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Could You Unload This Mutant Lemon?

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Attention all salespersons: It’s time to take a test to determine how good a salesperson you really are. Could you sell a house that’s a 10 on the Suckometer? If you get all the answers right, you will receive a can of Spam. Or not… 

1.  The house is devoid of natural light, so you: a) turn on all the lights b) pass out BIC lighters and tell everyone U2 might drop by c) install the disco ball light you won playing Bingo in 1972 and yell, ”Let’s get down!”

2.  The house lacks color, so you: a) bring in greenery from the yard to brighten the room b) give a vacation slide show on the living room wall, or c) place a green leprechaun in the corner and paint his lips hooker red

3.  There is an unsightly hole in the wall next to the couch, and thus you: a) suggest that the prospective buyer ask for credit or repair b) push the Lazy Boy (the chair, not your teenage kid) in front of the hole or c) stuff the leprechaun into the hole and tell him to stifle it.

4.  You forgot to print the ever-so-important hand out materials, so you: a) distribute your business cards b) distribute the seller’s Playboy magazines c) distribute your S.A.G. resume and headshots, which any good L.A. agent always keeps in his trunk

5.  The view is by far the only nice thing about the house, so you: a) set up the refreshment table on the patio to lead visitors outside b) put police tape over the doors of all the ugly rooms, or c) pass out binoculars and tell everyone there’s a naked couple in the pool down the hill.

6.  There is mold on the bathroom wall, so you: a) disclose it and suggest that the buyer ask for credit or abatement b) bring in the neighbor’s kids to paint a mural around it or c) explain to the prospective buyer that it is holistic Velcro wallpaper

7.  You forgot your portable CD player to assist in creating the perfect ambience, so you: a) Ask the seller permission to use the stereo b) invite visitors to your car to listen to your commercial voice tape or c) make the leprechaun sing, “Oh Danny Boy” (from his hole in the wall, of course)

8.  Knowing that scent is a powerful sales tool you: a) heat brownies in the oven during the open house b) smoke a cigar so everyone can enjoy the rich tobacco aroma or c) slap a fish on the burner and set some cheese aflame

9.  Beverages are important of course, so you: a) bring a selection of designer water, tea, coffee and  punch b) offer everyone a swig of joe from your Home Depot thermos, or c) lace the punch with vodka so everyone will stop asking about the leprechaun stuck in the wall

10. There are major foundation cracks, and thus you: a) assure the prospective buyer that a foundation specialist will be brought in to address the issue b) explain that the buyer is looking at a topographical map of California that has been cut into the floor…at no extra charge, or c) explain that everyone knows that a foundation is designed to move in the event of a quake (Hey – at least I gave the leprechaun a break on this one!)

11.  A scruffy and belligerent derelict wanders into the open house, so you:  a) politely but firmly escort him outside b) You whisper, “Not now, Uncle Mickey, I’m trying to sell this turkey” c) “You yell, “Dodgeball” and then  throw the leprechaun at him

12. The open house visitors complain that the gas appliances don’t work, so you:  a) explain that the seller probably had the gas turned off b) offer to test the pilots with the acetylene torch the seller has in the shed c) You laugh and reply, ”Well the methane gas you’ve been expelling ought to be enough to jump start Edison!”

13. A prospective buyer nervously comments on the amount of repairs detailed in the inspection report, so you: a) get him to focus on the safety issues b) tell him the inspector has a substance abuse problem and imagines things, or  c) You smack the guy in the chops and yell, “Buck up, dude – a four year old girl has more testosterone that you do!”

14.  You are allergic to the psyco cat and become nauseous, thus you: a) place an Open House Canceled sign outside and leave b) drug the cat so he’ll stop following you like a bad smell, and then lie down on the couch for a nap while visitors stroll through c) ask a prospective buyer to hold your hair back while you vomit…on the psycho cat of course.

15. A recalcitrant child gets his hand stuck in the old, rusty barbecue, so you: a) call 911 b) grease him up with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and pry him loose with tongs c) Laugh like a Bellevue Ward B inmate and yell “Let’s fire up the Barbie!”

 Extra Credit Essay Question:  Doesn’t this agent deserve a bonus? 

The seller returns and inquires, “How did the open house go?”

“Fine, I managed to disguise the hole in the wall.”

“What hole??? And what’s that green thing stuck in my wall?”

“It’s the leprechaun I shoved into the wall to disguise the hole.”

“Are you on crank? Leprechauns are imaginary.”

“Then so is the hole. Problem solved!”

“You’re an idiot.”

“Well your house sucks.”

“OMG – Your leprechaun is moving!”

“OMG – Your cat isn’t.”

“You’re fired.”

“Uh, can I offer you some punch?”

 

(Dear readers, please send me  your suggestions for question # 16, as mine involved an agent and a corpse. Incidentally, the correct answer to all the questions is “d.”)

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23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Bob Stahl

    February 19, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Funny! I’m not, so I’ll have to refer to a good point I read into your post – there’s a very fine line between “selling” a house (every house has its weaknesses) and violating SPDS regulations (not to mention ethics).

  2. Gwen Banta

    February 19, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Yes, Bob, beneath all good satire is an underlying truth, and that IS the point. No matter how challenging the circumstances, and we agents face many, there is always a way to keep a clear head and to address the situation logically, expediently and legally. That being said, did you pass the test?

  3. Matt Stigliano

    February 19, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Gwen – I wanted to pick the right answers, but after reading the (c) answers, I couldn’t help myself and colored them in with my sharpest number two pencil.

    holistic Velcro wallpaper” – One of the best phrases in your work to date. So good in fact, that I’m to google it to see if it exists.

  4. Gwen Banta

    February 19, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Because you failed the test by answering all the C questions, Matt, I will give you a Hail Mary question: Your obnoxious cousin Buck has an allergic reaction at your property and begins to gyrate, so you a) Call 911, b) drag his sorry ass off the property, or c) Play Muskrat Love on the stereo and tell the bystanders Buck just loves to dance. If you get this one right, you win a Captain (of Captain and Tenille) hat and 3 rolls of that holistic Velcro paper for your bathroom.

  5. Ken Montville

    February 21, 2010 at 11:51 am

    God save me! I could only get to #11 before I just couldn’t focus anymore.

  6. Fred Glick

    February 21, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Only if I could double-bubble it to foreign investors that use it as a tax shelter and a need just to have an American address (and then forwarding it to a P.O. Box) followed by a request to the local authorities to eminent domain it for use as a city dump and getting it appraised for triple because of the new highest and best use and getting a double bubble commission on the way out along with a lifetime consulting contract with th city at 100k per year to do nothing…..

  7. Bob

    February 21, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    “Could You Unload This Mutant Lemon?”
    Yes. Price it right and it will sell. Period.

  8. Gwen Banta

    February 21, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    I can give you a crib sheet if you wnat to take the test again, Ken 🙂

  9. Gwen Banta

    February 21, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    I think I need you to run my business, Fred. I like your style – more thinking and less work!

  10. Gwen Banta

    February 21, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Bob, you are right about pricing…but the true test is the one that requires patience when that bird won’t hunt 🙂

  11. Bob

    February 23, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    There are only three factors involved in selling any property:
    1) Price
    2) Exposure
    3) Terms

    The rest are merely objections. Real estate 101.

  12. Gwen Banta

    March 16, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    Love it, Bob! I think you meant exposing the house, not one’s nether regions, right, Bob?

  13. Gwen Banta

    March 16, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    Hey Grant – You’re my bouncer – dump the stiff!

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Business Marketing

What we can learn & apply about branding from trendy startups

(MARKETING) What are the branding secrets of these new trendy startups and how can they be applied to your large enterprises?

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A set of wine from Craft Hugo, showing off pleasing branding in labels.

Think of your favorite brand. Is it the product they offer or the branding that you love? Exactly – brand ethos reigns supreme, especially with those trendy, aesthetically-pleasing startups (I never thought Glossier had good makeup, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t visit their website once or twice a month).

So let’s break it down.

Co-founder of Red Antler – a company that assists startups in creating successful branding – Emily Heyward believes in a few branding truths.

Firstly, you have to make sure not to market your brand as a single product or experience. Doing so, she says, will pigeonhole you and thus truncate your ability to expand and offer new products and services (she gives MailChimp, known almost exclusively for email marketing, as an example).

What Heyward does say to do is instead market an idea. For example, the brand Casper (one of Antler’s clients) markets itself as a sleep company instead of a mattress company. By doing this, they kept the door open to eventually offer other products, like pillows and bedding.

Heyward states that this “power of focus” is a way to survive – with countless other startups offering the same product or service, you have to position your company as offering something beyond the product. Provide a problem your customer didn’t know they had and offer an innovative solution through your product.

Ever used Slack, the app-based messenger? There were other messengers out there, so focus of Slack’s branding is that regular messaging is boring and that their app makes it more fun. And customers eat it up.

How can this logic apply to mid-to-large enterprises? How can you focus on one specific thing?

Again, placing emphasis on brand over products is essential – what is it about what you offer that makes your customers’ lives better? It’s more cerebral than material. You’re selling a better life.

Another thing to remember is that customers are intrigued by the idea of new experiences, even if the product or service being offered is itself not new. Try not to use dated language that’s colored by a customers’ preexisting feelings. Instead, find an exciting alternative – chat solutions are desperately trying move away from the word “chat”, which can bring to mind an annoying, tedious process, even though that is in fact what they offer.

Broadening the idea of focused brand ethos to a large company can be difficult. By following these tips and tricks from startups, your company can develop a successful brand ethos that extends beyond your best product or service.

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Business Marketing

7 low-budget marketing ideas for small businesses to grow their reach

(MARKETING) Marketing ideas are often expensive or ultra time consuming, but let’s talk about some proven tactics that won’t break the bank.

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Man leaning against wall on phone representing marketing.

The following marketing ideas are provided to you buy Threadsy:

No matter the size of your business, marketing matters! It’s important for small and big businesses alike to attract new customers, establish brand awareness, and to create buzz around products and services. But we know that not every business owner has tons of funds to devote to their marketing strategy. The good news? There are some highly effective marketing tactics that are also budget-friendly!

Here are seven low-budget marketing strategies for small business owners and side hustlers to grow their reach:

1. Sponsor Local Events

One of the best ways to get to know potential customers? Actually meet and talk to them! When you sponsor local events, you can be on-site to help people put a face with your business’s name. Sponsoring events is also a fantastic way to offer branded merchandise that can help you get your name and your logo out there.

Besides branded materials like signs, banners, or fliers, think about offering some fun items like wine bags to give away to attendees. Goody bags also make fantastic take-home options for local events. A branded canvas tote can be repurposed as an environmentally-friendly grocery bag, lunch bag for work, or a carry-all accessory for conventions and tradeshows. Print your logo on the outside and fill your goody bags with customized items like water bottles, notebooks, pens, and towels.

2. Let Your Colors Fly

Make some cool t-shirts featuring your logo! Wear them to the sponsored events mentioned above, out in the community, or anywhere you may encounter potential customers and can strike up a conversation. You can also offer t-shirts at a discount in-store or online, and turn your loyal customers into advertisers.

Quick tip: Purchase wholesale shirts to reduce manufacturing costs.

3. Social Media

If you’re not already leveraging social media to promote your business, it’s time to start! Think your customers aren’t using social networks? While certain demographics use various platforms more than others, according to fundera, 74% of consumers rely on social media to guide purchasing decisions. Plus, 96% of small businesses say they use social media in their marketing strategy.

So use your social media channels to level the playing field. To maximize your time and effort, determine where your audience members spend their time. Which platforms are they using? If you have a dedicated social media strategist on staff, they can perform audience research to tailor your approach to your existing and potential customers. If you’re running your own social strategy, spend some time digging into the demographics to determine which platforms make the most sense for your brand. From there, you’ll need to decide on the types of content you want to post, how to interact with your customers online, and create a social media calendar to plan your strategy.

4. Host a Giveaway

Once you’ve got your social media strategy up and running, why not host an online giveaway/sweepstakes to build some buzz, boost engagement, and attract followers? Pick a social media platform where you already engage with your customers. You’ll want to offer an item as the prize. This can be anything from a free product, a discount on an expensive product or service, or inexpensive swag like hats to help you promote your brand.

Once you’ve chosen the prize(s), decide on the terms for your giveaway. For example, an Instagram sweepstakes might look like this:

  • Create posts about the giveaway and explain the rules (multiple stories and 1 or 2 posts depending on the length of the contest)
  • These posts should specify the terms, for example:
    – In order to enter, potential winners must follow you
    – Encourage your followers to tag other people who may be interested. Each “tag” gets them another entry into the contest
    – You can also specify that contest applicants must share your post on their own profile
  • Once the contest has ended, pick a winner. Tag them in a post and story announcing what they’ve won and ask them to also share these posts to their own profile

Quick tip: You can also offer smaller or less-expensive items as consolation prizes. People love free swag and it’s an easy way to get your name out there!

5. Referral Discounts

Offering friends and family discounts on your products or services can help you establish loyalty and promote exclusivity. Offer discount codes or create a refer-a-friend program. You can also offer small incentives for customers who share about your brand on social media. Referral discounts are a great marketing strategy whether you use them in-store, online, or both.

6. Create or Update Your Blog

If you already have a website, you can put it to use to help build brand awareness and attract high-funnel customers. Blogging is a low-cost way to generate organic traffic (website visitors via Google or other search engines). If you don’t already have a blog, there are a number of free and inexpensive blog platforms you can use including Wix and WordPress.

You’ll want to write about topics that are related to your product or service and are of interest to your customers. For example, if you offer graphic design, you might want to create content about how to find an effective graphic designer online, or which projects you can do with an online platform like Canva vs. more complex projects where you should hire a professional designer.

Your website and blog are also great places to post “about us” content to offer website visitors an opportunity to learn more about you, your business, and your mission and values.

7. Update Your Google My Business Profile

Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool that allows you to share important information about your business like your address, hours of operation, and contact information. When your listing is optimized with this information, it’s displayed in Google Search and will also appear in Google Maps, which can help you attract local customers.

To get started, you need to create a GMB profile and verify your business information. This is a relatively simple but important step to ensure customers are able to find your business or service online. Make sure to keep your listing updated if you change any information like your website URL, address, or hours.

The takeaway:

When creating your marketing strategy, remember to stay true to your brand. Not every tactic will be the most effective for every business. Choose the tactics that make sense for your brand or product offering. Another way to prioritize is to consider the perceived impact and effort of each marketing strategy. Use the strategies that require the lowest effort but will potentially drive the highest return.

Once you have those in place, decide which of the other strategies make sense for your customers and your business goals. Also, make sure to keep track of all of your marketing expenditures and the sales from these tactics so you can assess which ones were successful and which ones you may need to re-evaluate or alter.

Remember, when it comes to marketing, it’s an ever-evolving system. Trust the process and try to have some fun with your marketing strategy!

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Business Marketing

No-reply emails don’t help customers, they’ve run their course

(MARKETING) No-reply emails may serve a company well, but the customers can become frustrated with the loss of a quick and easy way to get help.

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no-reply mail boxes

Let me tell you a modern-day horror story.

You finally decide to purchase the item that’s been sitting in your cart all week, but when you receive your confirmation email you realize there’s a mistake on the order. Maybe you ordered the wrong size item, maybe your old address is listed as the shipping location, or maybe you just have buyer’s remorse. Either way, you’ve got to contact customer service.

Your next mission is to find contact information or a support line where you can get the issue resolved. You scroll to the bottom of the email and look around for a place to contact the company, but all you find is some copyright junk and an unsubscribe option. Tempting, but it won’t solve your problem. Your last hope is to reply to the confirmation email, so you hit that trusty reply arrow and…nothing. It’s a no-reply email. Cue the high-pitched screams.

Customers should not have to sort through your website and emails with a microscope to find contact information or a customer service line. With high customer expectations and fierce ecommerce competition, business owners can’t afford to use no-reply emails anymore.

Intended or not, no-reply emails send your customer the message that you really don’t want to hear from them. In an age when you can DM major airlines on Twitter and expect a response, this is just not going to fly anymore.

Fixing this issue doesn’t need to be a huge burden on your company. A simple solution is to create a persona for your email marketing or customer service emails, it could be member of your team or even a company mascot. Rather than using noreply@company.com you can use john@company.com and make that email a place where your email list can respond to questions and communicate concerns. Remember, the whole point of email marketing is to create a conversation with your customers.

Another great strategy for avoiding a million customer service emails where you don’t want them? Include customer service contact info in your emails. Place a thoughtful message near the bottom of your template letting people know where they can go if they’re having an issue with the product or service. This simple change will save you, your customers, and your team so much time in the long-run.

Your goal as a business owner is to build a trusting relationship between you and your customers, so leave the no reply emails behind. They’re annoying and they might even get you marked as spam.

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