Business, Title Insurance New York

Business Links of Interest for Monday, December 9, 2013!

so little time

For many of us the phrase ‘So much to do and so little time’ rings very true!

And, as a result, we don’t always get to read or learn about topics that may not be specific to our business today and yet are important just the same!

The links below are to articles that may be of interest.

What is Bitcoin? (3-minute video)

Who is this marketing for?

Tips for becoming a market leader

7 Ways to Get Bloggers Buzzing About Your Brand

The 4 Silent Killers of Your Business

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Business, foreclosure crisis, Title Insurance New York

Marketing, Foreclosures and Public Speaking!

Hallmark Abstract Service New York Title Insurance

What do these three topics have in common? Not that much really but if you are in business and/or involved in the real estate market they all can have an impact on you in one way or another!

Attorney’s and Website Marketing

The first article is focused on law firms and the fact that while many have websites, many more still do not.

When searching for an attorney or anything else on the internet, what is the first thing that many of us do?

If you’re like me it’s to look for a website in order to learn more about an attorney or a business who may have been recommended.

Without a website many consumers may pass you by and, for those who do have a website is it effectively presenting your firm in the most complimentary and productive way?

‘Pump Up Your Law Firm Website’

‘Your law firm website is the core of your marketing efforts. Yet it’s easy to take it for granted. We know how it goes — you spend time and trouble getting it to work like you want, and then you move on to more urgent things. But, really, constant attention is needed to keep your website working for you…’

Read the entire article at Attorney at Work here.

What’s your biggest fear? Is it public speaking?

For many it is even coming in on the list as more frightening than death!

Here are a couple of tips to help get over that fear.

‘Speaking in public: two errors that lead to fear’

‘1. You believe that you are being actively judged

2. You believe that the subject of the talk is you

When you stand up to give a speech, there’s a temptation to believe that the audience is actually interested in you.

This just isn’t true. (Or if it is, it doesn’t benefit you to think that it is).

You are not being judged, the value of what you are bringing to the audience is being judged. The topic of the talk isn’t you, the topic of the talk is the audience, and specifically, how they can use your experience and knowledge to achieve their objectives…’ Read the rest of the article at Seth’s Blog here.

Foreclosures to take even more time……….?

If you live, work or practice real estate law in New York State you wouldn’t believe that this could be possible with the current time to foreclose measured in years and not days!

But it may be!

‘QM Rule Could Extend Foreclosure Timelines’

‘Investors and servicers should expect longer liquidation timelines on qualified mortgages that go into default, according to Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services…’ Read the rest of the article at National Mortgage News here.

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blogging, marketing, Title Insurance New York

Should your business blog? (Infographic)

In other words is the extra work and small expense that’s involved creating and updating a blog going to provide your business with a return on investment (ROI) that will make the endeavor worthwhile?

The fact of the matter is that simply by you being here reading this article it has in effect made The Hallmark Abstract Sentinel worth the effort for HAS!

The benefit is not from our expectation that the people coming here to read this article are suddenly going to decide to order title insurance from us.

The need for our product is specific to real estate and more than that to a real estate transaction whether a purchase or refinance. And while it’s true that individuals can choose their own title insurance provider, when the time comes it is often left to an attorney to take care of.

Our goal is to provide information on a wide variety of topics that may prove to be useful to business managers and business owners while at the same time expanding the exposure and name recognition of Hallmark Abstract Service in the marketplace!

And that should be your goal as well.

So again, should your business have a blog?

Some statistics and infographic (Source):

19% of blog visitors refine their choices based on what they’ve read
19% of visitors use blogs for support and answers to questions
17% of visitors say they discover new products and services in blog articles
14% say they get assurance to buy after reading about the product on a blog
13% of visitors are inspired by blogs
7% of visitors actually buy directly from the blogs they read

business blogging

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marketing, Title Insurance New York

Business articles of interest including banking, lending, law and marketing!

did-you-know

The following articles look at various issues concerning businesses both within the practice of law and without!

We publish The Hallmark Abstract Sentinel with the goal of providing our readers timely information that is hopefully of interest, but that in some way may prove helpful to them and their businesses too.

If anyone has topics that they would like to see covered please let us know!

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home sellers

Mistakes to avoid when choosing the listing agent for your home!

buyerbeware

A list of nine mistakes sellers should avoid when choosing the listing agent for their home!

When the time comes to sell your home it is often a difficult decision that ultimately gets made for any one of a number of reasons. For instance sellers may be downsizing with the children out of the house and on their own, upsizing due to outgrowing the current space or perhaps it may be to move into a better school district.

Whatever the reason and depending on whether it is a buyers or sellers market, there are various ways to try and sell your home.

If the homeowner chooses to use one of the more traditional methods of signing up with a real estate firm to act as the listing agent for the property there are some things they need to be aware of when making the choice.

From Trulia this is a list of nine mistakes that sellers often make in the selection process that determines their listing agent.

Caveat Venditor or ‘Let the Seller Beware’: Mistakes made when choosing the listing agent!

1.  They don’t totally understand the nature of the challenge. You’re not looking for a new BFF or even for an agent who has the temperament and patience to deal with your cranky husband.  Selling a home quickly and at top dollar requires a concentration of marketing and negotiations skill and less interpersonal skill, compared with buying.  So your challenge as a Seller looking to hire an agent is to feel comfortable that the listing agent you hire has:

  • a strong, documented track record of accomplishing the results you seek for their recent, nearby listings (which might include some marketing through their local agent relationships, but might not) and
  • a strong, proactive, well-thought-out plan for helping you achieve the same success.

I’ve seen a number of sellers who list with friends or relatives that don’t have such a track record often fail to get the results they seek, even if their agent is a lovely human being with strong skills getting homes sold 3 states over in a totally different marketplace with totally different market dynamics.

2. They fail to understand roles and responsibilities.
  When sellers have a bad home-selling experience, 9 times out of 10 that means that their home lagged on the market, sold for way below listing or was in and out of escrow a bunch of times. Sometimes, the fault for these things does fall on the listing agent, especially if there was some sort of huge marketing fail, like the place was listed online with no photos or it was somehow otherwise not fully exposed to the market.  But many, many times the fatal flaws I see in listings are things that are (a) decisions the Seller themselves ultimately made, and (b) the Seller made in direct opposition to their agent’s advice.

Overpricing a property for the market dynamics, failing to handle some major condition or aesthetic issues and/or making it unavailable for showings are 3 things that listing agents spend much of their working lives advising sellers to do differently – which is advice most unhappy Sellers ignore or refuse to follow.

As you interview listing agents, talk with them about which pieces of the process of getting your home sold are things they are responsible for – and which pieces you are ultimately accountable for. And as you walk with them through their plans for preparing, pricing and marketing your home, if you find yourself feeling like pushing back against every thing they say, consider whether that dynamic will truly serve you well throughout your transaction.  Hiring the best agent ever means very, very little if you refuse to follow their advice, whether your reasons for refusing are right or wrong.

3. They omit to ask for the right data – or for any data at all.  Sometimes, the power of an agent’s personality or the lore of a longtime locally legendary agent’s prowess precedes them and takes over the conversation.  And this isn’t all bad: an agent with a super strong local reputation probably got it by dint of the very skills they’ll need to wield in selling your home, and highly social agents often have fantastic buyer broker relationships they use in getting the right target buyers into their listings (read: your home).  

That said, if you are at the dining table with an agent, don’t let the conversation get so derailed that you fail to ask for and review the important data points.  

You need to know a few key numbers, including:

  • The average number of days their most recent listings have stayed on the market before selling (and how that compares to the area average)
  • The average list price to sale price ratio they achieve for their listings (and how that compares to the area average)
  • How many listings your home would be competing with if you listed it today (and how they justify which homes they threw into that mix)
  • How many offers most home sellers in your area are fielding
  • How many other listings they currently have, and how many team members are available to service them.

Ask for this data and discuss with the agent candidate how it applies to the decisions you need to make: starting with your agent choice, but also including your pricing and timing decisions.

4.  They fail to understand the data. 
 A lot of people who are super smart, Type A folks are so used to being highly competent that even when a listing agent candidate proactively presents data like that described above, they fail to ask questions about things they don’t understand.  Let me tell you – if you don’t do real estate all day everyday, there’s no reason to expect that you’ll have mastery over this information at first glance.  

If you don’t understand the data, the marketing plan or anything else the agent presents to you: ask. And keep asking until you do fully understand the information and it’s implications for you – even if you think you’re asking a silly question, you think it should be obvious.  It’s a great way to make sure the relationship starts off on the right foot, and that you’re picking an agent who is happy and easy about breaking complex information down until you’re comfortable with it.

5.  They don’t check references. As with all of the often-omitted items on this list, listing agent candidates often provide references to potential Seller clients as a matter of course.  But very few folks actually call and check them.  Do.  You can come up with a list of questions or just tell the reference contact a little about your situation and ask them to share something of their experience with the agent.  Let’s be real – no agent is likely to give you references who are going to talk badly of them.  But approaching your reference checks with the intent to have an open conversation about the past clients’ experience creates the opportunity for you to get all sorts of nuanced insights, rather than just a “good agent” or “bad agent” rating. 

6.  They don’t ask for a detailed marketing plan.  It’s essential to know precisely what steps your agent plans to take to market your home, before you hire them. What sites will your listing show up on?  How many pictures will the listing include?  What about Open Houses or marketing directly to buyer’s brokers?  How do they propose to ensure that every qualified buyer who is on the hunt for a home like yours will see it?  

Having a written marketing plan in hand (or in some digital format) empowers you to do things.  If your home lags on the market, it’s a troubleshooting checklist that might surface what hasn’t happened or where an error might be glitching up your home’s marketing.  And if you do the checklist and the home does appear to have been well and fully marketed, the plan can provide a strong proof point in favor of a price reduction.

7.  They don’t discuss property preparation.  Different agents might have very different approaches to what needs to happen to your home before it goes onto the market. They might also have different approaches to how that work will get done.  Some agents manage property preparation from soup to nuts, while others will give you some thoughts on what needs to happen and leave you to do it. Some will refer you to stagers and vendors, while others will bring people in on their own dime to actually execute their vision, and still others might even have access to home improvement contractors who will do some work now for payment after closing (this often depends on your price point and on what practices are standard in your market).  Talk to every agent you interview, in detail, about what they envision will need to happen to your property before they list it, and how intensely involved they can and will be in helping you get the work done.

8.  They don’t ask about Plans B, C and D.  The real estate market wouldn’t be the real estate market if it didn’t throw you curve balls.  Some agents are strong at executing a cookie-cutter marketing plan so long as everything goes smoothly, but are not-so-great at problem solving when things don’t go as planned. Unfortunately, it’s tough to know that your agent lacks a backup plan until you actually need it! Ask your prospective agent candidates what complications, challenges and surprises they have encountered recently in their listing transactions and how they resolved a couple of them.

9.  They don’t read the contract.  One of the most major freak-out moments I see happen with disgruntled Sellers (i.e., members of the club you’re trying not to join) arises when they are very upset with their listing agent and decide to cancel the relationship only to realize they’ve signed a contract locking them into it for 17 years. (I exaggerate, but you get the gist.)  Similarly, some listing agreements have terms that mandate the Seller pay the agent’s commission if the Seller receives (but doesn’t accept) an offer meeting certain criteria or if the Seller finds the Buyer themselves.  

The moral of the story? Read your listing agreement before signing it.  Walk through it with your almost-agent, and don’t sign it until you understand your commitment.

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marketing, Networking

A guide to perfecting networking techniques!

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As part of our continuing effort at Hallmark Abstract Service to provide our clients and friends with what we believe to be useful information, this article examines ways to master effective networking.

It’s been discussed here before that, no matter what business we happen to be in, we’re constantly networking in order to grow.

But, as critical as networking may be, entering a room full of people can at times be both daunting and intimidating potentially leading to the deer in the headlights phenomenon!

The following article written by Hannah Fleishman will hopefully provide thoughts and techniques that may help to make networking less stressful and therefore, much more productive!

How to Master Non-Awkward, Effective In-Person Networking

Remember the good ol’ days when we found jobs through ads in the daily newspaper? Hard to believe, especially considering the fact that70% of jobs are found through personal relationships, according to John Bennett, director of the Master of Science at the McColl School of Business.

Whether you’re trying to develop your personal career or forge new business relationships, making offline, personal connections has become even more critical as online social networking becomes the norm. “Networking” is a buzzword that many of us have a serious love/hate relationship with. Sure — we all want to expand our network by meeting new people in our industry, but actually meeting them can feel like a middle school dance all over again … a painfully, painfully awkward middle school dance.

The web has given us ways to navigate around uncomfortable networking. According to Performics 2012 Life on Demand Survey, 40% of people feel more comfortable engaging with people online than in person. While reaching out to new people may be much less intimidating when we’re sitting behind a screen, face-to-face networking is an extremely valuable skill to hone if you want to build strong relationships with potential investors, managers, employees, partners, mentors, clients, etc. This guide will help you navigate those uncomfortable face-to-face networking situations so the next time you step into a room of potential connections, you’ll be as cool as a cucumber and ready to dive right into relationship-building conversations.

How to Master 6 Challenging Face-to-Face Networking Situations

1) When You Ask Yourself, “Wait, What Am I Doing Here?”

Next time you’re going to an event, ask yourself: “Who do I want to meet, and why?” Certain event registration platforms like Eventbrite show the event’s attendee list on the registration page. If a guest list like this is available, take a moment to scan it. See a person or company on the list you’ve been hoping to connect with? Look up the guest’s LinkedIn profile to learn a little bit more about them so you can seek them out at the event. I’ve met tons of great people at events who have since become familiar faces at industry events. Are these connections unimportant? No. But do I wish I had spent more time seeking out more purposeful connections? Yes.

Let’s say you’re the CMO of a successful lawn-mowing business. Your business could benefit from finding a new source of potential customers, so you figure a great way to do that would be to start building some co-marketing relationships that you can use to reach a new audience of potential customers. If this is the case, you may want to consider spending some of your time at the event seeking out people whose business is complementary to yours — perhaps a home improvement vendor — with which you can build relationships that lead to possible co-marketing opportunities.

Do you want to spread awareness about a new project you’re starting? Do you want to meet an industry leader who can become a valuable mentor? Do you want to find potential new hires for open positions at your company? Having a clear goal in mind will make networking less ambiguous and lead to more effective connections. 

2) Not Knowing How to Start a Conversation

Broaching a big or small group can be intimidating, but with the right approach, you can join in on an existing conversation or start your own successfully. Ease into the evening by introducing yourself to one person who is also flying solo and looking for someone to talk to. Read up on industry news and trends beforehand so you’ll be prepared to spark conversation and ask for their thoughts on topics that are interesting to both of you. This is especially important if you’re attending an event outside your industry. I once helped organize a marketing and technology event with many sponsors, including a law firm. At first, they were hesitant about connecting with an audience outside their area of expertise. But by checking out a few prominent blogs and scanning industry news, they felt much more confident to meet marketers, and they made some valuable connections that night.

Your first connection at an event is your gateway to meeting more people. Maybe they came with friends they can introduce you to, or maybe you’ll decide to break into bigger groups together. Whoever you approach first, relieve some of the awkwardness with informed, relevant conversation starters to get in the swing of things together. 

3) Introducing Yourself to Someone Who Is a Way Bigger Deal Than You

We sometimes walk into networking events with high hopes of meeting the CEO of a company we admire, or the author of a book that kick-started out career. We’re so thrilled to be in the same place as them, but suddenly, you spot them across the room and become nervous, awkward, and who knows — maybe even a little bit sweaty. So how can you successfully strike up a conversation with this mini-celebrity from your industry’s People magazine without making a total fool of yourself?

First and foremost: Make sure you have purpose. Butting into their conversation to tell them you love their work or admire their approach to business will not invite stimulating conversation. In fact, it’s more likely to evoke a simple “thank you.” Consider what it is about this person that resonated with you, and tie it in to your work, projects, or philosophy. Approach them with confidence, introduce yourself not as a fan, but as an equal (because you are), and say something thought provoking that they can relate to, like, “Your applications of inbound marketing for nonprofits was helpful for me at my last job, but I’m transitioning into a job in the pharmaceutical industry. Would you change your inbound marketing approach if you were me?” Remember that you admire this person because you respect their thought leadership; give them a chance to admire you, too, by sparking an interesting and relevant conversation. 

4) When Conversation Loses Steam

Often, we meet someone and exchange our name, company, job title, and where we grew up in about three minutes. Then we smile, look at the ground, and say something like “I love your shirt.”

Smooth.

When the small talk is up, it’s easy for the conversation to go south. I’ve learned to avoid this by making them the topic of conversation. I was on the verge of an awkward silence at a networking event once, but when I referenced a project I was working on I was met with a genuine “Tell me about that.” I was not only impressed by this person’s casual cue for me to keep talking, but I was instantly intrigued by them, too.

You may be thinking, how can I make connections if we just talk about them the whole time? And to that I would say: showing genuine interest in another person can say more about you than talking about yourself could. Besides, if a person doesn’t reciprocate the behavior and encourage you to tell them about yourself afterward, then they probably weren’t a valuable connection to begin with. Next time a conversation is flailing, ask for them to elaborate and you’ll find talking points you’ll be able to expand on and run with. 

5) When You Want to Ask for Something Without Scaring Someone Off

The highlight of networking events we all fantasize about is leaving with a concrete exchange that will move our business or career forward. Maybe it’s a job offer, getting an investor on board, locking down a recommendation letter, or landing a client you’ve been after for months. Whatever the highlight, it isn’t going to fall in our lap. We can play all the right cards to set us up for a the big moment, but a time will come when we need to put ourselves out there and firmly express what we want. How can we do this without sounding aggressive?

Consider your answer to the classic job interview question “Why should we hire you over the other candidates?” You come up with a true, succinct, humble, and exemplary answer of why you are the right person for the job. Your approach to getting what you want from networking isn’t all that different, except it’s important to express your flexibility. In her book Lean In, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg references a time a woman approached her asking for a job by asking what her core business problems were and how she could fix them. This combination of flexibility and confidence in getting the job done is a brilliant way to frame your next big ask. Be firm on what you want, but be clear that what you want is mutually beneficial.

6) Exiting a Conversation Gracefully

It’s important to remember that networking isn’t like speed-dating. The goal isn’t to meet as many people as you can — it’s to make valuable connections. While it’s important not to rush through conversations for this reason, there are times when we need to jump ship. Whether you’re chatting with someone who won’t let you get a word in or someone who is wasting time whining about their boss, you should still be polite when ending the conversation.

If there’s a lull in conversation, say “Please let me know how that project goes, I’d love to see it and hear how it turns out.” This will show you were engaged, and though it ends the conversation in the moment, they won’t feel offended. Or, ask them “Have you seen anyone from [company name] tonight? I’ve been meaning to chat with them.” This will kindly express that it’s important to you to expand your network. In the future, if you need to get out of a torturous conversation, end the discussion in the moment, but keep it feeling open-ended for the future. 

Following Up Strong

We sometimes meet people at events that spark our interest even though we don’t have any projects, mutual friends, or upcoming events to connect with about. But you never know who you may want advice or guidance from in the future. To build a strong relationship, it’s always good to strike while the irons hot. Chances are, you got their business card or can find one of them via social media. Follow up with a personal tid-bit from your conversation; they will appreciate the gesture and remember you in the future.

I once met the CEO of a small video marketing firm at an event. Though I do not work in video, I felt we connected during our conversation. He mentioned his son had just become a freshman at my alma mater. I followed up via LinkedIn telling him how nice it was to meet him and to let me know if his son had any questions about starting at college. Shortly after, he put in a great word with my then-boss about meeting me and told me to reach out to him in the future. Following-up with a personal connection helps you differentiate and solidify the relationship.

Plan on attending a networking event soon? Leave awkwardness at the door by walking in with full confidence. Whether wearing your favorite shirt, listening to “Can’t Touch This” on the way out the door, or being on top of your industry news puts you in top form, remember the outcome of the evening is up to you.

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At Hallmark Abstract Service our pledge to clients is to make each and every interaction and transaction with our firm as seamless, painless and productive as it can be.

We accomplish this through the level of service we provide, the attention directed to every detail of a transaction, our quick turnaround times and finally through our extremely conservative pricing on non-policy related fees. These are just some of the things that our clients have come to expect from us!

And that’s why we continue to earn their business, time and time again!

Call or email us today to set-up an appointment and we will come to your office, learn about the nuances of your practice and explain to you the way that we approach ours!

Mike Haltman, President

516.741.4723 (O)

Hallmark Abstract Service LLC

mhaltman@hallmarkabstractllc.com

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Business management, marketing

9 Tips for Better Business Communication!

When networking for our business there’s nothing more important than communicating our message well!

Of course what we have to say is also critical, but if the listner isn’t listening then the content really doesn’t matter.

9 Tips for Achieving Better Business Communication!

1. Show appreciation for your counterparts time

Prior to getting into the meat of your conversation, be sure to express your thanks for the other individual’s time. Time is an extremely precious resource, and it important to be respectful and considerate of that. Also, complement or recognize any positive contribution they are making. Appreciation and praise can go a long way towards building good rapport.

2. Connect

Connect on a personal level if possible. Look for places where interests overlap if any exist. Even in a professional situation, there may be some personal interests in common, hobbies, sports, children, etc. Take care to avoid such controversial topics as political leanings or religious beliefs. A real sense of connection makes a difference in the tone and outcome of the current conversation and most likely future communications as well.

3. Stay positive

Maintaining a positive attitude is crucial to productive communications. Be constructive rather than negative or complaining. People shut down, effectively ending any real communication when they feel attacked or criticized. Be encouraging and kind even when expressing concerns or displeasure.

4. Watch tone

While it’s sometimes necessary to be assertive in order to make your point, don’t be aggressive. There is a fine line between the two. Try not to cross it. An adversarial tone is not in any way productive. Be confident and direct, while still adopting a calm, cooperative tone.

5. Focus on the result

It’s important to figure out what result you are after before you start the conversation. Knowing your objective helps you to direct the conversation and to remain on point. What are you hoping to accomplish? Are you trying to give help, resolve a conflict, or collaborate on a project or issue? Are you seeking advice or trying to influence behavior? Your desired outcome helps to determine the flow of communication.

6. Listen

Eye contact is crucial. Be polite and don’t interrupt. No one likes being interrupted and though it’s natural to want to rush in to make your point, it’s very disrespectful of the other person’s thoughts. Try to understand the other person’s perspective. Maintain an open mind. Learning how to value different viewpoints can be an important communication tool.

7. Notice non-verbal cues

Watch body language. Lack of eye contact, distraction, or fidgeting are often signs of restlessness or impatience. Yawning or sighing are usually signs of mental or physical fatigue. When you notice these types of non-verbal signals, it’s a sign that this conversation is not going to be a productive one. Quickly wrap up the conversation, postpone the conversation, or inquire about the discomfort if your relationship allows.

8. Request feedback

Confirm that you have a mutual understanding of what’s being communicated. We often think that we’ve reached a resolution and come to an understanding, only to find out that we have completely misunderstood the other person’s thoughts. Ask for input and feedback. This not only confirms that you have successfully communicated; it also makes the other person feel that they have been heard and understood.

9. Follow-up

Be clear about what actions will be taken and establish accountability. Confirm deadlines, responsibility, and expectations. If relevant, document any agreements in writing. A clear understanding of what is supposed to happen next can help avoid a conflict later on.

Source: Royale Scuderi

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At Hallmark Abstract Service our pledge to our clients is to deliver on 100% of what they should expect from a title firm each and every time that they trust us with one of their valuable transactions.

Service, attention to detail, fast turnaround times, going the extra mile in every aspect of the transaction and reasonable pricing on non-policy related fees. These are just some of the things we focus on and that our clients have come to expect from us!

And that’s why we continue to earn our clients business, time and time again!

Call or email us today to set-up an appointment and we will come to your office, learn about the nuances of your practice and explain to you the way that we approach ours! 

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