Real Estate Agents Are Annoying But They Sure Know How to Network

Do you get business cards or flyers in your letterbox from Real Estate Agents in your area?

I’m sure you do. Everyone does.

(I’d put a “No Circulars” sign on our letterbox but my wife loves to sift through the junk mail for a bargain).

One of the most common is the postcard with a photo of a house in your neighbourhood with “Just SOLD” emblazoned over the top.

Our local Real Estate agent is a bit different (be sure to tell me below in the comments if she’s not the only one).  She sends us all a personalised newsletter every few weeks.  And over the last few months she has been keeping us all up to date with the story of how she has been fighting with the council to make the intersection just down the road safer for pedestrians.  A worthy cause.

And yesterday, in her latest letter, she told us how she had won the battle and now there were 2 new pedestrian crossings going in this week instead of the planned 1. All thanks to her.

I thought that was pretty neat, so I sent her the following email:

Hi ****

Just wanted to say, thanks for pushing for the dual pedestrian crossings for our community. You’re a gem.

(And before you ask, no I don’t want to sell my house :P)



And her reply:

Thanks for your email and promise not to ask if you want to sell your home, isn’t it a neat community to live in?  Just remember me if you do.
Property Consultant

She just couldn’t resist!

Wow. I admire their persistence. I admire their networking skills. I admire how they don’t let an opportunity slip by.

But omg they are annoying.

What do you think?  What cunning advertising have you seen a real estate agent use?

How can you turn the evil that-is-the-Readers-Digest-Sweepstakes into good?

Readers Digest - unopened

If you are human and you have a letterbox (or even a pile of bricks at the start of your driveway that someone could stick a letter into), then chances are, you have received one of these Readers Digest Sweepstakes letters.

If you haven’t, then I am amazed.

So, what can we learn from Readers Digest Sweepstakes letters that you can put to work on your business?

Lesson #1: There are ways to measure the effectiveness of your advertising, don’t give up because it seems too hard

This is the 96th time they have run the sweepstakes. Would they run it year after year if it didn’t work? No.

DSCF4632Do other companies run ads that don’t work again and again? Well actually, yes they do.

Many companies don’t bother to measure the response from their advertising. Most of them don’t bother because it seems to hard.

What a waste of money!  There are so many ways to measure the response for advertising, and doing so answers the essential question “is this ad providing us with a return on investment, or is it a waste of money?”

Anyway, you can bet your bottom dollar that Readers Digest a measuring the ROI from this little flyer.  It’s easy to do because they have pinned down the recipient to a very narrow, very precise, call to action.  You have to call a specific 0800 number and quote a code number.  Which brings us to lesson 2:

Lesson 2: Specify the action you want the audience to take, isolate that action so its easier to measure, and incrementally improve

DSCF4633This is genius because they could even test 2 different versions of the flyer at the same time by providing one 0800 number for one part of the country, and another 0800 for another part of the country.  The flyer that generates the most calls becomes the new default, and next time they can test another change.

(By the way, this is called “A-B testing” and I use it when I manage my clients Google Adwords campaigns so our ads become better and better over time.)

Another cool way to measure results:

Another way you could measure the impact of your ad is to use a mini-website instead of an 0800 number as the call to action, so you can see exactly how many hits you get via different promotions delivered to audiences on different dates.

Lesson #3: Is your advertisement different enough? Can you cram in some more cheesy gimmicks? (or is there another way?)

This letter uses a whole lot of techniques to make it stand out from the rest of the junk mail:

  1. The envelope looks crazy different
  2. It’s pink
  3. There is a mystery about its contents because it has a security scribble on the front so I can’t hold it up to the light to see what’s inside
  4. It makes up for the fact it’s not addressed to me with promises like “private: for the householder only” (that’s me!), “Open Immediately”, “Important Contents”, Urgent Notification (they wouldn’t say it if they didn’t mean it!)
  5. An official looking serial number is stamped on the bottom

What efforts have you made to make your ad stand out?

Actually, rather than cheesy gimmicks like this, I favour writing headlines that capture the audiences imagination, or tap into a deep psychological need, or create an itch that begs to be scratched. I’ve found that an effective headline can weed out the time wasters, lock into the true prospects, and give you a chance to deliver more message.

Lesson #4: You can’t sell your product or service cold, so sell only the next step in the sales process

This is where this letter really shines.  They don’t try and sell the Readers Digest Magazine. They don’t even mention it.  All they are selling is your chance to win a jackpot.  That doesn’t seem like selling at all!  It’s like they are doing you a favour for giving you the chance to claim a prize that has already been reserved for you!

Ok, ok, in this case, they have thrashed this concept to death, so many of us know that all that awaits us once we get through this hurdle is another hurdle and another hurdle until we are so exhausted that when they ask us to buy a magazine subscription we agree just out of pure exhaustion.

Anyway, focus on the lesson: This letter has one purpose: to get people to call the 0800 number and graduate through to the next step in the sales process.  Any information that does not achieve this objective does not belong in this letter.

Are you guilty of trying to cram information into your ads? Sure you are. We all are. Are you trying to tell them about your company, about your products, about what you can do for them, and trying to convince them to make a decision on the spot?

Yes, you probably are.

Can you boil down what you have to offer into one simple step that your prospects can take?

Sure you can.

Give it a shot.

Share your thoughts about this article below.

Could do better than a billboard that says “Nothing to do in Tauranga?”?

I came across these billboards on Maunganui road todayImg021-1.

Could do better than “Nothing to do in Tauranga?”?

Yes, I think so.

That’s a terrible headline.

It’s negative.

How about “What to do in Tauranga?” for example?

And what are the billboards doing in Tauranga anyway?

I assume the target audience is tourists already in Tauranga?  Why would they be here if they didn’t already know what they wanted to do here?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to put the billboards up in Hamilton or Auckland? (After they change the headline of course).

What do you think?  What’s your idea for an even better headline?

The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J Stanley and William D Danko

the_millionaire_next_doorWhat can we learn from this book published in 1996? Quite a lot actually.

Can You Answer “Yes” to the Next 7 Questions? If not, you have little chance of becoming a Millionaire:

  1. Do live below your means?
  2. Do you allocate time, energy, and money efficiently in ways conducive to building wealth?
  3. Do you believe financial independence is more important than displaying high social status?
  4. Do you provide economic outpatient care for your adult children?
  5. Are your adult children economically self-sufficient?
  6. Are you proficient in targeting market opportunities?
  7. Have you chosen the right occupation?

Continue reading “The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J Stanley and William D Danko”

Toughen Up by Michael Hill – Book Review

I liked it.

The secret to his success is setting goals, and then taking bold steps to achieve them. He’s a very goal oriented man.

  • Goal 1: 7 stores in 7 years. Achieved.
  • Goal 2: 70 stores in the next 7 years. Achieved.
  • Goal 3: 1000 stores by 2024. I think he’ll achieve it.

He’s got balls of solid gold.

He’s loving the recession because it means he can buy up prime US locations for his stores that he never would have been able to afford previously.

Genius. Continue reading “Toughen Up by Michael Hill – Book Review”

Under New Management – We’ve Fixed All the Things the Last Guy Broke, Please Come Back

under-new-managementWhen you see the sign “Under New Management” plastered all over a businesses signage what do you think?

Do you think: “Good! The last guy that managed the place was a real bastard, I’m glad he’s gone, I will go back there now!”

Do you think: “Damn! Jack and Jill were awesome, I will miss them very much, I wonder if the new guy is as friendly or shall I try Bill and Bev down the road?”?

What are the new owners trying to achieve with this message? And what is the actual effect?

Maybe it’s just an excuse to put the word “New” somewhere. Most people are attracted to the word “New”.

Maybe it’s a challenge to old customers and new customers: “Expect some changes here, assume they are for the better, come in and give us a chance to impress you”.

Do you have an idea for a better sign?

Here are some of mine:

4 pretty boring ones to start with:

  1. New Store Layout
  2. See Our New Changes Instore Now
  3. 3 Improvements Made This Week
  4. New and Improved Formula

3 much more interesting versions I dare you to put up:

  1. The Last Guys Really Screwed Up, We Won’t, We Promise
  2. We’ve Fixed All the Things the Last Guy Broke, Please Come Back
  3. We’ve Made Cutbacks, But We’re Cheap so don’t complain

Accepting Credit Card Payments Online – List of NZ Providers

  • Do you want to sell your products online?
  • Do you want to be able to accept credit card payments?
  • Want to avoid spending the big bucks on getting your website redesigned with ecommerce functionality?
  • Just want to provide a simple “Buy Now” button for your customers?

If so, you’re in luck, because today I have been researching all the different credit card transaction processing companies in NZ for a client, and thought you might like to know what I’ve found.

1. PayPal

Internationally recognised, always updating and improving their code and security. Polished.

But: You have to withdraw funds from your PayPal bank account manually, and they reserve the right to charge a fee to send it to a non-US bank account (they don’t tell you what the fee will be).


  • Setup: Free
  • Monthly Fee: Free
  • Transaction Fees: 3.4% + $0.45 (Eg $500.00 x 0.034 + 0.45 = $17.45)

2. Paymate

Australian based with a decent NZ presence. I’ve been using them for 3 years. Pretty basic, but good.

Bonus: The funds are deposited straight into your bank account.


  • Setup: Free
  • Monthly Fee: Free
  • Transaction Fees: 3.0% + $0.50 (Eg $500.00 x 0.03 + 0.50 = $15.50)

3. Payment Express

NZ standard for online Credit Card processing. Website a little hard to understand. (Formerly called “DPS – Direct Payment Solutions”)


  • Setup: $150.00
  • Monthly Fee: $ 50/month
  • Transaction Fees: 100 free transactions a month

4. Eway

Polished website.  Very good price.


  • Setup: Free (subject to change, but it probably won’t)
  • Monthly Fee: $25/month
  • Transaction Fees: $0.40 per transaction
  • Bonus Offer: Put their logo on your websites home page for a $100 credit (subject to change, but it probably won’t)

5. Paystation

Looks ok.  Lowest monthly cost.


  • Setup: $200.00
  • Monthly Fee: $15/month minimum
  • Transaction Fees: $0.10 per transaction

6. Super Secure

Crap website put me off completely.


  • Unknown. I didn’t stay long enough to find out.

7. Flow2Cash

  • Looks decent. Good list of clients give me confidence
  • Fees: 3.95% + $0.45 per transaction

8. Paymex

  • Fees: 3.25% + $0.55 per transaction
  • It’s a bit of a worry that their link to their FAQ page is dead. If they make errors like that on their website, will they be careful with our money?

9. Eftpos New Zealand Limited

No pricing on their website. That is so lame. No, I won’t call your friendly customer service team.

10. NZ Banks: Eg ASB

As far as I can tell, they need you to sign up with a payment gateway anyway so I don’t see why anyone would want to use a NZ bank for their ecommerce…

Have you used any of these companies? Tell your story.

How to Turn Your Junk To Gold – 6 Simple Tips for Selling on TradeMe

Read the updated version of this article: Nov 2012

Ahh TradeMe, we all love it 🙂

Don’t you think it’s amazing how much gold people will pay for your junk?

Do you want to squeeze every last dollar out of each TradeMe sale?

You are about to find out how.

sales-funnelThink of the process of selling on TradeMe as a funnel

Above the funnel is the entire TradeMe audience. Your task is to push a volume of prospective buyers down your funnel.

You have 4 Goals:

  1. Get as many page views as you can
  2. Get as many people on the watchlist as you can
  3. Get as many bidders as you can
  4. Get a bidding frenzy going in the closing minutes

How do you achieve these goals?

Here are 6 simple but cunning tips about how to turn your junk to gold using TradeMe.

1. Research how your other sellers are selling the item

For the few days before you list your item, check out the competition.

What headline are they using? How can you improve on it? What extra keywords are they missing?

What photos have they taken? How can you improve the angles and detail?

What questions have bidders asked?  Avoid annoying them by answering these questions ahead of time in your description.

What do they say in their description? What extra details are they missing? Can you tell a story (about the reasons your selling) or write something amusing?

You task is to learn from their mistakes.

2. Start your auction on Sunday afternoon

This catches a lot of people at home in the earlier stages of the auction, and more importantly, they’ll all be back again next Sunday afternoon for the closing minutes.

If your auction ends on a weekday, or too early in the morning, or too late at night, you will miss out on that bidding frenzy in the closing minutes.

3. Be ridiculously honest in the description

I mean over-the-top honest. When you describe the defects and imperfections in detail, buyers get giddy with trust and bid more.

Your natural tendency is to not mention these defects. You think it will scare some people off.  Sure, some people will be scared off. Let them go.  Lot’s more people will be attracted like seagulls to fish n chips. So fight your instinct to hide the defects. This tip will make you money.

4. Always sell at $1 No Reserve

What is the number one reason people flock to TradeMe in their millions every day?

To find a bargain.

And nothing screams “BARGAIN!!” more than “$1 No Reserve”. Put “**$1 NO RES**” at the end of your title.

This works because it gets bids very early – within hours of listing you should have a few.

And most important of all, each person who places a bid is automatically adding your auction to their watchlist, so they will get emailed next week to say your auction is about to close. That gives them another chance to make another bid, and that’s when you get a last minute bidding frenzy.

I know, I know, it’s a little bit scary selling at $1 No Reserve.  But if it really isn’t working out for you, know that you do have the option of withdrawing the auction (TradeMe will charge you a $3 withdrawal fee).

5. Pay for extra photos

Yes, yes, it is a bit cheeky that TradeMe charges you an extra 10c for photos these days, but its worth it.

Upload about 5 photos of your item from a variety of angles. Include a few photos of all the items laid out nicely on a table, photos of the packing/box, and most importantly: close-ups of any defects or damage – this is less about being honest and fair and doing the right thing (although that’s important), and more about boosting your credibility so the bidders trust you more and bid more.

6. Pay the extra $3.95 for Feature Combo

This adds a photo beside your listing, TradeMe says its “twice as likely to sell” (and I believe this claim), the title is bold, and it features your auction first in the categories.

This is a classic Return on Investment decision: ask yourself the question “will I get more than $4.00 extra for my auction with this extra exposure?” Yes, yes you will.

That’s it from me. What other ideas can you think of?

Read the updated version of this article: Nov 2012

How Many Things Can A Restaurant Do Wrong and Still Stay In Business?

It must be 9 because last night the Jasmine Thai Restaurant in Tauranga made 8 screw ups:

  1. The outside signage was so dark and small that half of our party couldn’t find the restaurant when they drove past
  2. The jugs of water that were served when we arrived were at room temperature. No ice. No lemon.
  3. Half of our table wasn’t having wine, but the wine glasses were not cleared from the table (a minor point but we needed the space later)
  4. Half of our party arrived 10 minutes after the first half, but weren’t offered drinks on their arrival
  5. The waitress took the order of a table that arrived after us
  6. Instead of reprinting the menus, things were crossed out with a black permanent marker or with a tiny piece of paper and sellotape.  For example “fresh” was crossed out for “fresh orange juice”
  7. The list of mains were numbered (which is tacky in itself, who started that anyway?), but each page of the mains menu started at number 1, so if we wanted number 5 we’d have to say “number 5 on the second page”, or “number 14 on page 3”
  8. When the waitress came back with our meals she had to ask who ordered what. Is it that hard to remember who ordered what?

However, the food was delicious, fresh and tasty. I have no problem with the chef. But the service was terrible.

How tight-a-ship do you run?

  • Do you pay attention to detail in your business?
  • Have you let your standards slip over time and hoped that no-one will notice?
  • Maybe it’s time for a spring clean?
  • Maybe it’s time you got a fresh pair of eyes to look over your business?
  • If so, I’m available