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Archive for December, 2011

Buyers Are Clueless, And Why I Care

Buyers are clueless, and I’ll prove it in a minute.

First, let me explain why this conversation matters to you as a new or seasoned real estate blogger.

Does this scenario sound familiar?

Wife:

“It’s 2am, why are you still messing around on that computer?”

Me:

“I’m blogging for dollars, baby.”

Wife:

“That’s what you said last month.”

If you have chosen blogging as your primary business building model, get use to having that conversation for a year or more.

I made the decision to move my real estate and mortgage marketing activities online full-time in late 2006, and haven’t heard the end of it since… both good and bad.

It’s taken me several years to figure out how to make all of the moving pieces work in a manner that can pay the bills. Equally as challenging, was explaining to friends and family my motivation for the path I’ve chosen.

Many passionate bloggers cringe when they hear the terms “business building” or “lead generation” associated with the selfless act of pouring your heart into a blog post that should be meant to enrich the lives of others.

Unfortunately, financially motivated “Social Media and Relationship Marketing” tones have perverted the way outsiders view our true intentions.

I realize that I’m guilty for perpetuating this common belief that the web was invented so that real estate agents can make money online. Look at any of my past presentations or webinars, and you’ll find “build your business” somewhere in the title or description.

Even though it hasn’t felt right at my core, it’s a simple theme that most non-web related industry professionals can relate to.

It’s just been easier to fall into the trap of justifying my online efforts with an ROI, especially when the non-believers are so eager to offer their unsolicited opinions about how to be successful in business.

Keyword here is Non-Believers.

My friend Rene Rodriguez has been harping on me for years to explain why I care so much about the web.

“Yeah, but why,” he would press. “Why should that matter to me as a consumer, mortgage originator or anyone else that you’re speaking to?”

I’d go into my story about how a couple of top ranking web sites helped us make it through the hard times when the market crashed in 2007, and how with new twins it makes it easier to work on my schedule…. and on and on, without ever being able to give Rene an answer that would make him become a believer.

“Neat, so you’ve found success with an Internet marketing strategy. Why go out of your way to teach other real estate people for free? Doesn’t this create a conflict of interest?”

The problem Rene had with my explanation for my love of the web is that it didn’t inspire him.

He wasn’t able to connect on a personal or emotional level that would allow him to really believe that I cared about something greater than just writing articles pertaining to homeownership education.

I mean, there are plenty of proven ways to make money as a real estate professional that don’t involve the pains we go through as bloggers.

The Turning Point.

As soon as Rene introduced me to Simon Sinek’s perspective on inspiring others, it all made sense.

Being able to articulate my purpose is empowering, and gives me a sense of freedom to do what I love.

I stay up until 2am blogging, I teach others about the web, I obsess over details, links, SEO, page structure, sales cycles, building trust online, and site design because my mission is clear.

The Mission To Help Clueless Buyers

It’s actually a selfish motivation, because I’m a clueless buyer.

I’m either arrogant and know it all, lazy and uninterested in hearing the facts, or simply clueless on where to start my information gathering process.

But, if I do care about a decision I have to make, something so important that my family literally depends on me knowing what the right answer is, my attitude changes:

I let my guard down and ask experts humbling questions that clearly show I am not in a comfortable state of control.

I research all of the facts, read every blog post or review I can find and may even ask some friends for referrals.

Regretfully though, all of the charts, reviews and testimonials generally still aren’t enough to help me make an educated decision on a topic that I’m not an expert about.

If anything, the information overload has left me helpless and hopeless on my own.

Have you ever felt this way about an important decision you had to make?

My wife and went through a challenging time in 2005 with this exact scenario.

We actually faced a similar decision a few years later, but without the heart wrenching feeling that overwhelmed us the first time.

If you have ever sat at the desk of an infertility doctor trying to decide on whether or not your potential family is worth the gamble of your last $30,000, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

“But we read on the Internet that some doctors only charge $5,000 for the same results?”

“True,” Dr. D. compassionately stated, “But your unique scenario requires a different treatment than the specific examples you’re reading about.”

“What are the odds of… if we tried this…. and came back in a year if…?”

See, my wife and I already knew everything we could possibly know from the months and months of research we did. Scratch that, my wife was a pro.

We didn’t need to make an Educated or Informed decision on our own, we wanted to make a Confident decision with the help of an expert we trusted.

We started out clueless about the process, and ended up clueless about which option to choose.

Clueless, but not Hopeless.

It took a true expert earning our trust by patiently and meticulously breaking down a complex process in a manner that we could understand so that we could make a confident decision based on the facts we knew and didn’t know.

Do you know what it’s like to feel confident, empowered, thankful, loyal, humbled…?

(Don’t CLICK HERE for family video, unless you like to cry)

What’s My Why?

I am driven to empower people by giving them the tools and education they need in order make confident decisions.

I do this through blogging and explaining complex processes in a manner that people can understand and trust.

I happen to be a Las Vegas real estate professional.

What’s Your Why?

Salespeople revert to calling buyers liars when they lose focus and allow the buyer’s evolving wants and needs to control the direction of a conversation.

It starts and ends with trust.

Buying a home or qualifying for a mortgage can cause people to feel hopeless and helpless if they are out there on their own doing research.

Whether it’s an involved mortgage program like the FHA 203k Loan, or reaching out to an underwater homeowner with Short Sale advice, I obsess over the details so that people will have all of the information they need to make a confident decision with the help of an expert.

How does your blog or web presence build trust and confidence?

16 comments

Who else wants some cheap and easy ways, to generate more purchase business from REALTORS?

I cleaned up my e-mail database this week and was pretty surprised.  The lion’s share of our business comes from real estate agents.  Many times, I don’t speak with nor hear from an agent for 5-6 months…then…WHAM—I get a loan call.  That call always seems to come within two weeks of one of my email newsletters.  I understand my numbers pretty well:

  • for every California agent, in my database, it results in .6 purchase loans/year
  • over 75% of that business comes from agents, in the database, who open at least 50% of my emails (that comprises just 20% of the total number)

Last year, I cleaned up the data base.  I whittled the number down to 70 agents.  15 of those agents accounted for 32 purchase loans and 55 agents accounted for 11 purchase loans.  If I want to close 72 purchase loans in 2012, I probably need 30 agents, who open at least 50% of my emails.  To add those extra 15 agents, I need to meet and add some 75 NEW agents to the database…pretty quickly.

I broke down the content offered, too:

  • the highest click-through ratio (55%) came from marketing ideas
  • mortgage tips (like how to get a VA offer accepted) generated a 35% click-through
  • mortgage rates reports were largely unread (10% click-through)

Agents want to hear how to get more business and then, how to do business properly.  Agents just don’t care about mortgage rates.  I’ll stop writing those onerous mortgage rates reports (nobody’s reading them and, because their time sensitive, they are more of a short-head).  I will start adding marketing ideas to my blog, then use those blog posts for my email newsletter content.

Here’s what I did last night:

  • I created a new list, of the serial readers, and named it the “top-gun file”.  I’ll add new agents there, check it every 90 days, and move the agents, who are not opening 50% of my emails, to the “general agents” list.
  • I pre-loaded weekly emails, for the “top-gun file”, out to April 15, 2012.  I want to insure consistency
  • The “general agents” file will get a bi-weekly marketing idea.  I pre-loaded that content, out to April 15, 2012.

Now I have to “find” 75 new agents, pretty darned quickly.  All I have to do is to secure permission to email them weekly.  I always tell them that if it annoys them, they can unsubscribe and some do.  Most just stop reading.  Almost every agent I meet gives me that permission so let’s just say I have to meet 100 agents to secure the permission from the 75 I need. Here are some ideas I have to meet those agents:

Agents who hold open houses talk to buyers.  Agents who hold open houses get bored at those open houses.  I had 100 “customized lunch boxes” printed, with my name, website, phone number, and a message (TANSTAAFL) on it.  I’m going to go to Costco and fill these lunch boxes with a couple of 7-oz water bottles, a bag of pretzels, a bag of peanut-butter crackers, and an apple.    I’ll put a bunch of cards in the front pocket, along with a couple of articles about mortgage financing.  Then, I’ll deliver them to agents holding open houses, pick up their card, and call them a few days later to see how they liked the lunch box.  I’m hoping they’ll ask what TANSTAFFL means so I can transition to the question about receiving my weekly email newsletter.

I attend the weekly pitch sessions and caravan for La Jolla Real Estate Brokers Association and have been invited to the Downtown San Diego pitch session and caravan, too.  I’m sponsoring a table for the SDAR Officers’ installation dinner, next month.  I figure that I can raffle off 2 tickets to the dinner.  Each “entry” will be a business card (and permission to e-mail), at each of those.  I might be able to partner up with an agent, who is holding a listing open on caravan, and hold the raffle there while exchanging my TANSTAFFL lunch bags for the business card (and permission to e-mail).

I could probably do a cross-promotion with Bill Lyons of Revestor.  I can ask him to “donate” a couple of 90-day “free zip codes” certificates, in addition the 90 day trial he offers (I just gave you a link, Bill so consider that when I ask you).  I can also ask him to announce our “joint raffle” to the real estate agents in his database, and have them “enter” online.  I should have two extra dinners to contribute to that separate raffle.

Consistency has always been my major challenge; I think I have that fixed until at least April 15, 2012.  I think I have a handle on which content “makes the frog jump”.  My other challenge is adding emails of quality agents…quickly.  Any critique of my current plan or ideas you might have is appreciated.

19 comments

Customer Service – Dealing With Lapses

I was recently inspired one morning, and it turns out early afternoon as well, by the car dealership that does all my servicing. I wanted to break a 20 year hiatus from camping, so last year I got rid of the roadster. Found a great deal on an ’08 Veracruz, a Hyundai crossover. Think Honda Pilot for size. It’s been better than expected, an understatement. I take it to the neighborhood Hyundai dealership, Drew Hyundai.

Drew’s been around my neck of the woods since Moses’ son died. It’s reputation is solid, even excellent. My experience with their service department has been off the charts positive. Like many, they assign a service rep to each customer. Mine’s Mike, who on his worst day is outstanding. We should all be as good at what we do as he is. Which brings me to this recent anomalous experience.

Showed up for my 11 AM appointment right on time. Only one car in line ahead of me. Must’ve been a bit busy, cuz it was over 20 minutes before Mike got to me. No biggie, as a 20 minute wait happens in that industry when things pile up. No complaint from me. Mike takes care of me, then sends me over to the sign-up window for the shuttle back home.

10 minutes, 20 minutes, no shuttle. Go inside the office to inquire. The very nice woman manning the counter says it should be just a few minutes. It’s now over a half hour since I turned the keys over. No shuttle. Then it arrives. I’m a bit irritated, but if that’s the worst part of my day, it’s all good. The driver says he’s not takin’ passengers, he’s goin’ to the bank. 15 minutes later, a total of over 45 minutes waiting for the ‘courtesy’ shuttle, he returns. Turns out the bank visit was for dealer business, which apparently was more important than takin’ me home.

I walked back over to Mike’s island. Upon seeing me walkin’ up, he said, “You’re freakin’ kiddin’ me, right?” I said, “Mike, they sent the shuttle to do dealership banking. I need to get outa here. Can you help me?”

He quickly grabbed a form, told me to take it over to the ‘blue awning’ building, the loaner car was on them. He made this happen in 3 minutes. I got home more than 90 minutes after arriving. It’s usually 30 minutes or less between the time I arrive and when I’m back home. I live less than 5 minutes away.

The takeaway is scary.

For those running businesses, whether with a just a few or many employees, this scenario coulda been any one of us. World class customer service policies were in place, and proven over time. Then it happens. One or two employees decide their needs or even their convenience is paramount. It’s a mystery, especially to me in this specific instance. Drew has not only been honest and straightforward in their dealings with me, their employees have been uniformly customer oriented, and quick on their feet.

There’s no real failsafe for this. However, what almost always seems to work is when another employee sees what’s happening and works quickly, quietly, and under the radar if possible, to put the train back on the tracks. Mike did just that — and seamlessly.

My takeaway from this was that imperfect human beings will be imperfect. Go figure. But when ownership/top management has clearly created the correct culture, the ‘moving parts’ will adjust to occasional breakdowns.

I know it’s happened in my firm, and more than once. 🙂 Sometimes it’s been me playin’ the part of Mike, while at times it’s been others having to clean up my mistake. Most of the time, when this happens to us, it’s not been intentionally ill-spirited, but instead, living proof of our imperfection.

What’s your experience?

5 comments

Who’s the best enemy of your (illusion of) privacy? Uh, that would be you…

Nice going, Twitwits: All your Tweets are belong to us.

7 comments

Hey, California Realtors: Are you making minimum wage for your efforts? If not, your broker just went into cardiac arrest.

Teri Lussier pointed this out to me last week, and I’ve been waiting since then for someone to plumb the implications. Ah, well, when there’s constabulary work to be done…

Here’s the news: The state of California is making ZipRealty pay it agents minimum wage for their time.

That’s huge. It’s just the thin edge of the wedge, for now, but the implication is that the real estate broker’s “safe harbor” exclusion from employment laws is about to be flushed into the Pacific Ocean.

The “safe harbor” argument is that real estate salespeople are independent contractors, and that brokers are not obliged to pay them any wages, nor to provide any benefits.

This is why brokers pile on as many hopeless, helpless, hapless idiots as they can: Virtually everyone has at least one transaction in him, and the cost to the broker for the eventual failure of 85%+ of the new “hires” is nothing.

I don’t want to seem to praise employment laws, since their sole effect is to destroy jobs. But no other business would — or even could — be as wasteful of human capital as virtually every real estate brokerage is.

Could that be changing in California? Take note of this:

“Employers who previously were not concerned with minimum wage issues are now put on notice to ensure they are providing those basic protections to workers.”

And this:

After learning of the Bakersfield cases, California State Labor Commissioner Julie Su in September filed a $17 million lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court on behalf of hundreds of other ZipRealty employees statewide. That lawsuit is pending.

Brokerages like Zip (and Redfin, etc.) have a greater exposure, because they operate too much like real businesses. But I can’t imagine what the 25,000 or so starving California Realtors might be thinking just now.

But I think I have a fair idea what their brokers are thinking…

The National Association of Realtors is propped up on three flimsy stilts: The real estate licensing laws, the “co-broke” — the cooperating brokerage fee behind the MLS system — and the IRS-sanctioned independent contractor “safe-harbor.”

Unheralded by anyone who knows why it matters, the “safe-harbor” took the first hit in its ultimate demise last week. You heard it here first.

11 comments

My address changes when I move. My phone number changes when I swap phones. My email address changes when I get buried in spam. But my name never changes — so it’s the perfect contact address.

I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. From PC World:

Forget phone numbers and e-mail addresses. The era of the Internet handle is emerging.

Instead of having to remember a phone number or an e-mail address, in a few short years we might simply find somebody remotely over the Internet via his or her handle, another word for an Internet nickname.

It would be similar to the way handles are used in instant messaging or Skype, except that the handle would apply to all modes of getting in touch, including a phone number or e-mail address (or several of each). In my case, my Skype handle, “MattaboyBoston,” could become the way you would reach me.

“People will no longer seek each other’s phone numbers or email address[es] when establishing personal or working relationships,” wrote Gartner analyst Adib Ghubril in a report on mobile predictions for 2012 and beyond. “Instead, they will ask each other, ‘What’s your handle?’ ”

Ghubril said that handles will have a huge advantage. They could remain unchanged for a long time, if not for life.

The idea is simply indirect addressing: If I depend on your physical address (or your phone number or email address), when you make a change, I am lost. But if I use an indirect addressing scheme — I address you by name, or by “handle” as this article avers — then the indirect address can always accurately reflect your current contact information, even if you change it twelve times a day.

The responsibility for maintaining accurate contact information moves from dozens or thousands of distracted and loosely motivated people to the one person most strongly motivated to make sure your messages get through — you.

As with all predictions, the ideas discussed in the PC World article are kludgy and stoopid. This all will actually happen as a beneficial side-effect of cloud-based data storage. We talked about this over the summer in discussions of a hypothetical CRM called Heidi:

An email comes in over the transom. The spambot says it’s not spam and the sender is not already in your CRM database, so let’s extract as much information as we can from the email. With a name and an email address we can probably get the sender’s full contact information, and possibly a whole lot more.

Make that first contact a phone call instead. Caller ID is lame, but Google is not. From the phone number, can you get back to a name? A location? From those, can we effect the same kind of searches discussed above?

There’s more: Once your CRM knows a name, it should be watching for any changes in publicly-available databases that should be reflected in your private CRM database. That is to say, your CRM should be maintaining itself.

All of this will happen. Probably not as slick as I can imagine things, but faster than you think it will.

4 comments

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