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Archive for March, 2008

Black Pearl Marketing Minute: A sneak peek at a BloodhoundBlog Unchained promotional radio spot

Barry Cunningham asked me to make a 60 second promotional spot for BloodhoundBlog Unchained, to be used in the regular rotation on Real Estate Radio USA. What can one say except, “Hell, yeah!”

Even so, I’m just not that comfortable in the do-what’s-expected waxed fruit world, so I came at the thing from my own angle. I made a podcasty kind of in-your-face kind of commercial. Who knows if it will pass muster.

Anyway, you can have a sneak peek by clicking on the podcast link below.

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  • 6 comments

    Hounds on the hunt: “You have created a monster…”

    Racing around like a blind cat at a butterfly ranch. Cathy sold her $60,000 listing in two days — for cash, five day closing. I chased down signatures for her this morning and ran to open escrow. We made a new internet relationship yesterday, and I wanted to run comps on nearby homes to try to get a feel for prices. Meanwhile, a gateway that Cathy built a long time ago produced yet another internet relationship, so I pulled listings and showed seven houses. Back in the office now to put out fires, and then I have to go look at that first set of comps.

    Waiting for me in my inbox was this email:

    I don’t know what kind of synergy is going on at BHB, (it’s that kool-ade!) but I can no longer keep up with the volume of posts, ideas generated on posts, comment streams to posts… You have created a monster. I’m almost afraid to visit for fear time will slip away. :-)
     
    Congratulations!

    We had dinner with Russell and Wendy Shaw last night, always a treat. Russ kept mentioning blog comments I couldn’t recall. I’m not senile, but we’re definitely getting to be encyclopedically interesting.

    I’ve understood all along that, just as Bebop came into existence because of a musician’s strike, the golden age of real estate weblogging came about because of the market slowdown. Those of us who survived the downturn are going to get busier. But the interesting thing is that we have gotten so much better.

    It’s a plain-spoken fact, though, as much true for me as for anyone: This place is a wonder to watch…

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  • 8 comments

    NAR Will Channel Data

    I’m thirsty, but not drinking the Kool-aid just yet 

    The NAR project formally known as the Gateway, a mash-up of all real estate data in the country, has now been relabeled The Real Estate Channel (TREC).  There has been a new “interim” report issued by the Presidential Advisory Group (PAG), but still there is very little detailed information about NAR’s plan.

    The new report makes it clear that the intent of TREC is NOT to be a national MLS or have a public access point (other than REALTORS®).  These two clarifications will ease the fears of many local MLS systems and REALTORS® who were worried about the Gateway project.  For others, the idea of a national MLS is appealing and they are still thinking that eventually TREC will become a national MLS, but they are keeping quiet about the prospect for now.

    Not making the data publicly accessible is a similar situation.  If you are against public access to data (read: still haven’t made the shift to reality), you will feel good about the new clarification.  If you don’t worry about your clients having access to data, you will be happy with the report because you know that eventually such a massive mash-up will become available to the public. 

    So, what the current report says is that NAR will set aside the controversial aspects of the project for now.  This seems like a good compromise to keep things moving forward although is does not feel particularly honest.  So I find myself struggling between integrity and progress – between trust and fear – between belief and skepticism.  Someone referred to the issue in terms of the Wizard of Oz – is there really anything behind the curtain?

    The difficulty with this issue is that NAR does not have the details/answers to the questions because this is still a work in progress.  This lack of answers causes fear because it is human nature to fill in information voids with negative beliefs.  There is so much still unknown about TREC, that there is a lot of negative stuff being made up or inserted into the general thinking on this.  NAR is in a tough situation because they need to get the information out to build trust within the membership, but they do not have the answers that will allow members to buy-in to the concept.

    I’d really like to be a believer on TREC, but I’m going to have to wait for more information.  I’m a glass half full type of guy, so I’m approaching this as a skeptical optimist.  I’m thirsty for a good data mash-up for real estate, but I’m not ready to drink the TREC flavored Kool-aid. 

    I think there is some potential for TREC – not stuff currently being discussed, but other outcomes that are not in the report.  I have no insider information and have never been subjected to a non-disclosure agreement on Gateway/TREC, so these ideas should be seen as food for thought. 

     Suggested Outcomes for TREC

    • Once the mash-up of all property data is complete, TREC should sell the data to the Zillows and Trulias (and REALTOR.coms) of the world and then we would have consistent data everywhere.  This assumes that the TREC data is better than what these sites currently have and that remains to be seen.
    • Sell the data to local MLSs for cheaper than what they are currently paying.  Most MLS systems have fairly complete public records data and much of what the TREC system will be collecting.  So the question is can TREC provide this data cheaper and more efficiently than the current process.
    • Allow REALTORS® and REALTOR® Associations to provide public access to the TREC data through their web sites.  This will add value to the member’s web sites which seems like a good trade-off for the millions of dollars of REALTOR® money being spent to develop this system.  This will allow the data to be available to the public while pushing consumers to the REALTOR®.  In addition, this may be a way to avoid the conflict with REALTOR.com’s exclusive deal with NAR that will prevent them from setting up a TREC public site. 

    I realize that a lot of folks are not onboard with my skeptical optimism on TREC and probably believe I have already sipped the Kool-aid.  Maybe that is true, but I would encourage those who have no trust in NAR pulling this off to hold on until November.  I think we will know more by the NAR Convention.  Let’s just wait and see – what other choice do we have?

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  • 6 comments

    ROI For 2.0/Social Media Marketing? So Many Questions So Few Answers

    Joe over at Selsius published a piece the other day — Show Me the ROI: Is Web 2.0 a Load of Hooey or Who’s Making Hay? in which he links to some pretty interesting posts on the same subject. So much of this is what has made me crazy since I first turned onto the onramp of the 2.0 freeway.

    ROI? What’s return, if it’s not measured in money, yenom, cash, closing statements, origination fees, bank deposits, or fill in the damn blank? This is silly at it’s best, and embarrassing at its worst. I don’t mean anything Joe said, just the idea. In fact I thought Joe’s observation was right on the money — pun intended.

    He noted some folks have decided it might be time to ask the question, “How big is yours?”

    This goes back (Please Lord, protect me.) to what I’ve always wondered about the whole SEO thing. It fits into this topic as if it was custom tailored. What’s the ROI on 2.0/SMM? What’s the ROI on all those leads yer gettin’ from your website and/or blog? I’ve simply stopped turning to the experts out there, ‘cuz I’m tired of being ignored when I ask them to please let me know what their clients’ conversion rates are.

    I finally ran into an upfront, plain talkin’ expert, whose name I will keep to myself.

    When I emailed them privately, asking about leads per day for RE clients, and their subsequent conversion rates, the answer was a breath of fresh air, invigorating by its naked truthfulness.

    Here’s my email to this expert.

    ‘Blog/SEO/Lead generation expert’,

    I’ve been tryin, in vain, to find out what the batting average is for real estate bloggers who’ve been successful in generating a reliably consistent number of daily/weekly/monthly leads.

    I’ve heard of, and keep reading about blogs bringing in 10 a day 20 a day, even 30+ daily. What I’m not hearing is how many closed escrows are resulting from all those leads.

    Whenever I ask this question, especially to those who are experts, (in reality, not just in their minds) I become invisible.

    You’re one of the actual blog experts out there — your resume speaks for itself.

    If a blog is generating 10 leads daily, (300 monthly — 3600 yearly) how many closed escrows does your experience tell you they should be experiencing?

    Thanks for any light you can shed on this, as I’ve reached the point where the ‘wall of silence’ is beginning to speak for itself. :)

    The reply — it’s verbatim — all emphasis is mine.

    I know of nobody that is generating leads at such a clip.
    I keep no formal record of lead generation for my clients – but I do speak with them regularly, and get email updates on successes.
    So – in order to speak from experience, I can only give you my own – which has nothing to do with real estate.
    We, the (company name) generate 3-7 very quality leads a day.
    My guess on the real estate side of things that our most successful are generating this number a week.
    But the more likely number for the rest of them is that a month.
    That said, I know that they quality of the leads is phenomenal – and that’s what makes all the difference.
    A lead generated through blogging is a relationship and the conversion rate of these leads is much much greater than some name/email/number generated from an IDX form.
    I have no idea what the lead to escrow rate is, and I think that it would be impossible to truly determine given how different every agent and area is.
    Their conversion rate is going to be the same whether the lead was generated from blogging or as a personal referral. If they can service and close, then the number should be solid… if not, then they need to look at another career.
    We are just about to network all of our current clients so that their backends are a forum for discussions of this type.
    I would be happy to address it and get back to you as soon as I do – by then I should have less of a guess and more of a range.

    What do you think?

    I’ll tell you exactly what I think. I think this expert is telling it the way it is.

    For all those claiming their clients are the beneficiaries of 10-30 leads daily, I have a question. It’s not that I don’t believe what you claim. On the contrary, I take your word for it. These are very knowledgeable, and experienced people with massive expertise. I can’t believe they’d just make up these numbers willy nilly. I don’t believe that.

    Let’s take the bottom of that range, 10 leads a day. That’s 300 leads monthly. Let’s say the agent only converts (read: closed escrows) a really crummy percentage of them, say 3.1%. Let’s also say their average sales price is $300,000 and they’re making 3% commission per transaction.

    I already did the math — that agent is making just over $1,000,000 a year. And they’re doing it while converting just 3.1% of the leads their blog/site is generating.

    In baseball, nearsighted, dyslexic kids prone to vertigo and the fear of spherical objects have a better batting average than .031 for Heaven’s sake. Mixing metaphors, a blind squirrel will go out 100 times and find acorns four of those times — a superior conversion rate. :)

    Of course, this doesn’t begin to factor in the time wasted while dealing with the 96.9% of the leads that were less than worthless. And sure, I’ll agree with those who’ll say some of those ‘worthless’ leads will become closed escrows — maybe — some day. Maybe not. And how ’bout the lenders those agents are using. Are they about ready to fire the agent who sends them borrowers to pre-qualify who couldn’t finance a couch at Goodwill?

    I know first hand of a team in Idaho, whose website spits out leads like a baseball dugout spits out seeds. A friend of mine got his son a job there as an agent. In six months the poor guy didn’t close an escrow. And the first day he was given over 80 — count ‘em — 80 ‘leads’. He’s now working for another company, selling new homes for a developer. This kid is a college graduate with a degree in business, not some high school dropout who thought real estate was gonna be easy pickin’. Yet only two of the eight members of this team to my first hand knowledge are making six figures — barely.

    Aren’t we getting pretty loose with the way we’re throwing around the concept of what a ‘lead’ is these days?

    Show of hands — how many of those generating all those daily leads are making seven figures a year?

    How many are making half that? OK, how many are paying the bills via the leads they’re generating through blogging?

    And there’s the rub.

    I personally know of a few bloggers making some real coin. Real = $100,000+. I believe the experts and consultants who say their clients are generating so many leads daily. So how is it we’re not seeing these agents making real bucks? You can’t bring up a few and say it’s the rule, ‘cuz everyone knows by now the Emperor has no clothes.

    So help me here. What’s the answer? We’re all working in different markets with different pros and cons, bigger/smaller, and for better/worse brokerages. What works for a Teresa Boardman may or may not work for you and I.

    Finally, while many are claiming great success which is mostly a figment of their imagination, my good buddy Joe, who works for one of the mega brokerages here in San Diego, just keeps pluggin’ along makin’ his $4-700,000 a year. How? By sitting’ at home in his boxers and tank top every morning cold calling home owners while wiring himself for sound drinking impossible amounts of coffee.

    He knows a lead when he sees one — and he’s surely batting better than 3.1% — which, by the way, the fantasy agent I created for my example isn’t doing, ‘cuz nobody’s doing it.

    Go back to the expert who replied to my email enquiry. If that expert’s agents are getting ‘quality’ leads at the rate of 3-7 monthly, or as they said, the most successful are getting that many weekly, what are their answers to all these questions? I have a pretty good idea.

    Forget the most successful of this expert’s clients. Let’s work with the 80-90%. If they average 7 leads a month, high quality leads, and convert 28.6% of them (2 for 7), a totally believable number, what happens?

    Again, I’ve done the math. They earned $216,000 in commissions. They didn’t waste their time trying in vain to find the 3 out of 100 leads that were worth more than a used Snickers Bar either.

    I’ve gone through all this ‘cuz I’m expecting to get the answers to these questions at Unchained.

    Think about it seriously for a minute. If you’re getting 300 leads a month, and having to spend all the time it must take to cull through 290 of ‘em to find the 10 worth your time, how much time do you have left to close all those supposed escrows?

    OR — Why would you continue doing the same thing, once you realized most leads weren’t leads at all?

    OR — If all those leads are decent to solid, maybe that agent should seriously consider another career path.

    I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to have the missing pieces of this puzzle explained to me. When Unchained comes to town this May, I’ll be in the front row — I’ll be the BawldGuy.

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  • 45 comments

    Bad Marketing Candy from RSS Pieces

    Mary McKnight wrote an article last Friday called Real Estate Blogs are Stores, Not Websites – So Blog Like You are Selling Houses, Not Writing For Your Local Paper and it made the short list for the Odysseus Medal Sunday.  It is well written and provocative.  Mary McKnight is recognized as one of the premier web site designers and SEO experts in Real Estate.  I have a great deal of respect for her knowledge as it pertains to web sites and SEO.   If you have not read it, please do;  and then answer this question for me: How is it possible that someone so good at creating real estate web sites, can be so wrong when it comes to real estate marketing?

    The Sugar Coating
    Let me preface this by saying that I have a great deal of respect for Mary McKnight.  Add to which a lot of people for whom I also hold a great deal of respect use her services and listen to her advice.  But when she says Your real estate blog is a store, not a newspaper, I find myself asking the obvious question: If it is a store, what do you sell?  If you answer “homes” I am going to assume you work at a mobile home dealership.  Otherwise you clearly do not understand your product.  Here’s a hint: you see your product every day in the mirror.  You no more sell homes than you stock them… which is why you are not a store.  You are a service and your product is your expertise.

    The Creamy Middle 
    The point of her article is …to get you to understand that if your business is about real estate and you want to attract customers that have a real estate need you MUST write about real estate, not skateboards and restaurants.  This is true on a very grand scale:  most of your articles and certainly your “look and feel” must tell the reader that you can and will be the best agent they have ever had.  But does that mean you should only write about real estate?  When Mary says it

    is inconceivable to (her) that by driving people into your blog with an article about local skate parks, you will snag a home buyer…

    she misses the point.  One article about anything will rarely generate a home buyer.  And a lot of articles about skate parks will probably do no better.  But many articles of interest to your demographic (skateboarding is a bit disingenuous here, but let’s give her one), all written with an eye toward real estate, will contribute to one very important source of business and referrals: it will raise your perceived level of expertise.

    In Mary’s world the buyers and sellers come to you from a key word search and you have either 15 seconds (in the case of buyers) or 2 minutes (in the case of sellers) before they make a decision.  As an agent, on the other hand, we should try to build a community of raving fans.  Mary is keyword searching for eyeballs and hoping they will stick around long enough to use our services.  We hope to recruit eyeballs too, but over a greater range of topics; and we do not expect to help them buy or sell their home from that initial search.  Instead, we expect to move them, over time, into our community of raving fans.  We will happily accept people that came to our web site because they Googled skate parks, but we know the majority of our business is coming from people who can already find us; people that know us to be experts in their area.

    The Delicious Center
    There is that word again: Expert.  The goal of almost all real estate marketing has been, and continues to be, relating your expertise in the community.  The question you want to put in their head is: who better to help them sell their home than you?  You know the neighborhood inside and out.  More important still is the conversation they will have with a family member, friend or co-worker.  It begins with the future client saying: “I have been thinking about moving to your neighborhood.  I hear the schools are great, the homes are beautiful and everyone turns out for the 4th of July parade.”  The raving fan we have created responds: “That is all true.  I love living here.  Let me hook you up with this agent.  He knows almost everything about our community.  He has a booth at every festival, his Sold signs are everywhere and his web site is THE source for what is happening.  If a house is being bought or sold in my neighborhood, this is the guy that knows about it.  As a matter of fact, we call him the unofficial Mayor.”  Ah yes, Mayoral Marketing at its best.    While over 80 % of buyers start their search online, I do not know too many yet that buy online.  You are still after the referral business and you are still after the repeat business.  You can expect to get some key word business too, but, unlike Mary, do not base your marketing strategy on such an ephemeral crowd.

    Here is the other important point when considering a blog consisting of dry market reports and local listings versus one overflowing with articles of interest to the entire community.  Most marketing, in the end, tries to own one of two places: the consumer at the point of sale or a place in the consumer’s mind.  I would rather not spend my career in competition with hundreds of other local agents in a fight over those people who have signaled that they are in a buying or selling heat.  I would much rather get to them when they are not being bombarded.  I want to own a piece of their mind.  (This is but one of 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing – a book that should be on every agents’ desk.)  I want them to be my client before they even know they are clients.  Winning is easier if the competition does not show up until there are only two minutes left in the game.

    The Craving 
    I end right back at the beginning.  Mary compares shoppers looking for a skateboard to shoppers for homes and points out that someone looking for a skateboard and landing on your site is not likely to buy a home.  To which I say “duh.”  She declares (correctly I might add) it’s going to (be) one hell of a sell to get the skateboard guy to buy a house.  This is a specious analogy at best.  But, we can make this more applicable.  What if there were skateboards that cost $50,000 because they were so “tricked out”?  These boards would only be of interest to a select group of riders (let’s call them the professional trick riders) who would, in many ways, constitute a community.  What if you wanted to sell your trick boards to these trick riders?  You would have to capture their interest wouldn’t you?  What if there was a magazine that catered to these trick riders?  The articles in this magazine covered issues of particular interest to trick riders: the newest ceramic ball bearings, the hottest half-pipes, which local politicians were voting for legislation to make trick riding in public a misdemeanor and what energy drink the best of the best use before and after a grueling exhibition.  Do you think, as a vendor of trick boards, you might like to advertise in that magazine?  What if I could offer you more?  What if you could not only advertise but establish your expertise, your “street cred,” as a contributing writer?  What if you were given the position of publisher?  How awesome would it be to write and publish a magazine aimed at and read by the majority of trick riders – the very group that buys your expensive boards?  I think that might do wonders for your business.  Now how is that different from writing and publishing a magazine aimed at and read by the majority of home buyers and sellers in your farm – the very group that buys your expensive homes?  Of course, with a blog site you do not incur the tremendous expense of a magazine.  But you reap the same rewards.

    The Nutritional Information
    It has been a while since I was a full time, active real estate agent.  Most recently my time has been spent helping agents and originators find success, use Social Media Marketing and get balanced.  Also, I do not know any more about skateboards than I do about creating web sites.  But I am, as many of you are aware, starting a hyper-local blog site or, by my definition, a hyper local cat blog.  Others have already done it with varying degrees of success, Mary’s concerns notwithstanding.  Some of best are right here at BHB.  Yet when my blog site dictates the need, can you guess who will be on top of a very short list I will look to in order to take my site to the next level?  Buy skateboards from skateboard shops and web sites from Mary McKnight, but when it comes to success as a real estate agent, be passionately you.

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  • 22 comments

    The Theory Of Sales Relativity

    When we upend things in physics these days, it’s not necessarily that the old things were wrong. It’s just that underlying it is a more complete theory. Quantum Web 2mechanics tells us that a ball is made up of atoms, but Newton’s laws still work just fine. You can predict the ball’s trajectory without knowing that the ball is made up of atoms.

    - Lisa Randall

    ___

    When I read the quote above by Lisa Randall I knew I had to use that quote to pay homage to this wonderful post by my friend Jeff Brown. What is the benefit of Web 2.0? Transparency. I also really liked the post by Barry and I especially liked the comment by Allen Butler in this thread.

    The only problem I see here is simply this: many consumers simply don’t know, or don’t care to know. The whole thing about being “transparent” is great ad copy. However, while we are waiting around for the internet to change our lives, your average Joe is simply looking for one more way to have to actually do less research and less work. The conveniences of modern shopping have led to very lazy consumers. Maybe a Redfin customer would have the gumption to search out the facts & such. Most will not. Real estate consumers fall into two distinct categories: buyers and sellers. The buyers will end up with an agent through sheer happenstance because they don’t know and don’t care.

    The sellers will go with whomever is “recommended” to them by a family member of friend. It is usually not until they have expired a few times that they actually start to pay attention.

    In a market like ours, the listing agents who get the job done will remain in the game. Those who don’t. . .well, most are already gone.

    Gonna go out on a limb here (flame retardant suit loosely fitted to allow breathing room) and say that all this talk of disintermediation and having to prove your value in this new “web 2. . . .world” will not pan out. The consumer is too lazy.

    Then again, I’m wrong occasionally.

    I don’t think Allen is wrong. I don’t think that what web 2.0 offers is even a little bit new, either. At least not in the “what do customers want” department. What exactly do web 2.0 clients want? What is this unique commodity that they strive to get? Transparency. Isn’t that just a different way of saying, “I can see you aren’t lying to me”? I think it is just that. Customers don’t want to be lied to – not even a little bit.

    Yes, you do have to actually have something they want (or need). They have to already want (need it) it or you have to be able to create a want. But as long as they have a choice, they will always prefer to deal with someone they believe will tell them the truth. I noticed many years ago that people who came here from some other country (who could not speak English) who I wound up having as customers had to have a translator. In many instances the person who wound up being the translator was their young son or daughter. Years ago, I had “translators” aged 10 and 11 years old explain the basics in a purchase contract to their mother and father while I listened. I could watch the parent’s faces as the various concepts were being talked about back and forth (in a language I did not speak or understand). From this there were two things I found most interesting: 1. It was actually possible to do this, so long as I understood what it was I was talking about to the 10 year old, and 2, the entire back and forth completely changed once they could tell I wasn’t lying to them. In fact, the main skill they seemed to have developed and relied on the most was determining, is this person lying or is this person telling me the truth. They weren’t nearly as interested in the nuts and bolts of the purchase agreement as they were in figuring out was I telling them the truth.

    Over the years I observed that it wasn’t just foreign language cases who behaved in this manner but most customers. They weren’t really that interested in “learning all about it” but were very interested in knowing if I “knew all about it”. And if I would point out the “bad” things right along with the “good” things for them. From observation of this – that once they saw I was honest – it was like a switch had been thrown, from off to on – they would then move ahead rapidly, with no real objections, I was able to exactly identify and change what it was I was attempting to accomplish.

    I saw back then that what I was really “selling” was my credibility. Just that one thing. That lesson stayed with me. I have learned since then that the business I am actually in is the lead generation business. In the business of getting and getting rid of listings there are just three parts. Leads, Listings & Leverage. This, of course, is straight out of The Residential Sales Bible. The main hat I wear in my organization is lead generation. In any organization, lead generation, done well enough and in enough volume will pretty much “solve” many of the other problems. One possible problem it does not solve is credibility. It is always vital that one is believable and that the customer feel like they got a “good deal” by using one’s services. This does not even imply that one have the lowest prices, etc., but simply that the customer’s overall experience – in their opinion, was a good one and it was “worth it”. For example, I don’t know of any amusement park on earth that charges more than Disneyland – to my knowledge they are the highest priced amusement park experience on the planet. Yet on any given day, over two thirds of all of the visitors to Disneyland are repeat customers. They come back again and again.  In their estimation they got a “good deal”.

    What I don’t want is my customer wondering what kind of Mickey Mouse operation I’m running.

    Mickey with logo

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    Why chicks dig LA…and Dallas and Phoenix and Denver and…

    Depending upon where you sell homes, you now have one powerful reason (of two) to target single, out-of-town buyers (as if Miami realtors need another reason to attract Minneapolis men). Me, I’m staying put in Charleston. But while the numbers may look good, I am furiously mining the data for the age (and, okay, income) to gain a better picture of where the girls are.

    Buyer beware: The underlying article was written by 1 2 3 4 Richard Florida 5 6

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    Black Pearl Marketing Minute Hour: Your first six months as a real estate licensee — use your time now to make money then

    For years I lectured at the pre-licensing classes of the the college professor who taught my own real estate pre-licensing classes. I hadn’t done this for the last couple of years, but I did a class on January 24th, 2008. We made a video tape of my talk, but I hadn’t done anything with it until Sean Purcell’s post, What’s Your Six Month Plan?, got me off the dime. Sean’s program is more thoroughgoing. I’m just leaning on a bunch of kids to get busy now, rather than waiting for money to come raining from the skies six months from now.

    I’m linking an audio podcast from BloodhoundBlog.com and the video in iPhone podcast form from BloodhoundBlog.TV. The video is basically just Fred Flintstone shuffling around and waving his arms around a lot, so you might do just as well with the audio-only version.

    I know there are a lot of brand-new and soon-to-be-brand-new Realtors reading BloodhoundBlog, so I hope y’all take this to heart. We talk a lot about passive marketing here, but selling is always active — belly-to-belly. If you can’t push yourself to get belly-to-belly now, with people who already know and like you, you will not somehow achieve miracle results later by direct marketing, social media marketing or any other form of passive marketing.

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  • 3 comments

    The Odysseus Medal competition — Voting for the People’s Choice Award is open

    We have 13 entries on the short list this week, out of a long long list of 74 posts. I’ve already decided on the winner of the Odysseus Medal, so I’m not linking that way. Instead, again this week I’m showing nothing but Black Pearls, practical hard-headed ideas for working better, faster and more profitably.

    Vote for the People’s Choice Award here. You can use the voting interface to see each nominated post, so comparison is easy.

    Ahem: Please don’t spam all your friends to come and vote for you. First, what we’re interested in is what is popular among people who would have been voting anyway. And second, I’ll eliminate you for cheating. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

    Voting runs through to 12 Noon MST Monday. I’ll announce the winners of this week’s awards soon thereafter.

    Here is this week’s short-list of Odysseus Medal nominees:

    Deadline for next week’s competition is Sunday at 12 Noon MST. You can nominate your own weblog entry or any post you admire here.

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  • 1 comment

    Are you a Marketer, Advertiser or a Salesperson?

    When you see a commercial on television, are you being sold to or being marketed to? When you’re at a sporting event and you see the Goodyear blimp, are you being sold to or being marketed to? When you see a billboard on the highway…well you see where this is going.Successful businesses are able to definitively understand and integrate these components while being able to discern the differences in each of these valuable areas.

    Marketing is typically the creative source of ideas to be implemented to feature a product or service to the consumer. Think of marketing as a large umbrella under which all demographic, psychographic and segmentation analysis takes place. It also covers market quantification, determination of who may be competition and what reaction competitors may have. It serves as a catch bin for all of the ancillary components such as promotional marketing, event marketing, integrated marketing, branding, distribution and positioning.

    Realtor Marketing example: I have a house that I need to sell.

    • It is located in an upper-scale neighborhood (75% of the homeowners have a household income exceeding $100,000)
    • mainly white (82% white 12% black, 4% Hispanic, and 2% other),
    • predominantly occupied by homeowners (94% owner occupied, 6% tenant occupied
    • there is substantial product saturation and competition as there are 22 homes for sale in a half mile radius of this home
    • competitive homes all have pools and 80% are represented by Realtors and the others are FSBO’s
    • my idea is to position this home as an “executive’s dream home”
    • I want to brand this home as an “oasis from the hustle and bustle of work”.
    • I plan to implement a promotion featuring an online component, participation at a local event and utilizing the surrounding community to convey the message stated above

    Marketing is the development and design of a cohesive plan to deliver a message to the consumer regarding the product or service you wish to promote and sell.

    Advertising is the actual delivery and communication of your marketing message. Advertising provides you, the marketer, with an opportunity to pronounce your marketing message by the utilization of selected mediums.

    That message can be delivered in a myriad of ways. You have the choice of using a wide array of advertising vehicles such as Television, Radio, Newspaper, Internet, Promotional marketing strategies, Special Events, and many more niche focused deliveries.

    While there are many advertising options available for the marketer, not all may be appropriate and the advertising has to be focused towards your pre-determined target audience. (i.e. you really should not be marketing Depends to twenty-somethings)

    If you are going to market and advertise a home it should be marketed to those who are most likely to live or invest in that home. A shotgun approach is wholly inefficient.

    Realtor Advertising example: The prudent marketer knows through research where to target the demographic that is most likely to buy the house they are attempting to sell. Once a budget is determined, the successful marketer would implement an advertising program that targets those most likely buyers.

    If this were a home that you wanted to sell for the best price possible in the shortest amount of time where would you advertise? What would you spend and for what duration and frequency would you continue the advertising in an attempt to obtain a buyer who fits the pre-determined target demographic?

    The sales process is the culmination of a well thought out marketing plan delivered by means of effective communication that allows you to convert the resultant prospect.

    It is important to notice where the sales process takes place. Marketing has a chronologically inherent pecking order. It is imperative for Realtors to understand how marketing, advertising and sales are three separate but interdependent components of a successful consumer-centric business.

    By successfully and strategically combining marketing, advertising and sales, a business will experience ongoing growth. Acting to the contrary can actually hamstring growth and financial gain.

    Realtors typically pride themselves as being good sales people. A successful Realtor is proficient in building relationships and trying to foster those relationships into future sales.

    However in today’s real estate business environment, an agent who relies on an Amway style of doing business by relying on a “sphere of influence” or referral based consumer acquisition model may find themselves working in an antiquated business model that lacks the necessary combination of marketing, advertising and sales. While SOI and referrals may be productive components, they lack the vertical architecture of a defined marketing, advertising and sales process.

    The reason many real estate agents may resist the implementation of an overall marketing process is because of lack of capital investment. The current real estate business model allows entry for those who are not adequately funded to transact business .

    Many of the educational programs and broker initiated training is to show agents how to get by without actually spending a great deal of money. In fact much of what is taught is to educate agents how to take advantage of free marketing opportunities.

    The result is that with 1 million plus agents, many of whom vying and utilizing the same type of strategy, it has become hard for an agent to differentiate themselves from competition… which is actually counter-productive to any marketing plan. Sameness is not conducive to success in business.

    Furthermore, the problems of the traditional real estate business model is that today’s consumer is becoming increasingly “sales resistant”. They don’t want the knock on the door. They don’t want the phone call. They want service. They want to do business with people they have given permission to market to them.

    Are you delivering a message that will entice a consumer to contact you? Since most real estate searches begin online are you providing the consumer with a way to contact you directly online? When they are ready to act upon the marketing message you delivered are you ready to respond in timely fashion to convert them?

    This may be hard for some agents and this article is not meant for all. It’s intent is to speak to those agents who desire to reach top-producer level.

    In speaking to top producing agents across the Country we are finding that to enlarge your business from 10 or less sides per year to 100 to 200 or more sides per year, you have to begin transitioning from being a sales only real estate agent to an agent that has the capacity to differentiate themselves competitively with the design, development, implementation and investment in a comprehensive marketing operational process.

    It is irrefutable that the real estate industry is in a state of flux. The ability for the average agent to survive the current state of the business is going to be directly proportional to their ability to reach the consumer with a well thought out message and for the consumer to respond affirmatively to that message.

    Realtors who are resistant to change shall succumb to it. The overall marketing process is not just about providing superior customer service. It’s not about what you have done in the past or even what you are doing now. It’s not about how great your blog or website is. It’s not about how many family, friends or associates know what you do for a living.

    Ask yourself today, do you have a message about yourself or product (inventory)?

    How will you convey your message to your specific target audience in a way that differentiates you from your competition?

    And..how do you expect the consumer to respond, and what you will do when they do respond?

    Marketing is about developing a pertinent message to your target audience in a manner that compels them to take notice so that you can convert the respondent into a sale.

    Top producing real estate agents know this.

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  • 8 comments

    Listing real estate the Bloodhound way: Everything we do to list historic, architecturally-distinctive and luxury homes for sale

    This is a detailing of the things we do to list a home for sale. We don’t do every one of these things on every home. For example, we know that if we list in a newer tract-home subdivision, much of the noise we try to make will fall on deaf ears. If I am listing a tenant-occupied investor-owned home, we won’t do much beyond the normal MLS, lockbox and sign kind of listing. But this is what we do when we pull out all the stops for those homes that are likely to excite the most attention among buyers.

    1. Setting the stage for staging. Cathleen Collins will go though the house with a fine-tooth comb, often taking many photos. She will make lists of repairs, touch-ups and redecorating she wants to do, and she will plan her staging strategy.
    2. Home-warranty pre-inspection. We put a home warranty on our listings covering the listing period and the buyer’s first year in the home. We use ServiceOne, and they do a fairly rigorous pre-inspection so that any pre-existing conditions can be addressed.
    3. Repairs, painting and cleaning. This can take anywhere from a few days to more than a week. Everything’s a trade-off, and we can’t always do everything we might wish for, but we want for our homes to be as clean, as homey, as livable and as turn-key as we can possibly make them.
    4. Staging. This is Cathleen, and she is a master at it. We own about three houses worth of furniture, and she is always trawling Craigslist to find more — period, modern, eclectic. She has tons of art and decorator items as well, and her modus vivendi is to take everything she thinks she might need to the house, then move back what she doesn’t use.
    5. Professional photography. We have just switched to Obeo for our virtual tours. They send in a local professional photographer to do hi-resolution and panoramic photos. In addition to forming the basis of the virtual tour, the hi-rez photos are also used for Obeo’s Style Designer, virtual remodeling of selected spaces.
    6. Floorplan measurement. We put an interactive floorplan on the web site for every listing. Buyers can interactively place their furniture, plus there is a printable PDF version that they can pass along to movers or decorators. We use Floor Plans First, but this is a service that Obeo offers, as well.
    7. Amateur photography. That would be by us. We like to have dozens of photographs of everything, including photos of the interior and exterior of the home in all the different colors of light of the day. We can end up taking photos of the home over the course of days, just for the sake of a static kind of verisimilitude. For what it’s worth, I think it is incumbent upon Realtors to do the bulk of their own photography. Use a pro for the print stuff, if you lack confidence, but acquire a camera appropriate for real estate work and learn how to take good real estate photos. You should get in the habit of having a good-enough real estate camera with you every time you leave the office. The language of real estate is photography, after all.
    8. Neighborhood photography. We like to have a fairly comprehensive selection of photos of other homes in the neighborhood. We know that buyers want to know for sure that they’re moving into a neighborhood that fits the home we are selling. We show them many of the nearby homes so they can get a feel for the neighborhood.
    9. Videography. We don’t do this for every listing. We only do it when we have a story to tell, because video without a story is anti-marketing — worse than doing nothing. If the sellers or the neighbors have an interesting story to tell, that can work. Often, just using the neighborhood photos with a voiceover can make an interesting film.
    10. Building business-card-sized Open House invitations. I do this, printing them with OvernightPrints.com. We print these in the thousands.
    11. Building custom yard signs and directionals. This is me again. We print these locally, with a company called Signs By Tomorrow. Why do we put a paragraph of small text on our yard signs? To stop traffic. The purpose of the sign is to sell the house, so we do what we can to make sure people stop and take a look.
    12. Building the custom web site for the home. Generally, we will acquire the domain for the home before we even go on the listing appointment. Using engenu, I can set up the gross anatomy of the single-property web site, then Cathleen or I can go in and finesse it page-by-page. In addition to many, many folders full of photos, which engenu will render as slide shows, we supplement our web sites with all the additional information we can find or create. For example, if we can lay our hands on historic photos of the home or neighborhood, we will scan them in order to provide that background information. The same goes for historic documents or newspaper articles. We will research the builder, the architectural styles or the construction methods and document those. Lately we’ve been building custom maps in Google Maps to help buyers discover local amenities. We try to have all these ancillary items done before the listing hits the MLS, but that’s not always possible. But we live by the idea that, if it looks done, it is done, so we don’t tell people about features that are still to come. That way, the web site always looks and feels finished, even if we don’t yet have the link for the finished virtual tour, for instance. Our sites are built to permit the easy addition of new or changed content, so we keep working on the site before and after the MLS listing goes live.
    13. Starting now, we are building coffee-table books for distinctive homes. We always have dozens of striking photos of the home, so a coffee table book is just one more way we have of getting those images in front of buyers.
    14. Listing the home in the MLS. By now we will have written a ton of text about this home. We use it all and then some in the MLS. We get 680 characters in the remarks and six photos with 250 characters each for captions. If we miss out on using three of the characters available to us, that’s a lot. We can have an unlimited number of “virtual tours,” which are essentially off-site URLs. We use as many of these as we have content for. One of our working precepts is that the listing may be our only chance to make our case for the home to the buyer, so we try to leave nothing to chance. If we can feed the buyer’s agent a good closing argument, we’ll do that, too.
    15. Compose the flyer. We build a full-color flyer using our best photos and our most rhapsodic text, printing it on heavy coated stock. We use flyer boxes that will hold the flyers but also have a pocket at the top for business cards. We put the Open House invitation cards in there, just in case someone doesn’t want to take a full flyer. We normally put flyer boxes facing in both directions on the post, and we will store extra flyers and Open House cards inside the home.
    16. Set the post, hang the signs and flyer boxes, mount the lockbox. For now we use a normal six-foot 4×4″ white post. When we can afford to have it done, we’re going to switch to a custom-made sign structure, framing off the big sign and the riders and attaching everything will small bungee cords to keep things from flapping around in the wind. We’re always looking for better sign-lighting solutions, too.
    17. Promote the listing with online listing bots. We’re using PostLets for the broadcast distribution, but we do Craigslist our way, by hand, and we will go in and hand-finesse other online listings.
    18. Write a weblog entry promoting the listing and linking back to the single-property web site. This has all kinds of benefits, as we’ve discussed, but here’s one we haven’t talked about: Linking to your single-property web site from a trusted weblog can break you out of the Google sandbox.
    19. Distribute the Open House invitation cards. We will do this with nearby employers and in two sorts of neighborhoods: Move-up areas for our listings, and neighborhoods where BloodhoundRealty.com has a lot of fans. We know that people who like us will try to send us buyers, so we always want to let them know when we have a new house for sale.
    20. We hold Open Houses every week until the home is sold. Why? Because there are an awful lot of un- or under-represented buyers out there, and we want for them to be able to see our home. We avoid dual agency, but we have no problem showing the home to buyers who accidentally left their buyer’s agents at home.
    21. We service our listings. For vacant homes, we want to be in the house every other day, at the outside, ideally every day. For one thing, a home needs regular maintenance, and we can’t see to it if we aren’t seeing the home first hand. But very often we will end up taking new photos of the home, which we then incorporate into the web site.

    We never stop thinking of new ways to promote the home. Our future success at selling homes is directly related to our present success at selling homes, but that’s a secondary consideration. The primary goal is simply to sell the home. We are always thinking and talking abut new ways to draw attention to our homes, new ways to make them more appealing to buyers, new ways to get the best results we can attain for our sellers. We’re not shy about talking about the things we do. We’re always delighted when someone picks up on our ideas, but that’s the rare case. But, regardless of what anyone else does, we are always going to be working at getting better at listing and selling homes.

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  • 23 comments

    Facebook Made Easy: A Tutorial For Marketers

    Travis Greenlee, on www.facebookmadeeasy.com, produced a Facebook tutorial that outlines how to get up and running. He gives it to you in five 3-4 minutes videos. Grab a pen and legal pad and take some notes instead of watching the Brady Bunch rerun. In thirty minutes, you’ll have a clear understanding about how to use a social utility to meet referral partners and/or customers.

    Travis has a weblog and specializes in teaching “solo-professionals” (sound like any of us?) how to benefit from online marketing. His podcasts are short and informative.

    If you’re coming to Unchained, the Facebook Made Easy tutorial is required viewing for The Way of the Hunter session, with me. For extra credit, subscribe to Travis’ podcast. For independent study, Listen to his free “Expert Training Series” or watch his free Virtual Practice Builder webinar.

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    If you don’t have to sell into the current Phoenix real estate market — don’t. But what if you do have to sell…?

    This is my column for this week from the Arizona Republic (permanent link):

     
    If you don’t have to sell into the current Phoenix real estate market — don’t. But what if you do have to sell…?

    Here’s a piece of real estate marketing advice that should be obvious: If you don’t have to sell your house right now, don’t.

    If you are living in your home — or if you are an investor and you have a tenant — and you are making your payments and don’t have any exigent need to sell — sit tight.

    We are probably nearing the bottom of the downturn in Phoenix, but the path to the bottom is likely to be pretty steep. If you don’t have to compete against deeply-discounted lender-owned homes, don’t.

    Will the market go back up after we hit bottom? Eventually, yes. How long is eventually? It could be a long while. But prices should stabilize after the bank-owned inventory has cleared the market. What you can get for your home may not be all you want, but you won’t be facing competition priced 20% or 30% less.

    But suppose you do have to move right now. You’ve taken a job out of state or you have a pressing financial need and need to tap your equity. How can you compete effectively against the lender-owned homes in your neighborhood?

    The bad news is, the price pressure on you is still downward, and probably will be for longer than you can afford to wait. That means you cannot set your price above the market and hope for an offer anyway. If you price your home above the recent high sales for your floorplan — where recent means the past 60 days — your home might not show at all. There is simply too much inventory for buyers to bother with an overpriced home.

    The good news is that the lender-owned homes are almost certainly trashed. Filthy, in bad repair, with overgrown lawns. Investors know those problems are easily addressed, but owner-occupants want turn-key homes.

    That works to your advantage. If you are willing to put your home in turn-key condition — everything in first-rate repair, squeaky clean and staged beautifully — your home can still command a much higher price than the nearby foreclosure properties.

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    Flipping Homes: A Closer Look

    First of all let me say that I distinguish between fraud and flipping. When professionals collude to trick sellers into taking a low price, then flip the home for a profit in a short time, this is not what I’m talking about, and it shouldn’t cloud the issue of flipping. Why do we always take the worst practices and make that the norm?

    Hell, let’s change the name to something that better represents what I consider a legitimate real estate practice — let’s call it BuyRebuild&Sell (BRS) — it sounds like Briz, so let’s call it Brizzing, in order to give it dignity and a cool name.

    So there is this dog of a house uglying up the neighborhood and no one wants to buy it. I come along and look at the home — yet I’m looking at it in a different way — I look at its soul. The poor darling is sitting there being made fun of, people are even cursing it — That damn ugly house! It’s killing values! Some even secretly wish it would burn down.

    Now, I’m a compassionate person, and I’ve always rooted for the underdog and tried to protect those who were bullied and ridiculed for their appearance. And I’m a businessman. Yep, I’m a crude businessman who likes to make a profit.

    I say to myself, this poor house needs brizzing. I’m a good brizzer — I’ve brizzed over a dozen houses now. It’s funny how some people look at brizzing — they like the fact the house has been brizzed but they hate the profit you make off brizzing. “I know what you paid for that dog of a house!” — “You are charging what? You only paid $60,000 for it!”

    Yes, but I brizzed it, you dope! I took a chance on this poor ugly house when no one else would. I didn’t sit back and make fun of it and curse it, I brizzed it! I could have lost my butt on this, but I believed in this house — I saw its soul! And, I’m a businessman. I’m a crude businessman who likes to make a profit. So, shut up and admire my work of art.

    I’ve even helped the community. Yes, I’ve increased the values in the neighborhood — how about that? Now people ride by the house and whistle – they yell out ”Yo, little house, you’ve got junk in your trunk!” And the little house sits there all pretty and styling. Now tell me what’s wrong with that? I think brizzing is a good practice, if you’ve got the nerves for it. Just having nerve is worth a buck or two.

    So quit worrying about what I paid for it, no one else would buy it, and I didn’t hold no gun to nobody’s head (that’s how us brizzers talk) - just be grateful that someone saw the beauty in ugliness and brought it to life. Brizzing is cool, y’all.

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  • 11 comments

    Don’t blog your listings? How about this? Don’t try to pass sales call reluctance off as social media marketing expertise

    I know, I know — I owe, I owe.

    I owe Jeff Brown a discussion of every little last thing we do to launch a new listing with maximum impact.

    And I owe The Lovely Wife a discussion of the role of self-promotion in real estate weblogging.

    But…

    We listed two homes today — Mutt and Jeff, $400,000 and $60,000 — go figure. And, while the prep work leading up to a listing can be time-consuming, the actual day of listing is often an 18-hour blur of activity.

    Part of my effort was to write weblog entries about both of these homes. My primary reason for doing this was simple: I want them sold! But I also wanted to demonstrate that weblogging about listings is not only an appropriate use of a real estate weblog, if it is done right it can be a very effective sales tool.

    So: In both cases, I am explicitly telling the readers that I am selling them on the home I am talking about — and I close, in both posts, with a bald-faced call to action. Take that, wannabe social media marketing experts rationalizing your sales call reluctance!

    Witness:

    I say a lot of memorable things — so many not even I can remember them all. ;) But there are two precepts that came out of this extended discussion of whether or not to blog listings that I think are worth remembering:

    • The purpose of real estate marketing is to sell real estate.
    • Nothing sells houses like houses.

    I love new things because I have a young and eager mind, but I don’t confuse new with better. Nor old with better, for that matter. What I’m interested in — all I am interested in — is better, pure and simple and clean and cool and quiet and breathtakingly elegant. I know that good promotional copy sells homes. Imagine how effective it could be if it were read by, say… home-buyers

    Kind of haphazardly over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been talking about our listing praxis. I owe, I owe, but over the weekend I want to try to tie that all up in a bow. Our wannabe experts don’t actually have sales call reluctance: You can’t fear what you’ve never done. But the things we do to list homes for sale push the boundaries of passive marketing in every way we can think of — and we are very eager to think of even more active ways to market passively.

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  • 25 comments

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