It’s Time to Update Your Marketing Plan

April 27th, 2011

When was the last time you reviewed your marketing plan?  We think it’s a good idea to give your plan a “facelift” every three months to make sure you’re employing the right strategies to keep on track with your marketing goals. The following is a reminder of the elements that make an effective marketing plan.

Know who your customers/clients.

In today’s competitive economy, it’s critical to know your clients/customers’ needs and how you can provide the solution. If you can identify what they want and anticipate their needs, you can offer a solution they are willing to pay you for.

Be clear about what you are offering.

Now that you’ve identified what your clients need, take a good look at your service offerings.  What services/products do you provide better than any of your competitors that will meet your clients/customers’ needs?   When communicating with your clients/customers and prospects, focus on the benefits/results your service offerings provide. Clearly show them how you provide the solution to their problem.

Use a variety of methods to reach your target audience.

Not all of your clients/customers and prospects respond to the same method of marketing communications, so it’s important to use a wide variety of marketing tactics to keep in front of them on a consistent basis.  Sending out a monthly newsletter, a yearly survey, a direct mail campaign to specific target groups, and posting fresh articles on your website are just a few of the strategies you should be employing on a consistent, scheduled basis to stay in your clients/customers and prospects minds.

Is your message consistent?

Your clients/customers and prospects are living busy, hectic lives, and you’re constantly competing for their attention.  Your offerings should be clear and concise, and your message consistent and on-point. If your clients/customers and prospects can’t clearly and quickly see how you can solve their problems, they will keep looking for someone who will (and it won’t be you!)

 Create an identity with a logo and branding.

Sending a consistent message is easier when you have a logo and brand your clients/customers and prospects can identify you with.  Do you currently have a logo that is on all of your marketing materials and correspondence? Your logo should be on your business cards, stationary, website, and all other collateral marketing materials you produce.  A logo conveys that you are a serious, reputable business – not fly-by-night operation.

What Does Networking Mean Today?

March 23rd, 2011

Business networking has changed over the past twenty years. From numerous plane flights to internal memos, technology has evolved and we must evolve with it. The networks below are older and are relationship driven. Here are just a few popular networks:

·         Networking clubs
·         Chamber of Commerce
·         Association clubs. Examples are AICPA or Board of Realtors
·         Alumni Groups
·         Women clubs
·         Minority Associations

I want to cover the digital age of networking using social media apps, which includes close to 400 social media apps and counting. I know this is like swallowing a horse’s pill. You do not need to know all of them, but should know the key functions of the most popular ones. Listed are just a few that can help you strengthen and extend existing networks and possibly establish new business relationships:

Mediums # of Users Features
 Linked In  90 Million  Professional network services allows user to build a contact network, find jobs or potential candidates, post and view photos, follow companies, bookmark jobs
 Facebook  600 Million  Keep up with friends, upload and share unlimited number of photos, share links and videos
 Twitter  190 Million  Send and read text-based messages 140-character limit, follow or subscribe to other users
 Blogging  75 Million  A term used to describe web sites that maintain an ongoing chronicle of information
 Flickr  40 Million  Online photo management and sharing application makes adding photos and videos easy and fast to share, enable new ways to organize photos and video and features ability to add comments, notes and tags
 Tumblr  6 Million  Post text, photos, quotes, links, music, and videos, from your browser, phone, desktop, or emails
 YouTube  50 Million  To discover, watch and share originally-created videos
 Email Marketing  400,000 (Constant Contact Users Only)  Software helps small businesses and nonprofits use html templates to send email advertising and build email lists
 Delicious  5 Million  Keep, share, and discover the best of the Web using Delicious, the world’s leading social bookmarking service

How To Improve Your FICO Score

November 18th, 2010

What is Bad Credit?

1 out of 5 Americans have very poor credit, do you fit that category? Anyone who has ever had bad credit knows just how difficult it can be to get approved for a credit card and qualify for any type of loan. The good news is that it is never too late to improve your FICO credit score. Raising your FICO score is a bit like losing weight; it takes times and it does not happen overnight. The best way to improve bad credit is to manage it responsibly overtime. Here are some tips that can help you improve your credit score:

Payments History

Pay your bills on time, the longer you do, the better your credit score will be. Paying your bills late results in bad credit and can affect your FICO score in many ways.  For example, if you have poor credit and carry $3k balances on your credit card, your default rate can be up to 28.99%, compared to someone who has good (700-759) to perfect (760-850) credit who may have an interest rate of 8.9%. As a result, the person with good credit pays around $27 monthly while the person with poor credit will be hit with charges of $87 each month. In 5 years time, a person with good credit saves $3,600 in interest.  Delinquent payments and collections will have a major negative impact on your FICO score as well.  In fact, once you pay off a collection account it will not be removed from your credit report.  Instead, it will stay on your report for 7 years. Are you having trouble making ends meet? The first thing you can do is contact your creditors or see a legitimate credit counselor.  Your credit score will not improve immediately, but managing your credit and paying your bills on time will increase your scores overtime.

Amounts Owed

It is vital to keep the balances low on credit cards and other “revolving credits” because high outstanding debt can affect a credit score.  It is recommended to keep your debt to credit ratio below 30%. Paying down your revolving credit is one of the most effective ways to improve your credit. In addition, it is also recommended that you keep between 3 to 5 personal credit cards.

By following these tips, you can start improving your FICO score and start receiving the financing you deserve. Continue paying your debts and over time you will see an improvement in your FICO score.

Do You Understand Your FICO Score Part II

October 20th, 2010

Seven Steps to Perfect Credit

Some people think that good credit is already good enough. Are you one of those people who think that? You may be questioning: “Why try to reach a perfect score when my credit score is already good enough…but is it really?” The answer is simply, “NO.” The difference between a good and perfect credit score is similar to the difference between 4% interest rate versus 6% interest rate. In other words, when you manage your credit wisely, you are in the driver seat. Here is what you need to follow a PERFECT CREDIT SEVEN-STEP SYSTEM: P- Pull your credit reports and credit scores, E- Examine your files and enroll in credit monitoring, R-Reduce debt and manage bills wisely, F-Fix errors and protect your credit, E-Enhance your credit file constantly, C-Contact creditors and negotiate, T-Take time to educate yourself.

You can get this information from the book, “Perfect Credit,” by Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, where she explains the seven steps in details. It is very important to pull your credit reports and credit score because it can give the proper checkup for your financial health and improve your credit rating. The 3 major credit reporting agencies are Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Khalfani-Cox suggests that you pull all 3 credit reports at once and sign up for a credit-monitoring service. If anything goes wrong with one of your credit files, you would want to get it corrected and become financially educated by viewing all your credit reports together. Essentially, you are giving yourself the same comprehensive view of your credit profile that many lenders currently use.

Getting your FICO credit scores is as important as pulling the reports. It is reported that the new 720 FICO score is now 760. You can go on to www.myfico.com, to get both the reports and score. However, you can only get your FICO scores from two different sources, Equifax and TransUnion but you should get your Experian score as well which can be retrieved from www.creditexpert.com. It is very valuable to have additional information when it comes to your credit. In fact, out of the 3 credit bureaus, Experian has more weight on banks and financial institutions. Finally, the last credit score that you are not aware of is VantageScores. VantageScores is a credit score jointly developed by
the 3 credit bureaus. It is promised by the 3 bureaus that VantageScore would be more “accurate” than existing credit scores and ensures far less variance among the bureaus.  VantageScore captures a broader array of payment information. For example, if you have utility-bill payments reported anywhere, that history is taken into account even though it is not a traditional form of credit. Such data is extremely predictable; therefore, it will be scored. VantageScores have made headway in the financial world and now claim a 6% market share. This is a small percentage but it shows that banks are increasingly looking at alternative credit ratings, and so should you. Here are how the 3 credit bureau classify a person’s credit by using Vantage Score: grade “A” score of 901-990 is super prime; grade “B” score of 801-900 is prime plus; grade “C” of 701-800 is prime; grade “C” score of 601-700 is non-prime; and grade “D” of 501-600 is high risk.

It is essential to read and analyze your reports without putting it off. In every report there will be something slightly different and encountering those differences will give you a snapshot of how you are viewed by the rest of the lenders and financial world.  Keep track of your credit report by enrolling in credit monitoring because if something goes wrong you can be notified easily. Once that is done, you can now reduce your debt
and manage your bills wisely. You need to be serious about managing your debt and avoid missing payments. If money is tight, adjust your budget so that you can pay your bills on time. In addition, you need to fix errors and protect your credit. In fact, consumer groups estimate that 80% of all credit reports have mistakes in them. These mistakes may be from inputting errors by clerks. Therefore, protect your credit, by viewing your report and fixing the errors that do not belong in it. This will enhance your credit file by adding positive information to your file.

The experts at Fair Isaac say that paying your bills promptly results in a positive payment record, which is the top factor in calculating your FICO score. So enhance your credit file constantly by adding positive information to your file. The idea is to show that you have a track record of managing a variety of bills and financial obligations responsibly.  To continue to increase your credit rating you now need to contact your creditor and negotiate lowering your interest rate if it is too high, stop late fees, eliminate over-thelimit-charges, update your account to “current” status, and remove a negative entry from your credit file. Lastly, you want to take time to educate yourself about issues affecting your overall finances. The four important areas you should be concerned about educating yourself includes: the term of your existing credit obligation, the nature and terms of financial products, services, and credit-related offerings marketing specifically to you, the ever changing world of credit scoring, and the credit and debt laws that impact the public.  As a result, understanding and educating yourself in those areas will help you along the lines in many ways.

Do You Understand Your FICO Score?

September 21st, 2010

The Basic Rules You Should Know About your Credit 

Do you know what affects credit scores? Surprisingly, many people are not well educated about understanding their FICO. One out of four people have not seen their credit scores, and statistics shows that about “1 out of 5 Americans has very poor credit” (Perfect Credit, pg. 14). By law, FICO scores do not consider factors such as income, race, gender, and marital status. It does not matter if you are rich or poor, working class or middle class. When you apply for credit such as a car loan, credit cards, or a mortgage, the FICO score gives lenders a snap shot of the borrower’s current credit risk based on their credit history. FICO scores are used by almost all of the lending industry to determine your credit risk and is one of the most commonly used scoring tools. You have 3 FICO scores, one for each of the three bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. All of these scores affect how much and what loan terms lenders will offer you. You can find more information at www.myficoscore.com. In addition, VantageScore is a new credit bureau of which you should be aware. This is a credit score jointly developed by the three credit bureaus. According to Lynnette Kahfani-Cox, author of “Perfect Credit”, VantageScore has made headway in the financial world and now claim a 6% market share. Although this is a small percentage compared to the use of FICO scores, it illustrates that banks are looking at alternative credit ratings-so perhaps we should too.  At first glance, maintaining good credit may seem simple, but merely paying all bills on time does not ensure a high FICO score. Nonetheless, it is important to follow simple steps to improve your FICO scores, which can help you qualify for better rates from lenders.  In the upcoming newsletter, 3 series will be discussed: Perfect credit, bad credit, and fixing credit report errors.