Best Investment Ideas and Best Safe Investments for 2012

Here we list some of the best investment ideas and tackle the challenge of finding the best safe investments for 2012. What might appear to be one of the best investment ideas to the uninformed could turn out to be one of the worst.Looking at the big picture for investment ideas in 2012, moderation in asset allocation and a balanced investment portfolio will be the most basic key to success. There are 4 asset classes, and average investors need to spread their money across at least the first three to keep their overall portfolio risk moderate. The 4 categories in asset allocation are: safe investments, bonds, stocks and alternative investments like gold and real estate (optional). Asset allocation can be simplified, because there are mutual funds available to average investors that represent each of the 4 asset classes. Now let’s get more specific about the best investment ideas for 2012 starting with safe investments.Safe investments earn interest and do not fluctuate in price. You will need to look outside of mutual funds in 2012 to find the best safe investments because record low interest rates have taken yields on money market securities (and hence money market funds) down to just about zero. One of the best investment ideas if you have an account with a discount broker or major mutual fund company is to shop for one-year CDs paying higher rates if you can’t get competitive rates from your local bank. Do not tie your money up for longer periods just to earn a little more interest. One of these days interest rates will go back up and you will be locked in at a lower rate and face penalty charges if you cash in early.Finding the best safe investments will be truly challenging in 2012, but here are some more investment ideas. If you are in a retirement plan like a 401k that has a fixed or stable account option do not overlook it. You can often get a much higher interest rate there (maybe 4% to 5%) than anywhere else outside of your retirement plan. If you own an older retirement annuity or universal life insurance policy, it might have a fixed account you can add money to that is guaranteed to never pay less than 3% or 4%. Remember, truly safe investments like U.S. Treasury bills and bank money market and savings accounts are paying WAY LESS than 1%!Over the past 30 years bonds and bond funds have become a favorite with investors because they have been consistent performers and returned on average about 10% per year… basically about equal to what stocks have returned, but with considerably less risk. Many investors have fallen in love with their bonds funds and consider them to be among the world’s best safe investments. Bond funds are NOT safe investments. They have performed well since 1981 (when interest rates and inflation were at record highs) for one primary reason. Both inflation and interest rates have been falling for 30 years, which has sent bond prices higher. Loading up on bond funds now is NOT one of the best investment ideas for 2012. In fact, it is one of the worst investment ideas.When interest rates and/or inflation turn around and head upward bond funds, especially those that hold long-term bond issues, will be losers. That’s how bonds work. One of the very best investment ideas for 2012 is to sell your long-term bond funds if you own any, and switch to funds holding bonds with average maturities of about five years. These are called intermediate-term bond funds; and average investors should have some money invested here as part of their asset allocation strategy to add balance to their investment portfolio. These are not truly safe investments, but they are much safer than long-term funds.My best investment ideas in the stock department focus on stock funds. Do not go heavily into the more aggressive funds that invest primarily in growth and/or small company stocks. These pay little if anything in dividend income and tend to be more risky and volatile than the average stock fund. Go with funds that invest in high quality large-company stocks with excellent dividend paying histories. Look for funds that are paying 2% or more in dividends. One of the best investment ideas for 2012 and beyond: invest in no-load funds with low yearly expenses. No-load means no sales charges, and low expenses mean higher net returns to the investor.Alternative investments include the likes of real estate, gold and other precious metals, natural resources, commodities, foreign investments and so on. One of the best investment ideas for managing a truly balanced investment portfolio is to include this fourth asset class as well. The simplest way for the average investor to add these alternatives to their portfolio is with mutual funds that specialize in these areas or sectors. My best investment ideas here: don’t go heavily into any one area, and don’t chase after a sector (like gold) just because it’s hot. Real estate and natural resources funds would be my picks as two of the best investment ideas in the alternative investments asset class.Moderation and diversification across the asset classes will be the key to asset allocation in 2012. I have also listed some specific best investment ideas for keeping the average investor in the game and out of serious trouble should the investment scene turn ugly. Above all else memorize this: long-term bond funds are not among the best safe investments for 2012. They are not safe investments, period.

How to Start a Successful Business 1, 2, 3 – Part 4 of 6

Welcome to Part 4 of our 6-Part article series. In this article we will discuss; 1. Setting Up Your First Commercial Office (non-home); 2. Hiring Your First Employee(s); and 3. Seeking Investors or Outside Funding. Let’s get started!1. Setting Up Your First Commercial Office: (Non-home) You’ve created a great business. You are on the road to success. Bravo! But, you need an office and setting up shop at home won’t cut it. You need a real commercial location and you need it at a low cost. What do you do? There are a lot of fantastic options available, more than you may realize. I will name a few. Opportunities will vary according to your individual location, but there are deals to be had nearly anywhere you go.We all know that location is everything, but what does that mean to you? For example, if you are opening a little snack or sandwich shop, location means something different to you than it does to a doctor, an architect or an insurance company. Ask yourself: Do you need to rely on foot traffic? Is parking, or security, or a fancy looking office important to you? Do you need a warehouse for storage? These are all things you will wish to consider beforehand.The Turnkey: One of the best ideas for office space is the All-in-One turnkey based office. These have been around for many years and are always popular in nearly any economy. This solution is perfect for the small business person who doesn’t need a lot of space. What’s great about a turnkey solution is the price is low, the locations are usually excellent, and the offices are usually very attractive. These are perfect for technology companies, architects, artists, and many white collar businesses that don’t require heavy inventory storage.The Warehouse: Do you have inventory or a lot of product to store? Then a warehouse may be right for you. Many of these locations are very inexpensive, and many companies are teaming up to share warehouse space to save on cost.Purchasing Real Estate: Do you have cash on hand to buy real estate? It might be worth looking into because there are deals to be had nearly anywhere you go. Currently, many businesses are buying up residential real estate for commercial use because prices are low, depending on location and zoning.Still not sure what you need? Contact a real estate professional to help you. But don’t be afraid to jump in and do some research of your own. Check out newspapers and real estate websites. Also comb through classified sites like Craigslist for deals.2. Hiring Your First Employee: You’ve built a business and it’s growing rapidly. Wow! This is a great problem to have, but now you’re stressed out over hiring help. This can be one of the most intimidating aspects of new business ownership. I won’t like to you, payroll is no fun. However, you are not without some easy options.Use a Payroll Service to Start: Service providers such as ADP, Wells Fargo Payroll, Paychex, Intuit (QuickBooks), and a host of other companies can take the guess work out of the payroll nightmare. A word of caution here: do not attempt to set up payroll by yourself if you’ve never done it before. Deducting taxes properly is serious business and if you do it wrong it can be an accounting nightmare for you and everyone involved. These services are inexpensive and they rarely make mistakes. Plus, they offer payroll tax services which means they will do all that stuff for you. This includes: preparing employee W-2s and contractor 1099s; handling specialty paycheck deductions; handling raises, terminations and new-hires; and last but not least, handling the payroll taxes for you. It is worth every penny you pay the payroll service company. Plus they are insured for the mistakes they make. It’s a win-win for you. Don’t “go it alone” with payroll. Get help from the pros. Whether you have 1 employee or 1000 employees, working with a service is the safest and easiest bet. For a new-hire Interviewing checklist, make sure to visit websites like and for assistance. Both sites offer excellent tools for employers.Hiring a Bookkeeper: If you are in a position to hire a bookkeeper who also handles payroll, that is great! But you will need to screen the individual first. Ask for proof of experience, proof of education and business references to be sure.3. Angels in the Outfield! Angel Investors Defined: By definition: an angel investor is person or entity who provides financial backing to very early-stage businesses or business concepts. “Angels,” as they’re commonly referred to, are typically entrepreneurs who have become wealthy, often from working in technology-related industries. Up until very recently, angel funding was fairly easy to obtain. Entrepreneurs were constantly in search of something new to invest in. It was a fun time in the world of business! But all good things must come to an end. The day of business gluttony, and high-limit gold cards on every desk has ended. This is not to say that angel funding has entirely gone away. There will always be “angels in the outfield.” But angel investors have to pull in their own financial bootstraps these days, and well they should. The fewer business failures in today’s marketplace the better for everyone.Venture Capital Funding: At this level, you have grown your business past the “angel” or “seed” funding stage, and it’s time to go big! Well, at least that is the hope. Getting into this “financial bed” is not for wimps. If you love the hunt and gamble, and you’re not afraid of financial partners taking over your business and personal life, it could be very exciting. But keep in mind, using other people’s money (“OPM”) can be very stressful; not all that glitters is gold. The truth is, you will need to decide if you are a “Main Streeter” or a “Wall Streeter” in your heart of hearts. And only you can answer this question for yourself. You will need to get some very serious advice from financial advisors and attorneys, at this stage of the game. But hey, what a great problem to have! If you find you’re a “Main Streeter” at heart, this will most likely not the the direction for you. If you find you are a “Wall Streeter” you will be in for the roller coaster ride of your life, but this could be some fantastic fun and wealth for you! You won’t know until you get there, so enjoy the journey, wherever it takes you.Have Your Documentation Ready: If you recall from our first article, we discussed the importance of a business plan. Any investor, and some commercial lenders, will need to view all of your company documentation before investing in your company. They will want to see your proof of earnings, profit-and-loss statements, balance sheets, income statements and myriad of records. So make sure to keep all your records in good condition, and run your books well. This will greatly enhance your chances of getting that seed funding you seek.Whoever said that business and personal should remain separate was not a business owner! For our breed of human-being, business is always personal. If that ceases to be the case for many of us business diehards, it will be time to move on to something new. Your heart should always be in your business, and your business should be in your heart. When you’re doing something you really enjoy doing – you really love doing, the money will follow. Just be smart about it!Stay tuned for Part 5 of my 6-article series on how to start a business. We will discuss Bringing New Inventions to the Marketplace; Filing for Patents; and Setting Your Prices for the Market.

The Top 5 Reasons Why Your Content Marketing Campaign Failed

I am, from time to time, asked to troubleshoot why someone’s content marketing campaign has not been the success they had hoped for. Almost always, the cause of the problem falls within the scope of one of the following reasons. Here, in reverse order, are my top five reasons why content marketing campaigns fail:#5. You are not content marketing:Content marketing is marketing a business to achieve one or more goals of that business. If the achievement of your business goal is not the reason for producing your content, you are blogging. That important distinction is not always understood.Many content creators do not understand the part content marketing plays in moving your prospects along your sales funnel. Different types of content are needed for each stage, that is for suspects, prospects, and retaining and selling again to existing customers. If you are not producing content that supports each stage in the sales process, you are not content marketing.#4. There is not a market for your product or service:It never ceases to surprise me how many businesses fail because the founders did not do proper research to establish whether there was a market for their business and or whether their product or service met that need.You can have a technically excellent product, but it will fail if no one wants to buy it. I once worked for a company that had such a product. Every prospect the sales force presented to said what a great idea it was, but they would not buy it. It was a solution looking for a problem. Then you have the other side of the coin: There is a market, but your product or service does not meet it. There is a problem, but you do not have the solution.No matter how good your content marketing is, your campaign will fail in its objective of acquiring new customers if:

There is no market for your product or service, or

If your product does not solve the customer’s problem.

#3. You are publishing in the wrong place:You must ensure that your content gets to your target audience. You need to know:

Who your target audience is. That includes demographic information such as their age, gender, socio-economic group, whether they are likely to be married, and if they have a family;

Where they currently go to get information; and

How they prefer to consume data.

Let’s consider a couple of examples:Example 1: You have a business that provides support for WordPress websites globally. Your target audience is likely to be business owners that already have, or intend to have a website on the WordPress platform. They are likely to be in the age group 24 to 54 years old, likely to be married and probably have a family. They are entrepreneurs, not software engineers.You will find them on Linked In, and they probably also have a personal and business Face Book presence. They are also very likely to use mobile computing devices, which is their device of choice for consuming data.You need to be publishing your content in the places these people go to for answers to their WordPress problems, such as You Tube, podcasts (think iTunes, Sticher, Podcast Republic, and Zune to name but a few) – you could either have your own show or make guest appearances on other shows, SlideShare, writing articles (think long SlideShare documents, not just article directories), blogs, and forums for WordPress users.Example 2: You provide an on-line tuition course in mathematics. Your target audience is likely to be school age children and their parents. They will have a personal Face Book presence and will probably also use one or more of the other popular social networking sites such as WhatsApp and Line. They are likely to have a Gmail account and also use You Tube.The nature of your service lends itself to visual media, which is how this group prefers to consume data. Your target audience will be using sites such as Udemy and You Tube to find content.The preferences of your target audience will determine where you need to publish your content, and predicate the medium you use to deliver your content. If your target audience prefers to consume visual content, text based content will not appeal to them and they will be much less likely to visit text based content sites.If your target audience prefers to consume data at a time and in a place that suits them, in other words, they want to consume content on demand, consider audio podcasting. However, you should only do so if your content lends itself to the spoken word.Should you publish your content on your own website?The answer depends on how long you have been in business, and what reputation you already enjoy. The Pareto principle or the 80:20 rule will apply in any event. If your business is a start-up or is a young business, 80% of your content should published off your website. As your business becomes established and your reputation has grown, that ratio can be reversed.Not only do you need to publish your content in the places your audiences goes to for information, you must ensure that it comes to their attention. That means systematically promoting your content on social networking sites such as Face Book, Google+, Linked In and You Tube, as well as on Twitter, Reddit, StumbleUpon and other similar sites. Consider issuing a press release and linking to the piece of content in blog posts and comments, and on forums. If you have an email list, tell your list about the content you have created and ask them to share it with others.You should expect to spend at least as much time promoting your content as you did in creating it. Not all marketers do this, which is why many content marketing campaigns fail.#2. Your campaign is too short:Although there are people who claim great success from a short campaign, these fortunate few are the exception. For most of us, content marketing is a medium to long-term exercise that performs different roles for the various stages in our sales funnel. Put another way, you need to create content that is suitable for and supports each stage in the buying process.Let us say, for example, that you have a business selling video cameras and accessories. You will need to create content that explains the different types of camera that are available, their prices, the uses for which they are most suitable, and the amount of knowledge and or experience the user will need to operate the device. This type of content is aimed at the person browsing your online store looking to see what is available.Next, you can segment your content to cover the different sections of your potential audience, such as those looking for a camera to take videos of the family and holidays, hobbyists, and the high end amateur and professional users. Content that compares the features, benefits, and disbenefits, the pros and cons if you like, of each product in the market segment will help the potential customer make a short list of suitable products. The person browsing your site is now a prospect.The next set of content will focus on a specific product and the benefits of purchasing it from you. This type of content will help convert the prospect into a customer.The final set of content will help your customer get the best out of their purchase and will upsell product add-ons and accessories.If you are not creating content for each stage of the buying process and after sales support, your content marketing campaign is not likely to be as successful as you had hoped.#1. Poor quality content:Poor quality content is the main reason why many content marketing campaigns fail. The term “poor quality” covers a multitude of sins.Earlier in this article I said that your content must be created with the objective of achieving a business goal. That is true, but not only should your content marketing do that, it must solve a problem your target audience has. At the very least it should give them something of use and value. Unfortunately, a great deal of content that is created is little more than a thinly veiled sales pitch.It should go without saying that your content should be grammatically correct and free from spelling errors. It should also be well written and follow a logical sequence. If you are writing an article, your objective is to retain the reader’s interest long enough for them to get to your resource box. It is there that you should give the reader a good reason to click on the link to your website from where you will do the selling.Similarly with video. You want to keep the viewer’s attention until they see the call to action, which is usually to click on a link in the description.Poor quality is a description that can also be applied to content that is too short or too general to be of any help to the person consuming it. Your content should be long enough to impart all the information you need to give in sufficient detail, but short enough to ensure you retain their interest.There is another definition of poor quality content that is often overlooked by content marketers, that is, if they are even aware of it. If your content fails to engage with your audience, it has not achieved one of your business goals. Most marketers gauge the success of their content by how many views it has received, or how many likes it has, or a combination of both. A piece of content may have have been viewed a great many times, and it might have received a large number of likes, but nobody has engaged with it. They did not comment on it, or share it with their own audience, or tweet about it, or list it on Reddit or StumbleUpon.For your content marketing to be successful, your audience has to engage with your content.The Takeaway:As marketers, I think we can takeaway the following points:#1. There must be a viable market for your product or service;#2. Your content must assist you in achieving a business goal;#3. Your content must be published in the places where your audience is likely to find it, and you must promote your content;#4. Your content marketing campaign must support all the stages in the sales process as well as providing after sales support, and#5. You must create good quality content that encourages audience engagement.Your content marketing campaign is likely to be successful if you apply these five lessons.