How to Develop a Powerful Marketing Strategy
As you launch your new real estate business or wish to elevate it to the next level of success, it will be critical to have an efficient and cost effective marketing strategy. Having a great product, deal, or service will not bear any fruits of your labor if you are not reaching the proper audience. The following information will highlight many concepts and recommendations you may want to consider as part of your marketing plan. Because of the general nature of this material, all information may not apply to your specific business model.
Marketing and Advertising Concepts
Recommendations Go a Long Way
Perhaps one of the most powerful tools you can ever have in your marketing arsenal that you can't buy for any price is to have people who have done business with you, or are familiar with your business ethics and professionalism to provide positive recommendations. You need to capitalize on all of the hard work and service you have provided in the past to instill confidence among your new relationships that you will continue to provide the same premier performance. We have all been exposed to testimonials and recommendations throughout many aspects of our life. Clearly, most people don't need any further convincing beyond a sincere recommendation from someone not benefiting from the referral.
Use Referrals And Recommendations As A Marketing Tool
As you establish your history of past success stories, you should compile this information and share it with people you are trying to influence with regards to your ability to perform. An example of this could be a presentation folder that could include a summary of past projects as well as copies of any written letters of recommendations. In addition, you should have readily available a list of past clients that have given you permission to give out their contact information as a reference. You will have far more credibility if you provide this information in advance as part of your presentation material instead of your new potential client having to request this information; proactively providing this information will demonstrate your confidence in your services.
Know Where Your Leads Are Coming From
To have an effective marketing program, it will be critical for you to know what strategies are making the phone ring. When you fully understand what approaches are producing results, you can shift marketing efforts and capital away from the methods that are not producing the desired results and apply them to the methods that are successful. During your day to day activities when making inquiries on services and products you need, I'm sure you have been asked "Where did you see our ad" or "How did you hear about us". This is their attempt to do their own marketing research on what is working for them.
There are a number of techniques you may want to consider that will help you to understand where your leads are coming from. Of course you can just come out and ask them. Alternatively, you could use the following methods:
- The use of different color stock on forms can help you establish what "color area" is responding.
- Have each different ad have a unique "offer number" and ask for his number during your conversations.
- Have a different response phone number for each ad or location.
Keeping Your Marketing Plan Going
There is one mistake that is common to new smaller businesses, once they get busy with the business that is coming from their marketing efforts, they become distracted and lose focus on keeping the marketing plan going. An example of this is getting wrapped up in a flip you are directly involved with that is taking away from your time to send out direct mail letters. Remember, with most of the common business models, once you're done with the current deal, you need to get another one in the pipeline; otherwise, the flow of income may stop or be reduced. As another example, have you ever tried to get an estimate for a repair on your house? It seems they are all too busy on the job they are currently on to stop and work on new business.
Delegate Or Outsource Your Marketing Activities
As you are developing or expanding your business, the day to day challenges of running your business along with everything else going on in your life can stand in the way of you working your marketing plan. If you feel this is occurring and is affecting your potential business success, it may be to your advantage to either delegate or outsource some or all of your marketing activities. Using this technique will allow you to free up some time that could be used to work on items that will help you grow the company. Some examples of the marketing tasks that could be delegated or outsourced are highlighted below:
- Preparing and mailing marketing materials and direct mail letters
- Distribution of flyers
- E-mail support
- Covering phone calls
Keep in mind that before you let other people get involved with your marketing and speaking with potential clients and customers, make sure they have been adequately trained and the process has been documented in your company procedures (see "How to Write Your Business Plan" for information on the development of standard work modules).
Dealing with Rejection
As you develop your marketing strategy and "hitting the streets", you should be prepared to face some level of rejection. The level of rejection you will experience will be determined based upon your approach, persistence, and what is the current situation and state of mind of the person you are dealing with. If for example your marketing model is focusing on homeowners in foreclosure, there will be a very high rate of rejection. In some cases they may be in denial regarding their current situation and also because they have been overwhelmed with the interest in their property from all of the investors who saw the Lis Pendens filed. You must recognize that this type of marketing is a numbers game and the more people you have an opportunity to make contact with, the higher the probability to secure business.
Even Rejection Can Make You Money
As you work through your targeted marketing area and encounter rejection, remember that each door closed in your face or phone call hang-up will get you closer to a completed transaction. If for example it takes 100 calls to close a deal worth $5,000 than each rejection is worth $50.00! Although difficult at first to imagine that rejection makes you money, it could help motivate you to move on to the next door slamming or phone-hang-up opportunity.
Your Marketing Should Have A Look
As part of your marketing efforts to "brand" your company, you may want to consider the use of logo's, slogans, and trademarks in all of your ads and promotional merchandise. In addition, the use of "company colors" that is used exclusively in all of your marketing will also help to create a unique look that will help to set you apart from your competition.
Marketing and Advertising Techniques
The following section will provide you with some specific recommendations on marketing techniques you may want to consider. Since this information is generic in nature, all recommendations may not apply to your particular business model.
Due to the significant impact on operating budgets to fund marketing and advertising activities, you should be very critical on what methods become part of your Business Plan.
Buy A Ton Of Business Cards
One of the most inexpensive and effective ways for you to market yourself and your business is through the distribution of your business cards. During networking and casual meeting opportunities, the exchange of business cards will be a critical tool for you to assemble your contact list. Even if you are just starting out and don't even have a company or services to offer, the small investment in business cards will allow others to have your contact information. At a minimum, the card should contain the following information:
- Your name
- Title or company name
- Fax number
- Phones number(s)
- E-mail address
In addition, you can add information with regards to the specific business models you are involved with, for example:
- Short Sales
- Property Management
Business Cards Design Suggestions
- Make your business cards stand out with bright colors or interesting artwork or graphics.
- Avoid the glossy type of paper because it is difficult to write on (in the event the person you are giving them to would like to make some comments on meeting you or your services).
- Use the back of the card as well to provide additional information on your business; why waste valuable marketing space?
- Have a powerful hook on the cards to include statements like:
- "We will close in 7 days"
- "We buy all houses in any condition"
- "We buy with all cash"
- "Get a $250 referral Fee"
Bandit signs are a great way to attract attention from people on foot or in vehicles. These signs are usually 2' X 3' or smaller and are designed to either stick in the ground or mounted to a pole. This method of advertising is very economical and when using the plastic version will allow for repeated use. It is suggested that you get them printed on both sides if you plan or placing them in areas where people will be coming from both directions.
Displaying Ads and Signs
Proper utilization of the various types of ads and signs will help support your efforts in establishing high visibility and presence in your targeted marketing area. The number of ways to display your company name, logo, and services you provide is limited only by your imagination. The following section will highlight the most common locations and methods you may want to consider for posting your ads:
- On billboards (very popular in rural and city areas)
- Sponsor or adopt a community bench, garden, or road clean-up.
- On buses
- On railroad cars and stations
- Local community and church newsletters
- Placemats in diners and restaurants (I always read these things while I'm waiting for my food)
- Place signs on your property while you are working on it and marketing it.
- Advertising lettering or magnetic signs for your vehicles.
When using lettering or magnetic signs for your vehicle make sure to check local ordinances; by placing a sign on your vehicle could make it be considered a commercial vehicle. Also when using magnetic signs, make sure they are secured properly. I have heard instances of these signs flying off during high speed travel and when exposed to rain. If you can also have a sign on your trunk, it will make it easy for people to read it as they follow behind you or at stop signs and traffic lights. Make sure to use large text size on your contact number.
When designing flyers, it will be important for you to use bright colors to attract the eye. When placing them in stores, your flyer may be among dozens of other items that are posted so it must have some punch. To help minimize the chances of someone just taking the entire flyer, design it to have tear-off tabs at the bottom that contains minimal information on your services and a contact number.
Check Local Ordinances
When using signs and flyers as part of your marketing program, make sure you check with your local town regulations to ensure you are not in violation. Most towns have laws on the books that prohibit the display of signs and may come with substantial fines.
People Love Giveaways
Another marketing tool that will help you with your company exposure is to give out small gifts that promote your business and services. The possibilities are endless on the type of give-a-ways you can come up with and is limited only by your imagination and budget. The following list will provide some recommendations that are typically used for this purpose:
- Shirts and jackets
- Recipe cards
- Letter openers
- Golf balls, tees, or towels
- Refrigerator magnets
- Stationary items (pens, pads, binders, etc.)
- Totes and bags
When selecting the product give-a ways, you want to pick items that are designed to encourage use (nobody will wear an ugly tee shirt; it will be probably used as a rag). Avoid one time use products like candy, cookies, etc. Many companies offer these types of products at various price point budgets. Do a web search on "marketing merchandise" and you will get some great ideas. To reiterate, you may want to keep a consistent look to all of your marketing gifts.
Be An Exhibitor Or Sponsor
Another outstanding marketing method you may want to consider is to participate as an exhibitor or sponsor at conventions and investment organization meetings. These events can be very effective in reaching people that may benefit from your services. Sponsorship and exhibitor costs can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands depending on the venue and size of the organizations. With many organizations, you may have an opportunity to set up a display table as well as a speaking slot to highlight your services. One comment with regards to this marketing option is that people typically feel more comfortable doing business with you when they see you as a "regular" sponsor and not a one shot deal because it adds more credibility that you will be around. This type of marketing could be a significant drain on your allocated budget and it will be critical for you to determine if the appropriate level of business is being derived from this approach to justify the expense. By doing a web search for Investment Clubs and organizations you can select particular groups you would like to focus on.
Advertise In Hard Papers
Running ads in hard papers such as newspapers and trade magazines can be a great way for you to keep your company's products and services in the eyes of the readers. Although this method of advertising can consume a majority or your marketing budget, it can represent a tremendous opportunity to reach a large mass of people. When considering using this advertising method, you may want to implement some of the following recommendations:
- Have a "hook" to your ad like "We will close with cash in 72 hours".
- Advertise constantly
I'm sure you have observed ads that always seem to be displayed. This constant exposure although costly, will help to develop your company's long term credibility.
- If your ad is listed in column form, consider adding a blank space above and below the text, this will make the ad stand out.
- If possible, use a contrasting or reverse color or text from the standard format.
Out of State Newspapers
Based upon the particular business model you are involved with, it may be necessary to either advertise or receive copies of out of state newspapers.
Using Public Records
Depending on your particular marketing areas or contact group, you may have good success accessing the public records that are available on-line. The information available will vary from state to state and also based on local township on-line capabilities.
The Use of Purchased Lists
An effective method to locate a particular group of people or businesses is to purchase a list from companies that specialize in generating and selling information about specific groups of people. An example of these types of lists includes the following:
- Recent graduates
- Recently relocated
- Recently sold their home
- Recently turned a milestone age (example:18,21,50,62,65)
- Recent Lis Pendens filings
The lists of possibilities are endless. Companies that generate and/or sell these lists are marketed by "List Brokers". Try a Google search on this and you will see how big this information industry really is.
Be Prepared to Get Responses to Your Marketing Champaign
There is one area that many people fear when launching their marketing strategy and you need to get properly prepared for this and that is getting responses to your marketing efforts. The last thing you want to exhibit to people who are reaching out to you is your lack of confidence in being able to help them. In addition to having a strong foundation of knowledge in the particular business model you are marketing, you will need to develop a standard process on what you will do when they start calling you or responding to your calls. It is suggested that you put together a scripted dialog or bullet list that you will use when speaking with potential clients. The dialog or bullet list should be used as a guide as you are speaking with them to ensure you are gathering the appropriate data from them and presenting all of the critical highlights of why they should consider working with you.
Practice Makes Perfect
It will be absolutely critical to make sure you are projecting confidence when speaking to potential clients. I have spoken to many people who have left the leads hanging because of their fear in making contact with them; one way to mitigate this fear is by practicing and learning from your good and bad experiences. It is suggested that you conduct role playing to practice your approach. Another strategy that works well is to record your conversations and listen back to them. It will be critical to extract lessons learned from the calls and to apply these lessons to future calls. Keep in mind that the more you do this, the more effective and successful your "close rate" will be.
Don't Touch That Mailbox
Keep in mind that you are prohibited from placing anything in a mailbox that does not have the appropriate postage. If you practice this technique, there is a very good chance you will be contacted by a representative from the postal service.
Creating Your Buyers and Clients List
Whether your real estate business model is wholesaling, rehabbing, selling notes, or any other model that requires you to rely on someone "taking your deal" will require you to understand the investment goals of your potential clients. To achieve the highest degree of project turn-over efficiency and to minimize your risk exposure, you will need to have investors and clients in a stand-by mode waiting for you to hand them your next investment opportunity they will consider. It will be very important that as you begin to launch your marketing and networking activities, you have a method to compile the investment criteria of your buyers or clients. It would be very efficient to have this information as part of a spreadsheet database. To help gather this information, you could create a form that can be filled out that will highlight the investment goals of your buyers or clients.
Having a comprehensive buyers list that includes the specific criteria of your buyer will help you to align available investment opportunities to the appropriate investors. In addition, understanding these criteria in advance will allow you to go out and seek new investments that you know will fit into the investment strategy of your buyers and clients that will be willing to pull the trigger if you bring them a good deal. The following list will provide examples of common criteria you would want from your investors (let's assume for this example we are involved in the flipping business model)
- Specific locations
- Price point
- Age of property
- Class of property (A,B, C, D)
- Type of property (single-family, multi-family, commercial)
- Financial expectations
- Cash flow
- Cash on Cash returns
- Minimum percent of equity position
- Capitalization Rate
- Condition of property
- Creative Financing
Also keep in mind the relationship you develop from your Buyer's List may also be a source for deals they bring to you. Perhaps a deal is too big or too small for a particular investor or they are too busy to get involved in another project at this time. The fact that you have presented them with investment opportunities in the past can set the stage for them to feed you a deal.
Qualify Your Buyer's List
It will be critical for you to establish if the contacts on your Buyer's List are able and willing to take deals that meet their investment criteria. The last thing you need when you are trying to wholesale a deal is to find out your buyer's are just tire-kickers. One way to help avoid this situation is to get to know your buyer's and become familiar with their past success. Through your networking and relationship building with these buyers's, you should be able to feel them out with regards to their ability to pull the trigger.
I'm sure you've heard before, "If I find a great deal, I know the buyers will follow." Although there is some logic to this statement, if you have buyer's queued up in advance knowing their investment criteria, it will help to minimize your risk of not being able to close the deal; this can be a real concern when you are in a stale or decreasing market.
Your Extended Marketing Team
In addition to your planned direct marketing efforts, there could be past clients, family, friends or business associates that may provide additional sources of leads and business for you. This circle of contacts if properly utilized could be another informal arm of your comprehensive marketing plan. Although most people would normally pass along any services or products you provide to someone they know in need with no compensation; one sure way to motivate them to help bring in additional business is for you to offer a referral program. Depending upon the business model you are involved with, you could compensate them on a per deal basis. It is suggested that you provide these contacts with some of your marketing material.
Using Bird-Dogs To Augment Your Marketing
To bring the concept of an extended informal marketing team to the next level, you may want to enlist the help from people whose specialty is to locate deals for clients and present them for consideration. These people are called Bird-Dogs and they do this work as part of their business model. When using Bird-Dogs, it will be critical that they understand your criteria so they will not waste your time or theirs. Usually Bird-Dogs will only get compensated if a deal closes. A Bird-Dog fee is usually paid at closing.
Using Technology To Market More Efficiently
Have Your Own Website
Having a website can be a powerful tool to provide current and potential clients information on the products and services your company offers. The use of websites is so common that omitting it from your marketing campaign could certainly lead towards lost business. Remember, there is a very good chance that your competitors will have a website.
The subscription or development cost of your website can have a very large range depending upon the features. You should expect to pay $30-50 per month for a web design service provider that uses pre-designed templates you can edit. On the other extreme, you can pay thousands for a custom designed site.
When selecting a domain name, it is suggested that you use a name that reflects your business and is also easy to remember
Although having a website can be instrumental to the success of your business model, it will be useless unless you can attract visitors to your site to see what you offer. There are many strategies you can consider to help direct visitors to your site, some of techniques are listed below:
- Have a reference to your website on all of your printed material and e-mails you generate as well as marketing giveaways you hand out like coffee mugs or pens.
- Write on-line articles for websites like e-zine.com where you contribute articles for free in exchange for an opportunity to discuss your expertise as well as what you have to offer. In addition, you will be able to provide a link to your website.
- Have your website listed on other websites as a link, you can have an agreement with the website owner to mutually display links to each other.
- Pay to advertise on other sites that have the type of traffic you are trying to attract. Usually, there is a monthly fee for this service or in some cases will be a "Pay Per Click" where you will be charged a predetermined fee when anyone clicks on the link to your website.
- There are many options to consider when developing your website from do it yourself templates where you just fill in the blanks to a full blown custom site. It is suggested that you speak with an experienced website designer to see what option is best suited for your needs and budget.
A very popular marketing method is to utilize teleconferences to highlight the services and products that you offer to a large audience by speaking with them via a phone line. This marketing technique will allow your company to provide another vehicle for your potential clients to get to know who you are. The process of setting up a teleconference is very easy; there are many third party providers that offer teleconference services for either a flat monthly rate or on an as-needed basis. Once set up, you just need to provide the attendees with a dial in number and access code (given to you by the service provider) and they will call in at the appropriate time.
To bring the benefits of a teleconference to the next level, you can consider reaching out to your audience using a webinar. A webinar is an opportunity for you to provide a presentation to your audience by accessing a web site on their computer. Two-way communication is also possible using a dial in phone number. Like the teleconferencing, a webinar can be arranged by a third party. The cost of this service will be determined by how many "seats" are required.
An e-mail blast can be a very effective way to contact a large group of people on your mailing list. Depending upon how many people you are trying to reach, you can either send the mail through your own mail service like Outlook or if a very large list of people need to be contacted, you may need to consider the services of a third party provider. As you compile your contact list, it is recommended that you create "groups" within your mail program. By using groups when sending e-mail, you can easily fill out the "to" field by selecting the appropriate group you are trying to make contact with. It is recommended that you sort your address book into categories that make sense for your business model. Examples are as follows:
- Bankers and private money lenders
- Past clients you are trying to stay in touch with
- New prospective clients you are trying to conduct business with
- Tenants occupying your properties
Mail merge will allow you to take your contact information from your Outlook (or equivalent) address book and add these contacts to envelop and form letters you generate. Although mail merge can save you a considerable amount of time in preparing mailed letters, it is not encouraged when preparing envelops for initial contact letters. Computer generated envelops look too much like junk mail and not even be opened.
Newsletters are a great way to keep your contact list up to date on what is going on in your company and to help attract new business. All of the popular word processor programs have templates that you can use to generate your own custom newsletter. When considering the use of newsletters in your marketing campaign, you may want to implement some of the following recommendations:
- Make your newsletter releases monthly or quarterly; you want to periodically remind them who you are.
- Add both business development information as well as education and public interest sections. Don't make every issue overflowing with sales hype. You will turn off your audience.
- Give each newsletter a release number or volume
- Format the pages so they can be added to a three ring binder
- Publish articles that continue in a future newsletter
- Add photos and charts to help illustrate text
- Have featured segments that are part of each newsletter release. The following are some examples:
- Rehab trick of the month
- Bloopers sent in from audience
- Deal of the month
- Success story of the month
Using An Internet Video Site
A very popular tool that can be added to your marketing plan is to utilize internet sites that allow you to download videos. On these sites, you can download your video that will be part of the site database of searchable videos. It is suggested that you add in your title a "hook" that specifically identifies the scope of the video so when someone searches the site for your topic, you may get a "hit". An example of this would be "Learn Short Sales from John Doe."
Sales Lead Software
As your marketing and networking strategies start to generate leads, it will become an increasing challenge to manage the large volume of leads effectively. Without managing leads appropriately, you run the risk of losing the ability to "convert" them to a deal or sale. Although there are many manual methods that you could use to manage your leads, you may want to consider purchasing lead generation and management software. There are a number of companies that provide this product. Perform an internet search for available products.
Carl Schiovone has been actively involved in real estate investing for nearly 30 years. As the co-founder of Cypress Investment Properties, he specializes in the acquisition, rehabilitation, and property management of residential properties. Carl has lectured on various investment topics to numerous investment organizations and is currently working on publishing a series of real estate investment textbooks. Carl is also the founder and President of Carl Schiovone and Associates Real Estate Coaching, Inc. This organization provides both group and one-on-one educational programs for all levels of investing experience. Please visit our website to learn about our outstanding complimentary coaching offer where we can discuss any real estate topic you like!
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