Posts by cdejong:
It is one of the harsh realities of conducting business in 2014: data breaches or data loss are an increasingly common threat that are only becoming more expensive to recover from. Bad guys have an arsenal of sophisticated tools at their disposal that they can use to steal, hack, deface or otherwise ruin your business. IBM estimates that in 2014 the average cost of a business data breach is $3.5 million US – a 15% increase over the 2013 cost.
An industry like real estate is an especially juicy target since real estate professionals often have access to sensitive client information including banking, legal and personal contact information. If this information is unlawfully accessed it allows crooks to do things like steal identities, empty bank accounts and take over your computer.
So what is a savvy real estate professional like you to do to counter this very real threat? Two things:
- Learn how protect your data
- Implement “defensive layers” around your data
1) Learn to protect yourself
Knowledge is power and, when it comes to data security, this holds especially true. If you do not understand what you are dealing with it will be hard to follow through in the next steps. A great first step is to see what manner of educational resources are offered to you through your broker or your board/MLS/association. Most will either offer courses or have experts on hand who can help you understand what the prevailing threats are.
We also recommend periodically visiting the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Alerts site or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre to see what kind of new threats are cropping up. You can also find a heap of information from your governing bodies. NAR offers courses on data security, as well as a helpful downloadable security toolkit, while CREA offers a series of articles on REALTOR Link®.
2) Implement your own “defense layers”
Once you have a grasp on general data security, you can start implementing your own defensive layers. Just like an old castle or fortress in the movies has a moat, walls and guards surrounding it, your data should have multiple digital AND physical layers surrounding it. Matt Cohen offers a great example of physical data security over on the CREA Cafe blog. We have extended that with our own example of defense setup that covers both physical and digital concerns:
First Layer: Area Security
It is one of the ’10 Immutable Laws of Security’ – “If a bad guy has unrestricted physical access to your computer, it’s not your computer anymore.” In order to keep your data safe, you must make sure the immediate area around you is secure. This includes places like your office, your vehicle and even your home. Make sure that all entrances are secured at all times, you have appropriate alarms or surveillance in place and you keep sensitive information out of sight.
If you are on the go, keep all devices locked in your trunk or glove box at all times. If you have print outs of anything sensitive make absolutely sure you dispose of it in the proper way – with either a cross cut shredder or via a document disposal service. In addition, an often overlooked point of breaches is your office Wi-Fi and network printers. Make certain that your wireless network is secured with WPA2 encryption and that your office printers cannot be accessed by anyone outside of your network… unless you want something like this.
Second Layer: Physical Security
You may think this simply means securing your devices with an access password or a something like a Kensington lock but (while that is important) physical data security extends much further. To increase your data security, one of the most important things to have is a backup of your data so it can be restored in the event of a loss or breach. Online services such as Apple’s iCloud or Microsoft’s OneDrive allow you to quickly and inexpensively back up your information to the cloud. You can take this one step further by copying all data onto a USB drive or external hard drive and storing it in a secure location such as a safety deposit box or a safe.
When it comes to mobile devices such as smart phones or tablets, make sure you have some sort of tracking application such as Find My Phone for iOS and Device Manager for Android. In the event you are physically separated from your devices, you will be able to track them down and/or remotely disable them.
Third Layer: Digital Security
Arguably the most important layer of data security, “digital security” refers to all of the measures you take on or within your devices to keep your data secure. This starts with strong passwords. With that in mind, here is a terrific infographic to help you pick a strong, memorable password that will be harder to crack. Once that is complete, consider implementing a password manager such as LastPass or 1Password to eliminate all of those password sticky notes that do more to compromise your security than help it.
Another important measure to implement is what is called “two-Factor Authentication,” a security setup that requires an additional step beyond entering your password, usually by sending a message to your mobile phone or using an app in your smartphone. Check out the resources here and here to learn which services support it and how to implement it for yourself.
Lastly, be proactive about your data security. By keeping all the applications and operating systems you use for your business up-to-date, you significantly decrease the chances of suffering a breach or data loss. If you are concerned about securing your communications further, consider using an application such as Tor to encrypt your data for maximum protection.
And remember, if something doesn’t feel right, ask a trusted professional for assistance to prevent a potentially pricey problem for your business before it ever starts.
Do you have any of your own security tips or tricks to share? We are sure the Point2 community would love to hear them! Leave a comment on the post below.
We all want to be more organized, but for most of us that is just a pipe dream. After all, life and business are inherently messy.
That’s why we recently invited organizational expert Chris Crouch to join Terri Murphy for a webinar on how they can bring some semblance of order to their lives. He shared a few simple life hacks and rules to help you streamline your business, be more productive and ultimately make more money.
What were Chris’s secrets to organizational success?
1) The 96 Minute Rule – Most business people’s days ahere to the classic 80/20 rule. Meaning that 80% of your productivity comes from 20% of your effort. In an average working day that works out to just 96 minutes. If you can make a consistent effort to set aside just 96 minutes in your day where you can work completely undistracted, everything else is a bonus!
2) Task Prioritization – The key to being productive is to know what to tackle first and what to save for later. In Chris’s experience there are four dimensions to prioritizing tasks to know what to do first. Those are: Impact, Time, Difficulty and Cost.
3) Delegation - Often one of the most powerful tools at your disposal is the one that is hardest to do… giving up control! Chris has found that, in order to be truly productive, you must master the art of delegation. What does this mean in practice? It means taking all the ‘small stuff’ and outsourcing it to an assistant – either someone local or a virtual assistant like those offered by VirtualAssistantStaffing.com or MyOutDesk.com
4) The Five Habits of Productivity – Chris says that in order to manage your productivity every inbound piece of ‘information’ must go through a five-step system to get it done in the most efficient manner. Those questions are:
1. Can this information be instantly discarded?
2. Can this information be immediately delegated?
3. Can this information be acted upon immediately with no loss of productivity?
4. Can this information be acted upon quickly by referencing information already on hand?
5. Can this information by stored for follow up at a later date?
Ready to start increasing your productivity right now? Chris was kind enough to provide us all with a series of downloadable checklists for some of your more common business practices. Download them below!
If you missed the webinar or just want to watch it again to get all of Chris’s great tips, we have embedded the recording below…
Browser extensions enhance the abilities of your everyday web browser by adding functionality that might normally require a separate program. This allows you to streamline your workflow and eliminate a lot of the task-switching that normally accompanies online work. We’ve collected ten of our favorite browser extensions for real estate for Google Chrome (our browser of choice) to help you explode your productivity.
1. Momentum - Replaces your default ‘new tab’ window with a powerful assortment of tools to increase your productivity such as to-do list, weather, goals for the day and aspirational quotes. It also features a stunning rotating background of images that look so good you will want them as your desktop.
2. Any.do - Many of us have to-do lists so long that just thinking about them is a daunting task. Any.do helps you manage your to-do’s by providing you with a simple interface to manage your list of tasks and help you get stuff done. This includes keeping all your to-dos in sync , the ability to drag and drop tasks to plan your agenda, attach notes to tasks or use them as sub-tasks. Any.do has embedded Gmail features that let you quickly turn emails into action items.
3. StayFocused – We’ve all been there. “I’ll just check Facebook quickly and then get back to work.” Suddenly two hours have passed. StayFocused increases your productivity by limiting the amount of time that you can spend on time-wasting websites. Set time limits for each website that might hamper your productivity, and once your allotted time has been used up, the sites you specify will be blocked and inaccessible for the rest of the day. It might sound tough, but it works!
4. AdBlock Plus - Does just as it says. Blocks all sorts of annoying (and potentially virus-laden) ads across the web to help you maintain your sanity and focus on what you are trying to accomplish. You will never remember how you got along without it after using it for a month, guaranteed.
5. RouteXL - Taking your clients out to see some listings? Print out a customized map of where you will be traveling to keep your clients informed and make sure you know where you’re going. As the app says: “RouteXL is a route planner for multiple destinations, sorting waypoints in the fastest order.”
6. Clipular! - Clipular is a camera and collection tool for the web. Think screen capture mixed with bookmarking. It lets you share and group any screenshots in your browser. If you stumble upon something on the web, such as a Facebook comment, a tweet or a Youtube video, just clip them to your clipboard in Clipular for reference later.
7. Dropbox - Almost the entire team at Point2 swears by it, and you should too! The best tool out there for backing up your data and making it accessible across all of your devices, all of the time. So the next time your client says ‘do you happen to have that document on hand…’ you can answer, “Yes I do!”
8. +Analytix - Are you a Google+ user? If you’ve seen some of our previous posts, you should be. Use the Analytix browser extension to get post analytics and stats that help you engage your audience. Just add your Google+ account URL, and you are up and running. You get information about how many people see your posts (if an image is inserted in post), the number of comments and the number of reshares you receive.
9. HTML5 Photo Editor - Description: Don’t fork out hundreds of dollars on software to edit your listing photos when you can do it for free. HTML5 Photo Editor is a simple and intuitive extension that allows you to edit your photos with tools like crop, resize, contrast and effects. Then save them back to your desktop straight from your browser.
10. RandomMagic - Heels or flats? Should I show my clients this listing or not? Sometimes you just need to make a quick decision. That’s where RandomMagic come in. This fun extension contains four mini apps to help you make a quick decision, including a coin flip, dice roll, random number generator and even a a random letter sequence generator for helping to choose a new secure password.
Which browser extensions do you swear by? Share a link below to help your fellow agents (and your friends at Point2) out!
Point2 Success Series Webinar hosted by Terri Murphy
Host Terri Murphy as joined by Agents Linda Hall and Tim Hammond to share their secrets on low (or no) cost marketing strategies that have netted them huge returns. Strategies included things such as value-adding documents for clients such as ebooks, niche websites to target individuals and memorable, low-cost closing gifts like fresh baked pie. Yes, you read that right.
Check out the recording of the webinar below and be sure to add a comment of your own ideas for low-cost marketing solutions that you have tried in the past. We love hearing about new ideas to help your business grow!
Visit the Point2 Education Supplimental page now
It might not seem like it at first glance, but with over 100 million monthly users, 40 million photos posted per day and over 1000 comments per second, Instagram is one of the largest social networking platforms around, even surpassing Twitter in mobile traffic late last year. This free photo sharing application for iPhone and Android makes it simple to create stunning images that can easily be shared with your network in a matter of moments. Users can like and comment on photos, search photos by location or hashtag and even tag other users in their own photos.
So with all the hype – and a billion dollar acquisition from Facebook – why is Instagram often overlooked by real estate folks when talking about social media and online marketing strategy? After all, you would suspect that a social network built for smartphones (which never leave many agents’ hands) and built around sharing images (listing photos are the core of real estate advertising) would be a no-brainer, but we’ve hardly seen anything around the web explaining how to put Instagram to work in your own real estate business.
So let’s change that, shall we! Here are 7 different ways that you can starting using Instagram to increase your listing exposure and promote your business online.
1. Showcase Your Listings & Business
The most obvious use of the bunch is also the most important. Since Instagram is all about sharing beautiful photos, snap a picture of your listing’s most interesting/beautiful/gorgeous features add one of the available filters and voila, you’ve got a drool-worthy listing photo that rivals some professional shots. But remember, think beyond the listing photo; you can use pictures to showcase any part of your business. Be it photos of the charitable causes you donate your time to or photos of the neighborhood you specialize in.
Pro-tip: Just make sure you don’t go overboard on the filters & effects. There is nothing worse than a photo that is too manipulated.
2. Share The Love
Once you’ve created your photo, share it with the world! The great thing about Instagram’s acquisition by Facebook is that it makes sharing your photos on other social networks as simple as pressing a button. With one click you can cross-post your photo to Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Facebook and Foursquare. You can also email a link to the photo as well.
Pro-tip: A great tactic is to cross-post your Instagram photos to your Facebook page to give your fans a ‘sneak-peek’ at the listing you are about to list. Build some excitement!
3. (Geo)Location Is Key
Since Instagram is built for smartphones, geolocation plays an important role. Users can enable the ‘Photo Map‘ feature which will showcase where you’ve taken your photos and explore where others have taken photos on a map. This is especially important for establishing your expertise in a particular area. If users see you posting lots of photos in a certain neighborhood that will do much more to convince them you are indeed the neighborhood expert (better than any bus bench can)
4. Explore Your World
One of the most important/powerful features in Instagram is the ‘Explore’ tab. From here users can search for photos that interest them by user, and more importantly, by hashtag. Since Twitter has socialized the idea of the #hashtag Instagram users have taken to it with force – adding hashtags to photos to make for easy search-ability. Find the most relevant tags for your own photos and use them to reach a whole new audience.
Pro-tip: Make sure that you limit your #hastags to just a few. No one likes seeing a photo with 20+ hashtags attached to it. It looks unprofessional to most users.
5. Turn Online Into Offline
Now that you have created your Instagram profile and filled with all manner of awesome real estate photos, it’s time to make something tangible! There are a variety of services available to transform your photos into everything from coffee mugs to stickers and magnets – the perfect way to further advertise your listing or to give to clients as a closing gift for their new home. Some of our favorite services are:
Printstagram – Turn your photos into adorable micro-prints that make for unique print-marketing pieces. Who wants a photocopied feature sheet when they can have a miniature coil-bound book highlighting your listing?
Postagram – Probably the slickest direct-mail solution around. Choose your photos, enter an address and you’ve got yourself a unique listing postcard that is guaranteed to impress.
StaticPixels – Create custom wall art prints from your photos. Possibly the greatest closing gift you could give a client. Even better, all the prints are printed on recycled cardboard to be sustainable and renewable.
6. Get A Photo Page With Every Profile!
One of the most recent additions to the Instagram ecosystem has been the launch of Web Profiles, a stylized web overview of all your photos and bio that gives others an at-a-glance look at your account. While these profiles allow users to like, comment and follow each other it also serves another (unintentional) purpose – it works great as a DIY listing showcase. Simply snap some shots of your listing, add the proper description and then you can send prospects to your account page at Instagram.com/yourusername (here’s mine for example). It works great in a pinch for advertising and gives users a slick overview of your listing inventory.
7. Put On Your Badge
It’s great to be involved in other social networks, but it won’t do you much good if no one knows you have an account. Add an Instagram badge to your website by visiting the badges page on Instagram’s site. From here you can choose from a variety of badge styles and get the code you need to put one onto your real estate website. That way prospects will always have another way to get in touch with you.
Bonus tip: Engage!
It goes without saying for success in all social networks, but sometimes it just bears repeating – you need to engage on Instagram to see results! Use the Explore feature to find users in your area or follow relevant #hastags, comment on photos you find interesting and respond to those who leave questions or comments for you. Engagement is the only way to be successful, online and offline.
Are you already using Instagram for your business? Leave a link to your web profile below!
Did you know we’ve already hosted almost a dozen free Success Series webinars since we started the program last fall? 11 to be exact. As a courtesy to our readers, we thought we’d take this opportunity to do a webinar roundup for you, with links to every recording and related Point2 University class to date. So go ahead, seize the moment and catch up on any expert talk you missed. Soon you’ll be so far ahead of the pack that we’ll be inviting you to be our next guest host!
We recommend that you bookmark this page for your future reference. And please, if there’s a topic you’d like to see us cover in a future webinar, don’t hesitate to mention it in the comments below. We’re always happy to hear your suggestions.
Name: 3 Easy Tips to Explode Your Income in 2013
Webinar Recording Link: http://www.easywebvideo.com/video.php?v=d2cba5d8
Point2 University Course: Not available.
Name: 13 Strategies to Make 2013 Your Best Year Yet
Webinar Recording Link: http://www.easywebvideo.com/video.php?v=88cac0b5
Point2 University Course: Not available.
Name: Build a Successful Strategy into Your RE Career
Webinar Recording Link: http://www.easywebvideo.com/video.php?v=3f6fb2d2
Point2 University Course: Not available.
Planning to attend the 2013 REALTOR® Quest Trade Show in Toronto this week?
Point2 will be there and we would love to see you! Whether you have been a Point2 customer for years, are a new member or just have some questions, we can’t wait to meet up and show you some of the great new things we have been working on over the past year – including our brand spankin’ new mobile themes, our custom forms tool and our (first of many) mobile apps, ShowHome.
Oh, and did we mention there will be some terrific giveaways and incredible deals on Point2 products? You can find us right outside of Learning Hall A at Booth #812 & #913 to get all the details.
I think we may even have a few treats lined up for our existing users
As we mentioned in our previous post, National Chip & Dip Day does actually exist. It happens every year on March 14th and is a novel way for real estate agents in the US to connect with their community. Here are some great ideas taken from our recent Success Series webinar with Terri Murphy.
- Invite people into your office to sample gourmet chips and dips.
- Poll your Facebook fans to find out what their favorite flavors are.
- Send your top clients and referrers a treat.
- Post mouthwatering recipes on your blog.
It may seem silly but it doesn’t matter what you do to communicate with people in your target area, as long as you are doing something unique and interesting. It certainly doesn’t hurt to be engaging when you do it. That’s how you get people to know, like and trust you. Market rates and APRs are boring; you are not.
Terri’s impressive real estate track record is proof that successful people are the ones who keep trying. So get your name out there by interacting with your clients and neighbors. Just remember to keep it fun! If chips and dips aren’t your thing, find something else that suits your niche. National Rubber Ducky Day? National Defy Superstition Day? Yep. They’re real.
Click here to see more silly, but real, holidays. There’s bound to be something that’s perfect for you!
Watch & Learn with Industry Expert Terri Murphy
Do you send handwritten notes to your clients in January? Or post tantalizing recipes on your blog for National Chip & Dip Day in March? (It exists, we swear. Just look it up on The Ultimate Holiday Site.)
No? Then you may be missing out on valuable opportunities to connect with your community. Connecting with your community is a great way to attract new clients and make more sales.
As part of our ongoing Success Series webinars, Point2 invited industry expert Terri Murphy to teach our members 3 easy ways to explode their income in the next 3 months. In case you missed her live webinar session on December 18th, we have recorded it for you to watch now. Learn how seemingly simple acts – from making charity donations to posting on your blog – can help kick start your sales next year.
Using strategies you can begin implementing today, Terri encourages you to:
- Revisit the basics
- Add value to your business model
- Set up the first quarter of 2013
Terri shares multiple concrete examples that worked for her business and will work for yours, too.
Watch 3 Easy Tips to Explode Your Income in 2013 and start seeing results in the first quarter. Within 120 days, you could be the celebrity authority in your neighborhood with more prospects, new clients and increased sales. Sounds pretty sweet to us!
We Want to Hear from You
Did you watch this webinar live with Terri Murphy? Would you recommend it to other real estate professionals? Which of Murphy’s tips will have the most impact on your 2013 marketing strategy? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Get ready to sharpen your sales technique. Veteran real estate agent Verl Workman is our first Success Series webinar expert in the new year. Click here to register for his January 10th, 2013 webinar now. Spaces are limited.
Watch & Learn with Video Expert Michael Krisa
Did you know that 4 billion videos are watched online every day? And over 1 billion of those are viewed on mobile devices. Are you keeping up with the trend? A staggering 73% of homeowners revealed that they prefer working with an agent or broker that uses video to market their business, but less than 8% of real estate professionals know how.
To help our clients learn how to leverage video technology to grow their profits and stay ahead of the competition, Point2 recently welcomed video expert Michael Krisa last Friday as part of our “Success Series” webinars. We recorded his live webinar for you in the event that you couldn’t attend. In it, Michael offers proven video success tips tailored especially for the real estate industry.
- Learn about using cameras and sound equipment to create easy and effective real estate videos
- Explore engaging video topics tailored for your current clients… and your future clients
- Use YouTube and other resources to promote your video efforts and reach more viewers
- Discover how video can expand your sphere of influence and establish you as the local authority
Watch “List More, Sell More with the Power of Simple to Do Video” to see how you can begin engaging modern consumers. It’s easy to dive in; you can even use a camera or smartphone that you already own!
What about you?
Are you currently using video in your business? Tell us how it is helping you reach your customers. We want to know exactly what’s working (without divulging your trade secrets, of course). Share your success stories with your fellow real estate professionals.
Never miss a beat. Visit our Events & Webinars page to sign up for upcoming live events with industry experts. Why just watch when you can actively participate?