Twenty Christmas Light Displays I'd Hate To Disassemble

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, but taking down all the lights and decorations is not my favorite....I take heart in the fact that I don't have to deal with the disassemble of the following Christmas displays. (But man I love to watch them!)

Take a look at these 20 amazing works of art!

1. Music Box Dancer

2. Frisco Christmas Lights - Wizards in Winter

3. Coca Cola Holiday Song

4. Amazing Grace

5. Carol Of The Bells

6. It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

7. Symphony in Lights Contest

8. Guitar Hero

9. Charlie Brown Christmas

10. Carol Of the Bells

11. You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch

12. Comfort and Joy

13. Bohemian Rhapsody

14. Sandstorm Techno

15. Santa Clause Is coming To Town

16. Jingle Bells

17. Nut Cracker

18. Animated Christmas Tree Farm

19. Collingwood Road in Alexandria VA

20. 2001 A Space Odyssey

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Lead Conversion Optimization: Lead a Horse To Water...And Make Them Drink

My previous blog post talked about developing a system to manage your leads. If you generate leads and then do not have a systematic way to deal with them, you might as well not have paid to generate the leads.

Darin Persinger of Productivity Junkies has some great insights in the following video into the topic of Lead Conversion Optimization.

The fact is you can't convert a lead if you don't have a system. But more importantly you can't implement your system if you aren't optimizing your website to interact with your target buyer who will then inquire and allow you to implement your system. Take a look at Darin's tips and tricks to optimize lead generation for a real estate website. Traffic to your website is no good without lead generation, people actually asking for information. Darin talks about ways to increase your ability to interact with the traffic you drive to your site.

As he indicates, SEO is fine and good, you need to drive traffic to your website, but if there is not a reason for them to interact with you, you've spent money leading the horse to water, but you haven't made them drink. Once they begin drinking, you need that system to then convert the prospect into a sale.

At the end of the day it is still not about quantity but quality, however the more leads you drive to your site, the more leads you should be able to get to communicate with you. You do still want some volume. It's not likely that if 5 people visit your site, all 5 people will inquire. It still holds true that you need to have some SEO to drive traffic to your site. But make sure you know what to do with them, once you get them there.

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Lead Management: Having a System

When I tell people my business is Lead Management, sometimes I get weird looks. What is that? What do you mean lead management? Do you generate leads for clients?

Lead generation and lead management are two different things.

You can't have one without the other. But if you only generate leads and you don't manage them you might as well not bother. There are services out there. Especially in the real estate realm that will generate leads for you. But depending on what you do with them, or how the system is gathering information you may be throwing your money away.

In order to put together a lead management system here are some things to think about.

Consistency: You have to have a consistent systematic way to deal with the leads.

Promptness: If you do not reply promptly to leads, why are your generating them? Put yourself in the place of the potential client. If you can't get a hold of someone to answer your question, do you sit there patiently waiting for days for someone to get back to you? Or do you move down to the next listing on the internet who might be able to answer your question when you have it hot on your mind? What do you think your clients are doing?

Campaign Planning: Identify the different types of clients you have, and what kinds of campaigns will best suite them. A blanket campaign may not work if you have long term and short term buyers. Buyers with different product needs, price points, or financial requirements. You need to have all these scenarios thought through and addressed so you can plug each new lead into the proper plan.

Dynamic information delivery: You need to have more than just one way to touch people. They may not respond to phone calls, but they may respond to emails. They may not respond to emails but to video emails. They may not respond to questions but they may respond to surveys. They may not respond to photographs but they may respond to slide shows. By having an arsenal of methods to contact your leads it will help you identify what works best for different products, people and situations. A same consisting only of canned emails becomes something easy to delete for the would-be buyer. It's kind of like fast forwarding through commercials.

Calls to Action: You can't Tell it to Sell it. You have to have ways to find out what your clients need. You can't just keep pushing out information, you have to make it an interactive dialogue. Not always easy and this involves the use of some of the dynamic delivery above, and the tools below.

Tools: You can't just have an inbox and hope to remember every email you get, every email you've sent and when the next one is due. Even scheduling it on your calender isn't quite as good as having a system that schedules and integrates with your database. Don't try to keep it in a spreadsheet. That's insanity.
  • CRM - Customer Relationship Management. You've got to have a way to systematically touch your clients. The CRM helps you achieve the Consistency above.
  1. Does it allow you set reminders?
  2. Does it allow for long term campaign follow up?
  3. Does it have dynamic features that allow you to set up email, direct mail, and calls to your client?
  • Email Marketing Program - This may be part of your CRM, but you want to make sure it has several key features.
  1. Can it track what people are clicking on in the email?
  2. Can it track how many people are opening it?
  3. Does it allow people to unsubscribe?
  4. Does it allow you to set up email campaigns?
  5. If it's not part of your CRM does it integrate with it?
Finally, having a system is something that is developed, tested, and refined. You can't just say okay one, two, three go. Especially if there is not a full robust system already in place. One of the biggest problem is most businesses is knowing how to manage the leads they generate. As a business gets off the ground, and just a few leads are coming in they think they can handle them in their inbox, but as these leads build and build each month eventually the reality kicks in that business is being lost because it's impossible to keep track of all the people in the system, past customers, and current calls and emails. This is why a lead management system is essential. A well thought out plan.

One of the most important things, is to realize that you need to work on the system and you may have to concede that if no system was in place you may have lost leads already. But how can you capture the ones that are coming in now, next week, next month? Developing that system does not happen over night. Time and thought needs to go into it if it will be successful. You can't just say, we need an email marketing campaign. Boom. You still have to have an overall marketing plan.

You can't just said we need a lead management system and Boom. There it is. It has to be developed, it takes time and it's worth the effort.

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A Soldier's Silent Night: How To Get Involved During The Holidays

I love this time of year. It's pretty to drive down night streets and see lights and colors aglow. There's the smell of cinnamon, spice, evergreen and woodsmoke in the air.

Visions of fires in the fire place and chestnuts roasting take me back to my childhood.

People are a little bit nicer as you smile and chat with strangers in stores. More bells appear to mark your entrance into shops and homes. Winter scenes blur around the edges and have a greeting card quality to them.

December conjures up thoughts of friends and family, charity and giving. Peace on earth and happiness. What about the unknown soldiers that have fought for our freedom?

With over 307 million people in the United States and nearly 2 million in the Military, statistically so few people are directly effected by having a loved one fighting in the wars.

If you don't have a family member, friend, or loved one on active duty, or even if you do, this video is a great reminder of those we should have gratitude for as we partake in our holidays. And the following organizations are great ways to get involved and give back.

There are some great programs that you can participate in to let the soldiers know you care. Check these out:
These are just some of the great ways to get involved and give back to the soldiers for the holidays. But check them out quick, many of them have deadlines in order to get everything in the mail by Christmas.

Make sure you check out the validity of any organization you wish to donate to sadly there are some that are hoaxes like sending mail to Walter Reed, and there are some that do not get where you think they should go. Please check into any program you come across that proclaims itself as being a charity or organization for helping anyone.

A little note on the video and song "A Soldier's Silent Night"
The poem was originally titled "Merry Christmas, My Friend" and written by Lance Corporal James M. Schmidt in 1987. The audio recording was done by Father Ted Berndt and his daughter Ellen Stout in one take. Father Berndt has since passed away in 2004, but his life's mission lives on - "to touch lives and make a difference."

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Chanukah Ham...Is It A Hoax? A Little Holiday Humor

Today I opened up facebook and was greeted by this picture one of my friends posted. Hysterical--->

The tag line on it read: Dear Walmart, I think you are barking up the wrong tree. Love, The Jews.

This is a true case of not knowing your audience. And hopefully striking funny bones and not stepping on toes.

Being the unobservant Jew that I am, (while born Jewish, I have more Christmas lights on my house right now than Santa's landing strip in the North Pole) I'm still culturally Jewish. I'm aware of most of the traditions, and things that are considered off limits in the Jewish religion.....ummmm ham is one of those things.

For anyone in the dark about this, ham numbers among the most identifiable "not kosher" things that exist. There are a myriad of Kosher laws, and we could get into a whole dissertation....but we won't. However for most gentiles (those are non-Jews) unless you live under a rock you more than likely have heard something or another about Jews and ham not going together. It's definitely not a peanut butter and jelly scenario.

The humorous irony this picture represented was enough to have me pushing the "share" button. Then I saw several other people re-post it on their walls, just as I had done earlier.

I began to think wow this thing is funny, it's got the makings of something that could and would go viral. And as I thought about it, long after I posted it, I thought gosh, I really should look and make sure it's not a hoax. Normally I'm on top of something like that if it's political and sent by my mother.

If it's humorous like this, it sometimes flies under my radar, and I don't think to check it out for accuracy. I've been lulled by the fake Church Sign gag, or Catholic/Presbyterian Church Sign Wars. With that in mind I wanted to do my due diligence and check this one out.

Sooo I began my little research project on it. Here's what I found:
  • The picture was taken in 2007
  • It was at Balducci's, a specialty grocery store in Manhattan (not Walmart)
  • The photo was taken by NancyKay Shapiro a writer in NY
  • She now has retired off selling gag gifts on Cafe Press (Just kidding but I'm sure it hasn't hurt supplementing her income with these novelties)
  • The head of the marketing department for the grocery store issued an apology on the company website and said employee training would be reviewed
So while funny, it's old. The person who added the comment about Walmart starts to move it into the inaccurate arena. Will it eventually end up on Yep it already has. And it's marked as true. (Check out the church sign wars on Snopes)

Hopefully no one takes offense to this post and just enjoys the humor in it, and remember it happened 3 years ago. I find it amazing that someone in a New York food store had no idea that ham was not Kosher. On that note, make sure you enjoy your Ham for Chanukah. Top it with cheese, it's delicious.

Happy 6th night of Chanukah.

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Pay it Forward: Random Acts of Kindness and Deliberate Acts of Kindness

Hey folks did you get the invitation? It's circulating around Facebook and it's about Pay it Forward day.

If you haven't seen the movie it will make you cry! And then it will make you think why don't more people do this kind of thing on a daily basis. What a better world we'd live in.

I need your help paying it forward today.

Every year there is a Dream Home giveaway in Hampton Roads for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. This year's Dream Home is being built by
Stephen Alexander Homes and Neighborhoods. Besides just raffling off this beautiful home, there are 22 other prizes valued at $1000 that are also raffled off leading up to the big prize. Not only is this an amazing opportunity to do good, but it is also an amazing advertising opportunity for those 22 businesses. Right now they only have 12 local businesses signed up for the $1000 donation of services, merchandise, and gifts. They need 10 more by Monday, the deadline to get on all their printed materials. Here's what you get as a business if you make a $1000 donation toward a raffle prize.

Your company will be recognized as an official prize sponsor of the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway throughout the entire four-month campaign. During that period, your company will enjoy the following benefits:

  • Include sponsor on 250,000 direct mail pieces, event brochures and posters.
  • Promote prize sponsor as “official prize sponsor” in addition to the St. Jude Dream Home house.
  • Name mention on official St. Jude Dream Home website,, throughout the duration of the campaign.
  • Name mention on Official Prize Sponsor sign in front of the St. Jude Dream Home house.
  • Opportunity to display promotional items at the open houses.
  • Name mention on placard inside home to be viewed during open houses by 5,000-7,000 visitors over an approximate 6 week period.
  • Name mention on Open House Booklet along with donated prize to be viewed during open houses by 5,000-7,000 visitors over an approximate 6 week period.
  • Invitation to campaign events such as the VIP Sneak Peek and post-campaign thank you party.
  • Opportunity for one-(1) representative from your company to appear on camera during the live WTKR NewsChannel 3 /St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway on May 8, 2011.
  • Name mention in the credits at the conclusion of the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway special.

This kind of advertising would cost you thousands of dollars on your own.

St. Jude was founded by Actor Danny Thomas in 1960. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is the charity ranked highest in trust in the nation, according to public survey. Peter Decker founded the South Eastern Virginia Board in the 1980's and the organization is honored to be a part of Danny Thomas' Dream, "No Child Should Die, in the Dawn of Life."

This is a great way to Pay it Forward today. I hope to hear from you if you'd like more details! Hit me up on my email leahATbluegypsyincDOTcom.

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