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Flipping The Question On Its Head

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Editor’s Note

As an aging member of Genration X trying to figure out where he left his car keys, I was unable to put together a really cool video as counterpoint. But in the interest of an even battle, I’m writing this post on my computer as I drive down I-17. And you – yes, you in the blue Pontiac Sunbird – please get out of the left lane if you’re only going to drive 52 MPH. Wait … I’m not in the left lane anymore???

Looking At This The Wrong Way

Yesterday’s lockbox debate left me flummoxed. At its heart, it’s the perfect example of real estate being local. For those working in very tight, very small markets – say Connecticut – it probably makes sense to set appointments with the listing agent. But for those of us in a place like Maricopa County – larger than Connecticut and several other states – it’s a bit more problematic.

But really, that’s neither here not there. Because the question as I see it is the customer service that we’re providing to our seller (even if they’re really a client and not a customer, but client service sounds like I ought to be arranging a visit from some nieces.)

Start to Finish Service

So what else can I do to provide outstanding customer service start to finish? Well, if I’m already present while the buyers are going through the house and am answering any questions, reading their body language and listening to their perception of the home’s value, I also probably ought to write the purchase contract. I’m a certified instructor with the state, the other agent probably isn’t, and it would be poor service if I presented a vague, incomplete or otherwise wonky contract to the sellers.

Sure, there are agency issues but we’ll get to those.

Thinking about it further, we probably ought to write the contract in the sellers’ living room and present it at a town hall meeting at the kitchen table. If the buyers have any questions the sellers can answer them then and there, but we should be able to get everything hashed out in a few minutes time.

When the time comes for inspections, since there’s no lockbox, I’ll need to be present again. Which is fine, because then I’ll be versant in whatever issues the inspector might uncover. And since I’m already there and the buyers already are there, I may as well write up the inspection report just to make sure everything is in the right place (scary to think how many agents don’t know the difference between a warranted item and a negotiatble repair.)

Can’t do this at the kitchen table but as part of my service I’d make sure it was done in a timely fashion for all parties involved.

As a good listing agent I’ll already have spoken to the buyers’ lender when I received the LSR to make sure the loan was legit. If one call’s good, then a dozen calls are even better. So I suppose I’ll continue checking with the lender to make sure the loan’s on track.

And then there are the calls to escrow I’m already making to ensure everything’s moving forward. I’d never attend the buyers’ side of the closing when I represent the seller, but maybe I should just in case there are other questions to answer.

Which All Leads To …

… the ultimate question, which is this: why is the supposed buyers’ agent receiving a dime in this deal? Because of the incredible customer service I’ve rendered for my seller (which later transferred to the buyer), the buyers’ agent in this scenario would have done absolutely zero. Which would make them the laziest REALTOR in the world, by my reckoning.

Once you’ve abrogated your first basic responsibility – to show the home to your buyers – where do you stop surrendering the basics of what you’re supposed to do. Put another way, if your knowledge level is such that you need me there to point out the sconces and upgraded cabinets, you’re probably better off leaving the transaction to me anyway.

This suddenly has become a dual agency situation, which will cause some to head for the pitchforks and the torches, but let’s face it … the buyers’ agent wasn’t representing the seller in this case anyway.

Understanding the Sellers’ Perspective

And, for the record, I do understand the perspective given in the comments about a seller wanting to make sure their agent does everything possible to sell their house. I’ve heard the same.

What I tell my sellers is it’s my job to market the home and get it sold. How I do it shouldn’t matter quite as much as that it gets done. The most elaborate, expensive marketing in the world is useless if the home doesn’t actually sell.

I’m not pushing samples at Costco and trying to get someone to buy a box as they move on looking for the 12-pack of paper towels. I’m selling a (generally) six-figure property that more often than not is sold because of an emotional connection between buyer and home. The features that mean most to you may mean nothing to a buyer, so pointing them out ad nauseum will hurt the cause, not help.

Keep in mind, this only applies to situations where the buyers already have an agent. Clearly, if someone without an agent wants to see the property, I’ll be there.

After all, the buyers couldn’t work the lockbox without an electronic key even if they tried.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Matt Stigliano

    March 20, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Jonathan – I should have known you’d have a reply. I love how you lead from step to step of what you should be doing. Some may call it exaggeration, but I see it pretty clearly.

    Nice post.

  2. Chuck G

    March 20, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Finally….A voice of reason.

  3. Jonathan Dalton

    March 20, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    Thank you, gentlemen!

  4. Elaine Reese

    March 21, 2009 at 9:19 am

    I read the “lockbox” article and didn’t bother to comment because IMO it was a disjointed concept and totally unrealistic. NOT having a lockbox on a home is poor customer service in this area where listings may be 20 miles apart or more.

    Sellers hire me to MARKET their home such that it sells. A piece of that marketing is providing top-notch materials in the home so that all the “extra” info about the special features and BENEFITS of the home are available for all to read, view and take with them. That’s my job.

    If I’m spending my day criss-crossing two counties to be at every showing, then I’m not doing what I should be doing which is to market the home to the most buyers possible. Actually being in the home during showings would have an opposite affect in that it would DETER buyer’s acceptance. Thus, BEING IN THE HOME would be POOR customer service.

  5. BawldGuy

    March 27, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    Thanks Jon, you said what I was thinking, only all our words are found in Webster’s.

    Using Sellers as analogous to owners of baseball teams, I remember explaining to my young son, Josh, why Cecil Fielder made so much more than our own Tony Gwynn. After all, Tony hit about 70-100 points better for average, and struck out about 20-30 times yearly, something Fielder accomplished monthly with little effort.

    I explained to him baseball decides who wins and who loses based upon the number of runs scored. Gwynn averaged about 50-80 RBI a year, with about 8-12 homers. Meanwhile Fielder was knocking in 120+ runs a season, not to mention his 30-40+ homers.

    Teams don’t win cuz they out hit the other guys, they win cuz they outscore ’em.

    Sellers pay agents for closed sales. Period. The rest is what goes into the hot air balloon and is called ‘service’. Singles hitters get paid well, but RBI kings get wealthy.

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Business Marketing

7 low-budget marketing ideas for small businesses to grow their reach

(MARKETING) Marketing ideas are often expensive or ultra time consuming, but let’s talk about some proven tactics that won’t break the bank.

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Man leaning against wall on phone representing marketing.

The following marketing ideas are provided to you buy Threadsy:

No matter the size of your business, marketing matters! It’s important for small and big businesses alike to attract new customers, establish brand awareness, and to create buzz around products and services. But we know that not every business owner has tons of funds to devote to their marketing strategy. The good news? There are some highly effective marketing tactics that are also budget-friendly!

Here are seven low-budget marketing strategies for small business owners and side hustlers to grow their reach:

1. Sponsor Local Events

One of the best ways to get to know potential customers? Actually meet and talk to them! When you sponsor local events, you can be on-site to help people put a face with your business’s name. Sponsoring events is also a fantastic way to offer branded merchandise that can help you get your name and your logo out there.

Besides branded materials like signs, banners, or fliers, think about offering some fun items like wine bags to give away to attendees. Goody bags also make fantastic take-home options for local events. A branded canvas tote can be repurposed as an environmentally-friendly grocery bag, lunch bag for work, or a carry-all accessory for conventions and tradeshows. Print your logo on the outside and fill your goody bags with customized items like water bottles, notebooks, pens, and towels.

2. Let Your Colors Fly

Make some cool t-shirts featuring your logo! Wear them to the sponsored events mentioned above, out in the community, or anywhere you may encounter potential customers and can strike up a conversation. You can also offer t-shirts at a discount in-store or online, and turn your loyal customers into advertisers.

Quick tip: Purchase wholesale shirts to reduce manufacturing costs.

3. Social Media

If you’re not already leveraging social media to promote your business, it’s time to start! Think your customers aren’t using social networks? While certain demographics use various platforms more than others, according to fundera, 74% of consumers rely on social media to guide purchasing decisions. Plus, 96% of small businesses say they use social media in their marketing strategy.

So use your social media channels to level the playing field. To maximize your time and effort, determine where your audience members spend their time. Which platforms are they using? If you have a dedicated social media strategist on staff, they can perform audience research to tailor your approach to your existing and potential customers. If you’re running your own social strategy, spend some time digging into the demographics to determine which platforms make the most sense for your brand. From there, you’ll need to decide on the types of content you want to post, how to interact with your customers online, and create a social media calendar to plan your strategy.

4. Host a Giveaway

Once you’ve got your social media strategy up and running, why not host an online giveaway/sweepstakes to build some buzz, boost engagement, and attract followers? Pick a social media platform where you already engage with your customers. You’ll want to offer an item as the prize. This can be anything from a free product, a discount on an expensive product or service, or inexpensive swag like hats to help you promote your brand.

Once you’ve chosen the prize(s), decide on the terms for your giveaway. For example, an Instagram sweepstakes might look like this:

  • Create posts about the giveaway and explain the rules (multiple stories and 1 or 2 posts depending on the length of the contest)
  • These posts should specify the terms, for example:
    – In order to enter, potential winners must follow you
    – Encourage your followers to tag other people who may be interested. Each “tag” gets them another entry into the contest
    – You can also specify that contest applicants must share your post on their own profile
  • Once the contest has ended, pick a winner. Tag them in a post and story announcing what they’ve won and ask them to also share these posts to their own profile

Quick tip: You can also offer smaller or less-expensive items as consolation prizes. People love free swag and it’s an easy way to get your name out there!

5. Referral Discounts

Offering friends and family discounts on your products or services can help you establish loyalty and promote exclusivity. Offer discount codes or create a refer-a-friend program. You can also offer small incentives for customers who share about your brand on social media. Referral discounts are a great marketing strategy whether you use them in-store, online, or both.

6. Create or Update Your Blog

If you already have a website, you can put it to use to help build brand awareness and attract high-funnel customers. Blogging is a low-cost way to generate organic traffic (website visitors via Google or other search engines). If you don’t already have a blog, there are a number of free and inexpensive blog platforms you can use including Wix and WordPress.

You’ll want to write about topics that are related to your product or service and are of interest to your customers. For example, if you offer graphic design, you might want to create content about how to find an effective graphic designer online, or which projects you can do with an online platform like Canva vs. more complex projects where you should hire a professional designer.

Your website and blog are also great places to post “about us” content to offer website visitors an opportunity to learn more about you, your business, and your mission and values.

7. Update Your Google My Business Profile

Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool that allows you to share important information about your business like your address, hours of operation, and contact information. When your listing is optimized with this information, it’s displayed in Google Search and will also appear in Google Maps, which can help you attract local customers.

To get started, you need to create a GMB profile and verify your business information. This is a relatively simple but important step to ensure customers are able to find your business or service online. Make sure to keep your listing updated if you change any information like your website URL, address, or hours.

The takeaway:

When creating your marketing strategy, remember to stay true to your brand. Not every tactic will be the most effective for every business. Choose the tactics that make sense for your brand or product offering. Another way to prioritize is to consider the perceived impact and effort of each marketing strategy. Use the strategies that require the lowest effort but will potentially drive the highest return.

Once you have those in place, decide which of the other strategies make sense for your customers and your business goals. Also, make sure to keep track of all of your marketing expenditures and the sales from these tactics so you can assess which ones were successful and which ones you may need to re-evaluate or alter.

Remember, when it comes to marketing, it’s an ever-evolving system. Trust the process and try to have some fun with your marketing strategy!

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Business Marketing

No-reply emails don’t help customers, they’ve run their course

(MARKETING) No-reply emails may serve a company well, but the customers can become frustrated with the loss of a quick and easy way to get help.

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no-reply mail boxes

Let me tell you a modern-day horror story.

You finally decide to purchase the item that’s been sitting in your cart all week, but when you receive your confirmation email you realize there’s a mistake on the order. Maybe you ordered the wrong size item, maybe your old address is listed as the shipping location, or maybe you just have buyer’s remorse. Either way, you’ve got to contact customer service.

Your next mission is to find contact information or a support line where you can get the issue resolved. You scroll to the bottom of the email and look around for a place to contact the company, but all you find is some copyright junk and an unsubscribe option. Tempting, but it won’t solve your problem. Your last hope is to reply to the confirmation email, so you hit that trusty reply arrow and…nothing. It’s a no-reply email. Cue the high-pitched screams.

Customers should not have to sort through your website and emails with a microscope to find contact information or a customer service line. With high customer expectations and fierce ecommerce competition, business owners can’t afford to use no-reply emails anymore.

Intended or not, no-reply emails send your customer the message that you really don’t want to hear from them. In an age when you can DM major airlines on Twitter and expect a response, this is just not going to fly anymore.

Fixing this issue doesn’t need to be a huge burden on your company. A simple solution is to create a persona for your email marketing or customer service emails, it could be member of your team or even a company mascot. Rather than using noreply@company.com you can use john@company.com and make that email a place where your email list can respond to questions and communicate concerns. Remember, the whole point of email marketing is to create a conversation with your customers.

Another great strategy for avoiding a million customer service emails where you don’t want them? Include customer service contact info in your emails. Place a thoughtful message near the bottom of your template letting people know where they can go if they’re having an issue with the product or service. This simple change will save you, your customers, and your team so much time in the long-run.

Your goal as a business owner is to build a trusting relationship between you and your customers, so leave the no reply emails behind. They’re annoying and they might even get you marked as spam.

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Business Marketing

Influencer marketing isn’t new, it’s actually centuries old

(MARKETING) You may roll your eyes at sexy strangers hawking snake oil on social media, but influencer marketing is nothing new…

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Influencer marketing people taking video on a smart phone to record dances.

Influencer marketing is now one of those buzzword phrases that you can’t go a few days without hearing. In fact, it’s become such a popular term that it was officially added to the English Dictionary in 2019.

While this is a recent change, the concept of an influencer is nothing new. For years, people have looked to friends and family (as well as high-profile people like celebrities) to be influenced (intentionally or unintentionally) about what to buy, what to do, and where to go.

Social Media Today notes that influencers date back centuries.

One of the first “influencer” collaborations dates back to 1760, when a potter by the name Wedgwood made a tea set for the Queen of England,” writes Brooks. “Since the monarchy were the influencers of their time, his forward-thinking decision to market his brand as Royal-approved afforded it the luxury status the brand still enjoys today”

Now, influencers are known as people blowing up your Instagram feed with recommendations of what to wear and stomach flattening teas to buy. Influencers are basically anyone who has the ability to cultivate a following and, from there, give advice on how followers should spend their money.

After the 1760 tea set influencer, influencers were found in the forms of fashion icons (like Coco Chanel in the 1920s, and Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s), celebrity endorsements (for example, all of the money Nike made in the ‘80s after signing Michael Jordan to be their spokesperson – I wonder if Hanes is raking in the same bucks as Nike…), TV stars endorsing products (like Jennifer Aniston when she was at the height of “The Rachel” cut and became the face of L’Oreal Elvive; now she’s the face of Aveeno).

Then in the mid-2000s, blogs became a space where “everyday” people could use their voice with influence. This trend has continued and has shifted into social media, usually with a blog counterpart.

Now, blogging and influencing is an industry in and of itself with influencer marketing being a key form of comms. According to the HypeAuditor report, the influencer industry will be worth $22 billion by 2025. Where can I sign up?

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