Graham Wood is senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5 Commandments of Marketing
You can convince prospects to become clients before you even get a face-to-face meeting. It starts with effective marketing that covers these major points.
November 17, 2015
The first negotiation of a transaction doesn’t come when you’re facing the opposing agent across a conference table, haggling over the price of a home. It happens much sooner than that between you and your own client – even before you’ve met and established a business relationship.
The very first stage of prospecting, when you’re making contact with potential buyers and sellers to convince them to choose you as their agent, is a negotiation process unto itself. This is when you must show them that out of all the agents they could choose from, you are their best option. But too many real estate professionals think the time to deliver that message is during the first in-person meeting. By then, you’ve already missed a critical opportunity to convert.
Your marketing is the first opportunity to disqualify a prospect’s other options in their mind, said sales coach Ed Hatch, CRS, during the “Success Is Never an Accident” session at the 2015 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Diego. “Marketing is a mind game,” he said. “It’s not just a tool to get you in front of buyers and sellers. It’s the message you deliver that your service or product is their only real option.”
Think of it like this: The rule is to never negotiate from a position of weakness. In any negotiation, the one with the power is whoever holds more options. You want to take away the consumer’s options so they’ll see you as their only choice.
You do that through marketing a strong message. But how? Hatch laid out five ways your marketing can make consumers see you as their only choice.
Be First Rather Than Better
Many practitioners think using fancy technology to deploy a highly advanced marketing campaign will show prospects that they’re ahead of the competition. “The truth is whoever gets to them first will get their business,” Hatch said.
Consumers don’t spend as much as time as you think shopping around for an agent. If you’re the first one they see, they’ll likely give you a chance. So when you’re trying to improve your marketing efforts, put the focus on visibility rather than quality.
Market in places your competition isn’t. That means more than sending out mailers in neighborhoods other agents infrequently canvass. Pass out fliers or talk to people at community events that have nothing to do with real estate, where other practitioners aren’t likely to be. Join online discussions about hyper-local topics and work in your connection to real estate. Plant seeds where they haven’t already been planted by other agents.
Don’t Usurp Yourself as the Product
“The majority of the reason any consumer selects you as their real estate agent has nothing to do with the company you work for,” Hatch said. If you work for a big-name company, it can seem like touting the company’s history or position in the market may strengthen your own standing in consumers’ eyes. It may not hurt, but it doesn’t tell the consumer what you will do for them.
Be careful not to spend too much of your marketing space talking about things that don’t help prospects understand your own work ethic and how your skills will help them attain their goals. You can mention impressive products you use, but make sure it’s clear to the consumer how those products make you more skillful.
Also – and this is a “cardinal rule,” Hatch said – put your photo on every piece of marketing material you use. “You’re selling yourself, so let them see who you are,” he added. Consumers want to work with you because of what you do and who you are first and foremost.
Show the Difference You Make
This harkens back to the first point: Don’t convince prospects that you’re better than the competition. Show them you’re different.
“Most of us work off whatever’s on the market, and we all have access to the same inventory,” Hatch said. “Don’t tell them that you do the same thing as everyone else, only better. You’re still doing the same thing.”
Market how your process is different and why that process works. Do you have a particular negotiation style that has proven effective at the table? Are you masterful at organizing showings and open houses? Do you use staging in a nontraditional way? Tell them what you do that no one else does, and they’ll appreciate the value of your individuality.
Don’t Depend on Any One Method
Most avenues you choose to get your marketing out there probably have a relatively low rate of return individually. Hatch showed research figures for the rate of return on popular forms of marketing, including traditional written material (0.2 percent), telemarketing (2 percent), face-to-face contact (3 percent to 5 percent), and online and other forms (1 percent).
That’s not a sign that any of these tactics are unsuccessful, Hatch said. What it should show you is that you should use multiple marketing methods and never rely too heavily on one over the other. “If you combine these methods, you up the odds of increasing your rate of return,” he said.
Remember that the rate of return on individual marketing methods is rarely linear. Some work better at certain times than others. Combining methods can help you catch the upswing on multiple fronts.
Be Consistent, Not Obnoxious
“Human beings forget a message in 16 days,” Hatch said. That should tell you something about how often you need to reiterate your message to the people you’re targeting with your marketing. You need to follow up “not so often that it becomes obnoxious but not so infrequently that it loses impact,” Hatch said.
Also, consider that it costs more to grab the attention of a stranger than it does to maintain relevance with people you are already connected to, Hatch added. Marketing to your sphere of influence is literally less expensive because you don’t need new tactics to reach them, and you also run a lower risk of turning them off with follow-up marketing because they’ve already bought into your message.
That’s not to say you should focus your marketing only on past clients, but let them be part of the way you reach out to new prospects. Use them to spread your message and consistently follow up with the leads they bring you.