The End of the China Price

When faced with significant economic pressure, American consumers and businesses tend to take action in a very predictable manner:

They do what’s in their own best interests.

Interestingly enough, that doesn’t always mean that they buy the products or services that cost the least. In fact, it is our prediction that in the months (and years) to come, a significant trend will emerge that will leave much of big business sailing off like the Titanic in the direction of the iceberg… unable to change course quickly enough.

The trend?

Buying on real value.

Real value is the opposite of the “China price.” Real value is what we look for when we realize that funds are severely limited, that the probability of increased spending power in the future is low, and that what we purchase today (or this quarter, or this fiscal year) needs to last.

Businesses that understand this trend have the opportunity to act purposefully now — before it gains steam. And it will gain steam. 2009 and 2010 will see significant increases in mortgage defaults and foreclosures, further pressuring the housing market. The global economic crisis will create significant instability in the global supply chain. This will threaten the low prices for the cheap, disposable, planned-obsolescence goods that are the bread and butter of big-box retailers. We’ve already seen this happen with Best Buy and Circuit City, where the goods are non-essentials. But it will move to Wal-Mart when we realize that the toys, household items, furniture — and yes, even clothing — that we purchase may need to last a lot longer than China intends them to last.

And the same thing will occur in the business-to-business world as well. Long term value will begin to outrank short-term utility and low cost.

This isn’t a short-term shift. This is going to be a fundamental swing of the pendulum. The old mentality: solve the problem as quick as possible with little regard for the future… and do it cheaply. This created the “China Price” and the credit boom. Remember your grandma and her shoebox full of cash? Remember how she wouldn’t part with money for anything? Watch for a modern version of it to arise.

What does it all add up to?

Significant opportunity for local, small business. Now is the time to ramp up value. Build products and services that provide significant long-term return on investment — even if it changes your ability to sell for the lowest price. Retrain your salespeople and refocus your marketing message to demonstrate long-term value. Don’t gloss over the immediate benefit, but make sure you’re justifying what you’re asking your customers to spend.

But don’t confuse this new way of thinking for some sort of gimmick. If necessary, go back to the drawing board and retool your products and services. The market is going to expose the charlatans and reward those who are authentically creating value. If you’re concerned that you’ve built your house on sand, now’s the time to find some valuable footing and pour concrete.

That, my friends, is the most valuable New Year’s Resolution your business can make.

Florida Amendments 2008 – Voter’s Guide

In the general election on November 4th (or earlier if you’re voting early), there are 6 proposed amendments (numbers 1, 2, 3, 6 and 8 ) to the Florida Constitution. Here are some quick facts for you:

Each amendment proposed affects some language in the Constitution of the State of Florida. You will be voting “yes” to approve the proposed amendment or “no” to disapprove.

Proposed Amendment 1

This amendment would change existing language in the Constitution from Article I, Section 2.

On your ballot:

Declaration of Rights

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to delete provisions authorizing the Legislature to regulate or prohibit the ownership, inheritance, disposition, and possession of real property by aliens ineligible for citizenship.

What it means

  • Vote “yes” if you want the Legislature to no longer be authorized to affect the ability of aliens (foreigners) who cannot obtain citizenship in the US to own or deal in real estate.
  • Vote “no” if you want the Florida Legislature to continue to have the authority to regulate this activity.

Proposed Amendment 2 – Florida Marriage Protection Amendment

This amendment would add a new section to the Constitution.

On your ballot:

This amendment protects marriage as the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife and provides that no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.

The direct financial impact this amendment will have on state and local government revenues and expenditures cannot be determined, but is expected to be minor.

What it means

  • Vote “yes” if you want the traditional definition of marriage as “one man and one woman” to be the working definition of the term in the State of Florida
  • Vote “no” if you do not want to keep the traditional definition of word “marriage”

For more information, read our position on Florida Amendment 2

Proposed Amendment 3

This amendment would change existing language in the Constitution in Article VII, Sections 3 and 4 and would add a new section in Article XI.

On your ballot:

Changes and Improvements Not Affecting the Assessed Value of Residential Real Property

Authorizes the Legislature, by general law, to prohibit consideration of changes or improvements to residential real property which increase resistance to wind damage and installation of renewable energy source devices as factors in assessing the propertyâ€s value for ad valorem taxation purposes. Effective upon adoption, repeals the existing renewable energy source device exemption no longer in effect.

What it means

  • Vote “yes” if you want to allow the Florida Legislature to have the authority to prevent upgrades to homes in Florida that are installed specifically for the purpose of A) protecting it from wind damage (hurricanes and tornadoes) or B) adding alternative energy (such as solar) from changing the value of the home for the purpose of property tax assessments. In short: if you spend money to protect your house, you won’t be penalized with property taxes (assuming the Legislature actually uses this new-found authority and passes a law to prohibit you from being taxed on this kind of thing).
  • Vote “no” if you do not want the Legislature to have the power to prevent you from being taxed on these upgrades.

Proposed Amendment 4

This amendment would change existing language in the Constitution in Article VII, Sections 3 & 4  and in Article XII, Section 28

On your ballot:

Property Tax Exemption of Perpetually Conserved Land; Classification and Assessment of Land Used for Conservation

Requires Legislature to provide a property tax exemption for real property encumbered by perpetual conservation easements or other perpetual conservation protections, defined by general law. Requires Legislature to provide for classification and assessment of land used for conservation purposes, and not perpetually encumbered, solely on the basis of character or use. Subjects assessment benefit to conditions, limitations, and reasonable definitions established by general law. Applies to property taxes beginning in 2010.

What it means

  • Vote “yes” if you want land owned by taxpayers in Florida which cannot be developed because of conservation easements (e.g. the land has been declared a natural wildlife habitat) or because the owners have chosen to use the land for the purposes of conservation (e.g. there isn’t a conservation easement, but the property is being used like there is one) from being taxed like other land.
  • Vote “no” if you do not want to provide this tax exemption.

Proposed Amendment 6

This amendment would change existing language in the Constitution in Article VII, Section 4 and would add a new section in Article XII.

On your ballot:

Assessment of Working Waterfront Property Based Upon Current Use

Provides for assessment based upon use of land used predominantly for commercial fishing purposes; land used for vessel launches into waters that are navigable and accessible to the public; marinas and drystacks that are open to the public; and water-dependent marine manufacturing facilities, commercial fishing facilities, and marine vessel construction and repair facilities and their support activities, subject to conditions, limitations, and reasonable definitions specified by general law.

What it means

  • Vote “yes” if you want waterfront land used for the purposes listed above to have its property tax assessments reflect its usage. In other words, it’s one thing to operate a marina or a boat launch on your waterfront property. It’s another thing to build luxury condos there. This amendment would allow for the property taxes assessed to account for this type of distinction.
  • Vote “no” if you do not want to provide this distinction for assessed property taxes.

Proposed Amendment 8

This amendment would change existing language in the Constitution in Article VII, Section 9.

On your ballot:

Local Option Community College Funding

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to require that the Legislature authorize counties to levy a local option sales tax to supplement community college funding; requiring voter approval to levy the tax; providing that approved taxes will sunset after 5 years and may be reauthorized by the voters.

What it means

  • Vote “yes” if you the Legislature to allow counties to use a sales tax hike to raise money for community colleges. The counties would have to allow citizens to vote and approve the sales tax increase, which would automatically expire in 5 years unless a new vote authorizes it to be renewed (in 5-year increments).
  • Vote “no” if you do not want the Legislature to allow counties to levy sales tax increases for this purpose.

Was This Useful?

I hope it was helpful for you to have a preview of what’s on your ballot and some simple explanations of what these amendments are all about. If so, please leave a comment!

Florida Amendment 2 – Voter’s Guide

I’ve held off for a long time writing about Florida Amendment Two, in part because the issue seems so polarized for reasons that can be counterproductive to reasonable, rational debate.

I do have a position on it, however, and I feel like the time has come to make it known. Before I do so, here are a couple of fundamentals just for the sake of covering the facts and making them abundantly clear.

Facts on Amendment Two

First, here’s the text of Florida Amendment 2:

“In as much as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”

Secondly, let’s make it clear. The amendment is deceptively simple. It defines the word “marriage” by the historic, traditional definition of the term as it relates to monogamous heterosexual legal union.

Now for some thoughts:

  • It is ludicrous for Amendment Two — or any amendment of its kind — to ever be required.
  • But this is precisely why I believe it is important that Florida passes Amendment 2.
  • Setting aside all the rhetoric representing “left” or “right,” it is critical that this amendment be passed because it puts a stop to the disgusting trend of undermining the law simply by redefining terms.

In case you’re new to this particular strategy, it happens when lawmakers or courts (judges) — or anyone else, for that matter — decide to push a particular agenda in a less-than-forthright manner. They decide to substitute a “new” or “modern” definition for a term whose meaning has been long established so that they can cause existing laws or established legal framework to come to mean something quite different than intended.

For the record, I am in favor of creating an environment that addresses the legal needs of today.  It is dangerous, however, to do so by this method. Essentially any law or legal traditon, including any right — whether property right, moral right, or civil right — is subject to being eroded or stolen when we resort to “redefining terms.”

So, for those who believe in the fundamental rule of law, this amendment is important.  Send a message loud and clear to the judges and others attempting to influence legislation that we, as Americans, will not tolerate underhanded methods that bypass the legal means to bring changes to our laws.

Amendment Two, if passed, will send this message.

The Bottom Line on Amendment 2

I urge you to vote for Florida Amendment 2.  Let’s bring the complex legal issues that are raised by the debate around Amendment Two before the legislative bodies that have jurisdiction and handle them as intended by the Florida Constitution — not by circumventing them through semantics.

How to Get Results Now in Your Marketing

Once question I’ve been asked frequently by friends and business associates is this: “How are you able to help your clients increase revenues when none of our marketing efforts seem to be working as well as they used to work?”

There’s no short, simple answer to this question. And about a year ago, I sat down and tried to figure out the best way to help show our clients, colleagues and friends with small businesses how to put all of this into practice. What resulted was a 12-week marketing training program that we implemented for the first time early this year.

Before getting into more detail, I want to mention that we’re taking the major highlights of this process and presenting them in Sarasota in a half-day seminar on September 27th. Visit Results Now Marketing to find out all about it.

The results have been nothing short of mind-boggling.  Instead of us actually providing services to these businesspeople, we’re simply showing them the process we use. It’s a strategic process, which means that it is transferable and can be adapted to just about any business.

One company put the techniques to work for them and, after having a website for 7 years that never made it anywhere near the top of the search engines, they put a brand new website on the front page of Google (for actual searches that their potential customers would run) in just a matter of a couple of weeks!

(They did it!  We simply showed them how!)

That’s just the beginning… some of the strategies we show have multiplied the revenues in some of our clients within a matter of a few months.

I want to show you how as well. Join us on September 27th for Results Now Marketing in Sarasota.

Congratulations, Gemesis!

It’s an absolute pleasure to spotlight local companies making a splash outside of our region, and so imagine my delight when I spotted this piece in the San Francisco Chronicle on our very own Gemesis Corp.

Published today, the story casts Gemesis in quite a positive light as an industry leader in cultivated diamonds, noting that Gemesis’ Stephen Lux was in the Bay Area to hold a show centered around the lab-grown stones. Judging from the Chronicle piece, the stones were received somewhat favorably by area jewelry retailers, and may be making some appearances in display cases in the coming months.

Hope everything goes well in your new test market, Gemesis… and on behalf of Sarasota, thanks to Stephen Lux and crew for representing!

Have An Epiphany In Your Marketing

With so much talk of recession… and some actual slowdowns — some of them serious, especially within certain industries — businesses have a tendency to cut back in areas that can make matters worse.

Marketing is at the top of the list.

If you know me, then you know that I’m not in favor of untracked, unmeasurable and expensive advertising anyway.  So, don’t get too upset if you think I’m thinking mainly of advertising… I’m not.  What I’m referring to are the systems in your business that produce new prospects and/or customers on a regular basis.

You do have some of those, don’t you?

If not, then the time has come for you to put some in place.  And fast!  If you do, then it’s important that you proceed with caution if you’re eyeing them in your budget.

2 Big Announcements

First… we are happy to unveil a shiny new blog site that just launched. It is focused on small business marketing and already has a few posts on it (some of which were gleaned from other publications for which we’ve written).  This reflects the renewed focus in our business: Epiphany Marketing.

Secondly… there are a couple of big things coming in the next few weeks.  So, this is an announcement about our coming announcements!  But there will be some significant new opportunities for you as a business person to learn how to use applied strategy along with some free and low-cost technology to make sure that your future customers find you instead of someone else.  It’s going to be big!

Here’s a hint: there will be something happening in Sarasota.

If you’re one of our many readers from across the US and around the world… not to worry, we’ve got something coming for you, too.  Keep your eyes glued to this spot… and the new marketing blog, too!

Finally… Small Business Marketing Made Simple

As most of our faithful readers know, this company was founded as a marketing consultancy. Marketing strategy is and always been our core competency. And, although we’ve done quite a bit of strategic work over the years that has been focused more at leadership and overall performance, in the last 24 months or so, we’ve been doing more strategic marketing work than ever before.

In fact, the work we’ve been doing has been so effective and is in such high demand — particularly among small business owners — that we’ve been forced to bring a shift to our business. Here’s an idea of what I mean:

“When David told me that I could start using the internet as a primary method for marketing my Neurology practice and obtaining new patients, I didn’t believe him. I did not understand the power of the Internet in reaching thousands of people daily with information about my business and services we provide. However, having prior experience of working with Dave, where he made outrageous claims that I didn’t believe, I proceeded with designing a completely new website and blog site.

His predictions came true, where now my Internet presence is responsible for a large number of new referrals. The initial investment cost of the project was rapidly recouped and as an ongoing service, my website has added significant revenue to my annual bottom line. Within 6 months of implementation, I was ranked on the top four pages of Google. Almost 50% of my new patients were (and are) coming in after finding me on the web. I was a busy physician when I started down this road – but I was able to use the techniques he showed me to make my business even more successful. With the excellent response to the website, I have been able to cut our yellow pages advertising budget by fifty percent. David is a skilled IT person and is very knowledgeable about marketing and creative uses of the Internet.”

– V. Daniel Kassicieh, D.O., founder of Sarasota Neurology, P.A.

One client (with a well-established business) multiplied revenues by a factor of 5 just last year alone!

We’re having such tremendous results that we recognize the need to share what we know. The good news is that any business person can implement these strategies right away.

So… I have 2 critical announcements to make.

  1. Effective January 1, 2008, we have no longer been offering any consulting services not related to marketing. The epiphanyconsulting.net site will be redesigned (when we have time) to reflect that change.
  2. We are formally announcing that we are not accepting new Epiphany Marketing clients at this time. The EpiphanyMarketing.com site has already been changed to reflect this fact. We will continue to evaluate new strategic marketing projects only from existing clients and Epiphany Marketing subscribers on a first-come, first-served basis.
  3. This means that the best way to access what we know is to participate in one of our training programs. A new round of these is starting up shortly.

Consider this your personal invitation to join me and my good friend (and client) Michael Pink on a conference call this Thursday or Friday. There are currently 4 time slots to choose from, but a couple of them are already nearly full (we can only accommodate 200 callers on each call), because Michael has been inviting people through his blog. We will consider adding additional slots if these fill up completely.

Here’s where to go sign up for these important calls.

I look forward to talking with you very soon!

Florida Amendment 1 – Voter’s Guide

Well… the post title might be a little on the ambitious side. I certainly can’t claim to cover every aspect of this proposed amendment in this setting. However, there are a couple of key points worth considering.

Lots of Hype

First of all, there has been a lot of fluff on both sides of this issue. Here are some bottom line facts for you:

  • Amendment One is a tax cut.
  • The taxable basis for your home’s value — if you already have (or qualify for and ultimately receive) the homestead exemption — will be reduced by $50,000 rather than by the current amount of $25,000 if the amendment passes. This means that no matter what the millage rate in your area, your property taxes will be based upon a lower number than today.
  • Amendment 1 is opposed by Florida’s unions: the teachers, the firemen, and the AFL-CIO. These are the people whose jobs are dependent upon your taxes. They have been threatened with job cuts and salary reductions if it passes, so it’s no wonder that they’re campaigning against it. See my previous post on Amendment 1 to learn what the Sarasota School Board did to threaten its workers.
  • Amendment 1 is a tax cut.
  • Some people argue that Amendment One represents insufficient tax reform, and therefore it shouldn’t be passed. This is a little like going to the emergency room with a broken bone showing through your skin and having a doctor tell you, “We can stop the bleeding, but your bone will still be broken.” Naturally, you stop the bleeding first (in case you’re medically challenged, it is possible to bleed to death). Then, when the bleeding has stopped, you figure out how best to help the bone heal.
  • Did I mention that it’s a tax cut?
  • Florida’s housing market has been having a hard time lately… or hadn’t you noticed? One massive deterrent to purchasing a second (or different) home as a Floridian is the “hit” you’ll take on property taxes due to the change in the assessed value of the property you purchase. Amendment One allows you to take your “Save Our Homes” property tax limitations with you to your next house. This makes the property tax situation a little less painful. It can make a substantial difference on a given transaction. More people buying houses means a better housing market. A better housing market means all those Realtors (R), mortgage brokers, title agents, property insurance salespeople, builders, remodelers, home improvement stores, et cetera all do better. They, in turn, spend money with your small business, big business, tourist attraction, theme park, and — yes — they pay more in taxes.
  • Amendment 1 could actually result in more revenue to local governments and even the State government, but it will happen naturally because people choose to spend money rather than having it squeezed out of them through exorbitant property taxes.
  • But… all of that being said, Amendment One is still a tax cut.

The Bottom Line on Amendment One

I’m not a big fan of President Bush’s performance in office — not at all. That being said, I’m going to steal from a page in his final (can anyone say, “Thank God!”?) State of the Union Address. If you want to pay more in taxes and those schools, fire departments and local governments to have more money, they accept checks and money orders. (Some of them probably take Visa, too.) Go ahead. Send it to them.

But do it because you want to do it. Don’t do it because a revenuer assessed it from you.

Oh… One More Really Important Detail

The January 29th Presidential Primary is your only chance to vote on Amendment One. Get out there and vote, will you?

New Buffalo Wings Restaurant in Sarasota – Wing Junction on Beneva Road

**Update (January, 2009): Wing Junction has, unfortunately, closed. A victim of the 2008 high food prices? Perhaps we’ll never know. In any case, we wish the former owner the very best. He’s a heckuva nice guy.

In the meantime, check out our more recent post on buffalo wings in Sarasota.

For all of you Wings addicts in Sarasota, you’ve got to check out the newest gig in town…

Wing Junction is in the Publix shopping center at 935 N. Beneva Road — home of the U.S. Postal Service and former home of the much-missed Beef O’Brady’s. (I guess the center is called “Sarasota Commons,” but who notices these things?)

The store has only been open for a few weeks, but I’ve already had the opportunity to sample the goods twice now. Both of my visits have been during lunch – mainly because the location is near my new office and I seem to be running errands in the vicinity.

Continue reading “New Buffalo Wings Restaurant in Sarasota – Wing Junction on Beneva Road”