An Argument For Guest Blogging

In the early 1980’s, Pepsi launched an ad campaign around a series of blind taste tests that featured its own product against that of its largest competitor and the leading product in the space. Pepsi, with a sweeter drink that may actually taste better when sipped, did very well in the carefully orchestrated demonstrations. What’s not often remembered however is that in a non-blind challenge, when the labels of the drinks were visible, people chose the other leading soda by a factor of about 3 to 1.

There are many reasons why this might have happened, a prevailing theory being that Pepsi tastes better during sips but the other leading soda is better if you’re drinking a whole can. But that would ignore the most obvious conclusion: Brand Matters. A lot. Even in a taste test. Even when the only investment is telling a random person serving soda in a mall which drink you preferred. Brand is the difference between people choosing Pepsi or choosing the other leading soda by 3 to 1, a staggering turn. As the scientist behind Pepsi’s flavoring, that has to be a little disheartening right? Even if you’ve found the winning formula, the name on the can will drive people to drink something they thought was less tasty.

Well guess what, branding matters in blogging too. And it is the single best argument for guest blogging. Like the scientists behind the winning Pepsi flavor, you may have perfected a way to crank out writing that’s second to none. In a blind test, blog readers might choose you most of the time. But you’re going to find out the same thing Pepsi did: that’s not how the real world works. There’s no such thing as a blind taste test when bloggers choose who they’re subscribing to. Branding matters, even to blog readers.

If you’re doing good work but don’t have the readers, try hitching your blogs to a stronger brand for a while. Find bloggers in your space who seem to have a reasonable guest posting program and send them a sample. If it’s a fit, they’ll let you know. If it’s not, take it somewhere else or use it yourself.

Either way, you owe it to yourself to get read. Even if it means taking some of your best work and not putting it on your site. Getting exposure to people who don’t know your brand is more valuable to your community and the experience of your blog than just about everything else. Early on, it might seem like good writing is enough. That you won’t need to promote it through more well known and trusted channels. But brand matters. A lot. Just ask Pepsi.

Should I Still Invest in Turkey Regardless of Bird-Flu?

Canny investors will tell you that the skill is knowing when to put your money into an opportunity. Who would not have bought into Tuscany or St Tropez 20 years ago if they had had the knowledge and the funds? But many people thinking about a holiday home are not hard-nosed investors but ordinary folk with some resources, looking to improve their lives, perhaps make a small return on their property and anxious not to make a mistake. Turkey has been immensely popular for all the right reasons for a second home.

But it has hit the news headlines over the past few weeks more for its impending health crisis than for its continued economic growth. The Avian Flu virus H5N1 strain has shown signs of becoming endemic and people fear it could spread further. Yet the truth is that this is still one of the best regions with a long summer season, superb scenery, amazing history and some very attractive and attractively priced properties in serene locations. Indeed, Turkey is often described as the last of the affordable paradises

Think twice before changing your mind about investing in Turkey because of recent events and the related media exposure that followed. This problem will resolve given a little time. As with every potential (and actual) epidemic in history, bird flu will eventually lose its power, certainly by the time any property you could buy today has been built. And, if you wait until all this concern is history, you will find that so have many other people and price inflation might make your purchase more difficult or its market appreciation less. Bright investors bought into Tuscany and St Tropez when many of the properties were basic farmhouses, or fishermen’s cottages. But buyers in Turkey do not have to wait a generation or two for gentrification. The new-build properties that are available off plan are to superb standards in superb locations at prices that are a fraction of those in the longer established getaway destinations, many of which today are overcrowded and have lost much of their charm. Turkey really is a paradise and the country plans to keep it that way.

The dream holiday location

So, in my opinion, bird flu is just a hiccup not a full stop. Yes, we have a vested interest as we handle some of the best properties in the finest regions of Turkey. But we are putting our own hard-earned money in so we are not advising anyone to do what we would not do. Is it not a golden rule to only put your money where your adviser is putting his? Would you take any notice of a horse tip from someone who smokes rollups and rides a bike?

Turkey is becoming increasingly popular as a holiday destination and is attracting knowledgeable property investors from across the world, particularly Europe and the US. Prices are still very low and properties that would cost you up to £1,000,000 on any of the Spanish Costa’s can be found for around £150,000 in Turkey, even by award-winning UK developers in an area we feel is the tops, Bodrum. With beautiful, historic, sun drenched locations and longer summer seasons than even Spain, Turkey truly is a delightful and affordable location.

A prospering country

The economic argument for investing in Turkey is as strong as the life-style one. Plans for Turkish accession to the EU officially opened on 3 October 2005. Though no date for joining is yet fixed, the candidacy of Turkey is expected to further increase foreign interest in the Turkish real estate market, not only by foreign investors but also from developers. Look at what has been happening in Bulgaria, which is currently looking forward to it’s own accession in 2007 – and that is only a year or so away! Investors are expected to reap the benefits by way of further investment into infrastructure and rising house prices. Your dream home in the sun may not be about capital appreciation but it is a comfort to know you and your family can enjoy a place that might one day soon reach a price that you could not afford! Or become a usable asset that would add something to your nest egg if you chose to sell at some time in the future.

Just days after the European Union and Turkey finally agreed to enter into talks for Turkey’s EU accession process, Dubai extended a hand of ‘friendship and cooperation’ to Turkey and committed to an extended real estate investment program worth five billion US dollars. A spokesperson for Amberlamb the property investment specialists said “This financial commitment from Dubai is the first foreign investment offered to Turkey since an agreement with the EU was reached and is therefore seen as highly significant. It is also the first in an estimated 1.2 trillion dollars of inward investment that Turkey is attempting to attract from the Gulf States.”

GDP growth in 2004 has been confirmed at 8.9%, considerably higher than expected. This figure is largely due to consumer spending and to investment, which picked up strongly throughout the year.

Turkey received a total of 17.5 million foreign visitors in 2004, a 25% increase on 2003. This trend seems to have continued in the early months of 2005, with visitor numbers up 25.9% in the first seven months of the year, compared to visitor numbers during the first seven months of 2004, helped by a renewal of interest from US citizens. The number of US tourists rose by 31% in 2004 to close to 300,000, which must prove it has a lot to offer to some of the wisest travelers in the world.

With the current improved economic conditions, property values have already recovered and passed pre 2001 value levels. Property funds, both domestic and foreign, are investing again, inflation continues to decline, the economy is growing and the government is expected to continue with the economic program formulated by the IMF.

The residential market is very strong due to declining interest rates and rising confidence in the economy. Commercial property markets, especially in Istanbul, are attracting foreign interest mostly from foreign European and Gulf property funds.

Currently, the most active segment of the real estate market for foreign developers and investors is in retail property. However, there is significant recent interest from foreign developers for holiday home projects located on the Aegean and Mediterranean coast of Turkey and compared to Spain and Portugal, Turkey offers a similar if not longer season at more affordable values.

Yes, but …… Could bird flu across Turkey prove a real disaster?

You are wise to look carefully at the downside. So, lets look at a worst-case scenario: Past pandemics have spread globally in two and occasionally three waves. Each wave can last from 5 to eight weeks and be separated by three to six months. A pandemic could last for a single wave of no more that a couple of months or in a worst-case scenario it could generate several waves of infection over up to two years.

An average build time for an off-plan property is two years, including those we are handling. So any drop in potential rental activity during the course of endemic infection is irrelevant because by the build time of a property. Whether you are buying to rent or as a holiday home – if you time your purchase carefully you are extremely unlikely to find your return on investment lessened by H5N1.

Some observations, in conclusion…

Don’t start putting the brakes on any intentions to invest in Turkey on the back of an unfortunate few weeks. It is almost inconceivable that this particular strain of influenza will not have been placed on the biological back-burner by Mother Nature or have been brought under control by means of an effective vaccine by the time any property bought off plan today is finally completed. Remember, current low prices will rise again once all the negative hype has blown over – making investors with foresight plenty of return.

As with all things, do your homework, keep your ear to the ground and employ common sense. The bottom line is that there are far bigger mistakes to be made choosing the wrong development/location/agent than in choosing Turkey as a location for a holiday home or an investment property.

Learn to Invest Money – Debunking the Claims of Old-School Investment Advisors

Are you tired of always hearing that the smartest way to invest money in the stock market is to buy an index fund when you know that other people consistently beat the S&P 500? So am I. And I’m here to try to finally put this argument to rest.

Everyday, I see articles online by people with all these fancy letters next to their name – PhDs, MBAs, and CFPs – who claim that they’ve conducted numerous studies to prove that you just can’t beat the S&P 500. Well I have a degree in Neurobiology from one of the top 5 schools in the United States as well as a Master in Public Affairs from a top 5 masters program, and Master in Business Administration with a concentration in finance from a top 15 business school, and I’m here to tell you that all that education hardly gives me any advantage at being a better stock picker than the next person.

What does give me an advantage is forward thinking, progressive thinking and thinking differently. In fact, I decided to write this article simply because I grew weary of reading things about stock investing that just are not true. Everyday, I encounter a wide array of online articles from old-school, self-proclaimed investment gurus that tell you it’s impossible to beat the S&P 500. This is a claim that arises out of thinking that is mired in the stagnant investment strategies that seem to be so deeply entrenched in every large investment firm. So let’s closely examine and deconstruct three popular “givens” of online investment articles.

Most U.S. investment advisors discuss the S&P 500 as the benchmark index against which to rate performance.

Sure, the S&P 500 comprises about 80% of the entire market capitalization of U.S. stocks, but even though many U.S. investment advisors seem to live in some strange time warp that discounts the value of global stocks, we very much live in a global economy today. The U.S. only accounts for 25% of total global output today, and more than 75% of publicly traded companies reside outside of the United States (Source: Forbes Online, February 2006). When companies exist in Brazil, Mexico, China, Canada, the U.K., Germany, France, India and Japan that can significantly boost the performance of a stock portfolio, it is extremely short-sighted to focus primarily on U.S. stocks, and the performance of the S&P 500 index for your target returns.

The fact that 90% of U.S. mutual fund managers underperform the S&P 500 is often stated as proof that the S&P 500 is extremely hard to outperform.

Even if you added back all the fees U.S. mutual fund managers charge, even if this percentage was as high as 5% a year, it would not change the fact that the returns of U.S. mutual fund managers are not blowing the performance of the S&P 500 out of the water. This still doesn’t mean it’s a great feat if managers beat the index as so many investment advisors lead you to believe. Invest in the global market and the S&P 500 isn’t that hard to beat anymore. It may be time consuming, but certainly not so difficult that beating the index should be viewed as an “incredible” feat when it happens.

What makes it so hard for old school money managers at large investment firms to beat the S&P 500 is that in-depth analysis of promising global stocks is often lacking, even at the major Wall Street firms. I would estimate, on a purely anecdotal basis (from having scoured the research database at many large investment houses), that 80% of the global stocks that interest me do not show up on the firms list of researched stocks at the price points I am looking to buy in. This simply is due to the fact that most huge investment firms do not provide much coverage of small and micro cap stocks. It is only after some of these stocks appreciate 50%-100% that the big firms will sit up, take notice, and finally start to initiate coverage.

And even then, sometimes the analysis is still lacking depth or meaningful analysis. As I spend most of my time in Asia now, when I look at big firms’ analyst coverage of Chinese, Korean, or Japanese stocks, many times they do not cover half of the points I consider to be important, including analysis of how the political and legislative environments potentially affect the growth prospects of companies.

Because the returns of an actively changing S&P 500 over a 10 year, 20 year or 35 year period are sometimes more or less equal to a static S&P 500, this is often stated as conclusive proof that active management of a stock portfolio is an exercise in futility.

I’ve seen many studies that claim some variation of the above study. For example, someone will perform a study and say if you look at the companies that comprised the S&P 500 in 1970 and kept a portfolio of those exact 500 companies until 2000, your returns would more or less have been the same as if you owned the dynamic S&P 500 index (the actual S&P 500 index that de-lists and adds a handful of different companies every year) over that same time period. Then that person will conclude “active management doesn’t help you all that much”. If you consider my first two points, this piece of advice is an illogical, ludicrous piece of advice that is used to cover up the inability of advisors to add value to their clients through active management of their stock portfolios.

One can only draw such a flawed conclusion by assuming that one’s stock portfolio should contain no stocks of companies located outside the United States. If this is the case, then okay, I’m willing to concede that this argument put forth by many U.S. investment advisors may hold some water. But currently I’m tracking ten global stocks that I’m quite confident will beat the S&P 500’s performance in FY 2006, and I don’t even own these stocks! Why? Because I own other foreign stocks that I believe will offer even better performance this year.

In summary, realize that many arguments for index funds and a focus on U.S. stocks are deeply flawed. Ever hear of the argument “the greater the perspectives, the better the solution”? In stock investing, if you insist on tying your performance to the S&P 500 and refuse to embrace a global stock portfolio, then you are already falling behind from the moment you start.