery life and “weeks” of standby time, Intel asserts.

Maloney also showed off more than ten tablets running Intel’s Z670 Atom processor Monday, with Intel boasting 35 design wins for the processor.

Later this year, Intel will introduce Medfield, and Maloney showed off a Medfield-based machine running Google’s Android 3.0 “Honeycomb” tablet software.

Tablets built around the new chip should arrive during the first half of next year.

Written By: Brian Caulfield

Not a Real Estate example, but contains great thoughts around where to focus your energy with your clients.

by Dave Carlson

My client Jerry was threatening to sue. Worse, my programmer was dragging his feet and didn’t see the seriousness of Jerry’s threats. I was on the phone with Jerry for hours at a time.

The custom ordering system we designed for Jerry’s web site needed some small changes that really weren’t affecting the performance of his site. Jerry kept saying that the whole system was flawed and that it needed to be completely redone. However, he already had more than 600 sales adding up to more than $100,000. What to do?

We eventually got all the problems fixed but Jerry ended up having the site and ordering system redone by another company so Jerry was now out of my hair. Was this a good thing or a bad thing?
Customer retention is crucial in all businesses and handling ticked off customers is a part of growing great long-term relationships. Sometimes you choose not to retain a customer even if they are happy with the work you’re doing. The time and energy they cost you isn’t worth the money you make from them.

Hire and Fire Clients Judiciously
Reflecting on the situation with Jerry, I probably shouldn’t have ever taken him as a client because he smelled of trouble from the outset. The first time I came into Jerry’s shop he was arguing with a customer while I waited. He was unbending and wasn’t willing to make concessions.

Malcolm Gladwell writes of this in his book, “Blink”. We need to be aware of when something doesn’t feel right and do something about it before getting in too deep. I should have just walked. Advertising guru David Ogilvy proudly admitted that he fired more clients than fired him.
It takes bravado and diplomacy to drop a client, especially if they are a big source of income. You have to weigh the headaches they cause with the checks that are deposited in your bank account. Are they worth it?

Setting Expectations Early and Realistically
I lost another client around the same time because I did not set expectations. Daniel and I had more of a friendship than a client/vendor relationship. He looked and smelled like a good client, but I realized later that he was a problem. He took a lot of my time and had too high of expectations for the work we were doing for the price he was paying.

If you have a friendship with a client, you still have to set strong boundaries with them. You communicate your expectations and bill them accordingly for the work you do. It’s easy not to bill for your time if someone is a friend. You have to set the expectation that you will be billing them for all the work that you are doing for them.

Don’t Let Problems Fester
Daniel and I had a blow up when he misunderstood something that I had written in one of my blogs. He wrote me a strong email that I reacted to in kind by email. If he had read the blog or clicked on the link in the posting he would have seen I had great intentions.

And the blog wasn’t even about him-there was just a link on the side of the page pointing to his site.

If I could go back in time I would have waited a day or two to cool down. Then I would have written an email explaining my writing and suggested talking face-to-face or by phone. Live and learn.

Hire Skilled, Responsible People to Handle Your Client’s Work
My problem was I was trying to do everything myself, and things were falling through the cracks. Now I tell my clients to communicate their web site changes directly to the designer and they will be billed accordingly. That way changes don’t get stuck in my In Box.

Make the Hand-off Easy
If the client chooses to leave or you fire the client, make the transition as smooth as possible. Provide all the files and information they need to move forward if that is the nature of your business. Even if the break up is hostile, make a point to be civil and professional. They may never return as a client, but they may not badmouth you if things end more positively. Daniel got a new company to work on his sites, and I made the transition as smooth as possible for him. I doubt I will ever have him as a client again, but I needed to know in my heart that can make the transition easy for the next person.

Work To Save the Good Clients
Okay, you have a client who pays well and is worth keeping. Now is the time to go out of your way to save the relationship. You have to admit you did something wrong and make amends.

My client Scott didn’t know some of the work we were supposed to do for him was done. But I knew. I took the risk of telling and then also told him that we would do work for him during the following month at no cost to him. It cost me $600 but it was worth keeping Scott as a client.

Handling ticked off clients is all about doing crisis management, and then deciding how far you will go to keep them as a client. You may choose to give up peacefully and let them go, or you can fight to keep them. Sometimes you have no choice. But when you have the choice and want to keep them as a client, do all you can to make things right. They may represent many more years of income.

6 ways buyers can boost qualifying income

Borrowers without the income required to qualify for the mortgage they need have many possible options. “Income adequacy” is governed by general guidelines that can be adjusted to meet individual circumstances. It is “softer” than the down payment requirement, discussed last week.

Maximum debt-to-income ratio

The measure of income adequacy most often used is the sum of the monthly payment on the new mortgage, plus property taxes, homeowners insurance and other debt payments, divided by income. The maximum ranges from 40 percent to 43 percent, but underwriters have discretion to accept higher requirements if they believe that circumstances justify them.

Debt payments are those that extend beyond the next six months and are not deferred for a year or longer. This includes HELOCs and other revolving credits, credit card debt that you don’t pay off at month-end, student loans, and alimony and child support payments.

Repairing inadequate income

The obvious way to repair inadequate income is to earn more, but there are also ways to make your existing income count for more. One way is to convince the underwriter that you can safely devote a larger proportion of your income to housing expense than is typical for someone in your income bracket. The best (perhaps the only) way to do that is to document that you have done it in the past — either as a past homeowner or as a renter.

Another repair could be to induce the underwriter to count income that would ordinarily be disregarded because of a presumption that it won’t continue. You rebut that presumption by presenting evidence to the contrary. Such evidence could be historical data showing that the income has in fact been generated over a considerable period. Or the evidence could be forward-looking testimony by someone in position to have knowledge of your prospects, such as your employer. Here are some examples:

  • If your income has recently increased, obtain a written statement from your employer explaining the reason for the increase and that it is likely to continue.
  • If your income has recently decreased, obtain a written statement from your employer explaining the reason for the decrease and why it is likely to be temporary.
  • If you want overtime, commission bonus and/or part-time income to be counted, document that you have received it for two years, along with a statement from your employer that it probably will continue.
  • If you are in the military and want to claim pay above base pay for your rank (jump, hazard, special assignment, etc.), and/or housing, base and food allowances, provide an explanation of why they will continue. If you are deployed, explain in writing that your pay stubs do not match your W-2s because you have been deployed to a war zone and that your income is not taxed.
  • If you have investment income from an unusual source that you believe to be stable, put your reasons in writing along with data on investment performance.

Borrowers qualifying with business income are subject to much more complicated rules that require a separate column.

Using the income of others near and dear

Co-signers: A co-signer assumes responsibility for payment of a debt in the event that the borrower doesn’t pay. However, co-signing on a mortgage is severely restricted, with the result that it is not much used.

Non-occupant co-borrowers: FHA allows a borrower to include the income of non-occupant co-borrowers who are close family members or can demonstrate a long-standing relationship with the primary borrower. That means that parents who want to help their children become homeowners can do it by becoming co-owners and co-borrowers. The loan amount must fall within FHA limits for the specific area, and the parents must meet the same underwriting requirements as the primary borrower.

Participating investors: Non-occupant co-borrowers are not allowed on conventional loans, but willing parents can become participating investors in a purchase classified as an investment rather than for occupancy. For the parents, being participating investors is the same as being non-occupant co-borrowers, since in both cases they are part owners, liable for the debt, and they must meet the same underwriting requirements as the primary borrower.

In most cases, mortgages on investment properties require 20 percent down, and are priced 0.75 percent to 1 percent higher than comparable loans to permanent occupants.

Reducing debt payments

If the debt-to-income ratio is swollen by large monthly debt payments, there may be ways to reduce the payments. Borrowers who have a 401(k) can borrow against it and use the proceeds to pay down other debt. Loans from 401(k) are not included in the debt ratio. Reducing debt payments by extending maturities is an option that should be exercised with care because longer-maturity debts usually have higher interest rates.

By Jack Guttentag
Inman News™

by Kelley Robertson

Prospecting is a key selling skill and a critical skill to develop if you want to increase your sales and achieve long-term success in sales. Yet, most sales people don’t invest enough time to this integral sales strategy. Part of the problem is that very few companies teach sales reps how to prospect. Here are five prospecting best practices for you to consider.

Allot a specific amount of time every day/week or month.

When my wife first started her software training business, our accountant said, “Devote a certain amount of time every week looking for new business.”

Prospecting is not a fun activity, at least not for most people. However, the more time you consistently invest prospecting for new business the more likely it is that you will never suffer from a sales slump. That’s why it is imperative that you block time in your calendar each and every week to prospect for new business.

Do you schedule prospecting time into your calendar every week?
Use a variety of methods to prospect for new business.

Too many sales people take the same approach week after week. Although they may generate good results it is critical that you use multiple methods and approach to uncover new business leads. Are you using enough prospecting methods to generate ample sales leads for your business?

Develop a powerful introduction.

The majority of sales people fail miserably at this. I recall talking to a person I met at a networking event and after a fifteen minute conversation, I still had no idea of what she did or what service she provided to her clients.

Jeffrey Hayzlett, former CMO of Kodak suggests that you have 18 seconds to capture someone’s attention and an addition 100 seconds to convince them why they should continue a conversation or schedule a follow-up call or meeting.

Is your introduction powerful enough to capture the attention of new prospects?

Master all types of media including; telephone, email, text, direct mail, social media

Today’s business offers many more ways to communicate with prospect which makes it easier AND more complex to connect with new prospects. This means you need to be able to communicate effectively in more mediums than before.

* Does your voice mail message help you stand out from your competition?
* Can you send an email that compels your prospect to respond?
* Do you know how to write an effective sales letter?
* Are you utilizing social media to connect with your prospects?

Create a compelling value proposition.

The vast majority of sale people simply do not create a compelling reason why someone should do business with them or buy their product or service.

Their voice mails messages, emails and sales pitches sound like everyone else’s and do little to compel a prospect to return their call, respond to their email, or call them back after a sales presentation.

Is your value proposition valuable enough to compel your prospect to want to talk to you?

Consistent and effective prospecting can make the difference between average sales and great sales results. If you are serious about increasing your sales, make the effort to apply the strategies into your daily and weekly sales routine.