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November 24, 2011

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A Cause Worthy of Passionate Work.

December 15, 2008

When we creatives talk about our work, we tend to throw the word “passion” about freely. This past week, I got a lesson in what passion truly means.

My firm had the opportunity to create a fund-raising campaign for Safe Harbor, a safe haven for victims of domestic violence in upstate South Carolina. I was charged with helping oversee the production of a video that would include interviewing over 40 “real” people who had volunteered to appear.

Our production schedule was challenging to say the least. Participants were scheduled 15 minutes apart. Few had any real briefing as to why they were here, and fewer still had any sort of on-camera experience. To complicate matters, we were working without a script. Truth be told, I awoke the morning of the shoot with a mild sense of dread. Most had been coerced into showing up, I thought. It’s the middle of the work-week. They’ll be inconvenienced, uncomfortable and irritated by the pace at which we’ll have to work. It’s going to be tough to get through the day, much less create a worthwhile production.

The first participant showed up. We talked for a bit about Safe Harbor and what we hoped to accomplished with the video. Since we were tight for time, we did away with chit chat and got started. She walked in front of the camera and took her place on the X underneath hot lights in a cramped, makeshift studio.

That’s when it started.

With little direction, she began to speak. Clearly, she wanted to be there and she wanted to be heard. In those few moments, we were all reminded that the gravity of the cause we had undertaken would trump any inconvenience and passion would overcome any case of nerves. Then came the next participant. And the next. And the next. Each matching their predecessors’ conviction and energy. Many sharing unthinkable stories of violence, of lost childhood, of hopelessness. Others heralding the hope that Safe Harbor had brought to so many lives. It quickly became a magical shoot with an incredibly positive vibe.
I’ve never been so happy to be so wrong about what a day would bring. Clearly, our biggest challenge would be editing down so much wonderful material. As time wore on, we weren’t tired, we were energized. We felt like we were accomplishing something.

We were passionate.

Greenville rated as best place to weather a down economy.

December 7, 2008

We have always felt that Greenville was a special place now others agree.

The Reedy River in Downtown Greenville, SC

The Reedy River in Downtown Greenville, SC Real Estate
Affordable Places To Weather The Downturn
Helen Coster 11.12.08, 4:00 PM ETLast week, unemployment hit a 20-year high, rising to 6.5% over the month before.

Folks in Denver-area Adams County may fare better than others nationwide. Year-over-year job growth is 3.4%, thanks to a diversified local economy that includes aerospace, aviation and bioscience jobs. Homeowners pay a scant $1,536 in property taxes and enjoy some of the most affordable properties in the country.

Residents in Madison County, Ala., Pulaski County, Ark., Hamilton County, Ohio, and Greenville County, S.C. have a similar story. They’re within commuting distance to Huntsville, Little Rock, Cincinnati and Greenville, respectively, boast enviable job growth figures and round out our list of the top five spots to live affordably during an economic downturn.

Behind The Numbers
In compiling our list, we looked at three factors: affordability, property taxes and job growth. Moody’s provided us with an affordability index for each county. A score of 100 indicates that a family earning the median income in the surrounding metropolitan area can afford to buy a median-priced home. The higher the score, the higher the affordability.

In Pictures: Affordable Places To Weather the Downturn

The U.S. Census Bureau provided information on 2007 property taxes, and year-over-year job growth data came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

We cut out counties that don’t include distinct townships that are within an hour’s drive from an urban area.

Lone Star Spots
Several counties in Texas appear on our list. This is because homes statewide are relatively affordable thanks to low fees for building permits and liberal zoning policies. Property taxes, however, zing homeowners; Texas has neither state nor city income taxes, so local governments rely on property taxes as their main source of funding.

The median property tax in No. 9 Montgomery County is $2,816. In September, the county’s median single-family home price was $181,900, up 6% from the same month last year, but still 11.9% lower than the national average of $206,500, according to the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University.

Montgomery County includes The Woodlands, a master-planned 87,000-person community located 28 miles north of Houston, where jobs are holding up.

“High oil and gas prices are a double-edged sword in Texas,” says Dr. James Gaines, an economist at the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. “When the energy industry flourishes, Texas flourishes.”

In September, the Houston metropolitan area’s unemployment rate was 5.1%–lower than the national unemployment rate of 6.1%. Year-over-year growth in Montgomery County is 4.7%–thanks, in part, to jobs in the energy sector.

Infrastructure projects have been a boon for other areas, like the northern Cincinnati suburbs in Hamilton County, Ohio.

“Cincinnati was waiting to expand to the north,” says Kenneth Gold, the director of Ohio State University’s Real Estate Center. Over the past two to five years, new roads have led to higher value homes, big-box stores and upscale shopping centers in suburban areas. Gold says that the majority of new jobs are being created outside of downtown Cincinnati.

Even so, experts agree that the worst is yet to come. In October, the Census Bureau reported that nationwide, median home prices were down 9% from the same month last year. Experts predict that pending foreclosures and a weakening economy are likely to decrease home prices for at least another year.

“People are taking a wait and see approach,” says OSU’s Gold. “Developers have gone from asking ‘How fast can we build?’ to ‘Do we want to build at all?’ ”

Kick Start Your Low-Cost, High-Impact Marketing Plan for 2009 Now.

November 29, 2008

Sure times are tough. But not marketing will only prolong the pain. Start planning now for your success in 2009 with a focus on your online and database marketing programs.

There is little doubt that those who manage to maintain a visible marketing presence during the down market will be among the first to reap the rewards of a recovery.

There are still buyers out there. And marketers have a number of relatively low-cost tools to reach them that weren’t available during the downturns of the past. Not surprisingly, many of these tools are available through the Web. What truly is surprising is how few real estate marketers take advantage of them.

Search Engine Marketing Fro Greater ROI.

Your 2009 Marketing Plan should begin with effective Search Engine Marketing, or SEM. Chances are, you have a Web site. But is it working for you as hard as it could be? Are you pushing your Web site to your customers or pulling your customers to you? Can they find you in their search? If not, they’ll most certainly find your competition. Search Engine Optimization and online marketing currently generate a much greater cost-per-lead than print media and both are easier to track. But the faster you plan a Search Engine Marketing strategy for 2009, the faster you will reap the rewards. It often takes months to see results. But they’re worth the wait.

Your Closest Sale is in Your Database.

Let’s not forget your database in your 2009 plan. There are definitely sales there. Our research shows that up to 5% of your database has already purchased elsewhere. Those sales could have been yours if you were constantly servicing your leads. Begin a meaningful dialogue with your database again. When they do decide to take advantage of the market and purchase their dream, you’ll be top-of-mind.

November 29, 2008


If You’re Not Marketing, What Are You Doing?

November 20, 2008

The rest of the economy seems to have caught up to real estate. We were at the tip of the spear when things began to slow, and I believe we’ll be at the forefront when things begin to turn around.

There are still folks out there marketing, still out there selling. But for the moment, not even the most optimistic among us would suggest it’s business as usual. We are in the midst of a downturn, at a traditionally “down” time of the year no less. Currently, we’re not telling our real estate clients that now is the time to spend their marketing dollars generating leads.

But if they’re not generating leads, what should they be doing? Hunkering down and waiting this one out? Hardly.

When the market is good, I’ll grudgingly admit that even mediocre marketing can work—or at least, it won’t hurt your chances at success. But what about marketing when all the sheep are nowhere to be found? At Hill Mullikin, we’re telling our clients that now is the time to plan to succeed. Current conditions present us with a rare and valuable opportunity: time to step back and figure out a few things.

Things we don’t always have the time or patience to figure out. Things like what is it my customers want? What makes me different? How am I going to be top-of-mind when they’re ready to buy? How can I leverage new technology and new ideas to get a greater return on my marketing investment?

Now is the perfect time to plan for the new year—for the new economy. Because when the market returns, relevance will be king. In other words, you’ll need to be relevant to your customers. They’ll be empowered not only by economic conditions, but also by a rising tide of information available at their fingertips. So take the time now to get to know who your customers are and understand what’s meaningful to them.

It sounds simple, but another essential component in preparation for the new year is figuring out who you are. At Hill Mullikin, we suggest a battle cry. A battle cry is a simple statement, a stake in the ground that defines who you are and what your position is in the marketplace. For instance, Microsoft’s battle cry is “information at your fingertips.” Barack Obama’s campaign battle cry was “change.” Both examples are clear, concise and ownable positions. Let’s take this time to figure out what your stake in the ground will be.

For many of our clients, the battle cry is presented in the context of a brand platform, an internal, easy-to-understand brand manual and a blueprint for all advertising and messaging. The brand platform outlines a clear, consistent voice that can easily be recited by every member of the team, from sales to marketing to administration. Coupled with a sound, strategic marketing plan, the brand platform has proven to be a powerful tool in the planning process.

“If you’re failing to plan, you’re planning to fail,” the old saw goes. For real estate marketers, I believe it’s truer today than it has ever been.

Echota DVD

November 20, 2008

This is a video that we collaborated on with Mark Mooney at Crescent Moons films. I think there are quite a few reasons that make it successful for a real estate video.

1. The owners tell the story and it is heartfelt.  It was not at all scripted.  We got a few couples together and did candid interviews that went so well that Mark and Rodney were able to tell “their” story, not that of the developer.

2. It is all actual footage.

3. It really captures the beauty and views of Echota but still over delivers when you get there.

4. It is appropriate in length at just 6 minutes.

5. Mark Harrill comes across as real and approachable.

Take a look and we would love your feedback.  The response has been great at cocktail parties and in the sales office.

check out more at

August 26, 2009

more good news for real estate, you better buy now!

August 21, 2009

Great News! Home resales rose 7.2% — the highest month-over-month percentage increase in more than a decade.

August 17, 2009

Five Reasons to Look at Marketing through a Telescope instead of a Microscope.

August 16, 2009

jamming on Chris’s presentation in NYC tomorrow.

July 30, 2009

New blog: So, what does a Web site cost?

July 25, 2009

downtown greenville is just a cool place, night or day.

April 23, 2009

Is giving the Hill Mullikin team a shout out for all of the hardwork in the last week on Great work!

April 21, 2009

check out before ever calling another customer service line and skip all auto-attendants,

April 20, 2009

Have you read about Stellan?