What I’m working on this week (July 6 – 10, 2015)

This is the first “normal” week I’ve had in a month. The past 4 weeks have been pretty crazy: I spoke three times in the past month (and there’s always a lot of work that goes into into those), plus a bit of travel, plus the catching-up involved after each speech… my speaking is done for a bit and I have a full week of work ahead of me and I plan to knock out a BUNCH of work!

Here are a few of the things I’m working on for clients…

  • Articles and blogs for several real estate investing clients.
  • Sales letters for a couple of clients — for real estate investors and for a training company.
  • An ebook for a real estate investor.
  • A print book for a service business.
  • Editing work that I’m wrapping up for a financial firm.
  • Content marketing strategy for a real estate investor.

That’s going to keep me busy all week so I’m going to sign off and get to work.

Stay productive!

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Summary of the real estate investing conference I attended in Columbus Ohio

One of my clients is a turnkey wholesaler who does a lot of deals in a few different states. For the past couple of years, he’s held an event in Columbus Ohio called The Deal-Maker Experience. I’ve attended the event the past couple of years to connect with my client, plus a couple of my other clients attend there, plus it’s a great networking opportunity to meet new clients, plus I learn a lot!

This year, I flew into Columbus on Sunday June 14 and enjoyed the afternoon walking around downtown Columbus.

On Monday morning the event started. Actually, the event is divided into two parts: There’s an invitation-only mastermind of about a dozen people who meet Monday and Tuesday. It’s high level stuff and a lot of fun. I attended it and connected with a few of my clients who also attend.

Tuesday was the same deal. We talk about investing, building a business, long-term legacy planning, outsourcing, etc. The people who attend this portion of the event are doing deals all the time so it’s pretty advanced.

Wednesday was mostly downtime and I caught up on some sleep and a bit of work for other clients. Then Wednesday night people started arriving for the larger event. The larger event had about 200 people and it started with a cocktail meeting Wednesday evening.

On Thursday morning the education piece started. Many of the people in this meeting are new to investing — having never invested or having only done a few irregular deals. So this meeting is far more introductory. The host walked people step-by-step through the investing process, from how to build a buyers list to how to find deals.

Friday was much the same: Education, information, step-by-step strategies.

On Saturday we started the day with some education and I spoke about building marketing funnels. The audience was really receptive and the response to the call to action was great. Then the conference wrapped up and we all got onto buses and drove over to a rehabbed property. My client had bought and rehabbed the property and then he donated the house to a charitable organization that works with disadvantaged people by giving them a place to stay. After the event, we all went out to a local bar for a post-event party.

It was a blast. If my client hosts the event again next year, I’m definitely going!

TAKEAWAYS AND BENEFITS

  • I gained a ton of value from the event and it reaffirmed my belief that conferences are a powerful business-growth strategy.
  • I connected with a bunch of existing clients — some of whom I’d never met face-to-face before — so it was good to sit with them and learn alongside them and to spend some time strategizing with them.
  • I met many, many new people: Folks who became friends (and Facebook friends), potential clients, and joint venture partners. The important thing now is that I need to make sure I follow-up with these folks!
  • Between an increase in work from my existing clients, and the work I know I’m getting from my new clients, this conference had an ROI of 3:1 to 4:1.
  • I got a chance to speak in front of an audience and to sell to them. I speak pretty regularly but I don’t always get to sell from the stage and it was a good low-stakes way to test my skills here (because I didn’t NEED to sell anything to still earn a profit from the event). This has the possibility to boost my ROI by as much as 10:1, although time will tell as I’m still waiting for the orders (versus people who said they were going to order).
  • It was also nice to hang out in Columbus again. When I attended last year, the event was at an airport hotel so I didn’t have a lot of time or transportation to explore Columbus. But this year’s event was held at the really cool Westin Columbus which is in a more downtown-like section of the city.
  • I also pushed my own personal limits of doing work on the road. I tend to write best in a focused room without any distractions. (I’m definitely NOT one of those Starbucks writers — I’d be too busy people-watching). I work in a productivity-tuned environment with an ergonomic chair and an ergonomic keyboard; and when I do I can write A LOT! So I brought my laptop with me to the conference and would spend time writing in my hotel room. That way, I didn’t have to put all of my clients on hold while I attended this event. I can’t produce as much with a laptop keyboard before my wrists start to hurt but I can produce some. This conference helped to raise the bar on how much I can produce in an environment that isn’t my typical working environment.

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What I’m working on this week (June 29 – July 3, 2015)

Hi! Long time no blog.

I haven’t posted anything in 10 days and I haven’t posted one of these what-I’m-working-on-this-week updates in even longer.

The reason: I went to a conference in Columbus Ohio so there was a TON of work to do in the week leading up to the conference, then the conference itself was busy (I spoke there, so that increased its busyness for me), and then I had a bunch of catching up to do when I came home. The conference was awesome but it basically took 3 weeks out of the month of June!

Here I am, a week after returning home, and I feel like I’m back into a rhythm. So here’s what I’m working on this week:

  • A real estate investing network client is doing a membership drive later this month so I’m putting together a bunch of marketing collateral for that event.
  • A home services client is publishing an audio version and Kindle version of his first book, an audio version of his second book, a print version of his third book, and a print version of his fourth book. I’m writing a lot of that content and managing those pieces for him.
  • I’ve got a really cool publishing partnership I’ve put together with a real estate investor so that has taken a lot of my focus. I can’t talk about it too much yet but I’ll reveal more in a little while.
  • And since this month includes the beginning of a new month, that means there’s going to be a ton of blog posts to write (when possible, I like writing an entire month’s worth of blog posts at the beginning of each month — it helps me to create a consistent voice for my clients).
  • And invoices… of course!

Okay, gotta get back to it. Talk at ya later!

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Why blog? The 4 iterations of my blog and how my thinking about blogging has changed

In just a few weeks I’ll be coming up to the 10 year anniversary of my current business. This anniversary compels me to reflect on a number of factors, including why I do what I do. Among those reflections, I’m thinking about blogs and blogging.

I hear from people “blogging is dead” and “who blogs anymore?” which is funny because I think it demonstrates a naive view of the internet. There are so many sites that use what we might call a blog structure (date-sorted content with the most recent post at the top) — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram, news websites… these are all blogs in a way. And easily 50% to 75% of my work each month is blogging. Some might think that blogs are dead but I’m writing more blogs now than every before.

WHY I BLOG

I started blogging a decade ago when I started my current business. (I restarted my business after a few year hiatus — my first business started in 1999). Over the past decade, my thinking and practice about blogging has changed. Here are the four iterations:

Iteration #1: Ten years ago, blogging was an easy way to showcase the work I do without a lot of effort and expense. I blogged on Google’s Blogger platform to rapidly start my business and position myself as a freelance writer.

That worked well for a while but after a couple of years I struggled a bit with Blogger. I loved it (and still love it) but my site developed some weird coding issues and although I learned a lot about html and css in the process, I wasn’t able to fix the problem so I shut the blog down and started up a website (not a blog) here at AaronHoos.com.

Iteration #2: The website was okay for a while but I started to miss blogging. I liked the effort of writing a regular blog so in May 2009 I turned my site into a WordPress blog. And in this second iteration of blogging, as my business grew, my thinking about blogging changed. Although I continued to use my blog as a way to showcase some of my work, I did so much less but instead started blogging as a way to share my thinking about different things I was working on — from business strategy to marketing and advertising. It’s fascinating for me to go back and see how I’ve evolved over the years.

Iteration #3: Then, as traffic grew on my site, I started writing for my audience. I created content that I thought my audience would value. Some of it was high quality and high value; some of it wasn’t and admittedly had more SEO purpose than anything else. I was still blogging a bit to showcase my work, and a bit to share my thinking on business and marketing, but I spend a few years writing content that I thought my audience would find helpful or search engines would want to link to.

Iteration #4: A big shift occurred a couple of years ago, prompted by two things. The first prompting was that I realized I only ever blogged about “businessy stuff” and that I worked so hard to keep my business life and my personal life separate… and I realized that was folly, especially as Twitter and Facebook gained prominence. The second prompting was when I started up another website that became the primary place where I earn my income. This site still gets traffic and I still sometimes get hired by someone from this site but this site really became about me and my life and thinking, online. So this fourth iteration has been about expanding what I share about with the recognition that I’m writing my own thoughts and explorations for myself. Regular readers will notice that transition lately as I share stuff from my life, review financial fiction books, blog day-by-day through personal challenges that stretch me, and more.

It’s interesting to look back over these four iterations to see how I’ve evolved. I would say my blogging quality and quantity has increased while the blog topics have expanded.

What prompted me to even realize these four iterations and then to write this blog post about them was a podcast I heard between Tim Ferriss and Maria Popova (of Brain Pickings) in which they talked about blogging purposes — how Maria writes about what she thinks about and how she writes for an audience of one. I appreciate her authenticity as she puts her thoughts out there and it compelled me to think about why I blog, and that’s when I started to realize the four iterations of my blog.

A lot of my blog is what I’m thinking about. Admittedly, I haven’t always written what I think about; rather, I often wrote for some other purpose (to get clients, to attract an audience) and although there was some benefit to that I feel like this fourth iteration is perhaps the most real version of this blog as an expression of what’s in my brain.

This blog is my brain. It’s where I live. It’s me, online. This blog — for better or worse — is the tree rings of my life. That’s why I blog.

Why do you blog?

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How to give great value when your product or service is the same as your competitor’s

There is a lot written about creating Unique Selling Propositions (USPs) and offering unique products and services to your target market. But what if what you sell is a commodity?

By that I mean: what if you are prohibited (by law or by your head office or by some other force) to sell anything more than what is being offered by other competitors? This is one of the markers of a commodity — it’s a sameness between your offering and your competitor’s offering. (Another marker is a similarity in price regardless of who you buy from, although this is not always the case).

If you can’t change the product, how do you separate yourself so that your audience prefers you? Here are some ideas:

DO NOT COMPETE ON PRICE

I say this as much as I can: do not be the low-price provider! This is not a winning position for the long-term. You might gain marketshare in the short-term but you need to scale up to make it work. (Yes, some companies do try to be the low-cost provider and they make it work but I think it’s a short-sighted mistake).

There is one exception: If you have a lot of fees or add-ons, and if you’re able to, consider eliminating the fees. Customers resent the extra fees, which can feel like a money-grab. If you have to charge exactly the same as your competitor but you can do so without fees then that can be a powerful way to compete on price without actually competing on price.

OFFER BETTER SERVICE

Okay, let me be clear on this: I’m very, very reluctant to suggest to anyone that they offer better service because many companies fall into the trap of saying they offer better service but the end up offering exactly the same service. In general, I don’t think you should compete on service. However, I’ll make an exception: If you indeed give absolutely astonishing service that leaves your customer in tear then go ahead and compete on service. But be careful not to fall into the all-too-common trap of believing you’re giving great service when all you’re really doing is giving the same baseline service that all customers receive and expect.

OFFER A BETTER EXPERIENCE

This is sometimes lumped together with offering better service, and it is similar, but I’ll mention it here anyway because it can get overlooked: When possible, offer a better shopping experience. If your customer can get the same product or service anywhere, make it easy and attractive to buy from you. Make your shopping experience simple to transact but also enjoyable (and perhaps even fun, when appropriate).

ADD EXTRAS

If possible (again, there might be a legal restriction or head office restriction), provide extras. These could be low-cost or even no-cost add-ons that add value to the customer’s purchase. They could be another thing (such as another product), or they could be another service (such as helping the customer to bring the product home or assembling it for them), or they could be some extra bonus (such as great advice about how to derive more value from the product or service.

SPECIALIZE

I think this is the most powerful and effective strategy of the ideas I’ve listed here. If you must offer exactly the same product or service as your competitor, consider specializing in who you sell it to. If your competitor is selling to just about anyone, it can be tempting to take a similar approach and try to sell to anyone as well. But you have the potential of attracting better clientele (and potentially more clientele), who pay a higher price, if you specialize. Specializing allows you to offer exactly the same product or service but to position it very differently. (As a bonus, your marketing can become more effective, too!)

END COMMODITIZATION NOW!

If your product or service suffers from commoditization, it can become frustrating as you play what feels like a zero-sum game with your competitor, trading less loyal customers back and forth depending on who happens to have the best coupon that month. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Embed these strategies in your business to add value to your product or service.

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