Digital Marketing: Why Transparency Is Crucial in Blogging and Marketing

Once upon a time blogging was a cutting edge way for independent writers to air their opinions and personal views on whatever their area of expertise was without a commercial agenda. In recent years, PR companies and big business have jumped on blogging (and content marketing in general) as a means to spread their marketing message to a wider audience and this has led to some unfortunate results for bloggers and the trust that readers have in blogs.

There is a fine line between a blog post and an advertorial. Taking payment, whether in products or cash, to write about other businesses and their offerings can mean that not only are you risking your audience trust, as search engine algorithms become more sophisticated in 2014, you could potentially find yourself being penalised by Google and other search engines.

Why is transparency so important?

Disclosure is an essential part of gaining and maintaining audience trust. If a business has supplied you with free products it is important that you make this clear when you are writing about the products.

Be aware that even with the best intentions, when you have been given a freebie by a PR company or other business, it can be difficult to write an impartial review on the product. Most people won’t go as far as to actually lie about a product they have been given but they might hesitate to write anything too negative out of a sense of obligation or guilt.

How can I prevent this happening?

If you want to maintain your credibility, it is important that you keep your integrity. Many bloggers refuse to accept freebies from PR companies if they don’t genuinely like the product offered. This means that they are only posting positive reviews about products they genuinely feel positive about.

Some bloggers argue that accepting anything for free immediately damages your credibility and you shouldn’t write about anything you wouldn’t be happy to pay for yourself. Whatever your policy is, it is important that it is made clear on your site and that you stick to it or your marketing could become meaningless.

How could it affect my search engine rankings?

Google has strong opinions on the difference between valuable and useful blog content, and sponsored advertising. If they consider what you are writing to be more advertising than genuine content there is a good chance your blog will be penalised and could end up suffering for a long time into the future.

With Google’s new authorship mark-ups taking on a stronger role, the consequences could not only affect your business blog but you as an author. A bad reputation with Google as an author could follow you around the internet permanently and make it extremely difficult for you to successfully market yourself online.

With the growing emphasis on content marketing and social sharing, it is likely that in the future, PR companies and other big businesses will continue to approach bloggers to lend their credibility to their products. Be aware of the potential risks of accepting free products or payment to write reviews. Is it worth the risk of compromising your integrity and reputation or would you be better off paying for a product and writing an honest review that your readers can trust?

How to Bridge the Gap Between Sales and Marketing

In the organizational structure of most businesses, there’s a marketing department and a sales department. While this separation of activities may be necessary for reporting reasons, it often leads to confusion and tension between the two.

Marketing has a broad agenda in its responsibility to the business. This agenda includes:

  • Branding
  • Advertising
  • Lead Generation
  • Web content
  • Market research
  • New product development
  • Social media

Sales, on the other hand, has a specific focus. Salespeople are charged with cultivating customer leads, qualifying those leads, managing a sales pipeline, and remaining focused on the key touch-points that move a general inquiry to a qualified lead to a buying customer.

Regardless of the difference in scope, both sales and marketing share the same objectives: satisfying customers and growing revenue for the business. So it’s essential for businesses to close the gap between the two departments – enabling them to work more efficiently toward these common goals.

Here are tips for bridging the gap between marketing and sales:

Start speaking the same language. In your organization, is there common agreement on what constitutes a “lead”? More importantly, does everyone agree on the definition of a “qualified lead”? Make sure a consensus exists on these critical terms, then focus your marketing activities on developing comprehensive target customer profiles and gathering information on key decision-makers within the target audience. If sales pursue individuals who lack the power to buy, their efforts are wasted and they end up distrusting the marketing team that sent them down the wrong path in the first place.

Create a jointly developed plan. Amazingly, many companies spend vast amounts of time and effort creating a strategic plan but never get input from their sales departments. Who else has more intimate knowledge and front-line experience of the customer than your sales team? A more effective approach involves sales and marketing creating a sales funnel plan that lays out every step of their customers’ buying process and details the best ways to reach out and influence those customers.

Measure activities and results. Encourage sales and marketing to revamp their analytics and to develop agreed-upon metrics that accurately measure the outcomes of the marketing and sales process.

Invite marketing staff to “walk a mile” in the sales team’s shoes. Often, tensions between sales and marketing arise from a simple misunderstanding of how a salesperson operates. One solution to this problem is to have members of the marketing team (from the top executive on down) spend a day or week with sales reps. See how they make contact with customers, develop leads, follow up on calls, etc. There’s probably no better way to learn just what information salespeople require as they work to influence the buying process.

It’s worth emphasizing the depth of customer knowledge a good sales rep has. They know what works with targeted customer and what falls flat. Within your organization, it should be made easy for sales to share this vital information with marketing and, armed with this knowledge, for marketing to give sales every tool possible to succeed in the field.

6 Tips for Selecting Advertising and Marketing Companies in Bahrain

Choosing marketing companies in Bahrain can be tricky, here are 6 effective tips to improve your overall selection process:
One of the most important things you can do to ensure the continual success of your business is adequate marketing with an agency that is the right fit for your business, in fact, it is one of the most essential ways to attract clients and prospects to your business and eventually sell your products and services. This article talks about the 6 things to look out for when selecting a marketing company in Bahrain.

1) Name is not the most important thing

Having a number of meetings with your prospective ad agency is crucial. This is because some people assume that just because an ad agency has a large portfolio of clients that they will be able to provide a better service than smaller ad agencies, this is not necessarily true, quite often it is the opposite as smaller companies will usually work harder and be more flexible with your requirements being able to give your company the time and devotion it needs. Large ad agencies usually spend a considerable amount of time trying to get newer clients, whereas smaller ad agencies are more focused on your business and the clients they are currently handling.

2) Services

Choosing an ad agencies that provides regular strategic sessions for your business is highly important as it confirms to you that the ad agency is invested in achieving the goals of your organizations as you see them. This also helps with selecting the services that will ultimately provide the most outcome for your business.

3) Cultural Fit

Having an ad agency that understands your marketing language and share the same principles and ideas will insure that your campaign will succeed. Ask yourself “How does their company’s culture fit with mine?” and “Do my staff sync with theirs?”. Choosing a marketing company that does not understand your outlook usually leads to a campaign that is ineffective and riddled with miscommunication and misunderstanding.

4) Key Personnel

Find an agency that is trustworthy and reliable, and ask to know exactly who you’ll be dealing with. You should feel comfortable & reassured with the person who’s handling your account. It is very important that you feel comfortable as you will be dealing with that person often. Organizations that are competent will often select the personnel who is best capable of understanding your campaign.

5) Price

Shop around, marketing companies often price their services based on the perceived value and you should always ask a few marketing companies for a quotation. Most ad agencies and marketing companies will gladly sit with you, discuss your requirements and provide you with a quote. You never know what your budget is capable of doing until you shop around.

6) Ask if they are Tamkeen approved

In an effort to support Bahraini companies, the government through Tamkeen and EDSA (Labour Fund) offers to pay 80% of your marketing expenditure up to 15,000 BHD for business. Every company in Bahrain is eligible to apply. Ask your marketing agency if they are Tamkeen approved, and if they are then you will be able to use your 15,000 BHD marketing budget and only have to pay 20%! Furthermore, companies who are Tamkeen approved are often established marketing companies in Bahrain with a proven track record.

Commercial Real Estate – Four Crucial Steps to Ensure a Profitable Investment

The game of commercial real estate could be won in many ways, and has provided many individuals a way to make some serious money. As a matter of fact, a large percentage of the worlds millionaires earned their wealth via real estate investment. While nothing is a sure thing, real estate offers numerous opportunities for the savvy investor. Whether you want to create wealth or simply sustain it, there are several methods that you are able to implement to get where you wish to be.

Where should you start?

Let us look at the investment factors involved in commercial real estate.

Commercial Real Estate Step 1: Research.

The first thing you need to understand before you can invest in real estate is an understanding of the characteristics of a real estate transaction. All of the subtleties can be taken care of by an attorney and accountant, who are well-equipped to protect you from fraud and risk. So, step one is finding a real estate attorney, and accountant who can service your requirements. Do not be concerned too much about the price, as this expense will be computed into your return from the investment. You can discover the right property, and engage a mortgage broker before hiring an attorney.

Commercial Real Estate Step 2: Figure out your budget.

How much cash are you able to invest or raise, and what return do you have to produce from that investment to make the investment worthwhile? This issue needs to be determined up front. This amount is purely subjective, and will vary from instance to instance. Some investors will apply a work-backwards strategy that looks for properties with the greatest returns. This is an unfortunate technique in that many deals that offer a good return are passed by in favor of the potential ‘home run.’

Commercial Real Estate Step 3: Determine your specific technique.

Here are the most popular strategies:

Rehab

A rehab is where you purchase a run-down building that requires lots of attention. You will then provide the necessary elbow grease. When finished, the property is returned to the market, and you produce a tidy profit, mostly from your ‘sweat equity’.

The key to this technique, of course, is to find real estate that are undervalued. Should you overpay, no matter what you do to the property, you’ll lose on the deal. Also, you ought to stay away from real estate that only need superficial enhancements. You will not make a profit if all it needs is a new layer of paint and the yard mowed. Stay with the properties that need the most TLC and you will come out on top.

Buy and Hold:

Probably one of the most common method of commercial property investment is the buy and hold strategy. You buy real estate that is valued at a fair price which will stay in your portfolio for years to come. It could be in your neighborhood, across town, or even in a foreign country. While you hold on to the real estate, the value will continuously rise. At least that’s the principle, because hopefully developments and enhancements are going on all around you. After a few years (or decades) you, the master entrepreneur, sell the asset for millions more than you pay for it. It doesn’t get a whole lot of better than this.

While there’s a whole lot of money to be produced in this type of venture, it can take a long time to mature. This really is great for someone who has a big chunk of money that they wish to sit on for a few years. There is no set time limit as to how long it will take you to win. You basically need to go with your instinct on this one. This strategy can produce an excellent return and it’s a pretty passive source. You don’t truly have to do anything except buy the real estate and wait.

Quick Flip

The quick flip usually requires a property struggling with foreclosure or bankruptcy. In this circumstance, a home owner is under duress, and might take a significant cut in the price in order to get out quickly. You then acquire the distressed property and quickly return it to the marketplace. Since you don’t need to sell quickly, the property will get fair market value and you can make thousands of dollars in profit. As with rehabbing property, the key is finding cheap properties that you know are undervalued. If you know the market, you are able to do very well with this type of transaction.

Whichever investment technique you decide on, make certain it’s the correct one for you. Think about all the elements carefully before making your decision. Just remember that you too can be successful in commercial real estate investment.

Commercial Real Estate Step 4: Start the search.

OK. You’re now ready to begin the property search. Though you should look for the greatest returns, if you find a property that meets your return specifications, you ought to send it to a mortgage broker to shop it around, and get you a few quotes for the cost. Don’t worry about wasting their time, as they understand that only 1 out of every six opportunities will close, so they are content to shop your deal around to investors.

Conclusion:

As mentioned earlier, the world of commercial real estate can supply a serious income stream to a savvy investor. But as with any investment strategy, it’s not without risk. So that you can maximize gains while minimizing risks, it is suggested that you seek advice from an investment specialist.

Real Estate is Not a Good Investment

With falling property values, the stock market on a roller coaster ride and the economy worsening many people will wonder if it is time to start investing in real estate again. The answer to this question is a very simple and very obvious one: not any time soon.

Pending home sales fell by nearly 30 percent in June according to the National Association of Realtors. Many people will see this as an opportunity to pick up but bargain properties as investments but it is not.

Real Estate is Overvalued
The reason why people should avoid real estate investment at this time is that real estate is still way over valued in most of the United States. In many areas homes that are worth less than $100,000 are still being sold for $200,000-$300,000 and condominiums that are worth less than $100,000 are still being sold for a half million dollars.

If you don’t believe me take a look around your area, drive or walk around and look at the houses for sale. Chances are you’ll see broken down old dumps with smashed windows and shingles falling off the roof for sale. Do a quick Google search on those properties and you’ll discover that they’re probably selling for $100,000 or more.

The market for commercial property is even worse, I know of one depressed Colorado town with high unemployment where questionable retail space is renting for $900 a square foot. This space is being leased in a building in a very cold area where natural gas the cheapest fuel for central heating in the US is not available. This means heating costs will be double or triple those in an area where natural gas was available. Not surprisingly that retail space has been sitting empty for years.

Sooner or later the market will catch up with all that over priced real estate and property values will fall to realistic levels. My guess is that real estate prices in most areas of the United States will still have to fall by 25 to 50 percent to reach a realistic level of value. This means that persons who invest in property now could loose 25 to 50 percent of their investment.

Properties are Over-Mortgaged
The main reason properties are overvalued is that many of them are over-mortgaged. Over the past few years it was so easy to get a mortgage that many people put two, three, or even mortgages on their properties.

Many pieces of property are mortgaged for more than they are worth, they are “underwater” in real estate parlance. Media reports indicate that as many as 25 percent of American homes could be “underwater.”

One terrible situation out there is that many property owners who want to sell can’t because they know they couldn’t make enough from the sale to pay off their mortgage. Naturally, nobody will want to take over the mortgages on those properties because they would loose money. This means that a lot of real estate can’t be practically or legally sold at this time.

If this wasn’t bad enough, a lot of those underwater properties are encumbered by all sorts of liens, especially tax liens. This means that anybody who takes over such properties will be faced with a big legal bill.

There Will Be a Glut of Foreclosed Properties on the Market
Anybody who has followed the news over the past couple of years knows that are hundreds of thousands of homes in foreclosure. This means that people haven’t been able to pay their mortgages and have been evicted. To this figure we can probably thousands more homes where the owner has simply walked away and the mortgage holder hasn’t bothered to take the property back yet.

Many of these foreclosed properties are sitting empty and off the market right now. Quite a few realtors won’t touch foreclosures because of all the problems with them so they’re hard to sell.

Sooner or later all of those foreclosed properties are going to come on the market and drive real estate prices down further. In cities like Detroit and Cleveland where a large percentage of the homes are in foreclosure full sized homes in some neighborhoods are selling for less than $20,000. We’re going to see similar situations across the country in the next few years. When this occurs, the value of real estate in many cities such as Denver, Las Vegas and Los Angeles will fall to levels rivaling those of Cleveland and Detroit.

Property Taxes are Too High
To make matters worse we’ll soon see a situation where property taxes will exceed the value of the property in quite a few areas.

This will occur because in many areas of the country property taxes are based on “property value.” Unfortunately this property value has little or nothing to do with market value. The values used to determine property taxes are based on a figure determined by a government official usually the County Assessor in most areas this individual is elected and needs no training or expertise. In many areas it is based on what “comparable properties” sold for in the recent past. Not surprisingly the local government sets the property values as high as possible so it can collect as many taxes as possible.

In other areas the property taxes are based on what the property last sold for. This means if you bought your house for $500,000 in 2005 but its now worth $100,000 you would still be taxed as if the property was worth $500,000.

The property tax situation will make the foreclosure mess worse because many owners won’t be able to afford to pay their property taxes. Many owners will simply walk off and leave the property to be seized by the local government and sold at a tax auction for pennies on the dollar. Many of the foreclosed properties will also end up at the tax auction because nobody is paying the taxes on them which will greatly increase the real estate glut.

When to Invest in Real Estate Again
Naturally people will ask: when should I start investing in real estate again? The best answer to this question is when the real estate market hits bottom which should be in about two years.

At that time we’ll see a real estate investors’ paradise with great properties selling for $50,000-$100,000 or less. Many people will be able to pick up tremendous bargains at foreclosure and tax auctions.

Until then your best strategy is to avoid real estate investment and keep your money in money markets, stocks, foreign currencies, CDs or precious metals. If you have a lot of cash I would recommend that you put it in precious metals like gold because a collapse of the dollar could be just around the corner. If the Euro collapses because of the European debt crisis it will bring down the dollar. Some foreign currencies such as the Canadian and Australian dollars and the Swiss Franc will be good investments too.

It would also be a good idea to sell off any property other than your home that you own right now. That way you will be able to avoid taking a huge loss on it in the future. For seniors who have no mortgages on their home, I would recommend taking out a reverse mortgage and investing the cash from it in stocks or precious metals. This way they can still live in their home and cash in.

Real estate is simply not going to be a good investment in the United States for the next five to ten years. Smart people should start seeking alternatives to real estate investing now.