Client Relationships Can Be Your Best Source of New BusinessBy Joel N. Sussman
If you thought you were wasting your time keeping in touch with former clients, you may want to take a fresh look at that point of view. According to a study released by the National Association of Realtors, more than half the people who bought or sold property selected their agent or broker either through a referral or as the result of a previous client relationship. The 2005 National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, based on more than 7,800 responses to a national questionnaire, revealed some interesting patterns in consumer behavior.
Specifically, it was shown that 44% of buyers chose their agent or broker on the basis of a referral by a friend, neighbor, or relative; and 11% used an agent from a previous transaction. From a marketing standpoint, it's also relevant to note that 7% of the respondents found an agent on the Internet, 7% met at an open house, and 6% followed up on contact information displayed on a 'for sale' sign. So while it makes sense to have a strong presence on the Internet and to continue holding open houses, casting a wider net for referrals may be one of the best ways to increase your sales.
Personal Recognition May Be the Missing Ingredient
As you experiment with different techniques to stay in touch with past and prospective clients, the key element in making a good impression is personalization. If people feel like they're being treated like 'just another name' on your mailing list, then your letters and greeting cards will often be perceived as junk mail. For that reason, sending out a generic birthday or anniversary card with only a signature and no personal note is usually a waste of time, paper, and postage. People want to know that you actually remember them and have taken a couple minutes to think of them, rather than delegating the task to the office secretary, for example. (Perception is all that matters.) And if you can remember something specific about the client or prospect, and comment on it, then they'll definitely sit up and take notice. Something as simple as "Hope you're getting more sleep now that the baby is older!" or "How did the remodeling project go?" can add a much-needed personal touch to your communications!
Consistently monitoring the local newspaper for civic awards, job promotions, wedding announcements, sports team victories, and other milestones is a habit that can help you personalize messages and cement relationships with clients. Not only can you send them a congratulatory note, but you can also enclose a clipping of the announcement as an added gesture. The fact that you've taken a moment to recognize their accomplishment or special occasion will definitely help you win points. And, since you never know when they're going to need your services again or when they'll be asked if they can recommend a good real estate agent, you need to periodically keep your name in front of them as a reminder of your interest, enthusiasm, and availability.
Another approach to staying in touch is through a quarterly newsletter. (Issuing it monthly would probably be too time-consuming for most agents and brokers.) Bulletins that you write and localize yourself would tend to generate more interest than a generic pre-written version, but perhaps in the interest of time management, a combination of the two might be the ideal solution. As an alternative (or a supplement) you might also consider producing a permission-based email newsletter, an online e-zine, a business blog, or simply a regularly updated web site. Regardless of how you approach it, keeping the lines of communication open between you and your existing and prospective clients can translate into repeat business, lucrative referrals, and more bottom-line sales profits.
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How to Get Prospects to Choose You Over the Competition
Marketing yourself as a real estate professional is a lot like selling yourself to a potential employer in a job interview. At some level, your prospective real estate clients have a lot of the same concerns: "Can I depend on this person? Are they qualified? Are they easy to work with? Motivated? Likeable? Will they follow through and produce results?"
You've undoubtedly heard that first impressions have the most impact on your chances of getting the client (or the job). Being articulate, knowledgeable, and well groomed are, perhaps, the more obvious qualities one must have to make a favorable first impression. That's only the tip of the iceberg, though. Other vital traits include genuine enthusiasm, a high energy level, confidence, attentiveness, a positive attitude, a warm personality, and a service orientation. Considering how much is at stake in the average real estate transaction, it's no wonder that expectations are high.
Winging it Just Doesn't Fly
Preparation is the key to projecting an image of professionalism and competence. Whether getting ready for a client interview or a job interview, one of the most effective ways to increase your confidence level and your credibility is to anticipate, know, and practice the answers to any and all questions that might be asked. Combine that preparation with a thorough knowledge of the local real estate market and the intricacies of buying and selling houses, and your client list can't help but grow. A limited amount of rehearsal is helpful, but keep in mind that sounding rehearsed can be one of the deadliest sales turnoffs of all time!
The Secret to Connecting with Prospects
After all is said and done, however, the final decision of a client (or prospective employer) often comes down to one thing: comfort level. Do you put them at ease, project a trustworthy image, and make them feel good about you? Volumes have been published about how to have that effect on people, but an excellent starting point is to be a great listener. If you can act as if your prospective client is one of the most important people in the world, at that moment, then chances are good they'll find you likeable. A thought-provoking saying that resonates with a lot of truth is: "If you want to be interesting, act interested."
These principles are easy to forget because we're all so caught up in our own egos and trying to convince everyone else that we're so important. While it may seem like a paradox, the secret to effectively selling ourselves to others often lies in being as selfless as possible, and focusing on the needs and interests of the other person.
Naturally, most clients want to know how much experience you have, what your credentials are, and maybe a little about your family and personal life. However, the one thing they really want to know about more than anything else is what you can do for them, what resources you have available to help them realize their goals, and how hard are you going to work to help them get what they want.
Practicing the basics of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) is one way to condition yourself to be more attuned to the thoughts, feelings, and reactions of other people. Peak performance training expert Tony Robbins describes NLP as the study of how you communicate with yourself and others. He says the use of these techniques can help you learn how to establish rapport with anyone, develop sensory acuity, and feel a total mental connection with other people. If you're committed to developing your skills in this crucial area, NLP is worth looking into.
Two Steps to Improving Your Marketing Success
by Joel Sussman
Since the human brain seems to be able to focus on only one thought at a time, it's difficult to evaluate an advertising idea from the perspective of both a marketer and a customer. That's why it's necessary to use a two-step process when developing highly effective ads, sales letters, web pages, and e-mails.
The first step involves creating a rough draft of your marketing message, while emphasizing the strong points and best attributes of your product or service. Your message, especially your headline, should strive to capture your prospects' attention, focus on the many benefits they'll experience, and outline the important features and selling points. The first draft should include a call to action, as well as whatever contact information is necessary to get the prospect to respond and follow through.
Navigate Through Expected Sales Objections
Possibly the most daunting obstacle to generating inquiries and making sales is human inertia, which is basically the tendancy to postpone, deliberate, and procrastinate. The best way to overcome that is to create a sense of urgency by imposing a deadline for taking action. Whether your supplies are limited -- or prices are about to go up -- or the prospect must act now "before it's too late", there needs to be a feeling of urgency conveyed if you are to be successful in overcoming the powerful forces of inaction and indecisiveness.
Other obstacles in the sales process that you need to overcome early on include skepticism, mistrust, and pessimism. The ideal marketing message would remove any doubt in the customer's mind about quality, competitive prices, ongoing customer support, and the customer's ability to get a refund if they're dissatisfied. One common mindset that many prospects have is, "It sounds like a good product/service, but it probably won't work for me." A strategy you can use for overcoming that negative attitude is to offer references and include testimonials of satisfied customers -- just like them -- in your marketing materials.
Bypass Your Ego to Connect With Buyers
Part two of this marketing process is often ignored by small business owners, home-based entrepreneurs, and even some advertising agencies, but it can spell the difference between success and failure. It involves stepping back and looking at your message from the standpoint of your target audience. Here are two important questions to ask yourself: "Are they going to notice the ad or the sales message at all?" and "If they do notice it, why should they care?" If you're not sure, then that's a clear sign you need to strengthen your sales message and gear it more to the needs of your intended audience.
In order to create a winning ad or marketing campaign, it's necessary to ask yourself these blunt questions, and have the flexibility to make changes in your headlines, ad layout, graphics, ad copy, sales pitch, or marketing strategy. Getting a second or third opinion from people who will give you the unvarnished truth can help you develop a winning, original marketing message that will generate a profitable response.
If your marketing efforts fail to rise above the clutter of all the hundreds of nondescript ads, emails, and competing offers that the public is bombarded with every day, then your marketing message will be about as effective as a whisper on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Challenge yourself to produce compelling, high-impact marketing messages that will command attention and trigger a response from your target group.
Proven Techniques for Writing Persuasive Ads & Letters
By Joel N. Sussman
Whether you're writing a marketing message to one person or a million, your chances of having an impact on them really takes off when you understand what makes them tick. You're then in a strong position to tailor your message directly to their interests, problems, needs, and aspirations. Easier said than done, but that's where market research, asking clients the right questions, personal observation, and marketing plans fit into the picture.
A marketing plan, even an abbreviated one, can be an invaluable starting point in the development of an effective ad, commercial, promotional brochure, or sales letter. Doing an analysis of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) associated with your business, the services you offer, or the agency you represent can serve as an excellent launching pad for writing persuasive advertising and sales messages.
Laying the Groundwork
In addition to a dash of writing talent and marketing knowledge, creating effective ads and letters require a clear focus. Knowing exactly what outcome you're aiming for before you begin writing is comparable to mapping out your travel route before embarking on a cross country drive. For example, if your goal is to generate leads or to qualify prospects, your strategy might be radically different than if you were trying to convert FSBO's to clients or attract visitors to your web site.
Sell The Sizzle! (not the steak)
The copywriting process tends to flow a lot more smoothly if you have in front of you three lists consisting of benefits, features, and competitive advantages. Organizing them on one page in a column format is the easiest, most efficient way to manage the information. F.Y.I.: There may seem to be a thin, if not invisible, line between "features" and "benefits", but understanding the distinction can make all the difference in your marketing success. Examples of "features" would be your experience, training, and the advanced marketing technology your agency uses. Client "benefits" might include fast results, prompt answers, having a seasoned professional negotiate on their behalf, maximum exposure of their property, convenience, and dozens of other selling points that entice prospects into doing business with you. Features are important and need to be mentioned, but benefits are the selling points that clients and prospects can relate to and identify with. Basically, benefits are features that have been personalized, elaborated on, and projected into the future. It answers the questions "What's in it for me?" or "Why should I care?"
Crafting the Message
Catching people's attention and arousing interest can sometimes be as simple as incorporating your strongest selling point into the headline or the first sentence of your ad or letter. Several tried-and-proven headline devices for drawing people into your message include asking an intriguing question, making a thought-provoking statement, or beginning the headline with the words "How To". Headlines that convey a sense of urgency, contain a short testimonial of a satisfied client, or have the feel of a news announcement also have been shown to get people to stop and read.
By the way, one of the most powerful and successful advertising headlines of all time, which was also the title of a best-selling book written in 1936, is "How to Win Friends and Influence People", by Dale Carnegie. The title/headline is filled with benefits, it contains the words "How To", and it speaks directly to everyone's strong desire to be well liked, to be in control of their lives, and to feel important. Another popular book Carnegie wrote tapped into that same formula. It's entitled "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living." Apparently, that double-barreled approach was especially effective for him.
Many well-intended ads, brochures, and letters start out with a good head of steam, but peter out as they approach the moment of truth, namely: the call for action! If you don't make it 100% clear exactly what you want the prospect to do after hearing/seeing your message, and if you don't give them a compelling reason to do so, there's a good chance you'll lose them. That principle can apply to writing good blog posts and real estate marketing postcards, too.
As the acronym AIDA suggests, a response-producing ad or letter must first grab the Attention of the target audience, arouse Interest, trigger Desire, and then prompt Action. Without all four of those "cylinders" firing at the appropriate time, that delicate sequence of events could quickly come to a grinding halt.
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