April is National Home Inventory Month: Find out more
31 Jan 2019

Have You Heard About Voice Search?

Mary GillenDo you have Google Home, Alexa, or Siri? If so, you probably have asked your device to find information rather than type the information into a search bar.

A big THANK YOU to Mary Gillen, our Associate Member who is a guru in Web Development and Marketing! She shared with us that Google has once again changed its algorithm, pointing more importance to voice searching…i.e., using the voice search on your smartphone to find info, or if you are using Alexa or Siri at home to voice search a subject.

To Optimize for Voice Search

Website keywords need to be updated. Voice queries contain conversational words and are longer.

  1. 22% of voice queries are for local content, such as your home inventory business.
  2. Users want immediate results. If some people can’t find you through a voice search, you don’t exist.
  3. Add “structured data” to website pages to index voice search with Google.

Voice search is the new way to find the information your potential clients are most likely using. For assistance with updating your website, contact your web developer or email Mary to discuss this update to your website’s keywords.  

24 Jan 2019

2 Dates To Remember

Don't forgetWith the certification renewal reminders we sent out during the last quarter of 2018, a few members called asking about membership renewal as well.

Membership is renewed annually by the last day of the month you joined NICA, while certification is renewed annually based on a calendar year. 

Therefore, all certifications are renewed by December 31 of each year following the year you achieved your designation. You will receive a letter from the NICA office reminding you when your membership is due for renewal. The email will include a link to the website for your convenience.

Once you’ve completed the 5 CEUs each year, submit the form via the Submit Certification Renewal button located on the Certification page of the NICA website. You do not need to wait until December.

Remember to utilize the downloadable CEU Tracking Form. It was created for your benefit to list the activities (National Home Inventory Month, FEMA, approved webinars) and the courses (NICA and approved synergistic industry courses) as you complete them. This will help you remember what and when you earn CEUs each year. It can also serve as a running document over the years to remind you what NICA courses you have and have not taken. Of course, you can also sign in to your account to see the courses you’ve completed. All courses taken will be listed in orange and are available to review at any time. The downloadable CEU Tracking Form is on the bottom of the Certification Page of the NICA website.

28 Dec 2018

A Review of 2018

2018 was a very busy year, welcoming new members and congratulating more members who achieved their CIS and CAE certifications. Additionally, two major efforts were achieved this year.

Website upgrades and edits

We made many changes to our NICA website. Since these updates were “behind the scenes” so to speak, you might not be aware of our continued investment in time and funds to keep our website compliant. We are pleased that we were able to meet the deadlines on all requirements. These website changes include:

  • The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. This requires that all people with disabilities be able to access all website information. Examples are 1) words must be associated with each photo for those who use a reader, 2) being able to use a keyboard for those who cannot use a mouse, 3) elimination of certain colors that are not allowed due to those with color blindness, etc. 
  • Assuring members and visitors that our website is secure. The Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is the secure version of HTTP. This is the protocol over which data is sent between a browser and the website. The “s” indicates that it is encrypted. Any website that is not secure is or will be identified by search engines placing messages such as “Not secure” in the url bar, notifying the person visiting that site that the transfer of information is not encrypted.
  • Meeting new requirements in data protection laws. The biggest change in 20 years, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) established requirements to assure anyone who enters personal information (signing up for the newsletter, purchasing courses) via the website that their information will be used only for that purpose. This guarantees that we will not share their information. 

(If your website does not meet these 3 items, we recommend that you contact Associate Member Mary Gillen (mary@marygillen.com) to discuss what is needed to update your website.)

National Home Inventory Month

NICA organized and established April as National Home Inventory Month. This effort can be utilized to bring awareness to our industry as well as to each of our members’ individual home inventory businesses.

There are a variety of ways each home inventory professional can participate and provide education about this initiative. A few suggestions to participate in April are:

  • Offer a “Home Inventory Month Discount” on residential inventory services
  • Post information on social media, including the hashtags #HomeInventory and #NationalHomeInventoryMonth
  • Add “April is National Home Inventory Month” to your email signature line
  • Host an informational seminar or presentation
  • Participate in trade shows or vendor fairs in late March or April

The committee will reconvene in February to review what was accomplished last year and add any new ideas or efforts for this year’s National Home Inventory Month. If you would like to be on the committee this year, please send an email to the NICA officeand we’ll be in touch.

Complete information about this effort is here.

13 Dec 2018

Why Choose to Be Certified?

Core ValuesThe following article was included in a NICA member’s newsletter.

When searching for a qualified service professional, do you often ask if they are certified? Many professions require an industry license or various levels of certification.

These achievements are not required for a home and business contents inventory professional. So why go through the time and expense of achieving this milestone? There are many reasons to become certified. The main one being the opportunity to gain industry-specific education. Certification also indicates excellence, expertise, and a true commitment to serving our clients.

Certification, according to Wikipedia, “is a designation earned by a person to assure qualification to perform a job or task. Many certifications are used as post-nominal letters indicating an earned privilege from an oversight professional body acting to safeguard the public interest.”

We chose to be certified by the National Inventory Certification Association because of their core values of confidentiality, ethics, integrity, and respect for each client’s personal property. Being a member of this association falls in line with our inventory service and company philosophy.

In addition to achieving certification, there is also a requirement to earn a set number of Continuing Education Units per year to retain the designation. This is an opportunity to commit to refresh or gain new skills and knowledge.

Being certified is our commitment to remain professional and valuable to our current and new clients.


30 Nov 2018

Website Accessibility: The Plaintiff and the PDF

Mary GillenWe asked Mary Gillen, Associate Member and web developer for clients throughout the United States, to provide information for you, our readers, of the importance of having an ADA Accessible website. Her valuable information follows:

A few months ago, one of my clients called me…in a panic.

“We received an accessibility demand letter about our website. I know you have been warning us that we should make our website accessible for quite some time, but we didn’t listen. Please tell me what we have to do! The letter says we only have 10 days to comply before we are sued.”

Yep. It’s happening…more and more. The attack of the serial plaintiff.

REALITY: There are serial plaintiffs out there.

Businesses are being sued in alarming numbers! People who have disabilities are alleging that the websites they are visiting and/or mobile applications they are using are not accessible to them.

In 2017, more than 800 federal lawsuits were filled in response to web inaccessibility. And, there were more federal lawsuits filed in the first six months of 2018 (over 1000) than in all of 2017.

Your business could be at risk.

If you have a public-facing website (meaning if anyone on the planet can access your site), your online content needs to be accessible to folks who are blind, have low vision, are deaf or have hearing loss, have learning disabilities, experience cognitive limitations, have limited movement and speech disabilities, or photosensitivity.

And do you know what is causing one of the biggest problems with website content accessibility? PDF files!

REALITY: PDF content needs to be accessible, too.

Non-compliant PDFs is one of the most common accessibility complaints that plaintiffs have when filing suit.


Example One: One restaurant client had his menus in PDF format, and received a demand letter that complained that the plaintiff could not access the menu choices via an accessibility reader.

Example Two: Another client offered discount coupons in PDF format that were not accessible. Winn Dixie and Dunkin Donuts were also sued for not providing accessible discount coupons.

Example Three: A software company received a demand letter because they did not provide product information as accessible PDFs.


Have your website content tested now for accessibility. Having a fully-documented test can help you prove that you are working towards ADA compliance should you receive a demand letter.


Find out by visiting this website to learn about Mary Gillen’s accessible website services. Then either call 508-768-8418 or email her to discuss how you, too, can have an accessible website.

15 Nov 2018

Code of Ethics: Confidentiality

ethicsWe periodically review the National Inventory Certification Association Code of Ethics. It’s good to always remember what standards have been set for our industry, and what you have agreed to abide by when you became a member of NICA.

One of the points under the category Confidentiality is a key item to remember when sharing your testimonials – “Publish customer testimonials only with their written consent.”

We all can agree that placing testimonials on your website is one of the best ways to let prospective clients learn about you. Often people are happy to give you a written recommendation, but most don’t take the time to do it. A quick request to your clients will result in a few very kind responses that highlight your professionalism, your work ethic, the quality of your finished product, etc.

The best way to receive testimonials is to ask. You can always ask them face-to-face or on the telephone, but it’s best to send an email or a letter with a form included requesting this information. Either of these 2 methods will give you the information in writing, which will serve as proof of their consent to use their remarks publicly. Be sure to let them know whether you’ll be using their full name or just their initials, or you can ask how they prefer to be listed.

If there is a need to edit the comments in any way, be sure to send it back to them for their approval.

Click here to review the National Inventory Certification Association Code of Ethics.

01 Nov 2018

Loss Inventory Course Now Available

personal developmentThe most requested course in our December 2017 survey has now been developed and recently made available. All NICA members and also any other professional seeking this valuable information can now log in and take this online, self-directed course.  Members will receive 3 CEUs toward their certification renewal.

When someone faces a loss due to fire or natural disaster, they are overwhelmed with emotion. There are insurance standards that state what a policyholder is required to do after a loss. Add that to the many emotions one deals with and the time required to complete the recovery process, and most have a need for professional assistance.

Documenting their losses, one piece of personal property at a time, is a time-consuming and difficult process. For the home inventory professional, having the knowledge and a plan to document the contents of a client’s home or business is essential to assist them in achieving an equitable settlement. When conducting a loss inventory, it is important to know what is salvageable vs. unsalvageable. Sorting items that can be considered for “allowances” and also those that might need appraisals is a large responsibility that many homeowners and business owners don’t know how to do or have the desire to tackle this difficult task.

There are challenges an inventory professional will likely face during a loss inventory that aren’t encountered in other types of inventory services. These challenges can include standing water, no power or lights, contaminants, and personal safety issues. Information is provided regarding how to deal with these hazards.

Additionally, this course includes information about marketing loss inventory services, the importance of developing business affiliations, and options regarding how to price this extremely important service.

Module 1 – Introduction to Loss Inventory Services

  • What is a Loss Inventory?
  • Insurance
  • Your Role as an Inventory Professional
  • Challenges You Might Face

Module 2 – Preparing for and Completing the Inventory

  • Preparations Prior to the Visit
  • The Inventory Process
  • Inventory Equipment
  • Personal Protective Equipment

Module 3 – Marketing Your Loss Inventory Services

  • Marketing Your Service
  • Business Affiliations
  • Pricing Options
17 Oct 2018

Looking for Marketing Ideas?

Mary GillenIn her book titled “367 Marketing Ideas & Tactics for Your Business”, Associate Member Mary Gillen provides a plethora of guidance on how to market a business. Though these ideas aren’t specific to the home inventory industry, they can certainly be applied to your business and most likely will spur on some ideas of your own.

Twitter – How to Use Twitter to Find Prospects Near You

Using the Twitter Search Function, you can find new prospects to follow by entering a keyword phrase, location, and even a radius of miles.

Example: If you are looking to follow/connect with Insurance Agencies all within 25 miles of Boston MA, enter the following information into the Twitter Search box: insurance agency near:Boston, MA” within:25mi  then press the search icon.

On the search results page, click the People button in the navigation bar to view the list of prospects you can follow.

Linkedin – Offer to Introduce Two of Your Connections

You have many mutual connections on LinkedIn. Once a week, offer to introduce two of your connections to one another via written email notes. They may be able to do some business together. And they will probably remember the favor by offering you a new introduction in the future.

Include Short “How I Helped This Company or Client” Descriptions in the Experience Section of Your Profile and short “How I Helped This Company or Client” descriptions that explain how you have recently assisted your clients. Keep this section up-to-date with your success stories.

Email Marketing – The 52-week Autoresponder Training Course

Looking to build your email mailing list, but are worried about how often you should reach out to prospects without email overload? Create a weekly autoresponder sequence of messages and promote it as a free 52-week training course on a subject that will interest your prospects. Those who subscribe to this email course know up front that they will receive an email from you once a week. This way you can instruct and promote simultaneously. Give it a try. This “educational series” can help get around the “frequency” problem.

Sunday evening is the best time to send Email blasts to business folks because they are online, getting ready for the work week

Prospecting – The Sunday Drive Can Pay Off

Go the distance with your prospecting by taking an hour each Sunday to drive around at least one office park in your local area. Note the names of businesses and their addresses. There are probably many that are not in your prospecting database.

Cold Call  – Voice Mail Messages

VOICEMAIL … the cold-caller’s nightmare! Not necessarily. When you leave a message, state three terrific ways this person can benefit by meeting with you. Also leave a specific time and date that you’ll stop by to see them.

COLD CALLS … make 6 cold calls by 10 a.m. every business day. Build your cold call confidence and sales by using the 6-by-10 calling program.

Unique Marketing Ideas

Step Out of “Character” – A CPA we know always makes it a point to send his clients birthday cards. Yet he takes it one step further. He calls each client and actually SINGS the traditional HAPPY BIRTHDAY song to them on their special day. And who cares if the only singer in his family is the sewing machine? His clients love him, and he has more business than he can handle.

The Doggie “Yappy Hour” – The Jackson 20 Restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia hosts a Doggie Yappy Hour every Tuesday evening (April – early September) from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. Locals and visitors alike bring their furry friends for an enjoyable time featuring pup-tinis and delicious doggie treats for the pups, plus complimentary hors-d’oeuvres and happy hour specials for dog owners, who get the chance to network with folks who could be prospects.

03 Oct 2018

Collections Inventory Course

CurriculumOne of our most popular courses is Collections Inventory, The reason for its popularity is that it offers detailed information to help you prepare and perform an inventory of collectibles. Many choose this course as the elective to achieve the Appraisal Examiner Certification because often collectibles are items that people request to be appraised. The course summary follows:

Everybody collects something. Common collectible items are photographs, event ticket stubs, trip souvenirs, athletes’ trophies … the list goes on and on. The reasons people collect are plentiful as well – for personal enjoyment by seeing their items displayed, creating a history to pass down to their heirs, for investment, competition with other collectors, social interaction by attending swap meets and exchanging information, to name a few.

Keeping these collectibles properly documented is important. For the home inventory professional, knowing the process of documenting a group of items in a specific category of diverse types and values is a benefit to their current service offerings.

Collections are not limited to individuals but also held by businesses and specific market sectors. As such, the collection should be documented in a logically organized repository consisting of photographs, bills of sale, and reference materials that allows for updates of additional information at any time – providing peace of mind for the owner.

In addition to learning processes and procedures to thoroughly document these special items, this course also includes information regarding how insurance plays a role in collecting valuables, how to market a collectibles inventory service, creating additional business through “upselling” this service, and how to price your service properly.

The three modules of this course are:

  • Introduction to Collections Inventory Services
  • Process Strategies
  • Monitoring and Identifying Success

If you are still needing CEUs to retain your CIS certification, this would be a great course to add to your library.

06 Sep 2018

Indiana Home Inventory Professional Achieves Certified Appraisal Examiner Designation

Congratulations to member Brian Sackowski of Key Inventory for achieving his CAE designation.

Brian SackowskiThe National Inventory Certification Association (NICA) is pleased to announce that Brian Sackowski, owner of Key Inventory in Indianapolis, Indiana, recently earned the designation of Certified Appraisal Examiner (CAE).

Growth of the personal property inventory industry has created an opportunity for contents inventory professionals to serve as Appraisal Examiners. This certification provides the education and the credentials they need to properly assist appraisers. By collecting the required information, the appraisers are able to create an accurate Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) compliant certified report.

The purpose of a CAE designation is to establish recognition for this specialized service. This enables appraisal firms to locate certified, qualified examiners and helps certified NICA members grow their businesses through additional revenue opportunities.

When completing an inventory service for residential and commercial clients, the inventory professional is often asked if they know the value of items, or if they can refer an appraiser. The CAE designation signifies that these contents inventory professionals have the knowledge required to collect and then submit the necessary information for an appraiser to assign value. This allows for a two-way referral opportunity between these two industries.

To help ensure that the inventory service provider is prepared to serve the appraisal industry, the NICA Education Committee, consisting of NICA members, an established property appraiser, and the Association Directors, determined the requirements to achieve an Appraiser Examiner Certification.

Only those who have earned their Certified Inventory Expert (CIE) or Certified Inventory Specialist (CIS) designation can apply for this additional level. The inventory professional is also required to successfully complete the Customer Service and Appraisal Examiner courses, plus an elective, chosen from the NICA curriculum. The Appraisal Examiner course was co-written by a property appraiser to ensure integrity and provide hands-on processes for accurate collection of information.

Based in Indianapolis, Indiana, Key Inventory offers residential and business asset inventory and appraisal services throughout the United States.