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I’m New, I’m Broke, and I’m Finding Solutions

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Creating greatness from scratch isn’t always easy

I’ve been working on my site as we discussed last time (as well as working on my career) and as of right now, the site isn’t complete. I’ve had some great ideas (both my own and those from others) and we’ll get into those soon, but in the meantime, in order that you don’t forget me (why would you want to?), I decided to write something to try and help new agents struggling through the same sorts of things I am.

Having scratch to create greatness isn’t always easy either

We all know its not easy your first few months of being an agent. You’re still learning tons, you’re out trying to meet people and get clients to work with, you’re going to training classes, you’re driving back and forth showing people houses, doing open houses, working rentals, and just trying to get your career kick-started. So between the cost of your licensing classes, the test, fingerprinting, local board and national association memberships, MLS dues, SUPRA key cost, desk fees, franchise fees, lunches, etc., you’re probably thinking that this whole idea of being an agent is costing you a fortune and in the first lean months, everything seems a bit hopeless.

Now that you’re a few thousand dollars into your career, the phone calls start. Buy this, order these, we’ll make you rich, we’ll give you leads…you know the ones. Everywhere you turn someone has their hand out and everyone is offering you the solution to your money woes. Some of these companies have great reputations and from my own experience, very well trained sales people. I spent almost an hour listening to a guy one day who talked me into everything he was explaining. Luckily, the one thing he couldn’t do was get me to whip out my war-worn credit cards. I’m a cheap bastard, there’s no doubt about it. I don’t like to get sucked in by these people, but when you’re not selling houses and someone starts explaining how they could help you…well, its as tempting as my wife’s double chocolate fudge brownies.

So, all these people got me thinking. What should I spend my money on? Where can I save money? How can I get stuff for free? So I decided to compile a little list of my favorite ideas for saving my oh-so precious cash.

(Note: For those of you with years of experience, these tips might seem super-obvious, so you might just want to skip to the comments section and leave your best ideas for us new agents to borrow from, I’d hate to bore you.)

Creating greatness from nothing (or little) with help from others

  • Title companies. Find a great title company that you like and can get along with. Meet the various business development staff and/or marketing managers. Make friends with them. Title companies are a great resource for goodies of all sorts. They set me apart from the rest, with no cost to me (you’d be surprised how few people take advantage of the freebies being offered). At open houses, I use these marketing materials, a copy of the MLS printout, a custom flyer I make, a business card (ok, so I paid for these) and put them all in a folder provided by my broker (that he didn’t pay for either thanks to the various insurance agents, lenders, and handymen that put ads on them). When you come to my open house, you leave with information on the home, information from the title company (current topics include TX tax rates, energy efficiency, local wineries, and a school guide), and my card, all tucked neatly into a folder that potential buyers will open later that night and look through (hopefully). Not only have you given your potential clients something tangible to remind them of you, but you’ve now begun building a relationship with a title company that you can rely on when the sales start happening.
  • Lenders. We all know a good lender can save you in a transaction. One who’s willing to go the distance and turn a crumbling transaction into a happy ending, but what I like about a good lender is their willingness to work with you to help create marketing materials. Need some just listed cards? Get a good lender to advertise with you and split the cost (or get them to foot the whole bill). Want some snazzy flyers printed out to give to potential buyers at your next open house? Ask a lender to make them for you (they’re trying to meet new clients just like you are). The idea is that you do the leg work (hanging out at an open house) and they pay the cost for advertising them (and to your benefit – you).
  • Websites. Build your own. Have a friend do it. Have the kid at the local high school do it. Throw out your template site and create – you’ll find it challenging at first, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you will get. I stayed up all night writing my first AG article, then threw it away and wrote something entirely different, but the satisfaction (and feedback) I received encouraged me to do more and to become more involved. You’ll see…the first step is the hardest. This one isn’t exactly free, but the creative aspect of it comes from your mind…and that doesn’t cost a thing, except time (and maybe a few lattes at the local coffee shop to keep you going).
  • Software. Don’t throw your money away on the latest trend in contact management. Many solutions are out there and free. Open source is the way to go. Need Microsoft Office? Try OpenOffice (www.openoffice.org). Need Photoshop? Try Gimp (www.gimp.org). Need contact management? Try any decent email program (Outlook, Thunderbird, Mail). Take a look at www.sourceforge.net for tons of great software to fit your needs. Best part is, by getting involved in the open source community you can help shape the software to do the things you want it to do.
  • Printing. There are tons of way to go punk-rock-DIY with this. First, there’s some great sites that you can create custom flyers/postcards/brochures and I will be glad to share them with anyone that wants to know (I didn’t want to turn this into one giant ad for all the things I like). Plus Lani wrote a great article right here on AgentGenius about making DIY flyers using readily available items on the internet.
  • Read everything you can. Reading has been my best bet in the early days of my career. Taking classes is a great idea and I don’t discourage you from it at all, but the internet is free. Mostly I read other agents blogs and industry news, but some people swear by the various motivational/sales training books available (and there’s millions of them). I prefer the internet blogs and sites, as they are free and more geared towards what I am trying to build for myself (ie, blogging, new technology, creative ways to let your clients know that you’re not just another agent).

Now its your turn…

These are just a few of the ways I’ve found to get things I needed done for free or on the cheap. What are you doing to create greatness without breaking the bank?

Matt is a former PA-based rockstar turned real estate agent with RE/MAX Access in San Antonio, TX. He was asked to join AgentGenius to provide a look at the successes and trials of being a newer agent. His consumer-based outlook on the real estate business has helped him see things from both sides. He is married to a wonderful woman from England who makes him use the word "rubbish."

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Lisa Sanderson

    October 23, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    Great, but you forgot to link to the brownie recipe. =)

    You really did cover the big ones. The only other things I would suggest are, following experienced agents around if they’ll let you…go on some appointments with them, and study maps and drive around and learn your territory (you might want to do this on your bike to save on gas :p) Learn as much as you can so that when you do get breathing people in front of you, you can wow ’em with your smarts and your enthusiasm to find the answers they need!

  2. Jim Duncan

    October 23, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    go on some appointments with them, and study maps and drive around and learn your territory (you might want to do this on your bike to save on gas :p

    Ab-so-lutely. I got lost with clients early on in my career – they were new to the area (and apparently so was I) – and I was supposed to be the area “expert.” Ha.

    Needless to say, I learned a valuable lesson, and didn’t see or hear from them again.

    Always, always, always, preview a route if you are unfamiliar with the area … and even if you are, it can’t hurt if you haven’t been through a particular area in a couple of weeks – a new coffee shop, construction, demolition …

  3. Benn Rosales

    October 23, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    Ah how about borrowing a hot property from a fellow agent for an open house. Locate a popular area with low days on market, find a hot listing and offer the selling agent the opportunity to double their homes exposure over the next weekend. It’s a kick ass way to grab a a buyer or two and meet the neighbors in the neighborhood (you know the curious ones that shop every open house) who may be looking to sell too!

    Make darn sure you have handouts for shoppers of all homes on the market in the hood with your card and remind them you’re only a block away if they need to tour (no pressure of course).

    A fast way of building partnerships with those inside/outside of your brokerage is to preview their vacant listing and give them a shout with feedback. Ask them if they would mind you exposing them home for them- we’ve all been new, most won’t say no. You could blog, craigslist for them daily (a pain in the ass many would pass off to a noob), open home.

  4. Matt Stigliano

    October 23, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Getting lost is horrible the first few times. I recommend Nav4All if you don’t have a GPS solution. It loads on most PDA-style phones and is FREE. I think I mentioned it before, but thought it would be a good time to re-mention it.

    Speaking of “early on in your career” and “clients” – practice opening lockboxes. Its embarrassing when they don’t open for you with the client holding the screen door for you. Of course, there’s not much you can do when the listing agent gives you the wrong combo for the box and when you call and they insist its correct, only to call you back four hours later to tell you that you were right.

    I try to visit one neighborhood a day, even if I’m just trying to find a short cut.

  5. Matt Stigliano

    October 23, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Benn – I never thought of going outside the brokerage (except for new homes). D’oh! That’s why you run a site with the word “genius” in it.

    I actually have done KB Homes open houses every weekend this month…they love it and I’ve met quite a few potential buyers, plus learned about several neighborhoods that I might not have known about. One thought for people surrounded by new home communities (like we are here in San Antonio)…find out when the companies fiscal year ends. They want to get rid of inventory even more during the time leading up to it and will do whatever they can to help you sell their house that’s a drain on their bottom line.

  6. Bob

    October 23, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    Some good ideas there Matt. Here is a freebie:

    Craigslist – find a listing agent with inventory and ask permission to advertise their listings on Craigslist. Tell them you’ll do like IDX and put in some fine print about ‘courtesy of the listing office’.

    I have a couple of agents who do this with my listings. One submits in the morning for those surfing at work and the other in late afternoon for those surfing at home.

    They get buyer leads and I get ongoing multiple ads for my sellers.

    One money saving note of caution – don’t ever cop to or hint at a RESPA violation:

    get them to foot the whole bill

    If you can do the open house gig regularly, the weekly signage is good, cheap effective branding that will lead to listings. And of course those would be “Rock Star” brownies served up.

  7. Paula Henry

    October 23, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    In this market – I have heard only about one-third of agents are doing any business; meaning more than one transaction a year. Ask around and find those agents who are giving up, ask for their referrals, and pay them a referral fee.

    Craigs List is a great idea!

  8. Jason Sandquist

    October 24, 2008 at 7:33 am

    Don’t do what I did, get every piece of everything that nearly bankrupted me! You don’t need all that crap. I dumped a lot of money into websites that didn’t get me anything because unfortunately that is what I was told I needed.

    The open source stuff is great, doesn’t cost a thing. Open houses and spheres, along with networking is what worked best for me. It was a grind, but fun at the same time. Get in front of people. Get permission to plug other peoples listing. I once worked a listing for another agent so hard (open houses, flyers, etc), got permission for everything, that the sellers actually started to call me, that wasn’t my intentions of course, but it teaches you how to work. I just wanted to meet some buyers.

  9. Ben Goheen

    October 24, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Amen Jason – most of us have done the exact same thing (myself included). I’m now extremely skeptical of EVERY sales pitch and have most rebuttals down to a science.

    Some very inexpensive resources I’ve found are:

    1. gotprint.net business cards – 1,000 for under $16.

    2. With 101fax.com you get a toll free fax number for $10 (once, not monthly) and have unlimited incoming faxes.

    3. WordPress – hosted on your own domain of course. Free and extremely powerful, what else could you ask for.

  10. Matt Stigliano

    October 24, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Bob – Good point on RESPA. Luckily I have never had someone foot the whole bill, I just typed it in my excitement for what I was trying to get across. I can see where that would raise some eyebrows and I will make a note to watch “excited” phrases like that.

    Jason – An agent in my office with years of experience always tells me his stories about trying everything out in his early years. He gave me a great answer for when someone is trying to sell me leads. His suggestion? “Sure, I’d love to try your product. Give me three free months, and if I close as many deals as you say I will, then I will pay for a full year in advance.” I have yet to be given a three month trial of any lead generation system, but I also haven’t had to listen to several more hours of sales pitch.

    On the subject of teaming up with more experienced agents, I have to say that I have become good friends with one of our top agents in the office. He’s proven invaluable to me in more ways then one. Open house opportunities, rentals (he’s a property manager too), and tons of great conversations where he teaches me the little tips that you can only learn over time (negotiation skills, how to relate to different mindsets when on a listing appointment, etc.). Best of all, we’ve gotten to a point where no matter how busy he is, he takes the few extra moments to answer my call when I’m in a bind and I don’t have the answer. All because I took the time to make a friend and ask questions early on. He’s an overall nice, helpful guy, but I truly feel that he looks after me and wants me to succeed.

    And Benn mentioned feedback…I always give feedback and have actually had a call from the office of one of the superstar agents in town…to thank me for it. Not only did I get points for what I did, but it showed me how the top producers succeed. A simple call made me know that that agent isn’t just some bigshot that doesn’t care…and I’m not even a client, imagine what she does for them!

    Lisa – She makes boxed brownies but I swear they come out better than when I make them. She’s got a magic touch with them. She also makes the best poached eggs and toast. May sound laughable, but I screw both of those up every time.

    Ben – Awesome resources. Thanks for sharing!

  11. loftninja

    November 4, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    a very encouraging post…very much appreciated. I used to think i was the only one.

  12. Matt Stigliano

    November 4, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    loftninja – I spent a lot of time feeling like “I was the only one” on a lot of real estate issues. Part of why The Stigliano Chronicles was created by Benn and Lani for me to write. We had several discussions about my experiences in my early days and they often said ask so-and-so, they’ve been there before.

  13. loftninja

    November 4, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    well i certainly appreciate your blog and all of your helpful advice

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Business Marketing

Hiring managers keep you on your toes – make them take the 1st step

(MARKETING) If you want to stand out from other job applicants, weird outfits, stunts, and baked goods will only get you so far – or it could backfire.

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hiring managers interview

According to research by employment search website Simply Hired, hiring managers get an average of 34 applications per job listing, but they spend time genuinely considering an average of only 12.6% of them – that’s less than 1/3. Some applicants may feel the need to go above and beyond the average application and do something unusual or unexpected to grab the hiring manager’s attention.

Simply Hired conducted a survey to find out whether or not “nontraditional” strategies to stand out are worth the risk, or whether it makes sense to stick to a traditional resume and cover letter. They surveyed over 500 hiring managers and over 500 job applicants to find out what sort of outside-of-the-box approaches applicants are willing to take, and which ones do and don’t pay off.

Most notably, the survey found that over 63% of hiring managers find attention-grabbing gimmicks totally unacceptable, with only 20.2% saying they were acceptable. Hiring managers were also given a list of unusual strategies to rank from most to least acceptable. Unsurprisingly, the least acceptable strategy was offering to sleep with the hiring manager – which should really go without saying.

Interestingly, hiring managers also really disliked when applicants persistently emailed their resumes over and over until they got a response. One or two follow-up emails after your initial application aren’t such a bad idea – but if you don’t get a response after that, continuing to pester the hiring manager isn’t going to help.

While sending baked goods to the office was considered a somewhat acceptable strategy, sending those same cookies to the manager’s home address was a big no-no. Desserts might sweeten your application, but not if you cross a professional boundary by bringing them to someone’s home – that’s just creepy.

Another tactic that hiring managers received fairly positively was “enduring extreme weather to hand-deliver a resume” – but waiting around for inclement weather to apply for a job doesn’t seem very efficient. However, hiring managers did respond well to applicants who went out of their way to demonstrate a skill, for example, by creating a mock product or presentation or completing their interview in a second language. A librarian who was surveyed said she landed her job by making her resume into a book and creating QR codes with links to her portfolio, while a woman applying to work at the hotel hopped behind the counter and started checking customers in.

It’s worth noting that while most hiring managers aren’t into your gimmicks and games, of the 12.9% of applicants who said they have risked an unusual strategy, 67.7% of those actually landed the job.

Still, it’s probably a safer bet to stick to the protocol and not try any theatrics. So then, what can you actually do to improve your chances of landing the job?

Applicants surveyed tended to focus most of their time on their resumes, but according to hiring managers, the interview and cover letter are “the top ways to stand out among the rest.” Sure, brush up your resume, but make sure to give equal time to writing a strong cover letter and practicing potential interview questions.

In the survey, applicants also tended to overestimate the importance of knowing people within the company and having a “unique” cover letter and interview question answers; meanwhile, they underestimated the importance of asking smart questions at the interview and personality. In fact, hiring managers reported that personality was the most impactful factor in their hiring decisions.

It appears that the best way to stand out in a job interview is to wow them with your personality and nail the interview. Weird outfits, stunts, and baked goods will only get you so far – and in fact, may backfire.

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Business Marketing

Use nostalgia as a marketing niche for your business today

(MARKETING) A market that is making waves is found in the form of entertainment nostalgia. Everyone has memories and attachments, why not speak to them?

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nostalgia

Is it just me or does it seem like there is something for everything nowadays? Let me clarify, as that is a rather broad question…

With the way communicating through technology has advanced, it’s become much easier to connect with those who have shared interests. This has become especially evident with interests in the entertainment community.

Entertainment nostalgia

It now seems like there is an event for every bit of nostalgia you can imagine. Autograph shows, meet and greets, and memorabilia collections of all kinds are held in convention halls all around the world. (To give you an idea of how deep this thing goes, there was a “Grease 2” reunion convention sometime within the last five years. Being that I’m the only person I’ve ever met who likes that movie, it’s amazing that it found an audience.)

This idea of marketing by use of nostalgia is something that is becoming smartly tapped and there are a variety of directions it can go in.

For example, the new Domino’s ads feature dead-on tributes to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

What’s your niche?

If you’re a fan of anything, it’s likely that you can find an event to suit your needs.

And, if you want to take it a step further, you can think outside the box and use nostalgia as a marketing tool.

I recently began dabbling in social media gigs that have brought me to a few different fan conventions. One was a throwback 80s and 90s convention that featured everyone from Alan Thicke to the members of N*SYNC. Another is a recurring convention that brings together fans of sci-fi, horror, and everything under that umbrella.

I was amazed by the number of people that came out to these events and the amount of money that was spent on the day’s activities (autographs, photo ops, etc.). I was energized by the fact that you can take something you have a great appreciation for and bring together others who share that feeling. Watching people meet some of their favorite celebrities is something that is priceless.

Hop onboard the nostalgia train

If you’re a fan of something, you don’t have to look too far to find what you’d enjoy – going back to the aforementioned “Ferris Bueller” example, there is a first-ever John Hughes fan event taking place in Chicago next month that will bring fans to their favorite Brat Pack members.

In the same thought, if you have an idea, now is the time to find others who share that interest and execute your vision.

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Business Marketing

5 tips to help you craft consistently high-converting email marketing

(MARKETING) Email may seem too old to be effective but surprisingly it’s not, so how can you get the most out of your email marketing? Try these tips.

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Email marketing

Email marketing might seem archaic in comparison to modern mediums like social media, blogging, and podcasting; however, it actually remains one of the highest converting options marketers and small businesses have at their disposal.

But Why Email?

Hopefully, you believe in email as an effective marketing channel, but in case you have doubts, let’s hit the reset button. Here’s why email marketing is worth investing in:

  • Email is one of the few marketing channels that you have total control over. Unlike a social media audience, which can disappear if the platform decides you violate their terms, you own your email list.
  • Email is considered very personal. When someone gives you access to their inbox, they’re telling you that you can send them messages.
  • From a pure analytics perspective, email gives you the ability to track behaviors, study what works, and get familiar with the techniques that don’t.
  • The ROI of email marketing is incredibly high. It can deliver as much as $44 in value for every $1 spent.

5 Tips for High-Converting Emails

If you’ve been using email, but haven’t gotten the results you’d like to, it’s probably because you’re using it ineffectively.

Here are a few very practical tips for high-converting emails that generate results:

  1. Write Better Subject Lines: Think about email marketing from the side of the recipient. (Considering that you probably receive hundreds of emails per week, this isn’t hard to do.) What’s going to make you engage with an email? It’s the subject line, right?If you’re going to focus a large portion of your time and energy on one element of email marketing, subject lines should be it.The best subject lines are the ones that convey a sense of urgency or curiosity, present an offer, personalize to the recipient, are relevant and timely, feature name recognition, or reference cool stories.
  2. Nail the Intro”: Never take for granted the fact that someone will open your email, and read to the second paragraph. Some will – but most will scan the first couple of lines, and then make a decision on how to proceed.It’s critically important that you get the intro right. You have maybe five seconds to hook people in, and get them excited. This is not a time to slowly build up. Give your best stuff away first!
  3. Use Video: Email might be personal, but individual emails aren’t necessarily viewed as special. That’s because people get so many of them on a daily basis.According to Blue Water Marketing, “The average person receives more than 84 emails each day! So how do you separate your emails from everyone else? Embed videos in your emails can increase your conversion rates by over 21 percent!”This speaks to a larger trend of making emails visually stimulating. The more you use compelling visuals, the more engaging and memorable the content will be.
  4. Keep Eyes Moving: The goal is to keep people engaging with your email content throughout. While it’ll inevitably happen with a certain percentage of recipients, you want to prevent people from dropping off as they read.One of the best ways to keep sustained engagement is to keep eyes effortlessly moving down the page with short and succinct copy.One-liners, small paragraphs, and lots of spacing signal a degree of approachability and simplicity. Use this style as much as you can.
  5. Don’t Ask Too Much: It can be difficult to convey everything you want to say in a single email, but it’s important that you stay as focused as possible – particularly when it comes to CTAs and requests.Always stick to one CTA per email. Never ask multiple questions or present different offers. (It’ll just overwhelm and confuse.) You can present the same CTA in multiple places – like at the beginning, middle, and end of the email – but it needs to be the same call. That’s how you keep people focused and on-task.

Give Your Email Marketing Strategy a Makeover

Most businesses have some sort of email lists. Few businesses leverage these lists as well as they should. Hopefully, this article has provided you with some practical and actionable tips that can be used to boost engagement and produce more conversions. Give them a try and see what sticks.

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