Archive for November, 2007

A Different Methodology With Our Yellow Book Strategy

When we started Tri Megatech, we were counting on the Yellow Book to generate a lot of our initial business. We dumped over $2,000 into it for the year, hoping to see a large ROI. While we definitely made our money back on our investment, it wasn’t nearly as much business as we had hoped for. I originally made the ad for the book, and here’s what it looked like:

Our original Yellow Book ad

The time has come now when we had to renew our contract to advertise, so I began doing some research on how we can improve our results…we needed to generate more phone calls. I found a few important key factors that can hopefully dramatically improve an ads effectiveness:

  • The size of the ad is not everything
  • Color is normally a good way to make you pay more, but doesn’t necessarily make your ad more effective
  • A good headline is important to catch a readers attention
  • Good graphics that are compelling are important to catch a readers attention
  • Differentiate from your competitors

There is a ton of other things that can make a good ad, but just looking at these key things we can already see some major mistakes that we initially made in our first run. Our logo is huge. Who cares? It’s not even compelling. Nobody cares what the name of your company is, people are looking for somebody that can provide a service for them. There is no headline for anybody to read, or anything like graphics to compel them in. By now they’ve already called another competitor.

With my newfound knowledge, I decided to redesign our ads. We decided to do two, one targeting home users, and another targeting networking aka businesses. Here’s what I did for home users:

Our new Yellow Book ad for home users

In this new ad we see some drastic differences from our previous copy. For one, look at the difference in the logo size. It’s much tinier, and hidden in the corner. We have a compelling headline and graphic to catch a readers attention and get them looking at the list of services we provide. Hopefully one matches their needs, and they give us a call. I added credit card logos, as people love to charge things. It also better legitimizes our company.

For our ad that targets businesses we were given an opportunity for one color. We wanted to use this to our benefit in order to help us stand out as much as possible. We just need to lure the reader in, and get them to call. Getting them to call us is 90% of the battle of generating new business:

Our new Yellow Book ad for businesses

We obviously used red as our one color, and we used it to emphasize two key elements of the ad; the headline and what we’re giving away for FREE. People love free. Readers are already looking in the “Computer-Networking” category, we want to make sure we targeted that reader. While we do a lot more than networking, we knew that’s more than likely what a potential client was looking for, and what we could use to lure them in. We also made sure the first three services we list have to do with networking. Hopefully we get a client for networking, but end up doing a lot more business with them over time. Business clients is really where its at. They spend more money, and they are more concerned about getting things done then every penny that’s being spent.

Do you guys think that these ads are more effective? It will be some time before they go out to print, but I will definitely report back and let you all know whether or not we’re getting more calls. Constructive feedback is also always welcome.

Got A New Motorcycle: Honda CBR600 F4i

A couple weeks ago I picked up a 99′ Honda Accord coupe as a new beater car. Now a couple weeks later, I’ve also picked up another motorcycle, a 2002 Honda CBR600 F4i. My first bike was a 1998 Honda CBR600 F3. It was a great starter bike, but it was time to move up a bit.

My old CBR600 F3 and my new CBR600 F4i

Utilizing my “Drive a Dodge Viper for Free” methodology, I managed to buy the original CBR600 F3, drive it for a year and a half, and sell it for more than I paid for it. Pretty much all of my insurance, tax, and gas was over the past 1.5 years was made in bike profit, allowing me to have a 100% free bike for that time period. You can’t beat that!

While the old and new pictures look pretty similar, there are some major improvements on the F4i that makes the upgrade well worthy:

  1. An updated look, mainly rear and front end makes the bike look more current of todays time. The F4i’s updated front end looks 10x better than the F3 in my opinion.
  2. The i in F4i stands for fuel injection. The F3 is carburated. This makes the shifting much smoother, among many other improvements.
  3. It’s a lot faster!
  4. The bike is much lighter and smaller, that makes the handling a night and day difference. I feel much more comfortable turning on the F4i.
  5. The rear compartment on the F4i opens with the key, so I can actually store little things in there. Not a huge deal, but a big convenience factor for me.
  6. The gauges are digital now.

The only aftermarket part the bike has is a Jardine exhaust, which sounds great. Check out the video (Note: It sounds much louder in person):

There were a couple of issues with the bike, which ended up costing me about $250 to fix, but it’s basically as good as new now:

  1. The brake lever was bent
    1. New lever ordered: $27
  2. The guy I bought it from did a burnout unfortunately right before he sold it. Because of this, it needed a new rear tire
    1. New rear tire: $135 + $35 to mount/balance
  3. A few bolts were missing from the windscreen (previous owner must have had aftermarket windscreen).
    1. 3 new bolts: $3.50
  4. The air plastic air duct cover has a small crack in it
    1. New panel: $29
  5. One of the handlebar weights was broken
    1. New weight + bolt: $12.50

Shipping was free. It was pretty minor stuff, and it’s part of getting the good deal to make the cost of the bike over time minimized as much as possible.

I’ve updated my progression of vehicles post with the new bike, make sure to check out all of the vehicles I’ve owned since being able to drive.

Here’s a few pics of the bike before I made all the above fixes:

My Honda CBR600 F4i

My Honda CBR600 F4i

My Honda CBR600 F4i

My Honda CBR600 F4i

Here’s a picture of all my vehicles currently (Sold the other bike last weekend):

All of my vehicles

Deal: Today Only – 50% Off CVS.com Candy + $5 Off + Free Shipping

I know I’m not the only one with a sweet tooth!? Came across this deal for today only on CVS.com:

  • There are 9 pages of different candies that are all 50% off
  • If you spend $30, you can get $5 off
  • If you spend $30, you also get free shipping

In order to get the $5 off and free shipping, just click the promo banner at the top of their page, and start shopping. Here’s what the banner looks like:

CVS Promo

Looked At Another House

I’ve been looking at some houses from time to time, and I’ve really seen a dramatic change in what you can get for the price in this area. Back in July I looked at a house in Sterling that was a foreclosure priced at $365,000. I wasn’t all impressed with the house. One of my friends owns a few Champion real estate offices in this area, and sent me a listing for a house in South Riding, VA that seemed like a great deal. It was listed as a short sale, not exactly a foreclosure just yet, but getting there. We had found that houses that were much smaller in the area were going for more than this house was listed for. I decided to go take a look. The house was listed for $350,000, but although never 100% accurate, a Zillow.com search found it valued well over $400,000. Here’s some pictures I took:

House front

It’s a pretty wide 2-car garage townhouse with I believe 2,600 sq/ft of living space. It was built in 2001, so it’s fairly new.

Living room

The colors are horrendous, but you can see the living and dining room when you walk in. The little walkway that I’m standing on has wood flooring. There is an ample amount of space here, and I like the column separating the dining room, as well as the step up to that level. The trimming everywhere also looks nice. There is also a bathroom on the right which you cannot see.

Kitchen

Kitchen

The kitchen is pretty nice, and was quite big. The countertops are granite, although looked a little cheap I guess due to unbeveled edges. Also, you can see the columns look a little cheesy, and needed to be repainted or something. While you can’t see it in the first picture, to the right there is a space for a some sort of deak, as well as a double door out to the deck. There is room here for another table or something, with a fireplace (kinda akward place to put one).

Deck

Here we can see the deck, pretty nice size (looks a lot bigger in person).

Master bedroom

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Making $30 Million Renting Out Purses

Coach bagThere are a ton of people that are celebrity obsessed. That’s why sites like TMZ and PerezHilton are so popular. Celebrities are usually the forefront of the latest fashion trends, and companies can sometimes launch a product with huge success just by having celebrity backing. It’s the reason why gift bags at big events are worth tens of thousands of dollars…companies want to get their products in the hands of celebrities.

So where am I going with this? I’m sure you’ve seen the major trend lately with higher end purses. From Coach to Louis Vitton, women everywhere are eating these bags up…and it doesn’t come at a cheap price. These bags range from hundreds of dollars to thousands, and you see them everywhere (many times they are knockoffs).

With such a huge market of women wanting these high-end bags, what can you do to monetize on that? A couple of internet companies have thought of a great way, and it looks like they are raking in the big bucks for doing so. They are renting out these bags to women using various payment models. The concept is why buy a $2,000 bag just to have it sit in the closet a month later because you wanted to get the next best thing. You can simply rent the bag for a fraction of the cost, and when you’re done, return it for a new one. This way you don’t have a ton of bags taking up closet space and being a waste of money.

Two companies that were profiled in a USA Today article are doing this, Bag Borrow or Steal, and From Bags To Riches (Acquired by Bag Borrow or Steal).

Bag Borrow or Steal

BBOS was launched in 2004, carrys over 3,000 bag styles, has 450,000 members, and rents out tens of thousands of bags per month. Their payment model is based on a membership fee which ranges from $5-$10/month. Members pay less for a bag, which ranges from $6/week-$275/month + $10 for insurance and $10 for shippping. I’m assuming the 450,000 members aren’t 100% active, but lets say half of them are, and those half are paying the bottom line $5/month membership fee. This means BBOS is pulling in $1,125,000/month or $13.5M/year in membership alone at a very conservative lowball estimate. If they are also renting “tens of thousands” of bags per month, lets estimate the minimum at 20,000 at a very conservative $40/month. That’s $800,000/month or $9.6M/year. Add $10 for insurance to get another $200k/month or $2.4M/year to the bottom line. Add the same number for shipping as well.

All of this put together equals out to a conservative estimate of gross sales being $2,325,000/month or $27.9M/year. I would say that’s not too shabby at all. I’m sure that they also reduce their expenses a ton by reselling the bags after they are completely outdated, or too worn out to keep renting.

One thing to keep in mind is that BBOS also rents out other high-end products such as jewelry, so this may skew the numbers somewhat (which is why I tried to do a conservative estimate).

From Bags To Riches

FBTR was launched in 2005, and is quite a bit smaller than BBOS. They use a different model where you just pay a monthly fee to rent a bag, from $35-$300/month. Standard shipping and insurance up to $100 is free. Of course, they recommend paying the $40 for full insurance coverage. They carry 350-500 different bag styles, and rent out “thousands” a month. Lets work the numbers. We’ll say 2,000 renters a month paying 25% of the $35-$300/month fee ($101), which equals out to $202,000/month or $2,424,000/year. We’ll say that 15% of the 2,000 convert for the insurance for $12,000/month or $144,000/year. Obviously much smaller then BBOS, but still a lot of money, and growing I’m sure.

I think these are great examples of ways to monetize on a trend.

Another Car Added To The Fleet

I’ve modified my original “Progression of Vehicles” post to be one that I will update as I add or change any vehicles in my fleet. Last week I purchased my 9th vehicle (in my 8 years of driving). I would have blogged about it sooner, but I didn’t have a chance to wash it up until this past weekend.

It’s nothing special, but there’s a purpose to getting it. I bought a 99′ Honda Accord 4-cylinder coupe with 114k miles:

99 Honda Accord

99 Honda Accord

So you might be thinking…Dave, you’ve got a Viper and a G35 Coupe, in your garage, what’s with this? Well, I consider it a beater car for the fleet! In reality, it’s more of an interim car. My G35 has about 55k miles on it, and the warranty lasts through 60k miles. The Viper has been for sale (Although I haven’t really tried to sell it too hard yet).

Getting the Accord allows me to sell both the G35 and Viper at the same time, while having a reliable, fairly cheap car I can drive interim. I think I got a pretty good deal on the Accord utilizing my “Drive a Viper for free” methodology.

So I’m trying to figure out what I’ll be doing about car stuff, and I have a few options:

  1. Keep the Viper, and sell the Infiniti. Not sure what I would get to replace the Infiniti though…maybe rock the Accord for a while.
  2. Sell both the Viper and Infiniti, buy a 2005 black C6 Corvette, and keep the Accord as a beater car. I love the new C6 Vette body style, and it would allow me to retain all the power I have in the Viper, but be a lot more practical. I would essentially try and daily drive the Vette, but I’d have the Accord for rainy days and what not. This way I almost always have my sports car fix :)? I would get it in black, completely black it out, and get a loud exhaust…it would be pretty mean looking. The main concern with this option is property tax will be really high, I think it would work out to be about $1,200/year for just the Vette.
  3. I could sell both the Viper and Infiniti and buy one overall nice car. I was thinking something like an BMW M3, BMW 5-Series, or maybe even the new G37 Coupe. Property tax on this option will likely be pretty hefty, so something I have to put into consideration (Damn VA!!!).

I think those are my current options, I’m still unsure of what I should or want to do. If you have any car suggestions, I’m all ears…just post your comment!? In the meantime my current fleet is the following:

  1. 1994 Dodge Viper RT/10
  2. 2004 Infiniti G35 Coupe
  3. 1999 Honda Accord Coupe V4
  4. 1998 Honda CBR600 F3 (Might also be changing this one up shortly)

Better Manage Your Posting Schedule

I personally use Outlook 2007 for my calendar application, so I’m going to write what I personally do here, but note that it will pretty much work with most calendar applications.

I’ve recently started using Outlook in order to better manage my posting schedule for this blog. It helps me get a grasp of what I should be posting when, and hopefully better manage the long list of post ideas I have that are in draft mode. This way I can make sure that I have enough time to write a post as I can see in a more visual way when I planned on making it go live.

What I do is going into weekly calendar mode, and on the bottom of there is a section for tasks due on that day:

Calendar screenshot

You can see here on the bottom I have a full schedule of posts that will go live on each day of this week, including this one. Again, this is a nice way to visually see what you are planning on doing, and it’s very easy to move things around should you have to adjust the schedule.

In the mail section of Outlook you can see when the posts are due in the “To-Do Bar”:

Outlook to-do bar

I wrote this after 12am, so that’s why it says that the using calendar post is due today. Once I finish writing a post and adjusting the timestamp in WordPress, I simply click the flag next to the task and it’s considered complete.

You’ll also notice the green box next to the post tasks. These are categories. I’ve made a category for the blog, this way I can filter them in or out as needed. Sometimes I have a ton of tasks for all sorts of things, and I may not need to see the posts in there.

Another benefit of doing this is because I use a Treo 700w as my cell phone, which of course syncs with Outlook. This way I have my posting schedule on me at all times, and can even take the time to write a post from my phone if I felt like it.

What do you use to help manage your posting schedule?

Deal: 5 Quarts Mobile 1 Oil + Mobile 1 Filter $29.88

Now through December 29th, head on over to your local Advance Auto Parts and you can pick up 5 quarts of Mobile 1 synthetic oil as well as a Mobile 1 oil filter for $29.88.

Mobile 1 is my favorite synthetic oil, and I’ve been using it on all of my cars since my 3.5 Altima. Normally I’ll get a big 4 quart jug + 1 quart bottle from Wal Mart. That alone will run about $30. Wal Mart doesn’t carry Mobile 1 filters, so I have to then go all the way to Advance and get a good filter (I used to use K&N Gold because Advance didn’t carry Mobile 1, but they do now). This deal let me get everything in one place, and saved me about $10 or 25%…that’s a free dinner or movie! With synthetic oil I now change my oil every 5,000 miles or so rather than 3,000.

So if you have a nice car that uses synthetic oil, and you change your own oil (or you want to bring the Mobile 1 goods to your favorite shop), make sure to jump on this deal…I? did:

Mobile 1 oil and filter

Use Outsourcing To Double Your Productivity

This was a guest post by Brandon Hopkins. Brandon is working as a call center consultant and blogger. Brandon owns over 100 websites and is a full time webmaster.

Most times during the day I would like to be able to have a clone of myself sitting next to me. I would focus on the things I enjoy doing like marketing and make my clone do things that I don’t like doing such as calling customers and working in QuickBooks Pro.

Until scientists get the whole cloning situation figured out, the next best thing is to outsource those tasks you don’t like to do, or the tasks that take up the most of your time and are the least profitable.

When contemplating outsourcing a portion of your business you must realize the costs. First you’ll need to spend some time giving clear and precise instructions. If you hire a normal local employee, this is called training. This cost is hard to measure as a dollar figure, but it can’t be avoided whether you outsource or hire a local employee.

However, that is where the similarities to local and outsourced employees end. The last time I hired someone to do work for me, I paid her $10/hour. The beauty of this is that the $10 per hour was my total cost.

With a local employee I would also be paying other overhead expenses such as a computer and desk for her to work at, health insurance, workers compensation, legal fees and of course my accountant would want a piece of the action. With all of those fees and expenses combined I would be paying her closer to $18 per hour.

For that same $18 an hour I could almost hire a second outsourced person.

Before you decide to outsource this work, I would suggest the following:

1. Clearly state the work you want done.
For me this was mainly copywriting. I needed someone who could write on topics I gave them quickly and competently.

2. State the time you think it should take.
I set a time of 30 minutes per 400 word article. These articles didn’t need to be well researched and I didn’t want my new employee to spend 2 hours writing the best article when I just needed the content.

3. Work with a company, not an individual.
In the past 3 years, I have hired about 20 different people, none of them local. In those 3 years I’ve learned that individuals can’t be trusted as much as a company and companies cost more than individuals. So for the most part I’m willing to pay a little extra to see that the job gets done. If that individual I hired through the company quits, the company finds me a new employee and he or she starts where the last one left off.

4. Place a value on your time.
For me, I take the amount I earn per month and divide it by the amount of hours I work. That is how much I am worth. If that number is $30/hour and I can hire someone for $10 an hour to do the mundane data entry tasks, I can spend more time focused on projects and tasks that allow me to earn that $30 an hour. Hopefully by outsourcing I’m enabling myself to work on the profitable, which I enjoy, and avoid the boredom, that I despise.

Outsourcing may not be for everyone. For me, it has revolutionized the way I work. I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do and can have my personal assistant (also outsourced and currently living in the Philippines) handle anything I send him. On top of that, he has every chat program, so I can just send him a message any time I need to get in contact with him. If that wasn’t enough, he has Skype and is willing to talk whenever I need to clarify something.

Start with a small task and compare how much that tasks cost to get completed and compare that with how long it would have taken you to do that particular task. I can almost guarantee that you will double your productivity in short time!

8 Year Old Twins Invent Wedgie-Proof Underwear

I love reading stories of successful young entrepreneurs, but these twin 8 year olds bring it to a whole new level. They’ve invented wedgie-proof underwear! They work by being tear away, so when that awful wedgie is given, they actually only get your underwear. It’s not something I would buy, but it’s great to see kids at such a young age getting into business like this. Check out their interview with Fox News: