The 30 Tools I Use For Productivity, Blogging, Social Media, & Travel (18 are free!)

I don’t know how many times I’ve said – “I wish I had more hours in the day!”

I’m sure you’ve had that sentiment as well.  Alas, 24 hours a day is all we get.  That isn’t going to change.  What can change is how much you can squeeze out of each hour.

30tools 3d cover

Before I go on, I want to make this point.  I’m not advocating becoming a workaholic – or even feeding that addiction.  I’m talking about getting more work done faster.  I’m talking about being able to have more time for what really matter.  Time for your family.  Time to take care of your health.  Time for self-development.  Time for care for your spiritual health.

Some of the most valuable posts I’ve ever read have been on the subject of productivity.  I consume that kind of information.  Everything I’ve learned about productivity apps has come from others or just tinkering with them.  All I’ve learned about traveling efficiently comes from experience and what others have shared with me.

So here is my resource list of the 30 tools I use on a regular basis to squeeze more out of every day.  I’m going to give you the highlights here, and you will be able to download it at the end of the post.

Productivity

When I did my reader survey last month, the subject of productivity was the number one topic of choice.  In this section, I give you my favorite free and paid tools for increasing your productivity.  And here’s a little hint – 1password and Tripit are completely awesome.  Awesome!

Blogging

Blogging has revolutionized my online presence.  It is not easy to do.  But it is so worth it.  The key to blogging well over time is to systematize it.  I have a few templates that I use for most posts.  It saves me a ton of time.  These are the tools I use to build my email list, optimize for SEO, etc.  These tools will save you a ton of time and allow you to maximize your ROI.

Social Media

I’m almost sick of social media.  I believe most people have accepted that social media provides value – sometimes a ton of it.  Though I’m sick of talking about, I use it everyday.  And if you’ve never heard or used BufferApp, you need to check this section out.

Travel

I traveled a ton for work last year.  I think I was on 65 airplanes.  If there is one thing I’m good at, it is navigating airports.  Traveling is a drain on your energy no matter who you are.  Being able to minimize the frustrations of travel while remaining productive saved me a tremendous amount of stress.  These are the tools I used to do it.

Bonus Section:  Recommended Books

As a bonus, I’ve included some of my favorite books in the following categories:

  • Platform building
  • Productivity
  • Business
  • Leadership
  • Stewardship
  • Parenting
  • Marriage
  • Commercial Real Estate
  • And others…

These are books that I’ve read and personally recommend.  I’m no expert in any of these subjects.  However, these are books that have helped me grow in these areas.

To download your copy of this free resource list, simply click the button below!

Download Your Free Resource List

“Social Media Best Practices for CRE Professionals”
by Howard Kline, Esq.

Sorry, listening to the podcast on this website requires Flash support in your browser. You can try playing the MP3 file directly by clicking here.

I’ve been a fan of Howard’s for about a year now.  CRE practitioners like me are normally weary of attorneys, but Howard is one of the exceptions.  He has a tremendous understanding of our industry, and his clients love him.  Brokers love him, too, and that is a rarity.

Howard is also the host of CRE Radio which I’ve been listening to for about a year.  I would highly recommend following his podcast/radio show.  He has industry leading experts on to share their wisdom and experience.  He is also contagiously engaging, and he has that radio voice.  Think Albert Brooks – the voice of Nemo’s dad (if you have kids, you’ll get that reference).

I had the privilege of being his guest on this episode along with my friends Barbi Reuter, Michael Lagazo, and Sarah Malcolm.  These three are social media rockstars, and we had a ton of fun chatting about social media best practices over some virtual cups of coffee.

Give it a listen!

CRE Radio Event: Social Media Best Practices for CRE Professionals

This Friday at 3pm EST/Noon PST, I have the privilege of being one of a few featured guests on the National CRE Radio Show – Commercial Real Estate Radio with Howard Kline.  We are going to be talking Social Media Best Practices for CRE Professionals.  I have been connected with Howard Kline for a couple years via Twitter.  His radio shows are packed full of great content for CRE professionals.

courtesy of iStockPhoto

courtesy of iStockPhoto

I am also excited to be on this panel because it includes some of my favorite people in CRE:  Barbi Reuter, Michael Lagazo, and Sarah Malcolm.

Barbi (www.twitter.com/barbireuter) is the CRE Marketing & Operations Executive for PICOR Commercial Real Estate Services in Tucson, Arizona.  She is a social media all-star and one of the true pioneers of social media use in CRE.  She is also one of my favorite people.

Michael (www.twitter.com/michael_mba) is the guy who I watched to learn how to use Twitter.  He is a CRE all-star in San Diego and has forgotten more about retail than I will ever know.  He also may be the nicest guy on Twitter and will send you coffee.  What could be better??

Michael and Barbi are both founding members of the #crejavaclub on Twitter.  If you love CRE and a hot cup of joe, look us up!

Sarah Malcolm (www.twitter.com/icsc) is the Director of New Media for the International Council of Shopping Centers.  She is a social media power house.  Reading her bio on LinkedIn will force you to be out of breath.  I can’t wait to hear what she has to say about social media best practices.

I hope that you can join us on Friday as Howard normally takes questions.  You can call in with yours at (619) 393-6492.

The show description is below.  This is your opportunity to submit your social media questions ahead of time that Howard may cover.  Use the comments section below!

Show Description

Social media, social media, social media.  You hear it everywhere you go and everyone is telling you that you have to do it. Everyone else is telling you how to do it, but is anyone getting through? Is there any value to it and how much time do you have to spend on it to be of any value to you?

What about sales?  Really, isn’t that what this is supposed to be about, selling and making money?  What good does it do you if you spend 2 hours a day schmoozing online and haven’t picked up a client in 3 months?  Are there any shortcuts and gimmicks that you can rely upon to make it worth your time?

Isn’t social media all about advertising?  How many eyeballs see your name is all that counts, right?  What about relationships and trust, nice words to include in your repertoire, but do those words put food on your table or pay your mortgage?  And let’s not forget the two most chic words of 2013, “engagement” and “collaboration”. Oh, how the experts like to throw those words in your face, if for no other reason then to show you how much more they know than you.

But enough of my ranting, listen in as I discuss these issues and words and the meaning of life, (in social media), with, Barbi Reuter, Sarah Malcom, Bo Barron, Michael Legazzo and I, some of the most well know and most influential commercial real estate professionals utilizing social media to bring in the money.  We are not the social media experts.  We are the pilgrims, the veterans, the ones with the scars with stories of the things we didn’t understand, we don’t understand and what we are figuring out as we go along. We are you after you start “getting it.” We are students of social media and cre, learning as we go along, trying to figure it out and willing to share our experiences with you so that you do not have to get the same scars as us.

During the show, we will also discuss why you should be interested in social media for your business and what services, (LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Pinterest, among others), you should use and for what purposes.  Property manager, logistics expert, investor, property manager; this is not a one size fits all lecture.  We will help you figure this out for your purposes.

7 Steps to Unleashing Crowdsourcing by Utilizing Testimonials

My wife drives a Toyota Sienna.  Do you know why?  It is because a couple of her friends do.  My family is going on vacation next month.  Do you know how we came up with Disney World?  We asked our friends on Facebook what they recommended.  This is what crowdsourcing is.  By definition, it is the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people.

Courtesy of iStock Photo

Courtesy of iStock Photo

Crowdsourcing is not a new phenomenon, but it has never had more power.  Social media has brought the world to you laptop screen.  You can access more content and opinions – and quicker – than you ever could before.  People are making decisions this way.  You probably did today.

Did you know that over 80% of all due diligence starts with a Google search?  Do you know how many people trust a recommendation from a “friend”?  90%!  Do you know how many people are positively influenced by a Facebook ‘Like’ button from someone they don’t even know?  70%!  That number astounds me.

By contrast, only 19% of people now trust traditional advertising.  I’m talking about print, TV, or radio.  Do you know why?  Because the game has changed.  No one wants to hear you toot your own horn anymore.  They want to know about real people who have actually used your product or service.  They want a testimonial.

I plan on writing more in the coming months about the power of crowdsourcing and how you can maximize its advantages.  But today, I want to give you 7 steps to harvest testimonials.  There are a dozen ways to repurpose them once you have them.  First, though, you have to get them.

7 Steps to Getting Testimonials

  1. Make a list of your top client relationships – This is obvious, but you first need to list those clients from whom you would like a testimonial.  Consider who was in love with the service or product your provided.  Consider who has the most clout.  Who are those people who you have done business with who can sway the most people in your direction?  Write them down.
  2. It doesn’t matter how dated the client relationships are – Don’t be concerned if these clients go back years in the past.  It doesn’t matter as much when you provided value, but that you did.
  3. Write the testimonial for them – Typically, you are going to send an email request.  For the first one or two, write the testimonial for them.  It should read, “I’m writing to respectfully request that you write a couple of sentences as a testimonial for the service I provided.  I’m looking for something like this…”  Spoon feed it to them.  Then let them know that if what you wrote is accurate, you are happy to use it as their words – with their blessing.  This is the quickest path to obtaining a testimonial.
  4. Use peer pressure – Once you have your first one or two, introduce peer pressure.  You can accomplish this by including the testimonials you have already received as examples of what you are looking for.  This demonstrates that others are providing these testimonials.  Peer pressure can then kick-in encouraging them to follow suit.
  5. Engage their competitive nature – By providing testimonials you have already received as examples in your email request, you will engage their competitive nature.  Your client is likely to want to give you a testimonial that out-does the ones you have already received.  Over time, this can really work in your favor.
  6. Make it easy – I have a coaching client who has collected recommendation letters for years.  He has a book of them.  It is very impressive.  It also took a ton of work to accomplish.  I’m not saying this is a bad idea because it is not.  I am saying that you will have more success more quickly if you keep it simple.  Use email.  Ask for a couple of sentences.  Provide examples.  Make it as easy for them as possible.  You are interrupting them with your request.  The simpler it is, the more you will get.
  7. Systematize – To this point, I’m suggesting you look to the past for your testimonials.  Once you’ve accomplished that, then systematize the process.  Make it a part of your business to seek a testimonial from every new client you do business with.  Over time, you will develop a stable of clients that scream from the mountain tops how awesome you are.  Remember that 70% of people trust a recommendation from someone they don’t even know!

I’d be so grateful if you would add to my list by using the comments section below.  What have I left off?  How have you put the power of testimonials to work in your business?

CS: Prospecting – Preparation for the Cold Call

The Clarity Series is a series of posts all on one subject.  This particular subject is prospecting.  While the context is commercial real estate, these steps and principles can be applied to any sales.  To read the introduction of this series, click here.  To read an overview of the entire prospecting system, click here.  Thank you for reading!

If you are like most salespeople, cold calls are the low point of your day.  You don’t like them.  You know that top producers cold call all the time. But you aren’t exactly sure what to say.  What you need is confidence.  Confidence comes from preparation.

iStockPhoto

iStockPhoto

I remember my first cold call.  I had just earned my license.  I was calling the owner of a small office/retail stand alone building that had a for sale by owner sign.  I was clueless about what to say.  I remember sitting in my office and staring at the phone.  It was a like I would be electrocuted if I picked it up to dial.  I had these thoughts running through my head:

  • What if he answers?!
  • I’m not going to know what to say!
  • I’m going to sound like a complete idiot.
  • What if he asks me about my fee?

In Part 1 of this post,we discussed the purpose and the philosophy of cold calling.  To review, the purpose of the cold call is to get a meeting.  That is it.  The philosophy that I teach and coach my clients is that you want to connect and add value.  You do not want to use scripts or try to manipulate.

Just like anything else, cold calling needs a system that marries solid preparation with an understanding of the anatomy of a call.  This post deals with the preparation.

Cold Call Preparation

Preparation really means putting your P.I. hat on.  What can you find out about your prospect before you call?  Remember, you goal is to quickly connect with your prospect and land a meeting.  Ideally, you can do this in just a few minutes.

I recommend that you take 2-3 minutes before you make a call and see what you can find out about your prospect.  There is way too much information out there not to.  Your goal is to find something quickly that you can use to establish common ground.  Remember, cold-calling is a numbers game.  Don’t spend too much time researching your prospect.  And don’t spend too much time on the call itself.

Google

This is somewhat of a no-brainer first step, but too many of us don’t do it.  Search for the name and city of your prospect.  By including the city, you are more likely to quickly find the correct person.  Take a few seconds to scan the links.  Click through on one or two and see what you can learn.  Have they been in the news lately?  If so, you can reference that article when you call.  Have they been in any financial trouble?  This can give you a clue to possible motivations to sell, etc.

LinkedIn

google search bo barron

One of the links that will likely come up in the Google search is the prospect’s LinkedIn profile.  This is what you want to find.  On their profile, you can learn where they went to school.  Especially around NCAA tournament time, their school is often an easy way to build rapport and connect.

linkedin profile bo barron

You can also see their work history.  Is there a common company that you both worked for?  Have they had a position in an industry that interests you?

You can also see if they are a connector.  A connector is a person that can be a gateway to get in front of many other people.  Connectors can be much more important to you and your business than one particular deal.  If you find one of these, purpose to build a lasting relationship.  Give lots of value for free.  Their friendship could lead to scores of deals in the future.

how I'm connected to Tony Robbins

Maybe the most important information you can find on LinkedIn is if you have any common contacts.  I would veer from my numbers game mentality of cold calling here.  If you are calling a whale (think Gordon Gekko), it may be worth slowing down if you discover you have a mutual friend.  Attempt to get an introduction from that common connection.  An introduction is much more effective than a cold call as the clout and rapport of the common connection can rub off on you.

Website

LinkedIn can also lead you to the prospect’s website.  If you find that site, you are looking for one thing – their purpose for being in business.  If you can find a mission statement, core values, etc., then you have valuable intel you can use to craft your opening statement when you call.  I will get into that in the next post dealing with the anatomy of the call.

Keep in mind that these tasks can be delegated.  I know a guy that has his assistant run through these steps.  On his cold call sheet for the day are not only names and numbers, but information his assistant found through a little online research.  Remember what you are worth.  If you have a team member to whom you can delegate this step, do so.

Now I would love to hear from you about how you prepare before a cold call.  What do you do?  Or what is something that I have left out?  Leave you comments below!

A Review of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt

This is the book that started it for me.  This past May, Michael Hyatt published his New York Times bestseller Platform:  Get Noticed in a Noisy World.  The blog you are reading now was built on what I learned in this book.

In January 2010, I sat in on a webinar where a man laid out a social media strategy.  Until that day, I thought that Twitter was ridiculous.  I believed that the ROI on a social media strategy equated to wasted time.  I listened to this man spend an hour describing the benefits of having a social media strategy.  That hour changed things for me.

As I write this post, I have 2,677 followers on Twitter.  I have 1,502 business connections on LinkedIn.  I have 2,698 ‘friends’ on Facebook.  I don’t share this to boast.  I simply want you to know what is possible.  I am certainly not a celebrity.  What I have done is execute a plan, and it has worked.

When I read Platform in July of this year, it had the same effect on me as did the webinar on social media.  I finally understood the importance of blogging in conjunction with these other social media tools.

So what is a platform?  It is something that you stand on to be noticed above the crowd.  It provides visibility.  It allows for the amplification of a message.  It facilitates a connection between the messenger and the audience.  I don’t care if you have a product or service to sell or a cause to promote, you need a platform.  If this describes you – and it does – this book is for you.

The social media revolution makes this even more important.  Consider these statistics:

  • 14% of people trust traditional advertising (that is an incredible figure!)
  • 18% of TV ads generate a positive Return on Investment (ROI)
  • 90% of people skip ads if they have a DVR/TiVo
  • 78% of people trust recommendations from connections via social media
  • 70% of people trust recommendations from strangers via social media (wow!)

Michael Hyatt has been blogging for over 8 years and has built a truly world-class platform.  He shares with the reader what he has learned in that time from his success and failures.  The book is laid out in 60 short chapters that cover the following 5 steps to build an effective platform.

  1. Start With Wow – He uses a quote in the book that says great marketing simply makes a bad product fail faster.  The idea is you must have great content.  Wow your audience!
  2. Prepare to Launch – This is the preparation for launching your platform.  He covers everything from thinking bigger, to defining your goals, to setting up your tools.
  3. Build Your Home Base – This is the section of his book where he really dives into blogging.  How to blog.  How to write posts faster. How to avoid common mistakes.  This section has been invaluable to me as I launched my blog in September.
  4. Expand Your Reach – This section is all about how to build your audience.  It is full of sage advice and helpful tips that I use on a regular basis.
  5. Engage Your Tribe – Social media is a phone conversation – not a mega-phone.  The entire idea is to build and then engage your audience.  In this section, Hyatt shares with you all he has learned in building a platform that has over 300,000 unique visitors to his blog every month.

This is now a reference book for me.  It is highlighted and underlined.  I have notes written in it everywhere.  It is also the one book that I’ve loaned out and actually made sure I got back.  What I love most about it is the 3-5 page chapters.  Whatever I have a question about, I can grab this off the shelf and quickly find the answer.

This book needs to be on your shelf as well.  Here is where you can order it – Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World (affiliate link).

So let me hear from you.  Have you read it?  What did you learn?  What could a larger platform help you accomplish?

Technology and App Review: IFTTT

Do you remember when you were a kid?  That feeling you got when you walked into the candy store?  Or the toy store?

I remember when I enlisted in the Marine Corps.  I owned a 1994 Honda Accord.  It was a great car.  I knew it would be a couple of years before I would see it again so I sold it.  I also sold my Takamine (it’s an acoustic guitar).  It was beautiful.  When I arrived at the language school in Monterey, CA, I had no car and no guitar.  I did have a wad of cash, though.

My entire life I’d wanted a Taylor guitar (I have a 1959 Gibson J45 with a J200 neck now – awesome!).  Like it was yesterday, I remember what it felt like to walk in that music store on Alvarado St. knowing that I was leaving with a Taylor.

I’m being a bit hyperbolic, but I am just about that excited with my new discovery.  Let me introduce you to IFTTT!

IFTTT:  If This Then That

The idea of this website is to allow users to create if-then automated tasks between multiple social media platforms.  If This happens Then That happens.  Got it?  Let me give you a popular example:

  • If Facebook profile picture changes, then update Twitter profile picture.
  • If you are tagged in a photo on Facebook, then it will be sent to Dropbox

Can you see the possibilities?  The Grovo Blog calls it “programming for dummies.”

Vocabulary

  • Channels – channels are the building blocks of IFTTT and are the social media platforms themselves – like Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, Evernote, Dropbox, etc.  They currently support 53 “channels.”
  • Triggers – triggers are the ‘This’ in the ‘If This Then That’ formula.  It is what must happen first.
  • Action – action is the ‘That’ in the ‘If This Then That’ formula.  It is the effect in the cause and effect relationship.
  • Recipe – the recipe is the connection that is made when you put the above together.  Here is a screenshot from the IFTTT website.

How to Get Started

The user experience of IFTTT can’t be much better.  It is clean and simple – super easy.  Follow the steps below to get started.  Then get to simplifying your lives!

  1. Create an account – Create a username, enter your email, then your password twice.  About as easy as it gets.
  2. Link Your Channels – Frankly, I was really surprised at how easy this was.  I use 22 of the 53 channels, and I had them all linked in under 5 minutes.  The only one I had problems with was WordPress.  You must enter your URL without “http://” or “www.”  So for me, it was just “bobarron.com.”
  3. Create Recipes Use Other People’s Recipes – OK – you can create your own, but why bother?  According to IFTTT’s blog, over 1,000,000 recipes have been created as of April 30, 2012.  There’s no telling how many there are now.
  4. Search for Your Favorite ‘Channels’ – Since IFTTT is a social site, you can see other people’s recipes.  That is great, but with over a million, a search function is crucial.  The search auto-populates and is super fast – like a Google search.  As I love Evernote, I did a quick search to find that there are 3,999 recipes.  Kid in a candy store!

A Few Notes

I want to highlight a couple other points.  At the end of Sept ’12, Twitter shut down IFTTT’s ability to use Twitter as a trigger. Again, a trigger is the ‘if then’ part of the formula.  Twitter can still be the ‘then that’ part.  Essentially, you can not use IFTTT to auto-respond for you every time someone follows you or retweets you.  As I don’t particularly like the canned thank you ‘DM’ (direct message), not a biggie for me.

Google+ is not a channel.  I’m not sure why that is, but there are workarounds using other channels like Hootsuite.

Verdict

I’m excited.  I think there are some great efficiencies to be had here – especially with Evernote and Dropbox.  I plan on exploring more of this in the coming weeks.  I also think that as IFTTT gains a broader base of users, the recipes will expand as well.  I easily see many posts in the future along the lines of “Best 10 IFTTT recipes for Evernote.”

I’d like to hear from you!  Had you heard of IFTTT before?  If so, what are some of your favorite recipes?

The Day I Followed and Disagreed with Brian Tracy

About a year ago, I had the privilege of speaking at the national Sperry Van Ness convention in San Diego.  I’d never been to San Diego – that town rocks!  I was to speak on how to use LinkedIn to connect with prospects and aid in prospecting.  I have spoken at the Sperry Van Ness convention a couple of times before – always on some aspect of Social Media.

FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was to speak after lunch.  Right before lunch, the best-selling author and prolific speaker Brian Tracy spoke.  He gave a fantastic keynote on goals.  It was the best I’d ever heard on that subject.  However, at some point in his speech, he basically said that social media had no place in sales.  You might get known, but you’d be known and broke.  I felt 200 pairs of eyes turn and look at me – at least it felt that way.

I disagree with Brian Tracy, but he is also exactly right.  I’ve never made a sale directly from a tweet.  That may never happen.  You make a mistake when you make the means the end.  Social Media is a means to connect, build relationships, and add value.  Social Media is about connecting as humans – having an impact on someone.  Chris Brogan has a new book coming out called The Impact Equation that makes this point.

Over the past month, I’ve connected with @theBrokerList.  TheBrokerList.com is the idea of Linda Day Harrison, and is the first online CRE broker directory – very cool.  (Go ahead and stop reading this post and check it out.)  We actually spoke on the phone yesterday.  It turns out that she married into a family that is from where I went to college.  My mom is from her hometown, and I have a brother living there now.

I now like Linda on a personal level.  See how that works?  On a professional level, I am going to do some guest blogging on www.theBrokerList.com.  This helps her by bringing attention and fresh content to her site.  It helps me by giving me exposure to her viewers.  Now that I know her a bit and like her, I want to help her.

This is the power of connecting with a person versus generating retweets.  I tell stories in my blog posts because I want readers to connect with me on a personal level.  All of life is about relationships – relationships with your spouse, your family, your boss, your employees.  Business is about building relationships with prospects, earning the right to call them clients, serving them until you become a trusted advisor, and on….

Social Media is simply a new and trendy vehicle to accomplish the same end:  connecting with people.  I now find it ironic that I follow Brian Tracy (@briantracy) on Twitter.  He sells too much there – hehe.

How do you use Social Media to connect with people?  To build relationships?  To add value to people’s lives?  When do you make the means the end?  When was the last time you checked your Klout score?