Every week, we ask a real estate professional for their Short List, a collection of tips and recommendations on an essential topic in real estate. This week, we talked with Lee Collins, the founder and CEO of One Opening Door, on lead-generating mistakes agents may be making – and how to avoid them.
If you’re not generating leads, chances are you’re missing the boat, to use a sales analogy about as old as the practice of sales itself. And it’s no coincidence that as agents, we get inundated with phone calls, emails and snail mail about that very topic, because we’ve been, well, lead-generated.
There are too many tools, programs, books, seminars, apps, etc. to count. You may have your lead-gen strategy down to a science, and may be cranking out more leads than you can handle, but if not, it could be time to consider what tools you may be missing and/or misusing. Chances are, it’s one, or all, of these three:
3. Skimping on Branding – This one might read like a typo, but a lot of marketers completely ignore this vital step in the lead-generating process, because it’s harder to correlate to sales. But branding is so important, that it can be summed up this simply: if no one’s ever heard of your product, how will they know if they want it?
Marketing works well because people crave information with which to identify, inform and decipher the limitless array of choices available to them. In other words, there is a vast opportunity for us to connect with potential customers and influence their opinions, and even their decisions. No industry is more poised to capitalize on this opportunity than the real estate business. After all, real estate remains one of the biggest and most important investments a person makes in a lifetime, and that decision-making process has ties to almost every other area of life – education, socio-economic status, career, health and more.
Tip: Start a blog. You don’t have to be a journalist; you just have to know your subject matter, keep a consistent voice and always aim to provide value. Establish yourself as an advocate, an expert or a source for information that matters to people. Perhaps that’s a community events blog, a travel blog or even a blog that chronicles your quest for the perfect cheeseburger in your market. It doesn’t have to be directly about real estate. If you brand yourself properly, people will already know you’re a great Realtor.
2. Taking the Social out of Social Media – Most agents have come around to the idea of using social media as a primary marketing platform – some of them by choice, others by the overwhelming reality that social media isn’t only here to stay, but quickly becoming the conduit of choice for doing business in just about every industry on the planet. And since real estate is all about people – okay, it’s also about property – social media is virtually the perfect marketing vehicle. With a basic understanding of how to use it, social media can be the best thing to happen to real estate since the flyer, and an exponentially stronger lead-generating tool.
But many a marketer has thrown in the towel on social media for all the wrong reasons – the biggest of them being that it hasn’t generated enough sales. But that may be because many agents are using it incorrectly: flooding their friends’ and family’s newsfeeds with photos of their listings and latest inductions to this association or that. The value of social media as a branding mechanism cannot be understated and, because branding is key to lead generation (see point number 1), it’s important to not only utilize social media platforms to promote your business, but to do so effectively.
Obvious lead-soliciting and shameless promotion, even on your business page, can come across as unauthentic, when your goal should be just the opposite. You want to appear knowledgeable, credible and trustworthy, not salesy or canned. The idea is to position yourself – and your brand – as a resource to your audience, so that you’re top of mind when they have real estate needs. Our blog, which feeds content to our social media pages, provides a variety of content geared mostly toward lifestyle and the local community. As much as we love getting likes and even the occasional inquiry on a listing through Facebook, we’re just as excited when someone tries out a new local kitchen we’ve reviewed, or shares our recipe for the perfect summer cocktail.
Tip: Open social media business accounts that are separate from your personal accounts so you’re not mixing business and personal agendas, as this can be a big turn-off to both audiences.
1. Ignoring the Lead-Generating Tools You Were Born With – Yes, you, even if you don’t consider yourself a salesperson; which, in fact, is all the better. We determined early on that canned lead generation tactics, though valuable for many agents, just weren’t our style and felt forced. It just so happened that our network of clients agreed with the sentiment, and an unofficial pact – that we’d never send pitchy, cheesy or spammy newsletters, mailers or emails – was established.
We prefer to keep it simple: talking. If you have something meaningful or intelligent to say, chances are the right people are going to listen. So talk. And even more importantly, be sure to listen. Doing so will establish connections, and good connections turn into networks. We talk to people a lot, not because we’re trying to sell them something, but because we like to talk to them, help them out, or socialize with them. We answer real estate questions at birthday parties, and troubleshoot AC units on the fritz. Most of the time we don’t even end up talking about real estate when we engage with people in our network.
But pretty much without fail, we’ll get a phone call or an email days, weeks, maybe months later from a friend or uncle who has a real estate need, and they were referred by someone in our network we’d hung out with at their child’s birthday party.
Tip: Mingle authentically. Don’t look for opportunities to talk about what you do, or stand at gatherings nervously shuffling your stack of business cards. Be confident. The right opportunity will present itself, but even if it doesn’t, you’ll be remembered for what matters – how enjoyable you are to be around.
Lee Collins is the founder and CEO of One Opening Door, which he established in 2013. Prior to that, he was a top 10 agent at both KW Metro Atlanta and KW Realty Consultants, and was a member of the Atlanta Board of Realtors Multi Million Dollar Sales Club.