By Mike Sparr
RISMEDIA, March 31, 2011—With the rise in Internet-based marketing, sales professionals have now become captives, feeling obligated to be on call to respond to leads 24/7, for fear they will go cold. Every sales professional has probably experienced this phenomenon but never put a name to it. Goomzee—a company dedicated to helping real estate professionals increase sales efficiency by delivering high quality buyer sales leads and automating lead follow up using mobile technology—has labeled this trend the “follow up trap.”
Goomzee hears from real estate professionals around the country and reports that one common theme noted from the industry’s veterans is that things used to be simple, and they’re frustrated trying to keep up with all the new things they feel they now have to do to market and sell real estate. In the past, a real estate professional would list the property in the MLS, place a sign at the property site, print up flyers and occasionally advertise in the newspaper—often to appease the sellers. Something that was very clear back then was the target market, typically other real estate professionals within the community. This made marketing easy because there were a finite number of people to market to, and the MLS made this possible to achieve efficiently, creating a “clearing house” of real estate listings that other agents could gain access to. The target market was clearly defined, which made this approach very efficient and effective.
Today’s real estate agents are trying to market properties to the consumer, and this target market is exponentially larger. In my hometown of Missoula, Mont., we have approximately 100,000 people and approximately 700 real estate agents. In the past, an agent had to market to 700 people to get their home sold. Now they have to market to an audience 142 times greater. If they spent $10,000 per year in the past to reach 700 people, could this mean they have to spend 142 times that amount to reach consumers?
Obviously having a property search on their website and placing advertisements on national search portals have allowed agents to benefit from the efficiency of online marketing. This has introduced troubles, however. Now they just place listings online, bringing in leads from around the country which means they spend their time being reactive all day long in hopes the leads will turn into a perspective buyer or seller. As such, they are captives of their broad marketing efforts to be “on call” 24/7, and most cannot respond quick enough to keep the best leads hot.
There are a variety of techniques and tools available to help keep the follow up trap at bay, but it takes discipline to truly take advantage:
Step One—Define your best customer and narrow your target market focus
First, narrow your target market so the leads you receive are your best customers. Look back at the homes you have successfully sold and identify who your best customers truly are. Were they local or out-of-state? What age group and sex? What was their income level? How did they find you? If you ask yourself these questions, you may be surprised to find your best customer is not who you thought, and they found you where you’d least expect. Many real estate professionals track this information, but if not, simply contact your past customers and explain you are performing a customer satisfaction survey and wanted to ask them a few questions to help better serve them in the future. This not only helps you, but it keeps those leads thinking of you and recognizing your professionalism—likely leading to more referrals too.
Below are a few questions you might ask:
• What is the most important thing you look for when choosing an agent to represent you?
• When searching for a home to buy, do you drive around to visit the neighborhoods?
• When requesting information about a home, how quickly do you expect a response?
• What best describes you male/female, 18-24, 25-32, 33-40, 40, etc.
• When you were looking for a home to purchase, did already you live in the same city?
Step Two—Identify where your best leads come from
A study at Baylor University revealed that real estate agents spent more money on the marketing tools that delivered them the least value. In terms of value, the No. 1 was referrals and No. 2 was IVR or call capture technology like 800 numbers and text messaging sign riders. The key is to identify where you receive the most value that truly accomplishes your goal—more transactions in less time —and fine-tune your marketing investment.
Now look at where real estate agents received the most value and you’ll see they spend the majority of their money on the things that deliver them the least value.
Step Three—Focus your marketing efforts towards your best customers
As you can see above and in an analysis of your business, you’ll find areas that deliver the most value. Once you identify where the most value is received, you can make a list of the tools and marketing channels best suited to exploit them. If you receive most of your business from referrals, then identify where they come from and make sure you invest in networking, sponsorships, and maintaining your professional network and address book follow ups on a regular basis. If your business comes from online sources, identify who actually buys and where they are located so you can hone in your online marketing efforts to reach those customers more efficiently. Where do they go to search for homes?
Step Four—Use technology to automate repetitive tasks
Although some may be frustrated with all the new technology tools and ever-changing software solutions, most are designed for one reason: to automate repetitive tasks. If you look at your typical workday and break it down to what activities you perform over and over, you can then look at tools that will help you automate those activities and get more hours of productivity each day. This will result in more transactions and thus more money, so investing wisely will pay off.
An example might be that your best results come from taking top buyers to lunch on a regular basis. You may want to use a calendar application and set up an automated reminder to schedule a lunch meeting each month with your top buyers. If you spend a lot of time answering emails, perhaps you can set up an automated response that thanks the sender for their email and tells them the time of day you will call them back. Better yet, at Goomzee we have a tool called the Auto Responder which will start a conversation automatically with the lead and notify you if they express interest in a follow up. This saves you time, as you won’t need to spend all day following up with leads. The trick is to identify what you do, and what tools can automate those tasks while keeping the customer engaged. One thing to use caution with are tools that effectively push away buyers, or seem too impersonal, like recordings or voice menus. Make the communication interactive and personal, and you’ll satisfy today’s demanding buyers.
Step Five—Establish a regular time for lead follow ups
No matter what tools and advertising you invest in, you will gain leads all the time. By leveraging automation tools like an email or text message auto response, you can effectively manage the customer expectations and set a time they will expect your follow up. Email alone may not provide them with the information they seek right away, but often that form is tied to a website which allows them to view property information. You can simply set up an “out of office” message for an email account so your Internet leads are responded to automatically. Text messaging typically works with at-property sign riders, which also deliver information to the buyer instantly so they will accept you calling them back later. Text messaging adds the ability to make the response interactive, and if the lead is really hot, you can receive notifications on your phone to allow callbacks for the best candidates. If you utilize these tools, or ones like them, you can establish a regular time to follow up with your leads each day and avoid being trapped. Plus, when you do follow up, the lead quality will be much higher. The trick to this is effectively managing the expectation of the buyer, but also satisfying their desire for instant gratification.
Step Six—Measure and analyze the results
After you analyze your business, target your marketing, automate repetitive tasks and “time box” your follow ups, you will want to measure results. Often what we expect is not what actually results, like in the example from the Baylor University study. As such, when you form assumptions on who your best customers are and where you find them, keep track of your ongoing transactions and either validate your assumptions or refine your targeting. If you find that following up with the leads in the morning is better than the afternoon, for instance, then you may want to change the time you set aside for follow ups. Tools that offer you tracking of your leads, and when you received them, can help you determine the best time of day for your “callback hour,” allowing you to achieve the best results. You may need to try a few tests for different periods of time and find what works best, but if you make the investment, you’ll remain a step ahead of others and likely keep more of the money you earn in the process.
Mike Sparr is a global expert in mobile technology and founder and CEO of Goomzee.com.
For more information visit http://www.goomzee.com.
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