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By Maria Patterson

RISMEDIA, July 18, 2008-In the cost-cutting frenzy of today’s real estate market, it’s easy for brokers and agents to make fatal mistakes when it comes to their marketing budgets. It takes a discerning eye to determine which expenditures can go…and which ones absolutely must stay.

“There’s a basic difference between advertising and marketing,” explains Gloria Frazier, broker/owner of the five-office, 60-agent ERA American Realty of NW Florida, Inc. “I’ve dropped 90 percent of all my print ads and am using those budget dollars in areas that I consider to be a direct marketing effort.”

One of the marketing partners the 27-year real estate veteran has worked with for approximately 10 years is the Lenexa, Kansas-based Personal Marketing Company (TPMCO). For years, Frazier has been merging products from TPMCO, such as postcards and newsletters, with marketing programs put in place by ERA corporate. Therefore, when TPMCO approached Frazier with the My Personal Advantage program, she was immediately receptive. The Web-based program would allow agents to systemize their marketing efforts with virtually no effort.

My Personal Advantage is an online marketing management tool for agents that allows them to create and implement a marketing plan with the push of a button. The program can be used anywhere, from any computer, and enables agents to not only reach out to clients and prospects in a consistent manner, but to monitor the results of their campaigns.

“This was a great option for getting our agents back on board with prospecting,” explains Frazier, adding that a systematic marketing program is more critical for agents than ever before. “It’s the only way they can survive in this market. Business is no longer falling from the sky-this is an excellent way to start turning some rocks.”

Once clients and prospects are enrolled in My Personal Advantage, the program basically takes over. TPMCO prints and mails direct-mail pieces, composes and sends e-mails, and sends agents reminders regarding follow-up. Agents can include links to their website in the marketing materials-My Personal Advantage will automatically enter leads into the system and create a follow-up campaign, texting the agent to remind them to get in touch with a prospect. The entire program is available at only $9.95 per month for agents.

Cindy Manchester, an agent and new agent trainer with Chinowth & Cohen Realtors in Tulsa, Oklahoma, believes that the only way to get business in today’s market is to “continually and consistently stay in touch” with clients and prospects.

“There are plenty of Realtors for customers to choose from,” says Manchester. “Statistically, people will contact the Realtor they’re familiar with or that someone refers them to. The majority of my clients are referral clients-marketing is essential to getting new business and creating new clients.”

Manchester believes the My Personal Advantage system is an excellent way to achieve her marketing goals. “When I looked at my marketing plan, I realized I had to do something less expensive (Manchester had been spending $400 a month on a magazine program) but needed to stay in front of clients and continue prospecting on a regular basis. My Personal Advantage is a low-cost, easy-to-use, systematic product for my marketing plan.”

While the cost and simplicity are big pluses for Manchester, the most compelling part of My Personal Advantage is its ability to systemize marketing. “It automatically does whatever I want it to do-mailers, postcards, e-mails…I don’t know anything else you could do for $10 a month that has the impact and ease of use.”

Manchester also advises the new agents she trains to use My Personal Advantage from the get-go. “I tell them that the sooner they put a marketing system in place, the better off they’ll be; that way, as their business grows, they can concentrate on working with buyers and other dollar-productive tasks. So many new agents get a couple of closings and think they’re set. Then they forget to market and two months have gone by and they have nothing in the pipeline.”

Critical to the effectiveness of My Personal Advantage, of course, is the quality of the products it produces. “Sometimes we don’t give consumers the credit they deserve,” says Frazier. “When they get something in the mail or e-mail, they want it to look good and be sharp. They don’t want crooked photos or postcards run off of a black-and-white copy machine.”

For Frazier, My Personal Advantage also plays a significant role in the recruiting process. “We’re the only company in this area that has this,” she explains. “When we sit down to talk with a new agent, we spend half to three-quarters of the time talking about our marketing, because that’s the missing key in most every company. Every new agent wants to know, ‘what am I going to do to get business and who’s going to help me with that?'”

Ultimately, Frazier and Manchester strongly believe that a systematic marketing plan provides agents with a critical competitive edge. “You have to do something to stand out in the crowd,” says Manchester. “Putting something professional in front of consumers on a regular basis is a big advantage in today’s market.”

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