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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.

Jonathan Dalton is a Realtor with RE/MAX Desert Showcase in Peoria, Arizona and is the author of the All Phoenix Real Estate blog as well as a half-dozen neighborhood sites. His partner, Tobey, is a somewhat rotund beagle who sleeps 21 hours a day.

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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

Simple way to send text, email appointment reminders to clients

(MARKETING) This new app has tons of automatic tools that help small businesses continue to move into the digital age with ease of use.

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reminders

As the world becomes more heavily reliant on automated messaging and computer-mediated communication, we become more reluctant to actually speak to someone on the telephone. While I often find myself in this category, I also feel saddened by what Alexander Graham Bell must think. I digress.

We can certainly argue that a major reason we prefer to text or email rather than sit on the phone is for convenience. We can send a quick text while working, as it’s much more difficult to get away with a phone call on the down low.

That’s why it’s become so popular for places such as doctor’s offices and salons to begin using text and email alerts as appointment reminders. Now, Remindr is getting in on the action.

According to their site, “Remindr.co is a tool for small businesses to schedule automated email and text message appointment reminders. Reduce your meeting no-shows by alerting your clients beforehand. Easily confirm appointments with your customers via text message.”

They proclaim that they’re “great for any business that schedules customer appointments or client meetings,” citing their top use cases as restaurant reservations, nail salons, personal trainers, barbers, tattoo shops, spas, real estate agents, independent car mechanics, and tech sales scheduling customer calls.

This is a win-win as it’s convenient for the customer, but also saves time on the business’s side because it eliminates hours of reminder calls. Additionally, the method supports the reduction of no-shows, which is incredibly important to businesses – especially small ones.

Remindr features include: text message, email, confirmation, reusable templates, schedule alerts, and easy user interface. With text messaging, businesses can send personalized SMS messages to customers from your Remindr phone number.

With email, businesses can send personalized email reminders to their customers through Remindr email addresses. Then, customers can confirm their appointment via text messages or email, and businesses can review confirmations on their Remindr account.

Businesses can create their own personalized reminder templates to pre-fill the reminder form (for example: “Hi NAME! We’re looking forward to your appointment tomorrow (DATE) at TIME. Respond YES to confirm your appointment.”) Reminders can be automatically sent via email or text at a predetermined time.

Remindr provides an easy user interface where businesses can start scheduling reminders instantly, use full-keyboard form navigation, and it is mobile friendly.

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Business Marketing

10 easy steps to get into Instagram marketing

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Want to up your social media marketing game? Start better with Instagram for your business using these easy tips to quickly get established.

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Instagram post open on a tablet

When Instagram first came on the scene, it was simply a place to share pictures of your cat or a pie that you just baked. While it still is a place for that kind of content, it has also grown into a platform where one can influence others and build an empire.

So, if you’re looking to step up your social media marketing game through use of Instagram, look no further than using these 10 steps from Neil Patel.

  1. Switch to a business profile: This is super easy and can be done in just a few clicks. Switching from a personal to a business profile gives a better look at your followers through Insights, allowing you to see analytics and impressions. It also adds a contact feature that takes a visitor right to an email draft to you – just like it would on your website. All this and it makes it possible to publish ads.
  2. Use free marketing tools: Because Facebook owns Instagram, they operate kind of similarly. As mentioned in #1, Insights allows for a deep dive into personalized analytics to see what kind of posts are clicking with your audience and which aren’t. That way, you know what kind of content to continue with and what to do away with.
  3. Post product teasers: There are a variety of ways to do this, including posting about flash sales or linking business platforms that sell your product to make it easier for your customer to shop. The trick here is to not be pushy, but instead be enticing and make the post convenient for your consumer.
  4. Create a sponsored ad: Like Facebook, you can post ads and include a specific budget of what you want to spend. You can showcase one ad or multiple with the carousel feature. You can also target the exact demographic you’re looking to hit.
  5. Instagram stories: These last 24 hours and don’t have to be as “fancy” as a regular post. Give followers a glimpse into your brand with behind-the-scenes shots, polls, fun questions, etc. Make them feel like they’re part of the experience and use this as a way to tell your brand’s story.
  6. Partner with influencers: Work out a deal with influencers who have a decent following. Send them one of your items in exchange for them posting a photo of the item and tagging your brand. This will reach their whole followership and build your credibility.
  7. Collect user-submitted photos: Share photos posted by customers loving on your brand or product. Either share them to your story, or use a regram app to repost customer photos to your feed. It’s basically free advertising for your product.
  8. Hashtags: Come up with an interactive hashtag solely for your brand. Think in terms of verbs (a la Nike’s “Just Do It”). It can be punny or practical, but something that people attribute to your brand and your brand only.
  9. Timing and over-posting: Look into the best times to post – this is when your users are most active. It will be helpful to use Insights to understand when your time to shine may be. According to SimplyMeasured, the worst days to post on Instagram are Wednesdays and Sundays, while Mondays and Thursdays are the best days to post. Also, don’t over post. It’s annoying and it’s always best to err on the side of quality over quantity.
  10. Track the right metrics: Insights do no good if you aren’t looking at the right data. You need to keep tabs on whether or not what you’re doing is increasing your follower growth as well as growth for your interaction. With research, use of Insights and a little trial and error, you’ll get yourself to where you need to be.

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Business Marketing

7 Low-budget marketing ideas for small businesses [sponsored]

(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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low budget marketing ideas

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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