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Great Technology Emphasizes Great Agents – Not Replaces

Great Technology Emphasizes Great Agents – Not Replaces

It’s a topic covered exhaustively at every real estate conference, every coaching call, every new agent orientation: Technology is your friend, but it isn’t your replacement. New tools, apps, and systems can help you win more deals by making you more productive and engaged. But they can’t bridge the gap between a brand-new lead and the closing table.

What tech can do — and can’t do

We know that’s a strange thing to hear from a real estate technology company, but at SmartZip, we’re acutely aware of the advantages and constraints of technology.

Our predictive analytics can help you identify sellers from your farm and from your sphere. Our automated marketing campaigns can help you build your brand and identify selling intent from predicted prospects. Our mobile CheckIn app can help you find the right time to call, email or doorknock these top seller prospects. And, our Reach150 referral and testimonial management platform can help spread your great reputation around for more business.

Each component together or separately helps an agent and team free up their time to focus on developing a relationship with a prospect or feeding the relationship with a client. Technology can help warmup and organize your introduction but only you can start that communication. Only you can learn the personal and financial factors that may be motivating a seller, and only you can build a relationship of trust and shared goal-setting. And only you can win their business and ensure they get to the closing table safely and with all their needs met.

Keeping the agent at the center of the transaction

Can outreach and lead conversion be a hassle? Sure.

But if an app or system replaces the relationship-building of the industry, how long before it replaces agents altogether? That’s a reality that none of us want, and all of us have to fight against.

Instead, the focus should be on systems that organize and consolidate, tools that boost production and efficiency. Let the machines be machines and the agents be the human advocates for buying and selling real estate.

How can you make this happen? Here are our top four ways to ensure you pay for technology that solves real problems and avoid the tools or systems that over-promise and under-deliver.

1. Don’t pay for leads you won’t follow up with

Bulk leads can be enticing. Who doesn’t want to have a pipeline of 250 potential buyers to work with? But for the average agent, bulk leads present two main issues:

  • Any company with that many leads can’t possibly be vetting them, so the quality tends to be pretty low.
  • There’s just no way to follow up meaningfully with that many leads. And when you know the leads are low-quality, you won’t have much motivation to follow up anyway.

2. Don’t pay for a farm if you can’t go “all-in”

Farming isn’t something you can check off a list. It’s an all-encompassing strategy that should inform your marketing, outreach, events and community engagement.

And if you’re working with a company that promises to handle your farm’s marketing or seller lead generation but never mentions that you’ll also need to engage deeply in the area, beware! The leads are likely to be from FSBOs or Expireds that you could drum up yourself, and the marketing is likely just a mass-produced flyer sent to a local ZIP code.

At SmartZip, our SmartTargeting platform automates as much as possible — from predicting sellers to sending smarter, targeted marketing campaigns to those most likely to sell — but we also have outreach tools that help you close the gap with your top listing prospects.

We know that farming takes a combination of automation and real-life follow-up and we make it as easy as possible to hit those top targets at the right time.

3. Don’t buy lists that hundreds of agents have access to

Psssst, lean in close so we can tell you a secret: the vendors who offer “seller lead lists” are usually just condensing FSBO, Expired and Probate data into one place.

And when you contact sellers who have shown a specific “trigger” in county records — like taking their home on and off the market — you’ll usually find that they are bombarded with calls from eager agents who have the same data as you do. If a new tool or system makes you come off more like an ambulance chaser than a trusted professional, you may want to reconsider it.

4. Don’t pay for generalizations

We’ll let you in on a little secret: Building technology is a very specific process. To create a new tool or platform the parameters of the service have to be clearly defined upfront — and sold on the other side.

We’ve never been afraid to say that SmartTargeting was built primarily to help real estate agents win sellers identified by predictive algorithms. It’s our main focus, and the underlying features and offerings all support that focus.

If you’re speaking with a sales agent who speaks in generalized promises, and who can’t answer your questions with screenshots or a live demo, then be cautious about proceeding. The best tech companies know what their product is, but they also know what it isn’t. If the product is impressive enough to drive in real results, their sales team won’t be afraid to share its limits.

For more helpful tips from our partners at SmartZip, check out their blog!

Building a Gratitude Brokerage Culture

Building a Gratitude Brokerage Culture

Gratitude as a culture. Sounds great. But is it possible, sustainable or desirable?

For years the proponents of positive have preached the attitude of gratitude. At Thanksgiving the volume gets cranked way up and all; gracious and querulous, optimist and naysayer, happy camper and malcontent are called to join for one day in unison to give thanks for something, anything they are grateful for. We celebrate gratitude, laud it, grow from it, and even appreciate it. There’s scientific proof that gratitude attracts good things. And yet, as Fast Company suggests we, as a culture suffer from “gratitude deficit disorder.”

“We are hungry for genuine appreciation and thanks,” the article states. “We want to know that we matter, that our efforts are making the world a better place.” Unfortunately, many people are not getting that reassurance. In one poll, nearly half of those surveyed reported that they never feel appreciated at work.

Do your agents and employees feel appreciated? What about your clients? How do you know?

Gratitude Is Profitable

An article by Harvard Business Review says “when employees feel valued, they have high job satisfaction, are willing to work longer hours, engage in productive relationships with co-workers and supervisors, are motivated to do their best, and work towards achieving the company’s goals.“

“When people feel valued productivity is maximized, employee engagement increases and company loyalty prevails.

Gratitude also plays an important role in client retention, and failure to express appreciation can have detrimental consequences. According to an article by Bloomberg, “studies show that 68% of customers leave a business relationship because of a perceived attitude of indifference on the part of the company. It’s not that the associates are actually indifferent—it’s the perception that they are.”

Some believe that showing gratitude shouldn’t be an “event” so much as a state of mind. As shared with Inman News, “It begins with the first interaction and continues long after the transaction,” said Frank Chimento, vice president at Elm Street Technology who advises agents and brokerages and gives national talks on persuasion, influence and rapport-building strategies.

Make Gratitude a State of Mind – Company Wide

The toughest piece of advice, perhaps because having gratitude is an emotional act. It’s simply not recognized or discussed as something fundamentally important to business, yet this intangible expression of thanks can make or break a relationship. Start by thanking your own employees, even for small tasks. It creates an environment of mutual respect and appreciation. It also provides ancillary benefits such as empowering employees to overcome obstacles. In fact, acts of gratitude produce endorphins, which generate feelings of happiness. A focus on gratitude can, therefore, make the workplace more fulfilling, meaningful and productive.

One small act of gratitude can be a game changer. It can take a relationship from merely transactional to meaningful. It defines the character of a company. And I’m not referring to gratitude in the form of complicated programs or gift-giving. I’m talking about simply saying, writing or emailing (and meaning it) the words, “thank you.”

If you have any doubts, consider the following: A study conducted by the University of Richmond shows that 78 percent of respondents in a relationship with a B2B services firm identified gratitude as necessary in relationship formation. Further, the research states that even a single violation–perception of ingratitude–could seriously hinder trust and commitment and erode a client’s long-term orientation towards the company.

Extend Your Gratitude Culture to Clients

There are endless ways to thank your clients—handwritten notes, gift cards, taking them out to lunch, etc. But the way you phrase your appreciation could give your “thank you” even more impact.

An article by Harvard Business Review encourages companies to build a gratitude program based on a shared purpose you have with your client:

“Identify the shared purpose that you can work on together with your customer. See where you can express appreciation for their accomplishments toward that shared purpose. Cultivate gratitude and loyalty will naturally follow.”

Rather than thanking your client for the transaction—choosing to work with your real estate company—express your gratitude for the opportunity to contribute to the shared purpose, i.e. helping them find their dream home.

Invite Your Clients to Show Their Gratitude

Make it easy for you clients to show their gratitude for a great job done. Their words will speak for you and their referrals will be your reward. SmartZip’s Reach150 platform is an easy one touch testimonial and referral system that easily requests and publishes your client reviews and testimonials for you. Take a look and see how easy it is.

Meanwhile, THANK YOU for taking a moment to stop by.

For more helpful tips from our partners at Smartzip, visit their blog!

Best Seasons to Sell A Home – 2019

Best Seasons to Sell A Home – 2019

Ask most anyone which season is the best to sell a home, and likely, with little hesitation they will respond, summer. This stands to reason. Schools are out, giving families a clean break to transfer children to a new area. The weather is much nicer for attracting people to open houses. Many have a starry-eyed, relaxed attitude freeing brain space to dream and plan for change. It can be, with well-laid plans, the perfect time to sell. But is it, the BEST time to sell?

We wanted to know. So, we consulted the data. As a ten year predictive marketing company providing thousands of agents, brokers and enterprise clients with powerful insights on future sellers, this was sure to be an easy task (well at least for our data scientists). Here’s what we found. Take a look, the answers may surprise you.

Data Analyzed

  • Home sales during the period of 2014 through 2018
  • Average number of days on the market
  • Ratio of listing price to final sales price

Data Determined Best and Worst Months to Sell

  • Spring is hotter than Summer
  • Fall is not a good time to sell. In fact, November doesn’t even show up here
  • There’s roughly a 30% better chance to sell a home in the selected month/season than any other time of the year

Spring

Some may find this a surprising result considering the weather and strain leading into this spring. It simply felt, in too many regions as if it would never make the move from lion to lamb. But remember, the data analyzed doesn’t consider only this most recent spring but rather five years running indicating that 2/3rds of the nation could expect the highest sales rates in this season

Summer

This isn’t all bad news If you missed the boat on spring sellers. At least for the 12 states who are likely enjoying their best selling season now and through the next few months. Contributing to high spring and summer selling trends are vacation homes which tend to do better during the warmer months when they are looking their best and summoning the dreamers who simply want and can afford more time off the grid and on the water.

While thousands of data points go into predicting future sellers two factors stand out especially impacting luxury home ownership. For the multi-million dollar homeowners and investors, wealthy self-employed workers, empty nesters and others are feeling the squeeze from Congress imposed limits to property tax deductions and interest on mortgages. 

Fall

Data indicators show fall selling season nationally is narrow with two states, Iowa and Indiana, showing potentially high turnover. This could be great news for brokers, agents and especially sellers in these geographies as they can look forward to the selling market benefits including typically higher offers and increased competition over listings when fewer homes for sale.

Winter

Winter months can be a mixed bag depending largely on a variety of factors including and sometimes prompted by job changes, economic influences, greater seller motivation, cheaper moving labor, price motivated buyers, last minute tax motivations, and more

Opportunities exist in every state, season and month of the year. Having the knowledge, and insights on who is thinking about selling and the best times to do so will give you a leg up on the competition. Planning your marketing plan and prospecting efforts with that knowledge is just plain smart. Stop guessing and get more listings! Learn more

For more great information from our partners at smartzip, check out their blog!

Best Months to sell 2019

7 Ways to Win More Listings Regardless of Market Conditions

7 Ways to Win More Listings Regardless of Market Conditions

A changing market, summer selling season, low inventory, high inventory, queasy economy, fluctuating interest rates… are all, without question, factors affecting your production potential. However, regardless of current conditions and circumstances beyond your control, the question remains, what can you do to find more sellers and get more listings?

Here are seven ways you can rise above the rest and win in any market

1. Create the ultimate customer experience: In today’s world, everyone has gone paperless, mobile and social. The more technology enabling easier communication the less connected we actually become. All the more reason to it roll back. By all means, establish a robust digital presence in your prospecting territory, and let clients know that you are accessible via email, phone, text and even Facebook message. And then, take it a step further. Back up your digital ads, social media posts, and emails with hand-written notes, cards and letters. It’s so unusual these days to find something personal in your mailbox. Be the one who does that and stand out. Make it personal. Then circle them back to your digital efforts. Give them a “don’t take it from me” challenge and lead them to your custom testimonial, and referral page. Peer opinions speak volumes. (see tip #6)

2. Go hyper-local: Content is still queen/king! That’s why creating a blog or content specifically to suit your market, and its residents are essential. Create significant content that serves your audience and make it relevant. Providing value is always a good idea. Whether you’re writing about housing trends, market updates, or the lunch spot downtown now serving the”impossible burger”. Make your content matter!

3. Employ the 80/20 rule: Focus on the Top 20%! It’s the classic Pareto Principle which states that “80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients.” If you could focus on those with the highest likelihood to sell, wouldn’t you drive your marketing efforts toward that specified group? Focusing your efforts on a set group of people not only helps your marketing budget, but it will make you a more efficient agent. It just makes sense to build deeper connections with a select few than shallow associations with many. There’s so much value in making yourself memorable and creating trust.

 

 

4. Predict & Target: The ability to predict homeowners who are most likely to sell and focus on them is key (see above)! Whether you get most of your business from your sphere and want to keep it that way. Or if you’re expanding your database with prospects in your farm knowing who to go after will tremendously impact the way you spend your time and effort.

5. Leverage current listings: Current listings help you shine! Advertising your clients’ listings is your best marketing tool. Employ circle marketing and target the geographical area surrounding your listing with “Just Listed mailers. Show your work in action. Give a sample of what you can do for them. Better yet, target the homeowners in the surrounding area showing signs of selling in the next 3-9 months.

6. Social Proof: Create your very own testimonial page and let prospects know how others feel about you. Reportedly 84% of consumers research products and services they are considering before they take the plunge. Make sure those researching you online not only FIND you but see the TRUE you. By creating a testimonial and referral page, you have control over your online presence. Ask your clients to write you a testimonial or refer you immediately upon the close of your transaction. Check out Reach150 and see how with one click you can request a testimonial. Far too often we overthink the request to a point where we put it off and then even let it go. You don’t need to do that. Make it easy on yourself and your clients to promote you. Quite honestly, your clients will love to praise you. However, they may need to be prompted. For whatever reason, the knee jerk reaction to leaving online and in person reviews is to share the negative. The positive stuff is too often kept to ourselves. Give your sphere the chance to share. They will feel good and so will you!

 

 

7. Think outside your comfort zone: Don’t be afraid to do things you’ve never done before. Not a door knocker? Well, picking up the phone is still a useful way to introduce yourself and foster relationships with prospects. But, foster, you must. So choose what fits your style. Alternatively, hire someone to do it for you.

Nurture not drip! Nurture means giving prospects relevant and contextual content, depending on where they are in their homeownership life cycle. Merely putting your brand in front of your prospects won’t get you where you need to be with your business, but sparking meaningful conversations will! Foster relationships with homeowners and establish trust. When the time is right, you will be the one they turn to.

Last note, have fun, remember why you went into this business in the first place and close more business!

For more helpful tips, visit the Smartzip blog!

Getting New Business From Old Clients

Getting New Business From Old Clients

We spend so much time talking about the importance of repeat business and referral business… but the reality is that MOST agents have still not come up with the right way to keep in touch naturally over the long-term. The result?

Will your clients hire you the next time you buy or sell your home? Are you sure?

After closing, 70% of sellers say they would “definitely” use their agent again — but only 25% of repeat buyers and sellers actually do.

We aren’t here to lecture you. Creating one client for life relationship is tricky enough, and aiming to keep in close touch with every client you’ve ever had is nearly impossible. Still, there are a few low key ways to ensure that you don’t break a bond that could end up paying off — both in business and in friendship — after you walk away from the closing table.

Below are four tactics you can employ to create more long-term, business-boosting client relationships.

1. Rank your clients

You ask for reviews and testimonials after you close, but do you ever bother to ask yourself how much YOU liked working with a client? If you want to focus on creating “clients for life,” then the first step is to wean out the clients who you have loved to work with. Not only will you be excited to keep in touch with them over the years, these people are also more likely to recommend other like-minded friends and family members to you in the future.

Consider adding a “Client Rapport” ranking to your CRM. After each closing, rank the client from 1-5. Anyone who scores at a 4 or 5 should be who you focus on as you create your “Client for Life” relationships.

2. Offer special treatment

You can continue to send the same refrigerator magnet to every person in your sphere but think about upping the ante for the “4 and 5-ranked” contacts in your database. Consider hosting a VIP wine and cheese event for past clients who love to mix and mingle, send young families a coupon to the local Six Flags, offer up a gift certificate to your past buyer’s new favorite neighborhood restaurant on the one-year anniversary of their home purchase.

By showing you care about them, remember their interests and are willing to spend money or time on them after the sale, you’ll be reinforcing a bond that can continue to grow even as you move further and further away from their initial transaction.

3. Watch for social cues and keep in touch with personal outreach

Many (and maybe even most) clients hire you as they are on the cusp of major life changes. Whether they are prepping to expand their family, downsizing after the kids move away or simply shifting to a neighborhood that better suits their long-term needs, the reason for their move can act as the primary way you keep in touch for the first few years after the sale.

Comment on their baby announcement on Facebook (or better yet, drop by with a branded swaddle blanket or onesie after they have settled into parenthood). Call to ask how their kids are enjoying the teachers in their new school. If you see that a coffee shop has opened up in their new condo building, ask if they would like to meet up for a cup of joe, then ask how they’re settling into their new neighborhood.

As the years go by and you get to know more about them than just their reason for moving, you can settle into a more natural conversation groove. But for the first few months or years after you work with them, don’t worry about focusing on the “safest” conversation topic around — their reason for moving (and hiring you) and how that decision is working out.

4. Give them an easy way to review and refer you

Many agents are afraid to ask for referrals directly because it can feel awkward and aggressive if not done in the right way. And while most have a way to generate testimonials or reviews, a lot of the platforms that promise to “syndicate” these reviews are clunky; they require an ironclad login and clients may feel turned off having to sign up for a site they never plan to use again. In the age of cybersecurity threats, not many people want to open up new accounts that require their email and other contact information.

When it comes to asking for reviews and referrals, it can be helpful for agents to ask for client feedback that:

  • Doesn’t require a login
  • Can be syndicated across the web
  • Can be used to generate a review, testimonial or one-to-one referral
  • Is sent on behalf of the agent, but doesn’t come directly from the agent’s email address

Agents who need such a service can peek at Reach150, a client feedback and referral management system from SmartZip. Reach150 is a low-key, no-nonsense way to automate your requests for referrals and reviews — and you can even turn your positive testimonials into marketing content to help win even more business over time. Get more details on Reach150 here.

For more helpful tips, visit the smartzip blog!

Blog Reboot: 5 Ways to Revive a Tired and Neglected Real Estate Blog

Blog Reboot: 5 Ways to Revive a Tired and Neglected Real Estate Blog

The new year is approaching fast and so is your chance for a blog reboot! If your goal is to put out more content in 2019, there’s no better time to step back and reframe your blog ideas and posting goals.

Before you get started, think about what makes you likely to come back to a website. People tend to revisit sites that offer value — and we don’t just mean monetary value. As a real estate agent, you have a wealth of knowledge about topics that most buyers and sellers will have to research before they get started on a transaction. Put this knowledge to use to gain blog fans who come back for more.

Below are five foolproof content ideas that real estate agents can deploy as they make a 2019 blog plan.

1. Don’t please everyone at once. Segment your audience and speak to them separately

If you work with first-time buyers, move-up buyers, empty nesters looking to downsize, relocating buyers, military personnel, celebrity or frequently relocating buyers, you know you’ll need pointed and timely content to entice them to read your blog. Start out the year by making a list of your top five buyer or seller segments, then write out 2-3 different posts you could write that would appeal to each of those segments.

Once posted, boost traffic to the post by running a targeted Facebook ad. Set up an ad group dedicated to each market segment in your area.

Looking for inspiration? One of our clients, Dana Hall Bradley, Better Homes and Gardens in Celebration, FL, recently wrote this post aimed at military officers preparing for retirement or deployment.

2. Channel your inner Dear Abby and write an advice column

Buyers and sellers turn to you advice every day. Why not leverage your knowledge by creating an advice column blog where you offer these same insights?

We love this post from SmartZip client, The Loken Group sharing their professional knowledge by offering the uncommonly known details surrounding Home Warranties.

Important: Be sure to present pros and cons for any decision and stop short of making a recommendation that could be construed as legally binding. Notice that Katie mentions that for the right buyer who understands the risks, buying a rental home on a college campus can be a good investment.

3. Create engaging FAQs for your visitors

Not sure about an advice column? If you want a less personal approach, create separate FAQs pages for both buyers and sellers. List out typical questions then briefly answer how you handle these scenarios as the agent in charge.

FAQs are also excellent for cross-linking opportunities. Remember to link to a free CMA offer, your contact page, free content offers or to your mortgage loan officer’s page. Check out this excellent example of an FAQ page with optimal cross-links.

4. Create a buyers’ dictionary or sellers’ dictionary

If you ask buyers and sellers to define FHA, DTI or MLS, their response will likely be IDK (or something a little more colorful). Consider creating a list of terms that buyers and sellers need to know, then update it as you have time. The NAR has a glossary that can be a good resource as you get started.

Another idea — which may provide more SEO juice — is to take one term per week and tackle it in an individual post. Because you’ll be familiar with these terms, each post should take you only 15-30 minutes to write. Then, you can continue to cross-link to the specific terms across your site, ensuring that visitors stay on your turf even when they run into words or terms they don’t understand.

5. Create evergreen or market-based infographics without the help of a designer

Infographics haven’t lost their popularity, so consider tackling this visual content tactic in 2019 with the use of a free infographic generator.

Our favorite free infographic tool is Canva. But if you’re willing to spend a bit of money, Piktocharthas more than 500 templates that can greatly reduce the time it will take you to concept and design an infographic.

Looking for inspiration? Here’s our Pinterest board of past infographics we’ve created, plus more trending infographics from the real estate industry.

 

For more helpful tips, visit the SmartZip blog.

Throwing WIDE aside: How to go DEEP with your marketing

Throwing WIDE aside: How to go DEEP with your marketing

When it comes to real estate farming or prospecting, the traditional approach is to go “wide” — to hit every house in a given neighborhood or ZIP code. Real estate marketing, too, was conducted with a wide approach; we hoped that drivers would see our open house signs or bus benches, that consumers would see our phone book ads as they looked up a number.

This wide approach meant that we had to be everything, to everyone — instead of something specific to someone specific.

And while this sounds like a great opportunity, it can also be limiting. It doesn’t help you realize the type of agent you want to be, the type of clients you want to have… or how to narrow down both your marketing creative and your prospecting activities so you can drive in the clients you desire.

We talk a lot about predictive analytics, algorithms, big data and data-driven marketing. But the truth is, you don’t need to know how all of that works. You just need to know what it can do for your business.

What you need to know is how data-backed knowledge can empower you to:

  1. Send smarter marketing campaigns that resonate with your target audience
  2. Narrow down your prospecting so you can spend real time, and real effort, winning over clients who are ready to hire an agent

1. Send smarter marketing campaigns that resonate with your target audience

Have you ever heard a new word, then noticed that word follows you around for days after? What about when a friend tells you about a new trend they’ve heard of — whether it be a song, a TV show, or a bottle of wine — and the next day, you see an ad for it?

It feels like a sign.

And good marketing should always feel like a sign.

When you leverage data-driven marketing, you don’t have to use tired language or your standard catch-all flyer. You can go deep so that you’re targeting:

  • Move-up buyers who need more bedrooms for their kids or hobbies
  • Boomers who are ready to ditch the family home in favor of a more manageable condo or townhouse
  • Homeowners who will feel represented by trends like Spanish tile roofs, vacation properties on the beach, northwoods cabins or starter homes in the midwest suburbs

By sending resonant campaigns, your marketing can feel less like an advertisement for your business and more like a value-based proposition that speaks to them. In other words, it can feel like a sign.

To create data-driven marketing campaigns, of course, you need the data. SmartZip can run assessments for every market in the U.S., or for your own sphere, to help you determine who your prospects are — and what they want to see or hear in your marketing efforts.

2. Narrow down your prospecting so you can spend real time, and real effort, winning over clients who are ready to hire an agent

Marketing is just the first step of winning new clients. The second, and most important step, is to engage them one-on-one so you can build a relationship and get the sale.

Smart prospecting is just like data-driven marketing: it arms you with the information you need to make a connection and break through the noise.

When you know, for example, that a homeowner is living in a desirable school district with high property taxes despite not having school-aged children, you can speak to them about a house or area that might better fit their needs.

By contrast, if an absentee homeowner is hanging on to a property that’s gone up 30% in value over the last few years, you can speak to them about how their investment has paid off — and how if they plan to sell, now is the right time.

Smart prospecting gives you:

  • The clarity you need to make strong recommendations to potential clients
  • The power to reach out to those prospects individually
  • The confidence you need to stay on top of clients who say they aren’t selling — but who are showing undeniable signs and signals in their data

Do you want to go wide or deep?

In the end, it’s time for every agent to decide if they want to go wide (to reach everyone, whether or not they want to sell) or deep (to reach those who are showing clear selling triggers).

To get more information on data-driven marketing or smart prospecting, and how it can change your business forever, reach out today.

For more helpful tips, visit the SmartZip blog.

Beyond the Brand: 7 Ways to Connect and Close

Beyond the Brand: 7 Ways to Connect and Close

If you’ve targeted your top prospects, and you’re sending mailers and hitting them online with digital ads, that alone is an amazing start. But it’s not the extent of what you can be doing to get and keep the attention of your prospects. Here we offer seven great ways, sourced from top agents across the country, that make an indelible impression on those in their farm and community to establish themselves as the go-to agent in town.

1. Better-than-Average Community Events

We’ve heard community-minded agents take on events ranging anywhere in size and scope from Christmas tree sales, to pictures with Santa and the Easter Bunny, to pumpkin giveaways, paper shredding events and so much more.

But one amazing agent contributed a new idea that also happens to support a local, beloved business in her area! At her Wine and Wisdom events, our client invites her top prospects —  the homeowners predicted by SmartZip to sell in the next few months — to a wine bar downtown on a Sunday afternoon.

In this informal setting, the agent (who co-sponsors the event with her lender, title rep or home inspection expert), connects with prospects as she offers advice and tips, answers their real estate questions and discusses relevant real estate topics or anything else they want to talk about.

This a low-pressure, inexpensive and easy way to bring value to her neighbors and make a deep impression. And by supporting her local wine bar, the agent creates a reciprocal relationship, thereby becoming the agent that the manager, owner or server will recommend when a customer hints at or talks about needing an agent in town.

Not into wine? This idea can easily be replicated at a coffee/tea shop, dessert bar, park, office or even at an open house.

Takeaways: Offer a unique event that allows you to connect deeply with at least one person; go in with a goal; stay consistent and stay connected.

2. Creative Door Knocking

Door knocking isn’t always easy but there are ways to make it a bit more fun and creative. One of our clients has found a way to leverage the direct mail flyers that are sent to his top prospects via the SmartTargeting platform.

Armed with his list of likely sellers, he brings a few of his most recent postcards as he knocks doors in his farm. When the owner answers the door he says, “Hi, my name is Bob, I’m an agent in the neighborhood. I don’t mean to bother you but I just hired a marketing company and I wanted to make sure they are sending out my post cards. Did you receive one that looks like this?”

It’s a nice, non-invasive approach and is typically enough to warm up the homeowner and get a conversation going.

Can’t get yourself to knock at all? Another client makes his mark by planting small American flags on the lawns of prospects every July 4thand Memorial Day. Because he only adds flags to the homeowners who have been deemed “most likely to move” by the SmartTargeting platform, it gets the attention of everyone in the neighborhood — including those who don’t get a flag. Not only is he starting a neighborhood dialogue, the conversation is all about who is selling and who is staying! It’s a great way for him to gauge potential movement in his area.

Another agent, along the same lines, hands flags out at the post office the day before these special occasions. To each flag she attaches her business card. She loves being able to see each person, share a united feeling and spark a conversation, in some cases.

3. Get a Unique Selling Proposition

The movement to build a new shiny brand has become a big topic in our industry lately. Even NAR has joined the shift, albeit to mixed reactions.

And it’s important to remember that everyone has a brand, whether they realize it or not. A brand can be developed as easily as leaning into a nickname. An agent in Phoenix, who has the nickname “Anna Banana,” decided to play up this moniker on all her marketing. She even has a banana mascot attend every event she participates in!

Another example of brand building is demonstrated by a agent in Florida who, in a very casual neighborhood, has decided to make his mark by dressing in formal slacks and jacket along with a bow tie. The bowtie is his signature standout element which people really remember. This agent uses his image with his bowtie on all of his marketing collateral and signs. People know him as “the bowtie guy.”

Other suggestions from real-life agents:

  • Wrap your car with your logo and brand. To some, this can be somewhat cringeworthy but one agent is emphatic that wrapping his car makes him recognizable and “brings him a ton of business.”
  • Get a signature color! One agent wears orange, the color of her boutique brokerage. She wears the same shade of orange with everything and in every way she can think of, from her polo shirts to tennis shoes to sweaters, skirts and more. This agent is intentionally unforgettable!

Takeaways: Take advantage of your distinct qualities, interests, ideas, style and build on those. Make them your “trademark.” Include your unique selling proposition in your marketing, or include it in your everyday style.

4. Call with a Hook

Cold calls can be painful to both make and receive. So often we’re on one end or the other of a script. Scripts can be tremendously useful in getting a conversation started or to give an agent the confidence to make more calls.

The key, said one of our top agents in Connecticut, is to connect authentically and listen intently about what your conversational partner is really saying — without planning your response too far in advance. Not sure how to put this into action?

Here’s a real-life example:

The Connecticut agent connects with prospects by talking about their house and what makes it special. Her favorite inroads is their AVM. It’s most satisfying for her when the AVM is either too high or too low. She begins by saying the values are computer-generated and don’t take into account any updates the owner has made to the house.

Next, she says, “Tell me about your home. Have you made any changes?”

From there, she agent listens intently and responds accordingly and candidly. To someone who is excited to talk about the updates they’ve made, she may say, “Oh, that sounds wonderful, I would love to see your new kitchen.”

This type of dialog shows her passion for real estate, interest and knowledge of these types of homes and proves she is really, truly interested in this person’s home. It also opens the door to a potential visit. The agent stresses that taking your time with the prospect and demonstrating that you care about their house as much as they do goes a long way.

5. Charity Drives

Like community events, charity drives are a great way to impact and become known in your neighborhood.

We see many agents:

  • Collecting canned foods
  • Organizing coat drives
  • Collecting clothes and must-have items for homeless shelters
  • Hosting Special Olympics events highlighting local athletes
  • Raising money for local animal shelters
  • Gathering volunteers for cleanup and rebuilding projects after a natural disaster

These are really powerful ways of demonstrating that you are invested in your community and the people it serves. You can also meet potential contacts who have the same passion for your chosen cause — a great way to bond and eventually win business or referrals from like-minded locals.

6. Memorable Door Drops

Agents have become really imaginative and committed to making themselves memorable when providing door drops. One of our top clients in Virginia bakes cookies Every. Single. Day. out of their office. They leave them for prospects and clients alike. Another agent drops off a flyer with a flash drive that houses his CCRs, listing presentation, 7 seller tips, tax documents and other really useful resources. Holiday drops are also very effective. People love to get a colorful package with holiday-themed candies. To add some extra value, include a flyer showing recent sales in the neighborhood alongside your candies.

7. Be the Neighborhood Expert

“Neighborhood expert” gets talked about often and cannot be understated. And here’s why: the agent who carries the neighborhood expert moniker is not in the business for the short-term. And to their community, they’re so much more than an agent.

The neighborhood expert knows, off-hand, the:

  • Best shops, restaurants, bars… and the coffee shops with lax wi-fi policies
  • Most trusted local contractors, roofers, plumbers, landscapers and electricians
  • Most professional accountants, attorneys and more

In the case of one of our close friends, their agent was also the go-to person to find a dog sitter on short notice! Our friend knew that even if the agent didn’t personally know of the right recommendation, she would find someone who did. This agent cares and serves — and is therefore most assuredly in the right line of work!  By making the effort to locate a dog sitter, she fed the agent-for-life relationship and reginited the potential for future referrals.

Do you have all this information in your brain, but not typed out? Consider writing up a resource list for buyers, especially buyers who have come from out of town. In addition to the above bullet points, include recommendations for local bakeries, churches, babysitters, Trader Joe’s, CostCo, animal vets, local clubs, yoga studios, etc.

You can provide this list to a buyer whether you represented them or the seller in the transaction. Grateful buyers are all alike — they’ll be inclined to reach the agent who was most helpful and knowledgeable, even if it wasn’t the one who represented them last time around.

Final Recap

I know, that’s a lot of information. But here’s a quick overview of what’s most important as you consider new, varied brand-building tactics:

  • Use a multi-touch approach. Don’t rely on just one form of marketing.
  • Always provide value and content.
  • Bring into your work a piece of you. Amplify your brand by being the best, biggest, brightest you.
  • Care deeply and genuinely. Take the time to listen carefully and really hear what your clients are saying. Remember, you’re not just their agent. You’re often their confidante, counselor and their best source of information.
  • Be smart about the way you spend your time. Decide what you love best about your business and ensure you have the time to do that. Automate the rest.

Happy selling!

For more helpful tips, visit the SmartZip blog.

Are you consistently inconsistent? Break your bad habit in 9 steps

Are you consistently inconsistent? Break your bad habit in 9 steps

9 STEPS TO CONSISTENCY

When it comes to winning new or repeat business, it’s critical that agents develop and sustain a consistent presence with top prospects and members of their sphere. However, any agent can tell you that this real estate is, by nature, an inconsistent business.

Whether you look at the day-to-day schedules of a typical Realtor or the changing market cycle by season, it can feel impossible to plan ahead (and stay on schedule) when your client pipeline is churning and your phone never stops buzzing.

Here are nine steps ANY agent can follow to help them get into a better, more consistent marketing routine — while still maintaining time for their personal and home life.

STEPS 1-3: THE SET UP

Set it and forget it

1. “Set and forget” your brand standards

The fastest way to fall off track is to panic any time you need a creative asset for a routine marketing campaign. Instead, carve out a few hours where you finalize the graphic and text basics that you need to build any marketing piece.

Here’s a great starter kit from our previous blog on building an online brand:

  • A current, high-res photo of you (Put your 1998 headshot to rest!!)
  • An approved broker or franchise logo
  • An approved logo of your brand (whether agent, team or group)
  • A “handle” to use across social media accounts. Examples:
    • @bigapplerealestate
    • @JaneAgent
    • @MoveToSycamoreHeights
  • A short bio (under 140 characters)
  • A medium bio (between 500-700 characters)
  • A long bio (2-3 paragraphs)
  • A primary phone number (mobile) and back-up (office)
  • A private, secure email address Hint: Create one folder that houses all your images, and one working document that houses all your bios and text assets. Store this folder in the cloud so you have access to these materials anywhere, any time.

2. Pick a primary audience

Look for patterns in your business. Do you tend to represent a lot of first-time buyers, empty nester sellers, vacation homeowners or move-up families in a certain school district? Whatever your bread-and-butter is, lean into it by making that your “primary audience.”

This is the group of people you should spend the most time engaging, whether it be via online lead gen campaigns, direct mail postcards or one-to-one follow up. You’ll want to hit your (total) primary audience 2-4 times a month — and leads within this segment more often.

3. Pick a secondary audience

When picking a secondary audience, choose a demographic that you’d like to work with more often.

If the bulk of your work is with starter home buyers, for example, you’ll want to start building up a client base of higher-end buyers eventually. If you find that buyers are too time-consuming and sellers are more your speed, then dig into the types of sellers you’d like to represent. You’ll want to hit your (total) secondary audience 1-2 times a month — and leads within this segment more often.

STEPS 4-7: BUILD YOUR CONTENT MACHINE

4. Set up automated marketing campaigns

Automated marketing will help you keep a steady cadence with your primary and secondary audiences, but you need to make sure that the tool you use matches your overall brand style (see step #1) and your personal voice.

When reviewing automated marketing campaign tools, like SmartTargeting, be sure that the tool you select allows you to incorporate or customize your brand elements — including your headshot, logo, broker logo, phone number or license number. That way, you can save time by knowing that you are within bounds even if you select a pre-designed mailer, flyer or ad from a third-party company.

Of course, your logo isn’t the only thing that can help you stay consistent in brand. Be sure that your automated marketing tool also allows you to hit your specific target audiences, and that their library of templates includes homes that match your location. If you typically represent Cape Cod homes, you can’t deploy ads featuring Spanish-tile roofs typically found in the American Southwest.

Your automated marketing tool should help you hit your audience segments at least half the time. So if you plan to target your total primary audience four times in September, choose a tool that can send at least two campaigns via direct mail, online ads or emails. Then, you can fill in the last 1-2 touch points with original content.

Content is King

5. Schedule original content or posts in advance

Automated marketing isn’t the only way to work in advance; top agents can also schedule their own original content (whether it be via email newsletters, social media posts or blog articles) in advance so they appear to be engaged and online in real-time.

Take one morning every week or every other week to set up these quick marketing tactics.

Not sure what to write about? This is the most common gripe among agents. We recommend keeping track of questions you hear repeated from one listing appointment or buyer’s meeting to the next. Whether you find that your audiences are asking about a market trend, a standard process, how interest rates work or what escrow really means, you are in a unique position to answer their questions in person while also taking note of the known patterns of your typical buyer or seller.

Keep a “notes” app on your phone and as you leave appointments, jot down the questions your prospects asked you. When it’s time to write an original blog, pick one of the topics and answer it succinctly. Boom! In 15 minutes, you not only have content that REAL clients want, you also have the makings of your next email newsletter and social media campaign.

6. Remove pre-scheduled content when national events arise

Keep in mind that scheduling in advance is a great way to save time — but there are certain times when posting a self-serving ad or update can come off as extraordinarily tone-deaf. Pay attention to big news stories — whether it be a national crisis or the death of a beloved celebrity — and be sure to reschedule email campaigns or social media posts that are set to deploy automatically.

By rescheduling your posts for a time when they’ll be more appropriate, you’ll also ensure they are better received by your target audiences.

7. Leave room for real-time interaction

On the flip side, what if you have BIG news you want to share in real-time… like you landed the listing of a lifetime, or you need to share that mortgage rates skyrocket overnight?

Be sure to leave room in your marketing plan for real-time updates to your base, whether it be via email or social media. This will help develop your online persona as a real practitioner and a trusted local resource.

STEPS 8-9: ODDS AND ENDS

8. Read your stuff out loud

This tactic might seem like an outlier but it’s extremely important when you’re using automated tools or other technologies with content that didn’t originate with you.

Before you hit “send” on any marketing piece, be sure to read it out loud. If you stumble over any of the words, or it doesn’t feel like something you’d naturally say, it’s a good sign that you are sending a marketing piece that doesn’t match you. Consistency is about more than just cadence; don’t send out anything that doesn’t feel authentic.

9. Delight and reward your target audiences

Last, make sure you stand out from other local agents by hosting an activity or event that no one else does. Whether it be a hosted pumpkin patch or fall food drive, a summer cocktail party around a local pool, a free day and BBQ at a local amusement park or an adults-only holiday gathering, you want to make sure that your clients and prospects see you in person and not just in their monthly mailers.

And if you’re lucky, you’ll have a technology like CheckIn set up to automatically track your in-person interactions in mere seconds. That way, whether you run into a top sphere contact once a year at your event or every few weeks at neighborhood events, you can update your contact records with conversation topics, milestones and other contextual hints that could help you win their business down the road.

Ready to build a consistent presence?

As you may have noticed, the easiest way to remain consistent is to rely on automated or in-advance content tactics as a starting point. From there, you can add more personal outreach and engagement to ensure you come off as a REAL person with REAL skills they need to buy or sell their next home.

SmartTargeting does a lot of the hard work for you — by identifying and segmenting predicted sellers in your area or sphere, and targeting them with engaging marketing campaigns. SmartTargeting also leaves room for you to engage these likely-to-sell homeowners one-to-one, so you can build a relationship and win their business in less time. Find out more.

For more helpful tips, visit the SmartZip blog.

Going for the Gold: 3 Things Agents Can Learn from Olympic Bobsledders

Going for the Gold: 3 Things Agents Can Learn from Olympic Bobsledders

If you’re anything like us, you’re channeling the Olympic spirit each and every night. While not every sport gets our blood pumping (sorry, ice dancing), we have been especially excited about watching the bobsledding teams in PyeongChang. Both the male and female teams are so well-synced that they somehow make the mad initial sprint and navigating death-defying curves look easy.

They remind us, quite frankly, of some of the agents and teams we know that make this business look a lot simpler than it is. And as we looked into the sport more, we realized it has a LOT of parallels with real estate. Here’s what smart agents like you can learn from the fastest, most dynamic winter sports athletes around.

Get right back up after a crash

In bobsledding, crashes are inevitable — but watching these athletes get up and make their way to the finish line after a mishap can be more inspiring than even the fastest, most picture-perfect run. After all, do you remember who won the gold in Cool Runnings, or do you remember the painstaking walk to the finish line after the team’s terrifying crash?

As an agent, you’re in the same role as the bobsled pilot. You have to pay attention to signals that could mean a transaction or client relationship is veering off course, then take responsibility to get it back on track. And if you do crash and burn, it’s important to get up and analyze what you did wrong. Did you try to cut corners, or was it the fault of a “slippery track” of workflows that steered you in the wrong direction?

Whether you have derailed the deal entirely or just added a bit more time to your closing path, there’s always an opportunity to learn and grow.

Trust your “brakeman”

The pilot may get all the glory, but the “brakeman” is the one who ensures the team crosses the finish line safely and quickly. In real estate, your brakeman is most likely your broker — they are responsible for pumping the brakes when there’s an issue of liability, or when they feel that you may be taking on more than you can handle.

While you may not want to slow down, it’s important to defer to your broker and know that they have your best interests (and your clients’ best interests) at heart. And if you don’t feel that way? Well just like the U.S. women’s team did this year, it may be time to switch to a new brakeman who you trust and respect.

Don’t be afraid to embrace new technology

If you’re a die-hard U.S.A. bobsledding fan, you may know the story of the “Night Train” sled — an all-black sled that the U.S. men’s team debuted in 2009. As the lore goes, the U.S.A. team was given an unpainted, black prototype to test out. They loved the sled so much that they began using it in competitive races immediately, before it could even be painted to represent the red, white and blue of the American flag.

The result? They became the 2009 world champions and the 2010 Olympic gold medalists — the first Olympic gold in 62 years for Team USA.

Certainly, someone must have pushed back against “Night Train,” either because it felt too risky or simply didn’t look “right” for Team USA to race a black sled. But the risk more than justified the reward, and teams across the world have been clamoring for Night Train’s unique design ever since.

As an agent, you’re inundated with new technology offers all the time. Do you dive into these opportunities or stick to business-as-usual? And even if you are happy with the status quo, have you ever thought about what you might be missing?

Within the industry, there’s no more fascinating and cutting-edge technology than geo-targeted predictive analytics. Imagine being able to predict likely sellers from your local market area, then go after them one-by-one until you get the sale. Our SmartTargeting platform does just that — and just like the Night Train sled, it’s rapidly growing in popularity as agents, teams and brokers across the country realize how much (and how quickly) big data and analytics can move the dial.

Reach out for a free demo and learn more about how SmartTargeting can power your business.
For more helpful tips, visit the SmartZip blog.