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Archive for July, 2006

LandlordMax Status Update

Assuming everything keeps going well, it looks like version 2.12c of LandlordMax will be available sometime this week, for sure before the end of the weekend. This update is mainly focused on increasing the performance of LandlordMax, especially for larger databases. The good news is that our current testing shows that there are very significant performance increases accross the board with version 2.12c of LandlordMax! I won’t go into the technical details today, but rest assured that I’ll share more detailed information about it in a later article, after we’ve released it and we all have a little a more breathing room.






How to Generate Traffic for Your Website

I’ve been asked to be one of 3 keynote speakers/instructors in a 4-day intensive training class on how to generate passive income online. The course will be held here locally in Ottawa over 2 weekends (the weekends of August 12-13 and 19-20). Spacing is very limited, it’s already 50% sold out and it was only annouced yesterday! Anyone interested should contact Glenn Scott before the August 4th deadline to register. The cost of attending is $250/person, which is phenomally low considering that you get 3 speakers for substantially less than it would cost you to just have one of them speak individually!. This is a one-time opportunity, this course will only be offered this one time.

As an extra, this course will be recorded for resale later on DVD. I’ve already made arrangements with Glenn Scott to be able to resell the DVD here through FollowSteph.com, so if you’re not able to come, you can always purchase a DVD copy here when it becomes available. The price of the DVD has not yet been determined.

The course will cover 4 major topics:

Web design

This will by taught by Michael VanDusen who is the head of web design at Algonquin College here in Ottawa. He will use Dreamweaver MX as a tool for building websites which includes lab time (individual computers will be available during the lab time).

Google Adsense Revenue

Glenn Scott will teach how to generate passive income using Google Adsense on your websites. Although he has several streams of income (real estate properties, etc.), Google Adsense is what has allowed him to become financially free at the level he wants.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Glenn Scott wil also cover SEO principles which is very important in getting your site recognized and highly ranked by all the major search engines.

Traffic Generation (my section)

I will personally show you how to generate traffic to your website, be it for monetization, for a small business, etc. I will cover many topics such as blogging, how to get links to your website (link baiting), how to create valuable content, concepts online social networks, copywriting, Google Adwords, press releases, and so on. Basically I’ll show you many ways I’ve learned to make LandlordMax Property Management Software and FollowSteph.com grow in traffic to where they are today (they’ve both at least doubled in the last 6 months alone as shown in the graphs below).

FollowSteph.com Website Traffic
LandlordMax.com Website Traffic

To give you a little history, the concept for this course was actually born from a dinner I attended that was hosted by Glenn Scott entitled “How I Got Out of the Rat Race”. During this dinner many people were interested in learning more details on how he managed to become financially free and suggested he offer a course. And thus 4 weeks later this course was officially offered for this one and only time.

I’m very excited about this project! Not only will I be speaking/instructing one component of the course, but I will be donating my personal time for the other 3 course days to help Glenn and the other speakers/instructors with their components. I will field questions, help with lab times, etc. as I’m also very familiar with these topics. It’s a great opportunity to take advantage of several experts under one umbrella.

I look forward to seeing several of you there!






Weekly 7

Why I Love Apple
“But again and again, Apple delights with its focus on the user experience. Its engineers and programmers obviously work through every aspect of how the product will be used, and refine it until they get to the slightest detail”

The High Cost of Being Poor
From food prices to auto insurance, when did poverty get so expensive?

Diseconomies of Scale and Lines of Code
The bigger your software is (LOC – Lines of Code) the longer it takes to add more features. This relationship between project size and productivity is illustrated in the article.

Open Source Reality Check
Comparing free open source software to commercial paid software

How Not to Pay Rent
The lofty ambitions of tenants of illegal apartment buildings

Top 10 Dumbest Online Business Ideas That Made It Big Time.
The title says it all.

Top 5 projects to boost home’s value for resale
The title says it all.






Customer Feedback

In the last few days I’ve been personally working with a customer of ours to help him get his letterhear/logo to correctly print on the invoice printouts of LandlordMax. A quick related aside, we will be releasing LandlordMax 2.12c very shortly, possibly this week, at the latest next week, which will incorporate this fix. In addition, LandlordMax version 2.12c will have very significant performance increases! Especially for those of you with larger databases!

Getting back to today’s topic, in one of our last email exchanges, he sent me this comment (which he has given me permission to publish as a testimonial on our LandlordMax Success Stories webpage):

“Well again let me say thanks for your assistance, as well as again acknowledging your company having one of the best products on the market. It is by far superior to Quicken Rental Property Management.”

Thank you Ken, it’s always great to hear positive feedback!






LandlordMax Free Online Real Estate Analyzer Continues To Double Traffic!

Just a quick update because I promised I would post an update tp the entrepreneurs following this blog, the traffic (measured in unique visitors) to LandlordMax continues to maintain at least double it’s previous best day before the we launched the new LandlordMax Free Online Real Estate Analyzer. Therefore this service continues to be a success as a traffic and buzz generating campaign!

Once at least a month has passed by I’ll write a detailed entry showing some of our results so that you too can benefit from it. But I’ll quickly mention that there is definitely something to be said about offering something of value to generate traffic and buzz!






An Amazing Customer Service Request

What do you get when you buy a product? You get the product yes, but what else do you get? Customer service, probably. What about information on how to make the product? Can you resell it? Can you repackage it as your own and resell it (for example instead of Microsoft Windows can you resell it as Steph’s Windows)? Do you get the schematics on how to make it yourself? Not likely, but not everyone thinks so!

I’ve never commented on any customer requests we’ve ever gotten over the past three years since LandlordMax has been around, but this week we received such an audacious request that I’m going to make a rule to the exception. I will however leave out the person and company’s name, as well I will paraphrase the emails going back and forth. I will acknowledge that this isn’t the first time we’ve received a unreasonable requests, however what’s interesting about this one is that it is the most audacious request we’ve ever received and it also had follow-up emails.

Without further ado the first email we received contained two questions. The first was a general pre-sales question such as will the software do this or that for a special situation. The second question is the big one. It went along the lines of:

I want to repackage LandlordMax so that I can put my company logo on it and remove your company’s logo. Is this possible? Also, can I have access to your complete source code?

Wow! We’ve received some requests in the past of people trying to resell it on their own, which by the way does require permission from whichever company makes the product (often this is done with distributors or directly with the company through some sort of arrangement). But not with this request, they wanted to brand the product as their own and have full access to the source code, the full schematics of LandlordMax! This is basically like asking Microsoft for the source code of Windows and repacking it as say Steph’s Windows. Microsoft would never do that in a million years. This is the same as Dan Brown selling a copy of his book The Da Vinci Code and with that you have his permission to repackage it under a different title by another author (for example “Steph’s Da Vinci Code” written by Stephane Grenier). I don’t think so! When you buy a can of Coca-Cola, do you get access to the Coca-Cola formula to make your own and repackage it as Steph’s Coca-cola? I don’t think so! So why are they asking? Maybe they just don’t know any better, so let’s give them the benefit of the doubt as we normally do (honestly many people don’t realize it until you explain it).

So I personally proceeded to respond to this request, more out of curiousity than anything else, mentionning that no they aren’t allowed, as well doing so without special permission is actually illegal (copyright). Surpringly they responded to this expressing pushing their request further. Here’s the paraphrase of what I received:

I’m also thinking about reselling LandlordMax as I have found the trial version to be very good. However, I would only feel comfortable selling it if I had anonymity where clients would think that this product has been developed by my own company. I am happy to pay a fee for this or work on some commission/affiliate scheme with you.

Wow! So what they’re basically saying is that if you buy a can of Coca-Cola, you only feel right reselling it if you have complete control over the product, access to it’s full research and development that took years to build, it’s secret formula, and that you can repackage it as your own Steph’s Coca-Cola. Not only that, you want completely anonymity selling it however you want, at any price you want, etc. Complete and full control? Would any company oblige to this? I highly doubt it. If you don’t believe, make this request to Coca-Cola.

Luckily for the extra sentence at the end, where they mention they were happy to pay a fee for this. What kind of fee? So I decided to push it for my own interest to see what their expections were for the fee, because at this point I knew this wasn’t going any further. To go back a second, my initial intention in my first reply was to try to steer them away from their repackaging concept and have them become an affiliate through our LandlordMax Affiliate Program. This is a great little program that benefits everyone, they get a commission from any direct sales from them and it’s automated by a third party service called ShareASale.com. It’s worked great for us and we have many affiliates this way.

However I could tell by their last email (remember I’m just paraphrasing above, and I did omit some of the content) that they weren’t interested in the affiliate program. So I did hinted that they could get full access to the source, etc., but that it would be virtually the same as buying the company and it would cost them a substantial amount. Needless to say this is the last I heard from them.

At the end of the day, I don’t mind that they didn’t become a LandlordMax customer. I suspect that the cost of dealing with them would have far outweighed the revenue they would have generated. I’m just amazed at the audacity that they had, what they expected to get when purchasing LandlordMax. This is the biggest most unreasonable request we’ve ever had which is why I thought it would be an interesting read.

And please don’t think that I don’t believe in partnerships, I do. As an example, we’re actually in the process of establish a strong partnership with a company in the UK that will sell LandlordMax along with their services and offer support above and beyond what we can offer above our own. This company was very reasonable, they understood business, and came to us with an opportunity that made sense for both of us, it was a win-win situation. If a company approaches us with an opportunity that makes sense, we have open ears.

Anyways, I didn’t want to go on such a rant (my first on FollowSteph.com because I don’t really believe in them) but I thought it would make for an interesting read!






Roll Out the Presses!

Today we launched our latest press release in a completely different manner than usual. Normally we would send our press release to PRWeb and have it show up online 2 days later with very good success. This time however we decided to go another route and use one of the two major press release companies, PR Newswire.

PR Newswire is very different than PRWeb. Firstly, it costs a lot more! To begin with there is a $125/year membership fee. Then for a targetted US1 Financial Services release it costs $645/release. After that they offer several highly focused lists that journalists directly ask to receive. These generally start around $200 and go up from there. For those of you who aren’t familiar with PRWeb.com, a decent press release there starts at $30 and goes up. However you generally don’t spend more than $100.

Another difference between the two is that PRWeb is mainly focused with online media whereas PR Newswire is an older company (50 years) and is more focused on mainstream media. Because of this, I’m hoping that this will give us a larger push offline, to other news outlets.

There are other differences, which I won’t go into details right now, but needless to say I believe PR Newswire is worth a try.

We just launched the release a few minutes ago so hopefully it will prove worthwhile. I’ll post an update in the next few days on our success or failure with this new press release service.

You can find it here.

Please let me know if you see anything about this press release anywhere (other than an automated feed).

Updated sightings so far:

Further update:

It appears as though the press release was also sighted on 7 other news channels accross the United-States so far.






The Good and Bad of Using VOIP for Customer Service

As many have you noticed this week we opened up our phone lines to accept customer service (support) and sales calls. We’ve been using a commercial VOIP system/plan (Vonage.com) for our phone systems for several years now so it’s just natural that we use this for our customer service needs. VOIP is very different from a normal phone system, which can lead to some great benefits as well as some disadvantages. We’ve now just experienced both!

VOIP Advantages

Unlimited long distance calls accross North America. One flat monthly rate. This is great for any business, especially one that needs to make long distance calls.

Voicemail can be sent to an email address which can then go directly into a customer service application. This is really great because it really helps to establish the priority order in which we answer customer requests are answered (first come first serve no matter through which medium, email has the same priority as a phone call).

Enabling the voicemails to come through as a support requests in our customer service system also quickly and easily gives us metrics on how many calls we’re getting, how fast we’re answering them, etc.

VOIP Disadvantages

Unlike the phone system, if your internet connection goes down, so do your phone lines. Normally this isn’t a big issue because you need power to answer most support requests (a running computer), however today we had a power outage that lasted several hours (due to some severe weather the night before). During this time, because we had no internet (no power no internet), our support lines were also completely down! There was no way for any of our customers to reach us during this time. Tomorow we’ll be playing catchup.

Although rare, sometimes the internet connection can lag, at which time a call can get a little choppy. To prevent this we have a high speed internet connection and use Vonage which has a reputation for having a very clear signal. Normally it’s not an issue, but it has happened on the odd occassion to have a bad phone connection.

Overall, the advantages of using VOIP far outweigh the disadvantages, especially considering the price difference. Actually, I think this is probably the only way we can make it possible for LandlordMax to offer free phone support!

All in all I’d recommend VOIP if you’re a company.






Weekly 7

Beginner’s Guide to SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
The best and most comprehensive introduction and how-to to Search Engine Optimzation (SEO) I’ve seen online!

Top 10 mistakes of Do It Yourself Home Fixer Uppers
What more can I say than the title?

10 tricks for a low-cost, high-impact home upgrade
The title says it all again.

Do Quit Your Day Job
Ian argues against another blogger that you should quit your day job if you’ve properly planned for your business and have a reasonable chance at success. I have to admit I agree with him, but then again I’m biased.

Living in a hidden-fee economy Things seem cheap until you tack on all the extra costs
How many people realize, when they walk out of CompUSA, a nice $99 inkjet model tucked under their arm, that it’s likely they’ve just committed themselves to spending nearly $1,500 on ink cartridges over the next four years?

Why 81% Don’t Read Newsletters
Interesting article with metrics on how people read newsletters.

Yes, I love technology – The key to developer productivity
Describes the importance of making sure your developers have fast machines. This is the same as making sure that your car mechanic uses the right wrench, not the one for the car model 20 years ago!






LandlordMax Phone Lines Are Open!

I’ve decided to finally take the plunge with my company LandlordMax Property Management Software and try a test run of having our phone lines open for free support and sales calls for 1-2 months. Our main 2-3 competitors charge between $100-$350/hour for phone support, but I just don’t believe this is fair in any way. Although I say this, I can also appreciate their position. Being in a niche like property management software / landlord software does make offering phone support somewhat more costly because you just don’t get the same amount of traffic as say Microsoft (or any other software product consumed by the mass public). The only difference is that you do get the same development costs, it takes just as much effort to add in the ability to store pictures, or to sort table columns, in one software as any other. The downside is that the larger more mainstream products also get a lot more customers and therefore make it much easier to amortize their costs because of economies of scale. Not that I’m complaining, that’s business. And I should also mention that there benefits to being in a smaller niche market such as having less competition, a more highly targeted demographic, etc.

In any case, we’re going to do a trial run of offering free phone support for at least for 1-2 months to see how it affects LandlordMax sales. If we see a positive return, then we’ll keep them open. If we don’t, then we won’t (not that we might not try it again another time). My guess is that it will increase our bottom line and be worthwhile, hence why I’m willing to give it a try. I believe it enough that I’m willing to risk the cost of having the phone lines open to test if this is a viable option for 1-2 months . So let’s see!

And since I know a lot of you who read this blog (FollowSteph.com) are fellow entrepreneurs, I’ll make sure to put up a post when the trial is done about it’s success or failure. Hopefully my lessons learned in the next 1-2 months can also be applied to your businesses.






 
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