How to stop playing Cat and Mouse with internet leads

Trusting clients won't run away from you

Clients who trust you won't run away

“Hello?

Is this Marina?

I’m calling because we’d like you to be our Realtor… “

This phone call marks the beginning of my dream come true…

My dream is about changing the world of internet leads as we know it.  More specifically, my dream is about changing the way Real Estate agents interact with internet leads (i.e. potential clients that find agents through the Internet).

My dream is about rising above the Cat and Mouse game

If you are in real estate, you might be familiar with the cat and mouse game of “Internet leads”.  This cat and mouse game is about agents pursuing potential clients (i.e.  internet leads) while the potential clients do their best to run away from the agents.

And I don’t blame them for wanting to run away.  Internet leads (or “actively looking buyers” as the Big Real Estate Websites call them) want to run away because to them, it seems that on the other side of the safety of the computer screen there are pushy sales people that will try to sell them on something they are not ready to buy.

Potential buyers want to run away even when they are ready to buy

Internet leads (i.e. potential buyers) want to run away even when they are ready to buy and have found a home online that they’d like to see.

When they want more info about a house they saw online,  they don’t have much choice but to connect with an agent to get more information about it.  But they are still worried about getting pushed around by a sales person that they don’t know or trust.

So when the potential buyer connects with an agent, she is defensive, untrusting and just plain annoyed with the entire “agent tries to catch client” process.

Some agents feel annoyed by the process too

Well, what do you know?  Agents who pay for or otherwise receive internet leads from the Big Real Estate Websites are just as annoyed with the “catch a client” process.  At least I am.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  We seem to be in that Cat and Mouse game because the information about what we sell (i.e. houses) is practically public information.  Every website, and every agent has access to the exact same inventory.    The result is that home-buyers simply don’t see or understand the value that a good agent can bring to their home transaction.  To them, all agents are the same.

This is where my dream comes in:

Several months ago, I set out on a quest to change the Cat and Mouse Game

I was tired of being at the mercy of Big Websites with deep pockets who attract homebuyers and then have agents pay for the option of being contacted by an “actively looking homebuyer in my area” – yes, the same skittish potential clients that I was talking about earlier.

Well, today, I can say that my dream is becoming a reality

Earlier this year I released the first version of my website: www.HomebySchool.com

Throughout this year, Home by School has provided me with some side benefits, such as:

  • Connecting with other agents for client referrals, and
  • Increased transactions from the people who know me

The increased transactions were a bit of a pleasant surprise, since the goal of HomebySchool.com isn’t explicitly targeting them, however, those sales were quite welcome. :)

My main goal is to attract homebuyers from Internet-land

My dream’s main goal is to attract complete strangers, homebuyers from Internet-land who bypass the Cat and Mouse game.  My goal is to have homebuyers call me directly not just for more information on a house, but to ask to be represented by me on their transaction.

Well, last week, it happened

Last week, I got a phone call. And it went just like this:

“Hello?  Is this Marina? I’m calling the number on your website because we’d like you to be our Realtor… ”

I didn’t realize it at first, but a few hours later it sunk in: my dream was becoming a reality!

With this phone call, we avoided the Cat and Mouse game

At this point, I had changed the path of ONE person who started their search online and had connected with me asking for representation.  No Cat and Mouse game, no icky feeling. Instead, there was a mutual feeling of:

“Lets work together to find your dream home”

With ONE phone call.

This phone call is proof that my system works

I’m so happy!   These months of hard, hard work are starting to pay off.  I never had any doubt that my new system would work, but without any proof, it was still just a dream.  Now the dream is coming true, and momentum is building.

“Thank yous” are in order

I’d like to send a shout out to my hubby, Greg, to Mon, Poc, and Darkgoyle, for their patience, help, and support; to Tom for believing in me, to Sean at Psychotactics for the knowledge that he has shared with me (which has become the basis of my No More Cat and Mouse system); and to my dear Mastermind friends who have supported me and encouraged me along the way:

Thanks, Guys and Gals!

What’s next?

I am still working on HomebySchool and I am making it really, really cool.  Once it’s ready,  I will start sharing it with a few fellow agents so that together, we can change the Cat and Mouse world of Internet Leads – and get lots of more productive phone calls.

Don’t miss out on future updates on how the dream is coming along – Subscribe!

Posted in Earning Trust, Home by School, Marketing, Websites | 18 Comments

Where do potential clients hang out online (or offline)?

Park your ice cream truck where there are hungry clients

On a hot summer day, where would you park your ice cream truck to sell ice cream? Probably in front of a busy park full of kids and their parents, right?

In contrast, if you were selling winter items (say, scarves), you would do better setting up a temporary stand inside the Mall right before the holidays.  – You probably wouldn’t do well selling scarves out the ice cream truck in the middle of summer…

It is the same with your real estate blog. To promote it, you have to go where your potential clients are – or else, you won’t have much luck finding readers (i.e. potential clients).

So where do potential clients hang out online (and offline)?

It depends on a couple of things:

1. Who do you want to engage with?
2. Can you ask a real person?
Let’s take them one at a time:

1. Who do you want to engage with?

This is a very important question to know the answer to.  If we were to say “I want to engage with everybody” or “with anybody who listens” then we wouldn’t know where to start looking.

You could also post anywhere and hope for any result. This would be the Shotgun Approach.  But with the Shotgun Approach, the results are usually not too impressive.

Or, you could start by clarifying the kind of person that you want to attract to your conversation. For example:

Local Sellers
If you are trying to connect with sellers in a certain neighborhood, then you can have a better idea of where to find them.   Your best bet is to find them through a local approach – either through their Property Owners’ Association or at a local event, through farming (using postcards), or even by placing signs on the street.

Your message on the postcards or the signs would be also local in nature – especially if you invite them to visit your blog with local information.

Another example are out-of-town buyers.

Out-of-town Buyers
Finding local sellers is in contrast, for example, with wanting to engage with out-of-town buyers who are relocating their families to the DC area.   In this case,  you wouldn’t want to focus locally. Instead, the focus could be to find these buyers wherever they are in the world.

But where in the world are they?

This takes me to point #2:  Can you ask a real person?

2. Can you ask a real person?

The easiest way to focus your efforts is to go directly to the source: simply ask a real person who is a good example of the people who you want to find.

Going back to the example of connecting with out-of-town buyers, you can ask a relocating mom where she hangs out online.  You could start by asking where she goes to find real estate information about the area where she’s moving to, but you don’t have to stop there.

You can also ask where else she hangs out online – in general. It can be that she spends a ton of time on Facebook (or Google+) connecting with her family & friends.

Or maybe she spends time on Twitter catching up on baby trends. Or maybe there is a “mommy” forum that she visits where other frequent relocators support each other.

You know where to find her – now what?

Once you know where your relocating mom hangs out online, you can come up with a strategy for sharing valuable info on the online venue that she frequents (without selling anything), and attracting people like her to your blog – which should also have information tailored specifically for her needs.

Let’s see how asking a real person would apply to the local sellers example.

About the local sellers example

Going back to the local sellers, you could also ask a seller who lives in the neighborhood that you are interested in where she hangs out (online or offline).

Online, maybe it’s also Facebook, but then you could create a page with news about that neighborhood, or “Like” an existing neighborhood page and contribute regularly to it.

Offline, it could be that she likes going to the nearby Starbucks – and you could plan to do something related to that Starbucks – maybe a free “sell your home seminar” (and throw in a free coffee).

But – what if you don’t want to limit yourself to engaging with one kind of person (just local sellers or just out-of-town buyers)?

What if you don’t want to limit your audiences?

Then, you can choose another real person who fits a second (or third, or fourth) profile (such as “first-time home-buyer”) and ask him/her. Once you have your second profile, you tailor your content strategy to that 2nd person’s needs.   Sure, you can probably reuse some of the same content, but it’s best to make it as appropriate to your audience as possible.

Now, you won’t want to be too quick to have multiple kinds of people because you’ll find yourself spread too thin.  It’s better to start with one kind of person, work on that project for a while, then see how it goes.

If you do a good job, I think that you’ll find that you have great results and won’t want to rush to start with a new audience from scratch.

In short, finding potential readers for your blog comes down to two things:

1. Decide who you want to engage with, and
2. Ask a real person where s/he hangs out

Once you have answers to those questions,  you can come up with a strategy as to what you will be talking about on your blog and where you will be focusing your efforts to find people to read your blog.

Next step

Please leave a comment below with your thoughts – or questions – about where you think your potential clients hang out online. Maybe we can come up with a good exchange of ideas.  :)

Posted in Blogging, Marketing, Specializing | 3 Comments

Can flying an airplane be easier than promoting my blog?

Can flying an airplane be easier than promoting my blog?

Can flying an airplane be easier than promoting my blog?

Some years ago, I had the opportunity to fly a little 2-seater airplane all by myself (with a real pilot next to me, of course!). I had no idea what I was doing but by simply following the pilot’s instructions, I took off, landed, and actually flew the airplane. What an exhilarating experience!

Flying a plane seemed so simple. It seemed simple because I was given a step-by-step system to follow.

Then I started blogging

Fast forward to a few months ago, when I jumped on the blogging bandwagon – specifically on the “blogging for business” bandwagon.

My intention with blogging for business is to write about useful stuff that potential clients like to read, so that I can earn their trust and – eventually- their business.

Luckily, blogging didn’t sound very difficult at first:

1. Get myself a blog – check
2. Write good stuff – check (I hope!) 😉
3. Get a decent number of quality followers – not so check. :(

To remediate the lack of a decent number of followers, I did a bunch of research. And now I understand the basics of what needs to be done to build a following:

Write good stuff AND promote it

It all sounds so easy – in theory – but in practice, I struggle with promoting my blog. The experts say that the first thing to do is to have a regular posting schedule.

First, a regular posting schedule

First of all, to be able to promote good stuff, one must keep to a regular and, ideally, an often-enough schedule of posting.

My solution to posting regularly is to commit to a schedule, and treat it like a customer meeting (I wouldn’t leave a customer hanging!).

But in order to post content to the blog, it first needs to be written.

The struggle to find the time to write

I struggle to find the time to write content for my blog. After all, I have a full-time real estate job. Sometimes I feel that promoting my business through a blog and social networking is my second full-time job!

The issue with the second full-time job is that I don’t usually get to it during daytime (i.e. awake and profitable) hours, so I don’t get to it as often as I’d like.

How I’m making time to write

My solution for finding time to write on my blog is to prioritize, schedule, and do it early in the day for it to actually happen.

And what if I can only write a little bit each day? The next thing that I had to do was to make peace with what I can actually produce blogging-wise.

Make peace with what I can produce

Once I have a realistic plan for posting content regularly, if it means producing content once a week or just once every two weeks, so be it. I have to remember than I’m not competing with all those wonderful, prolific pro-bloggers who are able to blog 4 or more times a week.

Let’s summarize my solutions for writing regularly for my blog:

These are my solutions for writing regularly for my business blog:

  1. Commit to a regular posting schedule,
  2. Prioritize, schedule, and write early in the day, and
  3. Make peace with my own plan of what I can produce

Now, once I’ve created content on a regular basis, what good does it do if it sits there all lonely in some corner of the blogosphere? After all that work, it deserves to be shared (i.e. PROMOTED)!

I need a system for promoting my blog

Promoting my blog is where I need to come up with a system. I’ve learned about how to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and about participating on other blogs to promote my blog.

In theory, it seems doable, but obviously I’m not doing too well because it all seems so time-consuming. I need a system to get it done without it feeling like a second full-time job.

Perhaps I don’t have the right tools, and clearly, I lack a system. I need a system like the one I used for flying a plane.

Any of you successful blog pilots out there willing to share your successful promotion system?

Here are some questions to get you started:

  1. What tools/software to do use?
  2. Do you have a system for promoting your posts?
    (i.e. Do you do it throughout the day, or at set times? Do you have checklists?)

I look forward to your responses below so that I can get on with “flying” with my blog. :)

Posted in Blogging | 22 Comments

How much does it cost NOT to follow up?

Do you have a follow-up system?

Do you have a follow-up system?

Me: “Jack, how was your aunt Jenny’s house hunting trip?”
Jack: “Oh, it was successful, she found a house, made an offer and she’s closing at the end of the month”
Me: “Great!”
Jack: ” …but we didn’t buy it through the agent that you referred us to because we didn’t end up connecting…”
Me: “WHAT?”

*****
A few weeks ago, my friend Jack asked me for an agent recommendation for her aunt Jenny who was moving to my State (Virginia). Since Jenny wanted to buy a house outside of my area of expertise, I arranged for a referral with an agent whom I knew.

I got Jenny’s info, called the agent about the referral, and made sure that they both connected.

Jenny’s home buying was fairly straight forward

She knew what she wanted, she had made a one week trip to find it, and she had planned to pay cash for the home.

And sure enough, she came, she met with an agent, saw about 4 or 5 houses, made a cash offer above list price and settled within 4 weeks.

There was just one big problem

The problem was – Jenny didn’t meet with the agent that I referred to her. Why?

Because the referral agent didn’t follow up with her … :(

The referral agent didn’t follow up with Jenny

How much did the agent lose by not making one phone call?
In this case, about $4,000.

And how much did it cost me?

A small referral fee and the embarrassment with my friend Jack who will most certainly hesitate to ask for help from me in the future. Plus, possibly any future business from Jenny.

Boy, did I learn a valuable lesson

How much money have I left on the table through the years because I didn’t consistently follow up with a potential client? Sometimes we focus so much on acquiring new clients that when we get the opportunity to increase our ROI (return on investment) – we’re too busy to actually do the one thing that will get us closer to making money: consistently following up.

To be fair, most of us are prompt to return the first phone call and then we agree to “talk again next week”. And poof! Off goes that good intention.

So, what’s the solution? Well, consistently following up of course!

How can we follow up consistently?

A follow up system is essential to consistently following up. And I don’t mean a fancy, expensive piece of software. I simply mean a written guideline with steps to follow EVERY SINGLE time. It could be as simple as:

“After every phone or email conversation about or with a potential client, make an appointment in my calendar to get back to them. Repeat.”

Summary

Having a system that we follow EVERY SINGLE time avoids having to remember loosey-goosey promises of “we’ll touch base next week” (In which “next week” turns into “maybe never unless I happen to remember at some point”).

And I’m sure that when we do this simple thing of following up consistently, we’ll start seeing better returns from our marketing efforts.

Next Step

Do you have a system for following up consistently? Please share it with us in the comments below.

Posted in Marketing | 19 Comments

Why we must stay in touch (or why friends don’t let friends make big mistakes)

Friends don't let friends make big mistakes

Friends don't let friends make big mistakes

Would we let a child burn her fingers on the stove because we left her unattended?  Of course not.  When we are caring for a child, we check in periodically to make sure that they are safe.  We also make sure to be nearby to offer our help when needed.

Similarly, we should extend this same level of care and guidance to our clients, family, and friends.  We should stay close to keep them safe and to be of help when they need us.

But our clients, friends and family aren’t children, so what kind of help would they need?

As Real Estate professionals, we have valuable knowledge

In our case, it’s about Real Estate and related fields.  For example, we have contacts to help Cousin Emma with a credit issue;  we have tools to help our best friend calculate whether buying is a better alternative to renting;  and we have the knowledge to help a client find the right home based on the right school for their needs.

Yes, Real Estate is how we make a living, but many of us also believe that we can make a difference and improve someone else’s life one house at a time.

However,  we can’t make a difference if we don’t reach out and offer our help

In order to help, we need to be tuned-in to other people’s lives and we need to be available to lend a hand when the opportunity comes up.  It is our responsibility to stay in touch if we truly care and want to help others.

Recently, I had an unfortunate experience that made me feel abandoned

This experience made me feel lost and wishing that I had gotten some guidance before I made a mistake:  

I was planning a new venture and worked out the details all by myself.  I did some research, and jumped in hoping for the best.   I spent valuable time and money coming up with a solution.  This solution turned out to be “just ok” and not really what I needed, but it was the best that I could do on my own.

Later, I found out that someone very close to me had the knowledge and the tools to help me.  But because we didn’t stay in touch, I didn’t know to ask for help.  And I had wasted valuable time and money. 

At that point, I wished that I had received a little supervision and guidance before I made the mistake.   Most of all, I felt hurt because I really could have used the help, and the lack of guidance was the result of not staying in touch in the first place.

But… could I be doing the same to my friends and family?

This experience opened my eyes and made me realize that I was probably doing the same thing to many friends, family, and clients by not staying in touch.  Was I leaving them out in the cold to figure things out on their own?  Was I allowing them to make mistakes, and to burn their fingers on the stove?   All because I didn’t stay in touch…

Staying in touch is not about selling

Before this experience, I always thought that offering help and Real Estate advice would be annoying to people. I thought that they’d think that I was trying to sell to them. So I stayed away until they came to me.  But I was wrong.  I think that if we have the right intentions, people will appreciate us being in touch and will reach out when they need our help.

Staying in touch is not about selling; it’s about our responsibility to keep our clients, friends, and family safe from making a big mistake.  It’s about caring for them, and being available to help.

Summary

  • When we care for a child our job is to keep them safe
  • We should extend the same level of protection toward our clients, family, and friends
  • Because we have specialized Real Estate knowledge, we have a responsibility to guide the people around us and to help them avoid making a big mistake in that area
  • To be able to help, we must stay in touch and be available to lend a hand when required.
  • Staying in touch is not about selling – it’s about caring and being available to help

Next step: Stay in touch

1. Make a point of touching base with clients, friends, and family through phone calls, visits, and hand-written notes.

2. Online, when you make your Facebook and Twitter rounds, keep an eye out for friends and followers who could use your help.  Remember that it’s not about selling to them – it’s about genuinely caring and offering to be there for them.

Photo

Posted in Earning Trust | 3 Comments