November 28, 2008

What Realtors can learn from "Black Friday"

As I stood in line at Wal Mart to get my "Door Buster Deals" early on the Friday morning after Thanksgiving, I began to realize all the things a Realtor can learn from shopping's Super Bowl.

Remember My Name - I am not sure when the name "Black Friday" was assigned to the unofficial first day of the holiday shopping season - I always thought it was "The Busiest Shopping Day of the Year"? You have to admit however that "Black Friday" has a cool ring to it. And that might be the first lesson - Realtors need to be descriptive in their marketing. It's not about the 3BR, 2BA anymore. People want to hear a story. We need to be "selling" instead of just "telling."

Build the Buzz - I am always amazed at the amount of buzz and planning that goes into both sides of this day. The retailers have the marketing blitz ready weeks in advance, staffing everyone on the payroll and hiring security to keep the crazed shoppers in line. The consumers usually have established a plan of attack - many times bringing multiple people to search out various items from different corners of the store or even multiple stores at once.

Realtors need to think of new ways to create interest in their listings. "Just Listed" doesn't have the same urgency anymore. Why not hold an "invite only" Open House for the neighborhood prior to the first scheduled public open house? People will always want something that is "one to a customer." Create Buyer urgency by following the "hot sheets" in your local MLS and contacting them before lunchtime.

"What are you doing on your lunch break? I think I might have found your new house!"

Utilize the Web - This one seems like a "no brainer" with the latest NAR statistics showing that 87% of consumers are using the web in the real estate searches. Can you cross promote your products or services on local company sites, national sites? Are you reaching out to potential customers through blogs and social media outlets? Remember the rules of the web - make it fresh and make it relevant but most important...make it visible.

Toss in "Extras" - offers free shipping. Some stores offer free wrapping or even gift cards with certain purchases. What other services could you offer your clients? Complimentary consulting? Individualized web sites for searching? Mailing labels after closing?

Sure these things aren't much and it's stuff you might do anyway but people always love to feel they are getting more than they paid for. Four words will help you succeed more than you know - "Under promise...Over deliver."

Set "Limits" - If people could get the same price at 5pm that they can get at 5am, what is the point? By creating urgency, today's marketers have figured out that today's consumer thrives on competition. The "thrill of the hunt" or the "battle for supremacy" creates desire. Desire needs to be satisfied. What can you do to create urgency for your clients? Do you have a "call to action" in your marketing?

Fish Upstream - What do I mean by this one? It's simple. The holidays are a stressful time of year for many people. This year will offer more stress with the faltering economy but people will fight to hang on to their traditions and gift giving opportunities. If you're like me, waiting until the last minute to complete your shopping list can be a bit hectic and frustrating. By creating "Black Friday" retailers have helped move the decision making process up 30 days. I overheard shoppers boast that by dinnertime tonight they would be done with their shopping.

Realtors need to be looking 30 days ahead for our clients sake as well. Do your marketing efforts help identify sellers before they receive the foreclosure notice? Are we encouraging buyers to look three months before their lease expires while they still have the leisure of finding the right house instead of waiting and finding the only house?

I must admit, I am not a huge fan of getting up early to do things I could normally do during daylight hours (and not have to fight pajama-clad women) but the opportunity only comes around once a year. I would consider my "mission" a success today; products purchased, discounts received, "honey do list" for the rest of the weekend waived. Goodbye "Black Friday." Hello "Slack Saturday."

Wouldn't it be neat if you could create the same kind of excitement in your business?

November 18, 2008

Talking Heads - Do They Ever Get It Right?

I follow a few blogs regularly. I still don't have the discipline to use a RSS feeder because then I have to go and check it each day. I prefer the blogs that allow me to register my email address and it send me updates each time a new post is added. (FYI - You can do this on The Realtor's Toolbox by adding your email address in the box on the side column).

One of the first real estate blogs that I began to follow is Jim Duncan's blog about the real estate market and happenings in and around Charlottesville, Virginia. Now I don't have any pressing need to learn about the town of Charlottesville or the real estate market in central Virginia but this site offers a lot of cool information for both real estate agents and aspiring bloggers. I fit into both of those categories.

Mr. Duncan is a Realtor with Century 21 and a very successful blogger. He is often invited to sit on panels at various real estate conventions and events to discuss his experience with blogging and I have even reached out to Jim for assistance in figuring out this whole "blogosphere" gig.

With the hyperbole that is spewed from many of the talking heads on the thousands of TV news channels these days, it's hard to keep score of who's predictions of doom and gloom are right and who's predictions of "sunshine and Skittles" are right. If you have two people predicting different things about the same topic, someone is going to be wrong, right?

In my first attempt to "re-blog" I'd like to suggest you read this post from Mr. Duncan on his site. Please understand that The Realtor's Toolbox did not create this content but felt it is a very valuable message that might make you think twice before you "buy in" to the positive or negative rhetoric. Be sure to watch the video at the end of this post - Are You a Complete Moron? It is truly amazing at how "right" one of these talking heads turns out to be yet you see the ridicule, contempt and general lack of credibility that the "positive Petes" seem to offer.

Thanks to Jim Duncan for his insights on the real estate market in general as well as his skills as a blogger. If you have any real estate needs in the Charlottesville, Virginia area, I might suggest you reach out to Jim.

November 15, 2008

Now Serving? Take a Number

How's business? It's a very common question Realtor's receive on a daily basis but how should you respond when the answer isn't positive? I suggest you take a page from McDonald's and speak in terms of all your customers...not just the one's you've worked with recently.

It all starts with some research on your part. You need to know how many transactions you have closed in your real estate career. I'm not talking about how many this year, I am talking about since you were licensed. Now for some of you that might not be too hard to figure because you're new to the business but many of you reading this have been licensed for 3,5 or 10 years. Some of you even longer.

Do you know how many transactions you have closed? The next seven weeks between now and 2009 would be a great time to put on a comfy pair of jeans and "cop a squat" near your file cabinets or log in to the ol' MLS and start counting every buyer and seller you have helped.

So what does McDonald's have to do with this? Well, remember when you were little and you would travel with your family? It was always neat to stop and get a hamburger, french fries and Coke at McDonald's, wasn't it? I always liked to watch the number of burgers they sold grow and grow each summer.

Now what does their sign say? "Billions and Billions Served"

I know that is a pretty impressive number. I also know that in 2007 if I knew that McDonald's served 1.875 million burgers and then, I found out that in 2008 they served only 1.65 million burgers, I would wonder why their business was off in 2008. Was Wendy's and Burger King taking their customers? Was their customer service slipping? Were more people becoming vegetarians?

Is it possible that your sphere of influence might ask the same thing about your business if they knew you closed 25 deals in 2007 but only have 12 in 2008? Would they thing the market is slow? Would they think you aren't working as hard? Would they question your levels of service?

By following McDonald's lead, you could instead say that you have helped 37 families in the last two years. Now I am no Rhodes Scholar by any means but I do know that 37 is more than 12 and more than 25 too. Remember the old adage...perception is reality.

So get to work now and figure out what your marquee should say? How many sellers have you successfully marketed? How many buyers have you helped to achieve the American Dream?How many families have you "served" in your career?
Send me a reply and either tell me that number or tell me that you're going to go back and figure it out. I think you'll be surprised by the numbers.
It's time to begin 2009 with the facts. Here's to your McSuccess.

November 7, 2008

To blog or not to blog...that is the question

I recently viewed a speech from the Ted Talks about blogging that I really enjoyed. It wasn't the best speech I have ever heard but much like blog posts...I didn't expect it to be. What it did was share one person's story. I don't know who the speaker is but obviously she is someone who is passionate about the topic and that is what blogs are all about.

I am by no means an expert on blogging. Heck, I consider myself a follower when it comes to this form of communication and am always looking for new message to send and new reasons to send them.

The more I learn about blogs, the more I learn there is to learn. You're obviously reading this blog...but why? Do you have your own blog? Why? ...or why not? Do you read other blogs? What type of blog isn't out there that you would like to see, read or be a part of?

When I discuss blogging, people often ask me why they should blog or why they should even read blogs. I don't know that I have a "stock answer" for that question but here are a few I could think of:

  • To educate
  • To inspire
  • To laugh
  • To vent
  • To escape
  • To pretend
  • To provoke
  • To motivate
  • To share
  • To tease
  • To share sorrow
  • To recognize
  • To challenge
  • To support
  • To find a friend
  • To feel important
  • To be a part of something
  • To remember
  • To forget
  • To energize
  • To get it off your chest
  • To be someone you're not because you can
  • To be someone you're not because you can't outside of a blog
  • To be free
  • To be silly
  • To be raunchy
  • To be connected

There are plenty of other reasons that I am sure I haven't thought of. What would you add to the list? Please add your reasons why you read blogs or write blogs as a comment below.

November 5, 2008

Real Estate is Like the Weather - It's Local!

Do you have potential buyers who are kicking tires and waiting for the markets to hit bottom? Do you have buyers who spend their days surfing national websites, reading USA Today and The Wall Street Journal and listening to talking heads on MSNBC and Fox News? Do you have listing inventory priced aggressively that will make a hesitant buyer kick himself later because they didn't buy it now?

If you said yes, you're not alone.

So what can you do? Well, maybe share the following article called Buy Real Estate Now from Forbes Magazine's web site and see if that makes any sense to them?

Print it out and send it to those buyers on the fence. Leave a few copies on the counter next to your fact sheets at those listings. Be "the source of the source."

Good luck!