Real Estate Marketing in a Buyer’s Market & Back to Basics

We’ve all heard the industry pundits pontificate that we’re in a Buyer’s market. The challenge in this buyer’s market, as I see it, is two-fold – marketing your listings to the largest pool of potential buyers and getting those nervous Buyers to purchase.The first part of the challenge, marketing your listings, is the easier one to overcome. We all know that almost 80% of Buyers are looking at real estate on the internet, but I’m still amazed at the large amount of Realtors in my market that leave their listing’s internet marketing up to their broker. Their internet marketing strategy consists of one website their Broker’s (hopefully, for their sellers’ sake – the broker will have some relationships with some other real estate portals).

With the plethora of real estate web portals out there, there’s almost no end to where you can expose your listing to a potential buyer. Many Realtors have complained that they don’t have the time to upload each of the listings to every portal that’s available. That’s how listing sydicators can help you out! A listing syndicator is a web based service that allows an agent to post their listings to multiple real estate portals with only on input on the sydicators site. Its a great time saver!

I’ve been using vFlyer, which also allows you to track how much traffic you receive for your listings on the various portals they syndicate to. It also gives you the ability to email mobile flyers – listing information that’s formatted for web enabled phones – as well as SMS messages with listing information to potential buyers.

There are many other sydicators out there. Here’s a recent blog post by Drew Meyers on the Geek Estate Blog that lists the majority of syndicators available today:

Technology Providers that can Syndicate Your Real Estate Listings | GeekEstate Blog – Real Estate Technology News and Analysis for Vendors and Real Estate Professionals | Founded by Zillow

There are numerous technology companies that specialize in syndicating your listings information out to a host of other websites — here’s the vendors I’ve come across who can help: * Point2
* RealBird
* vFlyer
* Edgeio
* Syndafeed
* Postlets
* GoSmart Solutions

If I am missing a technology provider on this list, please let me know and I’ll update the list.

Updated: Additional companies I’ve come across -

* MLBroadcast
* Realivent
* A La Mode
* LotsaPeoples.com
* U.S. Cybertek, Inc.
* For Sale Marketer

The second challenge, getting those buyers to purchase the listings they’ve been exposed to, is the tougher challenge to overcome. More on that in my next post, but lets just say that its time for Realtors to get “Back to the Basics”!

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How’s Your Buyer Lead Conversion Rate?

Leads, Leads, Leads!  Most real estate coaches seem to be concentrating on lead generation, instead of lead conversion.  Could it be because lead generation is easier than lead conversion?  Most agents are also concentrating on lead generation instead of lead conversion, constantly running the lead “treadmill” – am I responding to emails quickly enough?; is my reply email more attractive than the competition?;  Is my buyers package “slick” enough to get them to work with me?   All of these questions are passive – that is passive actions that lead to passive results!  You hope that your materials are better than the competition – just enough to lead that potential client to work with you!

Why not take another approach?  An approach that puts you in control?  Instead of simply sending out your “package” or slick email, why not close for an appointment with the lead?

That’s right!  An actual face-to-face meeting where you can use the consultative approach to get the lead to work with you instead of the competition.  There are various ways that you can try to get the lead to agree to an appointment.  Here a couple of my favorite dialogs:

1.  Thanks for your interest in pursuing the American Dream of Homeownership!  You know, most of my buyers enjoy and advantage over other buyers in the market when they agree to meet with me so we can share a few moments discussing the homebuying process.  They can avoid surprises by understanding how the process works and gain valuable knowledge in financing, market value and successful negotiating.  It would only take about 20 minutes!  I have some time available Thursday at 6pm or Saturday at 1pm, which time would work for your schedule?

2.   Buying a home is an exciting process!  Wouldn’t it be great to make sure that you’re viewing the right home in the right price range for your particular situation?  The Buyers that I work with have absolute confidence in the fact that their not wasting their time in looking at homes that don’t suit their needs or aren’t in their price range, because they meet with me before they start the home hunting process!  When we meet, we discuss their wants and needs along with how we can work together to get them the most home for their money!  I have some time when I could meet with you to make sure you have the same advantage.  Would you be available Friday at 4:30 or Saturday at 10am?

By closing for an appointment to meet with the Buyer, instead of relying on your marketing “package” to appeal to the lead, you take control of the situation.   Your face-to-face with the buyer will enable you to qualify the buyer, listen to their wants and needs and present why you should be the professional that they should work with to find the home of their dreams!  If you’re buyer presentation is up to snuff, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t decide to work with you!

If the fact of being in control doesn’t persuade you to think about implementing this approach.  Think about this – how many other Realtor websites did this lead visit?  How many other Realtor offered them a professional consultation where they can learn more about the homebuying process?

Internet Leads – Are You Missing the E-Boat?

I read a post on another real estate coach’s blog today (http://richlevinblog.com/2006/09/14/wwwrichlevincom.aspx) about internet leads that caused me to start thinking about why some Realtors are more successful than others when it comes to closing internet leads.

In his post, Rich describes an agent who has closed 4 houses from internet leads, 3 of whom never even viewed the homes.  The agent isn’t by any means a tech genius, just a good solid agent who responds to leads immediately.  Many of the leads mentioned that she was the only Realtor who responded to them!  She can tell how interested the lead is by the questions they ask.  If they’re interested in a specific home, she usually emails them pictures of the neighborhood!

What does this post clarify?  Communication and Qualification of the internet lead are directly related to your success rate! 

Your intial communication should be as quick as possible and via email.  Many Realtors will be tempted to call the internet lead if they provide an phone number.  This could be seen as a breach of e-etiquette – they contacted you via email, which means that most likely is their preferred means of communication!  I would recommend that you wait until later in the relationship for phone use!  Timing is also very important.  Many internet leads send multiple emails to different agents or will move on to another Realtor website if they don’t hear back from the intial Realtor in a timely manner, so if you wait for a day to send a reply, you’ve most likely lost the lead!  I’m still amazed by the number of Realtors who still only check their email once or twice a day at the office between appointments.  With all of the various mobile platforms available for email (Blackberry, Treo, etc.), you could have your email on your hip or purse for less than the commission earned from 1 internet lead! 

Qualification of the lead is the second part of internet lead success.  Just like a lead from any other source, Realtors need to ask the right question regarding financial qualifications, motivation and timeframe for the buyer.  The challenge can be determining when to ask those questions.  If you try to ask about their financial qualifications in your inital reply you might offend.  My reccomendation is to try to tie it to additional services finding some other homes that they might also like information on, if they can reveal their price range to you.  Anyway you cut it, its a delicate dance – obtaining information without offending!

So, if you’re not closing your share of interent leads take a look at your communication and qualifying skills – maybe with some slight improvements you can increase your success rate and internet lead success!

Prospecting- The Lifeblood of Business for Realtors

I’ve been meeting with a lot of Realtors in my office over the last few weeks, helping them update their business plan.  I’ve been pleased and surprised with their eagerness to beginning prospecting again!

We’ve been reviewing each Realtor’s targeted mini-market, examining listing and sales trends and updating ownership rolls.  I’m amazed at how many Realtors don’t actually have a dominant market share in any one area.  It’s evident to me that many Realtors still aren’t targeting any specific area! 

This creates an opportunity for those that are willing to prospect – Realtors that are willing to go to the business, instead of waiting for the business to come to them.  Yet, so few actually take the time to prospect! 

If you’re not targeting a specific mini-market you’re missing an opportunity to increase your business up to 20% a year!  Some of the markets that I’ve researched for our Realtors could create an additional $5 Million in sales volume for them. 

Talk to your manager about helping you research a mini-market that you can target!  If your manager isn’t familiar with this coaching practice, feel free to contact me for more information! 

Happy Prospecting!!

Cool Mashup Sites for Realtors

I took few moments to investigate some of the “mashup” sites listed in the latest issue of Realtor Mag yesterday.  A “mashup” site is a website that blends cool features from different websites into their own site.  

The first site I visited was housingmap.com which combines property listings from Craigslist and Google Maps.  Great concept, but for now its only limited to larger metro areas such as San Fran, Miami, Vancouver, Detroit, etc.  The only city listed in my state, Ohio, was Cinncinati!  The site administrator mentions that more cities are forthcoming.

 The second site I visited was much more interesting, but far more commercial.  Homethinking.com combines track records of real estate salespeople with Yahoo! Maps to pinpoint locations of the homes the practitioners have sold.  Again, the concept is great – allowing consumers to browse for Realtors based upon testimonials and where they’ve actually sold homes!   

Consumers can search for a Realtor two different ways – by property address or Realtor name.  If the consumer enters a property address, they’ll be provided with a list of Realtors who “work” that area.  If they search by Realtor name, they’ll be directed to the profile of that specific Realtor.   The Realtor profile lists the agent name, phone number and brokerage name as well as listings sold and current listings. 

So, how do Realtors get listed on the site?  I was able to find my limited profile on the site which just listed my name and company along with my city and office phone number.  Homethinking allows Realtors to purchase a profile which allows them to enter a bio and select 10 cities that they would like to appear in consumer search results.  You can try a free trial for three months, which allows you to add a bio and upload a photo.  I signed up for the trial yesterday, but have yet to see my photo and bio appear when I click on my profile after finding it when searching for agents in Akron, Ohio.    My profile also fails to list any sold properties or current listings.  I have yet to find the a way to upload that info to my profile, so I emailed the site – I’ll update you when I get a response!  Check out my limited profile here: http://www.homethinking.com/realtor/Stephen_Merkle;_Akron,_OH

At first glance, I’d say that homethinking.com is a great concept, especially since consumer still tend to choose their Realtor based upon word of mouth!  I’d guess its success will be determined on how much traffic they get and how quickly they can clean up their info as many of the brokerages and agents listed on the site don’t even exist anymore!

Why Do Agents Continue to Rely on Print Advertising?

If you’re an active Realtor, you’ve seen the same stats that I have – anywhere from 75% – 83% of homebuyers start their homesearch on the internet.  Yet agents and companies continue to spend countless dollars on print advertising and wonder why it isn’t effective.  In talking to many agents, at least in our area, the choice rests with the sellers that they represent. 

In our area, our homesellers could be demographically described as “baby boomers”, most of whom relied on print media for their information.  They used the paper, homes magazines and other publications in their home search, so they feel that the buyer for the property that they’re now selling would conduct their search in the same manner. 

The buyers that we’re primarily dealing with could be demographically categorized as “Generation X”.  We know that they rely on the internet as their source of information.  They want instant information and don’t want to wait for the publication to be printed and appear on newsstands. 

So, where does the challenge lie?  In my opinion, most agents want to appease their sellers and will take the path of least resistance to get the listing.  However, if their truly in tune with their clients goal of selling the home, wouldn’t they want to expose the listing to the largest pool of available buyers?

Education of the “baby boomer” sellers will be the only way to overcome the Print vs. Internet challenge.  Direct testimonial evidence along with statistics would be a great place to start, but a focused “internent marketing plan” with detailed information on which portals and services would be used to reach the “Generation X” buyers would be a great tool as well.

Until an agent is willing to take a stand and educate their potential sellers that print media is not an effective way to reach the target buyer for their property, they’ll continue in the vicious of cycle of ineffective marketing – continuing to spend money on print advertising without the desired result of selling the property in shortest amount of time possible, for the most money, with the least amount of inconvenience

Something Different – New Year’s Cards

Happy Holidays!  Hopefully you have planned to take some well deserved time off to spend Christmas with family and friends.  Many Realtors use the holiday season as a reason to touch base with their past clients and their sphere of influence by sending Christmas cards.  

While there’s nothing wrong with this approach, I find that it most likely won’t reap many rewards!  Think about how many Christmas cards you receive each holiday season.  While you cherish the ones you receive from friends and family, do you really look forward to receiving that all important Christmas card from the salesperson who sold you last car? 

I grew up in a family with parents who immigrated to this country from Switzerland and their correspondence with family and friends during the holiday season revolved around sending New Year’s greetings.  They shared all of their families accomplishments and wishes for a health and happy New Year.

After sending the routine Christmas card for a few years with little results, I decided to send personal cards to each of my past customers and my sphere of influence during the week after Christmas, before New Year’s.  In it I shared my thanks for their business during the year and updated them on my business accomplishments.  I wished them a healthy and prosperous New Year and closed by asking them if I could help anyone they knew that had a real estate need. 

I followed my mailing up with a follow up call the first week of New Year’s and was amazed at the response that I received.  Many people actually remembered the card and my success at building referrals from past clients was better than the Christmas cards!   I found that I had more time to follow up during the first week of the year, rather than during the buildup to Christmas and that I was more motivated due to my new year’s resolutions!

So, if you’ve already mailed Christmas cards to your past clients and sphere of influence, good for you!  I’m never one to discourage any kind of contact to your sphere – but if you haven’t consider trying New Year’s notes or cards this year!  You might just be surprised at how a different twist on customer contact might work out for you!!!!