Archive for July, 2009

Fun (and useful) Tools Now Offered by Google Calendar Labs

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

I was playing around in my Google Calendar today and noticed the addition of Google Calendar Labs. For those of you who are not familiar with Google Labs, this is how Google describes it. “Google Calendar Labs is a testing ground for experimental features that aren’t quite ready for primetime. They may change, break or disappear at any time.”

I loving hearing about these new features, especially when I see a use for it with my business. The new offerings for Google Calendar include the following:

- Attach Google Docs: This is pretty self-explanatory. It allows you to attach your Google docs to your calendar event. I see this being very useful for a client meeting, whether to review a proposal or go over search engine optimization results.

- Background Image: This allows you to choose a background image for your calendar. Not particularly useful,  but I will try it.

- World Clock: This clock will keep track of the time around the world. When you view an event, you’ll see the start time in each time zone. This will help clear up some of the confusion on conference calls with representation across multiple states.

- Jump To Date: Instantly jump to any past or present date in your calendar.

- Next Meeting: I really like this feature because it shows me the next meeting in my calendar and the amount of time until that meeting. Particularly useful on a busy day.

- Free or Busy: If you decide to share your calendar with your friends and contacts, you will be able to see if they are available. Good luck getting any work done with a long list of contacts.

For all of you coding geeks, Google will also be releasing an experimental API to allow you to write your own Calendar apps. More information can be found here: http://googlecode.blogspot.com/2009/07/sidebar-gadgets-coming-soon-to-calendar.html

If you are currently using Google Calendar, check out these features in the settings of your calendar. Don’t use Google Calendar? Get access here.

Real Estate On the Verge

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

I don’t normally re-post other people’s articles, but I am currently working on developing a business blog and corporate identity for Knox County Realty, LLC, located in Vincennes, Indiana, and this article was fitting. I have yet to speak with a client in any industry where it doesn’t make sense to build a website for their business, but for this particular client, I can see a huge potential for online promotion. This article makes some great points about taking advantage of the current slump in the market. Prepare your real estate business now with a informative website presence and help turn your followers in to home buyers.

Real Estate on the Verge
By Michael Stark

Declining prices, a credit crisis and millions of foreclosures pushed the real estate market to the brink. Commissions are under attack. Sellers try to connect directly with buyers. Investors crave to know about deals before they hit the MLS (multiple listing service). And consumer frustration makes matters worse.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported on May 12, 2009, that first quarter sales were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.59 million homes and condos sold. The population of prospects is enormous when you add in all of those struggling to sell, buyers on the fence, approximately 1.1 million realtors, and countless lenders, escrow, insurance and home improvement contractors. The real estate vertical seems poised for a gold rush.

Current tools used for marketing this depressed market — PPC advertising, banners and even e-mail — are not working as well as in the past. There is simply too much inventory. Therefore, claiming your stake in the virgin vertical of real estate means moving your covered wagons across a great divide. This new land of opportunity is ready to settle, and it starts with forming long-term relationships with those steeped in the industry. When the housing market rebounds, this will put your business in a position to fuel the impending boom.

The first obstacle is to understand that people are not leads. Investors, sellers, realtors and lenders are real people involved in a very long business sales cycle. Enterprises that can help these individuals and businesses through the process, while serving up products and services will gain trust, respect and profit. Your site will bookmark, brand and build if you educate, enlighten and enable individuals.

OPPORTUNITIES ALONG THE WAY
Pioneers scouting the real estate territory should understand its five sub-verticals, with some sites blending two or more.

1. Sites that allow MLS search. Most agent sites provide a local service. Realtor.com is great nationally.
2. Sites that deliver blogs and news. A good blog can provide important news, featured listings or valuable resources. Curbed.com is a nice example.
3. Sites mashing up census, neighborhood and lifestyle content such as HomeFair.com.
4. Sites providing valuations and sales data, such as Zillow.com.
5. Free and paid sites that assist FSBO (for sale by owner) sellers. Free sites syndicating postings to other sites and search engines are the most popular.

To grow your prospective or existing real estate business, contact the top sites in each sub-vertical, and entice them to sell your products or services on a CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) or CPL (Cost Per Lead) basis. You might find that some site owners ask to be compensated for access to their database and audience.

Even more opportunities can be found by exploring the angles involved in each real estate transaction. With some creative thought and planning, the list of possibilities grow. For example:

* Buyers are interested in loans, investments strategies, foreclosures and sales data. Any one of these topics could make for a nice side blog to your website, or consultancy work.
* Sellers want tools beyond yard signs, flyers and print ads. They need websites, e-mail, SEM and SEO services, and help engaging prospects — social media strategies and video production.
* When a property doesn’t sell in a timely manner, rental options are needed. This involves prospects, community organizations, and even moving companies.
* Contractors are always needed in every real estate market to make repairs and prepare properties for selling or renting.

In the foreseeable future, times will continue to be tough for real estate buyers, sellers, realtors, lenders, contractors and insurance professionals. But now is the time to connect with this demographic. Show them how your product or service will improve their life, and you’ll discover a huge new source for customers — now and, more importantly, in the profitable times to follow.