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Creating a Road Map for Your Business: A Marketing Plan = Safer Travels

“We’re going on a trip!”

Whenever I hear those words, I get very excited. New places to explore, new people to meet and different cultures to discover. I also get anxious – there is planning that goes into making a so-so trip a GREAT one! There are many decisions to be made: Where to go, what is the budget, how to get there, where to stay and what to do once I get to the destination. Planning can alleviate a lot of tension and make my trip more enjoyable. Plus, once I get to the location and things don’t pan out as well as I thought (weather changes, find other things to do, discover different routes) I can change my plans and still get the full benefit of a fun vacation. And that all happens with a little foresight and planning.

Putting together a marketing plan for your business can benefit you the same way. Many small businesses don’t think they need a marketing plan because their advertising budget is small, but no matter what size your business is, not having a marketing plan is like driving around without a map.

A marketing plan doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Before you begin, ask yourself some simple questions about your business through a SWOT analysis. The acronym SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, Answering these questions can help you achieve a stronger business model and marketing plan.

  • Strengths What does your company do better than its competitors? What is your competitive advantage
  • Weaknesses What prevents your company from selling more of its product or services? What do the competitors do better than your company?
  • Opportunities What part of the market has not yet been reached? What group of consumers are your competitors not targeting?
  • Threats What is the biggest threat from the competition? What is the biggest threat from the economy or the evolving market?

Now that you have a better understanding of your company, evaluate the marketing portion of your business. Decide who you are trying to reach. Is it your current clientele or do you want to branch out? To figure that out, you need to know your target:

  • What is their household income?
  • Gender?
  • Age?
  • Where they live? (i.e. in a 3-mile radius from your business or within a 60-mile radius?)
  • Do they rent or own?
  • How do they currently find out about your products/services and what sources do they use to get their information? (i.e. newspaper, radio. Internet, etc.)

Have a goal of what you want to achieve through your marketing (i.e. Top-of-mind awareness, 10% increase in sales.) Decide what you can afford to spend on marketing. A rule of thumb is between 5 – 10% of your sales. Evaluate the various advertising mediums available that will reach your targets. There are marketing consultants who can help you put together a successful marketing plan that is well worth the cost.

With this plan, you will then have a road map for marketing your business. Planning a road trip and developing an effective marketing plan are similar endeavors. With proper preparation and knowing your destination, small detours and modifications along the way will still get you to where you need to be.

Small Business Internet Marketing – Is Traditional Advertising A Money Pit?

Is it still worth it to use traditional advertising if you are a small business?

Back in the good old days, traditional advertising in the form of magazines newspapers television and radio when direct mail or basically the only ways that most small businesses had of connecting with their Customers.

However due to the nature of the medium, it was very difficult for business owner to pinpoint our target customers that she needed to.

For example, a small bakery owner wants to branch out into creating high-end wedding cakes.

Her problem is that only a select number of people at any given time of the year will be interested in buying wedding cakes. And an even smaller number of people will be attracted to her line of custom wedding cakes.

While she can create print ads in select niche magazines that cater to weddings and brides, her ad would be competing with hundreds of other bakeries. Not to mention that specialty magazine ads carry a premium price.

On the other hand she can advertise in a local newspaper for lower price but her advertising dollars are still wasted since many subscribers to the paper are outside her wedding cake market.

She can even create low cost TV spots. You know the ones I mean. These are the television channels that appear between your local public access channels and C-Span.

Mass media has always worked best for mass brand names. All large company like Sears or Wal-Mart can effectively advertise using a variety of traditional marketing channels such as television, radio, etc.

But for the small business community, those of us who are retailers, service professionals, nonprofit organizations, churches and entrepreneurs the wide net that mass-media casts has largely been ineffective.

Think about this for second, how many radio spots or TV commercials end up playing to empty rooms, people asleep, babies or the family pet? That is just money that is simply tossed away!

This is why it’s so critical that small business owners and others get the most out of their Internet marketing. Internet marketing levels the playing field between the big business and individual business owner.

Online big companies can have just as poorly designed, badly written, and useless websites as the next person! A small time operator with a great looking site and a better online marketing plan can beat out larger companies over time.

Plus a small business person with a decent lead capture system can easily communicate with clients, develop long term relationships and build a million-dollar reputation using personal branding.

For the small business person, continuing to use expensive and ineffectual traditional marketing methods may indeed be throwing your money away into a money pit.

Establishing and Marketing Your Legitimate Online Business

Some people have restricted mobility, which limits their job prospects, while others are just sick of the corporate rat race. The ability to work from home has been greatly enhanced by the World Wide Web. Internet marketing or affiliate marketing is a legitimate online marketing business that nearly anyone can establish and make a profit with on even a part-time or intermittent basis.

Not all businesses are the most ethical and this is especially true when people work from home online because workers often do not see their bosses or the corporate headquarters. There are limited ways to figure out of the company is really legitimate or more of a fly-by-night entity. For those who seek job security, establishing their own legitimate online marketing business may be the best option.

Internet marketing involves using the Web to market products and services. The Web knows no geographic boundaries so the customer base is limited only by the number of people who have Internet access. People with little business experience can tap into this audience and earn money online in the process. Tools and products exist to help them with every aspect of the Internet business.

Even individuals who have limited time, such as work at home moms, or those who are not technologically savvy can establish a legitimate online marketing business. The training and free tips available enable the individual to get started in a matter of hours. New entrepreneurs may choose to have a lead-based site that acquires sales leads and passes these along to others for a fee. Or, they may choose to do some affiliate marketing for other companies in exchange for a commission.

Social media sites, local directory listings, blogs, article marketing, and pay-per-click are various Internet marketing strategies designed to make the legitimate online marketing business more visible. People who like to write will enjoy creating blogs and articles. Those who are more graphically oriented might like creating promotional items on social media sites.

There is such a thing as a legitimate online marketing business and it does not require much training to establish. After engaging in just a few Internet marketing strategies, the entrepreneur will see the Web site traffic increase. The dream of having an Internet business that actually allows them to earn money online will be realized by these folks without them having to go back to school or hire a professional.

What’s Happening In Real Estate Right Now And Where Is It Going?

1. Analysis of Today’s Market

2. Update On Gold

3. Real Estate Prices In South Florida

4. Real Estate Nationwide

5. Yield Curve Is Still Inverted

6. What this means to you

1. Analysis of today’s market

As an analyst of the economy and the real estate market, one must be patient to see what unfolds and to see if one’s predictions are right or wrong. One never knows if they will be right or wrong, but they must have a sense of humility about it so that they are not blind to the reality of the marketplace.

In March of 2006, my eBook How To Prosper In the Changing Real Estate Marketplace. Protect Yourself From The Bubble Now! stated that in short order the real estate market would slow down dramatically and become a real drag on the economy. We are experiencing this slowdown currently and the economy I feel is not far from slowing down as well. History has repeatedly shown that a slow down in the real estate market and construction market has almost always led to an economic recession throughout America’s history.

Let’s look at what is happening in the following areas to see what we can gleam from them: Gold, Real Estate in South Florida, Real Estate Nationwide, Yield Curve/Economy and see what this means to you:

2. Gold

If you have read this newsletter and/or the eBook, you know I am a big fan of investing in gold. Why? Because I believe that the US dollar is in serious financial peril. But gold has also risen against all of the world’s currencies, not just the US dollar.

Why has gold risen? Gold is a neutral form of currency, it can’t be printed by a government and thus it is a long term hedge against currency devaluation. James Burton, Chief Executive of the Gold Council, recently said: “Gold remains a very important reserve asset for central banks since it is the only reserve asset that is no one’s liability. It is thus a defense against unknown contingencies. It is a long-term inflation hedge and also a proven dollar hedge while it has good diversification properties for a central bank’s reserve asset portfolio.”

I agree with Mr. Burton 100%. I believe we will even see a bubble in gold again and that is why I have invested in gold to profit from this potential bubble (Think real estate prices around the year 2002 – wouldn’t you like to have bought more real estate back then?)

I had previously recommended that you buy gold when it was between $580 and $600 an ounce. Currently, gold is trading at around $670 an ounce up more than 10% from the levels I recommended. However, gold has some serious technical resistance at the $670 level and if it fails to break out through that level it might go down in the short-term. If it does go down again to the $620 – $640 level, I like it at these levels as a buy. I believe that gold will go to $800 an ounce before the end of 2007.

3. Real Estate in South Florida

Real estate in South Florida has been hit hard by this slowdown as it was one of the largest advancers during the housing boom. The combination of rising homes for sale on the market, the amazing amount of construction occurring in the area and higher interest rates have been three of the major factors of the slowdown.

For every home that sold in the South Florida area in 2006, an average of 14 did not sell according to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) data. The number of homes available for sale on the market doubled to around 66,000, as sales slowed to their lowest level in 10 years.

Even though home prices were up for the year of 2006, the average asking price for homes in December was down about 13 percent compared to a year ago. From 2001 to 2005, the price of a single-family home in Miami-Dade increased 120 percent to $351,200. This is also similar to what happened in Broward County. The problem is that wages during that time only increased by 17.6% in Miami-Dade, and 15.9% in Broward, according to federal data. This is the other major factor that is contributing to the slowdown – real estate prices far outpaced incomes of potential buyers of these homes.

Another factor that helped drive the South Florida boom in prices was high growth in population in Florida. From 2002 to 2005, more than a million new residents moved to Florida and Florida also added more jobs than any other state. However, the three largest moving companies reported that 2006 was the first time in years that they had moved more people out of the state of Florida than into it. Also, school enrollment is declining which could be another sign that middle-class families are leaving.

By far though, the area of South Florida real estate that will be hit hardest is and will continue to be the condominium market. Due to their lower prices than homes, condos make financial sense in the South Florida area. However, the supply of available condos has tripled over the past year and it will get worse before it gets better. More than 11,500 new condos are expected this year and 15,000 next year with the majority of them being built in Miami.

As a result of the oversupply, asking prices for condos are down 12% in 2006 in Miami to $532,000. And incentives are substituting for price cuts. These incentives include paying all closing costs to free upgrades and more.

The last point to think about affecting South Florida real estate is the escalating costs of property insurance and property taxes. These increasing costs are putting more downward pressure on real estate prices.

My strong belief is that we are only starting to see the slowdown of the South Florida real estate market and that prices will continue to fall. Due to the fact that many real estate investors are pulling out, where are the next wave of buyers going to come from at these current prices? Unless a serious influx of new, high paying jobs enter the South Florida area, real estate prices, just like any asset that falls out of favor after a large runup only have one way to go… down.

4. Real Estate Nationwide

A report released last week from the National Association of Realtors showed that in the last three months of 2006 home sales fell in 40 states and median home prices dropped in nearly half of the metropolitan areas surveyed. The median price of a previously owned, single family home fell in 73 of the 149 metropolitan areas surveyed in the 4th quarter.

The National Association of Realtors report also said that the states with the biggest declines in the number of sales in October through December compared with the same period in 2005 were:

* Nevada: -36.1% in sales

* Florida: -30.8% in sales

* Arizona: -26.9% in sales

* California: -21.3% in sales

Nationally, sales declined by 10.1% in the 4th quarter compared with the same period a year ago. And the national median price fell to $219,300, down 2.7% from the 4th quarter of 2005.

Slower sales and cancellations of existing orders have caused the number of unsold homes to really increase. The supply of homes at 2006 sales rate averaged 6.4 months worth which was up from 4.4 months worth in 2005 and only 4 months worth in 2004.

Toll Brothers, Inc., the largest US luxury home builder, reported a 33% drop in orders during the quarter ending January 31.

Perhaps most importantly, falling home values will further decrease their use of mortgage equity withdrawal loans. In 2006, mortgage equity withdrawal accounted for 2% of GDP growth. Construction added 1% to last years GDP growth, so the importance of these factors are to the health of the US economy are enormous.

The other concern is sub-prime mortgages. Today, sub-prime mortgages amount to 25% of all mortgages, around $665 billion. Add to this the fact that approximately $1 trillion in adjustable-rate mortgages are eligible to be reset in the next two years and we will continue to see rising foreclosures. For example, foreclosures are up five times in Denver. These foreclosed homes come back onto the market and depress real estate values.

The Center for Responsible Lending estimates that as many as 20% of the subprime mortgages made in the last 2 years could go into foreclosure. This amounts to about 5% of the total homes sold coming back on the market at “fire-sales”. Even if only 1/2 of that actually comes back on the market, it would cause overall valuations to go down and the ability to get home mortgage equity loans to decrease further.

Prepare yourself now because you can still get great advice from the eBook. Buy it with this secure link:

5. Yield Curve is still inverted!

The yield curve is still inverted. In a normal market, you get more interest (yield) for longer term investments. But very rarely the short-term rates become higher than long term rates such as now.

History has shown that an inverted yield curve is the best indicator of a future recession. The yield curve has been inverted since last fall, and if history is any judge we should be in a recession by the 3rd quarter of 2007. Throughout history, we have never had an inverted yield curve without a recession within the next 4 quarters.

The inverted yield curve does not cause the recession, it is simply a signal that something is out of whack in the economy.

6. What this means to you

One of two things could happen going forward in the real estate market: real estate prices will go up or they will go down. History has shown us that any asset that runs up, must come down, whether we are talking about the Dutch Tulip Market, the stock market bubble, the gold bubble of the early 1980s, or Japan’s run-up in housing in the 1980′s and subsequent 15 year decrease in values.

The big picture of the real estate market is that it goes up and down in cycles. It has been in an up cycle for 10 years and it is most likely time for it to face it’s down cycle.

This is the natural cycle of assets:

* Markets go up

* Greed and insanity take over

* An excess forms (i.e. overbuilding)

* A downturn corrects the excesses in the market

This natural cycle is the same principle in “the big picture” as crash dieting is in “the little picture”. We starve ourselves to lose 15 pounds, which shuts down our body for the short term, only for it to crank up higher when we go back to “normal” eating patterns.

And speaking of diets, I heard from an old high school buddy who has lost weight on a “cookie” diet where he eats one high protein dinner a day and only 6 low fat cookies throughout the day whenever he is hungry. While he has lost weight on this 800 calorie a day diet, I can’t see how it is healthy to starve yourself like that. He told me that whenever he breaks his diet and eats any sodium, he immediately gains one and a half pounds. Talk about your body out of whack! I still recommend exercise ( combined with a low white-carb diet (no white bread, white pastas, and limited sugars). It works for me.

Set your portfolio up correctly now by reading the eBook at

***Disclaimer: This information and the corresponding websites do not constitute professional services, including, but not limited to investment advice. Please consult a finance and/or investment professional for services and advice.

The Guide To Real Estate Investing Book – A Review

Have you ever wondered if there was one resource for people interested in real estate investing, like the Guide To Real Estate Investing book? There are several of them, although none have exactly that title. I’ve read many of them, and I will give you my recommendations in this article.

When you’re looking for a comprehensive guide like the Guide To Real Estate Investing book, you need to understand that there is not one single book that will be all things to all people. Different investors will be looking for different information, depending on the type of investing they’re interested in. If you’re interested in residential income property, the Guide To Real Estate Investing book you choose will be different than if your interest is in commercial real estate or apartment complexes.

In other words, there isn’t one, definitive resource known as the Guide To Real Estate Investing book.

My experience and expertise are in residential real estate, such as single family homes and duplexes. Therefore, this discussion will focus on the Guide To Real Estate Investing book for that type of investment real estate.

Two of the best books I have read on residential income property, both of which could be seriously considered as the Guide To Real Estate Investing book, are Steve Cook’s “Wholesaling For Quick Cash” and “The No-Nonsense Real Estate Investor’s Kit: How You Can Double Your Income By Investing in Real Estate on a Part-Time Basis” by Thomas Lucier.

These books offer two different approaches to real estate investing, both of which are excellent. Steve Cook’s “Wholesaling For Quick Cash” is really a full-fledged real estate investing course, giving you a complete strategic plan for breaking into the world of real estate wholesaling. It qualifies for consideration as the Guide To Real Estate Investing book because it’s a self-contained investing philosophy and plan.

Lucier’s book, “The No-Nonsense Guide” is a book that gives you a complete, basic run-down of the important considerations when considering beginning real estate investing, as well as some complex and effective advanced strategies. This one is a sure-fire candidate for the Guide To Real Estate Investing book.

Of course, there are plenty of other excellent candidates for the Guide To Real Estate Investing book- these two are simply my favorites. If you have found a resource you think warrants consideration for the Guide To Real Estate Investing book, why not email me and let me know?

For now, check out my website, where I have tons more resources for investors, and some of the best articles and stories on real estate investing you’ll find anywhere! Hope you enjoyed this little article on the Guide To Real Estate Investing book.

Now, go make more offers!