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“Our veterans shouldn’t be priced out of these housing options because they’re excluded from the VA’s loan program,” one lawmaker says.
Your personal brand is your most important asset. But is it a diamond in the rough?
If you’re working full time in real estate, and are making a living at it, you run a bona fide business. That’s because you are likely an independent contractor who must generate your own business — and pay for your own expenses, like taxes and healthcare.
As such, your business is worthy of being treated as a business. It deserves to have a brand and business plan that will help you grow it. So what if you work for a large broker with an impressive brand? Can’t you just leverage your broker’s stuff?
Sure, but YOU still need a brand.
That’s because 66 percent of buyers interviewed just one agent before deciding which one to work with, according the National Association of Realtors’ 2014 Profile of Buyers and Sellers. In the case of sellers, 70 percent contacted just one agent and sealed the deal then and there. The broker’s brand was an afterthought.
You don’t have much runway to create a second impression. You’ve got to knock it out of the park before that first meeting. That’s best done through branding and marketing, which is a combination of a promise and a value proposition that is inexorably tied up with the way you do business.
Can’t I Just Use My Broker’s Brand?
You can leverage your broker’s assets, and you probably should if they’re right for you. But you can’t lean too heavily on your brokerage to define what makes you different from the next agent at your brokerages. One look at your brokerage’s “our agents” page will surely prove the point that your broker is interested in showcasing all of the agents at your firm on an equal basis.
It’s up to you to swim in your own lane and develop a brand that will spotlight you, no matter which brokerage you work with. It’s worth noting that many of the top agents and teams in the country work for brokerages — but they still have their own brands within their brokerages.
Top Agents with Their Own Brands
Sue Adler runs a nine-member team within the Keller Williams Premier Properties brokerage in Short Hills, NJ. Her website is highly functional. It clearly positions her as the top KW agent in New Jersey, and it’s ridiculously easy to get in touch with her with a prominent phone number, lead capture form and even live chat.
What’s particularly interesting is how Adler is utilizing a pre-defined IDX search (provided by iHomeFinder via Virtual Results) for various communities on the New Jersey to Midtown train lines, including commute times. It’s an ingenious way to help consumers visualize where they want to live in her service area — and pays off the fact that she’s a local expert. At the very top of the site, Adler makes it clear that if you’re looking to live within 45 minutes of New York City, she can make it happen.
Take note that Adler’s personal brand clearly dominates KW’s brand. Although she promotes the fact that she is KW’s number one agent in New Jersey for 10 years running, it’s not the highlight of the site. The Keller Williams logo is in the footer. Rather, Adler focuses on what she and her team can deliver for clients: Valuable local insight and extraordinary customer service.
Same Market, Different Approach
Judith Weiniger is Adler’s competitor. She’s ranked as one of RE/MAX’s top ten agents in New Jersey, and has built a site through Curaytor Systems that is focused on her track record and expertise in the area. From the moment you land on the site and see Weiniger walking through a listing on video, everything about The Weiniger Group feels warm and friendly.
The site is built for conversion, with obvious contact features, dynamic IDX search powered by Homes.com, and a well-populated blog filled with community information and open houses. But the star of the show is always Weiniger and her team, as well as a deep well of local resources designed to help buyers and sellers understand the community.
The RE/MAX logo is subordinated to the footer of the site, and isn’t even a clickable link back to RE/MAX Premier – Warren (her brokerage). Weiniger is clearly counting on the fact that The Weiniger Group has enough market presence to persuade prospects that her team is the right choice.
Investing in a Brand Called YOU
What Weiniger and Adler have in common is an obvious commitment to building their personal brands, so that they can build their livelihoods.
This approach makes lots of sense. But what if you’re not a top agent and in a position to create a brand? Poppycock. Of course you are. Everyone can create a brand; it’s just that few actually do. Here’s what you need to be successful.
- Understand what a brand is: A brand is a promise, plain and simple. It’s not a logo, website, font treatment, farm mailer, platitude or ad campaign. It’s a genuine promise to your client about the way that person can expect the business to behave. For example, consumers expect Apple to introduce innovative products. That’s a brand promise. When Apple fails (and it does fail every so often), people expect Apple to admit it, fix it and make it right. For the most part, Apple has done exactly that — introduced groundbreaking products, fixed things that weren’t right, and created fanatical, evangelical customers. Apple could have introduced me-too products, like Dell Computer. But that’s not Apple — and it’s one reason Dell Computer has been marginalized in the technology business. How does this apply to you? Figure out what you’re passionate about, and deliver it to your clients. A brand without passion is crippled from the get-go. Brands are passionate promises made by individuals like you.
- Nourish your brand: Even if you never build a fancy website or create a whiz-bang logo, your brand is expressed in the details of the way you do business. From the way you respond to web inquiries to the care you take in presenting a listing, it’s all in the details. But it’s also about building a passionate, fully integrated life that enriches those around you. In real estate, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a separate personal and professional life. That’s also what will help your brand thrive, because when you’re passionate about delivering on your brand promise, everyone around you feels it. Nourish your brand by engaging in business activities that pay off your passion. Kill those things that take your eye off the ball, and don’t directly contribute to building your brand.
- Raise your brand like a baby: You don’t have to launch with a grand scheme and have every detail worked out far in advance. You can, and should, take baby steps. But always remember that you want your baby to grow up big and strong, so don’t cheap out and spend money on poor quality tools that detract from your brand promise. For example, you can get a crowd-sourced logo for $25 and a template website for $12. But if you’re not willing to firmly establish your goals, get a proper brand identity that works everywhere, and populate your website with unique and purposeful, useful content, your brand will be tarnished. It’s like feeding Ding-Dongs, Slim Jims and Cheetos to a baby, and expecting it to grow up healthy. Garbage in, garbage out definitely applies to brand building.
- Have a plan: The reason you may not be willing to invest in building a brand, or that the idea of creating one feels extraordinarily difficult, is that you may not have done your homework. Have you honestly assessed your business, and figured out what your brand (or you, for that matter) stands for? If you’re having trouble, it’s probably because you don’t know what your unique value proposition is, so it’s nearly impossible to articulate and support. And if you can’t articulate what you’re trying to do, you’ll throw money away on marketing tactics that have little chance of working. A good plan should include an analysis of your existing business, your plans to grow (a real forecast with real numbers!), and a realistic number you can invest in marketing on an annual basis. Whether that number is five cents or $50,000, it’s an investment that can be made effective by determining which marketing tactics can best support and express your brand. If you can’t commit to a budget, how can you realistically commit to your brand and your business? (And by the way, your time is worth money too. Even if you don’t have cash to spend, every hour you invest in building your brand is real money. Everyone has a time budget — what’s yours?)
- Examine your broker’s brand: How does your brand square with your broker’s brand? If you’re trying to build a luxury team but you’re working at a low-end brokerage, that’s an obvious disconnect. But have you looked at the more subtle aspects of your broker’s brand? How are incoming leads handled? Is there floor time, and who works it? Who are the other agents — and do you like them? Do other agents at your company bolster your reputation, or harm it? What is your brokerage’s reputation in the community, and among your peers at other companies? Is it progressive, or alarmingly old school? What about presentation materials, transaction management tools and advertising? Are you proud to be associated with your broker’s brand, or do you discount it and just view it as a place to hang your license? If you feel that the way your broker does business doesn’t fit with your brand, it’s time to move on. Although your brand should supersede your broker’s brand, it should also synchronize with it. Here’s what’s important: When people realize you’re associated with your brokerage, no one should ask “why are you there?”
- Think about all the tools available to you. Now that you have a brand, business plan and a sound relationship with your brokerage, you can start thinking about tools. Think like a startup. You can use a variety of marketing channels to build traction for your business. Consider paid search, SEO, public relations, blogging, events, social and display ads, offline ads (billboards, bus shelters, print), email marketing, speaking engagements, community building, content marketing and even viral marketing. All of those options don’t include things you can do to build your business internally, like adding buyer or seller agents, transaction coordinators or investing in a CRM to manage your business processes. Which of these avenues will enrich your brand, draw clients and help you retain them? It’s not just about lead generation. The National Association of Realtors Profile of Buyers and Sellers says 88 percent of homebuyers would use their agent again … but most don’t because the agent loses touch over time. That’s loss — and easily preventable.
Your Brand is the Engine of Your Business
So how much should you invest in building your own brand? Everything you can. Your brand offers the very best opportunity to attract and retain clients and build the business you want.
Only you can know what exactly you can and should spend on marketing tactics based on your revenue and business plan (although typically, traditional marketing expenditures can range from 10-35 percent of your gross commissions). But remember that marketing tactics are only part of the story.
Think holistically about your brand. It’s the engine of your business. So allow it to flourish by spending money to improve how it works for you — and hold it accountable. With a plan and an understanding that a brand is a lot more than a logo, you’ll be poised for a whole new level of success.
DwellHomes.com curates modern homes for the well-heeled young professional — and a 30 percent referral fee. Is it worth it?
Let’s say you want to showcase your new listing: A high-end, multi-million dollar modern home. Of course you’ll put it in your MLS and build a custom website for it. But what if you could get it “certified” by the editorial staff of Dwell Magazine, and advertise it amongst its super-cool, mod brethren online?
That is the goal of DwellHomes.com, the latest entrant in the advertising race for high-end homes. The twist here is that all of the homes featured are modern and curated by hand by the editorial team at Dwell Media, so browsing the site feels similar to leafing through the pages of your favorite architectural magazine.
Even though the listings are handpicked by the Dwell editorial team, Dwell Homes is only loosely associated with the Dwell Media empire. The site, which was built by Los Angeles brokerage Live International Real Estate, licenses the Dwell brand, and it makes money via traditional referral fees paid on buyer leads.
DwellHomes.com launched last fall with about 400 homes, and as of this writing appears to have about 70 homes on the site, primarily in California and New York. The company says that it is launching on a state-by-state basis, and has hundreds of submissions from real estate agents from all 50 states and abroad.
“The goal is to showcase quality modern homes that match the Dwell brand,” explains Tiffany Gatto, CEO of Live International Real Estate. “We’re not about having thousands of homes that we source through syndication. We want to create a destination, where homebuyers who want quality modern homes can find the right property that is vetted by experts who know the genre. We’re about curation, not quantity.”
Gatto says that’s why the selection process is strict. To get on the site, you need to submit a property history and description, quality photography and ideally, a 360-degree virtual tour. Your listing will then be reviewed by Dwell’s certification team (which includes Amanda Dameron, the magazine’s editor-in-chief).
“There are a lot of pieces that come together to create what a Dwell home is,” Gatto continues. “They’re looking for architectural significance, finishes, flow, design — everything the modern buyer is looking for, and that would fit into the pages of Dwell Magazine.”
Gatto is careful to say that her brokerage has nothing to do with deciding which properties make it on to the Dwell Homes website.
Dwell’s team will deem it “in” or “out” — and only about 25 percent of homes Gatto submits actually make it onto the site.
“It’s really about what Dwell thinks is worthwhile,” Gatto explains. “We facilitate the process, but nothing more than that. What Dwell’s team says is absolutely final. Every house on the site has to pass muster.”
Can You Be “Dwell Certified”?
While you can point prospects to the Dwell Homes website, you can’t market your listing as Dwell “certified” or even that you’re a Dwell certified agent.
That means you can’t associate Dwell’s brand with your own as you market the property on your website, or within your other marketing materials and programs. Gatto admits the restrictions are tight, but says that it’s for a reason: Dwell wants to maintain absolute control over its brand.
Familiar Business Model
If your listing makes it past the Dwell team, it will be showcased at no charge amongst other suitably modern homes. If Dwell Homes attracts a buyer for your listing, you’ll pay a 30 percent referral fee back to Dwell Homes. Although home sellers can submit their houses to Dwell Homes as well, the site is clearly focused on acquiring listings from real estate professionals.
“We only charge the referral fee if we have procured the buyer through Dwell Homes,” Gatto says. Listings on the site are presented with the listing agent’s name. However, no direct contact information is published, so web visitors must use Dwell Home’s form to inquire about the property.
If the property sells to a prospect that originated on the Dwell Homes site, the referral fee is due.
Gatto says that if a home seller in California chooses to list a home directly with Dwell Homes, the transaction will be handled through Live International Real Estate (a California brokerage) and traditional fees will apply outside of Dwell Home’s fees.
When Gatto can place a home seller with a partner agent in a state other than California, Dwell Homes will collect a referral fee as well.
“What we are at the end of the day is buyer lead generation,” Gatto explains. “We’re just like Redfin or Zillow — it’s just that we focus on a specific type of home, and a specific kind of buyer.”
Listings begin at a minimum of $1 million, and go north of $50 million for a penthouse in Manhattan.
What’s interesting about the assortment of listings and the price points is that clearly Dwell, and by extension, Live International Real Estate, is interested in selling high-end homes to high-end buyers.
The original Dwell manifesto promises that the modern homes it presents will show the human side of living — from Pepperidge Farm cookies in the cabinet to Meow Mix kibble in the cat bowl — in real homes for real people. Yet as Dwell has evolved into a modern mega-media empire, Dwell’s homespun approach has morphed into showcasing seriously high-end homes and finishes to equally affluent buyers.
Will it work for you?
Even though Dwell’s brand is well known, and appeals to younger professionals (average age of 40, household income $110,000) with 600,000 print subscribers and two million unique visits a month, you may not benefit from that traffic and exposure to qualified buyers.
Here’s why: There’s no direct or obvious link from Dwell.com to DwellHomes.com.
That’s probably because Dwell’s main site accepts advertising from various real estate companies, and it seems likely that Dwell doesn’t want to compete with its bread and butter display advertisers. Besides, Dwell Homes is a licensed venture of a real estate brokerage, not a direct line of business for Dwell Media.
Unless Dwell Homes can generate enough traffic and exposure without the might of the Dwell brand, this niche site might continue to play in a very expensive — yet beautiful — walled garden.
The post Dwell Homes Says it Lures Modern Buyers with Quality, not Quantity appeared first on Eight11.
If you’ve ever spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on pay per click advertising, but haven’t gotten any leads, there just might be a good reason for that.
Few marketing tactics are as attractive as pay per click advertising. The idea of putting a little ad on Google and driving thousands of visitors to your site is glorious. Think of the volume of leads you’ll create for pennies on the dollar!
What’s more, you’ll be able to knowingly fling around words like “long tail” and “fat head,” and use acronyms like CPA, CTR and CPA. Thousands of leads will magically flow your way. You’ll be the coolest kid in class. Until it all falls apart, and your money is gone and your lead base is no bigger than it was before you started.
That’s exactly why so many agents feel positively hornswoggled after spending money on pay per click (PPC) ads, whether they use a service to place the ad, or do it themselves. Thousands of dollars later, with no leads to show for their investment, they throw in the towel, convinced that all vendors who offer to place ads on the Internet are charlatans.
Set-up to Fail
Not all search engine marketing vendors are thieves, but it’s easy to see why agents might think so. Often, the lack of success in PPC is caused by a diabolical mix-up of dreamy expectations and harsh reality, mashed up with inscrutable and mushy reporting from vendors.
In a perfect world, you would be able to create a mind-blowingly engaging ad, put it on Google, and attract quality traffic to your site.
Not just your site in general, mind you, but a specific, compelling landing page that is so persuasive that all those prospects willingly give you their real names, emails and telephone numbers so that you can engage them.
At that point, you would transform them into real clients because you call them within moments of receiving their inquiry. And that how you measure results: You would tie how you got a client back to a specific ad or campaign.
In reality, though, it’s a lot more difficult than that.
That’s because PPC advertising is frequently set up to fail, because unassuming agents don’t understand the complete picture of what it takes to make PPC really perform. And it’s a lot more than clever headlines or 140 character ads.
The reason most agents fail with PPC is that they don’t have a complete solution to make it a success. This consists of four components:
- A creative strategy, which is clearly defined, with a set budget and duration so that you are not lighting dollar bills on fire with no possible means of measurement
- A website set up to manage inbound leads generated from PPC advertising: Typically, this means that you have the ability to set up a lead capture landing page per PPC campaign
- A tracking mechanism (usually a CRM, like Realvolve or Followup Boss) that enables you to seamlessly pass the lead into your platform, so that you track it, manage it and convert it
- A commitment to treat leads generated via PPC as if they are as valuable as prospects generated through personal referrals or your sphere — meaning that you call people back within minutes of getting an inquiry
If you’re not set up with all four components before you begin your campaign, it’s doomed. Here’s how not to have this happen to you.
There are three terms you need to understand before you start any PPC campaign.
Click through rate (CTR) is the percentage of people who click on your ad after having seen it on Google (or any other search engine on which you’re advertising)
Cost per click (CPC) is the amount it costs to buy a click on an ad you’re running. It’s also the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for a click. Since you only pay for each click, this can be very inexpensive, or very very expensive, depending on the search term you’re bidding on.
Cost per acquisition is what it costs you to acquire a customer, not just a click. This is a very important number to pay attention to — because it’s really a measure of your effectiveness at PPC advertising. Let’s say that you spend $1 per click, and 10 percent of visitors who hit your site after viewing your ad actually become your clients. That puts your CPA at $10:
CPA = $1/10% = $10 customer
You’re paying just $10 to acquire each client, which is a pretty good deal. But it’s easy to see how this number becomes extremely expensive if you’re spending $10-15 a click, and just two percent of your visitors convert:
CPA = $15/2% = $750 per customer
Suddenly, small numbers become huge, and more than a little disappointing.
So when a PPC vendor pitches you on cost-effective lead generation via PPC, it’s time to start asking some hard questions.
Is it “Branding” or Lead Generation?
It often seems that PPC vendors in the real estate space say that paid search (another term for PPC) is more about branding than real lead generation. This is especially the case when they’ve got a client that is unhappy with the results.
“PPC is really about brand exposure,” they stammer, as they try to explain why your $1,000 went straight down the drain with no measurable results. While it might serve some folks’ egos to have their ad on Yahoo! Sports in third position, it’s not worth much if it doesn’t generate a lead.
Brand exposure, where leads are not important, is for brands — and most agents are not in the position to run branding campaigns for their individual businesses.
Despite what some PPC vendors in the real estate space say, branding campaigns don’t generate leads. Branding campaigns get broad exposure for a product or service. But most agents want leads, not brand exposure.
Yet PPC can work for agents and brokers. Venerable vendors like Curaytor, Real Estate Webmasters or Boomtown generate massive amounts of leads and prove the point that PPC is a valuable tool, if you use it for the right purpose and are set up to succeed.
It’s also important that you don’t have to use a vendor to get great results, but if you’re not an expert you’ll need to spend quite a bit of time learning how to leverage PPC.
Setting up for Success
The first thing you need to do is consider your budget and goals. PPC is pure math, mixed in with a bit of savvy creative.
Here are a few things you can do to get going:
- Establish your budget. Most agents in most markets probably need to allocate at least $500 a month to get any traction at all, and preferably closer to $1,000. If this seems steep to you, save your money and try something else. Don’t fall for anyone who says they can get you results for less than $100 a month, and wants you to sign a year-long contract.
- Decide how long your campaign will run — and shorter is probably better. If you’re new to PPC, it’s best to run a short test so that you can fully gauge what a campaign can do for you. Measure, measure and measure again, but go the distance so you can really see if PPC works for you.
- Choose your objective. Is it to get visitors to give you their email? Look at specific properties? Get a free home valuation? Whatever your goal, stick to it — and it alone — and build a landing page appropriate to your purpose. Landing pages should be short and sweet, not lead to other pages on your site, and capture email addresses and contact information of visitors.
- Do your homework. Whether you decide to run a PPC campaign on your own, or use a vendor, look at the competition in your market. Who is running a PPC campaign on Google, or Microsoft’s ad network (Bing and Yahoo!)? What are they advertising? Which keywords are they targeting? How can you stand out?
A Word about Keywords
By this time, you’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard about keywords. But just in case you’re not completely sure what a keyword is, here’s the simplest explanation:
A keyword is a search term a user enters into search engine to get a result. It can be one word (“houses”) or a combination or words, or terms (“blue houses on Elm Street).
However, not all keywords are created equal. Some are more popular than others. For example, very broad keywords, like “houses” or “shoes” return untold millions of results, and are very difficult to dominate (or rank for).
This means that it would be extraordinarily difficult for you, as a sole agent or broker with a limited budget, to have your search ad (or even content on your website) come up first in your market when someone enters the term “houses” with no modifying terms such as the location or other features of the property.
That’s not a bad thing. Consider this: there’s a hidden benefit to ranking for more obscure search terms, like “mid century three bedroom two bath houses Evanston IL walking distance.” This much more specific term is probably less expensive to bid on, and it’s also easier to rank for since fewer people are entering that exact term into the search engines.
This type of term is known as a “long tail” keyword — and typically, the people who enter these terms are much farther along in their buying process than someone who simply puts “houses” into Google.
Your mission is to optimize your ads against the way you think people will search for you, and bid against the terms they might use to find your ad. There are a zillion tools you can use to figure out what people are searching for, and how much it might cost you to rank for those terms. Those specifics are for another post — but you still need to be knowledgeable enough to be dangerous about keywords. Here’s why.
You’ll need to tweak and tune your advertising to continuously optimize your ads to achieve the highest click through. (Or you should hold your vendor accountable, particularly if you’re not seeing results.)
There’s another reason that you want to optimize your ads. Google will reward you for quality ads, and give you the best rates and premium positioning if your ads are effective. That can give your campaigns the extra lift you need to get the most out of your PPC budget. Google’s Quality Score is based on the expected clickthrough rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience.
Why doesn’t PPC Work?
Frequently, when a PPC campaign is very expensive with few results, the issue is in the basic strategy, keywords or campaign structure.
That’s why you need to understand how your campaign is structured in terms of keywords, bidding strategy and duration in order to fix the issue. Even if you’re using a vendor, you need to stay involved, because you’re in charge of your budget and marketing strategy. PPC is most certainly not a set it and forget it medium.
Yet if your click throughs are high, and your cost per click seems reasonable, and you’re still getting a bad conversion rate, the problem could be on your landing page. If you’ve managed to get a user to click on your ad, but lose them at the front door of your site, that’s a waste of a click.
What’s important to remember is that PPC is really a troika: Great creative, smart bidding, and compelling landing pages. When you hit all three, you can knock it out of the park.
Are you awash in marketing initiatives but feel like you’re not getting anywhere? The reason is simple. You may be spending a lot of money going nowhere, because you don’t know where you want to go.
It happened again this week. A call from an enormously successful agent came in a little after 5:30 p.m.
“I’m confused,” the caller said through the crackle of a bad mobile connection. “I’m spending all sorts of money on my brand, but I hate all of it. I need to focus. I’m in the process of developing my website, but I don’t know what it should say. Can you help?”
Yes, I thought to myself, I can help. But chances are you might not like the help I’m about to offer.
“You’re like a lot of agents I’ve met,” I began. “You’re successful, talented, over-achieving and yet, lost.”
I got a knowing sigh on the other end of the line.
“The problem is really simple,” I continued. “You don’t know who you are, and you need to figure that out. It’s not easy to put a stake in the ground and define yourself. It means making choices. You’re unique. You’re different. So you have to define that.”
“Oh, I’m doing that,” the caller said. Then she began to sputter out a complex picture of her marketing ecosystem. “I specialize in luxury properties. I just had a new head shot taken. I’m working on a new semi-custom website. Did I mention my husband is the other half of my team? He says we should just pick up the phone to get more business, but we’re already selling $45 million a year. But we want to sell $60 million.
“So I was thinking, maybe I should just get XYZ CRM to handle all our contacts,” she continued. “Does that work? Do you know if it can connect to email? I’ve got to get a newsletter started. Did I mention I’m thinking about using drones to shoot my latest listing? Or do you think we can just get our assistant to do it? We’re already spending a lot of money on marketing, but it doesn’t seem to draw in anyone new. Almost all of our business comes from referrals.”
What makes you different?
I was exhausted just listening to this. Here was a very successful person. Yet she was so engulfed in the tactics of her marketing program (both the ones she was actually using and various technologies she hadn’t even tried) that she had forgotten the one thing that actually mattered.
Who was she? What was it that made her successful? And most important, what made her different?
Difference isn’t created by following the herd and doing the same things everyone else is doing. You can’t develop difference by tapping into pre-fab content created by somebody else for people who don’t know you or your clients.
Defining your difference is like deciding on a destination — you have to choose where you want to go so you can actually get there. Think of it this way: It’s unlikely that Frederick Cook or Robert Peary (who both claimed to have discovered the North Pole first) would have gotten there at all if they hadn’t set out to discover it in the first place.
Your mission has to be to discover YOUR North Pole. Not someone else’s, even if you think someone else has already covered the territory. Your North Pole has to be yours, and yours alone. Remember this:
It’s impossible to be different if you don’t treat yourself as unique.
Are you negating your differences?
Few agents and brokers will commit to carving out their own difference. Instead, they rely on timeworn homilies that, in all practicality, negate any differences they might have. Though I’ve mentioned it before, words like “excellence” and “unparalleled service” really mean very little to the people you’re trying to win as clients.
Such phrases are easy to use, though, because they’re not demanding. Using words like this to describe you is convenient, because they demand little introspection. After all, who’s going to argue with excellence? It’s more likely your clients just ignore it.
In reality, though, the only time “excellence” counts is when your clients use the word to describe you. When you use it, it’s akin to being one of those hateful guests at a cocktail party that can’t stop talking about himself. Droning on about quality and service practically guarantees that you’re talking to the mirror — not to your clients.
So why do agents and brokers blather on and on, and ignore the opportunity to differentiate themselves? I think there are eight key reasons — and if you’re going to grow your business, you should fight against every one of them until you find your own North Pole.
1. You honestly believe being a real estate agent (or a broker, for that matter) is a parity business.
Here’s how I know so many people believe this — they’re willing to buy all sorts of templated content and technology because they can’t think up anything that would set them apart from their competitors. Now, this isn’t a slam against those honorable vendors who sell products and services to real estate agents that incorporate pre-fab content or design (many of whom I’ve reviewed right here on Eight11). Often these are great services that are just waiting for some TLC from an agent that understands these are tools to be made their own. Rather, it’s about the agents who fail to personalize these tools at all — so that they’re just one of many using the same tools and techniques. Looks alike, sounds alike, is alike — the death knell of creating difference.
2. You use the same tiresome lexicon to describe what you do and who you are.
I’ve gotten on my soapbox plenty of times to say how much I despise meaningless words like “premier” or “full service.” I don’t think they mean anything to the average consumer, which is why everyone (even you, if you’re reading this screed) brushes right over them. In order to embrace why you’re different, you have to use words and take action that reflect that actually make you different. And they have to make your difference relevant to your clients. Expressing your difference is an active proposition. It should work for your customers and clients, in words and actions a three-year old, non-native speaker can understand. Leave the $20 dollar, fancy-pants words behind, and get out there and do something that sets you apart.
3. You’re not passionate about what you do.
This is a massive problem. If you’re not thoroughly enthusiastic about what you do, it will show through in your brand. Passion allows you to succeed against all odds and creates a meaningful impression in your clients’ minds. If you’re phoning it in and have lost the reason you got into the business in the first place, no chipper marketing slogan, website, business card, CRM or other tactical effort will help you distinguish yourself.
4. You’ve never really had a good goal in the first place.
I’m not pointing any fingers, but when your only goal is to make more money or hit a certain level of production, it’s pretty hard to create difference. Goals that are strictly related to money lack a higher purpose. Money goals have nothing to do with adding value to your clients. No client wants to feel that the only reason you’re working with them is to win a commission. Yet if you have a higher purpose — a goal that goes beyond lucre or personal status — it’s obvious that your mission and values will percolate throughout your business, and enrich your clients’ experience with you. You will be different through your actions because they help you achieve your higher purpose. Think Method Cleaners vs. P&G — Method is about making people happy with better, environmentally sensitive products. P&G is about winning market share.
5. You use the wrong technology to go after the wrong goal.
I recently spoke to a group of 500 agents at an industry event. I asked the audience how many people had subscribed to a service that they were still paying for — but had forgotten the password to, and hadn’t logged in for more than 30 days. Some 90 percent of the audience’s hands went up! The reason is simple: It’s an absolute disconnect between your higher purpose and the mechanics of your business. We’re all searching for the perfect solution to manage our businesses, but when the technology is there for its own sake and doesn’t really facilitate your goals, it’s a non-starter. It’s not so much about discipline as it is about reality. We spend our time on what’s important to us. What’s important propels us towards our goal. If it doesn’t support the goal … well, you can see where this is going. I swear it’s the reason so many CRMs are abandoned. Maybe you’re really not that into building a massive database of contacts after all, because it’s just not YOU.
6. You do things the way other people do them.
In real estate, you have to play by the rules when it comes to negotiating a transaction. But everything else you do is up to you. To be different means actually being different, whether that’s via the force of your charming personality, or utilizing technology to support your higher purpose and your business goals. Nobody else can or should do business as you do. Celebrate that difference, carve out your niche, and stick to it.
7. You’re afraid to choose a niche.
Difference is about making choices, just as simplicity is the art of intelligent subtraction. You can’t and shouldn’t do everything under the sun. Specialize in and celebrate what you’re good at, and ruthlessly cut out all the stuff you don’t like to do, or aren’t really good at. Your prospects want to work with someone who is a passionate expert. Be that person and announce it to the world.
8. You’ve built an inconsistent and lousy brand.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been in marketing for close to 30 years, but I REALLY hate it when someone says to me that marketing is really expensive, and that’s why they have an awful brand. I despise it because it speaks to a basic misunderstanding of what a brand really is, and what marketing can do. A brand is an intangible yet valuable promise that your clients will either believe in and buy — or not. Marketing is about getting the word about your promise out into the world. You can have an excellent brand (your promise) supported by a tiny marketing budget (your creativity and actions). What matters is quality, consistency and a commitment to creating difference and preference. If you’re all over the map and your brand is pretty awful, that’s because you haven’t created difference that you believe in and care about.
SavvyCard is a new mobile website ecosystem that promotes sharing and interaction. Is it ready for real estate?
What is SavvyCard? To hear David Etheredge, co-founder and CEO of SavvyCard tell it, it’s a wholesale reimagining of the mobile experience for small businesses that want to engage customers wherever they happen to be. Which these days, tends to be on their mobile phones.
Yet the hard part is simply this: SavvyCard does a lot, and it’s hard to describe in a simple elevator pitch. To start with, it’s an electronic business card with a built-in lightweight CRM.
It’s also a method for small businesses (read that as Realtors®) to instantly create a mobile site that is optimized for Google and might even appear at the top of the search results.
SavvyCard • Mobile Web Platform • Free for Agents
You could even say that SavvyCard creates instant referral networks between professionals who may use it cross-market their services. Think of an agent with dozens of contractors in her network. SavvyCard can enable an agent on the platform to send referrals and track results.
But wait, there’s more: For real estate associations that choose to offer SavvyCard to their members, the platform creates an instant mobile site for each member, and affords those who utilize the service’s IDX feed to spit listings found on their websites to consumers’ mobile phones.
Probably the best way to think of SavvyCard is an ecosystem of mobile services that enable businesses to connect to their customers, and profit from their vendor/referral relationships.
So what does that mean to you? Simply that you may stand to profit from SavvyCard, because for now, the electronic business cards are free and easy to set up.
Cards that Count
SavvyCard starts with a deceptively simple electronic business card. It’s easy to create, and you can even customize the background via a downloadable Photoshop template. Add in your social accounts, contact information and a few other bits of profile information, and you’re ready to start marketing your card.
What’s important is to claim your URL with care (e.g., savvycard.com/tracyweir) since this will be indexed by search engines, as well as SavvyCard’s internal database (“CardFinder”). The system will automatically create a QR code for your card, which you can add to your marketing materials if you wish. While there are some naysayers that posit that QR codes are on their way out, it’s still handy if QR codes work for you.
You can also create multiple versions of SavvyCards. For example, if you wanted to create a card for your real estate business and another for a side business, SavvyCard makes this easy.
SavvyCard also utilizes something called a SavvyDeck, which is a built-in, lightweight customer relationship management system that allows you to associate other people’s cards with your own. Etheredge says this adds to the viral nature of SavvyCards, because they’re intended to be collected and traded, just like baseball cards.
Easy to Share
Once you’ve created your SavvyCard, it’s easy to share it with anyone you like. Just click the giant “share” button on the home screen of your SavvyCard. You can send it via email, text message or QR code. If you’re logged in, SavvyCard will try to prefill the sharing forms with your account information.
In an interesting twist, if you’re not sharing your own SavvyCard, but someone else’s, you can choose to share the recipient’s contact information with the person who owns the card. For example, if you refer a roofer who has a SavvyCard, you can instantly notify the roofer of the prospect’s name and contact information when you send the referral.
Card? Or Mobile Website?
Etheredge says the secret sauce of SavvyCard is that each card is really a tiny mobile website, built in minutes for the cardholder.
Etheredge says that SavvyCard is an HTML5 application that is rendered on the fly in the device’s browser. That means there’s no app to download. Everything you need is right there, on the first screen when you open a card.
“What’s important is that consumers are doing business 70 percent of the time on their phones,” Etheredge explains. “They make a decision in 15 seconds as to whether something is worthwhile to them. They don’t want to download another app.”
That’s why SavvyCard’s sites are stripped to the basics, with enormous buttons that are easy to see and use. Although they may feel a little clunky at the moment, Etheredge says future iterations of the buttons will be more sophisticated and customizable.
Regardless of how the buttons look, they’re useful — you can share your SavvyCard, initiate a call, send a text or compose an email, right within the SavvyCard.
Etheredge says that SavvyCard’s mobile websites rank better for search because they promote engagement.
“Google’s most recent updates value interaction and engage more than inbound links,” Etheredge explains. “When you have a SavvyCard that enables the user to click a button to interact with a telephone number, Google sees that as engagement.”
On traditional websites, users typically don’t interact with a phone number — a visitor will simply go to the site, enter the telephone number they need on the homepage into their cell phones, and leave without a single click on the page.
Google may treat this as a bounce, although for the site’s owner it’s a win. Yet in the game of search engine ranking, such views don’t help sites rank, and in fact, may detract from overall organic search engine placement.
Since everything on a SavvyCard site is meant to engage, Etheredge says this gives his sites an edge.
Larger Vision: Associations
Etheredge envisions an entire ecosystem of SavvyCards for people and businesses. Within real estate, he’s particularly interested in working with real estate associations, where he can instantly create and deploy SavvyCards for all members.
Etheredge says that the member functions of SavvyCard’s platform are ideal for MLSs and associations, as well as large brokers.
SavvyCard’s first client in real estate was the Miami Association of Realtors. Etheredge recalls that he was attending a conference for association executives, where he met Teresa King Kinney and Deborah Boza-Valledor, respectively the CEO and COO/CMO of the association.
Both Kinney and Boza-Valledor saw the potential of SavvyCard to serve as a mobile website for each of their members and affiliates. [To hear a description of how this relationship came to be, go to 7:00 in the SavvyCard video at the top of this article.]
Etheredge says that the Miami Association of Realtors was attracted by SavvyCard’s ability to enable comprehensive search into each member profile on the platform.
One of the more interesting pieces of SavvyCard’s integration with associations and MLSs comes in the IDX feed. When an agent builds a website with a SavvyCard IDX feed, it’s possible to build a SavvyCard for an individual listing that can be sent instantly to the mobile phone a website visitor. [For a demo of this feature, go to 19:00 in the video at the top of this article.]
The property card includes a complete description of the property including directions and pictures.
“We enable people to network with each other, and our platform is viral,” Etheredge says. “When agents can easily interact with each other, affiliate members and their customers, it’s a win.”
The post SavvyCard Wants to Be Your Mobile Website. Should You Let It? appeared first on Eight11.