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Do You Know the Real Cost of Renting vs. Buying? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Do You Know the Real Cost of Renting vs. Buying? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights:

  • Historically, the choice between renting or buying a home has been a close decision.
  • Looking at the percentage of income needed to rent a median-priced home today (30%), vs. the percentage needed to buy a median-priced home (15%), the choice becomes obvious.
  • Every market is different. Before you renew your lease again, find out if you could use your housing costs to own a home of your own!

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Maui Ocean Center Welcomes 5 Blacktip Shark Pups

Maui Ocean Center Welcomes 5 Blacktip Shark Pups

Five blacktip reef shark pups have recently became a part of the marine life at Maui Ocean Center.

At approximately two feet in length, the pups will reside in the Deep Reef exhibit for about a year before they’re released as juveniles back into the ocean.  Upon arrival, the pups received a blessing.

A team of aquarists lead by Head Curator John Gorman observed the sharks throughout their quarantine process to ensure they remain in optimal health.  Gorman said the sharks have successfully acclimated to their new environment.

Blacktip reef sharks are opportunistic feeders, scavenging the ocean floor for crustaceans, squid, octopus, and bony fish.

Aquarists at the Maui Ocean Center say the species gathers nearshore during the summer months to establish pup nurseries where shallow waters help to protect the pups from larger ocean predators.

The Maui Ocean Center is currently home to nearly 20 sharks and 5 species.

 

3 Ways Content Can Build A Bridge Between Marketing and Sales

3 Ways Content Can Build A Bridge Between Marketing and Sales

The disconnect between marketing and sales teams has long been an industry-wide, hot-button issue, with both sides claiming communication is key but typically shying away from any real-world, concrete solutions for creating that communication. In fact, according to a recent study by Demand Gen, 49% of marketers and sales executives agree that communication is the biggest challenge in aligning teams.

downloadBut research shows that business booms when marketing and sales can overcome the gap between the groups for the good of the brand. An Aberdeen Group study found that businesses with highly aligned sales and marketing teams earned an average of 32% year-over-year growth, while those who reported less alignment saw a 7% decrease in revenue. Ouch. Takes alignment out of the nice-to-have category and puts it squarely at the top-of-the-growth agenda.

If aligning marketing and sales teams is so critical for growth, then how come it’s so hard to get the two groups together to focus on a clear content marketing strategy? The solution could lie in setting clear goals, outlining what each side wants from the other, and then using those goals for content creation.

Create content that brings better leads

When Demand Gen asked sales what they most wanted from marketing, the No. 1 answer was better quality leads, followed closely by more leads. And there’s plenty of evidence to support the idea that better content equals better leads, since most buyers are already nearly a third of the way through their journey before they even contact sales teams. The further online the buyer’s journey goes, the greater the responsibility is for marketing to create effective content that supports that journey.

download (1)Content that educates the buyer and stands out from competitors is crucial in this initial phase, and I have to say here, this is where interactive content has made all the difference for us. Research has shown that interactive content is 93% effective at educating the buyer (more than double static content), and it’s 88% effective at differentiating brands from competitors (more than a third better than static content).

But what’s seldom discussed is that interactive content, like ROI calculators and assessments, can act as invaluable tools in a sales associate’s arsenal for gauging where customers are in their life cycle and making sure that they’re getting personal, relevant attention as soon as they’re ready for it. As marketer Mark Yeager recently wrote, “Content fails when you create materials that speak to very broad audiences.” And static, impersonal content meant to appeal to the masses could be failing not just your customer, but also your sales team.

Help sales break the ice

As anyone who’s sheepishly deleted a failed tweet or an unloved Instagram can attest, it can be difficult to drum up interest from relative strangers. What most savvy sales teams quickly realize when they start integrating great content into their strategies is that opening gaffes are more easily avoided with interactive content.

Studies show that the majority of customers prefer custom content, so it stands to reason that they would also like sales teams to show a personal interest in their unique needs and preferences during the sales process.

Let sales in the loop

While we’re on the subject of communication between the sales and marketing teams, let’s look at what marketing wants from sales. According to the same Demand Gen study, 34% of marketers want better lead follow-up from sales teams, which seems ironic since sales mostly wants better leads from marketing. The problem is somewhere in the middle – a failure to use audience interaction with content in meaningful ways.

For example, when potential customers interact with content, be it testing their knowledge in an assessment built into a white paper or taking a quiz built into a blog post, they’re giving brands a clearer picture of what kind of engagement they want. However, failure to acknowledge that engagement is a missed opportunity – be it from a marketer who doesn’t use audience data to create more relevant content in the future or the sales associate who doesn’t follow up with a lead whose answers indicate she’s ready to buy.

download (2)A unified approach to data from interactive content creates a feedback loop that can be useful to every aspect of the buyer journey, from lead gen to closing the deal. Great insights from content interactions don’t do anyone any good if sales doesn’t have that hustle, hunger, and fire to follow up when they see a great prospect content interaction.

In the end, sales and marketing want the same things: better leads and more relevantconversions with ready buyers. Giving the sales team interactive content serves both purposes by providing data about where buyers are in their journey and acting as a gateway to further communication. And the result may very well be a 70% boost in conversions, which is definitely worth starting a conversation.

7 Ways To Offer The Best Customer Service In The Business

7 Ways To Offer The Best Customer Service In The Business

Associates at flooring companies wear different hats. They assist in designing an important aspect of a customer’s house. Installers also enter and work within a customer’s home. This process can either be intrusive and stressful or fun and exciting. Outstanding service drives the customer experience in a positive direction.

download (3)1.) Prioritize Customer Relations Over Singular Sales

When interacting with customers, think in the long term. Never coerce someone into buying a product they don’t really want/need. Instead, make sure customers leave knowing they have received quality advice. Satisfied customers will come back and purchase more products in the future.

2.) Admit Mistakes

If you’ve made a mistake, own up to it. A meaningful apology will ease tensions with customers. After apologizing, make an effort to remedy the situation. Being stubborn and accusatory is the easiest way to lose customers.

3.) Follow Through on Promises

Customers are looking for a business they can trust. The simplest method of gaining trust is staying true to your word. Honor business promotions and deals. Show up on time. Would you want a flaky person in your own home installing your own floors?  Of course not!

4.) Know Your Stuff

Make sure your customers are getting the best information possible. Be knowledgeable in your product, the pros and cons of different flooring, your supply etc. Not knowing the answers to basic questions is unprofessional and disheartening to customers.

5.) Be Responsive

People don’t like to be kept waiting. Respond within the day to phone and email inquiries. Most people won’t wait around for a call back and will just take their business elsewhere. Also, make sure to offer assistance to customers immediately when they enter the store. Customers should never have to work hard to seek out help.

Estate agent showing a house to the young family

6.) Be Pleasant

The experience of buying and installing floors can be  fun or a pain. You guide this process. Be enthusiastic, kind, and efficient. You don’t want to be responsible for adding stress into a customer’s life. Be someone who a customer wouldn’t mind spending a few hours with.

7.) Be Grateful

Your customers had the choice to go to any flooring company and they chose yours. Be thankful! Make sure that your customers know you appreciate and cherish their business.

Great customer service isn’t an exact formula. Utilize these tips and tricks to leave your customers satisfied and excited to return in the future.

5 reasons baby boomers are tech resistant

5 reasons baby boomers are tech resistant

  • Pew Research Center found that 77 percent of older Americans need someone to assist them in the process of learning new technologies.
  • Technology has provided tools that real estate agents can use to drive sales faster.
  • An Elon University study found that 92 percent of student respondents agreed that technology has negative effects on face-to-face communication.

images (3)Technology has not been around for a long time, but it seems to have conquered every aspect of our lives. The real estate industry, though still a little defiant about the impacts of technology, has seen this new phenomenon influence in recent years.

Millennial clients, in particular, are progressively transforming the homebuying process into something timely and innovative. They are embracing new technological trends that are penetrating the real estate environment.

Others who belong in older age groups, however, are not so keen on accepting the changes. Non-techie baby boomers still find it difficult to abandon the traditional methods that they have grown accustomed to.

They are hesitant to receive without a pang of misgiving the new technologies that they barely recognize. But why is this so? Here are several the reasons some people have a hard time catching up with technological advancement.

1. Lack of understanding of technologies

New real estate technologies have recently sprung. Among the most popular today are mobile tools such as smartphones and tablets, which both real estate agents and clients use for faster transactions.

Other technologies that are catching the interest of millennial clients are mobile collaboration apps, e-signature technology and responsive interface design websites for real estate companies.

For instance, DMCI Homes, a Philippine-based real estate developer has various websites and blogs that cater to the needs of its growing client base. Other companies are carrying out the same strategy.

download (2)To put it in the words of Pam O’Connor, president and CEO of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, “At the minimum, most brokerages have developed mobile versions of their website, and now many are creating specific mobile apps.”

Although all of this might sound exciting to a young techie, the older segment of real estate clients are not so thrilled. They have grown so familiar with the classic telephone method of sealing a real estate deal, that they find it quite a challenge to transition to these new means.

They find technological applications too complicated, so they shy away from them. In fact, according to a study conducted by Pew Research Center, 77 percent of older Americans need someone to assist them in the process of learning new technologies.

2. Familiar comfort with traditional methods

Despite the rise of technological trends in the recent past, traditional modes are still strong in the real estate industry. Steak dinners, offline transactions, flyers, property auctions, open houses, real estate booths, and newspaper ads are still preferred by the older groups who venture into real estate.

These traditional methods are more expensive and time-consuming, but many still prefer it over the mobile way.

“Some clients didn’t want to upgrade their technology and cling to their paper processes,” said Brad Charnas, president and owner of Charnas Appraisal.

Baby boomers might acknowledge the benefits of using technology in real estate dealings, but they cling to the traditional means, and they just settle for what they are already comfortable with.

They would rather not explore something new that takes them out of their comfort zone. Because the shift to technology is a little stressful, they go for the traditional method instead.

3. Limited educational online resources about real estate

How has technology changed real estate? Undoubtedly, technology has contributed some significant improvements to the real estate industry.

For one, it has fused personal interaction and digital communication to make the process more holistic and dynamic. Technology has provided tools that real estate agents can use to drive sales faster and that clients can take advantage of to compare deals.

Technology has proven its worth in providing information and dispersing knowledge, but it appears that none of this is enough. Even in the virtual real estate pool, no chunk of information can replace the hands-on learning experience that the traditional method provides.

You might find a hundred resources over the web, but none of them will be enough to supply you with everything you need to know about real estate. True learning comes with real interaction.

As Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow, said, “When push comes to shove, and it comes time to sell their home, the transaction is so infrequent and so highly emotional and expensive — and consumers are so prone to error — that they turn to a professional.”

With a program, you can’t fully assess your progress in learning, but with a human adviser, you can have a better perspective on things.

4. Fear of falling prey to online scams

The internet is crowded with a lot of information — some of it is relevant, and some is not. Of all the sites found on the web, the ones that are just meant to trick and swindle helpless victims are few and far between. This is why the non-techie client base of the real estate industry is entitled to dislike new technologies.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAM-AAAAJGE3NTQ2MWQzLWJjNDctNDY2ZC04Yjk5LTQ3NTU5MGJjMDJkNQScams that can potentially wreck a person financially, psychologically and emotionally are all over the web. If the terms of that condo for sale sounds too good to be true, it might be a scam.

Sketchy advertising is a common identifier of shady deals. When you’re not sure if the buyer of your condominium is a scammer or not, do further research and report the person to an authority.

But remember to do this only when you have significant evidence that the person is not legit. Otherwise, just block further communication with the person.

It is natural for older clients to steer away from something that they deem to have a high-risk factor. It’s better to use a system that is outdated but more reliable than use a new way that can cause serious damage.

5. Need for personal advice from real professionals

“We will never be a point-and-click industry,” Phil Faranda, owner of J. Philip Real Estate in Westchester County, New York, said. “You will always need a trusted adviser to ensure that you get the best terms possible. The stakes are so high. If you want to do a do-it-yourself project, build a hovercraft.”

He could not have been more right. Indeed, this is exactly the reason real estate companies have not killed off their brokers.

Despite the growing popularity of technology in the millennial sector, almost everyone still agrees that it is not always the answer to every problem. Technology has its own downsides, too.

In a study conducted by Elon University, 92 percent of student respondents agreed that technology has negative effects on face-to-face communication, and that is despite the fact that 97 percent of them bring their mobile gadgets wherever they are.
If millennials themselves understand the adverse effects of technology on their personal interactions, how much more do non-millennials? It’s easy to see how technology has changed the real estate industry.

Nonetheless, baby boomers still prefer real estate agents over lifeless screens because they need somebody to help them with price negotiations, paperwork, financial arrangements and other technical duties. But most importantly, they need the guidance of a trusted real estate agent to help them make the right decisions when buying or selling a property.

images (2)These are only five of the reasons some people still hold on to the traditional methods of doing business. New real estate technologies might be convenient for some, but the industry should also consider those who are not comfortable using them.

As Rich Barton, founder of Expedia and Zillow, said, “It was obvious to us, regardless of how relatively frustrated consumers were with the whole process, how important that agent relationship was to customers. No robots were going to eliminate the agents.”

 

Google Just Rocked Your World

Google Just Rocked Your World

On May 24, 2016, Google announced the most significant changes to AdWords since, well, the invention of AdWords. It’s the second momentous change Google has made this year, after phasing out of the right-rail ads that started testing at the end of 2015 and became official this February. Now we’re looking at a substantial redesign. It begs the question “Why do these changes matter?” There are an incredible nine billion text ads on Google. These ads are a lifeline for innumerable businesses, and any change to them means these advertisers — mom-and-pop shops, mid-market businesses and and billion-dollar global brand giants — will have to react quickly, and probably spend more marketing dollars, to adjust and profit.

adwordsMost of what you’ve read so far about why Google decided to do this is accurate. User behavior has changed due to the searcher’s move to mobile, which has outpaced desktop searches. Right rail — or sidebar — ads don’t render properly on a mobile device. These ads aren’t maximizing clicks or transactions — which doesn’t bode well for Google or advertisers. Ads on the top of the search results page make everyone happy: consumers click and transact, while Google and advertisers profit.

But with this change come challenges and opportunities. With Google’s new format, there are only four ads on the top of the search results page versus up to three ads on top, with another seven ads on the sidebar with the old format. With less real estate to compete with, advertisers that respond quickly to the changes will win big.

smd-commentary

Image source: Google

First-Mover Advantage

The new ad format allows for expanded text on the top line (headline) of over 30 extra characters, an extra “path” on the URL (line 2), and extra characters totaling 80 on the last line (description line).  But advertisers, be warned: mushing line one and line two descriptions together won’t work. Most advertisers write the two lines of text as separate ideas, and when they are pushed together these logically don’t flow as a cohesive message.

Advertisers that move quickly and adapt to the new format stand to benefit in two ways. First, advertisers that leverage the additional creative real estate can weave in new messages as they communicate to their customers that result in more clicks and purchases. Second, ads in the new format will look more aesthetically appealing compared to the older ads that do not read properly, which are displayed by advertisers that don’t switch over.

More Work Than You Think

As mentioned, Google has more than 9 billion ads at its disposal. Sure, some are created by templates so the number of unique ads is smaller, but we’re still talking about rewriting billions of ads, no matter how you slice it. Google has not publicly offered assistance for advertisers to tackle this issue. A significant amount of rewriting is required no matter how many unique or templated ads online advertisers use in their campaigns.

150512_Ads_AP01-01Don’t bet on technology to solve this for you either, given the aforementioned challenges with merging two separate ideas together. I’ve personally tried this approach, and it won’t work. I’ve spoken with big companies in the search ecosystem that can’t get this to work either. Google has indicated that the deadline for completing the rollover to the new formats is some time this fall. Multiple ads per ad group, multiple accounts, and many, many templates can only mean one thing: lots and lots of work.

It Will Cost You

Enterprise and SMB companies don’t have resources waiting on standby for work like this to pop up. Google’s AdWords change will mandate hiring internally, or partnering with an existing agency or starting a new agency relationship. Let’s do some math:

Writing costs on average 20 cents per word for time for the writer. The average word has six characters, and there are approximately 45 extra characters that Google is offering up (5 extra characters for Headline 1; 30 extra characters for Headline 2; the extra “path” on the URL line; 5 extra characters on the longer description line). Extra time and writing are also required to ensure that the new ad makes sense. The cost of redoing one ad is at least $1.40 for the writing, and then some larger expense –we’ll say $2.00 — to ensure the ad is logical. That comes down to $3.40 per ad. If an advertiser has 5,000 ads in her account that’s over $15,000 of expense.

What’s the lesson for advertisers? Start looking for budget. Oh and get ready. You can bet that if Google is doing this now, their cousin in Redmond will follow suit in the next few months.