Archive for 'success'

This is a bonus sixth step in the continuing series on how new agents can successfully break into the real estate market. (FYI disclosure: I use a few affiliate links throughout this article.)

I’ll close this series by going back to Mike’s original question. As a new agent, if I had $2500, how would I spend it?

  1. I’d negotiate with the most successful agent in my office (or who I know) to mentor me for my first few weeks. If I had to pay them, I would probably budget 20-30 percent of my budget. I would also look for an agent to partner with so I could market our services as a “team” and thus boost my credibility and reduce risk in the eyes of prospects.
  2. I’d spend considerable time talking to my target audience and learning the geographical area I chose to get the basics down. I’d then spend about 20 percent of my marketing budget creating marketing materials including:
    • Getting free/cheap business cards printed – maybe at VistaPrint or another online printing company.
    • Creating a quick web presence. – I’d spend $10 at GoDaddy for a domain name and would sign up for the Plus Package on Typepad ($8.95/month – or for more technical people, I’d recommend getting their own web host and setting up a WordPress blog, which would be about the same price) to create a few informational pages about myself and my services. I’d blog each day about what I learn about my target audience, my geographical area, and the key problems and concerns they’re having. I’d use my blog to organize my thoughts while starting to communicate with the blogosphere.
    • Writing a free report (or recording a free CD) directed at buyers in my target audience who were looking for a home in my geographical area. – I’d then spend $200-400 on Elance for an editor to proofread my report (that’s how I found my current copy editor, Monica, who I highly recommend!) and a graphic designer to format it so it looks nice and has an attractive cover (but I’d realize I couldn’t be too picky because I’m not paying for perfection).
    • Creating an e-newsletter. – I’d spend $20/month on Aweber so I could start building a list of newsletter subscribers. I’d place the Aweber subscription box on my Typepad blog and set up an Aweber autoresponder to deliver my free report whenever someone subscribed to my newsletter. I’d then start publishing a newsletter each week once I got at least one subscriber.
  3. I’d spend 40-50 percent of my budget to advertise my free report. Keep in mind that $1000-1250 is a tiny ad budget, so I’d need to be extremely strategic. I’d research all local publications: real estate circulars, classifieds, local newspapers, etc., for their audience’s demographics (does my target audience read this?), ad rates, and what competitors are offering.
    • I’d first start testing my ad’s headline, offer, and landing page (the page people “land on” when they click my ad where I offer my free report if they sign up for my newsletter) on Google Adwords (If I knew nothing about Adwords, I’d buy one book – so not to overwhelm myself or waste my money – on Google Adwords to help me understand how it works. This free Stompernet video is also pretty good.)
    • Once I got my headline, offer and landing page down, I’d start advertising my report in local publications, again testing the results!
  4. I’d then spend considerable time trying to get free advertising:
    • I’d send press releases about my free report and pitch articles to the press.
    • I’d go to organizations (Chamber of Commerce, churches, women’s groups, etc.) where my target audience participates and offer to give a talk or provide them free copies of my report for members. If I felt the organization was worthwhile, I might attend a few networking events. (I’d sign up for a free Highrise account to keep track of my contacts.)
    • I’d participate heavily in the blogosphere and on social media sites – both on real estate blogs and on blogs focused on my geographical area.
    • I’d consider podcasting (If I didn’t have the equipment, I might subscribe to AudioAcrobat for $20/month so I could record my talks by phone and then embed the code they give me into my TypePad blog.)
    • I’d talk with as many people as possible – preferably people in my target audience – but also people I know – to help me get those first few clients.
  5. I’d spend the remainder of my budget on follow-up techniques: such as any offline correspondence, printing charges (for instance, if I need to print and mail my free report), postage and mailing supplies, etc.

As you can see, I’m taking an extremely thrifty guerilla marketing approach to this. What I don’t want to do is spend money frivolously, and I accept that if I don’t have the marketing budget to advertise heavily, I’m going to need to put in the work to make initial connections and build my prospecting list.

My primary goal is sales – not a fancy website or clever ad or cutesy postcard or slick letterhead – and it’s my job to stay focused on that goal above all else. That takes discipline and putting in a lot of long hours up front. As I figure out what works, start taking on more clients and build momentum, I can worry about upgrading the look of my marketing materials, but at the beginning that shouldn’t be my focus.

So, that’s what I would do. (This, of course, is only one of many, many ways to market a new business. You should choose the marketing tactics that work for you – and always be testing!) Agents, feel free to chime in – what other marketing tactics would you recommend to a new agent on the cheap?

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.

The Revolution Theme Goes Open Source

You probably have come across the Revolution theme once or twice right? Created by my friend Brian Gardner (who also designed the first custom theme for Daily Blog Tips long time ago), it was a huge success around the blogosphere.

The themes used to sell for $79, and they were selling like hot cakes. Just think that Brian was able to quit his full time job thanks to the online revenues he was making.

revolution two theme

Brian is now shifting the direction of his project though. He wants to be more aligned with the open source mentality behind WordPress, and therefore he will be launching a whole new set of Revolution themes under an open source license. In other words, you can download and use them for free.

Currently they have 14 themes available, and I believe more are coming soon. You can visit the site on RevolutionTwo.com (a bit slow at the moment, probably due to the high load they are seeing).

If you need support with the themes, Brian will also be providing a subscription plan that will come with all sorts of perks and assistance.

I applaud Brian for taking this route. It is a good thing for the whole WordPress community given his design talent, and I am sure it will be another home rum for him.


Copyright by Daily Blog Tips.

The Revolution Theme Goes Open Source

Direct Mail Personalization

An interesting article I found while browsing Ezinearticles.com earlier:

A colleague who does work for a nonprofit organization contacted me asking if I could do research on the success rate of personalized direct mail letters (Dear Joe) versus generically addressed letters (Dear Friend). Surprisingly, I didn’t find as many statistics as expected, but I found information stating that personalized letters outperform generic letters.

The Digital Printing Council conducted a survey and the results showed “tailored direct mail pieces increase response rates by more than 500 percent over a basic, non-personalized piece.”

Gotmarketing reports that “personalizing an email marketing campaign can improve response rates by 45 percent.” This one defines customized content and the customer’s purchase history as personalization.

ClickZ shares data from a study that “found personalization was the most important factor when contributors determine which charity or fundraising direct mail they open at 62 percent.” Second place? Timing at 59 percent.

It may cost more to personalize the campaign, but the response rate more than makes up the difference than taking the cheap, generic route. When I see mail addressed to “Resident,” I promptly throw it in the trash or recycling pile.

More resouces: “Personalized donor letters always outperform generic ‘Dear Friend’ appeals. Donors deserve ‘special’ treatment and appeals should reinforce the positive relationship you’ve already established.” From FundClass.

Mal Warwick & Associates, Inc. learned “personal attention makes a big difference. The old cliche is true: people give money to people, not organizations. The more personal the contact, the more effective your fundraising will be.”

Meryl K. Evans is the Content Maven behind meryl’s notes, eNewsletter Journal, and The Remediator Security Digest. She is also a PC Today columnist and a tour guide at InformIT. She is geared to tackle your editing, writing, content, and process needs. The native Texan resides in Plano, Texas, a heartbeat north of Dallas, and doesn’t wear a 10-gallon hat or cowboy boots.

Obviously, you can learn a ton more about personalization by downloading SMB’s free report entitled “The Personalization Precept” right now by visiting http://personalizationprecept.com.

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