10 Tasks to Outsource to a Virtual Assistant

Image of man on headset.There’s plenty of wisdom in this article on Entrepreneur.com about the ways you can leverage your time and lower your stress with virtual assistants.

Allow us to play virtual assistant and give you a heads-up on how the most successful out there are clearing their calendar of humdrum grunt work:

1. Bookkeeping: ”Many small businesses choose to share their bookkeeping systems with their virtual assistants who can then follow up on tasks such as outstanding invoices or unpaid bills.”

2. Online research: ”Common requests include finding information on corporate websites, exploring new products and vetting potential employees or business contacts.”

3. Database entries: ”Whether it’s a slew of new business cards picked up at a conference or updated information for existing contacts, keeping databases current is a suitable task for virtual assistants.”

4. Data presentations: ”Turning raw data into a clear PowerPoint presentation or summarizing research findings in a Word document can be a huge timesaver.”

5. Managing email: ”Some virtual assistants will filter your most important emails and respond to the rest on your behalf.”

6. Social tasks (cards, thank you notes…)

7. Travel research: ”A great resource for finding hotels, booking airfares and mapping out trip itineraries both for business and pleasure.”

8. Scheduling: ”Tasks include dealing with meeting invitations from others, scheduling appointments with clients and helping to plan events.”

9. Chasing new business: ”Prioritizing potential business opportunities can be challenging, but virtual assistants can help with the process.”

10. Industry knowledge preparation: ”With limited time to keep up with industry news, some small businesses have turned to virtual assistants to keep tabs on the most important happenings.”

For a detailed look at each of these 10 areas, read the entire article on Entrepreneur.com:


Focus on Your ‘B.U.T.’

It’s that time of the year again to focus on your “B.U.T.” – or Best Use of Time. It is amazing to me how many people will track their marketing dollars from the previous 12 months to see what actually worked and what didn’t, but won’t invest the energy to track their most invaluable resource of all… their time.

Time is your most valuable resource because it is the only thing that you can’t get back. If I lose money, I can gain it back. If I lose time, it is gone forever. We only get a certain amount of it. Think about that for a second – but not too long because you don’t want to waste any time.

Your best use of time has been the activities that you have done that have brought you the greatest return. Not just from a profit standpoint, but also from the perspective of what has brought you the most joy and peace in the last 12 months. I think we all can agree that we operate more often at our peak potential when everything seems to be in order in our personal lives as well.

That is why it is important to understand that, just like our cars need to be refuled and have the occasional tune up, we too need the same kind of maintenance if we expect to get the most out of ourselves. That may mean more time with your children or spouse, a renewed commitment to exercise or just time alone to read or pray on a regular basis. For each person it may be different.

Having said this I recommend that you write down your top four best uses of time from the last year and instead of trying to implement 10 new strategies or tools into your business – just get better at what you already do well and scale those!

I wrote last week about how your sphere of influence doesn’t make you money. It is actually all of the things that you did or continue to do that build your sphere of influence that make you money. The key is not to reinvent the wheel or completely change your business model. The key is to figure out what you are already doing well, what are your top four best uses of time are and increase your efforts in those areas in the coming year – and at least one of your best uses of time should have nothing to do with your profits in business at all!

Jared James is the CEO and Founder of Jared James Enterprises

Email Error or Bouncback- Mailer Daemon

When you get a “Failed Delivery” email from MAILER-DAEMON or a Mail Delivery Subsystem, it means a message you sent was undeliverable, and has been “bounced” back to you.

Bounced messages normally consist of two parts:
The first part contains the reason for the bounce.
The second part contains your original message. That’s convenient, because Failed Deliveries usually happen when you mis-typed a person’s email address. If that’s the case, you can simply copy and paste your message from this second part, and re-send it.

Double-check the spelling of the address you entered. A single incorrect letter or number will cause a failed delivery.

Incorrect Domain
If the person to whom you’re trying to send an email uses Yahoo! Mail under a domain other than .com (for example, yahoo.au or yahoo.com.sg), ensure that you’ve entered that domain correctly. Email addresses that incorrectly end with @yahoo.com won’t automatically be re-routed to the country you’re hoping to reach.
This error accounts for many failed deliveries.

Their Account
If you’ve verified the address and you continue to receive failed delivery messages, the other person’s account could be having problems, or a filter on their end could be blocking your messages.

Over quota
If the second part of a “Failed Delivery” message says,
“This user is over quota”
then your recipient has used up all the space in their email account. Call and ask them to delete some emails so your message can get through! :o)



FIVE Tips to Cease Your Time Wasting Habits

by Anne Bachrach

The only way to get more time in your day is to work faster or work smarter. Most of us are already working as fast as we can without sacrificing quality. These tips for eliminating time-wasting habits can help you work smarter.

It seems like the world is running at such an accelerated speed that we barely have any time to catch our breath. We start the day running out the door at full tilt; only keep going until we crash into bed from exhaustion. Then we get up and do it all over again day after day. The weekends don’t seem to offer much relief either, because we have soccer practice, ballet recitals and business social events. While most of us would consider ourselves effective time managers, few of us actually are.

We’re constantly on the go and can accomplish a lot in one day, so we must be effective time managers, right? Wrong.

In the ever increasing rat race that we run to impress our boss and maintain job security (or turn

business profits so we can pay ourselves), all the while making time for our family; we find ourselves suffering from sheer exhaustion trying to create more hours in the day so we can get everything done we need to do. At some point, you have to concentrate on only what’s important to your success and sanity. It’s a process that all successful business owners and professionals find themselves having to learn, in order to focus their energy on the most important things. All the miscellaneous stuff that consumes your time with little or no return eventually must be eliminated from your schedule.

The bottom line is that anyone who has a demanding career or runs their own business has to practice excellent time management, effective delegation and learning to say the word, “No.” It’s just not possible to maintain the simple life while achieving a high level of success. And with today’s technology, it’s harder to hide when you need a break. Your email inbox is dinging, your cell phone is ringing and your spouse is trying to call you on the car phone because your cell line is busy. It is at this point that you have to filter the input so you can begin to regain control over your life. As good as you think you may be with your time management; there are always “time-wasters” that can be eliminated from your daily life. Let’s review some practical tips:

Time-Wasters Tip #1

Regarding your work email – how much time do you spend typing and replying to emails each day? More than an hour? Two? Four or more? Now, ask yourself how much of your time is spent on essential emails? And by essential emails I mean, emails that are directly related to the execution and completion of your job. Think about how many emails you receive that do not require your response and think about the percentage of non-essential emails you could eliminate from your inbox each day. It is estimated that only 10% to 20% of emails that most people get at work each day require their attention and are essential to their job. Even if you estimate that 50% of the emails you receive are considered essential that stills leaves 50% that are time-wasters.

If you are spending the majority of your time on non-essential email, do whatever you can do to either delegate or eliminate needless email. You could have an assistant filter your emails to eliminate time spent on non-essential emails or you send a polite request to your email contacts to be removed from non-essential bulk emails lists. The goal is to spend as close to 100% of your time devoted to essential email only.

This goes for personal email as well. If you are spending valuable time scanning chain, spam and video of the week emails – it’s time to re-prioritize. Your time would be better spent in the gym – working – or with your family. It’s OK to ask your friends to remove you from their bulk email list, and a courteous request will go a long way.

Time-Wasters Tip #2

Another popular time-waster is watching TV. This is one of the hardest habits to break – but there is simply much more effective ways to spend your time. Unless you’re on vacation, turn the TV off. Besides, removing the exposure to devastating and negative news will greatly benefit your outlook on life and help you sleep better at night. Don’t believe me?

Try it for a week and see if you notice improved sleep and reduced nightmares.

Think about things that you would prefer to do during the time that you would normally spend watching TV. Maybe it’s playing a board game with your family, sharing the hot tub with your spouse, reading a ‘fun’ book, getting a massage, or doing yoga. Make a list of the things you would like to do if you had some of that TV time back and arrange them in order of importance. The ones that make you feel the best should go at the top of the list and should be the first thing you do when you create the time.

Time-Wasters Tip #3

Reduce time-wasters by creating a To-Do List for the following day the night before. Writing a To-Do List before you go to sleep every night will help your mind run through the day and organize it. While you’re sleeping, your brain is organizing how to create successful outcomes for the next day‘s tasks. If you give it a task, it will figure out a way to complete it successfully – and be more focused on success supporting actions instead of time-wasters. Prioritize everything on the list so if you don’t have time for everything, you at least get the most important items done (I didn’t say the easiest to do).

Time-Wasters Tip #4

If you have an assistant at work, evaluate if there are additional tasks you can delegate to them. Have your assistant look through your email, screen phone calls or walk-ins, schedule all appointments, or research something you need more information about. When working with my clients, I’m amazed and how each one of them doesn’t utilize their assistants or team to the fullest extent – whatever you can delegate to free up some time – do it.

If you are self-employed, find an assistant! For non-essential delegation, you can hire a college student at a reasonable rate. For vital tasks, stick with professionals. What you don’t want is to suffer the negative consequences of trying to hire an inexperienced worker for a professional’s job – it will end up costing you more time and energy in the end. If you have young adults in the house, offer a part-time job to one or more of your kids; just be sure to establish firm ground rules and expectations. Hire an experienced virtual assistant to help you part-time or full-time. There are many good people out there if you can live with them not being physically located in your office. Again, the goal is to minimize and reduce the time-wasters that are demanding your attention, but not delivering big payoffs.

Time-Wasters Tip #5

Last, but not least you have to learn to say “No.” You cannot always take care of everyone else and if you spend more than half your day on the phone, you’ve got to figure out a way to scale back. Sure, many of us go to the store, make dinner, drive and dress our kids while we’re talking on our cell phone, but spending more than 4 hours a day on the phone is taking away from other valuable opportunities. It is literally impossible to be focused 100% on more than one task simultaneously and if you’re multi-tasking while talking on your phone – someone or something is missing your full attention.

If you feel compelled to give back and want to be involved in good causes and volunteer projects that make you feel good, you can always do this at a later time. However, if you are short on time and still in the process of building your business or career, you can still contribute money and save your time for when you have the improved leverage to do so. Many of us just don’t know how to say “No” when someone asks because we care. You can still care and say “No” and find another way to contribute without sacrificing your success.

The goal is to slow down and be focused on the highest pay-off activities that will produce the results you desire in the timeframe you want – personally and professionally. The goal is not to figure out how to move faster. It’s impossible to create more hours in the day and it’s simply not healthy to run at full tilt constantly. Learn how to eliminate the time-wasters in your life to improve your quality of life and success.

Next Generation Buyers: Savvy, Sophisticated and Ready to Buy

[1]If you want to know who will push the economy forward in coming years, look no further than Generations X and Y. The Generation X and Y age group, ranging from 18-48 is 103 million strong making them a group of consumers and eventual homebuyers that will make a major impact on the market.

I had the opportunity to listen in as Sherry Chris, President and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate spoke at the 2012 NAR REALTORS® Conference and Expo about the buying habits of Generations X and Y.

Below is an excerpt and my key takeaways from her presentation and the details surrounding a recent survey released by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate.

Distinct Traits of Gen X and Y

In a 2012 survey released by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate and conducted by Wakefield Research, Generations X and Y were revealed to have distinct traits and characteristics, molded by the era and technology-driven world they grew up in. However, not all of their beliefs, including a motivation to save before buying, are that much different than earlier generations of consumers.

With that said, there are stark differences between generations due to the pervasiveness of the Internet. Compared to previous generations, Generations X and Y consider themselves more knowledgeable because of the availability and accessibility of information through online tools and websites. They embrace technology and are very willing to put in the time it takes to sufficiently research location, community and home specifications before making a purchase decision.

The survey also found that 77 percent of Generation X and Y Americans feel that the increased media coverage surrounding the real estate industry over the last six years has improved their knowledge about home ownership.

This enhanced understanding has been defined by the major economic events or shifts that have taken place within the real estate market. While the oil crisis of the 1970’s had a profound impact on Baby Boomers, Generations X and Y have formed opinions based on the housing downturn. This coupled with an insatiable appetite to learn and thereby make informed decisions, causes the average Generation X or Y consumer to delve deeply into the risks and rewards before they commit to buying.

Attitude and Habits of Gen X and Y

The survey also reveals the attitude of the Generation X and Y consumer. As high as 71 percent consider home ownership something they have to earn, rather than believing it is something they deserve. They are also willing to “walk the talk” by adjusting their lifestyle in order to purchase a home.

62 percent of the Generation X and Y homebuyers were willing to eat out less, 40 percent were willing to take on a second job and 23 percent have considered moving back in with their parents in order to save for a home.

These traits show Generations X and Y as wise and proactive; adopting a strategic approach to their future and the possibility of homeownership.

They also readily embrace technology as their preferred communication method. While Baby Boomers prefer face-to-face contact, Generations X and Y are more comfortable with emails, voice mail and text messages.

Above such generational changes, Generations X and Y are more adept at using technology than any of their predecessors. The spread of digital devices such as tablets and smart phones provides information at their fingertips, at any time of the day.

Marketing to Gen X and Y Buyers

This makes it evident that today’s real estate professional must be able to harness technology to increase awareness and grab the attention of the Generation X and Y homebuyer. They must leverage technology to offer relevant content that this consumer finds enlightening and engaging.

As real estate professionals, now is the time to gain an understanding of how these generational differences impact your business and build systems that cater to their needs. It is evident that marketing to and conversing with generations X and Y takes a deep understanding of who they are and what matters most to both them and their families.

The good news is this: from blogging to social media, the tools for continued success are accessible and easily available!

Amy Chorew is the Vice President of Platform Development at Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate.

To view this article on the Better Homes & Gardens blog, Clean Slate, click here [2].

Here are 5 quick and easy things to jump-start your 2013

1. Shed your problem clients

I have witnessed first-hand agents who are so desperate for a paycheck that they hang onto the wrong type of client until they are completely drained and end up comprising way too much. The sign of a successful agent is the ability to walk away if needed. Ask the tough questions: “Are they worth it? Are they being realistic? Are they keeping me away from other opportunities?”

2. Clear your schedule

Your time is your own, but it’s also easy to let your schedule get out of hand because of other people’s needs. From now until the end of the year, time block time during the week that is just devoted to thinking about 2013. For true planning, brainstorming and dreaming – you need more than 10 minute chunks of time. You need long drawn out time blocks without interruption!

3. Be honest

What do you love about your business and what do you want to change? Make 2013 the year you work with the clients you really want to work with, the year you truly have the year professionally and personally that you want to have. Been meaning to take a vacation? Plan it out! Nothing happens by accident. Be honest about where you are and where you want to be in 12 months!

4. Get your finances in order

Do you have a professional helping you with your accounting and/or taxes? If not, now is the time to talk to one before the end of the year. Don’t try to do it all yourself – get a professional to help! Also, now is a great time of year to update your software or invest in a system like QuickBooks or Mint.com.

5. Schedule 5 phone calls a week 

Don’t forget, one of the best ways to reach out to someone is with a quick phone call. Nervous about calling out of the blue? Then, email them first and set up a time to chat and then schedule the call using a calendar appointment. Make sure you have a reason for calling – is it a market update? Recent sales in their neighborhood? After you call, search them out on LinkedIn and connect there as well as Facebook and/or Twitter if appropriate for you and your business.

11 Small Business Marketing Mistakes and How To Avoid Them

Marketing Mistake Number 1: Sinking a Fortune Into an Unproven Product

Is your business idea built on market research or a hunch?

Entrepreneurs often fall in love with their products or services before they determine if there’s a real market, and they throw fistfuls of money into the venture. If you, your spouse, your uncle, and your neighbor think you’ve got a winning idea, that’s simply not enough qualified input to run to the bank and drain your savings account!

Avoid this mistake by:

  • Conducting your detective work (research).
  • Testing your business idea with the real marketplace.

Marketing Mistake Number 2: Believing That “If You Build It, They Will Come”

Do you think you have a product or service that will practically sell itself?

Trust me – you don’t.

There is a misconception among small business owners that, with the right product or service, your customers will simply “find” you when you open your doors for business. Whether you have a physical storefront on a corner lot in the busiest part of downtown, or a graphically pleasing online storefront offering easy access to your hot products and services, your customers will not find you if you do not market to them.

The day you open for business is the day you put on your “marketer’s hat” and never take it off. You must consistently move product, or schedule service time.

To stay in business you must profit.

To profit you must sell.

To sell you must market.

The good news is that, with a marketing strategy, you take the control out of your potential customers’ hands and put it into your own. If you have a product that will “practically sell itself,” then your marketing job will be easy. Just remember that the job must still be done.

Avoid this mistake by:

  • Defining your niche market and USP (Unique Selling Proposition) that differentiates you from your competition.
  • Developing a marketing action plan and strategy to reach your niche market with your USP message.

Marketing Mistake Number 3: Trying to Reinvent the Wheel

Marketing is an age-old practice with some very basic principles. Yet, I’m sure you’ve read many marketing information products that stress the importance of being innovative and creative with your marketing efforts. It’s easy to get caught up in the innovation process and forget that the REAL focus should be on results.

Avoid this mistake by:

  • Emulating success instead of trying to create something completely new. Please note that I am not saying, “copy” what others are doing. Look at the basic structure of a tactic, campaign, advertisement, or event and use the same formula as a basis for developing your own tactics.
  • Realizing great marketing ideas are used over and over again with just the right twist to make them fit a specific business. Focus on results, and choose imitation over innovation to create your own twist on a proven, winning technique.

Marketing Mistake Number 4: Over-Preparing and Doing Nothing

The fear of failure can be powerful. So powerful that we do everything we can think of to prevent it. Yet, there is a point at which we are so busy preparing, organizing, and researching to prevent failure that we never get around to the actual marketing of the business. Here are two things to

  1. Activity is not productivity.
  2. In order to sell a million of something, you have to sell the first ONE.

Avoid this mistake by:

  • Doing something! If you believe in your business and have done your detective work, it’s time to dive into the marketing pool. Start small, track results and build from there.
  • Not being afraid to make a mistake. Mistakes are the entry to success. At the very least, a failed promotion means you have SUCCESSFULLY determined what promotion does not work. And, to learn what does NOT work is a valuable tool in getting you closer to discovering what WILL work.

So, go ahead. Fail a little. It will make your eventual successes even sweeter.

Marketing Mistake Number 5: Boredom

When I was working for an ad agency many years ago, I had one client that was running an extremely successful ad campaign. After about six months, I received a phone call from the client. He wanted to develop an entirely new campaign. When I asked, “why?” he simply said, “I’m bored with the one we have.”


That client may have had the money to spend on a new campaign due to “boredom” but you and I usually don’t. Yet, I’ve often seen my small business clients switch promotions for the same reason. This is detrimental to your business!

“Losing money” is a reason.

“Boredom” is not.

Avoid this mistake by:

  • Remembering that, what is old to you, is new to an untapped target market. If you have a promotion that is consistently getting you results, stick with it until results show you its time for change.
  • Testing new promotions without abandoning the current one. Then track results. Never swap a current promotion with a new one that hasn’t been tested.

Marketing Mistake Number 6: Relying on Networking to Generate Sales Leads 

Joining the Chamber of Commerce and schmoozing at association meetings can put you in contact with vendors and possible joint venture partners, and will be invaluable exposure for you as a community supporter – but it will rarely generate substantial sales leads.

Everyone else who attends these “meet and greet” assemblies is there to do the same thing you are. You may be able to make some valuable contacts for future ventures and promotions, but one-on-one networking is time-consuming and results are unpredictable.

Avoid this mistake by:

  • Treating networking opportunities the same as any other marketing tactic. Track results by determining your costs and measuring your payback.

Marketing Mistake Number 7: Doing What Your Competitors Do

It’s important to be aware of what your competitors are offering, but do not let it dictate the strategy you use for your own business.

If your competitor wants to be the low price leader, let him. Don’t try to become the “lower price” leader. Chances are this will lead you to financial problems because it will thrust you into an ugly price war. If your competitor wants to tout low prices, then you focus on value.   Bargain hunters don’t necessarily want the lowest price. They want the best VALUE. Make what you have to offer something of value.

Avoid this mistake by:

  • Finding an unmet need or want of your target market, and fill it to differentiate your products and services from your competitors.
  • Giving customers a reason to choose you over your competitors. Define your USP, and identify your niche market

Marketing Mistake Number 8: Not Targeting a Specific Market  

If you believe your market is “everybody,” you will struggle to attract people who will buy from you. The value of target (niche) marketing is one of the toughest sells I make to my clients. They understand the logic of it, but the “fear of losing a potential customer” gets the best of them.  Avoid this mistake by:

  • Viewing the practice of niche marketing as inclusive, not exclusive.

Think of your business as part of a person’s support group. It’s logical to say, “Everybody needs a support group so my business should attract everyone.” But, will it? People – your customers – want to go to a support business that understands their specific concerns, needs, and wants. Make sure you ARE that business by targeting a niche market.

Marketing Mistake Number 9: Targeting a Market You Can’t Reach or One That Can’t Afford You

Targeting a niche market is the smartest way to market. Yet, targeting a market that is too specific will limit your ability to succeed long term. For example, a market that might be too specific would be: female pilots under the age of 35 who fly ONLY New York to London flights. That’s a pretty narrow market to sustain your business in the long term unless you can capture the ENTIRE market with a product or service that has a high profit point and customers need to use or replace it often.

In that same vein, a market that is begging for the service or product you have but cannot afford it will also be a business impossible to sustain. Never compete for someone’s rent money. Your target market must have the means to buy your products and services.

Avoid this mistake by:

  • Creating your customer profile to identify characteristics of your potential buyers,
  • Identifying a niche market,
  • Examining the long term potential for new and repeat sales.

Marketing Mistake Number 10: Focusing On Acquiring New Customers Instead of Promoting to Current or Previous Customers

When you first start a business you have little choice but to focus on gaining new customers. The cost of finding those new customers can be expensive, which is one reason it is so important to really target a specific niche. However, once you’ve made just one sale, you’re ready to start looking at other marketing options.

Wouldn’t you like to:

.. slash your marketing costs by half or more?
.. reach proven buyers for your service or products?

That little goldmine of proven buyers available to you “on the cheap” is already yours in the form of current and previous customers.

Any respected marketing guru, past or present, online or offline, will tell you that the biggest asset your company has is your customer base.

Avoid this mistake by:

  • Realizing that, when a sale is finalized, it is the beginning of your relationship with that customer, not the end.
  • Offering additional products or services to current customers. If you don’t have your own to offer them, then develop a referral, joint venture or product bundling program so you can reap profits from your already-interested (and buying) customers.

Marketing Mistake Number 11: Not Systematically Following Up on Leads

The least expensive part of business is making the sale. The most expensive is generating leads – finding the people who are interested in what you have.

Once you find people who express an interest in what you have to offer – whether they buy from you or not – you MUST develop a follow up system that will keep marketing to those interested prospects. A person who has expressed interest in your products and services is far more likely to eventually buy from you than someone who did not respond at all!

Avoid this mistake by:

  • Curbing the tendency to become obsessed with generating more leads until you have exhausted the ones you already have.
  • Developing an easy, systematic follow up for leads, designed to convert a “maybe” into a “yes.”

Susan Carter is the author of SPLASH Marketing for Overworked Small Business Owners. She can be reached via email at susancarter@successideas.com or visit her web site athttp://www.successideas.com.



What will get your email blocked ?

When thinking about tips for successful email deliverability, let’s first look at the inverse – what will get your email blocked or junked by an ISP or other receiver?

There are 6 primary ways an ISP (let’s focus in them for simplicity) will block or filter your commercial messages.

Primary ways to have your message fail the deliverability test

1)Technical/Authentication: Most ISPs now require that your messages are authenticated using SPF and increasingly DKIM. Other technical aspects such as a misconfigured sending infrastructure and X-headers can cause blocking.

2)ISP Protocols: Each ISP has its own rules on things such as the number of emails they will receive per hour from a sender; the need to build up a reputation on your IP address before they will allow you to send high volumes, etc.

3)Content/Coding: While becoming less of a factor, most receivers still incorporate various rules related to content (certain spammy words, ratio of image to text that is too high, etc.) and improper HTML code.

4)Bounces: Too many emails sent to bad email addresses is a sure way to find your emails in the junk folder.

5)Blocklists/Blacklists: Most ISPs have their own “blacklists” or “blocklists” but some also incorporate external lists such as those maintained by MAPS and Spamhaus. Senders are placed on these lists for a variety of issues including recipient complaints and sending to “spamtrap” email addresses.

6)Abuse (Spam) Complaints/Reputation/Relevance: Now the most important factor in their algorithms, ISPs are increasingly looking at the engagement level of each individual recipient with your emails. The idea being that if one recipient never opens or clicks on an email, the ISP may filter the sender’s emails to the junk folder for that recipient. But for another recipient that engages with the emails, the emails would continue to be delivered to their inbox, even if there was a relatively high spam complaint rate for a specific message. But spam complaints remain the key reason your emails will be filtered.

So assuming you have: A) Properly configured your emails; B) Correctly authenticated them; C) Are using proper HTML code and regularly run your messages though a code and content checker; and D) Are conducting regular list hygiene; then your focus should be on increasing engagement and minimizing spam complaints.

Increasing Engagement & minimizing complaints

1)Managing Expectations: The top reasons subscribers hit the spam button is: The emails are irrelevant; Come too frequently; and they don’t trust the unsubscribe link. So the beginning of the relationship is key: tell subscribers what they will receive and how often during the opt-in process. Reinforce this with a welcome email or series that reinforces what they will receive and the benefits of the email program.

2)Providing value: Make your emails relevant by collecting their preferences and delivering targeted content. Use triggered emails based on their individual data (e.g., birthday, anniversary) and behavior (recent purchases, links clicked, etc.) to deliver truly relevant content. Don’t just sell, provide content that adds value, surprises, educates and helps the recipient solve a problem.

3)Making it Easy to Change the Relationship: If you know going in that some subscribers will want your emails less frequently or their interests will change, make it easy for them to modify their email relationship through a preference center that also makes it easy to unsubscribe (the alternative being the spam button). Also make these options known within the emails and welcome program.

Guest post by Loren McDonald of Silverpop

New Short Sales Program Nov 1st…

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (collectively Frannie) are requiring mortgage servicers to complete short sales under one uniform approval process, called the Standard Short Sale/HAFA IIFrannie expects this streamlined process will make short sales uniform, faster, easier and clearer. Under this new program:

  • homeowners current on their mortgage payments will be eligible for a short sale if they meet other hardship criteria;
  • Frannie will wave deficiency collection in exchange for a “cash contribution” from borrowers meeting specific financial guidelines (contribution not to exceed 20% of the borrower’s reserve funds or other assets);
  • members of the military who are being relocated will be automatically eligible for the program; and
  • Frannie will offer up to $6,000 to second lien holders to speed the short sale.

Homeowners with Frannie-held mortgages may be eligible for a short sale if they meet one of the program’s hardship criteria, including:

  • death of a borrower or co-borrower;
  • divorce;
  • unemployment;
  • disability; or
  • relocation for a job.

The new guidelines are effective November 1, 2012.

first tuesday Insight

Frannie’s newly broadened eligibility requirement for a short sale ought to be a gift to underwater homeowners current on their payments. It ought to stimulate the housing market by leaving homeowners’ credit intact, allowing the pool of employed homebuyers to remain undiminished while freeing-up more properties for sale. No penance necessary for underwater homeowners before entering into a new home loan agreement. Right?

Related article:

July Letter to the Editor: The credit score damage: foreclosure vs. shortsale

Wrong. Recent reports on the effect of the standardized HAFA II short sale on non-delinquent homeowner credit reveal that delinquent and non-delinquent homeowners who participate in this program will be given the same treatment by credit reporters. No NOD? No matter; a short sale is a short sale due to a discounted payoff of the mortgage, and that at the FICO level remains an indicator of a high-risk borrower. The homeowner did not pay the lender as agreed to in the note and trust deed — period.

Related article:

L.A. Times: Fannie-Freddie short-sale program may hurt sellers’ credit scores

Sincere agents will counsel their short sellers of potential damage these transactions will do to credit scores. To best defend their sellers, agents must ensure the loan payoff agreement on a short sale includes a provision that the lender will report the payoff to the credit agencies as “paid as agreed.” Without written lender consent in the form of a “paid as agreed provision” in the final payoff documents, the seller’s credit will be destroyed – by systemic design.

Even though this credit score penalty limits the incentive for homeowners to rid themselves of their negative equity asset, many homeowners will still choose to short sell without sensing they are “guilty” of a default if the option is given to them. All this meansFrannie’s new program will likely increase the number of short sales transactions.

Though not ideal, Frannie-encouraged short sales will allow more underwater homeowners to escape their negative equity. That, most importantly for the family, will free them of excessive payments for housing and allow them a fresh start toward a higher standard-of-living, which has suffered in this Lesser Depression.

The MLS result: more homes for sale in the housing market — and more fees for agents.

Some things will remain unchanged in this matrix. Demand will be reduced as the short-sale seller exits homeownership, unable to soon purchase a new home funded by a purchase-assist mortgage. They will be removed from the market, no differently than in the past, pre-Frannie hype. However, by accelerating the process of moving homeowners out of their negative equity properties, the process of recovery will also be hastened. In the meantime, the rental market can thank Frannie for growing the population of tenants.

10 Key Components of a Marketing Plan

If you’re thinking about developing a marketing program, you need to begin with a marketing plan. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be complicated in order to work. Here are the ten basic parts of a marketing plan.

If you’re thinking about developing a marketing program, you need to begin with a marketing plan. Having been in marketing for more than a decade, I have seen my share of marketing plans. Some are short and to the point, others are hundreds of pages thick and cost thousands of dollars to produce.

The irony is that many of the expensive marketing plans end up on a shelf and rarely get implemented. The simple plans, if researched and implemented effectively, have the greatest impact.

Regardless of the scope of your marketing plan, you must keep in mind that it is a fluid document. Every business needs to begin with a well structured plan that is based in thorough research, competitive positioning and attainable outcomes. Your plan should be the basis for your activities over the coming months. However, you should always be willing to enhance or redirect your plan based on what proves successful.

Marketing Plan Basics

1. Market Research
Collect, organize, and write down data about the market that is currently buying the product(s) or service(s) you will sell. Some areas to consider:

  • Market dynamics, patterns including seasonality
  • Customers – demographics, market segment, target markets, needs, buying decisions
  • Product – what’s out there now, what’s the competition offering
  • Current sales in the industry
  • Benchmarks in the industry
  • Suppliers – vendors that you will need to rely on

2. Target Market
Find niche or target markets for your product and describe them.

3. Product 
Describe your product. How does your product relate to the market? What does your market need, what do they currently use, what do they need above and beyond current use?

4. Competition
Describe your competition. Develop your “unique selling proposition.” What makes you stand apart from your competition? What is your competition doing about branding?

5. Mission Statement
Write a few sentences that state:

  • “Key market” – who you’re selling to
  • “Contribution” – what you’re selling
  • “Distinction” – your unique selling proposition

6. Market Strategies
Write down the marketing and promotion strategies that you want to use or at least consider using. Strategies to consider:

  • Networking – go where your market is
  • Direct marketing – sales letters, brochures, flyers
  • Advertising – print media, directories
  • Training programs – to increase awareness
  • Write articles, give advice, become known as an expert
  • Direct/personal selling
  • Publicity/press releases
  • Trade shows
  • Web site


7. Pricing, Positioning and Branding
From the information you’ve collected, establish strategies for determining the price of your product, where your product will be positioned in the market and how you will achieve brand awareness.

8. Budget
Budget your dollars. What strategies can you afford? What can you do in house, what do you need to outsource.

9. Marketing Goals
Establish quantifiable marketing goals. This means goals that you can turn into numbers. For instance, your goals might be to gain at least 30 new clients or to sell 10 products per week, or to increase your income by 30% this year. Your goals might include sales, profits, or customer’s satisfaction.

10. Monitor Your Results
Test and analyze. Identify the strategies that are working.

  • Survey customers
  • Track sales, leads, visitors to your web site, percent of sales to impressionBy researching your markets, your competition, and determining your unique positioning, you are in a much better position to promote and sell your product or service. By establishing goals for your marketing campaign, you can better understand whether or not your efforts are generating results through ongoing review and evaluation of results.As mentioned earlier in this article, be sure to use your plan as a living document. Successful marketers continually review the status of their campaigns against their set objectives. This ensures ongoing improvements to your marketing initiatives and helps with future planning.

    Michael Fleischner is the founder and President of  MarketingScoop.com. He has appeared on major media including the TODAY Show, Bloomberg Radio, and more. With more than 12 years of marketing experience, Michael has developed major brands as well as a variety of businesses in need of leading marketing programs.