At Constant Contact, e-newsletter expert Michael Katz is something of a legend. I may be overstating it a bit, but it's true that several of our executives mention Michael's newsletter often as an excellent example of compelling content.
Michael also uses his newsletter skills on behalf of the clients of his business, Blue Penguin Development. In our interview, he shares some of the same pearls of wisdom with us that he does with his clients.
Why are you so passionate about email newsletters?
I stumbled onto the power of e-newsletters by accident. In 2000, I was writing a newsletter that went to about 30 people. After a little while, I noticed that people I'd never heard of were asking to be added to the list. I also started getting requests from readers to help them develop a newsletter for their own client base. Eventually I switched to doing email newsletters exclusively.
What I love about e-newsletters is how well this one tool covers so much marketing ground. A newsletter keeps you in front of clients, prospects, and colleagues; gives you a platform for sharing your focus and perspective; and helps you clarify your point of view. On top of that, it's easily forwarded, easily archived, interactive, and has almost zero variable cost. For a small company, a newsletter all by itself can serve as a powerful marketing program.
What do email newsletters have the potential to accomplish?
They can help you break through the clutter so your company stands out in a memorable way. A newsletter is a way for those who read it to check you out and get a feel for you and your company. In this way, the newsletter is a proxy for an ongoing relationship. It's word of mouth on a large scale.
What are the top three things to keep in mind when creating an e-newsletter?
Number one: Content is what matters most. It's no longer a technical challenge to publish a newsletter. The challenge is getting someone to stop what they're doing and read what you have to say. Sending content that the reader values is the only way to gain permission to stay in the inbox.
Number two: You have to stay focused. It's tempting to cover lots of topics and involve lots of voices within the company. That's a mistake. If you want to stand out as the publisher of essential information, you need to write to a specific target with a narrow topic focus.
And number three: Think of publishing a newsletter like exercising. It only works if you keep doing it. The good news is if you can make it a part of your life, after a while it gets both easier and more effective. So commit to a monthly schedule and a year of publishing.
What are some common mistakes people make in their newsletters?
The most common mistake is writing too much about themselves, what I like to call a "Me-Newsletter." All about what we're doing and who we're working with and why we're so wonderful. It may be true, but your readers don't really care. I recommend companies think of their newsletter as a magazine: It's about something in particular and it's written for a specific target.
The other common mistake is taking all the personality out of the writing in an attempt to sound "professional." I'm not against being professional, but it tends to be dry and boring. Drop the jargon, write in the first person, and talk about the things you really believe in.
What types of information do you advise your clients to include in their newsletters?
Useful information that your target audience values. What do you know that I need? If you are a service organization, develop a reputation first as someone with a useful and interesting perspective and when there's a need you can fill, the phone will ring.
If you are a retailer, help me become a better consumer of what you sell. Give me your insider's perspective in an interesting, informative way. Don't worry about selling me on buying your stuff; teach me. The funny thing is, I'll buy more of your stuff when you do that.
Coming up with content can be a challenge. What do you do to make it easier?
Use your own experiences. If you know enough to run a business in a given industry, you have a lifetime of content. Those who buy your products and services will always be novices, so use that gap between your expertise and my interest in learning more.
Are there any secrets you can share with our readers to help them find greater success with their email newsletters?
The bottom line is that this tool only works to the extent the recipients want what you have to say. If you can develop a reputation as a source of useful, interesting, unbiased information within your area of expertise, you'll expand readership and your customer base too.
If you're like me, you most certainly have a few favorite TV shows you like to watch regularly. One of mine is Modern Family. And even though, thanks to my DVR, I don't need to watch it at the time it originally airs, I'm aware of the show's schedule. I know exactly when it's on and when I'll be able to look for it in the queue.
There's a funny thing about a regular schedule. When you know when to expect the things you like, you actually start to look forward to them. And when they're not there you take notice. You may even miss them!
What does this have to do with marketing, you may be asking? Well, if you've been haphazardly creating content without a regular schedule, you could be missing out on this very powerful phenomenon. It's this regular schedule that allows you to finally take charge of your social media marketing.
After all, wouldn't it be great to have people looking forward to the marketing content you create? And better still to have them disappointed if they missed it?
That's the power of regularly scheduled programming.
When you make the decision to choose a schedule, and remain consistent with it, you'll start to see the benefits much quicker than if you were to continue down the path without one.
You'll start to notice more of everything within your online marketing plan: more subscribers, more readers, more fans, and more followers. You'll finally be in charge of your social media marketing.
Why is a regular schedule so powerful?
Again, just like a TV show, you're able to promote something specifically. For example, you can tease across social networks about what's coming up in your latest blog post or email newsletter. Just like the commercials do this for your favorite show or the nightly news.
This allows you to generate interest and warm people up for the bigger conversation you're planning.
When you think in this way, based off a regular schedule, your marketing becomes more focused and engaging by nature, which is exactly what works in the social media space.
So what tools should you include on a regular schedule?
Let's take a look at the top four social media marketing platforms and the bare minimum you should post to them, and then adjust to achieve more from your marketing.
The key is to choose schedules you can stick with. If the below suggestions don't work for you that's fine. Adjust as necessary. But be sure to commit to whatever schedule you choose.
Use the following suggestions as a starting guide for your regular schedule:
1. Blog. Plan on posting to your blog at least once a week. Same day, same time, every week. You may want to experiment at first with the exact times to see how your audience responds.
2. Email. Plan on sending an email to your list at least once a month. Again, experiment with days and times. Then stick to something consistent.
3. Facebook. Update your Facebook Page status at least once a day. Experiment with the different times to find out when you get the most engagement. Be sure to review your Page Insights to see what content people are interacting with the most.
4. Twitter. Update your Twitter status at least three times a day. Remember, you don't always need to create the content you share. Find interesting links from those within your industry, and include a comment with your point of view.
Isn't this going to take a lot of time you don't have?
Yes. And no.
At first you may need to allot yourself a bit more time. But once you have your schedule outlined, it's faster and easier to plug in the content where it's needed.
Thanks to tools like HootSuite
you can schedule updates in advance to both Twitter and Facebook.
That's great if you can only grab a few minutes here or there. Also, NutshellMail
makes it easy for you to monitor and respond to questions and comments
from an email that gets sent to you on a schedule you choose (kind of
like my beloved DVR).
And of course, you're able to schedule your email marketing and blog posts to go live whenever you want them to.
So start thinking about a regular schedule for your marketing.
Then you'll be on your way to creating fresh content that helps you get and keep more subscribers, more readers, more fans, and more followers! And just maybe your marketing will become as popular as your favorite show.
What kind of schedule have you created for your email and social media sharing and what kind of response are you getting?
Every time you go to a new doctor or dentist and they give you a clipboard brimming with documents to fill out and sign, notice how they always ask for your Social Security number? Do you dutifully give it up? Did you ever wonder if they really need it?
I once asked a doctor why he wanted it. His response: “I don’t really know. I guess it’s because we’ve always asked for it.” (In actuality, most doctors ask in case your insurance doesn’t pay the entire invoice and/or to fill out a death certificate if you die. Offer a next of kin who knows the number instead, and your phone number for billing issues.)
Almost every day somebody asks for your Social Security Number and, like the Grand Marshal of a parade throwing rose petals or candy to the crowd, you probably give it up without giving it a second thought — because that’s what you’ve always done.
So, the next time someone asks you for your Social Security number, reflect on this: In December, the Army announced that hackers stole the Social Security numbers of 36,000 visitors to Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, including intelligence officers. Cyber activists took control of the CIA’s website. The private information, including some Social Security numbers, of celebrities and political leaders including FBI Director Robert Mueller and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were exposed.
The sensitive data of First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder, recently were posted on a website for the world to see.
Hackers even listened in on a phone call in which the FBI and Scotland Yard were discussing the criminal investigation against those very same hackers!
And, these incidents are only the crumbs on top of the coffee cake when you consider that hackers and thieves have improperly accessed more than 600 million consumer files since 2004.
Monty Python had it right
The moral to these horror stories is that if your Social Security number is stored on any computer anywhere, hackers will find a way to access it, or a compromised or disgruntled employee may well walk out the door with it. If your doctor, gym, or child’s grade school claims otherwise, that their security systems can protect your private data better than the CIA, FBI and Scotland Yard, to quote Monty Python: “Run away!”
Your identity is your biggest asset, and your Social Security number is the key to your personal kingdom. With it an identity thief can wreak havoc, hijacking your old credit accounts, establishing new ones, buying cars and houses, committing crimes, even obtaining medical products and services while pretending to be you, endangering not just your credit and your reputation, but also your life.
Consumers whose Social Security numbers are exposed in a data breach are five times more likely to become fraud victims than those who aren’t, according to the latest identity fraud report by Javelin Strategy & Research.
Just say no
For better or worse, you are the gatekeeper. The person most responsible for shielding your Social Security Number is you. Therefore, your mission is to limit, as best you can, the universe of those who gain access to it.
Here’s a short list of companies and organizations that have absolutely no business requesting your Social Security number:
1. Anyone who calls or sends you an official-looking email, who texts you a link to any site or designates a number to call where you are asked to confirm your SSN. If they call, check the credit or debit card that is the subject of the communication, call the customer service number listed on the back, and ask for the security department. If they email or text, do the same, or go directly to the institution’s website (provided you know who they are). Make sure you type the correct URL, and make sure that the page where you are asked to enter your information is secure. Only provide personal information if you’re the one who controls the interaction.
2. Public schools: Your utility bill confirms your address. Your email and phone number give them channels to contact you in an emergency. Asking for your Social Security number is overkill.
3. Little League, summer camp and the like: For the same reasons as school, a Social Security number should never be required by these groups. If they ask for your child’s birth certificate, show it to them, don’t leave it with them unless they can prove they will protect it. And even then, can you really believe them? If you use credit to pay for the activity, the organization may need your Social Security number. If you pay for it upfront or with a direct debit to your bank account or credit card, they don’t. Period.
4. Supermarkets: A frequent shopper card is neither a loan, nor a bank account. It’s merely a tool grocery stores use to track your purchases, primarily for marketing purposes. Regardless, many supermarket chains request customers’ Social Security numbers on their application forms. Refuse.
5. Anybody who approaches you on the street, whether it’s a cell phone company salesman offering a free T-shirt or someone running a voter registration campaign: Never, ever give your SSN. If you want an ill-fitting T-shirt festooned with corporate logos, buy one. If you want to register to vote, go to your county board of elections in person.
This is the short list. There are plenty of other organizations that should never get your Social Security number, and if you know one that I’ve left out, please leave it in the comments.
Don’t just hand it over
Once you realize how often you are asked for your Social Security number, you may be surprised. It happens literally all the time. So, the next time someone does, as they inevitably will, here’s how to handle it:
1. Take a minute and think. Maybe they ask for SSNs blindly, because everyone else does, or because that’s how they’ve always done it. Maybe they actually need it. See if their reason sounds legitimate. (Update: For example, Credit.com’s Credit Report Card does ask for your SSN in order to generate your credit score and credit report summary — an industry standard – but the information is fully encrypted with a bank level authentication process.)
2. Negotiate. There are many different ways to identify you without a Social Security number, including your driver’s license or account number. Fight to use those instead.
3. If you must share your Social Security number, do so, but make sure the people taking it down have strong security measures in place to protect it. That said, you only have their assurance and frankly, in light of the mistakes people make and the sophistication level of hackers, who really knows if they can protect it?
Overcoming the addiction
If all this sounds like a giant pain in the neck, you’re right. It is. In the midst of our busy lives, we shouldn’t be the only ones concerned with protecting our most valuable identity asset, but it is what it is. Until somebody creates a Silver Bullet for identity theft, we are forced to take matters into our own hands.
Don’t be passive; ask the companies and nonprofit groups with which you do business how they plan to protect you. Do they password protect and encrypt all the personal information they collect? Do they have strict controls on who has access to computers containing your Social Security number, and do they keep this sensitive data off laptops, tablets and hard drives that are easy to steal or lose?
Like the doctor I met, many companies collect Social Security numbers they don’t need because they’re operating on autopilot. They’ve always done it, and their colleagues at other companies do it, so the practice continues and spreads on the strength of simple, dumb inertia. I believe that we are smarter than that. By demanding that companies do a better job protecting our personal information, and refusing to hand out our Social Security numbers like candy at a parade, we can force them to get smarter, too. And if they don’t think we’re serious about this and the government doesn’t finally force them off their Social Security number addiction, it is highly likely that the ultimate regulator of the American economic system, class action attorneys, will be knocking on their doors.
Upcoming Important Tax Deadlines
April 15th - Partnership Tax Returns Due - Due date for 2012 income tax returns for Limited Liability Companies (2 member or more LLCs), General Partnerships, and Limited Partnerships (Form 1065). An automatic six-month extension may be obtained by filing Form 7004.
April 15th- Individual Tax Returns Due - Due date for 2012 Personal Income Tax returns (Form 1040). An automatic six- month extension may be obtained by filing Form 4868.
April 15th- Retirement Plan and HSA Contributions Deadline - Last day to make a retroactive contribution to traditional IRA, Roth IRA, Health Savings Account, SEP-IRA or solo 401(k) for the 2012 tax year. However, if you get an extension, you have until October 15th to fund a SEP-IRA or solo 401(k)..
April 15th - CALIFORNIA RESIDENTS!! - Franchise Tax Payments Due - If you have an entity Registered to do business in California (domestic or foreign) your $800 minimum tax is due by April 15th. If you are a S-Corp or C-Corp, use Form 100-ES, and click here are the Instructions. If you are an LLC, use Form 3522 and the Instructions are included with the Form.
When you learn how to post effectively on your Facebook real estate page, it becomes obvious how powerful Facebook marketing can be for your real estate business.
Allow us to dissect the anatomy of a Facebook post and show you the raw power of one single post on your Facebook real estate page wall.
When you dissect an effective Facebook wall post, like the one you see at the right, you'll find 4 sections.
Let's look a little closer at each of the 4 sections.
If you want to get more from your real estate Facebook page, make sure you ALWAYS post with a photo or video.
Photos are eye-catching and interesting. Not only do pictures tell a thousand words about your real estate page, but they make your business look interesting. And "interesting" = Likes.
And not only do photos make you look more interesting, but the engagement rate on your posts can be up to 50x higher on average.
That's right — up to 50x higher!
Don't believe it? See for yourself.
Visit the Facebook page of houzz.com. Look at how many Likes, Comments, and Shares they get when they use a full-size photo on one of their Facebook posts. Then look at how many interactions they get when they just post a link (a link will have the little cameo image to the left of the text block). Pretty clear, right?
But why is more engagement important? Engagement is your FREE marketing. That's right — every time someone Likes, Comments, or Shares your photo, it tells their friends about your business page automatically.
That's FREE marketing. If you're not getting engagement on your Facebook real estate page wall posts, you're just wasting time posting!
Get engagement for the free, viral marketing only Facebook can provide.
When you post your headline on your Facebook real estate page, keep two things in mind.
First, short and sweet works better. 80 characters or less is best practice — people just don't like to read long paragraphs anymore.
Secondly, your headline is your call-to-action.
When you remember that engagement = free marketing, you'll realize getting engagement is your whole point of posting!
And when you realize this simple fact, it becomes obvious why the great Facebook posters are always asking questions and requesting Likes, Comments, and/or Shares ON EVERY SINGLE POST they do.
If you want FREE marketing from your Facebook real estate page, make sure your headlines are telling people what engagement you want from them!
Are you getting results with your posts? It's easy to see. Just count up the number of Likes, Comments, and Shares on any given post on your Facebook real estate page.
Every one of those interactions is providing your business free marketing.
Make no mistake, free marketing is the primary goal of having a Facebook real estate page.
In the evolution of your page, you'll likely see average interaction levels like the ones in the table below.
|Page Likes||Expected Engagement Level*|
|0 – 200||1 – 8 per post|
|201 – 500||8 – 15 per post|
|501 – 1,000||15 – 50 per post|
|1,000 – 3,000||50 – 100 per post|
* Likes + Comments + Shares
Well? How are you doing?
If you aren't seeing these levels, or if you habitually have zero engagement your posts on your Facebook real estate page, it is likely your strategy needs improvement.
For a free evaluation of your Facebook real estate page and 15-minute demo of our system, sign up at the bottom of the page.
Once you start building your engagement and your community of followers on your real estate page, use the built-in Facebook insights module for a quick summary of posting activity.
The Facebook insights module, which automatically activates once your Page hits 35 Likes, not only gives you a quick summary of your post's engagement results (see bottom of image above), but it also gives you a summary list of the results of all of your post titles so you can quickly learn what posts work well and which don't.
The great thing about Facebook's insights analytics module, is that it is much easier to setup than Google Analytics. In fact, there is zero setup at all with Facebook Insights.
By Elizabeth Weintraub, About.com Guide
Look into ways to stop foreclosure before you lose your home.© Big Stock Photo
Apart from those who knowingly participate in mortgage fraud -- with the intention of never making a single payment -- most homeowners face sudden extenuating circumstances that force them to stop making timely mortgage payments. Here are a few of those reasons:
The best way to avoid foreclosure is to prevent the filing of a Notice of Default. Lenders do not want to foreclose but will file a Notice of Default to protect their interests, if necessary. If you know you are unlikely to meet your mortgage obligation, the first thing you should do is call your lender.
Don't put it off, be embarrassed or ignore letters from your lender because those responses will make the situation worse, not better. Depending on your particular situation and hardship circumstances, here are some options your lender might propose to you:
When the lender files a Notice of Default, your options are limited. That is why it is better for you to call your lender before falling behind on your payments, because lenders are often reluctant to work out repayment schedules after foreclosure proceedings have been commenced.
You will be given a certain time period to bring the payments current, pay the costs of filing the foreclosure and stop the foreclosure. This is called reinstatement of your loan. If you cannot make up the missed payments and the lender will not work with you, here are a few other options to stop foreclosure:
The lender might also work an arrangement where a home owner can remain in the home until finding a place to move into. Owners in default should negotiate the right to retain occupancy, arguing that if the lender followed through on the foreclosure, an owner would still enjoy the right of possession during that procedure.
At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, DRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.