Ten Things a Real Estate Professional Can Do in a “Down” Economy: #8

March 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Robin's Ruminations

#8  Create an Innovative Prospecting Plan for Your Target Market (eighth in a series)

Let’s face it: every REALTOR® out there is engaged in some kind of marketing.  Some of them are even daring to market themselves in your territory!

So, it is essential that you determine how to differentiate yourself from other real estate professionals in your marketplace.  How can you make yourself more appealing to potential clients than the other guys are?  How can you grab consumers’ attention?

I’ve organized my recommendations into a four-step approach.  (I do like to be organized!)  Naturally, you should make detailed notes, as you go along.

First Step:  Who’s Your Audience?

Never be afraid of the obvious; sometimes, secrets are hidden there.

Where do you hope to find sellers and buyers?  Your “farm” and your Sphere of Influence, of course.  Anywhere else?  For example, are you trying to focus on one particular type of property, such as new homes or luxury homes or starter homes?  Or, are you specializing in one particular consumer category, such as seniors or singles?  Analyze the audience for your marketing efforts in a variety of ways, to make sure you have identified all of their key characteristics.

For each distinct audience group, list a number of descriptors and needs that make them different from each of the other groups.  For example, those looking for a starter home may be seeking smaller homes in the lower quartile of your market.  Affordability is key for them, as is ready access to transportation – whether mass transit or good roads – and, possibly, good schools.  Usually, these will now be young adults with the preferred buying styles of Millennials.

Second Step:  Why Would Anyone Choose You?

This step often makes people cringe; they hate analyzing themselves.  In particular, many of us were raised to not “brag” about our positive qualities and accomplishments.  For this exercise, you must banish all such reticence and take honest stock of who you are and what you have to offer.

Create a “Why Work with Me?” list.  Include an appraisal of your skills, your values, and your personality, as well as your community activities and the way you prefer to work.  Consider also your previous work experience.  For many of us, real estate is a second, third, or fourth career.  What strengths did you develop through past jobs?

Don’t rush through this activity; it’s worth the time you invest in it.

I suggest that you show a draft of your “Why Work with Me?” list to a very good friend, or to your spouse.  That person may be able to suggest other characteristics that you have overlooked.

 

Third Step:  What Can You Do, That Is Different?

A number of companies offer branded, “frequent-touch” marketing programs, to which you can subscribe.  This is a simple way to maintain constant contact with your Sphere of Influence and the people in the markets you are targeting.  Drawbacks of using these programs include cost and the impersonal nature of the communications.

If you are willing to invest the time to design your own marketing program, you can put your personal mark on marketing materials that will be far more effective than what you purchase.

As you design your prospecting strategy, consider the image you want to portray:  how do you want to appear in person, in print, and online?   Do you want to portray yourself formally (suit & tie)?  As a modern professional (business casual)?  As the “girl next door” (casual)?  Your answer should reflect your marketplace:  what will work best in that context?

Ensure that you incorporate a mix of contact methods, with an emphasis on face-to-face and digital communication, rather than print.  I make this recommendation for two reasons:  (1) face-to-face communications are still the most effective, and remain the only form of communication trusted by many members of older segments of the population; (2) digital communications are favored by the younger generations.  These methods are also the most economical.

For each of the audience segments you identified in Step One, specify from 6 to 12 communications.  Communications may be in the form of market-specific newsletters, personal letters, or cards (whether digital or print), as well as in-person visits and phone calls.  Some may be the same for all audiences; others will be targeted to the specific group.

Here are just a few communication ideas: current market reports; seasonal greetings; today’s buyer “hot buttons”; link to a new blog post; staging tips (potentially several communications, focusing on exterior, main rooms, kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, garage, and basement); government mortgage-assistance programs; relocation services; when to consider a short sale; invitation to a neighborhood Open House; featured property flyer; link to a virtual tour; offer to conduct a CMA; birthday / anniversary cards; and a seasonal gift – flags for Memorial Day, pumpkins for Thanksgiving, etc. (Such gifts are “corny,” perhaps, but are cheerful and usually generate a smile.)

Determine the sequence in which you would like to communicate the marketing messages, throughout the year.  The sequence will be affected by local market seasonality and special holidays, but can otherwise be up to you.

CAVEAT: Ensure that every marketing communication you create has been proofread by someone.  All of your work will be in vain, if what you write is riddled with syntactical and typographical errors.

Fourth Step:  How Can You Manage the Work?

The primary effective strategy for managing a marketing campaign is breaking it into bite-sized chunks.

Start by quartiling your markets – dividing them into four segments.  A segment may be market-specific, alphabetical by last name, geographical, social, or source-based.

Implement step 1 of your marketing plan (for example, hand-delivering a seasonal gift) with one quartile each month, for four months.  During the next four-month period, implement step 2 (for example, making a personal phone call).  Implement subsequent steps, in successive four-month periods.  By following this plan, every individual will receive some kind of communication from you, every four months.

If your audience is smaller, say 300 or less, you can use three-month periods, and step up the frequency of contact.

Previous post:  #7 Work with a Partner
Forthcoming post:  #9  Be More Visible in Your Community

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Ten Things a Real Estate Professional Can Do in a “Down” Economy #6

July 16, 2009 by  
Filed under Robin's Ruminations

#6 Implement One New Technique, Every Month (sixth in a series)

blogicon1Earlier in this series, I recommended using any period of low business activity to undertake professional development activities, such as training. Often, during such activities, one learns about more new tools and techniques than one can possibly implement at one time. If you are participating in social media, such as Twitter, then you probably also learn about useful new tools and websites from your virtual connections, on a regular basis.

How can you efficiently implement so many new tools and techniques? Simply, by making a plan. (Yes, another one!) Planning will ensure that you implement the tools and techniques that you like in an orderly way and that you don’t forget to use them.

  1. Start by creating a list of new tools and techniques you have encountered, that you think will add value to your real estate business.  Consider this to be a “running list,” because you should add items to it, as you learn about them.  Because you will be sorting this list, I suggest that you create it in a spreadsheet program, such as MS Excel.
  2. Next, categorize the tools and techniques.  (Insert a special column for this.)  Some categories that you might find helpful are
    • Prospecting (including sphere of influence, market niches, FSBOs, expired listings)
    • Marketing Listings (including digital photography, virtual tours, listings websites, mobile technology)
    • Customer Management (including follow-up, frequent-touch programs)
    • Communications (including blogging, presentations, objection-handling).
    • Sort the list, so that items in the same category are together.
  3. Then, prioritize the categories.  (Insert a priority column, and assign the same letter or number to every item in any given category.)  The area in which your business requires the greatest improvement, such as Marketing Listings, should be your top priority.  Be brutally honest with yourself, here.
  4. Prioritize the tools and techniques within each category.  (Insert another priority column, and assign a unique number or letter to each item in any given category.)  This will give you a “nested” list, with the tools prioritized within prioritized categories.  For example, you may decide to improve the quality of your digital photographs of interiors before you add virtual tours to your listings.
  5. Finally, assign a month – or week – during which you will first implement each of the tools or techniques, in order.  (Yes, that’s another column.)  I suggest that you transfer these assignments to your calendar, so that you don’t forget to do them!

This is what your plan might look like:

Tools & Techniques

         

Target Date

Cat.Prior.

Category

Tool Prior.

Tool/Technique

7-Feb

A

Marketing Listings

1

Wide-angle photos

14-Feb

A

Marketing Listings

2

Real Estate Shows

21-Feb

A

Marketing Listings

3

Postlets

28-Feb

B

Communications

1

Blogger

7-Mar

B

Communications

2

Listing presentation facelift

14-Mar

C

Customer Mgt

1

Frequent-touch program

21-Mar

C

Customer Mgt

2

Post-closing gift program

28-Mar

C

Customer Mgt

3

Referral requests

4-Apr

C

Customer Mgt

4

Quality survey

11-Apr

D

Prospecting

1

Generation-X focus

18-Apr

D

Prospecting

2

Expired listing campaign

Important:  Do have fun using the new tools and techniques that are available to you.  Enjoy both learning how to use them and seeing your business take on new life because you have implemented them.

Previous post:  #5  Build Local Vendor Partnerships
Forthcoming post#7  Work with a Partner 

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