Why Branding is Your Ultimate Weapon

Why Branding is Your Ultimate Weapon

If you’re a real estate agent, effective branding is paramount to achieving the most success. It separates the top agents from the riff-raff. There’s a particular cola brand that I hate. Let’s call it BrownStuff. For me, even the look of the BrownStuff logo is outdated and unpleasant – much like their actual product. I’d rather chug rusty pennies… which is an act that describes the experience of drinking this “soft drink”. Reasonably, anything even related to the name I wouldn’t trust with a bucket of water if my knickers were on fire – needless to say, trust with the sanctity of the taste buds.

That is the power of branding. Not the gag-inducing experience that I equate to a certain “beverage,” but the word association that ultimately drives all of us to choose or reject a product. Seth Godin, marketing rockstar, describes it best:

“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”

Seth Godin

Brands make the world go round, and they dominate every aspect of society. They are status symbols. They are markers for quality (or lack thereof). Most importantly, revenue and success are common symptoms of a great brand.

Nowhere is this truer than in real estate. Your name and reputation is everything. Not only that, but a strong brand – consisting of values, messaging, experience, and the optics you create across all channels – is the key to guaranteeing you build a reputation that brings you that success. It bleeds into every facet of your business: from your networking, your referrals, even your online persona. While your head shot is the first thing a potential client finds when they search for you online (it’s a certainty that they will, 89% of home shoppers used the internet to search for a real estate agent) your brand will be the selling point that closes the deal.

89% of home shoppers used the internet to search for a real estate agent

It’s a given that the more successful products/services are the ones with the more noteworthy branding.  Actually, research shows that “59% of consumers prefer to buy brands that are familiar to them”Nielson Global New Product Innovation Survey. Sometimes, the branding is more important than the quality of the product itself.

As perfect proof of this fact, you have to look no further than your nearest Grande Chai Tea Latte, 3 Pump, Skim Milk, Lite Water, No Foam, Extra Hot.

Despite the fact that “many coffee lovers don’t love [their] coffee”, Starbucks remains the more popular choice for coffee internationally, and is second only to McDonald’s as the most valuable fast food chain globally. (Statista)

As a small business in their own right, this is why it’s especially important for agents to cultivate a strong brand. The first thing your client will buy is your brand, and it needs to have as much curbside appeal as the homes you show them. Your brand will be how you separate yourself in a field saturated with competition. There are many agents in every zip code, including yours.

To put it simply: “consistently presented [brands] experience [more] visibility”. Even more exciting is this increase leads to a 23% increase in revenue on average!

So basically: build your brand, promote it consistently, make money, repeat

How to Crush Online Leads Without Going Broke

How to Crush Online Leads Without Going Broke

Purchasing leads can be done in a variety of ways; events, door-to-door, and referrals are all options. However, one of the easiest ways to get leads is to just buy them. We all know of different types of list brokers and online sources who can slice and dice different demographic data into hopefully delivering qualified leads that have a high likelihood of being successful for us.

But the issue with drumming up leads is always about quality. Anyone can put a massive list of names and contact information into a spreadsheet, but if none of them wants to buy or sell a house, then unfortunately, you’ve wasted time and money. More than 40% of marketing experts say that poor lead quality is their biggest barrier to successful lead generation.

The ideal situation is when you can get high-quality leads and get them cheaply. To do that requires some strategy and planning, so let’s look at the most effective ways to invest your time and money when it comes to purchasing leads.

Wait for the phone to ring

Work to get leads, follow up with them, and turn them into customers

Online leads can cost a lot, with little in return

An analysis of various real estate lead sources indicates that costs can vary widely — anywhere from $2 – $100 per lead or more. Additionally, getting those leads requires you to make a year-long (or at least month-to-month) contractual commitment, and within the details of that contracts are often restrictions on how you can use the leads. So, before you can even see if they’ll prove to be of any value, you have to make a sizable investment.

There is a large contingent of realtors who will tell you to avoid buying leads online. Their feelings are typically for reasons of cost, as mentioned above, but also because of poor value. Some even suggest that buying online leads can be a fix for when you need to drum up new business quickly, but like any type of business relationship, those leads have to carry some realistic potential to turn in to actual opportunities. Many of the sources for leads (Realtor.com, Zillow, and others) have convoluted rules about what constitutes a lead and what the buyers are actually getting. One real estate agent communicated his frustration about a particular well-known vendor: “I’ve been billed $25,000 for the same information… the same buyers… over and over.”

A report from Inman about the efficacy of online leads includes this synopsis of research about ®Realtors’ perceptions of their paid lead acquisition: “When their return on investment was rated individually by agents, all four listing portals included in the survey — Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and Homes.com — received more ratings of “poor” than all their ratings of “mediocre,” “good” and “great” put together.”

Realtors spend almost $9 billion every year on advertising, and Attom Data found that 56% of that (a little more than $5 billion) is spent on purchasing leads. One could argue that there’s something valuable enough in buying leads that people keep doing it, but there’s a huge difference between being a buyer and being a discernible buyer. It’s important to be astute about what and how you’re buying leads so you can derive the most value out of your investment.

Get More Value by Applying the Right Methods

Those who have had success with online lead purchases usually cite one or more of these three things as being critical to using leads effectively:

  • Requirements: Be specific about what you’re looking for and only purchase from vendors who can deliver according to your specs. Besides demographic and geographic information, be specific about the format of your leads; demand that duplicate records be only counted once, that there will be no fake IDs, and any other aspects that will help prevent bogus leads.
  • Process: Most of us can attest to instances of getting leads but not following up. Of course, the leads you don’t follow up on will be worthless to you. So, by instituting process and the right tools from Verse, you’ll be able to automate lead capture, email distribution, marketing nurturing, and consistent follow-up and outreach. It’s only through this kind of discipline that you’ll generate a return on your investment. A realtor in Austin, TX said it this way: “I’m trying to increase the number of leads coming in as opposed to decreasing them. It’s important to me to continue the flow of leads at a consistent pace. “
  • Nurturing: Remember that leads all by themselves don’t really do much. If you nurture those leads through effective marketing efforts, then you can, over time, turn them into actual business opportunities. Part of doing this is ensuring you’re constantly focused on converting. If you aren’t, then your competitors are. Hubspot estimates that 74% of those who work with online leads believe that converting those leads into customers is their top business priority. Thomas Devor, a realtor in Glendale, AZ, said, “No matter what type of internet leads you’re working with, the majority are looking six to nine months out, so staying top of mind is critical. Therefore, it’s important to have a lead capture system in place so that you can track what your agents are doing as far as staying in touch.”

Organic activity can deliver a lot of leads (some say as much as 51% of your leads), while the cost of purchasing leads will likely result in smaller numbers. Yet, keep in mind that small businesses tend to fare the best when it comes to buying leads. Hubspot suggests that smaller businesses (those with $250,000 or less in annual revenue) can be very successful with approximately 100 quality leads per month. Larger businesses require a lot more leads and a lot more activity to get those leads. And, ultimately, it’s the quality of those leads that’s what is most important.

In the end, real estate agents have a lot of roles to juggle  – buying/selling homes, and building a business. There are endless ways to drum up business, and as we’ve seen here, online leads can be an effective way to do that. The key is to be specific and focused about how you structure your lead buying, and then ensure you are disciplined about actually using those leads to deliver business to you.

If you don’t want to pour 100s of hours doing this process manually, hire a service like Verse to handle it and convert those leads for you.

A Cautionary Lesson About For Sale By Owner.

A Cautionary Lesson About For Sale By Owner.

FSBO – homeowners who (foolishly) decide to forego the expertise and steady hand of a real estate agent in favor of “saving on commission.”.

As a real estate agent, you either love it, or you hate it (you probably hate it). Granted, the idea of saving money is appealing to anyone selling a property – and it’s often the reason they’ll jump right into an area they know very little about. But, this puts them at risk of losing money, time, and a nasty legal battle in the process, should things go wrong.

And more often than not, they will go wrong if someone doesn’t know what they’re doing.

On the other hand, an experienced real estate agent can communicate their value to a potential seller, helping them realize that listing a home as a FSBO (for sale by owner) is time-consuming. It can also render a seller as a target of scams, result in fetching a lower asking price, or be subjected to the conflicting information that plagues the interwebs such as any run-of-the-mill price estimators I’ve covered before. Frankly, it’s hard to discern what is more vexing: the loss of potential business to an amateur, or the fact that these sellers end up losing money and time as a result.

As an agent, I’m sure you’re well aware of this lose-lose situation. I’m also sure you know people who still insist on going the FSBO route (which is all the more disrespectful because they’re acquainted with YOU, an actual agent.) Therefore, we’re happy to provide you a nice reminder of why agents, as licensed professionals, are better for the job. Feel free to share this with any FSBOers you encounter.

Liability

We all make mistakes, and FSBO sellers do more than most. If someone is selling their property and fail to have a licensed agent on each side, they may end up paying for some pretty costly mistakes.

Agents know their stuff. They’re trained to identify mistakes, or at least make sure mistakes are covered by Errors and Omissions insurance.

We live in a very litigious world, and no one wants to be the target for a lawsuit…right?

In fact, did you know that if your house is built before 1992, the Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 requires you to (courtesy of Real Estate Find Law):

  • Tell the buyers about any lead-based paint or related hazards in the house
  • Give buyers 10 days to test the house for lead
  • Provide buyers with a Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pamphlet entitled Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home
  • Include warnings set forth in the law in the sale contract
  • Obtain signed statements from all parties involved verifying compliance with all legal requirements
  • Keep the signed acknowledgments for three years as proof that you followed the law

Honestly, this is just a snippet of the endless info that someone is accountable for knowing, or else risk legal ramifications. That’s to say nothing of the litany of disclosures they must provide or even the incessant amount of legal documents involved throughout the whole process. In short, a real estate agent works tirelessly on a client’s behalf, ensuring that they don’t stumble on to the wrong side of a lawsuit.   

Paperwork

According to the National Association of Realtors’ Profile of Home Buyers, the most difficult task for FSBOs is understanding all that paperwork (and there’s a lot of it).

Depending on the state you live in, there will be varying amounts of paperwork you’re required to not only complete, but understand. Of course, there are generic contracts that can be downloaded online. But, if someone has never sold a property before, will they really have any idea what they mean? Would they know how to customize such an important contract?

What’s more, before a property is ever listed, you need to gather all the paperwork related, such as:

  • The Title report
  • A copy of the deed
  • The sale agreement from when the property was purchased
  • All of the property’s tax information
  • Homeowner’s insurance paperwork
  • Survey reports
  • Mortgage loan information
  • Let’s not forget about the home warranty either, to top off the endless list of documents.

Additionally, if the property is being rented out, the seller is also going to need to gather up a copy of the lease agreement and proof of the tenant’s security deposit.

FSBOs Sell for Less

To say nothing of the lack of experience involved,  the average person barely has the time needed to give the whole process its due diligence. A seller would need to slate time to research market reports, (plus research to decipher that research), determine the market value, and develop (if necessary) the marketing skills necessary to sell the house.

And frankly, more likely than not most owners can’t lay claim to these qualifications.

That’s why FSBOs tend to sell for less than if they were sold by an experienced agent. According to reports, FSBOs lost around 16 percent of the listing price, selling for significantly lower than agent assisted homes.

The Future of FSBOs

The good news is that according to the National Association of Realtors, FSBOs are at an all-time low at just 8 percent.

Considering it is less expensive and somewhat easier to market a home today versus pre-internet days, we’re still seeing a decline in FSBO sales. According to this piece by Forbes, this fact “runs contrary to trends experienced in other vertical markets, such as investing, travel and tax preparation, which have all experienced significant do-it-yourself growth bolstered by web services.”

To put it simply: if a seller uses a real estate agent, even if it’s just to upload the listing to the MLS for advertising purposes, NAR includes that client within their pool of sellers labeled as “engaged in agent-assisted sales” – which is clearly an oversimplification of the term “agent-assisted.”

Should Agents Be Worried?

As an agent, there’s no need to worry. Given the downward trend of FSBOs, along with the stipulations for selling, insufficient exposure to potential buyers – and all that paperwork – FSBOs is not set to overtake the usefulness of agents anytime soon.

After all, you’re an expert for a reason!

Nextdoor: Next Frontier for Real Estate Advertising

Nextdoor: Next Frontier for Real Estate Advertising

Prior to 2007, Nextdoor was merely a private social network. Once you signed up, you belonged to a neighborhood and could see and speak with nearby users.

Today, Nextdoor has quickly grown into one of the largest social networks in the US, with more than 10 million users registered across over 100,000 neighborhoods!

And now, the social app has become a vital tool for real estate businesses. 

What Exactly Is Nextdoor?

This social media phenomenon offers ways to foster relationships with your neighbors without having to go knock on doors. Nextdoor gives you the ability to start discussions and highlight important issues in your community. More specifically, people use the app to:

  • Organize Neighborhood Watch Groups
  • Get the word out about break-ins
  • Find service providers
  • Find new properties

The site even sports a house-by-house map of neighbors who are signed up.

(Not as creepy as it sounds, I assure you)

So, what does this have to do with the real estate industry?

After raising over $200 million in venture funding, the network has figured out how to make money through real estate ads. There’s no denying that this is an incredibly unique way for real estate businesses to build a relationship with their dedicated neighborhoods.

It’s brand building at its finest. It’s also the chance to consistently represent your brand on an emerging and popular platform. After all, the presentation of brands with consistency leads to a revenue increase of 23%.

Building a relationship with the neighborhoods you serve can certainly prove to be an effective way to present your real estate brand. According to research presented by Borrell Associates, the real estate industry spent more than $26 billion on advertising in 2016 alone, making it the largest local advertising category. So if you’re not pursuing all forms of advertising, you won’t be able to keep up.

Thankfully, utilizing Nextdoor to advertise your business is easy and powerful. Agents and brokers can create official business pages on the platform to build their reputation as local experts. You can even pay to sponsor a neighborhood section and purchase branded listings so that your profile shows up alongside your listings when someone looks for properties in the area.

While the platform may not have originally set out with the purpose of serving the real estate industry, it did make the effort to observe which industries were creating more profiles than others, and Real estate offices took the number one spot.

How Can Nextdoor Elevate Your Real Estate Business?

Nextdoor has been hard at work rolling out its real estate listings feature, which showcases properties for sale in local neighborhoods. And, it’s not just for people looking to buy property; it also aims to help users keep abreast of the changing real estate prices in their community.

Agents who have used Nextdoor to date wax poetic about its potential, brimming with excitement about all of the possibilities that it offers.

What’s more, getting started with Nextdoor is simple, requiring very little time and even less effort. So, let’s look at what you have to do to set up your business page:

  • Head over to https://nextdoor.com/business
  • Select the Business option
  • Type in your business name and address
  • Find your business on the list and click Claim
  • Use a separate email to establish your business
  • Verify your business via your phone

One agent, for example, set up their own neighborhood in Colorado quite easily. In his experience, he found that “Nextdoor presents a very real opportunity to engage with [an agent’s] target audience: homeowners.” He goes on to detail how Nextdoor makes it all pretty easy to connect with neighbors and invite new ones to join. It even handles the printing, mailing, and cost of postcards when reaching out to these potential clients/neighbors.

This particular agent got a couple of neighbors to sign up and then had 100 postcards emailed out.

While there aren’t many quantifiable stats available just yet, with the sheer power of networking, conversations, and all of the sharing that takes place on the site, the potential for business growth for agents via Nextdoor is humongous.

That’s it!

Is It Time For You to List Using Nextdoor?

Nextdoor’s rapid growth and massive potential is unwavering. Real estate professionals need to stay up to date with the latest tools and trends, which means if you’re not on Nextdoor, you’re missing out big time. However, if you join now, you’ll get a leg up on the competition as the platform continues to grow.  It’s a whole new and exciting way to connect with clients and bring even greater success to your business.

So what are you waiting for? Take the first step towards additional success and “become the agent that neighbors think of first” with Nextdoor.

How to Increase Your Engagement With Networking

How to Increase Your Engagement With Networking

There’s no denying that social networking has been a focal point for success within the residential real estate industry. We’ve discussed before the importance of building brand awareness within real estate , and given the fact that 90% of Americans go online to shop for property, it’s worth utilizing social media to meet potential clients within this popular space. Other agents are certainly using social media to do so, as 87% of marketers rank more exposure for their businesses as the primary benefit of their social media efforts.

Using social media insights allows you to measure the success of your efforts, giving you the tools to optimize your social media strategy. The question you need to answer is – are you trying to get engagement or cast impressions.

While the answer essentially depends on your goals, each has their pros and cons.

90% of Americans go online to shop for property

Impressions vs. Engagement

Digital impressions refer to how many times your post, tweet, or other content is served up to your target audience. Impressions don’t take clicks into account.

Engagement, refers to shares, retweets, likes, comments, and clicks. It’s the measurable interaction with your online content. The better your content is, the more likely your audience will engage with it.

Additionally, the more impressions you have, the higher the visibility of your content across people’s feeds and timelines. Greater visibility means more opportunities for your content to be shared across networks and that means more potential clients for your real estate business.

It’s a simple snowball effect.

When we consider that, according to Wordstream, 51% of Instagram users access the social media platform every day, and 35% look at it several times a day, just imagine how many new prospective buyers and sellers you could reach.

So, just how do you increase your engagement within your very own social media network? We answer that question by breaking down the top 5 ways to achieve this. 

Increase Social Media Engagement

Use Videos

Wordstream reports that 100 million hours of video are watched on Facebook every single day. Likewise, Twitter reports that over 80% of its users watch videos every day.

It’s safe to say that your audience consumes more videos than any other kind of content. In fact, there’s extensive statistical proof that videos are the future queen of content.  To create and share social videos to boost your engagement, try these tips:

Tag People

If you’re looking to engage with existing and potential followers alike, make sure you tag them. According to Simply Measured –  Posts tagged with another user (56%) or location (79%) have significantly higher engagement rates. So when it comes to curating your content, this can help present you as an authority figure within the real estate realm, and boost your engagement rates. It shows you’ve got your finger firmly on the pulse. Here’s what to do:

  • Reference buzzworthy topics and tag other thought leaders in the industry
  • Thank the people you reference when you publish your own videos and posts and link back to their content

The point here is that social media revolves around people. Tag your friends, fans, followers, and anyone else who inspires you to build an engaged, interested community. This is especially important in light of the new changes implemented by Facebook in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica issue. In the interest of protecting privacy, Facebook has shifted to a more organic, less advertiser-friendly space. Building an engaged community using this organic approach is now essential to achieving social media success. 

Get Visual

Wordstream reports that 98% of posts on LinkedIn that have images receive more comments than posts without images and return a 200% higher engagement rate.

Social media and visual content go hand-in-hand. Using graphics or images has some serious benefits for boosting your engagement.

There are plenty of creative options for adding images to your posts, too, such as: Additionally, taking advantage of stock photo sites will go a long way to improving the look of your content. Whether you’re creating a Facebook event for your next open house, or creating buzzworthy content for your real estate blog – professional stock photos are a great touch. There are many sites that offer these visuals for free or only require that you credit the creator of the photo.  Some great resources for free stock photos are: 

  1. Adobe Stock
  2. Envato
  3. Twenty20
  4. Shutterstock
  5. iStock

These are just a few examples, yet there are a myriad of free stock photo resources you can use to spice up the visuals of your content. Here are a few of our faves:

  1. Freepik
  2. Pixabay
  3. Gratisography
  4. Pexels

Let Your Personality Shine

Your audience wants to see the actual person behind the real estate business. So, share some personal information, like your favorite pastime or your favorite home designs, for example. You could even share recommendations on blog posts you find informative (and don’t forget to tag the author!).

The Rule of Thirds

Social media rules dictate that a third of your content should promote your business, a third should share ideas and stories from industry leaders, and a third should be based on personal interactions. A strategy coined by the social media experts at Hootsuite, this methodology speaks of the balance needed to achieve true success.

Can you see how this ties into the above points? If you follow the rule of thirds, you’ll successfully execute in tagging industry thought leaders, allowing your personality to shine, and including videos and images to promote your business or listings.

Building stronger social media engagement is a full-time job, but once you establish a happy medium between self-generated content, curated content, and engaging your network, it gets a whole lot easier.

Drive Engagement, Drive Your Business

Social media is amazing for gaining traction. It’s all about your fans and followers and getting to know your network while they get to know you.

Use the tips we’ve discussed in this post to drive more business to your real estate business.