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Powerful, persuasive content is essential for effective branding.

I write about it here on The Branded Content Blog.

The Branded Content Blog

Branded Content Blog

Powerful, persuasive content is essential for effective branding. I write about it here on The Branded Content Blog. The Branded Content BlogMake Your Content a Priority. I Certainly Will. facebooktwitterlinkedin

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Improving Car Buyer Trust with F&I Transparency

Improving Car Buyer Trust with F&I Transparency

Improving car buyer trust with F&I transparency is critical to the success of any car dealership, especially with customer access to the bullhorn of social media. In this article, Copybrander founder Lance Gurganus introduces background information on F&I (Finance and Insurance) Managers and the challenges dealerships face in changing customer perception and building trust in this important position.

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The Need for Final Expense Insurance is Already Here

The Need for Final Expense Insurance is Already Here

The saying goes, “two things in life are guaranteed, death and taxes.” Unfortunately, the costs to the surviving family after the death of a loved one can be a significant financial burden.This is where savvy insurance agents and advisors can step-in to help their clients protect themselves when they need it most with final expense insurance. In this article, writer and 18-year veteran insurance pro, Lance Gurganus, introduces final expense insurance. This is an important discussion about what it is, why it’s needed, who needs it, and why insurance agents and brokers need to be offering final expense insurance plans to their clients.

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Federal Law Prohibits Insuring Marijuana Farms Burning in California Wildfires

Federal Law Prohibits Insuring Marijuana Farms Burning in California Wildfires

This is a sad example of what happens when State Law runs smack into the brick wall of Federal bureaucracy. California law says they’re legal, but existing Federal law prohibits insuring marijuana farms burning in California wildfires throughout the state. It’s a particularly challenging situation for the nearly 15,000 marijuana farms in California. Their crop, marijuana, is listed as a Schedule I controlled substance by the DEA (US Drug Enforcement Agency). So, technically, it doesn’t matter that states like California have legalized it because the Federal Government won’t recognize the state law. So anything that is regulated by the Feds, from insurance to banking to mail, becomes a problem for these businesses.

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Improving Car Buyer Trust with F&I Transparency

Improving Car Buyer Trust with F&I Transparency

Anyone who has ever bought a new or used vehicle from a car dealer has most likely dealt with the F&I Manager or their department. F&I or finance and insurance Managers are an essential position in an auto dealership.

Introduction to the F&I Manager Position

Unfortunately, the subjects of finance and insurance tend to complicate anything they touch. And not just in car sales. As I’ve often explained to new insurance agents and advisors over the years, “keep it simple, complexity leads to confusion and mistrust.”

The F&I department is no stranger to this issue. Which is why, after writing about it for years, I decided to create an overview on improving car buyer trust with F&I transparency along with an introduction to the F&I Manager position.

What is the F&I Department?

In the world of car sales, the F&I department plays a critical role in the successful operation of auto dealerships.

The primary function of the F&I Manager is controlling the sales process through vehicle delivery. A car salesperson handles the initial steps in the sales cycle and eventually helps a buyer pick out the type of vehicle, colors, and options, but the F&I Manager handles everything else.

Job Duties of the F&I Manager:

  • Control the Sales Process – Once a buyer commits to purchase a vehicle, the F&I Manager will step in to handle the rest of the sale.
  • Secure Financing – F&I Managers act as middlemen between the bank or financing company and the car buyer. Experienced managers will work with banks to find the best rates for their buyers based on their credit rating.
  • Add-on Products and Service Sales – The F&I Department directly influences a considerable number of departments and profit centers in a dealership. From warranty and vehicle service plans to value-added after-market products such as truck bed-liners.
  • Handle Vehicle Delivery – the F&I Manager is also responsible for the sales documentation, along with making sure the right vehicle gets delivered to the customer.

Since every car buyer eventually ends up in the F&I Manager’s office, the job they do has the potential to influence the opinion of every customer that buys from a dealership.

Industry Best Practices

F&I is an important position. So how do auto dealerships maintain impeccable standards and the use of industry best practices within the dealership F&I Department? After all, one bad day for an F&I Manager can haunt a dealership on social media for months or years.

Profit Motivations of F&I Managers

It’s no secret that F&I Managers are often the highest-paid dealership employee behind sales managers or owners.

The F&I Manager position involves hard work. But the pay level also lends additional insight into the importance of this job within the dealership operation.

According to salary and income website, payscale.com, F&I Managers have the potential to earn a significant income.

Average F&I Manager Income

  • F&I Manager annual pay ranges from $33,346 to $145,461. That includes salary, bonus, profit-sharing, and commissions. (Payscale, Average F&I Manager Salary.)
  • Experience directly influences annual income ranges for F&I Managers. The national average salary increases to $83,000 annually when it factors in the amount of expertise. (Payscale, Average F&I Manager Salary.)

We’ve covered the various job duties, income, and strategic role of the F&I department. Now let’s discuss how to improve the transparency of the F&I process to help improve car buyer trust.

 

Fundamental Distrust

The profit motivations of F&I Managers are frequent discussion topics throughout the internet, especially in scenarios where disgruntled customers feel slighted by their buying experience.

Unfortunately, this leaves the F&I manager in a vulnerable position that could negatively impact both sales and the performance of other departments within the dealership.

If the customers of a business have a fundamental distrust of the sales process, then that business won’t survive.

Skepticism and Mistrust

Your customers need to trust that you have only their best interests in mind. Otherwise, they will find someone that does.

When that trust doesn’t exist, the relationship is adversarial. Everything you do or say meets skepticism and mistrust of your real intentions. It also removes loyalty from the sales equation.

Service-Driven Customer Loyalty

Without customer loyalty, you are essentially turning your business into a commodity operation. Competing solely on price might work for Amazon, but car dealerships need service-driven customer loyalty to remain profitable.

So how do you fix this? You can talk all you want about how building car buyer trust is your goal, but words are cheap.

You need transparency in the dealership sales process, including F&I, before you can build trust with customers.

F&I Manager Transparency

The F&I department handles complicated finance issues for a dealership. As I mentioned above, anytime you complicate something it adds a level of mystery for customers. Unfortunately, that can also lead to a general distrust of the entire process. People don’t trust things that seem overly complicated or takes a lot of time to understand.

F&I Manager Transparency can be accomplished in several ways:

  • Utilization of new advancements in technology and equipment, such as transactional video recording.
  • Introduce customer training to focus on the needs of the customer. Servant leadership training is an excellent resource for this.
  • Management should include the F&I Manager in future discussions about incentivizing bonus and compensation plans. You might be surprised by the quality of the ideas generated.
  • Create behind the scenes videos, explanation videos, and “how things work” long-form content, similar to this article, to show customers how everything works at the dealership.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of your customer and anticipate their questions and points of confusion. Then create content to answer those questions before they even set foot in the dealership.

Focus on What Makes Money

In any sales compensation structure, employees quickly learn to focus on the activities needed to earn the most income.

Thus, if you tie your F&I Manager’s pay and future employment prospects to product sales metrics, then increased product sales is what you will get.

Protecting the F&I Manager’s Income

If the F&I Manager has nothing to gain out of a particular sale, they can easily adjust the terms. Fortunately, most F&I managers look at the bigger picture and do what’s right for both the customer and the dealership.

Motivating your employees to do what’s right for the customer is essential to your success — unfortunately, many dealerships design F&I compensation without understanding all the possible outcomes. So protecting the F&I manager’s income becomes a source of contention instead of motivation.

For example, let’s say you had a customer with bad credit that turns down every product sale offered. In this situation, the F&I Manager might be less motivated to close the deal when they consider the extra work required and the negative impact on their PVR (per vehicle retailed) ratio.

Safeguard the Integrity of the Sales Process

Many experienced F&I Managers have workarounds and other techniques to pull from to put the customer in a car without taking a hit to their income or performance numbers. Newer managers don’t have that skills set built yet. Either way, it shouldn’t be an issue in the first place.

That’s why it’s crucial to Implement various transparency steps to safeguard the integrity of the sales process. Otherwise, how would a dealership know that this was happening?

TRAINING TIP:

Transactional Video Recording offers dealerships an additional safeguard to protect the sales process and build employee integrity. For example, your F&I manager may have ideas for solutions that can save deals like the above example, without the negative income aspect. Video provides an additional benefit since the F&I manager can show examples of situations where their ideas would work in real-time.

F&I Manager Tips and Tactics:

  • Understand compliance requirements and be the F&I expert for the dealership.
  • Be aware of their profit goals for the dealership while also protecting the interests of the buyer.
  • Control and guide the sale through the dealership.
  • Be accessible to sales staff to answer questions that might help them close the buyer before they reach your office.


TRAINING TIP:

Ask your manager to practice their F&I presentation and sales process while on camera. Invite them to do this alone until they start to feel more comfortable with the process. Then you can slowly introduce other dealership staff to review videos but only allow positive feedback. A poorly executed or ill-timed joke, regardless of the intent, has the potential to destroy any progress you’ve made. Eventually, your employees should be more comfortable on camera.

Consequences of Inaction are Far Worse

Achieving real transparency in your sales and F&I process is possible only with the buy-in from every employee. That takes time to introduce and train properly. Without it, the essential trust aspect will always be missing from your organization.

The consequences of inaction are far worse than the perceived costs associated with the time and resources necessary to implement a program such as this.

Any unhappy customer can broadcast their negative opinion of your business via the public bullhorn of social media. The reputation damage can take months to fix and cost thousands of dollars in missed sales.

Improving Car Buyer Trust with F&I Transparency

Trust is critical for business success in any industry. That’s why improving car buyer trust with F&I transparency is the keystone of a solid foundation of any size dealership.

Transparency is always a good thing.

And a happy customer will provide you with many years of continued business and priceless word-of-mouth advertising.

The Need for Final Expense Insurance is Already Here

The Need for Final Expense Insurance is Already Here

The Need for Final Expense Insurance is Already Here

The saying goes “two things in life are guaranteed, death and taxes.” Unfortunately, the costs to the surviving family after the death of a loved one can be a significant financial burden.

This is where savvy insurance agents and advisors can step-in to help their clients protect themselves when they need it most with final expense insurance.

What is Final Expense Insurance?

It’s a whole or permanent type life insurance policy with a smaller benefit amount, usually from $5,000 to $40,000. The lower benefit makes it more affordable for older consumers to cover end-of-life expenses like a funeral and burial related costs.

These days it’s not unusual to hear about people outliving their life insurance policies. Unfortunately, most insurance carriers won’t issue new life policies beyond age 75 or 80.

Final Expense Insurance fills this void with issuable age ranges from 40 to 90 years (or older in some cases).

Differences Between Life and Final Expense Insurance

As morbid as this subject may seem, introducing clients to final expense insurance coverage is no different than discussing standard life insurance. If anything, the need is much greater due to the age ranges of the intended audience.

The primary differences between life and final expense insurance coverages are smaller benefit amounts, a much broader consumer audience, and a more straightforward application process.

How so? Let’s review some features and benefits of final expense insurance products:

  • A simplified issue whole life policy.
  • Benefits available from $5,000 to $40,000 (or more depending on the insurance carrier).
  • Easy application process, no health exam necessary.
  • Rate and benefit locked in for the life of the policy.
  • Issuable age range from 40 to 90-years-old (or higher in some cases).
  • Affordable rates due to a smaller benefit amount.

To understand the importance of these types of insurance plans, one only needs to look at the specific reason for the smaller benefit amount — funeral costs.

Death Costs Have Spiraled Out of Control

Death in the United States is an expensive event without even considering all the legal and estate issues involved. So, let’s talk about the actual funeral by itself for a moment.

The NFDA (National Funeral Directors Association) estimates the median cost of a funeral with viewing and burial at $7,360. When you add in the burial vault, which is required in many states, the median cost of a funeral is $8,508. These statistics are current through 2016 and the most recent available when this document was published in 2019.

Please keep in mind that these median costs will also vary depending on the area of the country where you live. For example, downtown Los Angeles will have higher average funeral costs than the suburbs of Pittsburgh.

As death costs have spiraled out of control, insurance carriers saw a need for older Americans to protect themselves and their families from these end of life expenses. Unfortunately, obtaining a life insurance policy above age 65 is often cost prohibitive. Final expense insurance seeks to resolve this with smaller benefit amounts and more affordable rates.

More than one-third of adults are concerned with leaving others to pay for their funeral expenses. With many older Americans on a fixed income, the burden of these funeral costs will ultimately fall on their children or extended family. Nobody wants to be the cause of added financial stress, especially when their family is already dealing with the emotional turmoil from the death of a loved one. Final expense insurance can play a part in helping your clients protect their families from this happening.

The Final Expense Insurance Market

Clearly the need for final expense insurance is already here, but what about the market for this product?

With a target audience of older Americans, the final expense insurance market is one of the fastest growing segments of our population.

It should be no surprise to any insurance agent or advisor that the United States is an aging country. These days, it seems like everybody is talking about Baby Boomers getting older. What you don’t hear discussed very often, however, is their children, the Generation X’ers. Just like their parents, they are getting older too.

Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers is the generation name attributed to the massive increase of children born during the period after World War II.

  • Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964.
  • At their peak in 1999, Baby Boomers numbered 78.8 million.
  • As of 2017, Baby Boomers range in age from 53 to 71.

Generation X

The children of Baby Boomers make up the majority of Generation X. They are sometimes also called the “Baby Bust” due to their much lower birth numbers or the “Forgotten Generation” from living in the shadow of their Baby Boomer parents.

  • Generation X children were born between 1965 and 1980.
  • There are 65.8 million “Gen X’ers,” but they are expected to be a larger population group than the Baby Boomers by 2028.
  • As of 2017, Generation X’ers range in age from 37 to 52.

An Incredible Opportunity

Together these two generations make up a huge population group of nearly 145 million people. This represents an incredible opportunity for insurance agents and advisors to help these families protect themselves from the burden of end of life expenses. The perfect products to handle this are life insurance and final expense insurance plans.

What about Millennials? We keep hearing everybody talking about them. Isn’t our country getting younger? Unfortunately, no. According to the US Census Bureau, “older population” is considered anybody above the age of 65. Back in 1970, that was 9.8% of our population. In 2010, the older Americans group increased to 13.7%. Now it’s growing at a much faster rate. By 2030 older Americans will make up 20.3% of the US population. And 2050 will have an estimated 83.7 million people older than 65.

Annual Death Numbers are Increasing

Sadly, as more people get older, their annual death numbers are increasing. In 2017, there were 2,813,503 deaths in the United States (the latest year stats are available). An increase of 69,255 deaths over 2016. Deaths result in funerals. And funerals cause the end of life expenses that many families need help paying.

The market and the need for final expense insurance is already here. It represents a unique opportunity for the right financial advisors and insurance agents.

Your Focus is Local

The potential market numbers for final expense insurance might sound massive and overwhelming when taken as a whole. But your focus is local and regional customers that are your part of this broader market. Your backyard is filled with consumers that need your insurance expertise.

Even in 2019, it’s relatively rare for insurance agents and financial advisors to be licensed in all fifty states and operate a colossal website serving a national customer base. If this is your goal, great. But you need to start somewhere. So focus on the untapped market in your local community.

The Need for Final Expense Insurance is Already Here

A quick refresher on insurance market statistics from LIMRA’s 2018 Insurance Report:

  • People Need Information: Half of all adults visited a life insurance company website for information on life insurance in 2017. How many of these consumers would have preferred dealing with a local insurance agent or advisor?
  • Online is Popular: 1 in 3 adults either purchased or attempted to purchase life insurance online in 2017.
  • People Don’t Have Enough Insurance: Among the adults with life insurance, about 1 in 5 say they don’t have enough.
  • Insurance Costs are Still a Mystery: Nearly everyone thinks life insurance is much more expensive than the actual cost — especially younger generations. Millennials overestimate the cost of life insurance at FIVE TIMES the actual amount.
  • Most People Don’t Like Needles: Surprise! Those visits by paramed nurses at home or work are still not popular with consumers. Half of all adults say they are more likely to purchase life insurance if it’s priced without a physical examination. Which means most of the consumers you talk to are going to like the simplified underwriting aspects of final expense insurance plans.

The market and the need for final expense insurance is already here. It represents a unique opportunity for the right financial advisors and insurance agents.

Federal Law Prohibits Insuring Marijuana Farms Burning in California Wildfires

Federal Law Prohibits Insuring Marijuana Farms Burning in California Wildfires

Federal Law Prohibits Insuring Marijuana Farms Burning in California Wildfires

This is a sad example of what happens when State Law runs smack into the brick wall of Federal Law. Current Federal law prohibits insuring marijuana farms burning in California Wildfires.

It’s a particularly challenging situation for the approx 15,000 marijuana farms in California. Their crop, marijuana, is listed as a Schedule I controlled substance by the DEA (US Drug Enforcement Agency). So, technically, it doesn’t matter than states like California have legalized it. Because the Federal Government won’t recognize the state law making it legal, anything that is regulated by the Feds becomes a problem for these businesses.

So, for example, in this situation none of these farms can buy insurance to protect themselves. They can insure their buildings and their homes, but not their crops, which is by far their largest investment.

Wait a minute, if the state has legalized marijuana to be grown and sold, then why does the Federal Government have anything to do with this? Why can’t they buy insurance? Because financial institutions like banks and insurance companies have Federal oversight and can’t operate in violation of Federal law.

Another problem that marijuana farms and business are experiencing is with banking. Similar to the insurance problem, these businesses are having issues because most banks won’t accept their cash and deposits. Trying to run a business without a bank checking account is extremely difficult.

These are just a few examples of the many problems these businesses are experiencing. Regardless of your views about marijuana, it makes sense to level the playing field as far as businesses are concerned.

Federal law prohibits insuring marijuana farms burning in California Wildfires, so now these farm owners are watching their business and life savings being wiped out by fire. It doesn’t have to be that way. If states are legalizing marijuana, then the DEA and Congress should be allowing these businesses to also be in compliance with Federal laws.

This could be an easy solution. All it takes is the DEA and Congress changing marijuana from a Schedule I controlled substance. It has been listed as a Schedule I drug since President Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substances act back in 1970. The Nixon administration didn’t know where it should put marijuana on the substance list. So it added it as a Schedule I.

It’s time to change or at least update this nearly 50-year-old law.

Federal Law Prohibits Insuring Marijuana Farms Burning in California Wildfires

http://fox6now.com/2017/10/15/nobody-has-insurance-california-wildfires-burning-up-marijuana-farms/“Nobody has insurance:” California wildfires burning up marijuana farms | FOX6Now.com MENDOCINO COUNTY, California — Deadly wildfires in Northern California are burning up marijuana farms in the so-called Emerald Triangle.

Blazes have destroyed a number of farms in Mendocino County right before legal recreational sales begin in California.

Cannabis business owners who lose their crops have little reprieve.

“Nobody right now has insurance,” said Nikki Lastreto, secretary of the Mendocino Cannabis Industry Association. “They might have insurance on their house, but not on their crop.”

Cannabis cultivators cannot insure their businesses because federal law prohibits marijuana, which means that financial institutions can’t go near it.

Derek Peterson, CEO of Terra Tech, which grows and sells marijuana in California, estimates that farmers typically invest upward of $5 million in their facilities and as much as $3 million on growing the crop itself.

“If their facilities burn down, a lot of these people won’t be able to get any economic relief for them from an insurance claim,” Peterson said. “There’s no mechanism for recovery to repay them for their loss. It’s a tremendous risk for these people.”

Josh Drayton, spokesman for the California Cannabis Industry Association, said it’s too early to tell just how many of the state’s estimated 10,000 to 15,000 marijuana farms have burned down.

The 22 wildfires currently raging through California have killed 23 people, with hundreds missing, and burned 170,000 acres along with thousands of homes and businesses. The seasonal wildfires have gotten worse in California in recent years, and this isn’t the first time pot farms have gone up in smoke.

Medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996, and recreational marijuana was approved by referendum in 2016. The retail market for recreational marijuana opens on January 2018, and state officials are still working on how it will be regulated and taxed.

Sales totaled $2.8 billion last year, based on medical marijuana alone, according to New Frontier Data.

6 in 10 People Share Social Media Posts Without Reading

6 in 10 People Share Social Media Posts Without Reading

6 in 10 People Share Social Media Posts Without Reading

How do you share content? Do you click on it first, read it, then share if you like it? That’s what you want people to think, but is it what you do?

Only you know the answer to this. The rest of the world’s online behavior as a group, however, is something that can be analyzed.

6 in 10 People Share Social Media Posts Without Reading

According to a 2016 study of social media sharing by computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute, 6 in 10 people share social media posts without reading. These statistics are from data on 2.8 million shares.

The simple fact that you clicked on a link to read this puts you in a small crowd.

Which begs the obvious question; do people understand what they’re sharing? For most, the answer is no.

Unscrupulous marketers are getting very clever. They know most people are not reading past the title of posts shared on social media. And they are taking advantage of this. It’s not unusual to see spam advertising in the body of posts that have nothing to do with the title and description.

Not convinced yet? Here are a few real-life examples for you to consider.

70% of Facebook Users Only Read the Headline

To prove this theory, The Science Post, a satirical science news site, conducted its own study. Yes, it is a satire site, but the people who run it are Ph.D.’s and professors. There is some validity to the point they are making, which is that people simply don’t read posts before sharing.

The headline of their fake news post was straight forward, ‘Study: 70% of Facebook Users Only Read the Headline of Science Stories Before Commenting.’ The readers that clicked on the link found a post filled with ‘lorem ipsum’ gibberish. The entire post was nothing.

The scary part? The post is still there and still getting shares. Since February 2017, this fake post has generated 58,700 shares.

In fact, people are sharing it so much that the article is ranking on Google. Search “percentage share content without reading, ” and their fake news post will appear at #5 on the first page.

The people at The Science Post made their point.

Marijuana Contains “Alien DNA”

Here’s another notable example. IFLScience.com wanted to experiment on their own to test this theory. So, they created a completely fake article to see how many shares it could get with nothing but an outrageous headline.

They published Marijuana Contains “Alien DNA” From Outside of Our Solar System, NASA Confirms. In the article, they wrote, “We here at IFLS noticed long ago that many of our followers will happily like, share, and offer an opinion on an article – all without ever reading it.”

As of today, this article has 167,000 thousand shares.

Did You Actually Read This?

Consider this. How many times do you look at comments on a popular or controversial post or article and see somebody ask, ‘did you actually read this?’

It’s an important question because many of the people sharing and not reading are also commenting on these posts. Their comments are based on self-perceived ‘expertise’ instead of the actual contents of the post.

So that guy arguing with you about something you share? He might be right if you didn’t bother to read it first.

Manipulate the Headline to Increase Shares

Here is the more significant issue, at least as far as I see it. This practice isn’t only limited to spam advertisers. Let’s say your goal is to convince somebody to share your post with a certain target audience. If you manipulate the headline to increase shares, then you can fill the post with whatever content you want.

Imagine the embarrassment of sharing a political post that supports a highly controversial view opposite of your own. People will only believe the ‘my account got hacked’ lie a few times before they begin to wonder.

Just because you agree with the title of a social media post, doesn’t mean the content is the same. People need to stop being lazy and click to read before sharing.

Porn and Other Taboo Subjects

And let’s not forget about porn and other taboo subjects.

A buddy of mine recently told me a story about how his wife had shared an ‘interesting’ post without reading it first.

I asked what he meant by ‘interesting.’

He said, ‘well, the post was shared with most of her friends before somebody bothered to click on it. It was filled with ads for hardcore porn.’

I asked why nobody noticed and he said, ‘the post subject was ‘modern family planning techniques,’ and several of her friends had fertility issues. So, they thought they were passing on helpful info.’

Helpful info, indeed.

The Only Way to Fix This Problem

The only way to fix this problem is to stop it at the source. So how do we do that?

  • Before you share anything, simply click and read it first.
  • Don’t assume a post is safe to share by looking at the title and description. Both are easily faked.
  • If a friend or family member shares a post that includes fake news or worse, privately call them out on it. Most people want to know if they are sharing anything that is ‘bad’ or ‘fake’ with the people they know. Don’t embarrass them publicly. Give them a chance to fix it.
  • Look at the source. Be suspicious of any ‘news’ site that you’ve never heard of before or that isn’t considered a mainstream or major media news organization.
  • If the source is not a major news organization, then your chances of sharing fake information are much higher.
  • For example, regardless of what politician is attacking them this week, news organizations like The Wall Street Journal, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, and Fox News all work hard to be accurate in their reporting. Sharing something from these sites is safe.
  • Some former click-bait websites like Buzzfeed are also working hard to clean-up their image. Many people don’t realize that they’ve built an actual news division and filled it with veteran reporters. They are far from perfect, but much better than they used to be.
  • If you are unsure about the accuracy of something you’re reading, there’s a good chance that factcheck.org has reviewed it for accuracy.
  • If you need some more help, factcheck.org also has a video that can help you spot fake news.

As a final note, the folks over at IFLA.org (The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) put together this handy infographic to help spot fake news.

Copybrander Services and Pricing

Copybrander Services and Pricing

At Copybrander, Lance Gurganus creates unique, engaging content at affordable hourly or flat rates to stay within your budget.

Content Writing Services

Articles

Blog Posts

White Papers

Website Content

Sales and Marketing Materials

Direct Response Advertising Campaigns

Email Marketing

Worksite Enrollment Materials

Leave Behind Branded Sales Literature

Social Media Marketing Campaigns

Agent and Agency Content Strategy

Lead Generation Content Design and Campaign Development

Research and Sources

All data, quotes, statistics or related information is verified with links to the source included in documents provided to clients. Occasionally, it may be necessary to obtain data or quotes that are necessary for assignment completion through a personal interview. If so, I always confirm that my client is made aware of the interviewee’s background before contact is initiated. I also always check for any conflicts that may exist between an interviewee and my client prior to initiating contact.

Grammar and Spelling Errors

All content is checked for grammar and spelling errors using Grammarly Premium.

Anti-Plagiarism

Content is also verified for anti-plagiarism using Copyscape Premium.

Final Proofreading

Final proofreading is reviewed and checked by a team of three professionals for writing, grammar, and common insurance compliance issues.

Rates and Pricing of Services

Everybody has heard the saying; you get what you pay for. Unfortunately, the content industry has been deluged with so called “writers” from across the globe that claims to be professional but charges ridiculously low rates. This is not me. I develop long term relationships with my clients by creating high-end, expert level content. I price my services accordingly. I am definitely not the most expensive writer in our industry, nor the least. That said, my clients know that I am flexible with my rates and I always stay within agreed upon budgets.

If you are wondering about cost or affordability, just ask. Send me an assignment outline or even a simple list of project bullet points or ideas. If you have a budget, let me know. If it’s feasible, I will send you back a proposal with my ideas, and we can start doing great things together.

Let’s Talk About Your Content!

Email Lance Gurganus at g@copybrander.com.

5 Ways to Build a Brand and Stay Compliant

5 Ways to Build a Brand and Stay Compliant

5 Ways to Build a Brand and Stay Compliant

5 Ways to Build a Brand and Stay Compliant

As an insurance agent, it is vitally important to build your online brand. Unfortunately, insurance agents have very few things going for them when they decide to do online branding of their business. It may not sound fair, but the reality of the situation is you are a licensed insurance professional. As such you are required to be aware of, understand and comply with rules and regulations of state insurance departments and the insurance carriers that you represent.

The best way to stay compliant? Simply focus on you and your insurance business. And limit your online activity to only positive behavior that promotes you and your brand.

Here are 5 Ways to Build a Brand and Stay Compliant

Tip #1:    Understand Rule and Regulations: As a licensed insurance agent, you need always to be aware of regulations that affect your online activities. That includes rules and regulations for both the carriers that you represent and the state insurance departments in all states where you do business.

Tip #2:    Avoid Vague Unverifiable Public Statements: You may think a simple statement like “my agency represents XYZ Carrier, and their products are the best choice for…” That is a no-no without verifiable proof that XYZ carrier is in fact “the best” at whatever you are saying they are. Both the carrier and your state insurance department could take issue with these statements.

Tip #3:    Never Go Negative Online: On the flip side of this issue is the idea of “going negative.” Never, never, never, never go negative. At best, it makes you look unprofessional and childish. At worst, you could lose your insurance carrier appointments or state insurance license for unethical or unprofessional behavior. The best idea is to simply never to do this. Negative statements are hard to prove. It’s also a violation of most insurance regulations to make negative public statements about other insurance carriers, agents, and their products. Look, there are plenty of trolls out there who love nothing better than to pull random people into fights with them online. Do not do this. The world can see all your activities online and the things you say and do never go away. Ever. So, the next time you are contemplating doing something negative, imagine yourself having to defend your behavior in front of an insurance department licensing panel that is deciding whether or not to let you keep your license. Don’t put yourself in this situation.

Tip #4:    Focus on You: I’ve listed all these things you should not be doing. So, what CAN you do? Stay positive, talk about you, your business and the reasons people should work with you. Your goal with your online branding efforts is to establish you as the expert in your local area. If you want to discuss industry news or events, do so without mentioning carriers, their specific products, other agents or providing specific advice that would normally be discussed privately with a client.

For example, you can talk about all the ways that disability insurance can help people without mentioning specific carriers or product names. You can also mention vague generalities related to pricing as long as you add disclaimers. Better yet, leave that to carrier quoting systems or tell your readers to call or email you for a no obligation, no pressure quote.

Tip #5:    Get Yourself Online:    It’s hard to build an online presence if you aren’t online. You don’t have to be everywhere to accomplish this. Create a free Facebook page for your business. I have one you can check out if you like, it’s @Copybrander on Facebook. Twitter is another free account that you should have. I have one for @Copybrander and another for me @LanceGurganus. LinkedIn is another great resource, especially if you work in the B2B (business to business) market. My username on LinkedIn is simply “Gurganus.” Do you have a website? You should. Do you own your domain? You should. Domains and websites will start to cost you a little money, but it’s so worth it for building your brand online. Just remember, you are building YOUR brand, not insurance carriers. Don’t ever mention any part of an insurance carrier’s name in your online accounts. That’s a sure-fire way to get your account shut down and possibly lose your appointment with the carrier.

Regardless of how you get started online, the important part is just to get started. If an insurance buyer is looking for an agent, how can they find you if you aren’t online? And I’m not talking about having some free listing on the website of one the carriers you represent. Then you get lumped together with all the other people that carrier has contracted with in your area. The idea here is to separate yourself from the pack. Developing your online brand is important. You should never leave that to a cookie cutter website that lumps you in with thousands of other agents.

Start today. Get social media. Get a website. Buy a domain. All of these steps are important, but the most important one is just getting started. Do it now!

And if you liked this, don’t forget to follow-me for more. Simply add your first name and email address in the subscription box at the bottom of this page to get notified whenever I post future nuggets of insurance wisdom like this one.

How to find your work life soundtrack for more happiness

How to find your work life soundtrack for more happiness

How to find your work life soundtrack for more happiness

For as long as I can remember I have listened to music when I did anything like work, study, read or even just doing chores around the house.

Music adds a soundtrack to life. It just seems to make everything… Well, more fun.

When I was a kid, I saw a movie called I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988). It’s a parody film that pokes fun at hero movies of the 70’s. In it, the hero wannabe, Jack Spade, decides to go after the local crime boss, Mr. Big. So, he gets his childhood crime fighting hero, John Slade, to help. When they start walking towards the battle, these musicians suddenly appear behind them.

Jack Spade: [looks at musicians] “Who are these guys?”
John Slade: “They’re my theme music. Every hero’s got to have some.”

The perfect song can make anybody feel like a hero with their own theme music.

Boring repetitive tasks and chores around the house suddenly don’t seem so bad when you’re jamming to some great tunes.

And who doesn’t pump-up the volume when you hit the gym? I may be a mid-40’s Dad, but my gym soundtrack is loaded with Metallica, Motley Crue and various songs from different Rocky movies mixed in. Music sets the mood to workout.

Does Music Hurt Your Productivity While You Work?

What about work? Does music hurt your productivity while you work? Or enhance it? Personally, I believe the right music makes me many times more productive.

I have numerous Spotify playlists that are just for work time. I write content so I’m constantly researching and taking notes. For this I need to focus. I have specific playlists that I can choose for whatever type of work I’m doing. For example, while I’m writing this I’m listening to an instrumental category called Epic Music. It’s a non-vocal, powerful instrumental music genre that’s great for helping me focus and stay productive.

Music with vocals confuses my thought process. Instrumental works great, but only certain types. Old classical tunes put me to sleep.

How did I get hooked on this type of music? Well, a bunch of years ago I started listening to soundtracks to movies that had big battle scenes with instrumental tracks. Like the music from Pirates of the Caribbean and similar films. I’m also a gamer and a big fan of the soundtracks in many of the games that I play.

So, when I stumbled on to epic music on YouTube a few years ago, it was the perfect match. I was looking for music to play while I was gaming on Xbox and most of the artists who make epic music focus on gaming.

My Perfect Work Life Soundtrack

I liked it so much that I decided to listen while I was writing. As soon as I did I realized I had found my perfect work life soundtrack.

Give a listen and see if it works for you. This YouTube video is a Best of Epic Music 2014, one of my favorites.

The sweeping, hard-charging, hyper-aggressive, pump-up soundtrack music that you find in many games today is incredible. Gaming is big business. Many of the soundtracks for more popular franchises like Call of Duty and Halo have entire orchestras that do the soundtracks. It’s awesome stuff.

You can find epic music in many places. One of my favorite non-YouTube work playlists is the Total Dedication gaming playlist on Spotify.

Apparently, I’m not alone in my listening choices for more productive work.

The Relationship Between Music and Productivity

When I started researching this subject, I found an incredible number of studies that have been conducted on the relationship between music and productivity.

These studies verified much of what I had already discovered on my own.

How to Find Your Work Life Soundtrack for More Happiness

#1    Non-vocal music is better for linguist work. Meaning, if you need to type words then don’t listen to music with words. All the studies that I read agreed on this and they are they are spot on. My motivation to switch to non-vocal music happened after I found myself typing the words to songs I was listening to in a whitepaper I was working on. I was tired and the lyrics were getting mixed in with my writing. Non-vocal music is the way to go if you are writing. Or you can just take my advice and go with Epic music.

#2    Music helps people do repetitive work faster and more accurately. If you have something mundane or boring to do that involves repetition, then fire up some music to make it go faster. Highly skilled professionals like surgeons even listen to music in operating rooms to ease stress and help with focus.

#3    Music can also help reduce stress in noisy work environments. According to a 2010 article on noise and concentration in Scientific American Magazine, constant exposure to background noise can cause the release of cortisol in the body. Excess cortisol can impair function in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This is where functions like planning, reasoning, impulse control and even some short-term memories are regulated. Problems with this area of the brain can disrupt a person’s capacity to think clearly and retain memories.

#4    Turn off the music to study. A 2010 study in Applied Cognitive Psychology found that no music or noise is the best choice if you need to learn and retain any kind of knowledge. An interesting side note to this study was the fact that you can improve your mood by listening to your favorite pump-up music before you start studying. Music played while you are reading or studying, however, was a proven distraction in test subjects.

5#    What about new music? Unfortunately, it’s almost always a distraction as your brain focuses on the new music instead of tasks or comprehension. In nearly all situations, choosing music that you’ve heard before is generally the best choice for work.

In the old days, whistling while you work might have been sufficient. Today we have many more options available to us.

Hopefully this post has provided some insight into how to find your work life soundtrack for more happiness and productivity.

How to Catch Errors in the Content Writing Process

How to Catch Errors in the Content Writing Process

How to Catch Errors in the Content Writing Process

I have come to the realization that I notice errors in writing more often than most people. Maybe it’s because I am so critical of my own work, but I find it difficult not to hold it against writers who make amateur mistakes in their final work. Lately, it seems like the errors are becoming more prevalent. To be honest, if you consider yourself a “professional” in the business of writing, then errors just make you look bad. So, I thought I would share some of my ideas on how to catch errors in the content writing process.

Notice I mentioned errors in “final work”. Like many professional writers, all of my writing projects go through production stages. Generally, the stages are first, second, third, proofing and final drafts. At least this is how I do it.

So here are several ideas on how to catch errors in the content writing process before your final work is submitted to a client or posted online.

Free-form First Draft

While I am in the early stages of a writing project, I don’t worry about mistakes. I just free-form everything. In my writing work process stages, I refer to this as a Free-form First Draft. Type, type and more typing. Whatever pops into my head gets typed into the document. By the time I am done with the first draft I usually have much more material than I need.

Cutting, Deleting and Erasing

So, the obvious next part is cutting, deleting and erasing. Everything that doesn’t work or flow how I want, gets cut. I don’t trash those parts though. I cut and paste them into Microsoft One Note for possible use in future projects. This has resulted in enough extra material in One Note to write a few thousand projects. I probably write too much, but it’s something I love to do.

I Prefer One Note to Evernote

As an aside here, I have used Evernote for many years. With the updates that Microsoft made to the latest Microsoft Office in 2016, now I prefer One Note to Evernote. It works seamlessly with Word and the other Office programs like Excel and PowerPoint. There are many note taking apps and programs out there. As long as you use one that works for you, that’s all that matters.

2nd and 3rd Drafts

After I am done with my Free-form First Draft and the cutting phase, I switch gears into editing mode for the 2nd and 3rd drafts. I edit, move, cut, paste, and basically do whatever it takes to make my project flow to my satisfaction.

It’s worth mentioning here that I also never complete anything in one day. I always write and then walk away and do something else. Usually downtime like playing with the kids or clean-up something around the house. Basically, anything to take my mind off the current project. When I’m in downtime mode my mind usually continues thinking about my latest writing project. I have come up with some of my best ideas during these between work down times.

The Proofing Stage

After I have edited everything to my satisfaction, I move on to the proofing stage. This is where I get serious about finding and fixing mistakes. I fire up my Grammarly add-on for Microsoft Word and let it scan everything for errors. Usually it finds at least a few issues that need my attention. For example, I have a habit of writing in passive tense and it catches when I do this. Some passive writing is acceptable, an entire document filled with it is not.

Personally, I believe Grammarly makes me a better writer. It catches mistakes, but it also explains the reasons why there is a possible error. Grammarly isn’t perfect, however, so don’t rely on it exclusively. It’s just a great tool to find and fix nearly all your spelling and grammatical errors. Your own common sense is always going to be your best tool in the proofing stage. If it doesn’t sound right when you read it, then investigate it further for errors.

My Proofing and Editing Crew

The next step is get your writing project reviewed by people you trust. I have a group of friends and family that I affectionately call my proofing and editing crew. It’s made up of my wife and some friends that are good at reviewing and catching errors. Depending on my deadline, I will send my final draft over to each of my proofing crew and ask them to review it with brutal honesty. I want them to find obvious errors like grammar and spelling, but I also like more general feedback. If they hate it or don’t understand the point I’m trying to make, I want them to tell me. That’s the brutally honest part.

This step doesn’t cost you anything and gets the people around you involved in your life’s work. Your friends and family should be more than happy to help you out. A simple email, text or call is usually all it takes. Tell them you would appreciate their help reviewing your writing projects before you post them live. Then move on to something else and give them time to do their thing.

I usually set aside one day in my work process just for the proofing crew. They are doing me a favor and it’s rude to send them something last minute and expect them to drop everything to review your writing project. Give them time to get back to you and your final product will have a much better chance of being perfect.

Internet Trolls

I’m sure most people would agree that it’s much better to get feedback from a friend or family member than a troll. Internet trolls tend to be rude and impolite. They are more interested in embarrassing you publicly than helping you write better. It’s unfortunate that people are like this, but it is what it is. You should expect to run into them at some point. So, don’t give them a reason to target your work by posting error filled projects.

Pay It Forward

In this same line of thinking, don’t you be a troll either. When I find an error in content that I am reading, I will take a few minutes out of my day to email or message the writer privately with something quick and polite. Basically, I say something like “Hey John, I really enjoyed this article, but I found an error in the 3rd paragraph where you typed “and and” so I thought I would mention it. As a fellow writer, I appreciate it when people let me know when I’ve made similar errors. I look forward to reading your next post.” Call it professional courtesy or whatever you like. I know I appreciate when other people have helped me like this over the years, so I pay it forward. I always receive a quick reply thanking me for pointing it out and they fix it. It’s simple and you make a new friend.

How to Catch Errors in the Content Writing Process

Hopefully this brief guide on how to catch errors in the content writing process will help you produce better work. Errors happen, but they don’t have to. Adding these steps to your writing process will improve your writing and build your credibility as a professional content writer.

2017 Marketing Budget Trends by Channel

2017 Marketing Budget Trends by Channel

This article, 2017 Marketing Budget Trends by Channel, should be of interest to anybody in the content marketing business. Marketers are in the midst of impressive spending hikes in 2017 of 56% for social media marketing and 55% for content marketing. This is on top of already impressive hikes in previous years.

Content marketing remains one of the most effective methods to tell your branded story. As we mention often here at Copybrander, people remember a good story. Developing great content is all about storytelling. At Copybrander, we create unique, interesting, and memorable content for the Insurance, Benefits and Technology B2B Markets.

http://www.marketingcharts.com/online/2017-marketing-budget-trends-by-channel-74715/2017 Marketing Budget Trends by Channel Which channels are marketers going to be investing more – and less – in this year? A review of studies from Econsultancy [download page] and Gartner offers a window into marketers’ plans for this year. Hint: social media marketing appears to be ripe for further spending, and enthusiasm around content marketing remains healthy.

The latest Quarterly Intelligence Briefing produced by Econsultancy in association with Adobe asked almost 3,500 company marketers around the world how their spending on various digital marketing channels and disciplines would change this year.

The areas of broadest agreement for spending hikes this year are social media marketing and content marketing, set for increases by 56% and 55% of respondents, respectively. These aren’t surprising given the recent levels of enthusiasm for these channels, but nevertheless the results indicate that such enthusiasm doesn’t seem to be waning. In fact, content marketing and social media engagement emerged as the top digital-related priorities for respondents’ organizations this year.

Close behind, at least half of respondents will increase their spending on personalization (51%), video advertising (50%) and lead generation (50%). Personalization has become a top priority for enterprise organizations as they seek to respond to customers’ changing needs, while video advertising is set for annual increases of almost 20%/. As for lead generation, spending increases in this area are likely going to be made with improved lead quality rather than quantity in mind.

An earlier Gartner study took a look at the spending plans of 377 CMOs in the US (56% share), UK (30% share) and Canada (14% share), 70% of whom come from organizations with at least $1 billion in annual revenue.

The results of that survey indicate that digital advertising has a bright year ahead: a leading 23% of respondents projected a “significant” increase in digital ad spend this year, with another 42% expecting a “slight” increase. All told, then, almost two-thirds expect an increase in digital ad spend, against just 7% decreasing it. (It’s worth noting that digital advertising spend in the US slowed at the end of last year as some large advertisers didn’t see the returns they were expecting. This coincided with some big spenders returning to TV.)

Meanwhile, although social marketing didn’t gain quite as much spending consensus as digital advertising, fully 1 in 5 respondents said they would increase their budgets for social “significantly”. That trailed only digital advertising in terms of “significant” spending hikes, and was still supplemented by another 36% expecting a “slight” increase.

 

Your Odds of Avoiding a Disability

Your Odds of Avoiding a Disability

Surgical-Team-CopybranderAccording to the statistics from the Social Security Administration (SSA), your odds of avoiding a disability actually get worse as you get older. Most people believe their odds improve, but one of the glaring Myths about Disabilities is that most are caused by injuries. This simply isn’t true. Most disability claims are a result of chronic diseases and illness, which afflicts us more as we age. Thus, the increase in disabilities as we get older.

Here are some disability statistics from the US Social Security Administration (SSA) for you to think about:

  • According to statistics from the Social Security Administration (SSA), 30% of 20 year olds will become disabled for 6 months or longer before they retire.
  • If you are 33 to 35 years old, you have a 50% chance of experiencing a 3 month or longer disability before you reach retirement.
  • If you are 45, you have a 44% chance of experiencing a disability of 3 months or longer.
  • So your odds of avoiding a disability from your 30’s to your 40’s range anywhere from a 50/50 shot to slightly higher than 50%. If this was a gambling situation, most people wouldn’t touch that action.
  • Over 37 million Americans (about 12% of the population) is disabled.
  • At the end of 2012 (December 2012), there were 2.5 million disabled workers in their 20s, 30s and 40s receiving SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) benefits. These stats only include people receiving government benefits, not claims for Short Term and Long Term Disability with private insurance carriers.
  • Odds of being involved in a car accident? 1 in 4 or 25% Note: You have a 1 in 4 chance of being involved in a car accident, but only  a .3% chance of being killed in a car accident. So most of us survive car accidents, but it also causes many disability claims.
  • Odds of a woman developing cancer? 1 in 3 or 33%
  • Odds of a man developing cancer? 1 in 4 or 25%  Note:  Regardless of whether you are a Man or a Woman, you have an incredibly high chance of developing this awful, debilitating disease. Working while undergoing daily or weekly chemo treatments is very hard to do. Recovery from invasive surgeries can take weeks or months and are usually followed by chemo or radiation treatments. A disability policy provides an income to allow you to take time off work to focus on your treatment and recovery.
  • Odds of being disabled from a heart attack or stroke? 1 in 3 or 33%  Note:  Over 80 million Americans suffer from heart disease and it is the leading cause of death and disabilities each year.  If you survive a stroke or heart attack, the recovery process can take months or years.

Your Odds of Avoiding a Disability

Banana Peel Accident - CopybranderClearly, your odds of avoiding a disability are not in your favor. Unfortunately, the same people who know how important it is to protect themselves, their families and businesses, don’t bother to get Disability Insurance to protect their income. Think of it as income protection insurance. If you don’t protect your income, your cash flow will disappear if you experience a debilitating injury or illness and are unable to work.

So why isn’t disability insurance as popular as other plans like life insurance? The main reason is most people just don’t understand disability plans, how they work or how affordable policies are. There are many more variables to consider with disability coverage, so it takes longer to apply and buy it.

Buying Disability Insurance?

So what is my next step if I’m interested in buying Disability Insurance? Well the first step is to request a quick disability insurance quote to see where your premium cost is and how that compares to your budget. You can find good online agents that offer disability insurance coverage. Just be sure to check them out with your state department of insurance to confirm that they’re licensed, how long they’ve been licensed and also that they don’t have any enforcement actions pending against them. You can also check consumer sites like Yelp to determine if there are complaints about that agent. Or better yet, get a referral from somebody you trust.

Forbes is Stretching the Term Self-Made with Their Latest Women Billionaires List

Forbes is Stretching the Term Self-Made with Their Latest Women Billionaires List

Forbes is Stretching the Term Self-Made with Their Latest Women Billionaires List

I would never, in a million years, attempt to minimize the hard work that it takes to become a billionaire. I get it. Most people in business work hard and self-made billionaires are obviously no exception to that rule. Unfortunately, I believe Forbes is stretching the term Self-Made with their latest Women Billionaires List. It’s almost as if they wanted to pad the list to make it appear larger. 

Clearly this is just my opinion. But doesn’t it take away from the Sara Blakely’s of the world when you add Marian Illitch to the same list?

She Epitomizes the Very Concept of “Self-Made”

Sara BlakelySara Blakely is the founder of Spanx. Her story is well known because she epitomizes the very concept of “self-made”. Blakely founded Spanx after cutting the feet out of her pantyhose to make, in her words, “her butt look better in white pants”. Then she took $5,000 she had saved from selling fax machines door-to-door and launched her business. It was just her convincing a skeptical world to buy into an entirely new women’s clothing category that she had invented. And her hard work turned her into a billionaire. That, to me, is impressive.

And everybody knows Oprah Winfrey’s story. Her picture should be next to the words “self-made” in the dictionary. Other women on the list like Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook) and Meg Whitman (eBay) are also impressive and deserve to be in the “self-made” category.

The Little Caesar’s Pizza Chain

But now we come back to the story of Marian Illitch. Her husband, Mike Illitch, is the fabled Detroit businessman who took his life savings to start the Little Caesar’s Pizza chain. He built it into an empire, eventually adding sports teams like the Detroit Redwings and the Detroit Tigers. Sadly he died in February of this year (2017). Most of his obituaries started with “Little Caesars Pizza founder Mike Illitch has died…”

According to Forbes, the definition of a woman self-made billionaire is a woman who is not wealthy because of who she married or who she has in her family tree.

So by their own definition, Forbes should never have even considered Marian Illitch for this list. How can she be on the same list as other true “self-made billionaire’s” as Oprah Winfrey, Sara Blakely (Spanx), Meg Whitman (eBay) and Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook).

The Idea of Being Self-Made is a Big Deal with Entrepreneurs

If you are attempting to stay true to the concept of self-made billionaire then Marian Illitch should never have made the list. The idea of being self-made is a big deal with entrepreneurs. Do you think any of us care what Sam Walton’s kids are doing? Or who his wife was? Nope. But Sam Walton is somebody that most of us have read about extensively. His story is inspiring. As is many of the self-made billionaire’s on the Forbes list.

Which is why it annoys entrepreneurs when you toss somebody on a list of “self-made billionaires” that really shouldn’t be there. It takes away from the impressive backstories of the people that should be on that list. We understand the hard work and sacrifices they made because we go through the same things every day. It’s why we can relate to other entrepreneurs but not people with “day jobs”.

It’s also why we even bother to read the Forbes Magazine annual ranking of the world’s billionaires. Many of their stories are inspiring and motivational.

After all, building a billion-dollar empire from scratch is an impressive feat. Inheriting it, not so much.

http://www.inc.com/guadalupe-gonzalez/self-made-women-billionaires-2017.htmlMeet the Self-Made Women Billionaires of the World | Inc.com There are 56 self-made women billionaires in the world according to a new list released by Forbes on International Women’s Day. And while the number pales in comparison to the hundreds of self-made male billionaires, Forbes’ data shows that women are increasing their wealth at a rapid rate.

The number of self-made women billionaires has “more than doubled” since 2009. In the past year alone, 15 women–or 26 percent–became self-made billionaires.

They are also the richest they have ever been. According to the publication, the total wealth among self-made women billionaires “increased 50 percent in the past five years.”

The list includes some well-known names: Oprah (No. 11), Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg (No. 42), Spanx’s Sara Blakely (No. 48) and Marian Ilitch (No. 2), who owes her fortune largely to the Little Caesars pizza chain she started with her late husband.

 

Own Occupation vs Any Occupation Disability Definition

Own Occupation vs Any Occupation Disability Definition

I spent over a decade as an insurance broker and employee benefits specialist meeting with thousands of employees and companies of all sizes. Over the years, one of the most popular policies that I sold was disability insurance. Unfortunately, disability coverage is easily misunderstood due to the complexity of the policy. This makes it harder for newer agents to learn all the aspects of the policies. At my brokerage, one of the issues that I emphasized not only in agent training but also in my own sales presentations was the subject of own occupation vs any occupation disability definitions.

Confused-About-Disability-Copybrander

Confused about disability insurance?

Own Occupation vs Any Occupation Disability Definition

Ultimately an insurance policy is made up of the definitions, clauses, exclusions and benefits that an insurance carrier decides to build into the policy that eventually gets sold to policyholders. The better carriers are very specific about coverage and they focus on those specifics with the agents that sell their policies. One of the more important definitions in a disability policy is how the carrier defines the definition of work that you will return to after you have recovered from a disability. This is referred to as “own occupation vs any occupation disability definition”.

What does this mean? It’s basically the meaning of how the carrier classifies the work that you can return to.

  • “Own Occupation” means you will continue to receive disability benefits that you are entitled to in your policy until you are able to return to the occupation that you previously worked or a similar position. So an attorney on disability would have to go back to work as an attorney, for example.
  • “Any Occupation” means that your disability will be terminated when you are able to return to work as any occupation. So that attorney will lose his or her disability insurance benefits whenever they are cleared to return to work to any kind of position. Not a good situation if you are unable to work as an attorney because of an eye injury, but your disability insurance carrier discontinues your benefits because your doctor has cleared you to work answering telephones in a telemarketing office.

Any guess as to which policy costs less? Exactly. That would be the disability policy that includes the “any occupation” definition.

Less Than Ethical Agents

So why would I emphasize more expensive disability policies with more restrictive “own occupation” definitions? Well, because our policyholders trusted my agents and I to get them the proper coverage that they needed. The insurance industry is loaded with less than ethical agents that sell “any occupation” definition policies and never even tell their policyholders why the policy they are buying is so cheap. By the time the policyholder needs to use the disability coverage, they are surprised to learn that their benefits are minimal and nothing close to what they needed.

Unfortunately, when they call their agent to complain they are also surprised to learn that the agent that sold them the policy is usually no longer an agent. The insurance industry has ridiculously high turnover. It comes with the territory in a 100% commission industry. It’s not the fault of the agents or the carriers, it’s just a tough business. This is why it’s best to choose insurance agents that have been around for more than 2 to 3 years. Once they survive past 3 years, they usually start earning enough to stay in the industry long term.

Cost of Benefits Versus The Premium Cost

So why would an insurance carrier even offer any occupation coverage instead of own occupation? Well, it really comes down to cost of benefits versus the premium cost. This means that if an insurance carrier decides that they want to offer a lower cost disability policy, then they know they have to offer a policy with a more restrictive definition of what they consider to be an eligible disability. This lowers the number of eligible claims and allows them to reduce the premium cost of the policy. It’s relatively complicated to calculate but easy to understand.

Keep in mind that this is not considered shady or underhanded when an insurance company does this. There are actual uses for both types of disability policies. They design the policy a certain way and they include all of this information in the literature and policy documents that they file with the state. The insurance company designed this plan and offered this policy with a specific market in mind. There is nothing unethical about that.

So where do problems occur? It happens on the agent side when they only represent this one insurance company and don’t offer any other types of disability policies. Many times these agents with a limited selection to offer their clients will attempt to sell that one policy as the best available for any type of client.

If the agent is truly interested in representing the best interests of their clients, then they would add additional types of disability coverage to their available product offerings. If they don’t have that option available then they should at least explain the downsides of the type of policy they do sell. That’s basic sales ethics 101.

Restrictive vs Broad Definition

So when would a disability insurance policy with restrictive definitions like “Own Occupation” be considered a good thing? Actually, most of the time. As an insurance broker, I always preferred “Own Occupation” disability plans. This was due to the fact that even if you are just starting out in your chosen career, you still have all of your experience in that type of job. So if you are unable to do that job it would make more sense to receive disability insurance benefits versus being forced to do a lesser job just because of the broader disability definition of other plans. This is where the restrictive vs broad definitions comes into play. The more restrictive definition disability plans are slightly more expensive, but the benefit of “Own Occupation” definition far outweighs the increased cost.

Skilled Workers or Professionals

The own occupation disability plans are very popular with anybody that is considered “skilled” or “professional”. I’m talking about a career path that you learn a specific skill set which pays you a higher income than lesser trained workers. Doctors, Dentists and other medical professionals are a good example of the types of professions that should always buy own occupation disability insurance coverage.

When Should an Insurance Agent Offer Any Occupation Disability Plans? 

Disability plans with a broader definition of disability would be considered “Any Occupation” disability plans. When should an insurance agent offer any occupation disability plans? Usually it would be limited to clients that were very focused on lower premium cost for a disability insurance plan that covered situations that are more catastrophic in nature. For example, a client asks for a short-term disability plan with a two-year benefit amount. This will provide them with an income in the event that they are permanently disabled and need a way to pay their bills during the lengthy two-year SSDI (social security disability insurance) application process. This type of disability coverage would allow an agent to offer higher benefits would lower cost.

So if the client were permanently disabled, this type of disability coverage would be a big help to them. Like I said, there are advantages to a broader definition policy as long as the buyer understands exactly what they are getting.

Specific Uses of Own Occupation Disability Insurance Plan

Dental-CopybranderHere are specific uses of own occupation disability insurance plan to help you better understand how it works. Say, for example, you are a Dentist in your own practice. It’s advisable to purchase a Long Term Disability plan with higher monthly benefit amounts because of your increased overhead costs. You definitely want your eligible disability definition to be own occupation because this is what you are trained to do. Unfortunately your higher income requirements means your disability coverage is going to be a higher premium cost.

A good agent will then offer you a few options to reduce your premium cost. An easy way to quickly reduce the cost is to extend your elimination or waiting period to six months or longer. This means that your long term disability payments won’t start until you’ve been disabled for at least six months. Some agents will even offer one or two year elimination periods on long term disability coverage for clients that have enough savings to weather the waiting period after a disability.

So what do you do if you don’t have a lot of savings to cover the waiting period? Well, you buy a short term disability policy of course.

Short Term and Long Term Disability Coverage Work Together

So continuing on this example. You leave work at your dental practice and are involved in a bad car accident. The accident has caused severe nerve damage in your hands and some back problems that prevent you from standing longer than 10 minutes at a time. Your own occupation Long Term Disability Insurance policy has a 6 month Elimination (Waiting Period) and pays you a Disability Benefit Amount of $10,000 per month until you are age 65. You had a smart, ethical insurance agent who explained how short term and long term disability coverage work together. So you purchased a short term disability plan to cover the six month waiting period for the long term policy to start.

Less Pay Than the Benefits Available from Your Disability Coverage

When you file your claim with your disability insurance carrier, they will verify the claim, review everything with your doctor and since you are unable to work, begin payments on your claim. That specific nature of the own occupation plan definition protected you from having to do lesser skilled work for less pay than the benefits available from your disability coverage.

Insurance-Risk-Copybrander In this same situation, had you chosen an any occupation to save money, then the carrier would also want to know what other work you are able to perform such as Light Duty or Sedentary work. So they might deny your disability claim if doctors believe you can do sedentary work such as answering a phone. Clearly this is not a situation that the dentist wants to be in and is another reason to buy own occupation disability coverage.

Workers Compensation Insurance

So who on earth would ever get a disability policy that had any occupation definitions? Well, one of the best known examples of a type of policy that utilizes less restrictive any occupation disability definitions is workers compensation insurance.

Within the Workers Comp Industry there exists an entire subset of profitable businesses that focus exclusively on providing “occupational rehab” services to workers comp insurance carriers. These businesses set appointments for interviews for claimants regardless of their skill set or education. So the dentist we mentioned above might be sent to do telemarketing phone sales if he was restricted to performing only sedentary work. Clearly a disability definition of own occupation is better for the disabled claimant.

Hopefully this article has helped you to better understand the Own Occupation vs Any Occupation Disability Definition and how it can dramatically alter your benefits and premium cost.

5 Reasons Your 1099 Contractor is Actually Your Employee

5 Reasons Your 1099 Contractor is Actually Your Employee

5 Reasons Your 1099 Contractor is Actually Your Employee

I’m going to come right out and say it. 1099 contractors are almost always employees. Almost always is probably shooting low because as far as landscapers, detail shops, contractors and similar businesses, you fail the IRS criteria test over 90% of the time. I know this may surprise some of you reading this, but if you didn’t think this was the case you probably wouldn’t be here reading this. I wrote 5 reasons your 1099 contractor is actually your employee to highlight this important compliance subject for small businesses.

Shop-Bays-AutoDetailGuide

The Contractors Handled Everything Without Any Input From Me

In over two decades of business, any time my companies ran into a situation where we utilized actual contractors was to pick up slack during busy times. I had a few guys that had started with us and came to me after a few years to ask if they could go out and start their own business. I told them no problem as long as we could still send them some of our overflow work. I even rented them space in one of our buildings where they stayed for years.

I point this out to give you an example of what an actual contractor looks like. They had their own liability insurance. Their own books, bank accounts, etc. They handled their own workers comp coverage. And they paid their own taxes.

When these contractors were done with actual work that I sent them, they  left me an invoice. I never told them how to do their job. I just told them what I needed done and they handled it for the agreed upon price. That, in itself, is an essential criteria on the list that the IRS uses to determine if your contractor is actually an employee or not.

That is what a true 1099 contractor looks like.

5 Reasons Your 1099 Contractor is Actually Your Employee:

  1. The contractor is a properly licensed business that is in business to perform the type of work you are hiring them to do. Is your employee actually a licensed business? Do they have any other clients or customers? These are all important issues that the IRS looks at.
  2. The contractor owns their own equipment and doesn’t need to “borrow” your equipment to complete the work. Does your employee own their own equipment?
  3. The contractor has the expertise to do the job you are hiring them to do with no direction or training from you on how to do the job. Does your employee work at your direction, when, how and where you tell them to work?
  4. The contractor has their own business liability insurance to protect you if they damage your property. This is a big item and one of the easiest ways your insurance carrier and the IRS will catch you erroneously classifying employees as contractors.
  5. The contractor will complete the work and invoice you. Does your employee complete a time sheet? Do they complete a per car checklist that you assign? All of these systems are historically tried and true employee tracking systems.

With tax time upon us, it’s a good idea to take a few minutes and think about ways to reduce your tax liabilities and make sure you are in compliance. Penalties and interest are two words you don’t want to ever deal with as a taxpayer.

Get Your Business Tuned Up and In Compliance

Starting a new year is a great time to get your business tuned up and in compliance. If you are reading this then there’s a good chance that you already think you may be out of compliance with the 1099 issues.

The IRS and your State Department of Revenue are two government organizations that you don’t want to have problems with. You are on their radar simply because you’re a small business. Certain business categories make them look at you even harder. So follow the rules and don’t get yourself into a jam with these people.

You Need to Control Your Narrative to Succeed

You Need to Control Your Narrative to Succeed

You Need to Control Your Narrative to Succeed

Regardless of how you look at it you can’t run a business without insurance. This is what I call a ‘business narrative’. It’s the message that you promote to the world that makes you different from the competition. You need to control your narrative to succeed in business. So how did I control the insurance narrative? By promoting the simple concept that there are too many variables if you don’t have downside protection. Protection is important. ‘Normal’ businesses protect their customers. That’s how I have always used it. And not just in my insurance business. As I will explain in a moment, I’ve used this narrative in many various industries.

Insurance is Like Hedging Bets

I start out by explaining to people that insurance is like hedging bets when you gamble in Vegas. You always want to have a downside limit to how much you can lose. Most business owners have much of their life savings tied up in their business. With no insurance, your potential losses can exceed the actual value of your assets because you are personally liable for your business activities.

Obviously, this is important. And that pitch may work for an insurance agent with a potential customer. Unfortunately, most of your customers won’t give two hoots about your personal liability exposure. They also won’t care why you had to increase your prices to cover your insurance costs. It’s all about how it affects them. Your narrative needs to focus on their concerns. This is precisely where I am going with this.


An Incredible Marketing Opportunity

I have a slightly different angle for you to consider here. Insuring a business can be expensive. Many would argue it’s more expensive to not insure it, but my point is that proper insurance, or lack thereof, can be an incredible marketing opportunity for you. How so? Well, let me tell you a story that will better explain my theory that you need to control your narrative to succeed in any business.

Years ago, I was an investor in a chain of detail shops. I eventually figured out that the owner, my business partner, was an incredible detailer but he had absolutely no idea how to grow a business. So I decided to help him out. Yes, I wanted to help grow my investment. To be honest though, I was also intrigued by the challenge of utilizing my sales and marketing skills in a totally different industry other than insurance.

A Steep Learning Curve

Any excitement I initially had didn’t last very long. It was a steep learning curve. I was essentially running two different businesses. It was exhausting. And they could not have been any more different from each other. My insurance business was heavily regulated and almost, dare I say, “gentlemanly” compared to the wild west detailing industry. It was rough for awhile, but eventually it got easier as I began to understand the industry and find areas where we could focus our marketing efforts.

It might sound unimaginative on my part, but one of the focus areas that I settled on was… Tada… Insurance. Actually the lack of insurance. Apparently the detailing industry is loaded with businesses that simply don’t carry insurance because it’s too expensive. Since my background was insurance, I found this to be almost comical. Either way, I had found my narrative.

You Can’t Run a Business Without Insurance

The only reason I even learned about this insurance issue was by listening to my business partner complain about constantly being undercut by “uninsured competitors”. Since I wasn’t a ‘detailer’ per se, I looked at this from an outsiders perspective. I had no idea that this was even an issue. My background was insurance, so the idea that a business would fail to properly cover themselves was mind boggling to me. Who does that? My initial thought was that you can’t run a business without insurance. Well, apparently you can. The other shops in our area had eliminated insurance as an expense and could subsequently charge less.

To me this sounded ridiculous. I knew that if one of these shops destroyed a car while they were working on it, it would end bad for the customer and the shop owner. Ultimately the customer would be forced to claim the damage on their personal auto insurance and pay the difference out of pocket. The insurance company would sue the owner of the detail shop to recover their money and the shop would be forced out of business.

My New Narrative

I decided to use this as a marketing angle in my new narrative. I began educating our customers about the importance of business liability insurance. Unfortunately, that’s boring. None of our customers seemed to care. So I changed it up a bit. I began educating them about what would happen if a detail shop caught fire with their vehicle inside. Finding stats and stories about shops that had burned down across the country was easy. It happens more often than you think. Several articles that I found even talked about the fact that the shop owners failed to properly insure the business. Bingo! You need to control your narrative to succeed in business and I had found exactly what I needed to create ours.


Without the proper type of insurance coverage those shop owners were forced into bankruptcy. This left the customer holding the bag for the cost of their car replacement. As soon as people started understanding this, you could see a light click on as their eyes widened and they got it. Educated consumers understand the importance of insurance when it could potentially cost them thousands of dollars.

No Insurance

I had found my “hook”. My business partner thought I was crazy, but he went along with it. It worked amazingly well. Once people realized that a shop’s irresponsibility could come back to cost them, price no longer mattered. Why would it? Who would be willing to leave their $50k vehicle at a shop that charges $20 less but has no insurance to cover their potential incompetence? Nobody. We pushed this new insurance coverage narrative to anybody who would listen. Advertised it everywhere. Did interviews on the radio. And it worked. Business was booming even though we were the highest priced detailers in our area. And once we got a hold of a new customer, we never let go. We lit them up with a slew of other incentives to keep them coming back.

A Commodity Business

So why did it work? Because I changed the conversation. I have always subscribed to the philosophy that you never compete on cost. Never! Cutting your prices makes you a commodity business. Nobody is loyal to discount businesses. Nobody. That model makes sense for Walmart, not you.

Instead of competing on cost, I worked hard to establish our business as the most professional and ethical in the local region. Our prices went up and customer loyalty was higher than it ever was before. Our quality was probably the same as the other shops in the area. We had been competing on “service quality” for years and the customers didn’t care. They went for the least costly shop because our services were commoditized. When we changed the narrative and redirected their attention to the more important subject of insurance coverage, price was no longer an issue.

You Will Get Caught

These efforts forced our competitors to up their game and compete in a more responsible manner. Business boomed for us because of it. You can’t run a business without insurance and expect to get away with it. Eventually you will get caught. Or your competition will figure out a way to highlight your lack of business ethics. That’s what we did. Either way, you don’t want to be on the wrong side of this. If you do something stupid, you should expect to be called out on it. It’s just good business.


Realign Your Narrative

Find your niche and exploit it. Figure out what parts of your business should be handled differently and focus on that. Be different. Your narrative is what makes you unique in your business niche. You need to push that fact with your customers. They won’t think it’s a big deal until you re-frame it so they understand WHY it’s a big deal. You need to realign your narrative so that it’s in sync with the needs of your customer base. We pushed the fact that we were insured because our customers thought that was a normal thing. So that version of “normal” became part of our new narrative. Every employee in our company was trained with one simple company approved philosophy that made sense to them. I wanted them to internalize it so they didn’t sound like robots repeating the same message.

Internalized Our Training

So how did I measure success? Well, I realized all our new training efforts were working when I was making my way through one of our shops one day. As I walked past one of our detailers talking to a customer, I heard him say, “well sure insurance is normal for ‘good businesses’, but unfortunately this industry is loaded with companies that aren’t ‘good businesses'”. He had internalized our training and was telling people our message in his own voice. That is when you know you’ve done your job well.

Competitors as Enemies

It’s worth mentioning that I never looked at my competitors as enemies. Most likely because I was an industry outsider. I liked most of the competitors in our region. My goal was to protect our customers by making our business more professional and ethical. Most of our competitors realized this. I eventually setup a program at my insurance agency to help some of the other shops find less expensive insurance options. My goal was to succeed, but not by eliminating our competition. Being uninsured was bad for everybody and made our industry appear irresponsible.

The shop owners in our area that did not like us were upset because we were crushing their business. This was because we were establishing the new narrative. We controlled it. By adding insurance to the conversation, we elevated the professionalism of all the local players in our industry. The shop owners who failed to adopt this new narrative eventually went out of business.

You Need to Control Your Narrative to Succeed

We changed the expectations of our customers by teaching them what to look for from detailing shops. Most customers assumed the expectation was limited to picking up a clean car. This was wrong. Like I said before, you need to control your narrative to succeed in any business. Once our customers were educated about protecting themselves, their expectations changed. Now a clean car was secondary to making sure they were protected if the building burned down with their car in it. Reputation for being the best car detailer was eliminated from the search criteria. This allowed our shop to jump from #7 to #1 in a matter of months. By the time the other shops realized what was happening, it was too late.

The Steward of the Narrative

Don’t let your competition do this to you first. Your goal is to set your business apart from the competition. To accomplish this, you need to be the steward of the narrative that you create. Figure out how to do that and it will open a new world of opportunities. From the ability to charge more to being recognized as your industry leader.

Your success in business is tied directly to how your customers perceive you. Do they consider you an expert? Are you good at what you do? It doesn’t matter how you feel about this, it’s what the customer thinks. That’s your narrative. Control that and it will take you places that you never dreamed possible.

A Broken $50 Billion Content Advertising Business Model

A Broken $50 Billion Content Advertising Business Model

A Broken $50 Billion Content Advertising Business Model

Lately it seems like everybody keeps talking about the enormous potential numbers in the content marketing and online advertising world. I even read recently how our market is potentially worth $50 Billion by 2021. While it’s nice thinking about the huge potential numbers, it’s unfortunately built on the back of a broken $50 Billion content advertising business model.

Keep in mind that it was just a few years ago, that content marketing was still a relatively open market. Content writers could still be successful if you were relatively talented, could write good copy and understood the basics of both SEO (search engine optimization) and SMM (social media marketing).

Basically, we wrote good copy and it was read by a lot of people. After all, that is the reason we do this.

Cheap New Content

Poor quality content is destroying what once was a thriving world of great websites and social media. Click bait sites are desperate for eyeballs and will do anything to get new cheap content to fill their pipeline. So, they pay a few bucks for a few hundred words that nobody reads.


Small to medium sized businesses with little online experience are juicy prey for sleazy marketers that throw out stats with no basis in reality. The marketing programs don’t work because their potential customers don’t like reading the boiler template, error filled, crap content on their websites and social media platforms. When the business complains, the marketer moves on to the next victim. It’s like an online Serengeti.

When Everybody Thinks They’re Special

Today, anybody with a computer and barely a high school education thinks they’re a content marketer. When everybody thinks they’re special, nobody is. In a normal world people pay their dues, learn their craft and build a business based on good quality work. The internet has skewed this so now people believe they can be successful at anything just because. It doesn’t work that way in the real world. Never mind that you barely managed a C in High School English. Or that you should have spent money on a course in basic grammar instead of a get rich quick program. Try writing complete sentences. It helps.

Here at Copybrander Media, I own over 300 domains and hundreds of my own websites. I’ve been writing content and developing websites since the mid-90’s. It’s how my team and I know what works and what doesn’t. Writing good content may be important, but it’s woefully inadequate as the entire basis of your marketing efforts.

And no get-rich-quick course is going to teach you how to properly build a content marketing business. It takes time. Pay your dues. Learn to write. Take the time to understand SEO and SMM. It’s the same in any business.

All About Quality versus Quantity

More content isn’t the answer. Like any business, it’s all about quality versus quantity. There’s a glaring difference. Are you paying somebody $5 for a few hundred words of content just to show activity on your website or social media? Then you’re paying too much. Want to know what creates a broken $50 Billion content advertising business model? This is it, right here. Nobody is reading your cheap, crappy content. And if your stats show viewers, then I guarantee that your engagement and follow through sucks. You can argue with me until you turn blue about your thousands of twitter followers and website traffic, but what matters is engagement. If you’ve got forty-thousand twitter followers and two people like your latest post, there’s a problem.

When you can buy ten thousand twitter followers for the cost of a pizza, sadly the pizza becomes more valuable.

The Right Numbers That Matter

Numbers don’t matter without engagement. It’s that simple. Content marketing may be a game of numbers, but it’s the right numbers that matter.

The world has a finite number of people. That equates to a maximum level of possible engagement by these people. It’s basic supply and demand. Eventually the demand for content reaches a maximum tipping point where it no longer gets consumed.

Local Content is a Big Deal

This is the reason local content is a big deal. If your law firm or plumbing business is advertising to the entire world, then you are competing with the world. If you chunk it down into local, focused marketing in your home town then your competition for eyeballs is that much smaller. Here in my hometown of Pittsburgh, it’s easy to see who is rocking their local market. Check out their online footprint. Look at the website. Is their social media updated often? Do they have engagement by local potential customers? That’s how you win at this game.

A Broken $50 Billion Content Advertising Business Model

It’s time to update your content marketing priorities to focus on the numbers that matter. Stop buying the cheap content just to get activity. Move to quality over quantity. This is how we fix a broken $50 Billion content advertising business model. Google’s latest Fred Update seems to be helping with this by penalizing sites with low quality content focused primarily on advertising revenue.

It’s a start, but there’s still much work to be done.

The age old axiom of “you get what you paid for” holds true in any business or industry. And your potential customers are much more sophisticated than you think. They can tell the difference between quality content and the cannon fodder that many businesses are buying and posting today.

The right content makes all the difference. Most of these businesses just don’t know where to find the right content. It’s up to us to fix that.

Cursive Handwriting is Being Eliminated Throughout the Country

Cursive Handwriting is Being Eliminated Throughout the Country

Cursive Handwriting is Being Eliminated Throughout the Country

This past year, my wife and I moved our kids from private Catholic school to our local public school. My son was entering the 6th grade which is middle school here, so it was a good time to transition to public school. It was a learning curve, but a positive change for the kids. After the kids had started in their new schools, my daughter came home from one day and told me how she didn’t need to learn cursive writing any longer. I thought maybe she misunderstood. It turns out she wasn’t wrong. Cursive handwriting is being eliminated throughout the country. She was upset because she enjoyed writing in cursive.

Cursive Handwriting - 2 - LoopyDad

I was surprised by this and asked her teacher at our first parent-teacher meeting. That was when I learned all about Common Core Standards. I had heard of Common Core before, but the Catholic Schools taught additional material over and above the Common Core Curriculum standards. So, we never had problems.

Cursive Handwriting is Being Eliminated Throughout the Country

But cursive writing? As ridiculous as this sounds, yes, cursive handwriting is being eliminated throughout the country. Why? Blame the US Department of Education. Back in 2010 when the Common Core Standards were established, 43 states adopted the new standards set by the US Department of Education. Pennsylvania, where I live, was one of those 43 states.

Common Core sets minimum standards for children from K-12. The standards were promoted as a way for schools to prepare kids for college and beyond. Unfortunately, based on standardized test scores of our children, it’s debatable how effective Common Core is, but that’s another discussion.

Cursive Handwriting - Example - LoopyDad

Common Core Standards

In the Common Core Standards, one thing was left out. Handwriting. Specifically, cursive handwriting. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Who uses cursive anymore? Well, it’s still used a lot. Here are a few examples of problems that are starting to appear in the United States because of this standard change only 7-years-ago:

  • We have kids and young adults today who haven’t mastered the simple ability to sign their names.
    • How often do you use your legal signature daily?
  • Across the country, employers are complaining about recent college graduates who are unable to read the cursive handwriting on everything from simple notes to legal and historical documents.
    • A simple “Great job” note, handwritten in cursive on a memo from the boss, is a problem when your kid can’t read it.
  • No big deal? How about when your kid gets a job in mortgages, banking or finance related industries and can’t read legal documents like deeds, mortgages or land surveys?
  • Nearly all older government documents are written in cursive. Many still are written this way to show the formal nature of the document.
  • Important historical documents like:
    • The Declaration of Independence
    • The Constitution of the United States of America
    • The Bill of Rights, The Preamble to the Constitution and so much more.
    • Most historical documents are written in cursive handwriting. Many young adults today see United States historical documents like something from a foreign country. They have no idea how to read the documents, so they only understand what other people tell them is in these important documents. That is a serious problem that will only get worse with time.
  • Kids have issues reading thank you notes and letters from older family members and friends.
  • Printing is slower than cursive. Think about how much faster it is to handwrite anything in cursive versus printing. When you try to write fast with printed letters, it just ends up looking messy and illegible.

Historical Documents in Cursive Handwriting - LoopyDad

Why Was This Decision Made At All?

The United States is one of the few modern countries to make the decision to exclude cursive handwriting from school curriculums. Why was this decision made at all? Cursive handwriting is being eliminated throughout the country because of Federal law. So obviously somebody, somewhere, must have thought it was a good idea. Whoever did make this decision apparently failed to consult any of my former Elementary, Junior High or High School English teachers. They would have set these people straight and nipped this in the bud before it even saw the light of day.

Blame Technology

So why change it at all? Blame technology. Many government bureaucrats and educators believe that cursive handwriting is no longer useful or has a purpose in today’s modern society. Computers, tablets, smartphones, all use printed letters. Many people hardly ever write anything on paper today. We use note taking apps. We communicate via email and text. The assumption is that people don’t have a need to write because it’s all done electronically.

Numerous countries have their versions of cursive handwriting even in languages other than English. Hebrew, Russian, Chinese, Greek and even ancient Rome where the idea for our alphabet originated. These are just a few of the many that use cursive writing. In many European countries, young children learn cursive handwriting before printing.

Schools Should Have Kept it in Their Curriculum

This is an issue that affects all of our children. It’s not that hard to learn cursive handwriting. Schools should have kept it in their curriculum. Before 2010, they all did. Unfortunately, Common Core standards gave schools the option not to teach it. Which is why we find ourselves in today’s situation.

Eight States Have Passed Legislation

This needs to be an issue in all state governments. And it is in many states. Currently, eight states have passed legislation to require the teaching of cursive handwriting in their local schools. An additional four states are also fighting to pass legislation. Here are all 12 of those states:

  • North Carolina
  • Arkansas
  • Tennessee
  • California
  • Georgia
  • Kansas
  • Arizona
  • Louisiana
  • Idaho (pending legislation)
  • Indiana (pending legislation)
  • Massachusetts (pending legislation)
  • Utah (pending legislation)

In my state of Pennsylvania, it doesn’t appear to even be on the radar. We need to change that. The easiest way is to email and call your local state representatives. I have included links to several Commonwealth of Pennsylvania government websites at the end of this post to make that easier for you.

This May Not Seem Like a Big Deal

Look, I know this may not seem like a big deal to some people. It probably also sounds strange being written by a guy with a Dad blog called LoopyDad.com. As a matter of fact, this is the first time I have ever done something to try and gain support to change anything let alone something in government. I just know in my heart this is something that is going bite us all in the rear down the road if we don’t do something to fix it now.


Our Job as Parents is to Prepare Our Children for the Real World

Our job as parents is to prepare our children for the real world. Neglecting to teach them something as basic as cursive handwriting just doesn’t make sense to me. I was a law clerk for four years in college. I owned my insurance brokerage for 15 years. I’ve bought and sold numerous properties. In every one of those situations, it would have negatively affected my ability to do my work if I didn’t know how to read and write cursive handwriting.

History should not be a mystery to our children just because they cannot understand how our language was written back then. And I should not have to read out loud a beautifully handwritten letter from Grandma to my son, only because our school decided not to teach him the “old way” to read and write. It’s just wrong.

It’s Part of Our Culture

I hope this subject speaks as loudly to other parents as it does to me. Cursive handwriting is part of our history. It’s part of our culture. We need to fight to make sure our kids have the knowledge they need to both read and write in cursive.

Cursive Templates

One final note on this. Apparently getting anything changed in government takes a while. You might want to consider printing out some cursive templates like I did and have your kids practicing a few days a week. Anything can help.

I found several excellent downloadable cursive writing templates online. The one I liked the best was as follows, but you can also just google “cursive handwriting templates” to find others if you don’t like these:

http://www.todaysparent.com/family/education/cursive-worksheets/

Contact Links to Find Your Local Pennsylvania Representatives

I listed the contact links to find your local Pennsylvania Representatives because that’s the state that I live in. If any of my readers would like to research their states, feel free to email me that information. I will post it here to make it easier for others to contact their state elected officials. When you contact them, be polite and explain that it’s a concern of yours how cursive handwriting is being eliminated throughout the country and you simply want to bring this to their attention. Offer to send additional information to them if they need it, but all of this can be looked up online.

You can locate the representative and senator for your area at the following “find my representative” page on the Pennsylvania Government website:

http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/index.cfm

Also, consider sending emails and calling the representatives and senators on the Education Committees of both the PA House and Senate. The website links for both are as follows:

Pennsylvania House of Representatives Education Committee: (note, as of the writing of this post on 2/8/2017, the PA House has not assigned members to the Education Committee yet because of the recent election).

http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/CteeInfo/index.cfm?Code=12&CteeBody=H

Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee: (note, these members were assigned as of 2/8/2017).

http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/CteeInfo/index.cfm?Code=23&CteeBody=S

Looming IRS Problems for Small Business

Looming IRS Problems for Small Business

Looming IRS Problems for Small Business

Many small businesses have big problems classifying their employees correctly. Why? Because some business owners go out of their way to save a few bucks on the taxes paid for employees. They think they can pull a fast one and pay their employees cash under the table. Even worse, some business owners will tell their workers that they are “independent contractors” and just cut them a check each week. Either way, both methods are illegal. This behavior is the reason there are so many looming IRS problems for small businesses in this country. The IRS has targeted many of the industries that abuse this practice.

Tax-Insurance-Liability-Copybrander

Shady Independent Contractor Classification

Let’s elaborate more on the larger issue of paying employees by check as an independent contractor. Whether you pay your employees by cash or check with no taxes taken out, it’s essentially the same issue as far as the IRS and state tax collectors are concerned. Some shady business owners think they are getting away with avoiding taxes by paying workers this way. They pay them by cash or check and then give them a Form 1099 at the end of the year.

This is what I call the shady independent contractor classification.

So why bother issuing a 1099 at all? Because the small business owner wants to get the best of both worlds. They want to avoid paying the payroll taxes on the employee income, but they still want to deduct the payments they make off their own income taxes.

The business owner who behaves like this doesn’t care what happens to their employees. So, they will pay them straight time for hours worked or a per diem rate. Then they cut them a check for the full amount.

The shop owner then sells it to the employee by pointing out that they are making more money because there are no taxes deducted from their “paycheck”. Obviously this is a lie since somebody has to pay the taxes due on this income. This scenario is played out thousands of times a day and is a major contributor to these looming IRS problems for small businesses that I’m talking about here.

Targets for Audits and Investigations

Over the past decade the IRS has identified a growing number of industries as targets for audits and investigations to catch these shady business owners. These are mainly small businesses that have a bad habit of paying their workers under the table or as “contractors”. Businesses like landscapers, detail shops and construction contractors are big targets.

When the business owner issues a 1099 to the employee, they are attempting to transfer the employment tax obligations from their business to the employee. And the IRS knows you are doing this because you announce it when you deduct the payments made to these “contractors” on your own taxes. 1099’s that are sent to these contractor/employees are also submitted to the IRS to deduct those payments from the business income and overall tax liability.

Screwing Your Employees

As a business owner, you are essentially screwing your employees in multiple ways by doing this. The employee doesn’t have a record of earnings so nothing is paid into either the social security or unemployment compensation system. These employees/contractors also aren’t covered by workers comp that is legally required by the state where the business is operating.

So basically:

  • If the business owner fires the employee/contractor, they get no unemployment because they haven’t paid anything into it.
  • If the employee/contractor gets hurt or injured on the job, they aren’t eligible for workers comp benefits to help them get back on their feet while they are unable to work.
  • If the employee/contractor works for the shop for many years, literally none of their earnings are recorded with social security. The shop owner is basically creating an awful future possible retirement fiasco for the employee.
  • The employee might save a few bucks on taxes in the short term, but in the long run they are getting screwed. The clear winner in this situation is the business owner who saves all the employment taxes, the employer contribution for unemployment insurance with the state and the workers comp coverage.

This is underhanded and sleazy behavior. Most business owners I know are much better than this. I get that it’s expensive to have employees, but if you can’t afford it then you shouldn’t have employees. It’s simple math. Figure out how to do the work without employees or do it yourself. You can attempt to justify what you are doing all you want, but that doesn’t make it right.

Take Care of Your People

If my opinions on this sound harsh, it’s meant that way. I think business owners who do this are low-life sleazebags. Over the past 25 years I’ve built multi-million dollar businesses and gave my employees great pay and benefits. I also made a nice profit doing so. When you take care of your people, they take care of you.

Exposing Your Business to Unnecessary Liability and Risk

You are also exposing your business to unnecessary liability and risk with both civil and criminal penalties for trying to pass-off your “contractor” as an employee. If the employee/contractor creates a situation where you need to file an insurance claim, you run the risk of opening yourself up to potential insurance fraud. Your commercial insurance coverage won’t cover non-employees or contractors. Mainly because they are supposed to have their own liability and workers comp coverage. So, the only way the business can get the claim paid by the insurance carrier is to lie about the employee/contractor’s status. And if you don’t have W2 and payroll records to prove it, you will get caught.

Employee Accident - Copybrander

And if you try to pass off your employee/contractor as an actual W2 employee, the IRS can ask the insurance carrier for those records to use against you later.

This is a lose lose proposition. But small business owners still try to get away with it.

Looming IRS Problems for Small Business

As business owners, we’ve got enough hassles to deal with to have the IRS and state tax collectors start piling on with more issues. I wrote “Looming IRS Problems for Small Businesses” to highlight this problem. It’s a big deal.

With so many sources of information everywhere, it’s hard sometimes to figure out what is accurate and not. I have seen “How To Guide’s” explaining the ways to get away with paying employees under the table, “off the books” and as 1099 contractors. There is something wrong with your business model if this is the only way you can make a profit. Nobody goes into business to screw people. It’s something that happens slowly. I get it. You have a bad year or even a few bad months and suddenly your expenses become your entire focus. No matter how bad it gets, reclassifying your employees as contractors is not the place to cut expenses.

Ended in Jail Time

I’ve known business owners that got themselves into jams with the government by paying people this way. One situation ended in jail time. That guy lost everything including his family after his wife divorced him while he was in jail.

You have an obligation as a business owner to fully understand the rules and regulations that apply to your business. Claiming that you didn’t know something isn’t a defense in court. The government doesn’t accept that argument. And rightly so.

You should not be in business if you don’t understand the rules. It makes the rest of us look bad.

The Content Marketing Genius of Napoleon Hill

The Content Marketing Genius of Napoleon Hill

I had an opportunity to read an article this weekend titled “The 7 Traits of Successful Content Marketers”. It just happens to be by Joe Pulizzi, one of my favorite content marketing experts and writers. He’s also the founder of the Content Marketing Institute. I highlighted a few of my favorite passages from his article below along with a link to read the rest. I would have never thought I would write something titled “The Content Marketing Genius of Napoleon Hill,” but here I am doing so now.

Content Marketers

Content Marketers or even just marketing people as a rule of thumb prefer to point out the many differences that exist between marketing and sales. I started my career in sales and then added marketing skills as the years went on. So I’ve always enjoyed the ability to see both sides of this argument. It boils down to marketers tend to see their job as a nuanced approach to gently persuading a potential customer to buy. They look at sales people as the sledgehammer in the sales and marketing process to close the deal. Salespeople look at marketing as the people who make the brochures and commercials and not much else. Both departments have been historically indifferent to the plight of the other while completely ignoring how important the other is to achieving their end goal of selling stuff to the customer.

Background in Marketing

Personally, I don’t see how you can be a great salesperson without having at least a half decent background in marketing also. Maybe that doesn’t work for a large company that is very touchy about their sales and marketing departments blending their boundaries. But small business does it all the time. The big companies that still wall off units tend to be dinosaurs in today’s close-knit relationship building sales environment.

In this article, Pulizzi shows how an iconic “sales” book, Napolean Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich,” can help content marketers grow their businesses. I say it’s a “sales” book because it’s one of the first books that new salespeople are told to read. That and watching movies like “Glen Gary Glen Ross,” “Boiler Room” and “Tin Men.” There are many others, but those are the top one’s usually told to new recruits. I usually added a few others to my favorites list like Will Smith’s “The Pursuit of Happyness” (yes, that’s how the movie is spelled). Sales is all about persistence and being focused on a goal. There aren’t many movies that portray this better than this.

The Book that Most Salespeople Consider to Be Their Sales Bible

I spent nearly 20 years in the insurance industry, so I did a ton of recruiting during that time. So imagine my surprise as I’m reading this article and it starts talking about THE book that most salespeople consider to be their sales bible and how it’s now being applied to marketing. Sacrilege! But it’s really not. It’s a great comparison. And now that I’ve read this, I completely agree. 

It may be because I also have decades of marketing experience that I have used to enhance my sales career. Maybe some people who have always been all sales would disagree. But this also goes along well with my personal belief that Napoleon Hill wrote “Think and Grow Rich” to be one of the first self-help type motivational books. I don’t think naming his book the content marketing genius of Napoleon Hill would have done much for sales back then. At the time when he wrote it back in 1937, there was no such thing as content marketing and motivational books were also very rare. Regardless, he did such an excellent job with this classic that it’s hard to think of it as being focused on any particular career.

So enjoy the article and let me know if I’m on the right track with my thinking here. I have read Think and Grow Rich so many times that I consider myself somewhat of an expert on Napoleon Hill’s writing. But I’m also open-minded to points made during a substantial discussion regarding the merits of this post.

 

http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2017/01/traits-successful-content-marketers/The 7 Traits of Successful Content Marketers Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich was first published in 1937. Now, in its 80th anniversary year, Mr. Hill’s lessons are still extremely relevant and valuable.

I had the opportunity to dust off my copy of Think and Grow Rich (from 1960, with dog-eared and coffee-stained pages) a few weeks back during the holiday break. In its relation to content marketing, I noticed some clear takeaways that most corporate marketers simply do not embrace. In the book, 15 powerful chapters are helpful to all individuals, but seven chapters were spot-on relevant to content marketing. Here are quotes from the seven chapters with my notes for each one.

You can talk about all the things good content marketers should do to attract and retain customers – content strategy, content documentation, content integration, etc., but desire is numero uno. Everywhere I travel I hear the objection – most marketers simply do not have the desire to be THE informational resource for their customers and prospects – they don’t want it enough. They talk of content marketing as a chore … as a checklist of things to be done during the day, not as a core service to customers necessary for the company’s survival.

Look, you are competing not only with your competitors, but also with the media, Google, Game of Thrones, and every other distraction in your customers’ lives. To be THE go-to resource for them, you have to want it more than anything or anyone else. This is never easy, but it is much easier for smaller businesses headed by passionate people. Simply put, there is little to no politics to deal with, and a change agent can push through and make change happen.

In larger enterprises, there must be a content marketing champion who has the real desire to be the best and be given enough latitude to experiment and possibly even fail multiple times. Most large companies aren’t willing to do this, which is why smaller businesses have the ultimate opportunity when it comes to content marketing.

Wanting it is one thing, but actually believing you can be THE informational expert for your industry is another. When we started Content Marketing Institute, we firmly believed that we would be the informational resource for our industry. It was unquestioned. It was only a matter of time, energy, and persistence.

One of the biggest failures when it comes to content is a lack of specialization. I see HVAC companies blogging about the town festival. I see manufacturing companies creating articles on best HR practices. It hurts to see this.

Remember, if your content is for everybody, it’s for nobody.

“It has been said that man can create anything which he can imagine.”

Folks, there is no one way to be the leading content expert for your industry. That said, if you have the opportunity to apply resources from a number of areas, internal and external, do it. Brands doing it right have a chief content officer (leads the content strategy), a managing editor (oversees the process), content creators (internal and external), content producers, and content listeners.

Right now, we are in the midst of a marketing department revolution, where the marketing department is starting to look and feel more like a publishing operation. As a marketer, you need to not only recognize this trend, but also begin to operationalize your storytelling for the future, including developing a business model that drives direct revenues from the content you create. (Note: Robert is working on this for our next book coming out in September.)