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Friday, February 24, 2017

Marathon Marketing

Every time I hear about a marathon I think, "Maybe I will do that one day, but who has the time and energy to train for something like that? You pretty much have to dedicate your life to it." And then I think about the diet, the tiny shorts, my pale legs, being away from my phone for however long it even takes to run 26 miles, and how I can't resist texting at stop lights during my 15 minute air-conditioned commute to work.

After years working in real estate marketing I have grown to appreciate just how much developing effective marketing campaigns is like training for a marathon. You need to take stock of your strengths and weaknesses, clearly state your goals, budget your consumption, dress accordingly, build your way up to the demands you will be putting upon yourself, and learn how to follow through.

When To Develop A Marketing Campaign

Before you get your real estate license. Seriously. Before. If you already have your real estate license then you are behind the curve. Would you show up to a marathon and then start training for it? Would you open a restaurant and then figure out what kind of food you would serve? This doesn't mean that if you already have your license that you can't be helped, but know that you may have developed bad habits, arrived at faulty assumptions regarding how well a certain marketing medium works, and even damaged your image already. (See Real Estate Agents and Social Media.)

Hot To Develop A Marketing Plan: Take Stock

To begin developing a marketing campaign you should perform a SWOT analysis. This document (graph, chart, however you do it is up to you) is the foundation upon which your marketing campaign will be built. SWOT analysis is an acronym; it stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

Strengths and weaknesses are your personal characteristics: your skills with technology, your communication skills, your other responsibilities. Some things may not seem like they belong on either list. For example, you probably don't see being a spouse or a parent or having a second job as a weakness, but in the context of performing your duties as a real estate agent those things are weaknesses. They are personal traits that can complicate your day.

Opportunities and threats are external variables that can affect your chances of success. Do you live in a declining town? Are you at the heart of a successful economic area (being near a military base, for example). Do you have close ties with builders in your area? What is going on around you that can have an impact on you or the market? What does the future hold?

The purpose of identifying these traits is for you to address your weaknesses and threats so that they can be minimized or negated and to build upon your strengths and opportunities to use them to your greatest advantage.

There are plenty of websites and blogs that can walk you through the process of performing a SWOT analysis, but most of these sites have general information as opposed to tips specific to real estate. The blog SWOT Analysis for Real Estate Agents by Jason Van Steenwyk is good example.

Hot To Develop A Marketing Plan: Set Goals

People seem to get hung up here. They seem to think that they need to predict their sales and then use that prediction as a goal. They are wrong - on two counts. First, don't try to predict anything - you will just look foolish. Second, don't assume that your goals have to be directly related to sales. Nor do they have to be monumental in scope. Goals can be a lot of things. A great goal, particularly for agents that have already begun their career when they decide to develop a marketing campaign, is to fix something - identify a bad habit and break it. Revitalize your social media; Learn how to use social media; Buy, and learn how to use, a new piece of technology; Become an LLC (Seriously, if you think your broker will shield you from legal liability then think again. Especially if you allow clients in your vehicle or have them follow you to showings.)

If you like goals that are number based then social media sites are a good start. You can measure success in number of likes, subscribers, followers, website hits, page views, comments, etc. Active Rain has a fun little point system that (for me) takes some of the tedium out of the social media process. I actually look forward to blogging at least once a week now. I may do it more often.

The point of setting goals is two-fold. Not only are you doing something that can make your more successful, but you are setting up little 'cheer' points along your path to success. Points where you can look back and say, "I did that" and look forward and say with confidence, "I can do this."

Hot To Develop A Marketing Plan: Budget Your Consumption

Knowing how much to spend on marketing can be tricky. There are plenty of 'rule of thumbs' out there, but they are subjective. For example, let's say that you have decided on 10%. Ten percent of what? Your commissions? Your net commissions? What if you are a new agent and you have no commissions? Does that mean that you should not market? What if you make a billion dollars in commissions? Do you have to stick to 10%?

Well, this is where a business budget comes in. Not to be confused with a personal budget, this budget should document things like the cost of each aspect of marketing (direct mail, billboards, websites, social media, pay-per-click advertising, Trulia/Zillow ads), the number of leads generated by those marketing methods, lead conversion rates, return on investments per marketing methods, etc. Budgets are made in advance of their implementation and should have a life of at least one major commercial cycle - usually twelve months.

The budget will help you decide what works for you and what doesn't. The simplest way to decide this is to look at your return on investment (ROI). Your ROI is measured by comparing your initial investment (cost of the services) to your return on that investment (commissions that can be directly tied to leads generated by that marketing method. To get your ROI you subtract your initial invest from your relevant commissions and then divide the resulting number by your initial investment. For example, if you spent $1,000 on postcards this year and you were able to attribute $7,250 in commissions to leads generated by postcards then your ROI for postcards is 625% ([$7,250 - $1,000]/$1,000). This means that for every dollar you invest in postcards you are grossing about $6.25 in profit.

Of course, there are other factors that your Budget will identify. Lead conversion is an important one. Lead conversion is the rate at which a lead turns into a commission (or at least a listing). If your lead conversion is less that 100% then you need to think about why it isn't 100%. Are you just getting a lot of people that think their trailer has appreciated in value and refuse to sell for less than $100K? Check your direct mail target allocation software and eliminate trailer parks. Are clients meeting you and just not contacting you again? Make sure your picture is up-to-date and your dress properly for perspective clients. Are you getting a lot of online activity but no calls or emails? You need to change something about your online presence - check your bounce rate (percentage of people that arrive at your website and then leave without visiting another page or clicking links), make sure your sites work well over the various mobile devices, double check your contact information, etc.

Hot To Develop A Marketing Plan: Dress For Success

This topic is an obvious one, and has been done to death, but it merits mentioning. It should be easy to find plenty of 'dress for success' blogs and guides on the internet but they don't usually take branding into consideration. I don't mean the brand of cloths that you wear; I mean your branding. Does your marketing consistently feature a dominant color? Are you dressed to match you picture? Does your attire match your marketing 'theme'? One of the ladies in my office marketed herself as a 'Cowgirl Realtor'. She used this idea in here printed marketing, had a hashtag for it on twitter and even wore a cowboy hat in her pictures. The point is, there is more than one way to be successful so there has to be more than one way to dress for success. Find yours.

Hot To Develop A Marketing Plan: Prepare For Being In Demand

Success can sneak up on you so develop good habits now and prepare to be flexible. This could easily be a blog unto itself (and I might just do that in the future). There are just too many tips and tricks and, of course, apps to help you do this.

Unfortunately, there are few blogs about dealing with the pressure of being in demand - the toll it can take on your home life and social life. Don't be afraid to turn off your phone, click on your email's vacation auto-responder, and enjoy life from time to time. After all, what are you working for anyways? All the marketing in the world can't help you if you constantly look like you walked out of a Cathy comic strip.

Hot To Develop A Marketing Plan: Follow Through

Give the marketing campaign time to work. Usually this means committing to a full 12 months, but it could take longer for some methods to take hold. A study on direct mail campaigns suggests that it takes as many as five contacts (postcards), spaced between 25 and 50 days apart, to get the most out of a direct mail campaign. Billboards can take even longer - assuming that they ever work.

Social media isn't a simple a matter of time, it is a matter of proper usage. You need to be active, even aggressive at times. Social media works by being visible to your potential clients - and you become visible not only by being 'liked' by others but by 'liking' other people's and businesses' social media. Share another person's Facebook post, re-tweet another agent's tweet. Even if you don't blog that doesn't mean that you can't share someone else's blog. Let their hard work serve you.

Not only should you give the campaign time to work, you should properly track the campaign's results. Remember the budget? Track your lead sources and their results. This will help you develop your Sphere of Influence (SOI) and it will help you allocate future spending. Above that, you can use a properly presented marketing campaign budget as part of your marketing campaign. After all, your clients are looking for results when you list their home - what better way to inspire their confidence then by showing them your various methods of marketing and how successful they are?

Rinse, Repeat

Finally, don't assume that what you developed your first time out is the perfect plan for you. Go back from time to time and revisit your early assumptions. Update your SWOT, reallocate your budget, assess your goals. Don't be afraid to start over - you din't fail, you just found a way that doesn't work.


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