"We saw an opportunity ..." How many times have we all heard that description in the last few years of some success story, especially as the nation's commercial real estate industry continues on its zenith-like course straight through the economic cosmos.

But what is the opportunity that exists today? And just how did those people come about finding theirs? Of course, if I had the answers to those great mysteries, well, you know, I'd be at the beach. But I'm not, and chances are, neither are you if you're reading this, because we're all looking for that next great opportunity to excel (or just plain make more money).

Marketing 101 teaches the four "P"s -- product, price, place and promotion. Now how do I, a mere editor, know such a pearl of wisdom? Because I was smart enough to take marketing courses in college, and I've used those principles throughout my career in real estate marketing and journalism.

The point is, how often do you use the four Ps? How much do you know about your product? Do you know it inside and out? Is it priced correctly for today's marketplace, or have your competitors already carved out that niche for themselves? How should your product be distributed, and is it getting into the hands of the right people? Are you promoting it properly to reach the key decision-makers, or is your message getting lost in the crowd?

Now I'm no marketing guru for sure, but I talk to enough people in the real estate business every day to see a few common threads in those success stories everybody is so fond of reading about.

Success Rule No. 1: Be different. How many times have you thought to yourself, "Wow, that's different." It could be a commercial, ad or financing program. What does it take to cut through the clutter? Nine times out of 10 it's pure creativity. It's not different for the sake of being different, but different with "value."

Success Rule No. 2: Be flexible. No, I don't mean "If at first you don't succeed..." I'm talking about being ready to stand behind your convictions, but if it doesn't pan out, figure out how to tweak it to make it work. Do you know people who like to play it safe, never straying from the normal course, who freak out when times get tough? Ask Donald Trump about how to be flexible, ok?

Success Rule No. 3: Be fast and first with your strategy. New financing schemes are a dime a dozen, but you don't often see a firm be successful by having a good idea last.

Success Rule No. 4: Be ready to ride out the next downturn. Despite all of the rhetoric these days about market discipline, a downturn in this booming real estate cycle is, tragically, inevitable. You want a success story here? Call Willard Rouse III. He knows how to survive.

Speaking of flexibility, the NREI staff's e-mail addresses have changed now that we have a new local area network. Please see the box below for the particulars, and join me in welcoming Randy Henry to our team as our multifamily/seniors housing specialist.

Here are our important Web addresses: Intertec real estate group home page: www.internetreview.com Ben Johnson: ben_johnson@intertec.com Melanie Gibbs: melanie_gibbs@intertec.com Carrie King: carrie_king@intertec.com Tracy Heath: tracy_heath@intertec.com Kelly Angell: kelly_angell@intertec.com