Archive for 'Local'

How To Build a Referral-Based Business

This is step 5 of a five-part series on how new agents can successfully break into the real estate market.

Yesterday, I talked about the importance of nurturing your prospect list. Today, I’m going to shift gears and discuss what you need to do to build a referral-based business.

Last week, Mike asked me, “Where do you get the most bang for your buck in marketing?” Personally, I think there’s no question that it’s referral marketing. So why did I spend the last few days talking about building credibility, educating prospects, generating leads and following up consistently? Because when you’re starting out, those are the steps to building a referral-based business.

Most successful agents will tell you they get most of their clients through referral – and yet, a large portion of them spend considerable resources on prospecting and lead generation with only a small portion of their marketing budget going to cultivating referrals from past clients.

Initially, yes, you have to prospect because you need to build credibility and expertise. You need to learn the business cold, how to manage client expectations, and how to provide exceptional customer service. In other words, you need to get through The Dip (as Seth Godin calls it) – “the long slog between starting and mastery.”

Why Referral Marketing?

Most people erroneously believe that referral marketing doesn’t require much work. After all, if you do a great job, your clients should automatically refer people to you, right? If only that were true.

The truth is, creating a referral marketing system still requires all the basic principles of relationship marketing that I’ve previously talked about – except instead of focusing your attention on prospects, you create education-based marketing around past clients and continually follow up with a keep-in-touch strategy.

You might be asking – what could I possibly need to educate my past clients about? There’s always the local real estate market, local neighborhood events, or home improvement tips … but there’s also a great opportunity for you to promote other local businesses to start building a network of referral partners.

Once people move into a new home, there are quite a few things they might need: lawn care, landscaping, a swimming pool, new home additions, interior decorators, plumbers, electricians, and so on. You could easily interview any number of local business owners who would love exposure to your client list. With a bit of negotiation, you may even be able to get a referral fee from them for anyone who buys their services from your recommendation – thus giving you an added source of income.

Just as with prospecting, the more you follow up with clients and provide them with valuable information, the more likely you are to continue your relationship with them well after their home buying or selling process – and the more likely they’ll be to refer others to you.

How To Build a Referral Business

Building a referral-based business means you must focus on long term relationships rather than short term profits. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Decide who your ideal clients are. – This is incredibly important because you must be able to communicate what types of people you want to work with to others. If you simply ask for referrals, chances are, you’ll get referrals that aren’t a good fit for you or who won’t translate into business.
  2. Fire (or refer out) any prospect or client that doesn’t meet your standards for an ideal client. – This can be difficult to do because no one likes to pass up work, but from a long-term perspective it’s essential. Bad clients are essentially psychic vampires – they consume as much of your resources as they can without giving you anything in return (aka referrals, positive recommendations, testimonials, or even a “thank you”). These types of clients might nickel-and-dime you, berate you for not doing something “their way,” complain about everything, or seem incapable of making a decision. In worst case scenarios, they demand so much of your attention that you don’t have time to provide exceptional customer service to those clients you like best – which doesn’t bode well for getting referrals in the long run, either.
  3. Focus on delivering an exceptional customer experience worthy of talking about. – In order to create Sneezers, Raving Fans, and Customer Evangelists who spread the word about you to everyone they know, you must make it easy for them to talk about you. You must give them stories to tell where they’ll look “cool” to their friends and family while showcasing what great client service you provide.
  4. Create incentives and make it easy for clients to refer business to you. – Give people a reason to refer business to you – such as by holding contests, offering free services with their vendor of choice (i.e. refer three clients and receive six months of lawn care), and holding client appreciation events.
  5. Keep in touch consistently – Just like with prospects, following up is key. At minimum, you should add them to your newsletter, but also add bonus perks and personal correspondence that they’ll appreciate.

Creating a referral-based business can be extremely rewarding personally. It also costs less than prospecting because these people already know who you are, have worked with you, and know why working with you was an excellent choice. And having others tell your story, rather than you telling it, adds considerable credibility – you must be good if others are talking about you.

Tomorrow, I’ll give you a bonus sixth step – how I’d spend Mike’s $2500 budget as a new agent.

Following Up: The Secret To More Sales

This is step 4 of a five-part series on how new agents can successfully break into the real estate market.

Most small-business owners (myself included) are guilty of not following up with all leads they generate. When leads pour in, it’s tempting to cherry pick the low hanging fruit while ignoring all the others who aren’t quite ready to hire you yet.

In yesterday’s post, I discussed how to create education-based marketing materials that your prospects will want to read. The purpose of creating those types of marketing materials is to get prospects to self-identify themselves as interested in what you have to offer by giving you their contact information and permission to follow up.

Let me be clear: Just because someone provides you with contact information in exchange for information doesn’t necessarily make them a lead – yet. (The same is true for most lead-generation services that charge you big bucks per “lead.”) Inquiries and registrations are not the same as “qualified leads.”

Yet what do people think to do? Call all those people who downloaded their free report and pitch their services. And often, those calls are a waste of time – worth just slightly more than cold calls.

So how can you weed out the low hanging fruit from those that aren’t yet ripe? One option is to ask them their timeframe for buying and provide a checkbox that states “Please contact me for a free consultation.” Those who say their timeframe is immediate or within 1-2 months and who request a free consultation are good candidates for “leads.” Everyone else probably falls into the category of “not yet ready to buy” and should go into your lead-nurturing system rather than tossed aside and forgotten.

What is Lead Nurturing?

Simply put, lead nurturing is what you do to keep in touch with people once they’ve given you permission to market to them. The best types of lead nurturing are systematized, automated or fall under your regularly scheduled marketing activities.

What does that mean? Well, if someone downloads a free report from your website, several things should happen:

  • They are added to your email newsletter mailing list
  • They receive a series of follow-up emails from you (generally these are autoresponders that are triggered when someone adds their email address to your mailing list).
  • They receive offline follow-up such as sales letters, thank you notes, or other correspondence.

These follow-up emails, newsletters, and correspondence should be written in an informative way with the intent to get readers to engage with you. In other words, you don’t want them to just passively read it – you want to get them to do something because of it: like provide feedback, ask you a question, request other freebies, register for a seminar or workshop, visit a blog post, buy a product from you, give a testimonial or referral, or request a consultation with you.

The more people interact with the content you provide them, the more likely they are to see you as a trusted advisor who is a local real estate expert.

Why Bother with Lead Nurturing and Follow-Up?

There are a few reasons why you should put a lead-nurturing system into place:

  • Nurturing leads is cheaper than prospecting – You spend considerable amounts of money trying to acquire leads – why throw them away because they aren’t quite yet ready to buy? Many will buy at some future time – and since you’ve already gotten their attention, gotten them to respond, and gotten them to allow you to follow up with them, why wouldn’t you spend a few cents each month sending them your email newsletter, your series of follow-up reports, and maybe invite them to a seminar down the road? That sure beats advertising or sending direct mail to people who have never heard of you and have no interest in what you offer in the hopes that someone, somewhere, might need a real estate agent.
  • Nurturing reduces risk. When you sell a service, you’re selling something intangible. People don’t understand the value they’ll get until you’re actually working for them – and they’re hesitant to hire because it requires they make a decision. Which should they choose? What if they make a mistake? What if they can’t sell their house or can’t find a home in their price range? What if something goes wrong? What if they get ripped off?

    Prospects have a laundry list of fears they must overcome before they’ll hire someone and, to justify their decision, they’ll pick and choose evidence around them. They’ll look at how you sell your services, the quality of the information you provide, what your office looks like, how you dress, whether you tell them information that contradicts what they think they already know.

    When you continually follow up with them by offering them new information and interact with them via your newsletter, blogs, sales letters and other marketing materials, you start to build a relationship with them. As they get to know and trust you, working with you seems much less risky.

  • Nurturing builds relationships and trust – The more people interact with you and your content, the more likely they are to get to know, like and trust you. People prefer to do business with those who understand their business needs and express a genuine concern for their well being rather than those who are looking to make a quick buck at their expense. As you follow up, show your personality, and continue to offer great advice, you become a trusted advisor – the person they will turn to for their real estate needs.
  • Nurturing educates prospects – When prospects call you, you are at a disadvantage. Often these prospects have certain expectations about what a real estate agent should do for them – and in many cases, those expectations are misguided and run counter to what it takes to actually buy or sell a home. They might hear negative things from the media, or watch HGTV programs designed more to entertain than sell a home, or hear stories (good and bad) from their friends and family about what real estate agents did or didn’t do. When a prospect is in your nurturing system, you can re-educate them about what to expect. You can bring up issues they probably haven’t thought of and guide them through the process so when they’re ready to buy or sell, they already know the right way to go about it.

Your client list is your business’ most valuable asset. Your prospecting list is probably its second most valuable asset, as these people have a much greater potential to evolve into clients than the average person on the street.

Tomorrow I’ll conclude this series by addressing how you can generate leads with referral partners.

Using Video in Your Real Estate Marketing

Having commercial quality video that represents your business is a valuable animated brochure.

Much like a traditional website the highly produced video is useful, but not nearly as much as the more scrappy on the fly production. Much like what a blog is about. Because of its conversational nature, Web 2.0 demands speed and consistency.

Some ideas for quick and powerful video marketing
:

  1. Testimonial gathering-Nothing is more powerful than a testimonial and nothing is more powerful than a testimonial on video on your blog, website, CD, etc.
  2. Digital Door Knocking. This beats the old style way of cold doors (which still works by the way). Simply go to all your happy clients and interview them about your neighborhood. What do they love about the neighborhood and local flavors? What do they like about their new lifestyle? Etc. Talk about local blogging!
  3. Digital Neighborhood Tours-be the ambassador to your farm areas. This can really go beyond just video. It can become a social event whereby your online followers meet you in person as Pat Kitano described in our most recent podcast.
  4. Meet the Affiliates-Buyers and Sellers are usually clueless about all these affiliate fees they have to pay. Like escrow, title, pest control, home warranty, etc. Interview  these people and let them describe the reasons for their services. There is a plethora of knowledge (translated as potentially very rich web content)  that these folks can provide for you. Besides it makes it much easier to get your rep written in on the contract when she just sold the client, not you!

So there are some ideas to get you brainstorming. Actually pretty much anything you would blog about can be vblogged.

We will discuss video marketing in much more detail in our launch of the Real Estate Guerilla Coaching Club.

Eunice Bauer, 1928-2008, RIP

On June 25, 2008, my mother, Eunice Bauer, passed away after 79 years and recent bouts with bladder cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Many of you who are familiar with the developments in recent months knew, as I did, that this day was quickly approaching, but that doesn’t prepare anyone for the actual event.  I thought all along that I was prepared for this moment, but I am clearly not.

Even though my mother is in a much better place and finally free of the pain and suffering, the sense of loss is tremendous. My mom was my best friend on top of being my mother, and I’m obviously very torn up about it. I’ll remember my mom as fondly as a son ever could, and I’ll obviously never forget her.

She was a fiery lady with a strong will and determination that I hope has filtered to some degree down to me.  She was also a huge believer in her boys and always encouraged us even when we messed up.  She enjoyed laughing, cutting up and sharing a beer with friends and family.  We’d frequently have “family nights” on Thursdays at a local restaurant, and that made mom really happy even if she didn’t order anything to eat (she was never a big eater). The time meant more to her than the actual meal.

Mom loved coming to my baseball games and taking me to the bowling alley while she bowled.  She was a great bowler just as she was a mother. Mom wasn’t so great at keeping her opinions to herself during my games at times though–I’ll never forget the time that the coach put on a hit and run while I was batting and the next pitch was so high I had to jump to swing at it.  I ended up getting a base hit so the play worked great, but I recall my mom yelling “Roger, don’t swing at those!”  Of course, her voice stood out because she was my mom, but I always knew she had my back even if she didn’t agree with what I was doing.  That was just one example that sticks out at this moment for whatever reason, but it’s extremely tough when you lose your biggest cheerleader in life, best friend, and mother all at once.

I feel as though a blog post trivializes my mom’s life in some regards, but I also feel as if it pays a tribute to her, too so I’m a little torn on this.  I’m hesitant to write a whole lot because I don’t want to forget anything so it’s easier to just share a few thoughts that come to mind right now with the caveat that I’m admittedly leaving a lot out.  To say I loved my mom would be an understatement–she meant the world to me and vice versa.  We had a great relationship, and I am grateful for the times we shared.  I only wish we could have had more time together with her being completely healthy, but that obviously wasn’t meant to be.  My job now is to make my mom even prouder than she already was before she passed away so I have a lot of work to do.  Hopefully some of you will join me in my journey to accomplish that goal.

There is little anyone can say or do to make the pain go away, but I appreciate everyone who has reached out to me to express sympathy and offer a helping hand.  I’ve never felt the way I do right now, and I’m not sure when this will subside to the point I return to being myself again, but I hope those of you who have healthy parents love and appreciate them as much as you can while you can because you never know when things may change.

I realize this post has nothing to do with sales, marketing or business, but it has everything to do with life, and that’s something we all have in common.  I thank you for reading and thinking of my mom in the process.

My recent hiatus–a serious explanation

For those of you that have been checking in on our blog on a regular basis wondering where all the content disappeared to, I apologize for not posting more of late. I have been facing some serious life crises of sorts, and I’m frankly drained and burned out from trying to make sense of it all. I think all of us go through periods like this, but I recently got a major scare that has me reevaluating a lot of things, and I have realized I MUST slow down a bit if I want to see the next phase of life. I hope none of you have to go through what I’ve gone through the past few years especially the past few weeks, but here’s the story . . .

My Mother’s Health

First off, my mother has been in a nursing home for the past four years plus with Alzheimer’s, and she was recently diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on her bladder. Her prognosis isn’t good–she has less than a year to live according to the doctors, but it’s realistically a lot less than that (we’re talking days and hours versus weeks and months). Today I received a call from Hospice informing me that her condition is worsening rather rapidly which I have suspected the past four or five visits (I still visit her at least 4 times per week).

I question whether each visit is my last one with her even though she’s oblivious to her own reality and may not even know who I am at times. She’s very feeble and struggles to talk, and her words are often inaudible. Even when they are audible, they don’t form much in terms of a coherent thought even though I believe she’s trying to remind me that she loves me. She’s scared, and I can see that in her eyes, but I’m helpless in this situation which is extremely foreign to me–I’m used to having answers and being able to take quick action. I love my mom dearly, and it pains me to see her go out like this. She was such a go getter in addition to being my biggest fan, supporter, and friend. I’m going to miss her something fierce–heck, I already do miss her even though she’s still living (for now). I regret the fact that I didn’t appreciate her and the times we shared more when I was younger, but our relationship has been a very good one overall.

This past week or so has been extremely trying

Two Sundays ago, June 1, I was awoken at 3:51 AM by someone trying to break into my home so that freaked me out and compounded the stress I was already experiencing. I believe the motion sensor lights I have installed near each door may have scared the would be intruder off before the police arrived. They didn’t find anyone anywhere around the house or in the neighborhood although the local news had a story on the next night about a series of break-ins for this area along with an outline of a suspect. I learned last night that my neighbor experienced something similar the Wednesday before so it wasn’t my imagination like I had hoped.

Chest Pain

All week long I noticed tightness in my chest which led me to avoid riding the bike (my major outlet for stress reduction and recharging my batteries). I contemplated going to the doctor or the ER, but I kept thinking “I don’t have 24 hours to give the hospital right now” so I did what most stubborn Type A men do–put it off until a “more convenient” time. That choice was quickly taken from me . . .

Am I REALLY Having a Heart Attack at 37?

This past Sunday (June 8), I ventured down to Captain’s Quarters (a local restaurant/bar on the river) with a buddy of mine around 8:15 or so. We hadn’t been there for more than 5 minutes and one small sip of beer when I noticed my chest really tightening and my fingers beginning to numb and tingle. I went over to the side to sit down for a moment to try to gather myself and began to sweat profusely as if I had just ridden the bike 50 miles in the heat. The surroundings seemingly began to close in on me, and things went rather white although I was still awake and coherent. My buddy tells me that I turned a very pasty white and looked rather fearful that something terrible was taking place.

I honestly felt as if I were having a heart attack so I somehow walked to the nearest police officer and asked him to call an ambulance. About 8 minutes later, EMS arrived and began hooking me up to all these electrodes, inserting an IV (I hate needles), handing me 4 aspirin and a nitro glycerin tablet.

Good Timing or False Alarm?

It took about three minutes after EMS’ arrival and ingesting the pills, but the dizziness and numbness began to subside, and we were on our way in the ambulance to the hospital. The EMT kept telling me that my vital signs were “as normal as normal could be.” That was encouraging, but I still felt extremely weird like this might be the end even though I definitely wasn’t ready to check out.

Test, Test, Test

Once at the hospital, they took some blood (more damn needles) and ran several tests. The doctor came in and informed me that he was “90% sure it’s not your heart.” My enzymes didn’t indicate any heart attack, and the rest of the blood work apparently came back “normal.” Again, that’s nice to hear, but why was I experiencing tingling in my arms and hands, dizziness, sweating, and white stuff? They kept me in the ER area until 2 AM or so then transferred me to the “chest pain observation” area for the remainder of the night. I got no sleep and had to endure a stress test first thing Monday morning to which I should get the results tomorrow (Thursday) at some point.

I feel increasingly confident that my heart is, and will be, fine, but I’m not so sure I wasn’t heading down that heart attack path and that EMS may have gotten there just in time. I could be wrong, but I’m generally very in tune with my body, but I have never experienced anything like that. I mean, I’ve seen black and blue polka dots after a super strenuous ride, but I know that’s just pushing my body to its limits to which it’ll recover rather quickly as long as the purple and blue polka dots aren’t prolonged. The tingling is what frightened the hell out of me because that’s how I have heard heart attacks generally start.

Wait, There’s More . . .

You’re caught up to date on the heavy stuff, but there’s more believe it or not. My family has owned a nice piece of property here in Louisville for over 130 years that has housed a blacksmith shop, general store, and a series of restaurants including one bearing my family’s name (“Bauer’s Since 1870”) for 120 years. It’s that history of exposure to the family business that led me to want to understand as much about it as possible and start my own business at some point. I guess it’s in my blood and heritage, and I’m proud of that.

We’ve been in negotiations to have a Rite Aid moved down the street onto our property for the past few months, but the local neighborhood has taken up the cause to get our property designated “historical” in order to prevent any development (that’s Louisville for you–anything to prevent forward progress especially if you have enough money to throw at creating obstacles). Long story short, they seem to have succeeded for now so our family stands to lose a lot of money because of this. That directly impacts my longer term future so that’s another stressful blow to absorb.

The final chapter hasn’t been written, and I still believe everything will workout, but it’s not helping my stress levels even though my step-brother is handling the negotiations. I’ve been involved very little with the goings on, but it’s of heightened concern to me. Not to the same levels of my mother, but it’s prominent on the radar if you catch my drift.

Why Share This Publicly?

I’m not sharing this to gain anyone’s sympathy or pity (not my style), but I share it to let you in on my life and hopefully demonstrate that life sometimes has a weird way of reminding you to keep things in perspective. I’m hopeful I can post in another 40 years on this blog (if blogs still exist), but I won’t get there at my current pace so I hope you all bare with me and understand that I might be sporadically contributing over these next few weeks.

I think my body has taken all it can take and needs to shut down for awhile. I have been told repeatedly I need a vacation, and that might be a wise move on my behalf, but vacations require money which I don’t have so we’re right back to square one again. I sense myself not caring about much lately, and that concerns me because I’m a very “take life by the horns” sort who makes things happen versus watching from the sidelines. I think I may need to experience the sidelines for a bit.

Thanks for reading my diatribe and your empathy.

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