Archive for the ‘Denise Lones’ Category

Powerful Print Marketing Tools

April 21, 2011

This is the fifth article in my series on powerful listing presentations, where we’ll be covering pricing, communication, technology, marketing, and home presentation & photography.

This week I want to discuss the power of your print marketing tools … and why you simply must spend time creating a portfolio of materials that represents your professional expertise and shows your sellers exactly how you’ll market their home.

As I’ve said in each of the previous Zebra Reports about listing presentations, sellers want to see how you are going to sell their home. They expect you to outline the steps you will take, and they want to see “real life” samples.  You probably remember from previous Zebra Reports in this series that my term for these samples is “props”.

If you’ve ever taken one of my classes, or read any of my previous Zebra Reports on marketing, you’ll remember that one of the cornerstones of my business is my belief that agents need to develop their own personal “brand”.  The materials that we’ve talked about throughout this “Powerful Listing Presentations” series should all be created using your brand.

If the materials you use when marketing homes – the same materials you showcase during your presentation – aren’t beautiful, colorful, and extremely high-quality, you are doing your sellers a disservice. A seller’s home is a huge investment – they deserve nothing but the absolute best from you!

Before I explain what I believe are the most important items, I want to talk for just a minute about what I often see. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven by a house and stopped to take a flyer out of a flyer  box … only to find it printed on plain white paper. And sometimes the colors aren’t even accurate. Here’s an example: That lovely taupe house that I’m standing in front of … with the crisp white trim and black front door? On the flyer it looks dingy yellow and muddy brown! And the interior photos on the flyer certainly aren’t going to get me excited about seeing the home.

Remember – even if the contract and the negotiation phase of real estate is where you shine (and what you enjoy!) you can’t get to that point if you don’t market the house properly and attract buyers to the table.

I want to start by addressing how you present your marketing plan. Do you have something in writing that tells your sellers exactly what you are going to do, and when you are going to do it? Do you have a calendar that you leave with them that they can refer to? A lot of agents over-promise and under-deliver when it comes to marketing.  When you give your sellers a calendar of activities you are reinforcing the fact that you do what you say you will do.

Now let’s talk about all of the printed pieces – the “props” – which you need for a very polished and professional listing presentation. I’m going to give you lots of ideas, but it’s up to you to choose the ones that best fit you and your market.  However, regardless of which tools you use, it is absolutely critical that those tools be created using your brand. If the sellers are interviewing multiple agents, the use of your brand will absolutely elevate you from “ordinary” to “extraordinary” in terms of memorability!

Here are the tools you may want to consider for your next listing presentation:

1. Marketing Binder: One of the most impressive items you can give your sellers is a full-color copy of your customized marketing binder. This is the package that pulls your marketing calendar and all of your samples together into a ‘leave-behind’ for your seller to review and refer to. The cover must have a beautiful photo of the seller’s home. Where appropriate, each of the sample pieces in your binder should also include that photo.

2. Flyers: Regardless of whether you create one-page, two-page or four-page flyers, the photos you use must be amazing. I also encourage you to use high-quality, gloss paper. Remember – your flyer says a lot about you to other potential sellers, as well as to buyers. Keeping the flyer box full of extremely well-done flyers reinforces the fact that you are a true professional.

3. Photo gallery CD: Many agents create a photo gallery CD, which they reproduce and leave at their listing for prospective buyers to take. Print an exterior photo for the CD jacket and include the same photo on the CD label.

4. Advertising: It goes without saying that regardless of whether you are marketing your listings in a newspaper, a magazine, online or on your flyers, including truly engaging descriptions is imperative to attracting buyers. Before the listing appointment, spend some time thinking about the profile of likely buyers for the home. Then write two to three different ads based on that target audience. Preparing in this way will definitely impress a potential seller!

5. Marketing Boards: These boards are the perfect way to present a visually compelling story of how you are going to market the seller’s home.

6. Just Listed postcards: Never underestimate the power of a beautiful postcard. Send these cards to the neighborhood, your database, and other potential buyers. Postcards don’t cost a lot, and your potential sellers will love that you send them.

7. Home Book: This is one of my favorite pieces. You might remember that I mentioned it recently when talking about your communication tools. The home book is a notebook that you leave at the house during the time it’s listed. Include items such as home care and warranty records, the most current inspection report, tax and appraisal records, and neighborhood and community information. Show potential sellers what their home book will look like. They’ll immediately understand the value of the book, and of hiring you.

8. Home marketing cards: This is another idea that my coaching clients have found particularly useful … and that sellers love! Print business cards that feature the home (a photo on the front, and details on the back), and give them to the sellers to pass out to their friends and neighbors. It’s their home, and they are undoubtedly proud of it – so let them be a part of your marketing efforts!

9. Open house materials: Most sellers still want you to hold open houses, regardless of how much other marketing you are doing. It comes up at nearly every listing presentation. When asked, the typical agent simply responds: “Sure, I can do an open house for you.” Or they might even say: “You know, I don’t do open houses and here’s why.”  Open houses can be a gold mine when done correctly! Without going into a lot of detail, here are the open house props that will ‘wow’ the socks off of potential sellers.

  1. Open house invitations: Postcards are quick and easy. Let your sellers know exactly who you are targeting, and why.
  2. Open house display boards: Many agents use small easels that fit on a kitchen counter or dining room table to present neighborhood information. These could include maps of the area, as well as information on schools, parks, and shopping.
  3. Open house feedback forms: Sellers like to know what buyers are thinking! Show your sellers what your feedback forms looks like.  Even better, ask them if there is anything in particular they want buyers to provide feedback on.

10. Database marketing: I talked about this in the Zebra Report just a couple of weeks ago. Show your potential sellers the type of marketing you are doing with your databases, and where their home may be featured in this marketing. Do you feature your listings in a newsletter, or send out your ‘just listed’ postcards to your database as well as targeted buyers? If so, bring samples! Sellers will appreciate your extra efforts to find a buyer for their home.

I want you to remember one thing about marketing that is easy to forget in this high-tech world. Print marketing – if done well – still has enormous impact. While buyers may be looking at homes online, they still want a beautiful brochure or flyer to take home, to look at again, and to share with friends and family.

Remember – sellers expect their home to be showcased in full-color and beautifully presented to potential buyers, both in print and online. Don’t let them down!  With your brand as a starting point, create beautiful printed materials for your next listing presentation.

Next week we’ll feature our sixth and final topic in our “Powerful Listing Presentations” series: home presentation & photography. Be sure to watch for next week’s Zebra Report!


Ask Denise: Sharing the Good News

April 7, 2011

Q: We’re starting to see some positive signs in my local market and I want to do something to share the good news with my clients.  Is it better to call, post something online, or send something in the mail?

A: Why not do all three?  Pick up the phone and call those people who have been sitting on the fence all winter.  Tell them what’s happening in your market right now and give them some quick statistics that will pique their interest in either selling their current home, or buying their first home.  Also, put the “proof” (your research) in a piece you can mail … or post it on your website or blog.  It only takes a little bit of good press from an “expert” to help others gain the confidence to get back into the market!

Ask Denise: The Realities of Keeping a Listing on the Market

March 30, 2011

Q: I have a seller who has put her home on the market twice in the past 12 months, then cancelled it each time within 3 months of being listed because she wasn’t getting any offers – let alone a sale. How do I get her to keep her home on the market long enough to find viable buyers in today’s market?

A: First of all, you need to take the time to talk to your seller about the realities of your current market. If the days-on-market number is 6 months, and your seller expects her home to sell in 3 months, she isn’t being very realistic about how long this will take.

Secondly, you need to have a frank discussion about realistic pricing. Your seller’s home will have to be priced very competitively in order to ‘beat the odds’. In fact, she probably needs to be below the ‘now’ price in your market. If she’s not willing to price according to your market and her timeframe, you’re spending your time and energy on a listing that will likely not sell anytime soon.

Ask Denise: Buyers & Foreclosures

March 24, 2011

Q: I’m frustrated because I’ve been working with a buyer who will only look at foreclosures. He believes that’s where the ‘deals’ are. We keep writing low offers, which keep being rejected. I need help convincing him to write an offer the bank will accept … or I have to find a way to convince him to look at listings that are not short sales or foreclosures.  Help!

A:  This is a common question in today’s market. First, you need to explain the reality of the foreclosure market to your buyer. Foreclosures can be immensely complicated because there are so many stakeholders to deal with. The lender is also the property owner. There is a complicated legal process that must be followed. Title companies are often backlogged with the paperwork required by the lender and attorneys. Add all these components to the mix, and you’ve got serious challenges.

Buyers must also understand the time it takes to buy a foreclosure.  Many foreclosures take months and months to close. If your buyer currently has a loan in place with an acceptable interest rate, what will he do if his transaction takes six months to close … and interest rates increase during that time? Will he still be approved to purchase the property?

It’s imperative that you have a frank discussion with your buyer about the benefits and challenges of looking only at foreclosures. Buyers always think foreclosures are a “great deal”. They can also be a great deal of work, are typically accompanied by a great deal of frustration and waiting, and always require a great deal of patience. Make sure your buyer understands, and is comfortable with, all of the challenges before you write any more offers.

Ask Denise: House Flyers

March 17, 2011

Q: With all the talk about high-quality online marketing, do I really still need to provide my sellers with a printed flyer? And if I do, is it better to do a one-page or a two-page flyer?

A:  While your online marketing will attract potential buyers, you absolutely still need printed flyers. There will always be people walking or driving by who want instant information, rather than going home and looking up the information online. They’re clearly interested in your listing and you don’t want to lose them. Additionally, providing very high-quality, two or four page printed flyers says a lot to other potential sellers in the neighborhood about your professionalism.

My bottom line is this: in the sea of ‘average’ agents, you must stand out with both your online presence and your printed materials.

Out of Sight = Out of Mind

March 10, 2011

There’s nothing harder than running into a past client and learning that they just bought or sold a home … without you. It wounds your pride, it shakes your confidence, and it hurts your pocketbook. What I’ve learned over many years is that when someone tells me their story, I’m rarely surprised after I hear the full story. Here’s a hint: Out of sight = out of mind.

One of the most important truths in real estate is that you need to stay “top-of-mind” with your clients. You must be confident that when the people you know need real estate services, you are the first person they think of.

People today are busy. They have busy jobs, busy lives, and often they are juggling the activities of several family members – and everyone’s corresponding calendars. When they are ready to buy or sell property, they don’t have time to search for a new agent. If they have one who is already top-of-mind, that’s who they call. People call the agent who is in their mind, at the exact moment they decide to pick up the phone, look a house online, or send an email.

Are you that person?

Agents ask me all the time: “How do I cram one more thing into an already hectic business?”  My answer is simple: You have to.

It’s not your sphere’s job to remember to call you – it’s your responsibility to make sure they call you.

Another question I often get asked is: “What’s the best way to stay top-of-mind?”  My answer is always the same – and a bit frustrating for some agents. There is no magic formula, and there is no one “best” way. The truth is, you have to match your communication format with the way your sphere wants (and sometimes needs) to be communicated with.

Remember this: deciphering their communication code takes a lot of time! But it’s absolutely worth it in the long run.

First look at your database. Then determine the best way to stay top-of-mind with each of them. Is it in person? Is it by mail? Is it by phone? Is it via email? Or are they happiest when they see you at the grocery store?

Here is why this is so frustrating to some agents. It’s hard to put together a follow-up plan – a strategic and effective top-of-mind campaign – when you have so much to consider and not a lot of time to build a plan.

So, what’s the answer? Here are some things to think about.

  1. A great place to start is by thinking about how you are going to communicate. I firmly believe that for most agents whose client base includes a wide variety of age-groups and an even wider variety of communication preferences, a very high-quality, content-rich piece of mail is critical. It’s important that your clients get something they can touch and feel, and that reinforces the fact that you are their best resource for real estate expertise. A high-quality piece also says that they are important to you not only on a professional level, but on a personal level.
  2. Determine your message. Always send real estate-related information. (Note: If you have a sphere that really appreciates the college football schedule you send in August, that’s fine. But I consider that an “extra” mailing piece, not your August top-of-mind piece.) Top-of-mind mail needs to update your sphere on the real estate market. It needs to speak to the trends and news and also provide insight into the market. This piece needs to address the factors that impact your sphere’s ability to make wise real estate investment decisions. For example, you might include important changes to real estate laws. The content needs to include the kind of information that any buyer or seller wants (and needs) to have.

Some agents send a newsletter, and some agents send an oversized postcard. Again, the format should meet the needs of your sphere – which may be different than the format a colleague of yours sends to their sphere. And it should always be designed using YOUR brand. Remember – your sphere may be getting information from other agents in your area. If everything they get looks eerily similar, the reader will think the content is the same too. You have to stand out – and you must provide relevant content.

If you want to make your mailer more personal, consider sending out a quarterly neighborhood review. Collect data on every active, pending and sold listing and provide commentary on what the market is doing right now. One note of caution – do not just send a chart or a graph or a list. You have to also tell your reader what the data means, and why that is important to them as potential sellers and/or buyers. People like to know what’s happening in the real estate industry. They like to be kept up to date so they can feel ‘in the know’.

I often get asked about sending out an online newsletter. My answer is this: If you are very confident that your sphere is best served by an online newsletter, or a blog that you write and they follow, then that’s a good option. However, as I said earlier, most agents have a very diverse sphere. Some folks may not be connected to the online world. Or they are bombarded by email every day and what you send will get deleted along with every other email they aren’t reading. If you have a tech-savvy population within your sphere, by all means customize an online piece just for them.

The bottom line is this:

  • To stay top-of-mind with your sphere, you have to have a strong follow-up plan.
  • To have a strong follow-up plan, you have to take the time to determine exactly who your sphere is, and what your plan looks like.
  • Once you have everything mapped out, make it easy on yourself by setting up a regular schedule that ensures your sphere hears from you each and every month.

Want to go from out of sight and out of mind to top-of-mind? A strong follow-up plan will get you there.

Ask Denise: Real Estate News

March 10, 2011

Q: Denise, with all the options available today, what’s a good source of news in the real estate industry?

A:  Your MLS. If you want to know what the real estate market is doing, you have the best place to track it right at your fingertips. Do you know how many houses have sold in your area this month? Do you know the most popular price point? Do you know what your absorption rate is or what your appreciation rates are? Do you know how this compares to last year or the year before?

It’s all there for you. Most agents don’t do enough research on their own local market – they tend to listen to the news … which is very general in nature. Know what’s going on in your neighborhood.  Focus on it exclusively and in detail.

Is the Grass Any Greener?

March 3, 2011

Here is a question that I’ve been asked a lot in recent months: “Denise, I’m thinking about leaving my brokerage for a different one. Should I make a move?”

It’s understandable that you may be thinking about moving to a different office. Granted, the past few years have been extremely challenging. But before you take the big leap, I want you to ask yourself why you’re thinking about moving.

Is it for the right reasons or for the wrong reasons? Do you really think the grass will be greener on the other side?

Let’s talk about some of the most common reasons that might lead you to switch brokerages:

1. You think you’re paying too much.

True, maybe you are. But, maybe paying less at another brokerage would be a step backwards.

Case in point: One of my clients was offered what appeared to be an amazing deal to go to another brokerage in his community. He was all set to go when I told him to think about it some more. The other brokerage was on a recruiting drive. They were making the same offer to any agent who walked in the door. I asked him, “Is that how you want to be treated after all the years you’ve put in? Do you want to be treated just like everyone else?”

This burst his balloon a little bit—which he needed. He had become enamored with the idea, based on nothing but paying less in fees. But paying less isn’t necessarily the solution to all problems. You have to look deeper into the brokerage and determine if it fits with your own current success level and your goals for the future.

Many agents who think about leaving find out, after doing some research, that a move would actually cost them money. In fact you should think carefully before moving, as every move comes with a price. You have to carefully analyze the pros and cons before you make a final decision.

What you may not realize is that while some brokerages appear to be able to offer a better deal, in actuality if you are moving to increase business – and you become more productive – you may actually end up paying more in the long run because of your increased production.

Another client of mine created a spreadsheet clearly outlining the total fees another brokerage would charge if he were to change offices. In the process of doing his research, he realized that if he continued to do business the way he was doing business he would end up paying more. His comment to me was, “Denise, moving to the other office is only a great deal for someone who is not very productive and isn’t going to make much money.” He decided to stay put.

Paying too much is really the last reason to consider switching brokerages. If everything else in your current office is going well and your only reason for moving is money-driven, that’s usually a recipe for disappointment.

2. You are not happy with something your managing broker did.

You may be surprised at my response to this. I say, “Good! I’m glad you’re not happy with everything your managing broker does.”

What I mean by that is that if a managing broker spends all of his/her time running a business based on trying to make everyone in the office happy, they are not very effective. A good managing broker isn’t afraid of making tough decisions, even if it means ruffling a few feathers. There are times when it is necessary to implement things that agents don’t immediately like.

Now, there is an exception. If your managing broker is doing something unethical or illegal, then you do have a valid reason to leave that brokerage. This is a whole different ballgame. In my opinion, it’s the number one reason to leave. If you’re working for someone with low morals, then it only reflects badly on you.

3. Someone else is enticing you with a better offer.

It’s fun to be wooed, isn’t it? There’s nothing like the feeling of knowing that someone out there admires and respects your work enough to make you a very nice offer.

But beware. Enticement can be a trick. It may just be part of an ordinary recruiting campaign. Make sure that if you’re being wooed, whatever you are being promised is more than what is being offered in general. The key in this situation is to talk to agents who have long experience with that managing broker. Find out how they truly feel. Dig deep and don’t decide based solely on how things look on the surface.

4. Your production is down so you feel you could make more money at another brokerage.

Production is a very big reason agents switch brokerages. But don’t blame your company or office until you’re sure you’re doing everything you can do to make more money.

Don’t make the mistake of blaming the brokerage first. Instead, look yourself in the eye and ask if there’s more you could be doing. (Hint: there usually is.)

When you leave your brokerage, it actually costs you money. Why? Because not all of your clients are going to happily make that move with you. Many people stay loyal to a brand, even more than a person. It’s not necessarily fair, since you’re the person who has done all the work for them, but it’s nonetheless true. Be aware of this fact.

5. You’re not happy with the people in your office.

This is irrelevant to you and your business. So what if you don’t like them? Simply polish up your communications skills and learn how to deal with conflict a little better.

I treat every person I meet with respect and dignity, but that doesn’t mean I love every one of them. If I had switched brokerages every time somebody rubbed me the wrong way, I would have worked for many different brokerages. It’s just plain silly to let people get to you like that. In real estate, it’s critical to hold yourself at a higher level. You’re the professional.

Now, what if you have a combination of all five of the above?

Then, I’d say yes, in that case you may want to consider an enticing offer. But before you accept anything – instead of just looking at the brokerage, look at yourself instead.

What is it that you are responsible for? What is keeping you from getting to the next level of your business? Before you blame others, look inward to see if there’s something you can fix right where you are.

It’s always in your best interest to take time to consider all of the issues that surround moving brokerages. It’s a big decision. It’s not one that you should take lightly, or make when you are frustrated or angry. Do your homework and make a change only if it’s the best business decision for you.

By Denise Lones CSP, M.I.R.M., CDEI

Ask Denise: Holding a Client Appreciation Event

March 3, 2011

Q: “Denise, I’ve never held a client appreciation event, but I know I need to this spring.  Help!  What do I do?”

A: The first thing to do is to ensure that you have secured a small base of key players (and helpers) that you absolutely want to be there.  Make the date at least 60 days from now.  Plan everything. I mean everything – from the biggest detail to the tiniest ones. Your event should come off without a single hitch.

Send “Save the Date” cards immediately. Then, 5 weeks from your event send out an “Invitation” card.  The following week, send out a date and RSVP reminder. Three weeks from your event send out a “Countdown” card that says, “3 weeks to go…” with another RSVP reminder.

You’ll also have far better success with your event if you call each person up personally after the “Invitation” card is sent, to back your invitation up with the sound of your voice telling them how much you want them to be there.

At the event, always have great food and beverages, make sure you lead the show, and make sure everyone is greeted at the door.  Nametags help.  Start on time, and finish on time.  Send a “Thank You” when it’s all over with pictures you took.

Just One Thing

February 24, 2011

For many agents, just getting away for a few hours to invest time in their business is hard. What’s even harder is getting away for two entire days. But recently a large group of agents did just that. They took two days away and joined us for the first of our 2011 Safaris.

We asked attendees to really look at their business. We asked them to really look at who they are. We asked them to look at their strengths and weaknesses. We asked them to look back at their production numbers and examine why they weren’t where they want to be.

We talked about their challenges. Their trouble points. The areas of their business where they struggle again, and again, and again.

While most Safari attendees planned on incorporating many changes into their business after the Safari, my hope was that just one of those changes be something that positively impacted their business right away. Just one thing!

I have to tell you, it was absolutely exhilarating to watch real life scenarios play out over the two days. It was amazing to watch the changes taking place for agents who were willing to lay their challenges on the line and ask for help.

Here’s just one story out of the many that transpired:

One of the agents attending Safari was having a huge problem that day – actually at a particular moment – with a buyer who, four hours earlier, had been ready to write an offer. However, the buyer suddenly wouldn’t return her calls. He wouldn’t return text messages. The agent had been working with this buyer for several weeks and had built, what she thought was, a very strong relationship. Time was running out and the agent was nearing panic. We could see it on her face and hear it in her voice. The last message she had from her buyer was quite strong. He had said, “You’re not supporting me.” In other words, he meant, “You’re not doing your job.”

Right there in class, this honest agent opened up to the group and asked for help. How could she even focus on our Safari content when she was frantically trying to save a transaction and a client relationship?

I reminded her to think about what the clues were in what her client had been saying earlier in the day. What was he feeling, how he was expressing it, and what had he needed most when she last heard from him. He said he needed support! I asked her to think about how she had responded to him – before he went AWOL.

From the clues he gave, what he needed right then was her support and an apology for not being as supportive as she could have been. She needed to humble herself a bit and save a client, and a transaction. She had to do what it would take to make this right. I told her exactly what to say and how to say it, knowing what her client’s personality type needed to hear from her.

Now – I’m sure you’re asking how I could tell what he needed. I’ve never even met the man. Here’s the thing, though– each personality type speaks a certain language. This buyer was speaking a particular language and what she needed to do was listen for clues and provide the same language in return. I asked the agent to step out of the room and communicate with the buyer by using his language instead of her language.

Something miraculous happened. Within seconds of her speaking his language, he responded right back with a positive, ‘let’s move forward’ message. When she came back into the room, she said she was completely amazed, considering that he’d been avoiding and hiding from her for several hours. All of a sudden, instead of trying to communicate in her tone, she spoke his language and he came out of his hiding spot.

What is the point of this story? For this agent, it was just one thing. Knowing how to communicate more effectively was all she needed on that day.

You likely also have at least one area that you need to work on which, for whatever reason, you haven’t yet mastered.

For all of you, there is certainly at least one thing about your business that if changed, could positively influence your business. Maybe you need to learn better communication skills, or you need to learn to master your daily schedule. Perhaps you need to focus on branding and marketing. It could be that you need to become a much better presenter. In all likelihood, you need to learn to let go of all the pain you’ve experienced over the last two years in a challenging economy.

These are all critical things! When you take time to invest in your business – to really examine your business – you might find that it’s just one thing that will make a major difference. You have to take a serious look. If you’re honest and willing to learn new skills and tools, you will transform your business.

If you’re ready to take a good, hard look at your business, and you’re ready to be honest with yourself about what needs to change, we invite you to attend our next Safari this spring. You may find you only need to change one thing. You may find you need to change a few things. Or a whole lot of things. But we guarantee that you’ll spend two, completely inspiring days, focused on finding the right path for you to transform your business for years to come.

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