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Match the Website With the Paycheck




Show Me The Money

In the comments of a recent post right here on Agent Genius, I inquired about another Realtor’s success in developing his real estate business through social media marketing. The measure of success I was looking for is simple: closings. Yep, show me the money.

I haven’t heard back from him, but I do have some success of my own to share with those Realtors who are interested in adding to their bottom-line like I have, by building an on-line brand that results not only in clients directly requesting my assistance, but also in earning referrals from agents across the globe.

How It All Began

My husband and I entered real estate together in 2001. We’d just moved to Metro Detroit, I hadn’t lived in the area in 20 years and I had spent the last 8 years living in Europe. Let’s just say my local real estate market knowledge was small, and my sphere of influence was even smaller. RE industry knowledge – zero. My partner, my husband, faced the same challenges yet, the odds were even heavier against him. Dmitry had almost never driven a car, had never been in any type of sales position, spoke English as a second language, knew nobody outside of my family and friends because he had just immigrated about 2 months before we got our licenses together. By the way, I got mine because I had to drive him to the pre-licensing classes. The odds were stacked against us and a couple of local real estate offices were not interested in us as new licensees. Today, those same offices that wouldn’t return Dmitry’s calls in 2001, give us regular calls seeing if we would consider a move.

If I knew then what I know now, I might have bet against us too. Thankfully, I didn’t know.

Building Through Technology

We’ve built much of our business through technology. We work in one of the wealthiest areas in the State of Michigan. Many of our peers in our Sotheby’s International Realty office have built wildly successful careers through their country club memberships and their social connections. I envy them. Who, afterall, wouldn’t want to get her clients while sitting by a pool or drinking cocktails after golf? And I don’t even like golf. These are good agents who work hard and know their market. Their clients just come to them differently than mine tend to come to me.

Next week I am giving a presentation to local Realtors about social media marketing and creating/managing a web presence. That talk is the impetus for this post, and I hope it will help anyone else who wants to see a direct correlation from a Realtor, between social media marketing and building a real estate business. The missing link, and I will admit it, is that I could not begin to estimate the amount of time I have invested in building our internet presence since we started in business. For me, its a hobby as much as it is work. I enjoy it, so I spend a LOT of time on the internet. I couldn’t begin to tell you my ROI.

So where has it gotten me since we got our first listing two days before Sept 11, 2001?

I’ve established myself as a local expert and the media regularly contacts me and provides me with free exposure. In the last year I have been in most of the local papers, large and small, USA Today, Inman news (thanks Matt Carter), and interviewed on Todd Carpenter’s Blog Fiesta (thanks Todd), Oliver Muoto on the Vflyer blog (thanks Oliver, I love my vFlyers) and more. An interview about our business and how we got started appeared in last week’s Oakland Business Review and is resulting in new calls every day. The reporter found us by Googling something like “Oakland County Real Estate Couple.” Most of the main steam media reporters who interview us find us on Google. (Thanks Google)

Fine. How Does That Draw A Paycheck???

Now for the real “show me the money” part. Here are the NEW opportunities we’ve pulled in since mid-February 2008, and the sources of those opportunities (if you click on the links you’ll see our profile on those networks):

  • Trulia Voices This weekend I will be listing a condo for a seller who found me there. She will be buying when we get the place sold. She read my answers, checked out my blog and the listing presentation and interview were done before I knew she existed. (Thanks Pete, Sami, Rudy, et al.)
  • LinkedIn An agent from out of state came across my profile. We don’t know each other at all, but we’d both worked for Price Waterhouse, though in different decades, I think. He asked me to work with his mom to find a condo. We are headed out for a second time Saturday morning. (You can add me as a LinkedIn connection if we haven’t already connected.)
  • (our blog) Dmitry has spent nearly every waking hour this week showing houses to investors who flew in from Lithuania. It is kind of funny to hear him speaking Russian and talking about real estate. He’s got an earnest money check and I saw him faxing off an offer right before we left the office tonight. They want to buy more than one house and they have friends in Lithuania who are interested in investing too. I am a little behind on posting on the blog right now, but business is keeping me away. Somebody Googled “Russian Speaking Realtor Metro Detroit” and Dmitry popped up. (Thanks Google)
  •,, (our sites) ActiveRain, and all the other networks we belong to. I don’t know exactly who gets the credit for the nice referral we received from a lovely agent in Rochester MN. She just said she was impressed with what she saw, and she asked us to take care of her client who had his Birmingham MI home listed for about $1.5 million. She wanted someone with a better web strategy. We’d never met, but we get along very well. Like lots of other people, she found us “on the internet.” I haven’t bothered to ask for specifics. (Thanks Google, Jonathan, Matt, et al.)
  • I’m showing my listing at 420Suffield to two buyers who liked the website, photos and tour and gave me a call. I don’t know how they arrived there since P2A has their handshake listings, and distributes lots of places like Craigslist, Trulia and more. (Thanks Point2Agent)

The Grand Total

I have a feeling I am forgetting something, but the sum of these potential transactions is about $3.5 million. I don’t like to count my chickens before they are hatched, nor do I typically like to talk much about ME ME ME and MY business or MY clients, but I am breaking my own rules here to show that these things can be done by anyone, even YOU YOU YOU.

Yesterday I turned away a couple of referrals. We are too busy to service those clients well. I can’t hazard a guess at how many other agents in my market who would tell you they are turning away business because they are too busy, but I don’t think the number would be very big. That doesn’t mean I don’t want you to call me with your referral though!

OK, its late. I’ve spent more time on this post than I could afford at the moment. While I am sleeping soundly tonight I know my dear friends at Google will be out working for me and finding my next client. They’ll be assisted by my friends at LinkedIn, Facebook, ActiveRain. Trulia, vFlyer, Point2Agent, Flickr, and more. I can’t wait to see what opportunity they bring me tomorrow.

Writer for national real estate opinion column, focusing on the improvement of the real estate industry by educating peers about technology, real estate legislation, ethics, practices and brokerage with the end result being that consumers have a better experience.

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  1. Brad Coy

    March 7, 2008 at 1:39 am

    Thanks for sharing your story with us Maureen. I love the idea that you came into an area with no real connections and made yourself relevant enough using Social Media. It is such a non-traditional route for anyone in our industry to build a business using tools that have no real measurable ROI. I believe Social Media sites are truly in their infancy right now and at best clunky and difficult, if not impossible to integrate. I wonder how far ahead progressive leaders in RE will be ahead when this stuff really gets fun.

  2. Maureen Francis

    March 7, 2008 at 1:46 am

    Thanks Brad. I guess the infancy and the evolution of it is what keeps me engaged. There is always something new to learn.

    This post does remind me that the next time I get another invitation to a new social network I shouldn’t groan, as I have been lately. It’s taken a lot of signing up for new accounts to figure out what I liked and what might work for me.

  3. Bucking the Real Estate Trend

    March 7, 2008 at 2:06 am

    Love your attitude and success. I’m new to my area and am convinced that my website and social networking will set me apart. It’s already starting! Being in a ‘small town’ community, the word ‘blog’ is still a foreign language here. Thank you for your story and inspiration!

  4. Kris Wales

    March 7, 2008 at 3:59 am

    I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this posting. You and Dimitry started when things were just starting to turn its way downwards in the Metro Detroit area, and through your interest and skills in technology and real people skills you have not only “made it” but you shine!

    You both are a testament to the can-do spirit within all of us, and your hard work and client dedication combined bring you both to the forefront.


  5. Blue Ridge Cabin For Sale

    March 7, 2008 at 6:34 am

    And thats how you do it! Great job and vision and you realize what many realtors don’t about how your presence on the social networks brings referrals, recognized in the media and real estate community far broader than your own town. Your right many realtors are not busy and Koudos to you that you are.

  6. Teresa Boardman

    March 7, 2008 at 9:14 am

    I get most of my business just from the blog. I have profiles in the places that you mention and plan to keep them because they do help me meet people. Right now Flickr is the social network that is doing the most for me and it takes very little time. I joined a new network a couple of weeks ago that looks promising as well.

  7. LoreenaYeo

    March 7, 2008 at 9:23 am

    I love your inspirational story. It really gives the rest of us a hope that it can happen if we put our minds to it.

  8. Sparky

    March 7, 2008 at 9:30 am

    Everything I learned about Social Media Marketing, I’ve learned from Maureen! I guess I really should call Dmitry someday, just to convince myself that he really does exist!

  9. Brian Columbus

    March 7, 2008 at 9:32 am

    Finally! Someone has actually quantified the ROI of social media. The vast majority of posts I read about mention anecdotal results without any mention of deal volume. At Bloggers Connect I heard conversation after conversation about “getting business from the long tail” but when pressed few people mentioned any closings. No doubt, it happens… and will continue to grow in frequency. Thanks for sharing your detailed experience. It should inspire people to know that social media works!

  10. Maureen Francis

    March 7, 2008 at 9:32 am

    Susie, with your attitude and your beautiful Tomato blog your plan should work for you!

    Teresa, historically I’ve attributed more to the blog than from the rest too. These are actually the first opportunities that I can attribute exactly to LinkedIn and Trulia Voices. I joined linkedin many years ago, but there was not much traction on the site until last year from people I know. Voices, well I’ve been there since the beginning too. I’ve had other contacts but this seems like the most promising.

    We’ll each find our own way in the end.

  11. Toronto real estate

    March 7, 2008 at 9:55 am

    I like your attitude Maureen. It must have been difficult to start up the business with no knowledge of the subject. I work in real estate business as well (I am dealing with a Toronto real estate). Using Social Media is getting more and more popular. Just look at the presidential campaign in the United States. They use facebook, myspace, flickr and other popular sites. These sites hide a great potential. I am positive that the future of business lies in social networking.

  12. Nick

    March 7, 2008 at 11:17 am

    This is an awesome article! It’s stories like this that I need when I’m out teaching my classes to some of the R’s in the area who are very reluctant to get started with ANY of these social networks. Now I can give them some excellent examples, thank you very much!

  13. Matt Scoggins

    March 7, 2008 at 11:44 am

    What a great story! While it’s the blog and websites that bring in the business, it is the hard work put in by you and Dmitry that is at the heart of your success.

  14. Maureen Francis

    March 7, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Some of the comments were in moderation, so I missed some of you…

    Kris, as someone who shares boarders with my market, I hope we get to do a transaction together soon. I love what you are doing with your activerain blog.

    Blue Ridge, thanks!

    Loreena, I think you are doing it too.

    Sparky (AKA ActiveRich) There is a 4 year old sitting next to me that pretty much proves Dmitry’s existence.

    Brian, I too am reluctant to put the specifics in print. This post was a challenge for me, but so many people are presenting themselves as experts to us, and they are not showing us results. A great blogger and a great Realtor are not necessarily the same person.

    Nick, I am glad it helped you and its great to know that it will help the people you are training.

    Matt, there is no substitution for hard work, right?

    Thanks everyone for your comments.

  15. Hi Maureen!


    I’m really happy to see your hard earned online social networking efforts staring to pay off. Nothing happens overnight. Saying the right things on the right platform at the right time can produce results. I think lots of agents have been waiting to read a testimonial post like this from a successful agent that highlights their real world success using blogging and social networks. We’ve been hearing more and more success stories from agents meeting buyers and sellers using Trulia Voices. In fact, we published a post highlighting some them here – Our mutual friend Missy Caulk also appears in one of the videos. Woo-Hoo!

    Being social online has it’s benefits. You just never know what the fruits of your labor will bring or from where they will come from.


  16. Maureen Francis

    March 7, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Hey Rudy, thanks for the phone call today! What a nice surprise. Missy should have her own blog tv show! She’s a natural.

  17. Hi Maureen!

    My pleasure. It’s always nice talking with you. You just reminded me of a post I did last year that touched upon some of the very issues you raised here:

    I enjoy hearing about success stories from agents who provide concrete examples about their online endeavours. This helps everyone in the space learn more about what’s working and what’s not. Each experience is unique. Each market is unique. There is no magic bullet. But getting some validation from agents like yourself who have dedicated lots of time online is inspirational. As I always say, if you’re open to anything, you just might find something.


  18. P.S. Missy is a natural…..and would do great with her own show.


  19. Randy Prothero

    March 7, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Congratulations on proving that anyone in American can be successful. You need a plan, a goal and go out and work it.

  20. Eric Bouler

    March 7, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    Really great article, I do not have the high dollar sales as some of you guys but have over a hundred sales from my site so I know it can work. I only attracted one sub-prime buyer and he was a loan officer. I bet you learned a lot about your area because of your blog and site made you learn a little more so you could be the expert.

  21. Angie Ridley, Complete Realty

    March 9, 2008 at 10:05 am

    Great article. Anymore I’m not sure what to push, the website or the blog. I get business from both. I have learned people like getting to know us through our comments.

    I read your postings and most of all, I always learn from your postings.

  22. john harper

    March 10, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    Maureen – Let’s see – we have $7.8 million dollars worth of real estate about to enter the pipeline from our web presence. 3 houses worth about $4.5 million from one referral praising our Internet Marketing skills. I’ll get back to you when the money hits the bank account.

  23. Kristal Kraft

    March 11, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Maureen ~ Your story is very inspiring. You prove hard work and determination does pay off. I like the way you do it with class and style. You never miss a beat when it comes to social media. Many folks have learned and continue to watch and learn from you.

    Now will you please hush up? Who needs more competition? 🙂

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