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Save the World (and some money)



Email Marketing Header - Nick

I conducted a class about email marketing the other day, which opened up some great converations and made me excited to get back to my next post.

Which birds are we killing and why?

The two birds I’m aiming to kill are wasted money and environmental damage. Many of the Realtors I deal with in my day job love postcards. Others love “items of value” and handwritten notes. Some send newsletters through the mail. You may be completely wasting your time.

Generation Y and Direct Mail

I check my mail maybe once every other week. So if your postcard is time sensitive, you just wasted your time and money. Why don’t I check more regularly? All of my bills are online and none of my friends send me letters, they send me emails. So the only reason I check my mail is when I’m expecting something, like a movie or a package.

For those of you sending the items of value or handwritten notes, you’re doing better. Something personal in the mail is a novelty to me, so I’ll take a look at it. But those giant oval stickers telling me that you work on referrals and you want to download my contacts database so you can spam them too is an insult. I know why you’re contacting me, I don’t need it shoved in my face with a cheesy sticker.

Generation Y and Email

The number one question I get asked at all of my email marketing classes is “I get so much junk and delete it, why would I want to do this?” I would guess the average age of the Realtors in my classes is 45-50. Not Generation Y (keep reading, I’ll give my take on why Generation Y matters so much).

I grew up with email, as did many other Gen Y’ers. I have at least 10 accounts, 5 of which I check many times throughout the day. If you get my Hotmail account, sorry. Yahoo even worse. Work isn’t bad. Gmail means you’re a friend.

The bottom line is I’m efficient at checking my email. If I don’t want to keep getting something, I unsubscribe and if that doesn’t work, you get spam blocked. So I don’t mind 90% of the newsletters I get. According to a study put out by, 40% of people surveyed would like to have direct mail replaced by email. THEY WANT EMAIL.

Wasn’t there another bird somewhere?

The other bird that is more like a condor (in a bunch of ways) and it’s the environment. Call me a tree hugging hippie if you must, but hopefully somewhere deep inside you realize you should be doing something to help out. I’m biased, I live in the number 1 greenest city and spent my impressionable years in the number 5 city.

An average of 41 pounds of junk mail is sent to every adult citizen each year. Approximately 44% of this mail goes into a landfill unopened.

Sorry about calling your lovely postcard “junk”, but it immediately went into my recycle box. Some people think “Aha! But you at least saw it!” Yes I did, and I thought “How archaic and wasteful, I will NEVER work with that person”.

Generation Y? They’re just a bunch of self-centered punks!

People I work with always try to point out that Gen Y isn’t the largest real estate buying age group (yet). Many people I deal with are Baby Boomers and prefer to work with Baby Boomers because they see it as a huge group. My parents are Baby Boomers. I have a great relationship with my parents, which is typical of Generation Y.

My parents bought their house over 10 years ago and they love it. They will retire in it. They may need you for an investment property or a vacation home, but not all Boomers will. You are guaranteed only one more transaction out of them. A bit morbid, I know, but it’s the only guarantee you have.

I am a different story though. I will be moving out of my starter home to something nicer within the next 2-3 years. If I decide I want a family, I will move out of that house into another. I see the value of real estate investing, so I want several rental properties. I love my vacations, so I’ll take a vacation home too. Sure, these may be over the next 15 years, so if you’re only in the business for the next 5 years, feel free to ignore me.

The other thing is my parents (Boomers) are very busy people and will want my help with their real estate transactions. So I not only choose my Realtor, but I choose theirs too. So THAT’s why Generation Y is so important. We may not be the biggest group, but we have a lot of sway with the biggest group.

It’s so easy…

All of your direct mail marketing should now say “I’m trying to go green, would you rather receive this via email?” and have a sign in box on your web site that you refer people to. You will probably be amazed at the response you get. Do that a few times, then do a promotion (drawing for dinner/prize) to get those emails.

I’ll use Constant Contact and a local postcard company as examples. To send out 250 postcards will cost you $155. To send out an email newsletter to 250 people will cost you $15. If you decide you want to repeat it to announce a charitable cause, an open house or any other event, postcards will cost you another $155 but Constant Contact will cost you nothing more than the $15 you already spent.

So you’ve saved a ton of money, the environment, reached out to Generation Y (who helps Baby Boomers in their decision process), now get started!

Nick runs a new media marketing consulting company helping real estate professionals learn how to implement new media tools into their marketing arsenal. He frequently gives presentations on generational marketing, green marketing and advanced online promotion. Nick is active on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

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  1. Jonathan Dalton

    February 15, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    The last hard mail I still do consistently is the expired letters. If someone can provide me with the e-mail addresses of every seller whose listing expires, I’ll be happy to change.

    Other than that, I abandoned direct mailing long, long ago – not in deference to Gen Y since, amazingly enough, there are many of us out there of different generations (not sure when those of us in Gen X got put out to pasture) but simply because there was no ROI.

  2. Nick

    February 15, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    The ability to track ROI is one of the biggest reasons I love email. With many providers out there, you can get great stats that you can’t get with direct mail.

    My day job is with a title company and we help Realtors to design postcards with local information on it and I hate it with a passion. However, we’ve actually had Realtors leave us over postcards.

  3. Hi, I'm Jeff Turner And I Got Here Before Rudy

    February 15, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Nick… I am not Gen Y and I have the same feelings and use email in the same way. This is going to become less and less generational.

  4. Christina Ethridge

    February 15, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Well, I’m a Gen Yer in a Gen Xer body and I have to say: our biggest ROI is our direct mail. We have an active blog (2 blogs actually), 80% of our clients utilize any number of our websites (not talking about outside websites like We send out a monthly newsletter that we still get the most response from. It’s one of the 3 major things we do to connect with our client base and to establish new clientelle.

    We heavily use direct email marketing (effective), blogging (effective), multiple websites (effective) and direct mail (insanely effective). We increase our direct mail presence nearly every month because it works and it works well.

    Yes, I get great stats with our electronic methods – but, every month, within 3 days of the newsletter being mailed, our phone volume increases anywhere from 38% to 87% (highs and lows from our server tracker). I also have this cycle period, the majority of the listings I take sign between the 21st and the 28th of the month (the week following the mail out) – and yes, although someone may have come into the ‘database’ via another method, I track every method that got them to connect with us and the final method that took them from prospect to client.

  5. Linda Davis

    February 15, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Yahooooo and Thank you!!! I count on my competition thinking direct mail is a complete waste of time and money and archaic too! Thanks for reinforcing the idea. In the meantime, I’ll continue to send a cheesy newsletter, calendars at Christmas (yikes, can I say the C word), state of the market reports and yes, even school calendar magnets…… while laughing all the way to the bank as my competition wonders what happened.

  6. Jeff Brown

    February 15, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Though I’m on the investment side, I’d be curious to learn your thoughts on how some of the most prolific agents in the country are doing it — through direct mail.

    They mailing to the same folks over and over and producing pretty impressive results. How impressive? Incomes beginning at half a million to over 2 million.

    I agree with your central point — GenY will have to be dealt with on their terms or they’ll take their ball and go home. (Of course that’s not self-centered in any way.)

    My question — how often do you think your generation is going to under perform while blissfully ignorant of that fact, as a direct result of not making their number one agent requirement — expertise, experience, knowledge, and SUPERIOR RESULTS?

    Again Nick, your point is very well taken. All I have to do is use the communication media they desire and I’m in. It sure beats having to demonstrate my relative superior results with empirical evidence. After all, I must know what I’m doing — I used Twitter didn’t I? 🙂

    Sarcasm aside, I get your message loudly and clearly. Still, I’d like to hear your thoughts on my observations. Thanks, and keep this stuff going.

  7. Benn Rosales

    February 15, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    The pasture aside, the bottom line is the reality that some marketing many depended upon in the past is becoming more and more devalued, but lets look a little more deeply here.

    I think this article gives all marketers food for thought that you really do have to use some common sense when segmenting your marketing. For example, how long has the neighborhood been established and what would be the most effective way to reach them. If email crosses over, then great, but I would insert that if you take this approach in the midwest, you would maybe miss out on entire States with a one size fits all approach.

    Both work, but the blast it all attitude of the past will cost you money, targeting will bring you much better results.

    This goes back to the neighborhood agent I suspect. You really do know your market, and you would know if your results are trailing- but Nick brings an awesome inexpensive approach to the table here- why not do both, email costs you zip compared to print and you’ve maximized your exposure.

    Great post.

  8. Nick

    February 15, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Everyone so far-
    Your demographic location will determine some of your success. I know there are some very rural towns in Oregon where not everyone has a broadband internet connection, so you may have the best email newsletter and blog there is, but no one can see it.

    I think it’s great that you have completely hedged your bets by being involved in all types of media. I guess one of my points that I didn’t highlight as much as I should have is the idea of giving your customers a choice (and you may do this already). Ask them how THEY prefer to be communicated to.

    I receive this type of response frequently. Again, this may be demographic and you didn’t state who your typical customer is (are they Gen Y or are they Boomers or older?). My point is the times they are a-changin’ and what you did and are doing ARE NOT going to be as successful going forward as more people move online, start caring about the environment and keep getting inundated with JUNK mail. Then again, Ledyard, CT and Portland, OR are two very different markets…

    The idea of GenY being self-centered in the way you state it is amusing to me. People my parents age expect a Realtor to have an office. If they don’t and it’s not a nice one, they’re on to the next one. That seems pretty ridiculous to me, but so does my desire for the Realtor to respond to my email within 40 minutes. Every generation has their quirks and a salespersons job is to adapt to as many as possible.

    As for the successful agents who direct mail, they’re the same ones that USED to show up in the top 10 in Google searches for “Portland real estate”. In the last 6 months, it’s changed to Trulia, the local MLS, 2 BLOGGERS and a couple of the old timers. Like I said, times are changing. Right now is pretty early on in this real estate digital evolution, but I think it will be far more noticeable in the next few years. Would you rather be first in the game or dead last? I’ll go first, thanks.

    I don’t think my generation is going to under perform – we have different priorities. I meet with top producing agents that have huge teams of people working for them and expensive ad campaigns. They HAVE to be a top producer.

    People I work with closer to my demographic don’t have huge teams. They don’t buy expensive systems and billboards and spend money on direct mail. They also rarely work nights or weekends. They value their life far more (it seems) than some of the top producers who will drop family dinner to show a listing.

    Yes, they have to be good at what they do, but many Gen Y’ers are very self-motivated and work very hard to be good at what they do and can catch up in a lot of regards very quickly. Plus, Boomers love to tell life stories, which Gen Y loves to learn from.

  9. Re-Creative

    February 15, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    Great post!

    I recently started a company here in Portland that specializes in email marketing for Realtors. We use constant contact to distribute e-flyers for agents listings. Check it out at

    We started in January, and I’ve already gotten a lot of good feedback, and my list of clients is growing daily. I really think agents are starting to pick up on the little things we can all do to make a difference in the environment. But, I have gotten some agents that email me back yelling(all caps) to remove them from our database, and even a couple that threaten me, all because we sent them an email. They obviously take their jobs WAY too seriously!

    Anyway, again, great post. Keep ’em coming!

  10. Benn Rosales

    February 15, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    “I have gotten some agents that email me back yelling(all caps) to remove them from our database, and even a couple that threaten me, all because we sent them an email. They obviously take their jobs WAY too seriously!”

    I think this is anyone who didn’t volunteer their information, not just agents- I’ve had these same calls from consumers who did ask for mls updates and newsletters online.

    I agree with taking our jobs seriously- thanks for noticing, and thanks for commenting.

  11. Re-Creative

    February 15, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    No problem, and I should point out that I was specifically referring to the agents that threatened me when I said “They” take their job WAY too seriously.

  12. Charleston real estate blog

    February 15, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    Nick, very helpful and thanks for the insights. As a boomer, I have 5 emails but only 3 are checked regularly, that puts me at about half a typical gen y. And I respond within minutes whenever possible.

    I am annoyed by spam emails sent by other agents to the mls database such as are delivered by constant contact and other providers highlighting their listings, open houses, price reductions, etc. Hundreds of these wasteful emails go into my spam folder daily. I can search the MLS and locate properties that would be of interest to clients I am searching for without the added help of these untargeted emails.

    On the other hand, I communicate via email consistently to an opted in group of real estate consumers of all generations. My only excursion to the US Post Office is mailing Xmas cards. And I’ll meet at Starbucks or the office. Flexibility is the game.

  13. Nick

    February 15, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    We should get together to chat, we may be able to help each other

    You hit the nail on the head with flexibility. My first post talked about being flexible in communications and that really is key.

    I will also agree that there is a lot of JUNK email that comes through, mostly from within the industry. I’m not a Realtor, but I receive about 4 “different” title-industry email newsletters a day. I scan the headlines very quickly and usually delete all of them. But even when I receive a Realtor newsletter (same industry, different facet) I stop and take a look.

  14. Mariana

    February 15, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    I am a Gen Xer and I have these same sentiments. Like Jeff said before me, I think this will become less and less generational.

  15. Nick

    February 15, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Mariana, I think you’re right. As my parents realize the easiest way to contact me is email, they are slowly forming to my methods of communication as well. I think each generation pioneers something, but all of the others learn from it and pick and choose and adapt as well.

  16. Joanne Hanson

    February 16, 2008 at 7:44 am

    We have been having this very discussion in our office this week. The frequency with which people change their email addresses means we can lose touch with them very quickly, but we absolutely want to do what is easy and cheap, not to mention environmentally responsible. So we will probably continue to do a mixture of electronic and snail mail.

  17. Denver Refinance

    February 16, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    I think Click/Delete is a big problem. People get so much email these days that a lot of people delete it before reading if they don’t think it’s crucial. I send out old fashioned handwritten postcards, and those ALWAYS get read because people aren’t used to getting them anymore. I use a combination of email, phone, postcards and the truly archaic old-fashioned business letter. I find that these methods are like combination punches. A person gets a postcard; two weeks later a call; two weeks later a letter; two weeks later an email (which they read because of my other contacts). It all works, but it all works better when combined.

    I will also note that I have received a couple of business cards lately that were WITHOUT email addresses. These folks have received so much spam that they have moved away from email. I was flabbergasted, but what can you say? I obviously haven’t been raped by the spammers the way these folks have been. It will be interesting if the Generation Y moves back to the old school methods after getting spammed to death.

    From the sound of your article, you would probably like I use it regularly to save the trees. I hope it catches on.

  18. Nick

    February 17, 2008 at 11:00 am

    I thought delete was a big problem too, but when you use a service like Constant Contact and others, you can actually see when people open the message. Most campaigns I’ve assisted with run about a 75-80% open rate. And like the DoubleClick study shows, 40% of people actually want email instead of direct. Handwritten cards are definitely better than a postcard for being opened, but all of the ones I receive are a very quick thanks then a beg for my referrals, which annoys me. You are dead on that a combination is best, I’m just trying to encourage people to rely less on postcards and other forms of bulk mail that are more than likely being ignored anyway.

    All of the Gen Y’ers I know have grown up with spam and have moved to services that actually do a good job of blocking it, like GMail and others. We love our email, so I doubt that’s going away. We do join sites like Facebook and LinkedIn so our friends can contact us via their messaging systems which have been, so far, spam free for me.

    I do love CatalogChoice, but thanks for sharing that here, hopefully a few others will get on it also.

  19. Christina Ethridge

    February 17, 2008 at 11:29 am

    “I’m just trying to encourage people to rely less on postcards and other forms of bulk mail that are more than likely being ignored anyway”

    This is where the discord lays – (and I mean consistently the top) uses direct mail – strongly.

    Despite the fact that Gen Y says they prefer email or other electronic means, they still continue to respond more to direct mail. Their actions do not support their statements. I have proof of this in my business as well as other top agents business throughout the country.

    I fully understand your post, your thoughts and agree with the premise – I just know from experience, history and tracking of other top agents that direct mail is still the strongest form of lead generation (next to actual in-person prospecting).

  20. Nick

    February 17, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    I love how people think top agents are top agents because of direct mail. I get this all the time and when I talk to those top agents, they say it is PART of their marketing plan. Typically a small part, but a part nonetheless.

    According to the Direct Marketing Association, email delivers the highest ROI per dollar spent of any marketing vehicle – $57.25.

    In a 2003 Jupiter Research study, 80% of companies reported an increase in their email marketing activities over the previous year with 78% of these companies planning to continue the trend. At that time, they expected a 200% increase in email budgets by this year.

    In a 2005 eMarketer study, 45% of consumers considered email to be a “great way” of maintaining ongoing communications. 73% of these consumers had purchased items through emails.

    Plus the DoubleClick study that shows that 40% of people would RATHER have email than direct mail.

    This isn’t rocket science or even a Gen Y thing (none of these studies looked into age groups), A) You can help save the environment, B) STATISTICALLY your customers prefer it, C) GIVE your customers the choice, that’s what they REALLY prefer, D) Gen Y (if you care about them) respond better to email and E) It costs MUCH less.

    Prospecting is a whole different story since I don’t condone buying email lists. But get that farm area list of addresses from your local title company and make sure you put on each and every postcard or other direct mail piece the OPTION for your customers to choose email.

  21. Jeff Brown

    February 17, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Nick — Christina’s experience seems to contradict, at least in part, what you’re saying. I know mine does.

    My experience with direct mailing is now entering its 21st year. With two exceptions, my mailings have been predictable winners, especially when analyzed through the microscope of ROI.

    My average mailing — 1,500-5,000 pieces — letters, not postcards.

    Cost? Roughly 60¢ to a buck apiece.

    Though two of these mailings went to 16,000 recipients, the 5,000 maximum was the practice 98% of the time.

    The ROI? I checked our private records, which tracked response and dollars earned as a direct result of mail generated calls. Each mailing accounted for $25-160,000 in commission income. I don’t know about email ROI, but I’ll trade you my buck for your $5 daily — and that was the bottom of the range.

    My overhead was and is very low, relatively speaking. I don’t have a giant staff. Oops, I don’t have a staff. I have a pretty cool office, a cell phone, laptop, and an IQ that I swear is north of 100. 🙂

    I wanna learn what you teach, ‘cuz I suspect you’re correct in so much of what you write. But unless you’re willing to challenge either my numbers or Christina’s, we’ll keep employing direct mail as one of the VERY effective arrows in our quiver.

    Your take on Top Producers, with all due respect, is cliche. Russ Shaw spends more on marketing than the average dozen emailing agents gross in a year. Still, with the staff that ate Phoenix his personal income is far into two commas, pre-tax. Though I never talk about my company’s income, suffice to say the guys making the big dollars are not stupid.

    The bottom line is, as an agent, how many digits are in your bank statement before they slam into the decimal point? 🙂

    Again, I’m bound and determined to learn what guys like you have to teach me. But when you tell guys like Russ, Christina, and me how poorly our methods are producing, we just shake our heads and make another bank deposit.

  22. Nick

    February 17, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    I am honestly amazed. I never once said to get rid of direct mail. It has its place. I encouraged everyone to try a great tool because it MAY allow you to better serve YOUR customers. This is typical of my classes I teach: people come because they want to learn what I teach, yet reject what I say because it is outside their comfort zone.

    There is plenty of empirical evidence (as cited throughout) that PROVES email marketing is effective, but if you don’t see it being part of your marketing strategy, that’s fine. The younger agents who will be replacing you soon enough will have a great education to build a streamlined, effective business upon and I welcome those days. Until then, I will continue to work with the “pioneers” of real estate marketing, like many others in Gen X & Y.

  23. Linda Davis

    February 17, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    My experience is much the same as Jeff and Christina’s. I use a mixture of email (I teach some technology classes) and direct mail but much of my success comes from farming. My numbers are certainly not as high as Russell’s but I have closed over 100 transactions every year for the last several. About 40% of those were a result of direct mail. Since, as you say above, the younger agents will be replacing us soon enough, we will be dead soon, and it probably wouldn’t make much sense to consider learning something from us, since you obviously know it all already.

  24. Nick

    February 17, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Wow, who knew encouraging email marketing would hit so many people so personally 🙂

    I certainly hope you won’t be dead soon, but I imagine since you’re so successful in your ways and have been doing it forever that you’re close to retirement.

    I do hope the younger generations do learn a thing or two from you, but junk mail that fills our landfills and cuts down our trees is not one of them. When I was an active SCUBA instructor, my agency had a great campaign for a year that they called the Year of the Dragon (I think it coincided with the actual year of the dragon if I remember correctly). They said (and it sounded so lame at the time) that we could either jump on the dragon, even though it was scary and most wouldn’t even consider it, and let it take us into an exciting new future, or we could stand by and do what we had been doing and be eaten by the dragon. It’s a great metaphor and one that I think applies wonderfully to real estate. Why else would sites like Zillow, Truilia and Redfin exist? That’s not the way it WAS done, and they aren’t even market dominators now, but who knows what the future holds?

  25. Carole Cohen

    February 17, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Cleveland is not very rural, but the kinds of marketing I employ is varied because so is everyone’s economic status (not everyone here HAS a computer and believe it or not, that includes Gen Yers). I would say ya need to think about writing absolutes…they tend not to work.

  26. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    February 17, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    I believe that Nick and others who are addressing generational marketing are providing ONE point of view out of many. Each road to success is paved differently, but knowing all of the tools and building supplies you’ll need to pave that path is crucial.

    No discussion about generational marketing is meant to be the infinite instruction manual of how to market to everyone, nor is it meant to alienate different generations (thus, more emphasis will be put on GenX and Boomers soon).

    My personal summary to every bit of the generational hoopla is this: respect the successful whether they’re young or old, learn about all generations so your toolbox is full when you’re creating marketing campaigns or dealing in person with clients.

  27. Jeff Bernheisel

    February 17, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    Yeah, some people are getting a little too defensive here. Who cares that you have a billion dollars in your checking account, or that you close hundreds of deals each year for the last 73 years. Things are changing. But, if something is working for you, keep doing it. Ride that wave as long as you can. Just don’t complain to us when it’s no longer working and you didn’t take the time to learn some of the newer techniques along the way.

  28. Linda Davis

    February 17, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    Let me just add one thing and then I’m done. Don’t assume that I haven’t “taken the time to learn some of the newer techniques” along the way. This old dog has embraced technology and earlier than most. I had a website in 1995. I have 3 blogs, contribute to 2 others, teach technology classes, speak on numerous technology panels and at conventions and am head of a national technology networking group called the CYBERprofessionals who have been meeting for 10 YEARS.

    BUT direct mail still works in my marketplace and I’d be a fool to give up on it.

    You all seem like nice young people who write extremely well. I’m sorry if I sound defensive. I enjoy learning from many of the young folks in my technology group but they also have learned a lot from me. We have a mutual respect for each other something that seemed to be missing here.

    We could probably learn a lot from each other.

  29. Carole Cohen

    February 17, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    I agree with Linda; and the only reason I am commenting again is to clarify with a different perspective. I would say that 90 percent of my business is done on line. Over half of my clients are under 30. The author of this post writes extremely well and frankly most of the comments here got so heated that the point Linda is making gets lost. While 90 percent of my business is on line and conducted by email or transaction based software or IM etc, there are people who do not partake of that technology in my market. And I would suspect others. I would love to keep learning and teaching as well. I hope we can all agree to open up a dialogue and not be on either side of a line drawn in the sand.

  30. Bob Carney

    February 17, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    Hmmm seems that we are trying to push one-sided success story on the rest. I don’t think its wise to only market via one medium. Your online presence should be reinforced by a print medium. I am not a fan of Newspapers nor Little magazines that print little heads and little houses that says everyone is number one.

    Direct Mail marketing has been a successful tool and shouldn’t be dismissed until the US Postal service goes out of business. As long as there are doors, even door knock has it’s place in marketing. Internet will be successful since most are beginning to prefer this unobtrusive marketing method. Just don’t abuse it.

    Just as in teaching… some people like to see what you teaching, some like to hear what you are teaching and some have to have hands on training. If you are only teaching one way, some or most in the class is missing out. You can’t assume that everyone prefers one specific method..

    As for generational differences, there are personality differences for sure and there always will. Our parents never knew anything until we got old…then we realized they knew what they are talking about…

  31. Jeff Brown

    February 17, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    Jeff Bernheisel — Man, talk about defensive.

    >Who cares that you have a billion dollars in your checking account, or that you close hundreds of deals each year for the last 73 years.

    I bet those dependent upon your income care.

    The difference between Russ, Christina, me, and countless others who’ve been at it for various periods of time, is that we’re actually doing it, not talking about doing, not saying we’ll be doing pretty soon, or the rest of the whole talker vs doer rhetoric. We have a track record of long term success. And yes, we’ve learned to change with the times. The only reason you know me is ‘cuz I’m a fairly well known blogger.

    I keep pounding home the point — Nick makes some pretty salient points. I think I can learn a bunch from guys like him.

    Here’s the problem. When those new to the game start telling us we can’t do what we’ve already done, or we’re not doing it the way they want us to, we’re not amused. We’ve seen this before. Folks who say money isn’t important are those who don’t have it, and don’t earn much of it. I’ve worked very hard for my success. So don’t mistake having another viewpoint, one of empirical fact, as being defensive.

    None of this is personal to folks like Christina, Russ, Me, or guys like Brian Brady, another huge doer.

    That said, when we’ve been batting over .300 in the bigs for decades we think we might actually know a thing or two. Until you’ve been there and done that, how ’bout a little respect from those who’re still working their way up to getting their first major league at bat?

    I listen to pretty much whatever Lani has to say, as I respect her knowledge. She also shows respect for my knowledge and experience. I’ll bet she’s learned less from me than I’ve learned from her.

    And for the record — my main partner in crime is — a GenY. You don’t wanna know his thoughts on all this. 🙂

  32. Jeff Bernheisel

    February 17, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    My post wasn’t defensive. I don’t have to brag about what I’ve accomplished. Or belittle anyone because they aren’t making as much money as I do. This isn’t a pissing match about who’s better than who and frankly, I don’t give a crap about any of that.

  33. Jeff Brown

    February 17, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Still talking and not doing. At least you’re consistent.

  34. Benjamin Bach

    February 18, 2008 at 5:31 am

    @Balwdguy, I’d bet Josh is a huge old school proponent.

    I think it comes with the investment territory – as much as I love my blog (and the leverage it brings me), at the end of the day we’re doing analysis with something called a pen, and on something called paper. Revolutionary!

  35. Christina Ethridge

    February 18, 2008 at 11:40 am

    Nick –

    I absolutely think you are right on in your original post – that we need to embrace new methods and respect how our clients prefer to be connected with.

    What I take issue with (and you aren’t doing this but all too many others do) are those that try to tell me that such and such doesn’t work and the only way to do something is such and such way. Believe me, I see some of me in this, it’s nothing new.

    But, I continually read it and hear it – direct mail is ‘the past’. It doesn’t work anymore. The web is the future. If you get on the web, you’ll dominate. Well, prior to getting on the web with our own website in 1995, we dominated our market (well, we were in the top 20 agents in our market). The web has had a huge impact on our business, but not in the way commonly preached. Instead, the web became a wonderful online, interactive ‘brochure’ of ‘inventory’ and services that supplemented our in person programs & presentations and supplemented our direct mail campaigns. Yes, we get clients from our web presence that have had no other contact from any other method we use. But, those are much smaller than one might think. What the web has done for us is legitimize us, made us stronger, made us more knowledgeable in the eyes of the prospective client.

    This is my point. When websites started becoming all the rage, we were already there. We embraced it and gained business and presence for it. And we heard all of the ‘you don’t need anything else just the web’ people pontificating their beliefs. Thing is, most of those people didn’t do much with the business and aren’t even in the business anymore.

    Jeff makes a huge point – yes, we need to watch, listen and learn from everyone no matter who they are or what they do. But, the people I will put more weight to their word are those that have a proven track record over a period of time. No matter what level my business is at, I am always watching others who are consistent and consistently growing their businesses (even some that are at a ‘lower’ level – for want of a better word – then I am). But, I apply more weight to those that have achieved more than me – they know what they are doing. They are doing something right and no matter what is new today, they’ve continued to achieve their success.

    This is why I don’t really give much weight to those that say 50% or 80% or 100% of their business is from blogging. Why? Because their business is less than 20 (maybe 30) transactions a year. I’m not interested in 20 transactions a year. I’m interested in going up the ladder and breaking my ceiling. Blogging and the web alone will not do that for me. I need something stronger. With direct mail still continuing to increase my business, I will continue to use it. Perhaps at some point it will plateau, but it hasn’t yet. This tells me that all those who are saying ‘direct mail is dead or doesn’t work’ aren’t using it, or are not using it correctly and consistently. See, direct mail is boring. It’s not ‘new and exciting’. Funny thing, the tried and true methods often are boring.

    I get the whole ‘help the environment’ idea. I get it, so when more people are reading and responding to my electronic marketing then I will consider the change. Until then, I will continue to add to my direct mail marketing every single month.

  36. Cyndee Haydon

    February 18, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Nick – we do much less direct mailings now as well. When we do we make it personal and to people we know and have a relationship – it’s no longer our method for mass marketing. Enjoyed your thoughts – P.S. Loved the comment about the nice office – yes, times they are a changing!!

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Business Marketing

Coworkers are not your ‘family’ [unpopular opinion]

(MARKETING) “I just want you to think of us as family,” they say. If this were true, I could fire my uncle for always bringing up “that” topic on Thanksgiving…



family coworkers

The well-known season 10 opener of “Undercover Boss” featured Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar. Brandon Landry, owner, went to the Lafayette location where he worked undercover with Jessica Comeaux, an assistant manager. Comeaux came across as a dedicated employee of the company, and she was given a well-deserved reward for her work. But I rolled my eyes as the show described the team as a “family.” I take offense at combining business and family, unless you’re really family. Why shouldn’t this work dynamic be used?

Employers don’t have loyalty to employees.

One of the biggest reasons work isn’t family is that loyalty doesn’t go both ways. Employers who act as though employees are family wouldn’t hesitate to fire someone if it came down to it. In most families, you support each other during tough times, but that wouldn’t be the case in a business. If you’ve ever thought that you can’t ask for a raise or vacation, you’ve probably bought into the theory that “work is a family.” No, work is a contract.

Would the roles be okay if the genders were reversed?

At Walks-Ons, Comeaux is referred to as “Mama Jess,” by “some of the girls.” I have to wonder how that would come across if Comeaux were a man being called “Daddy Jess” by younger team members? See any problem with that? What happens when the boss is a 30-year-old and the employee is senior? Using family terminology to describe work relationships is just wrong.

Families’ roles are complex.

You’ll spend over 2,000 hours with your co-workers every year. It’s human nature to want to belong. But when you think of your job like a family, you may bring dysfunction into the workplace.

What if you never had a mom, or if your dad was abusive? Professional relationships don’t need the added complexity of “family” norms. Seeing your boss as “mom” or “dad” completely skews the roles of boss/employee. When your mom asks you to do more, it’s hard to say no. If your “work mom or dad” wants you to stay late, it’s going to be hard to set boundaries when you buy into the bogus theory that work is family. Stop thinking of work this way.

Check your business culture to make sure that your team has healthy boundaries and teamwork. Having a great work culture doesn’t have to mean you think of your team as family. It means that you appreciate your team, let them have good work-life balance and understand professionalism.

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Business Marketing

These tools customize your Zoom calls with your company’s branding

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Zoom appears to be here to stay. Here are the tools you need to add or update your Zoom background to a more professional – or even branded – background.



Zoom call on computer, but there's more options to customize.

If you haven’t had to deal with Zoom in 2021, you may be an essential worker or retired altogether. For the rest of us, Zoom became the go-to online chat platform around mid-March. For several reasons, and despite several security concerns, Zoom quickly pushed past all online video chat competitors in the early COVID-19 lockdown days.

Whether for boozy virtual happy hours, online classes for school or enrichment, business meetings, trivia nights, book clubs, or professional conferences, odds are if you are working or in school, you have been on a Zoom call recently. Many of us have been on weekly, if not daily, Zoom calls.

If you are the techy type, you’ve likely set up a cool Zoom background of a local landmark or a popular spot, a library, or a tropical beach. Comic-con types and movie buffs created appropriate backgrounds to flex their awesome nerdiness and technical smarts.

Many people have held off creating such an individualized background for our virtual meetings for one of any number of reasons. Perhaps it never occurred to them, or maybe they aren’t super comfortable with all things techy. Many people have been holding out hope of returning to their offices, thus seeing no need to rock the boat. I’m here to tell you, though, it’s time. While I, too, hope that we get the pandemic under control, I am realistic enough to see that working or studying from home will continue to be a reality for many people for some time.

Two cool, free tools we’ve found that can help you make your personal Zoom screen look super professional and even branded for business or personal affairs are Canva and HiHello. While each platform has a paid component, creating a Zoom background screen for either application is fairly simple and free.

Here’s how:

Canva is the online design website that made would-be graphic designers out of so many people, especially social media types. It’s fairly user-friendly with lots of tutorials and templates, and the extremely useful capabilities of uploading your own logo and saving your brand colors.

Using Canva, first create your free account with your email. It functions better if you create an account, although you can play around with some of the tools without signing up. The fastest way from Point A to Point B here is to use the search box and search for “Zoom backgrounds.” You now can choose any one of their Zoom background templates, from galaxy to rainbows and unicorn to library books or conference rooms. Choose an inspirational quote if you’d like (but really, please don’t). Download the .jpg or .png, save it, and you can upload it to Zoom.

To create a branded Zoom background in Canva, it will take slightly more work. It was a pain in the butt for me, because I had this vision of a backdrop with my logo repeated, like you see as a backdrop at, you know, SXSW or the Grammys or something. Reach for the stars, right?

OK, the issue with this was that I had to individually add, resize, and place each of the 9 logos I ended up with. I figured out the best way to size them uniformly (I resized one and copied/pasted, instead of adding the original size each time (maybe you’re thinking “Duh,” but it took me a few failed experiments to figure out that was the fastest way to do it).

Once you have your 9 loaded in the middle of the page, start moving them around to place them. I chose 9, because the guiding lines in Canva allow me to ensure I have placed them correctly, in the top left corner, middle left against the margin that pops up, and bottom left. Same scenario for the center row.

Magical guide lines pop up when you have the logo centered perfectly, so I did top, middle, and bottom like that, and repeated for the right hand margin. Then I flipped them, because they were showing up in my view on Zoom as backward. That may mean they are now backward to people on my call; I will need to test that out! Basically, Canva is easy to use, but perhaps my design aspirations made it tricky to figure out.

Good luck and God bless if you choose more than 9 logos to organize. Oh, and if you are REALLY smart, you will add one logo to a solid color or an austere, professionally appropriate photo background and call it a day, for the love of Mary. That would look cool and be easy.

HiHello is an app you can download to scan and keep business cards and create your own, free, handy dandy digital business card. It comes in the form of a scannable QR code you can share with anyone. Plus, you can make a Zoom background with it, which is super cool! It takes about five minutes to set up, truly! It works great!

The Zoom background has your name, the company name, and your position on one side and the QR code on the other. The QR code pulls up a photo, your name, title, phone number, and email address. It’s so nifty! And the process was super easy and intuitive. Now, If I took my logo page from Canva and made that the background for my HiHello virtual Zoom screen, I would be branded out the wazoo.

Remember there are technical requirements if you want to use HiHello on a Mac. For example, if you have a mac with a dual core processor, it requires a QUAD. However, on a PC, it was really simple.

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Business Marketing

Finally: A smart card that manages employee spending with ease

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Clever credit cards make it easier for companies to set spending policies and help alleviate expense problems for both them and their employees.



Spendesk showing off its company credit cards.

Company credit cards are a wonderful solution to managing business expenses. They work almost exactly like debit cards, which we all know how to use, am I right? It is the twenty-first century after all. Simply swipe, dip, or tap, and a transaction is complete.

However, keeping up with invoices and receipts is a nightmare. I know I’ve had my fair share of hunting down wrinkled pieces of paper after organizing work events. Filling out endless expense reports is tedious. Plus, the back and forth communication with the finance team to justify purchases can cause a headache on both ends.

Company credit cards make it easier for companies to keep track of who’s spending money and how much. However, they aren’t able to see final numbers until expense reports are submitted. This makes monitoring spending a challenge. Also, reviewing all the paperwork to reimburse employees is time-consuming.

But Spendesk is here to combat those downsides! This all-in-one corporate expense and spend management service provides a promising alternative to internal management. The French startup “combines spend approvals, company cards, and automated accounting into one refreshingly easy spend management solution.”

Their clever company cards are what companies and employees have all been waiting for! With increasing remote workforces, this new form of payment comes at just the right moment to help companies simplify their expenditures.

These smart cards remove limitations regular company cards have today. Spendesk’s employee debit cards offer companies options to monitor budgets, customize settings, and set specific authorizations. For instance, companies can set predefined budgets and spending category limitations on flights, hotels, restaurants, etc. Then they don’t have to worry about an employee taking advantage of their card by booking a first-class flight or eating at a high-end steakhouse.

All transactions are tracked in real time so finance and accounting can see purchases right as they happen. Increasing visibility is important, especially when your employee is working remotely.

And for employees, this new form of payment is more convenient and easier on the pocket. “These are smart employee company cards with built-in spending policies. Employees can pay for business expenses when they need to without ever having to spend their own money,” the company demonstrated in a company video.

Not having to dip into your checking account is a plus in my book! And for remote employees who just need to make a single purchase, Spendesk has single-use virtual debit cards, too.

Now, that’s a smart card!

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