April is National Home Inventory Month: Find out more
18 Sep 2020

Marketing Minute – Do You Have An Interest in Pinterest?

Mary GillenPinterest is a “visual” social media platform. It is unique, as photos and images (rather than text) are shared. This can be quite helpful for home inventory professionals, as you can show your final report format. We know that a picture is worth a thousand words, so by including images representing your services, such as photos of collectibles, antiques, full-room views, jewelry, power tools, etc., will draw interest. Also, photos of fire, tornado, and hurricane damage and theft help draw attention to your loss services. And don’t forget to find photos that represent estate inventories, collections inventories, and your appraisal examiner options. By also showing a variety of business contents items, you will display the diversity of your commercial clients and the types of assets that you inventory.

Following are three key tips to help you have success with Pinterest:

  1. When you create your Pinterest pins (your images), be sure to always link back to your original content, whether it’s on your web site or blog. This helps improve your standings in the major search engines.
  2. When you add a description for your Pinterest pin, this content becomes the image ALT tag for the image you pin. Be sure to use an important keyword phrase in the description for better SEO.
  3. To gain followers, spend about 30 minutes a day “liking” and commenting on other people’s pins. This process draws more traffic to your Pinterest content.

Mary Gillen has 24 years of Web development experience to build responsive, accessible websites for tech companies, associations, non-profits and small businesses, blending professional design with measurable business results. She is also an experienced Website Accessibility Compliance Auditor, providing website testing & remediation for compliance with Section 508 and WCAG 2.1 A, AA & AAA Guidelines. Her experience also includes testing and fully remediating Adobe PDFs, Microsoft Office documents and pre-recorded videos.

21 Aug 2020

Marketing Minute – Prospecting for New Referral Sources and Clients

This Marketing Minute is provided by Associate Member Mary GillenMary Gillen

Some people think prospecting for new clients is a lot of work or that it’s not worth the effort. Not so! Here are three great suggestions from Mary.

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. Locate their website and contact them the following week.

“Late” Mail Delivery Helps Your Marketing

Are you still sending direct mail? 33% of all business mail arrives on Monday. Don’t get lost in the post-weekend crush. Time the arrival of your mailing so it lands on the prospect’s desk later in the week in a smaller pile of mail. You stand a better chance of getting noticed.

Use Google to find LinkedIn Prospects

Use Google to search for prospects in LinkedIn, even if they are outside your LinkedIn network.

1) Go to Google >> http://google.com
2) Type in search term city-state site:linkedin.com
3) Click on one of the links in the organic (not paid ad) area on the search engine result pages to gain access to LinkedIn prospect info.

With little effort, these three tips will help you find quality prospects.

11 Dec 2019

Specific Requirements for the California Consumer Privacy Act

CaliforniaThe CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) now includes a specific requirement for anybody doing business with California residents. This applies to all NICA members who are located in California or have clients located in the state of California.

Privacy Policy 999.308 states that privacy notices be accessible and have alternative format access clearly called out. This takes effect January 1, 2020, with fines ranging from $2500 to $7500 per instance.

The privacy policy shall be designed and presented in a way that is easy to read and understandable to an average consumer. The notice shall:

  • Use plain, straightforward language and avoid technical or legal jargon.
  • Use a format that makes the policy readable, including on smaller screens, if applicable.
  • Be available in the languages in which the business in its ordinary course provides contracts, disclaimers, sale announcements, and other information to consumers.
  • Be accessible to consumers with disabilities. At a minimum, provide information on how a consumer with a disability may access the policy in an alternative format.
  • Be available in an additional format that allows a consumer to print it out as a separate document.

This information was provided by Mary Gillen, who has 24 years of Web development experience to build responsive, accessible websites for tech companies, associations, non-profits and small businesses, blending professional design with measurable business results. She is also an experienced Website Accessibility Compliance Auditor, providing website testing & remediation for compliance with Section 508 and WCAG 2.1 A, AA & AAA Guidelines. Her experience also includes testing and fully remediating Adobe PDFs, Microsoft Office documents and pre-recorded videos.

08 May 2019

Finding New Referral Sources

Mary Gillen

In an effort to grow your home inventory business, you are most likely seeking many ways to locate new professionals who can end up being great referral sources.

Prospecting Directories Are All Over Town

How many times have you walked into a building to meet with a new prospect and totally ignored the building directory in the lobby? Make it a point to check out the directory after your meeting and write down the names of the other tenant companies. Going to drop a last-minute package at FedEx? Have a doctor’s appointment? Have a working dinner meeting for one of your Chamber of Commerce committees? There may be more business under that one roof than you think.

Trade Shows: How to Easily Gather Prospect Email Addresses

Getting folks to sign up for your email mailing list from your busy trade show booth can be a challenge. Here are a couple of options to make it easier on everyone.

1) Have folks send you a text message with their email address from their mobile phones as a request to subscribe. You can add this information to your list after the show.

2) Create a subscription form on your Web site, a page no wider than 400 pixels so it can easily be viewed on a mobile phone. Prospects with “smart” phones (i.e., Web access capability via their cellphones) who visit your booth can complete the sign-up process right away, filling out the subscription form from their mobile. This can save you a ton of work after the show.

Join LinkedIn Groups

Who are your prospects, and where do they hang out on LinkedIn? Spend your time wisely on LinkedIn by participating in Groups where your prospects spend time. Where can you find them? Go to the search bar at the top of your home page and search for prospect Groups.

Example: If your inventory business is located in New York, and one of your prospect groups is insurance agents, search for insurance agents groups New York in the Search Box. Search results give you the options to View or Join a Group. View means that the group is open to everyone. Join means your profile will be reviewed before you are allowed to join the Group.

Use SocialMention.com to “Listen” to Prospect Conversations on Social Media

Looking for new prospects via social media? Try SocialMention.com >> http://socialmention.com. It allows you to track and measure what people are saying about products, services, or any topic across the web’s social media landscape in real-time. Social Mention monitors 100+ social media properties directly including Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube, Google and more.

The author of this article is Mary Gillen, an Associate Member of NICA. If your website isn’t getting the traffic you expect, Mary can optimize it correctly so search engine robots can efficiently index your site content. She is also highly skilled in creating a new or updating your current website so it is accessible and will meet all ADA requirements. https://accessiblewebsiteservices.com/

 

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.

09 Aug 2017

The Real Power of Accessible Websites: Not Just Compliance Protection, But Increased Business

A few years ago a colleague I respect named Gordon emailed a message to let me know he was having trouble reading the content of my-then-new website. I thought the website was well-designed and beautiful.

“Mary, I found the wide, column-to-column centered text difficult to read. I had a stroke 16 months ago and have narrow vision in my left eye and none in my right. I use margins to help me guide my one good eye. The only criticism might be a website with higher contrast menu links and short length content paragraphs.”

What a wake-up call for me…as it should be for all business owners who have websites. I was grateful Gordon emailed to tell me about the problems he was having understanding my site content.

How many other people with disabilities…dexterity, cognition or sensory issues…had a hard time using my website and simply hit the browser back button, never to return?

Is this happening to you? Do you know?

SOME HISTORY

I have been developing websites since 1995. I eventually became familiar with 508 compliance…meaning all users, regardless of disability status, should be able to access your website content, be it text, video, podcasts, etc. For years I integrated the basic recommendations into the websites I designed. I thought it was enough. But there was something missing. Thanks to Gordon, I realized my website design/content was frustrating possible prospects and scaring away additional business. I needed to do more.

REALITY: Folks with disabilities are also professionals who have money to spend. 

According to Fifth Quadrant Analytics:

“The disability market represents 1.3 billion people globally who face challenges across three general areas—dexterity, cognition or sensory issues. Equivalent in size to the population of China, the disability market represents an annual disposable income of $1 trillion—and $544 billion in the US alone.”

That’s a lot of people…and a ton of disposable income.

REALITY: Accessibility makes good business sense.

Goodwill, smart business, and pending governmental regulation should compel organizations to make websites accessible to all potential customers.

If your website is designed to generate revenue, obtain email addresses for newsletter subscriptions, and invite prospects to fill out forms, accessibility compliance can help increase conversions because you have designed for all people.

Without a compliant web presence, you are frustrating possible prospects and losing business.

REALITY: SEO Benefit.

A little-known benefit of accessibility compliance is an SEO boost. Search engine optimization relies on web crawlers that read a website. These web crawlers have an easier time crawling sites that are accessible because they have a straightforward design, text-based versions of media, and clear descriptors. Their structure also allows crawlers to access and evaluate content more easily. As a result, websites are indexed more accurately and are more likely to appear as a relevant result in a web search.

WELCOME TO WCAG 2.0

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) are published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the main international standards organization for the Internet.

These guidelines specify how to make content accessible, primarily for people with disabilities, but also for all user agents (also known as web browsers), including assistive technology devices.

So I dug in to the WCAG 2.0 A, AA & AAA specifications and studied. I created new layouts, tested HTML5 code, hammered on JavaScript and CSS3 stylesheets, figured out how to apply accessibility to code generated by content management systems like WordPress. All along testing what I had learned on all sorts of devices using online tools and assistive technology devices.

REALITY: Compliance laws are changing.

Until now, website accessibility hasn’t been a big concern for most business owners and marketers. But legislative changes are on the way. As of February 2018, The Department of Justice (DOJ) will take the position that websites offering goods or services to consumers are places of public accommodation and must be accessible to the disabled as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA and its regulations do not specifically address websites. The DOJ, however, says that websites offering goods or services to consumers must be accessible by complying with guidelines from Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 A & AA. Whether the DOJ will implement web accessibility standards is not a matter of “if,” but “when.” However, waiting until it’s the law may make your site legally vulnerable in the meantime if you aren’t in compliance, as organizations such as Winn Dixie, Chick-fil-A, Realtor.com, Peapod, Target, Reebok, and the NBA have already found out. All have already been sued for website accessibility non-compliance.

REALITY: What Disabilities Do You Have to Consider When Developing a Website?

Just as a brick ‘n mortar store has accessible wheelchair ramps and restrooms to accommodate folks with disabilities, a website should be able to serve all website content to those who want to access the informatio. Take into account these disability types your website design/content needs to serve:

Visual – blindness, impaired vision, color-blindness

— Blind people will need the content of the screen to be converted to text with available voiceover.
— Partially sighted people may require that the contrast be altered or use a screen reader to magnify it.
— Colorblind people will need the means to differentiate between colors.

Hearing – deafness and hard of hearing

— Deaf users need subtitles or sign language.
— People with impaired hearing would need a clearer and louder audio.

Motor – inability to use a mouse, slow response times, limited fine motor control.

— Those with impaired movement would need to use voice input or other input devices.

Cognitive – learning disabilities, poor or impaired memory, inability to focus on large amounts of information.

— Those with cognitive impairments would benefit from simple layouts, which are clear and consistent.

Epilepsy

— Elements that use flashing light would need to be disabled by a user with epilepsy.

REALITY: If you are promoting your products and services via the web, you need an accessible website…now.

You might be hesitant to overhaul your website to be accessible because of the effort involved. However, undergoing an update can positively benefit your bottom line. When more people (and web crawlers) can access a website, the site can generate more business. Use website accessibility guidelines to increase your company’s reach. It is possible to meet the needs of more potential customers, regardless of disability, by improving the usability and accessibility of your website.

NEXT STEP: Have your existing website professionally tested for WCAG 2.0 A & AA accessibility.

Be sure you are provided with a full report and a series of checklists that you can provide to your web developer so your site can be fixed to fit compliance regulations.

 

Mary GillenMary Gillen is an Associate Member of NICA offering her services as a web developer of accessible responsive websites. Mary can provide a page-by-page accessibility audit of your website:

WCAG 2.0: 110 checkpoints covering A, AA and AAA W3 accessibility guidelines

Section 508: 15 US federal guidelines covered by 47 accessibility checkpoints.

Mary IDENTIFIES changes or updates that need to be made in order to comply with ADA Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 A, AA & AAA Guidelines. She provides you with a full report and a series of checklists that identify items on your website that need to be fixed in order to be compliant. These checklists will also guide your web developers on how to fix these accessibility issues. Mary also provides Website Remediation Services. Once testing is done, Mary can IMPLEMENT the necessary changes across your website to make it compliant. She will then run a final test to VALIDATE that the changes made meet accessibility requirements. She can then DEVELOP a customized plan for on-going accessibility monitoring and support.

Visit Mary’s AccessibleWebSiteServices.com <link: http://accessiblewebsiteservices.com> website to find out more.

03 Jul 2017

Website Compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act

Mary GillenIn March we launched our new website, and we’ve received many positive comments on the new look, and ease of the online process to take courses and apply for certifications. One thing we didn’t mention is that the site is ADA compliant. As your industry association, we feel it is important to keep you up to date on this issue so you can meet the requirements set forth by the Department of Justice.

What does being compliant mean, and how does it affect you?

Mary Gillen, Associate Member who has 20+ years of experience in web development, informed us that “until now, website accessibility hasn’t been a big concern for most business owners and marketers. But legislative changes will soon be in place.By 2018, The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is expected to roll out official compliance guidelines concerning online accessibility for the disabled as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The DOJ will soon be expecting all websites (Federal government, state/local government, and private companies) to accommodate people with disabilities. Whether the DOJ will implement web accessibility standards is not a matter of if, but when.

“Waiting until it’s the law may still make any organization legally vulnerable in the meantime if they are not in compliance, as organizations such as Peapod, Target, Reebok, and the NBA have already found out. All of them have already been sued for website accessibility non-compliance.

“In the last year online businesses have faced a wave of demand letters and lawsuits alleging that their websites are inaccessible to the visually impaired and/or hearing impaired in violation of Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (the “ADA”).”

What this means is that every website will be required to be ADA compliant. Some of our members have already met these requirements. We recommend that you not wait until 2018 is near, as all web developers will be overburdened with this task. Additional information will be in next month’s newsletter. If you want to begin planning now, contact your web developer or email Mary at mary@marygillen.com to schedule a phone call to discuss your website.

17 May 2017

Just Starting Out? How To Get New Business

Mary GillenHow do I get new business?” the new consultant asked me as we sat, having coffee. Good question.

I was not conversing with a dumb fellow. The man who sat across the table had almost 30 years of solid HR/corporate training experience.

He is not alone.

There are many folks who have left the corporate world — by choice or downsizing — who have never had to drum up business in their lives. There were always sales teams to bring in the bacon, supporting everyone on the corporate farm. So when these folks go out on their own, what’s to be done?

I answered his question:

“Find what it is that your competition feels is ‘beneath’ them to do. That’s where the business is, and that’s always where the dough resides,” I told him.

He looked confused.

“What does that mean?” he inquired.

“You know your business better than anyone,” I told him. “But when it comes to new business prospecting, small business people and consultants make a huge mistake by only going after ‘the big kill,’ the contract everyone is fighting over. Meanwhile, there’s smaller business hiding in crevices out there that you can take to the bank. The small potatoes fill you up, my friend. Think about it. It’s out there.”

So we finished our coffee and went our separate ways. A month later, he called me, very excited. He had his first contract.

The “little guy” wins big.

“For days I thought about what you told me,” he said. “One afternoon I was driving along the highway and noticed a work crew along the side of the road. There was one guy supervising them. It made me think, ‘Hey, maybe those supervisors need training.’ When I got home, I visited the state’s Web site, and sure enough, there was an RFP for management training of the state’s road crew supervisors. I did a proposal, went to see ’em, and got a year’s contract. And you know what? They told me they had trouble finding a professional who would take it on.”

Plain hard work.

This is no fairy tale, folks. He worked extra hard that first year. He traveled all over the state, teaching some people who could’ve cared less, others hungry for the knowledge. It was not a glamorous gig. It was something his suited competition would never consider taking on. But my friend treated every class as if he was still in the corporate training room, and it paid off for him in many ways:

  1. He gained solid, real-world experience on his own that lead to bigger business.
  2. He had receivables he could count on to support his family.
  3. He made more money that first year than he would have made if he was still employed by a corporation.

Remember the quote from master Thomas Edison: “Many people miss opportunity because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

Great advice from Associate Member Mary Gillen. Whether you’re just starting out or looking for new business, Mary can help you with her full-service marketing services – Website Development, Copywriting, Search Engine Optimization, and Social Media. Mary is a Web developer, writer, technical trainer and online marketer…all under one roof. She uses her 22 years of Web development experience to build websites for tech companies, associations, non-profits and small businesses, blending professional design with measurable business results. See Mary’s portfolio at http://marygillen.com

20 Mar 2017

Meet Mary Gillen, New Associate Member

We have received many compliments about the new NICA website. Some have stated that it’s clean, easy to navigate, has great information, and a quote that says exactly what we were going for – “I love the positive visuals.”

There is one person to thank for this, and she is our Associate Member, Mary Gillen. Here is why we are so glad to have her as one of our members, ready to create website, marketing, and social media assistance for our members.

Using her more than 20 years of Web development experience to build sites for tech companies, associations, non-profits and small businesses, Mary Gillen blends professional design with measurable business results. The perfect example of her work is to peruse the new NICA website when it launches (she did a fantastic job!). Whether you need a few tweaks or an entirely new website, you will find Mary is extremely talented and professional. From adding a blog page to an existing site to creating a fully searchable directory, your issue becomes her successful project.

Websites, SEO, Copywriting, Content Marketing

  • Keyword Research – How do your prospects find you on the Web? You can expect shifts in how people search, perhaps due to market conditions or changes in product or service demand. So, if your Web site was optimized for keyword phrases a year ago, it may be time for a keyword phrase “tune-up.”
  • Copywriting for Both Web & Print – Copywriting is one of the most essential elements of effective online marketing and print business communication. Effective copy sells your services. She has written hundreds of brochures, technical manuals, and Federal government RFP proposals in addition to writing for the Web and producing online marketing copy for commercial and private organizations.
  • Content Marketing – Every business person serious about marketing his/her business today must publish blog posts, Twitter tweets, Google+ shares & YouTube video content consistently throughout the business week. Why? Search engine optimization. Consistently publishing quality content to your blog, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube accounts is the way to get there. She has developed a Content Marketing Plan that can be used for Business-to-Consumer (B2C), Business-to-Business (B2B) or Business-to-Government (B2G).

For all of your website, content, and social media needs, Mary Gillen can help you reach the next level with your business.