What’s the Hardest Part of Marketing Yourself?

In my Fast Track Marketing System I divide marketing into seven very specific modules:1. The Game of Marketing2. The Mindset of Marketing3. Marketing Messages (Your Value Proposition)4. Marketing and Selling Conversations5. Written Marketing Materials6. Marketing Strategies7. Marketing Action PlansAll of these have their particular challenges. But in my experience in working with thousands of Independent Professionals, it’s #7 that seems to be the hardest for most people.After all, most of the other 6 modules are all about preparation to market yourself.You learn the basics of the game of marketing, you work on your marketing mindset, you develop marketing messages, conversations, and written marketing materials, and ultimately choose the marketing strategies to get the word out.And then the rubber hits the road. You have to actually get out there and connect with potential clients through networking, speaking, an eZine, social media, emails, etc.For most, the bottom falls out of their marketing at this point. It simply goes nowhere, or more specifically it goes into the infamous “Random Zone” where things are done haphazardly and inconsistently.If people have worked to develop the whole foundation of their marketing first, know who their target market is, have put together a web site and have practiced their marketing and selling conversations, they are going to have more success.But even the well-prepared struggle with implementation.Why is putting action plans into action so hard? Here are three of the most common ones. Are they familiar to you?1. As soon as you start reaching out, you face possible rejection. What if your message, your talk, your emails fall on deaf ears? What if your potential clients could care less? What if they outright rejected your promotional efforts?We conjure painful mental images in our mind that stop us cold.For this one we need to work again on our mindset, on our thinking, realizing that if we reach out and people aren’t interested, that it’s not personal. They don’t hate us; either they are simply not good prospects right now or our message doesn’t have the impact it could.So reach out to new prospects and keep improving your messages.2. It takes way more time and effort than you ever thought it would. We think of marketing as a few promotional things we do here and there. This should be easy, we think. But it’s not.Time to do a reality check. Any marketing activity takes time, effort and commitment to make it work. Marketing is a bit of an art and nothing works perfectly on the first draft.You need to make detailed and realistic plans based on strategies that others have used successfully in the past. If you just make it up as you go along, your chances of success are very slim.3. It’s never good enough and although you might even know what you’re doing, you put off your marketing launches until everything is perfect… but it never is.What underlies this are beliefs about perfection, not being good enough and being judged by others. It’s not so much rejection you fear, but disapproval. What will others think of you?Well, if your marketing campaign isn’t relevant to those you are targeting, it’s not a big deal. They’ll just ignore it. They won’t think much about it at all. But for the ones that are looking for what you offer, they’ll not only be interested, they’ll respond.Your prospects are not looking for perfection from you; they’re looking for assistance and value. If you’ve got that, perfection is virtually irrelevant.I’ve done a whole lot of marketing action plans that were rejected by most people, took me a long time to implement, and were far from perfect. And most of them have made me hundreds of thousands of dollars!Marketing success is about know-how, value, commitment, and persistence. Everything else is just a distraction.The Fearless Marketer Bottom Line: There could be a lot of other things stopping you from following through with your marketing plan as well. The question is, where are you going to focus – on your fears and worries about rejection, time, and perfection – or are you going to focus on the value and difference you make and give your marketing plans a real chance?

Market Value of Effective Management Practices

We all know that stock markets respond in an irrational way dependent on the availability of information, and several key criteria related to the company. Innovation, consumer appetite for new products or new uses of products, and leadership changes are the typical price influences that the market experiences, outside of global economic and political stability. It is the information that is readily available. Private companies on the other hand have a different perspective. Ask a private capital company what they look for in an investment and the best ones will tell you it’s about passion and a sustainable management process.These two items together create the magic that produces innovation, consumer attraction and strong leadership in a sustainable way. Lose either and you fall victim to individual heroics that may or may not produce that for which the public markets deem worthy of paying a premium. What are management practices exactly? They are the behaviours that company managers exhibit when executing the company’s management processes. More specifically, they are behaviours that:
Illicit creativity
Align and motivate teams and individuals
Provide candid and productive feedback in all directions
Create vision and excitement, and
Produce a steady flow of change that results in consistent and dramatic performance improvement over long time horizons
Management processes include strategic planning processes, annual objectives-setting processes, performance management processes, process improvement processes, and employee and customer feedback and communication processes. A company that can consistently find innovative ideas, create an appetite in the market, and execute on the market demand on a repetitive basis shows signs of having a strong set of management processes that are practiced very effectively. Think Apple in recent years, who made a killing on iPads and iPhones in the wake of a terrible recession. A company that produces one great innovation and then struggles to find more is likely suffering from poor management practices. All new ideas or projects are relying on individual heroics, and any weakness in its execution should be a sign that there are weaknesses among the management.Think Blackberry in recent years, and their poorly received Playbook and Blackberry Torch. Which one would you rather invest in? When the market values innovation, consumer appetite and company leadership, what they are really valuing are the signs and symptoms of effective management practices. Why not go straight to the source and make sure the fundamentals are in tact before you invest in the symptoms? Over the last 6 years I have assessed the management practices of various companies in multiple different fields, from consumer goods to financial services and beyond. By addressing and improving a few key management practices, my clients have earned significant premiums on their valuations. It is possible to measure the effectiveness of a company’s management practices, and that research should weigh heavily on an analysts estimates of a company’s value.The best way to learn about a company’s management practices is to find out from their customers and employees. A fractured company, with poor feedback from customers and employees is a sign of a company with fractured management practices. Perhaps there is lack of clarity in the organization’s strategy. Maybe the employees don’t know how they fit into the big picture. Maybe there are pervasively inefficient business processes. Or perhaps there is a severe fear of giving performance feedback that is based objectively on tangible results. All of these root causes lead to limited innovation and poor understanding of customer appetite.Your Best Stock Bet- The best bet from my perspective is to put your money in on the companies that meet any of the following characteristics:
A low stock price, and new leadership that has a track record of great management practice
An IPO in which the prospectus or your own knowledge of the company shows clear indication that there are robust management processes in place, and skilled practitioners of those processes within the management ranks
An undervalued company that has strong management processes, and is investing in upgrading its management’s execution of those processes
Companies that you might want to divest of or avoid are ones that:
Have stale management processes that are not being practiced in a way that produces creativity and excitement
Use their management processes to hold the company and its employees hostage
Are bringing in leadership that have demonstrated a greater interest in personal celebrity than in sustainable management practice
Have low employee engagement and customer feedback scores
How to Influence the Management Practices of Your Company- Many organizations have management processes in place that are quite robust. Where they fall down is in how they are practiced. This is because how these processes are practiced are often left to individual interpretation, which is limited to the individual’s experience and biases. Some managers are excellent individually, and demonstrate awesome management practice. Others are learning as they go, emulating the leaders they want to be, and hoping they are being taught the right stuff. Some are even paying large premiums to get an MBA, which invariably doesn’t actually teach them the process skills of management such as gaining consensus, managing people, and making efficient multi-disciplinary decisions.The secret to organizational value is to have management practices that are consistently high across a large number of managers. Leadership has an interesting position in the equation. In a company that has and practices robust management processes effectively, leaders can be created. What the market values when they see a change in leadership is the leader’s ability to implement and execute an effective set of management processes.For those of you who are leaders, this means spending your own time learning the best practices, experimenting with them on an ongoing basis, and mastering them over time. For managers, it also means working in an organization where the leader values the investment in creating effective managers. These practices can be learned with an executive coach who has explicit experience in the development and application of management practices. No matter how you get there, the best chance you have at increasing a company’s valuation and stock price sustainably is if you take a look deep inside the guts of the company at its management processes and practices.

Types of Rental Properties

If you’ve been in the market for a home, you know that in addition to single- family homes, you can choose from numerous types of attached or shared housing including apartment buildings, condominiums, townhomes, and co- operatives. In this section, we provide an overview of each of these properties and show how they may make an attractive real estate investment for you.From an investment perspective, our top recommendations are apartment buildings and single-family homes. We generally don’t recommend attached-housing units. If you can afford a smaller single-family home or apartment building rather than a shared-housing unit, buy the single-family home or apartments.Unless you can afford a large down payment (25 percent or more), the early years of rental property ownership may financially challenge you: With all properties, as time goes on, generating a positive cash flow gets easier because your mortgage expense stays fixed (if you use fixed rate financing) while your rents increase faster than your expenses. Regardless of what you choose to buy, make sure that you run the numbers on your rental income and expenses to see if you can afford the negative cash flow that often occurs in the early years of ownership.Single-family homesAs an investment, single-family detached homes generally perform better in the long run than attached or shared housing. In a good real estate market, most housing appreciates, but single-family homes tend to outperform other housing types for the following reasons:Single-family homes tend to attract more potential buyers – most people, when they can afford it, prefer a detached or stand-alone home, especially for the increased privacy.
Attached or shared housing is less expensive and easier to build and to overbuild; because of this surplus potential, such property tends to appreciate more moderately in price.Because so many people prefer to live in detached, single-family homes, market prices for such dwellings can sometimes become inflated beyond what’s justified by the rental income these homes can produce. That’s exactly what happened in some parts of the United States in the mid-2000s and led in part to a significant price correction in the subsequent years. To discover whether you’re buying in such a market, compare the monthly cost (after tax) of owning a home to monthly rent for that same property. Focus on markets where the rent exceeds or comes close to equaling the cost of owning and shun areas where the ownership costs exceed rents.Single-family homes that require just one tenant are simpler to deal with than a multi-unit apartment building that requires the management and maintenance of multiple renters and units. The downside, though, is that a vacancy means you have no income coming in. Look at the effect of 0 percent occupancy for a couple of months on your projected income and expense statement! By contrast, one vacancy in a four-unit apartment building (each with the same rents) means that you’re still taking in 75 percent of the gross potential (maximum total) rent.With a single-family home, you’re responsible for all maintenance. You can hire someone to do the work, but you still have to find the contractors and coordinate and oversee the work. Also recognize that if you purchase a single-family home with many fine features and amenities, you may find it more stressful and difficult to have tenants living in your property who don’t treat it with the same tender loving care that you may yourself.The first rule of being a successful landlord is to let go of any emotional attachment to a home. But that sort of attachment on the tenant’s part is favorable: The more they make your rental property their home, the more likely they are to stay and return it to you in good condition – except for the expected normal wear and tear of day-to-day living.Making a profit in the early years from the monthly cash flow with a single- family home is generally the hardest stage. The reason: Such properties usu- ally sell at a premium price relative to the rent that they can command (you pay extra for the land, which you can’t rent). Also remember that with just one tenant, you have no rental income when you have a vacancy.Attached housingAs the cost of land has climbed over the decades in many areas, packing more housing units that are attached into a given plot of land keeps housing somewhat more affordable. Shared housing makes more sense for investors who don’t want to deal with building maintenance and security issues.In this section, we discuss the investment merits of three forms of attached housing: condominiums, townhomes, and co-ops.CondosCondominiums are typically apartment-style units stacked on top of and/or beside one another and sold to individual owners. When you purchase a con- dominium, you’re actually purchasing the interior of a specific unit as well as a proportionate interest in the common areas – the pool, tennis courts, grounds, hallways, laundry room, and so on. Although you (and your ten- ants) have full use and enjoyment of the common areas, remember that the homeowner’s association actually owns and maintains the common areas as well as the building structures themselves (which typically include the foundation, roof, plumbing, electrical, and other building systems).One advantage to a condo as an investment property is that of all the attached housing options, condos are generally the lowest-maintenance properties because most condominium associations deal with issues such as roofing, gardening, and so on for the entire building and receive the benefits of quantity purchasing. Note that you’re still responsible for necessary maintenance inside your unit, such as servicing appliances, interior painting, and so on.Although condos may be somewhat easier to keep up, they tend to appreciate less than single-family homes or apartment buildings unless the condo is located in a desirable urban area.Condominium buildings may start out in life as condos or as apartment complexes that are then converted into condominiums.Be wary of apartments that have been converted to condominiums. Although they’re often the most affordable housing options in many areas of the country and may also be blessed with an excellent urban location that can’t easily be re-created, you may be buying into some not so obvious problems. Our experience is that these converted apartments are typically older properties with a cosmetic makeover (new floors, new appliances, new landscaping, and a fresh coat of paint). However, be forewarned: The cosmetic makeover may look good at first glance, but the property probably still boasts 40-year-old plumbing and electrical systems, poor soundproofing, and a host of economic and functional obsolescence.Within a few years, most of the owner-occupants move on to the traditional single-family home and rent out their condos. You may then find the property is predominantly renter-occupied and has a volunteer board of directors unwilling to levy the monthly assessments necessary to properly maintainthe aging structure. Within 10 to 15 years of the conversion, these properties may well be the worst in the neighborhood.TownhomesTownhomes are essentially attached or row homes – a hybrid between a typical airspace-only condominium and a single-family house. Like condo-miniums, townhomes are generally attached, typically sharing walls and a continuous roof. But townhomes are often two-story buildings that come with a small yard and offer more privacy than a condominium because you don’t have someone living on top of your unit.As with condominiums, you absolutely must review the governing documents before you purchase the property to see exactly what you legally own. Generally, townhomes are organized as planned unit developments (PUDs) in which each owner has a fee simple ownership (no limitations as to transfer- ability of ownership – the most complete ownership rights one can have) of his individual lot that encompasses his dwelling unit and often a small area of immediately adjacent land for a patio or balcony. The common areas are all part of a larger single lot, and each owner holds title to a proportionate share of the common area.Co-opsCo-operatives are a type of shared housing that has elements in common with apartments and condos. When you buy a cooperative, you own a stock certificate that represents your share of the entire building, including usage rights to a specific living space per a separate written occupancy agreement. Unlike a condo, you generally need to get approval from the co-operative association if you want to remodel or rent your unit to a tenant. In someco-ops, you must even gain approval from the association for the sale of your unit to a proposed buyer.Turning a co-op into a rental unit is often severely restricted or even forbid- den and, if allowed, is usually a major headache because you must satisfy not only your tenant but also the other owners in the building. Co-ops are also generally much harder to finance, and a sale requires the approval of the typically finicky association board. Therefore, we highly recommend that you shun co-ops for investment purposes.ApartmentsNot only do apartment buildings generally enjoy healthy long-term appreciation potential, but they also often produce positive cash flow (rental income – expenses) in the early years of ownership. But as with a single-family home, the buck stops with you for maintenance of an apartment building. You may hirea property manager to assist you, but you still have oversight responsibilities(and additional expenses).In the real-estate financing world, apartment buildings are divided into two groups based on the number of units:Four or fewer units: You can obtain more favorable financing options and terms for apartment buildings that have four or fewer units because they’re treated as residential property.
Five or more units: Complexes with five or more units are treated as commercial property and don’t enjoy the extremely favorable loan terms of the one- to four-unit properties.Apartment buildings, particularly those with more units, generally produce a small positive cash flow, even in the early years of rental ownership (unless you’re in an overpriced market where it may take two to four years before you break even on a before-tax basis).One way to add value, if zoning allows, is to convert an apartment building into condominiums. Keep in mind, however, that this metamorphosis requires significant research on the zoning front and with estimating remodeling and construction costs.
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