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By Bill Miles, EVP Connecting Neighbors

RISMEDIA, Nov. 14, 2007-A strategic, focused and well-executed marketing plan can carry you through any market. In a down market, as we are experiencing now, it can be the difference between success and failure. As the holidays near, now is the time to evaluate your 2007 activities, considering the new market dynamics, and craft your goals and plan for execution in 2008. Here are the key steps to take to ensure success next year:

Evaluate Your 2007 Activities. Ideally, you have a 2007 plan you have been implementing. If so, begin by pulling that out and reviewing the marketing activities you executed on in 2007. If not, list all of your 2007 marketing and lead generation activities on a piece of paper. This list should include every type of marketing you are doing, including cold calling, contacting past clients, print ads, direct mailings, purchasing leads, targeting FSBOs, walking the neighborhoods, spending time in the office handling call ins and walk ins, and anything else you’ve done to generate business.

Next to each activity, indicate the following:

Target audience (your town or niche)

Size of target market (number of consumers)
Money spent
Time spent
Leads generated
Relationships established (consumers you are regularly in touch with)
Clients obtained (someone under contract)
Deals closed

Determine Your Return on Investment (ROI). The next step is to determine which activities provided you the best return on investment. First, pick an hourly rate for your time (I suggest $40/hour). For each activity, multiply the time spent by your hourly rate. Add this total to all other costs associated with the activity. Then divide the dollar amount by each of the following outcomes: Leads, relationships, clients and deals. This will give you a cost for each outcome. Rank the activities in order, with the lowest cost per outcome at the top.

For example, you may have spent 200 hours and $20,000 on print ads in the local newspaper in 2007. The total cost for these ads is $28,000 (200 hours x $40/hour = $8,000 + $20,000 ad cost = $28,000 total).

Perhaps you generated 5,000 leads, 500 relationships and 20 transactions from this activity. Your cost per outcome would be:
$5.60 per lead ($28,000 ÷ 5,000 leads = $5.60)
$56 per relationship ($28,000 ÷ 500 relationships = $56)
$1,400 per transaction ($28,000 ÷ 20 transactions = $1,400)

Analyze. Consider each activity on the list in light of the outcomes and costs to generate them. Was it wise to spend $28,000 to generate 20 transactions? How valuable will the 500 relationships be to you over the next 3-5 years? When compared, which activities were most successful? Were there other reasons you chose a specific activity? If you change how you execute on a given activity, will it produce a better ROI?

Eliminate the Bottom Half. Rank all activities by their return on investment. Eliminate the bottom half of activities you identified. No sacred cows, no emotional attachments. Don’t repeat those that had too high of a cost (time and money) for the results they delivered. Track, analyze, make decisions and move forward.

Add the Top Half to Your 2008 Plan. Keep the top half in your 2008 marketing plan. Only make adjustments to those activities if you are certain (90% sure) that those changes will improve your results in 2008. You don’t want to change these activities too much. Executing on what you’ve proven to work will give you a predictable core set of marketing activities going into 2008.

Research New Ideas. Spend three weeks researching other marketing activities to add to your 2008 plan. Ideally, these should relate to and build upon the 50% of your list you are keeping and repeating next year. Plan only to spend the budgeted amount you eliminated in Step 4.

As part of your research, here are a few activities I recommend:

Speak to the top real estate agents in your office or town. What are they doing that is working?
Consider how the market has shifted. Should you focus more on buyers than you did in 2007? Foreclosures? FSBOs?

o you have enough invested in online marketing? What are your options online? Ask your broker, colleagues or industry experts for advice.

ow can you further develop your network? Do you participate in several groups and activities? Why not partner with merchants and related businesses to share referrals?

Go Deeper Not Broader. As part of your decision making for new 2008 initiatives, I encourage you to determine and focus on a targeted niche, rather than a broad area or group. Dig deeper into those target audiences that showed some success in 2007. So, if you saw some modest results by walking your neighborhood and doing two mailings to neighborhood residents in 2007, do four mailings in 2008 and host a neighborhood garage sale. If you found some initial success with first-time home buyers through your Web site, focus on providing more resources to them and spend a bit more on search engine marketing in 2008. Build onto those 50% of activities you are keeping from 2007 rather than launching brand new initiatives next year. Additionally, research your target market more thoroughly, gain knowledge and become an expert for residents to rely on.

Document New Initiatives. Write down your new goals for 2008, indicating in detail how you intend to execute on these initiatives. Develop a budget, including both time and money you are willing to spend on these initiatives.

Execute. Once you are satisfied with the plan, commit to it and begin executing immediately. Don’t procrastinate. Follow through on your commitments, and spend the extra time to ensure your execution is top notch.

Measure and Evaluate Every Quarter. At least every quarter, evaluate your 2008 marketing initiatives. Are they working as you expected? Do you need to make adjustments immediately or give it more time?

While national real estate trends will affect your business, the much more significant factor in your success is your ability to develop a strategic marketing plan, execute on it effectively and continue to refine and improve it year after year.

Bill Miles is EVP of Connecting Neighbors, a division of Reply! Inc. Contact Bill at