Archive for 'Personal'

Build your brand: First Day rituals

Leap
There are many stress filled days on the job.  But for many people, their first day at the new gig ranks right up there.  Why not take the opportunity to really seed your company’s brand with the new employee from day one?

Sure, they need to fill out the paperwork and do all the normal HR stuff.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t communicate your brand loud and clear, above the din of payroll forms!

At McLellan Marketing Group, we’ve created an entire system for welcoming a new employee.  But my favorite part of the process is that every new employee receives a copy of Steve Farber’s book Radical Leap – with a personal note from me inside.

The book is about Extreme Leadership – a leadership fable that celebrates love, energy and being audacious in the workplace.  It is about how we try to live at MMG.

I can’t think of a better way to accent that first day and to communicate – this is a different sort of place.  We’re glad you’re going to be a part of it.

How about you?  What on boarding ritual could you weave into your new employee’s experience?  What message would you want to send?

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The decline of newspaper popularity has been attributed to the rise of the internet and the proliferation of web-based content. With an extremely low barrier of entry and variable cost, the web allows anyone with a computer to become an independent publisher: As a result, the amount and variety of content online far exceeds print publications in most fields.

So how can newspapers survive and do well as a business in the future? Perhaps by cutting back and going more niche to provide content that features deeper analysis and investigative reporting. In an article entitled ‘The Elite Newspaper of the Future’, Philip Meyer suggests that the money and audience comes from specialized, not general media.

This particular quote explains in greater detail:

I still believe that a newspaper’s most important product, the product least vulnerable to substitution, is community influence. It gains this influence by being the trusted source for locally produced news, analysis and investigative reporting about public affairs. This influence makes it more attractive to advertisers.

By news, I don’t mean stenographic coverage of public meetings, channeling press releases or listing unanalyzed collections of facts. The old hunter-gatherer model of journalism is no longer sufficient. Now that information is so plentiful, we don’t need new information so much as help in processing what’s already available.

Just as the development of modern agriculture led to a demand for varieties of processed food, the information age has created a demand for processed information. We need someone to put it into context, give it theoretical framing and suggest ways to act on it.

Scaling back on the all-you-can-eat content buffet in favor of more exclusive material does not just appeal to a hardcore audience.  People get their information from one another, not just through the direct consumption of media. Catering to the leadership audience, the well-educated news junkies and opinion leaders, will help spread your content in the long run.

Will this topical specialization make newspapers profitable? Maybe. If newspapers can’t compete with blogs and online news sites in terms of speed and variety, perhaps they can trump them in terms of depth or trust. After all, feature-length content with solid, investigative reporting is not something you’ll often find on most blogs or personal sites on the web.

Daily newspapers will always be around, although they will be read less as more people come to have persistent access to the internet. A newspaper gives you the opinion of the journalist, but a blog throws in the comments of other readers. The web also gives you instant social interactivity, which is appealing for people who want to connect over what they’ve read.

To be able to share an opinion on what you’ve just read is enormously satisfying. Good content can be one-way but I think its increasingly important to socialize information and make it a facilitator for communal interaction. Print publications of the future would do well to consider developing some form of an online component to complement their offline product.

On the other hand, the problem of information overload is very real. Just think about it. More and more online/print publications are created everyday: to track and read many of them is very time consuming. People will be forced to pick and choose what to read. Some blogs will get dropped from a feed reader, others will remain. It’s easy to predict who survives.

Blogs that just repeat information already published elsewhere are providing value that can be substituted. To put it another way, these sites are completely dispensable. They lose out when a choice has to be made due to time/attention scarcity. These sites are usually the ones that just regurgitate content released on mainstream media or other larger blogs. Their identity is virtually unrecognizable. A great logo and design won’t save them.

Sites that serve as a comprehensive and reliable filter of information on a topic will be read, but they’ll always have to compete with other fast-paced news publishers. To aggregate information is incredibly easy. To process, analyze and situate it within a big picture context while offering an intriguing/unique perspective is considerably more difficult.

Those who can do so will be trusted: they are a valuable knowledge asset for any reader.

Detailed, unique content immediately stands out on its own, even without extensive  marketing efforts. People don’t just want to be informed, they want to better grasp a topic in all its nuances. The joy of consumption lies not only in the skimming of a news story but the processing of new perspectives to enrich a personal worldview or professional need.

Publications that provide such content will always have an audience. In the end, it’s just a natural consequence that results from the consumer’s problem of information overload.

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The Future of Content in the Age of Information Overload

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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.

New Marketing Websites = Free Resources for You

I’ve been cranking out new websites at a pace of about 1 every other day for the last week or so.  All of them are lead generation sites, but they offer high quality resources in exchange for contact information. If you or anyone you know might be interested in the free information offered at each of the following sites, please spread the word.  If you have any comments on the sites (they all use the same layout and basic template), please let me know.

Here’s a rundown of the sites and what each offers (for free) in exchange for your contact information:

  1. SEOPrecept.com – Introductory search engine optimization education and information
  2. PersonalizationPrecept.com – A look into personalized direct marketing complete with stats, graphs, charts, and insight to help you craft better marketing campaigns.
  3. Infusion.SMBConsultingInc.com – 9 Building Blocks to Double Sales report written by InfusionSoft president Clate Mask.  Very good read with quality information.
  4. SMB-SEO.com – An inside look at real estate marketing through search engine optimization (SEO).  The top 30 markets in terms of real estate search volume are examined along with a couple of case studies.
  5. SEOComparisonGuide.com – A pricing comparison of 50 of the top SEO firms across the globe complete with links to each firm’s website.  A must have for anyone in the budgeting process for SEO or wanting to make sure they aren’t getting ripped off by their current SEO firm.

So there you have 5 fairly new resources that should help you with your marketing endeavors moving forward.  I personally wrote each report with the exception of the “9 Building Blocks to Double Sales” so I eageraly welcome your feedback, comments, and suggestions on any of this.

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