Thursday, July 21, 2016

ISA Means Business! Part 3: Marketing Tips on the Cheap!

By Jan Robbins Durr, ISA CAPP, Membership Retention Committee

It can be daunting for a new appraiser to face the prospect of marketing themselves to the public. In fact, most appraisers come from an academic background and have had no prior experience marketing their personal brand. However, consider that your expertise from completing the ISA Core Courseand your designated ARC, FA, G&J fieldhas given you a teachable moment to educate a prospective customer on the many aspects of appraising and... you guessed it: You have now marketed yourself.

Obviously, it takes a bit more than knowing your subject well to get you into the door of the gatekeeper. As we have all learned, you usually can’t have a 'do-over' with a first impression. Our tips for marketing (which will be included in the ISA Means Business Toolbox) will pinpoint what leads to that great first impression. Your professionalism, appearance, presentation and marketing materials all factor into being hired. But how do you begin to garner gatekeepers' attention to the qualities of your business? And what marketing efforts are available to those starting a new business who are looking to face as few monetary costs as possible?

We’ve started with a list that can produce results to get your name out to the "right clientele." Here are some "On the Cheap" recommendations of where to begin:
  • Open a free Google business account, which will not only make you more visible on a search engine for appraisers but will also serve to place your business on Google Maps. It also should go without sayingmake sure to fill out your free ISA "Find an Appraiser" profile on the ISA website. As was stated in a June ISA Now blog post, we have 2,500 page views per month to the site, so don’t miss an easy opportunity to show up on the radars of prospective clients!
  • Create a free Facebook account, one that centers on a subject that you think would draw prospects to join. It’s a great opportunity to show your interest in a field and find like-minded individuals who may need your services. The other benefit? It'll put you in a position to expand your own knowledge as well
  • Sign up for HARO, or Help a Reporter Out, a free service where journalists, writers and bloggers post daily Public Relations opportunities for anyone to access and respond to. Three emails are sent out daily, five days a week, filled with queries from news outlets like Forbes, CNN, ABC, Entrepreneur, INC and many more. Answering inquiries quickly will help you rise to the top of their go-to list.
  • Creating your own website can cost you some money. However, it’s either an expense you should budget for or an idea you should research. Find relatively easy-to-use online programs that will allow you to design you own basic website with ease. In today’s world, more people find appraisers on the Internet than anywhere else. It sure beats the days of yellow page ads that cost a fortune. Platforms to consider when seeking to build your own easy, accessible website: web.com, Weebly, eHost, and WiX, to name a few.
  • After creating a website, use it to feature links to other people's content, including ISA's. What better marketing than for the public to see you are with the best society for personal property appraisers?
  • Comment on blog posts. Leaving thoughtful comments on blogs you follow can get you noticed by both the blog owners and their visitors.
  • Check on local business events on Meetup or see what activities local chambers or small business associations are hosting. Face-to-face meetings cannot be overrated, and they often mark the beginning of building those important relationships.
  • Volunteer to speak to groups that include a gatekeeper or grassroots audience, such as social clubs, insurance industry, attorneys, and so forth. If you have written any books or subject handouts that can be shared, by all means do so.
We hope these suggestions will help get you underway in creating additional exposure for your business. Many times it’s been said, it may take five No’s to get to a Yes. Using the arsenal of ideas we are creating with "ISA Means Business," building a strong network will certainly increase your opportunity to be seen and, in turn, find new business assignments.

This is the third part of an ongoing series known as ISA Means Business!, a program created by the ISA Membership Retention Committee that focuses on helping members create and maintain businesses that stay up-to-date and thriving. If you haven't yet, make sure to read the past entries. Part 1 introduces the program as a whole, while Part 2 highlights a host of free-to-cheap apps that may prove useful to those starting a new business.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

ISA Means Business! Part 2: Fantastic Apps for Startups

By Marian R. Aubry, ISA CAPP

So many apps; so little time. And yet, they can be effective tools when it comes to both cutting down on the required time for certain tasks and broadening our efficiency. When trying to determine which ones make sense for your business needs without breaking the bank, one can often feel overwhelmed. (And when you're running a business, how much time do you really have to surf for apps?) A recent survey that utilized the efforts of business startups, PC magazine blogs, CNet and even the Wall Street Journal has come to the rescue. Here are a few apps that they have recommended for those starting their own business.

1. Google. ...Well, actually, if you don't have Google, you should probably go back to sleep. Google is, among many other things, a startup's lifeline. It will take time to learn everything that this app has to offer, but it is well worth the time spent. Google Photos, for example, is as comprehensive as you are likely to ever need while doing practically everything that basic Adobe Photoshop does. True, Photoshop has more bells and whistles, but if you aren't utilizing extensive filters and cartoon captions, Google Photos is a fantastic platform that will help you complete your picture editing without the burden of a heavy price tag. Other offerings from Google include Gmail, Google Drive for storage, Google Docs for shared or community-created files, and Google Analytics to determine your marketing effectiveness. Google is a bargain.

2. Dropbox. This keeps everythingfrom your files, your photosin an online "cloud" for safe electronic storage. When your computer decides to crash (and trust me, it will), all you need to do is find another computer, access your Dropbox from there and continue business as usual. Think of it as a life-saver in the cloud... kind-of like a computerized guardian angel. The first 2 Gigabytes of space in the "box" are free, and additional storage space can be purchased for $10 a month. There are other cloud services out there, but Dropbox has been repeatedly cited by business sources as being the easiest option for start-ups. And I think its 500 million users would agree.

3. Money Management Apps. Managing money is a necessary evil, and managing the accompanying paperwork is equally so. Apps like Mint and Wave allow you to scan invoices and receipts, keep track of them instantaneously, and send to third parties when necessary. They categorize your scans, develop spreadsheets and provide reports that help you see where you're headed financially. Mint has a GPS tracker that helps you clock mileage and add it to your expense information. Wave allows you to accept payments right on your phone. And both apps are offered for free.

4. Archival Apps. CamScanner, ShoeBox, and Tiny Scanner (as well as some Google apps) scan receipts, business cards, offer mileage trackers, and digitize and store all of these docs for organizing later. For research projects, or for those times you find an interesting article but won't have time to read it until later, an app that archives your internet for later perusal is a wonderful one to have. Pocket and Orbital Warehouse are two such offerings, both free. Orbital Warehouse, for instance, even allows you to send specific research to dedicated folders.

5. Microsoft Office. Well, it did come with your computer, after all. Like Google, it is worth the time spent to fully explore the many programs that are included in the Microsoft package. There are a wealth of templates on Microsoft Office that can be time savers, as well.

6. LastPass. If memory serves you... and often it doesn't... there is no more welcome app than a password saver. LastPass is a free app that stores and encrypts all your passwords. No more guessing. No more secret questions. No more remembering if it was upper- or lowercase, or which pet really was your favorite. Think of it as a butler for your passwords. LastPass was voted an Editor's Choice by PC Magazine for 2016. And, oh yes, it is also free.

These are just a handful of apps that will streamline your business-related efforts and give you a more efficient professional experience. Got an app you love? Tell us about it in the comments below!

This is the second part of an ongoing series known as ISA Means Business!, a program created by the ISA Membership Retention Committee that focuses on helping members create and maintain businesses that stay up-to-date and thriving. If you haven't yet, make sure to read the first installment of the series.

Friday, July 8, 2016

ASK AN INSTRUCTOR: How do you respond to an inquiry that assumes that appraisers don’t charge for their work and that we can easily answer questions about their treasures without having to do any work?

ISA members are invited to send in their questions on all things appraising and education to ISA's instructors. One of ISA's instructors will share answers on the ISA Now Blog. Please send questions to directorofeducation@isa-appraisers.org.

The ISA website is a very good source of potential work, although many of the inquiries I receive still assume that appraisers don’t charge for their work and that we can easily answer questions about their treasures without having to do any work. This is a typical letter I received just a week ago about appraising a clock or, as the note said, they would “like to know how much it is worth.” Note my answer, which is probably a version of what you say as well. If not, I would suggest making a template to answer these types of inquiries in order to save time and to spare any possible embarrassment or inability to ask for a reasonable fee to compensate you for an answer you have already provided.

Question:
I found you on the ISA web page and wanted to ask you for some orientation. I have an LFS huge Grandfather Clock I would like to know how much it is worth. On its back it is marked 81 A together with the LFS logo. Do you think you could give me some hint on how to know its value?

(This is a version of almost every forward I get from the website.)


Answer: Thank you for your inquiry. I am more than happy to assist you in the valuation of your item, however as an ISA qualified appraiser I first need to determine the scope of work necessary to answer your question meaningfully. To give you an appropriate appraisal, I will need a little more information from you. First, can you tell me the intended use of the appraisal? Is it for insurance coverage, to decide whether to give to a family member, part of a divorce settlement, to sell, or just out of curiosity?

The reason this is important is because items may have different values or costs depending on the markets selected for your intended use. I would also need some good quality photos, measurements, and any provenance (history) you have. Once I have this information, I can begin to determine the appropriate value or cost of the item, as well an estimate of the fee to provide your appraisal. My reporting back to you can be in a formally written document, phone call, or email, so long as it adheres to ISA standards. On certain occasions, my reporting may require a full documented appraisal report, such as if there is a third party involved.

I would be extremely wary of someone calling themselves a professional appraiser if they don’t ask for the same information. We must conform to our own ISA standards and the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). I would like the answer to your question to be accurate, clear, and worthy of trust.

Feel free to visit my website at XXXXXXXXX for contact information, as well as some examples of my previous work. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Are You Missing Out On Potential Clients?

First impressions are everything, and appraising is no different. You have the credentials, the experience, and the right skills – there’s no question about it: you’re an ISA member. But who can tell?

Of the many benefits ISA offers its members, one of the most valuable is our “Find an ISA Member” search tool on the ISA website, which allows visitors to search for an appraiser based on location and keywords such as specialties, credentials, or services. With an average of 2,500 page views a month, it is a powerful tool in your professional arsenal that can help maximize your professional presence.

As a member, you are automatically given a profile. But are you making the most of it? Here are some tips to help you get noticed:

1. Location is Everything
A crucial component of the ISA search feature is location. Without it, you won’t pop up in anyone’s inquiries, putting you at risk of missing out on an opportunity that may literally be down the street from you. Be sure to include the city and state where you practice. And if you travel to do appraisals, include that in your “About” section too!

2. Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words?
Maybe, but it’s definitely worth the 60% of people who are more likely to click on your profile simply because you have a photo, according to MDG Advertising. Choosing a high quality, professional photo of yourself can drastically increase the chances of you securing your next assignment.

3. Mind the Details
Not too long ago, the Huffington Post reported that most resumes are skimmed for a few seconds before they are tossed to the side or accepted, and your profile should be no different. This is your opportunity to market yourself as efficiently as possible. Engage visitors with critical information on yourself and what you offer. And while it is important to have your credentials listed alongside your specialties and contact information, don’t forget to let your personality shine through as well. Here is a great chance to offer some insights on your likes and hobbies, memorable experiences, and goals as they relate to your appraising career.

To update your profile, simply login to the ISA website and click on “Manage Your Profile.” Once you’ve confirmed that your contact information is up-to-date, add background information to personalize your profile, check the box labeled “Include in Membership Directory,” and select your areas of expertise in the Find an Appraiser categories. (You are also able to choose five of each section: Specialties, Services and Performs Appraisals Of.) Always remember to Save Changes when you are done with each section.

ISA’s search tool can be tremendously useful for both website visitors and members alike. When used properly, it is a convenient way to advertise your services and capture the attention of potential clientele.