To be successful in real estate requires making as many contacts with potential prospects as possible. Think of marketing as a funnel. Initially, you start with a vast pool of people who are “strangers” who have never heard of you. Through your advertising, marketing and promotions, you narrow that vast pool down into “suspects” who might need your services at some point in the future. With continued marketing and follow up, you turn some of the “suspects” into “prospects” who contact you to set up an initial consultation. Of those initial consultations, you will convert a few “prospects” into “clients.” And finally, some of your clients will become “advocates” for your services. Here’s a breakdown of each:
- Strangers – These people have never heard about you. They don’t know who you are, what you do, or how that is relevant to them.
- Suspects – Suspects are individuals who might potentially need your service. They have seen your ad, website, or other marketing materials and found some helpful information, but they still aren’t ready to move forward hiring an agent. Their mindset is “I’ll think about it…” or “Tell me more, I might be interested…”
- Prospects – Prospects are individuals who are considering buying or selling their home and may potentially hire an agent to help them. These people have the mindset of “I’m definitely interested in buying or selling in the near future. I’ll consider you…” It is at this stage when prospects contact you to set up an initial consultation and move closer to signing your working agreement.
- Clients – Clients, obviously, are those people who have signed your agreement and are ready to buy or sell their home. This stage involves negotiating a mutually beneficial agreement for everyone involved in the real estate transaction and closing the sale.
- Advocates – Advocates are those clients who are extremely happy with your real estate services and tell others about you. They actively promote your services.
The goal of marketing is to take people who are complete strangers, or at least suspects, and convert them into advocates. Marketing is a numbers game. The more people you make contact with, the more people will eventually become clients and advocates down the road. To improve your conversion rates and turn more people into clients and advocates, you must have a marketing system in place that reaches people at each stage. Below is a five-step marketing system.
Step 1 – Marketing to Strangers
The first step is to build awareness that your real estate services exist. At this stage, people don’t know anything about you, but they are starting to consider buying or selling their home, so they are interested in learning more about the real estate transaction.
To market effectively to strangers, your ads, website and marketing materials must be focused on their problems and concerns. A great way to do this is to provide education-based marketing materials such as a free report or audio program on how they can solve a particular problem they are facing (like buying their first home or selling their home for top dollar.) You offer this free information in exchange for the stranger’s contact information, such as a name and email address if you send the information electronically, or their physical address if you send them a free CD or DVD.
Step 2 – Marketing To Suspects
Once you have someone’s contact information and permission to follow up with them, the next step is to build rapport through ongoing communication. You want to establish credibility by educating your suspect on their key concerns, problems, and frustrations, while building in information about who you are and what you do.
At this stage, you aren’t making a hard sell for your services. The focus of your marketing materials and communications is still on your prospects, with some soft selling of your services mixed in, so you follow up with articles, audio recordings, case studies from happy clients, any awards you’ve won or media mentions, and so forth. The more you follow up with great educational materials, the more likely suspects will be to contact you when they start considering hiring a real estate agent.
Step 3 – Marketing To Prospects
At some point in your marketing follow up, your suspect’s mindset will shift from “I’m interested. Tell me more…” to “I’m ready to take steps to buy or sell my home and I’ll consider hiring you as my agent.” This is when selling begins.
If your marketing has done its job and you’ve successfully educated suspects about the benefits of solving their problem through repeated follow up, the selling process becomes much easier. Selling starts when a suspect begins one-on-one communication with you – such as by sending you an email or requesting a consultation – and ends with a signed working agreement.
Selling is a delicate process that works best when you actively listen to the challenges, concerns, and frustrations of your prospect; uncover their motivations and what is holding them back; and together reach a mutual understanding about how to best meet their home buying or selling needs. This isn’t about pitching your services to your prospect and expecting him to listen intently to your full sales presentation. Rather, it’s about letting your prospect do most of the talking and leading your prospect towards a mutually beneficial working agreement.
Step 4 – Marketing to Clients
Marketing doesn’t stop when prospects become clients. Now that your client has agreed to work with you, it’s time to help them find their perfect home or get the best price for their house. It’s easy to forget that every interaction you have with your client is another opportunity to market to them. Delivering exceptional client service is only one element. Asking for feedback during the process and quickly righting any wrongs or disagreements that come up during your working relationship is essential.
Step 5 – Marketing to Advocates
If your working relationship goes well and your client leaves happy, he will be a good candidate to become an advocate for your service. Advocates are people that tell others about you and refer business to you. Consider putting a referral reward system in place where you provide incentives to actively encourage any referrals your advocates send your way.
Prospecting for new clients must be one of your top daily priorities, as people do business with those they know, like and trust – and only after they’ve decided the time is right to buy or sell their home. That means continually being in front of people and building relationships so when they have a need for your real estate services, you are the first agent they think of calling.