Ever since my Retirement Article appeared in the September issue of the Cash Flow Journal our E-mail has been jammed and phone ringing from folks who, for one reason or another had “checked out” from the Cash Flow, Finance or Real Estate business. Most figured they were just too old to be in the business or now felt they were “too old” to get started again. Until reading the article some felt they allowed themselves to “check out” of life as well and as a result were bored with life and themselves. Others had hit a bump in the road or burned out, but now interested in getting back to business.
One of my first questions to each of them was, “Do you have a business plan” Without exception, each one said, “I’ve never put one together or how do I go about this task?” All requested I E-mail them a business plan to jump-start their business. While this could be a possibility, not being a mentor, spoon-feeding this first task could lead to counter production. My primary suggestion was run not walk, to your local warehouse to purchase a computer, printer, and software and get access to the Internet. There, with a few hours invested in browsing one can find every imaginable “business plan” to plagiarize and customize to suit your needs.
Revolving or Evolving
Good grief, you should have heard the moans, groans and lame excuses. A few even said the mere thoughts of learning how to turn a computer on caused icy fear and chills up and down their spine.
Because the real estate, financing, and business has gone through dynamic changes in the last decade, due primarily to the introduction of technology, the cash flow business is to a large extent, no longer conducted in the fashion and using the methods we once used. Technology is here to stay! If you sleep for a week, you wake up behind the eight ball, so my advice to those who want to go and grow is to bite the bullet and get into the 21st Century, before it leaves you in the dust. (No pun intended)
Get “On-Star” Connection
So, if you are just getting started, jump-starting a lagging business or if you are thinking seriously about getting back into the business, push the “On-Star” button and find out where you are! I cannot emphasis strongly enough how important it is to develop some sort of a business plan. Let’s face it; if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you. It’s like heading from Los Angeles to Boston without a map. You’ll drive around in circles, loose your sense of direction getting detoured or end up hopelessly lost and discouraged. Recognize first of all your present location that is, where you are today; Where you want to go (An Objective) and then a strategic Plan (You need a map, mister).
“You need a map, Mister”
Seeing this is the “Tools of the Trade” publication, let’s take a few minutes to talk about an intrinsic and important component of your business plan is the development of a Marketing Plan. A Marketing Plan is simply clarifying your Objectives and then stating how to plan to meet them. This calls for making a few decisions like, how much can I spend, which media should I choose and how can I measure the results. Also consider, do I have a special niche, a special talent, special education in a certain area. Many of the associates and consultants I talked to at last years convention drag their feet over the idea of developing a marketing plan, think it kind of “old fashioned” or confess they attended a session and felt they did not have the capital to fully fund a marketing plan. Others indicated they spent so much time putting a plan together they never got off first base.
Although computers and the Internet can be an enormous boon to your marketing efforts as technology continues to transform the industry, old methods should not be scraped. The “old fashioned” of advertising and/or using collateral materials, letters, postcards and mailers should not be entirely scrapped any more than just simply picking up a phone and calling. The Internet however will become a key delivery mechanism for marketing and your Computer Data Base Management, will become an integral part of your plan by increasing your effectiveness, efficiency.
Computerized Date Base Management is the key to developing an effective lead list. This is essential whether you are strategizing by using: Direct Mail, Strategic Partners (referrals) or Personal Contact (Nose to Nose and Toes to Toes) or Telephone. The Contact Manager we use allows us to Group our Leads, Automate the date for our next contact for follow through, and measure our results, track leads, calls and responses. The accuracy, timeliness and depth of prospect data will have a major impact on the return on your direct marketing investment. Your Data Base Software should allow you to download and format lead lists from county records and lead lists generated by the lead providers.
Consistency is the Key
The secret however is: Consistency! It takes time to manage an effective database and most procrastinate or just simply cannot find the time. In addition to the input of the information, the data must be sanitized on a regular basis or the whole thing falls apart. You may have to hire someone to take care of the database in order to free up your time to do what you do best…follow through and close the deal.
Technology just can’t be beat as a Communication Tool. As the Internet grows in popularity, one of the most inexpensive ways to get your message across is the use of e-mail. First, get the recipients attention by using an interesting Subject Line. Next, you might want to ask the recipient to forward your e-mail to someone else who might be interested and be sure to let them know that their name will not be sold or traded but be kept private and confidential. Also, a great idea is to put a link to an informational website in your e-mail message. One that would supply the recipient with related information.
Follow up or Die!
Newsletters via e-mail can be incredibly effective way to get your message across. Before you start reinventing the wheel however, check out what is available on he Web in terms of a “canned newsletter”. Again the key to an effective e-mail newsletter is “consistency”. If you become busy with other things and fail to keep them coming, it is the kiss of death. No marketing technique works without consistency, and newsletters are no exception to this rule. Your newsletter should have a response mechanism. Offer something of value and by all means – Follow Up. As my good friend David Butler wrote in his book, Growing your Food Chain, “Follow up or Die”!
Another marketing idea I latched upon recently by using the Web, as a communication vehicle is participation by joining on of the many Discussion Groups on the Web. Choose a site that is connected to your particular marketing niche. Not only is this activity interesting, but also by contributing your two cents worth, you have access to thousands of people. Make your remarks positive and productive by sharing and idea, responding to questions when you feel you have something worthwhile to contribute. By participating your fame will be shed abroad and perhaps “serendipity” will come your way you did not expect.
Finally, it is obvious none of us will be replaced by technology, so there is no reason not to use all the tools of the trade you can afford that will make you more effective and more efficient. Here’s another great benefit of using e-mail and the web to market your service. Just think, no one knows if you are 25, 50 or 90 years old and now one knows if you just started in the business, are struggling in the business or have been in it long enough to grow whiskers of wisdom. There’s a law of compensation that evens the odds with respect to age you know. Just think, it doesn’t matter where whether you live in Whiskey Flats, AZ, Lizard Lick, AK, or Bootjack, CA either. On the Internet, no one knows or cares. So, keep your mind open and endeavor to understand the technology that will enable and empower you to become more successful.