Are you spending your advertising money wisely?

Do you clients brag about you to others? If your phone ringing off the hook with prospects or have referrals dried up like a river bed in summer heat?

Everyone wants more referrals. These referrals only come from your clients evangelizing, but hoe do you make it happen and happen repeatedly? You need to build a lifetime of client loyalty.

Here’s the Old School Way:

You have just handed the keys to the buyers for their brand new home and have been handed your commission check. After the walkthrough, you return to your office and begin hunting for your next buyer. Perhaps you advertise in the local paper (not a great idea with so many paper companies closing), perhaps you mail bushels of postcards advertising your sales and listings (have you heard up to 3200 USPS offices are closing? (posted by Jim Pryor of Oklahoma)), you have advertised your open houses regularly. Now you are frustrated over money and time wasted on advertising to get average or below average results.

Does this sound familiar to you?  If so, you are not alone.  Even during the summer, many Real Estate Agents are having a hard time finding buyers and listings. They express similar frustrations, yet many continue doing it because its what they know, even when facing incredible odds.

What do we know about today’s buyers and advertising?

They’re Skeptical – Dishonesty has become part of every industry. Advertising has deceived them before and they worry about walking into another sales trap. It’s true, there are dishonest people in the market place. Paul Henderson in Washington just wrote a post about a possible Bait and Switch , so its obviously still happening even with the new rules and regulations the government is placing.

They’re cautious – They don’t want to make a commitment until they see the whole picture. They want you to unveil everything before they sense any trust. Not only that, but how many times are we going to visit the Tax Credit? First it was $7500, then it moved to $8000, now they are shuffling the idea of $15000. Many homeowners are still on the fence because they feel rates will possibly go lower and/or they will lose out on more Tax Credit. Plus… everyone is still looking for that STEAL in the market place. I have news for you… the steals are almost all dried up. By the time a home buyer wants to make an offer, the sellers have already received 4 others. Its happening around you. Get them off of the fence.

They’re tired of selling and sales pressure – From phone sales to junk mail, buyers are fed up. They prefer working with a professional who has come recommended. Everyone is promising the sun, or at least the same type of GREAT service and attention they are looking for. How is the buyer or seller suppose to know the difference between one agent and another? Should they go with the agent that has the nicest website or is dressed the best? Word of Mouth is the KING in any market condition.  Word of Mouth can increase or decrease sales… depending on what things are being said and how well you performed.

The above reasons are why its hard to turn advertising dollars into clients. Greg Nino in Houston posted recently that he and his partner had $5000 to spend on marketing. He offered $350 to anyone with a great/original idea. And if that advertising turned into a sale, it could be worth more. Its a great idea to see what others are doing, if its works.

You use twice the effort and spend double the money chasing strangers, instead of leveraging your MVPs to bring your most wanted goal – another sale.  In sports, the MVP is the Most Valuable Player. They are players that contributed the most. This term can be used in our profession as well… Its CLIENTS who REFER YOU THE MOST. You have MVPs…but do you have enough of them? You can have more of them by servicing ‘after the sale’. The more MVPs that you have, the more new buyers/sellers that get referred to you.

So, what ‘Service After The Sale’ tactics do you use? As you know, a referral is when a client tells someone about you. But if you rely on clients to tell others about you, you may be waiting a long time. Instead, you need to speed up the process. How? By maintaining top-of-mind-awareness and create that loyalty.  Sure, it sounds like it could be a lot of work, but it isn’t, especially if you set up different campaigns. A campaign is a connected series of messages sent over time designed to bring about your most wanted response.

Remember the old adage… People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

A well designed campaign will include at least one message a month (minimum) and should be split up based on buyers, sellers, past clients, people on the fence, etc. You can then split up that group even further with price ranges, areas, are they buying in 6 months or less, or longer than 6 months.  You can never be TOO specific because that is how they know you have their best interest at heart. Include in the campaign, messages for birthdays, anniversaries, holiday cards, newsletters, and more.

Keep in mind that TOO much is TOO much. There is a line that should be drawn so that you are not cramming your information down their throat. With that being said, as long as the information is USEFUL TO THEM, then it will not be considered too much.

Each time you send information to your clients or potential clients, you should think of Three Valuable Requirements to make the message effective:

  • It must be Distinct
  • It must be Memorable
  • It must have Long Shelf-Life

When you demonstrate how much you appreciate your client, they will brag to others about you as a reward. With an effective ‘after the sale’ campaign, you get more referrals in less time and you can cut down your advertising costs by at least half.

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It’s Important to Know Your Audience

I received an email today which asked if I were willing to invest in my marketing. The investment was as little as $20 a month (depending on how detailed I want to be with my marketing and how large I want my audience).

After reading a little further, I noticed that this marketing was specifically for my ‘listings’. I’m not sure how many mortgage guys/gals have listings, but I have ZERO. So, my interest would not be in marketing listings to potential buyers. Now, this individual/company could have spent a little more time identifying their audience and could then have a better response rate.

Anyone that has a little experience with marketing should know that you do need different types of advertisements depending on your audience. Do you know your audience?

Sure, it takes a little more time to separate your SOI but its all for the better. Identifying your previous and potential clients, separating them into appropriate categories, and sending marketing that fits THEM is your best bet for repeat business (or any business for that matter).

Perhaps if the marketing read … “hey John, we have a GREAT product and want to tell you about it…” and then at the end read “Sure, this product will not work for you but do you know any Real Estate Agents that could utilize this fantastic product?”…  Then I may be willing to assist a little. But do not approach me as a Real Estate Agent because that tells me you don’t know who I am or what I do. And if you do not take the time to get to know me before marketing to me, then I have no real interest in doing business with you.

It does not matter what type of business you are in (Listing Agent, Mortgage Professional, Inspector, Photographer, Blogger, etc.). You must know your audience and need to have more than one approach. I think I am going to work on some marketing posts and share some ideas that have worked for me in the past couple of years.

So… Do you know your audience? If so, how many different categories do you have?

Approaching Potential FSBOs Early

This is the 4th part of my series.  You can always start reading at this point and still pick up a few tips.  Here is the link to all thus far if you want to go back and read the first 3 parts – Obtaining More Listings

The real estate market has changed, as you are all aware.  In the late 1990s we went through a period in which just about anyone could hang out a sign and sell a home.  Or that is what the average consumer thought.  With the proliferation of technology there arose a host of new competitors to listings agents — competitors who tried to convince the homeowners that they no longer needed traditional real estate agents.

In slow times, agents must spend most of their resources marketing and selling their listings.  In great times, agents must spend most of their resources obtaining the listings.  With technology coming to the forefront, the resources necessary to obtain listings have increased in all markets.  In the future, no longer will the agent be able to say that the MLS is the only way to market a home and only through the agent will the homeowner have access.

What does this mean for the typical real estate agent?

  • First, more time must be spent differentiating agents from the new competition.  There are many services an agent provides expertise.  Many times the Internet and technology robs homeowners of the rmost precious resource – time.
  • This educational process must take place BEFORE the decision to list is made.  If you get there after the FSBO comes on the market and the homeowner has been given a cold dose of reality, you will be thrown in with the competition.  If you educate them before they make the decision (even if they decided to go at it alone at first) – you have a leg up.  In other words, marketing of FSBOs must come early in the decision-making process.

I plan on blogging about the provision of value to FSBOs.  Just as any other worthy target, you must provide unique value to differentiate yourself from the competition.

Do you solicit to FSBOs now?  What is your technique?

How To Obtain More Listings – Part 3 – Value in Education

If you have not been following along – here are the other parts on How To Obtain More Listings

My last post spoke about the value of a unique offer.  The offer must add value rather than discounting your services in order to be unique.  There is one area in which we can always add value to the process and that is education.  Many homeowners do not understand the real estate sales process and educating them gives you several advantages. (quick note – Be careful not to give TOO MUCH information. That can work against you because the homeowner may become confused).

 

  • You are seen as an expert instead of a sales person.  Experts are much less likely to discount their services.
  • You are being unique – while others are discounting, you are teaching.
  • Your prospects become educated, which makes them better customers.
  • You have the ability to involve your synergy partners – partners who are also giving you referrals.

 

Education can take many forms.  You might distribute an article on preparing a home for sale.  Or perhaps the article distributed is from a synergy partner.  For example, you might distribute an article on the tax ramifications of selling.  The article could be from a CPA with whom you have a reciprocal referral relationship.

If you would like to get more proactive with educational efforts, try delivering seminars on such topics as getting top dollar for your home in any market or how to purchase a home before you sell your present home.  You could set up these seminars with your synergy partners and/or use association networks to deliver these seminars (for example a homeowners association or a local church group).  In any given week, there are plenty of first-time homebuyer seminars in a particular market, but how many seminars are there for potential sellers?

People prefer doing business with experts.  Set yourself up as an expert and you will be building a foundation for expanding your base of listings.

You can see from most of my posts, I always refer to your synergy partners or business partners.  There are many opportunities to cross reference those that you work with in almost every transaction already.  These individuals work with homeowners too and could be your best source of referrals.  Karen Otto wrote a great post about working with a Home Stager – Arsenal of Influence.  I suggest you check it out, if you haven’t already.  Just another example of possible opportunities.

Obtain More Listings (#2) – Make Your Offer Valuable

There are thousands of real estate agents out there looking for listings.  They all claim the same thing – that they will give owners great service (sounds like some mortgage guys/gals I know… what for that post shortly).  It becomes a challenge to differentiate yourself from the competition because of the large numbers of competing agents.  Actually, it is not as much of a challenge as it may seem.  How much of the competition seems to stand out from each other?  

With everyone offering a variation of the same thing – great service, discounts on commissions and/or free market analyses – it opens the door for you to come up with an offer that is unique and is more likely to help them sell the house.  The concept of uniqueness is important because it is tied to value.  If your offer is the same as everyone else’s, it is not likely to seem valuable.

One such offer would be a free home warranty.  The home warranty cost the agent a few hundred dollars but is well worth it.  The home becomes more marketable because it offers security to potential buyers.  And the agent does not have to pay for the warranty unless the home sells – making it a no-risk investment.  Why offer to discount your commission for what could amount to several thousands of dollars when you can add value to the transaction for a few hundred dollars?

There are other offers that an agent can develop besides home warranties.  However, I thought this was an excellent example of an offer not carried by the typical agent that also adds value to the transaction.  It would be interesting to hear what other offers you have encountered or utilized when marketing for listings.  Sharing ideas, such as these, makes us all stronger in the long run.  What do you offer to your client that makes you stand out?

Based on some feedback below, there are a few additional items that are currently being used and has been found successful:

  • Listing Home Inspection – Provides value because this could delay the home sale if there are things that need to be fixed prior to selling the home.  It also leaves little room for the buyer to negotiate because any items that need to be addressed can be identified and fixed before the first offer comes in (great idea Jim).
  • Home Staging Consultation – This is a great idea because you are helping get the home ready for a ‘buyer’.  Homeowners are very proud of what they have done to their home, but do not always decorate to a buyers taste.  A home stager will add additional value by ensuring certain areas are not filled with clutter and making other areas more appealing to sit and relax (great idea Karen).
  • Cleaning Service – Perhaps offer a cleaning service for those clients that are on the road a lot and may not be able to have the home cleaned prior to their next trip and your showing.  A cleaning service can come in once a week or so to ensure that things are kept tidy.  Remember that ‘your clean’ is not necessarily someone else’s idea of clean.

These are just a few examples.  What works for you?

How to Obtain More Listings (part#1)

Over the years of talking with agents, reading blogs, and just gathering tips from top producers, I have put together some basics of gathering listings. I’ll focus on attracting buyers in a future series. I’m still gathering some data on that topic.

If you are a listing agent, you have learned the secret that top real estate agents have known for years. Rather than focusing upon the selling side of the business, true top producers rely on listings for a majority of their real estate commissions. It is possible to sell many more listings in a month than it is to show and sell multiple purchasers. The balance between the two is very important; when worked properly your sellers will always translate into enough purchase business to keep the purchase side of your business strong.

The one complaint I hear from most top producing real estate agents is that they never find enough time to market. There are so many good ideas to implement, but not enough of their most precious resources to explore every possibility. That is why one key to marketing is focus. Focus involves finding one or two good ideas and carrying through on these regularly.

Top Producers have a system for obtaining referrals. They do not let this important activity happen by chance. A system such as this would revolve around keeping in touch with your sphere of influence. An agent’s sphere of influence would include his or her:

  • Personal Contacts 
  • Previous Clients 
  • Prospects (don’t forget the ‘tire kickers’… they will buy or sell at some point) 
  • Co-workers – present or previous 
  • Association Contacts 
  • Professionals – Local Business Owners (they market their company also) 
  • Vendors – Title Companies, Mortgage Consultants, Financial Planners, Home Stagers, etc. 

Many top agents have built databases of 500 or more targets who they contact on a regular basis (or intend to contact). The database itself is only the foundation upon which the system is based. It is the implementation of an activity taken to produce referrals that is most important. The system determines how often, by what method, and with what medium contacts with the sphere are to take place.

The contact must include something that will induce the production of referrals. This may translate into a specific offer (I’ll touch on those later), the introduction of educational information (such as ‘readying your home for sale’) or keeping your contacts informed with regard to homes on the market (such as the next open house… which I discussed in a previous series). The most important thing is to make sure that you communicate that you are looking for good listings and that you have willing purchasers. Create the idea that you can fill the need. Don’t lie – Have a plan to attract the buyers if you do not have some already.

If you do not have a comprehensive database, I can introduce you to software and systems designed to house and utilize these databases. Of course, you can always do a search as well because many of your peers can suggest a system to use and which to avoid.

In the next few posts I’ll talk about adding value, educating the seller, and maybe approaching FSBO.

Marketing…Are you getting your fair share?

We hear about homes being sold in and around our area all the time. Last quarter there were thousands and thousands of homes sold. In North Texas that is certainly true. If you missed it, my last post was – 2008 Real Estate Recap in North Texas. No matter where you live or what your farm area is, did your marketing efforts yield the return you expected?

Over the past few months, I have spoken with many agents. Each of them said it use to be that you could simply mail a postcard to your farm area and you would get a half dozen leads with one of them converting into a listing. Today its much more competitive.

How can your marketing compete for attention when there are over 10,000 licensed Realtors(r) for your area bidding for the same area? If your marketing isn’t producing results, someone else’s is. Homes are selling (not quite like hotcakes anymore… but they are selling). If your marketing is falling short of your expectations, than you’re losing opportunities. And if that wasn’t bad enough, with no leads it can create some strong emotional stress. One particular agent I spoke with last month said she’s lost some listings because she knows during her presentation that she came across too desperate for the sale. Some call this ‘commission breath’.

There are two major things that hold back your ROI:

Consistency – To have impact, your message must reach the same audience multiple times. Studies show that people won’t take any sort of action until they’ve seen your message at least 7 times. Thats a lot of messages, but thats the average.

Changing Your Audience – Every successful agent I’ve known had one thing in common; they marketed to the same farm for years. You don’t need to get a new audience just because your marketing does not generate leads after the first 2 or 3 mailings. You should not change your audience until the well is dry and when does that really happen?

Fortunately, the above items are easy to fix. First, commit to achieving more consistency in your marketing. Don’t give up too soon because you’re not happy with the results. Families need to become familiar with you before they’ll consider doing business with you. Second, pick a farm and stay there. Your goal should be to become the “Neighborhood Realtor (r)”. Anytime a neighbor in your farm area is thinking about selling or buying a home, they think of you first.

If you need help with your marketing efforts, there are some familiar faces on ActiveRain that may be able to assist:

Rebecca Livingston – “Real Marketing for your Real Estate Vision” – Rebeccca is the owner of Real Skillz in Wisconsin. She is always blogging about marketing, social media, and the latest and greatest tools available to you. She can also be followed in twitter @Rebeccalev

Katerina Gasset – Wellington Homes in Florida. I’m sure you know Katerina so she does not really need an introduction, but just in case. Katerina and Nestor are both Realtors. For years, they have been fine tuning their marketing efforts and offer a unique program which includes ‘hands on’ training to ensure success. Katerina can also be followed in twiitter @CoachKaterina

Clint Miller – Real Estate Client Referrals in Montana. Clint actually offers a more unique program which includes providing leads. I would not be able to do his program justice by explaining it, but I suggest you stop by his webpage or give him a call for further clarification. I can say that his Referrals Program is not like typical Lead Generations. Also on twitter @recr

Bottom line… Make it happen, don’t wait for it to happen. I wish you the best in 2009. Since you are following people on twitter… look me up @jcannata