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Mourning a Loss & the Agent Value Proposition

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Letting Go

Creative Commons License photo credit: Letting Go of Control


We Withdrew

We temporarily withdrew a listing this week. It had to do with the arrival of a new baby and a septic system (not in that order and, thankfully, not mine). I will spare you the details, but know that the two are unrelated. As I do every time a listing is stalled, canceled entirely, or just too long on the market, I enjoyed my own little moment of silence. I mourned the loss — lost time and lost resources. I mourned a balance sheet now a few thousand dollars lighter and hours upon hours spent sitting open houses and nurturing and attending to my charge, time I will never get back, followed by some brief introspection. Could this have been avoided?

Sometimes it just can’t be avoided. Being a listing agent is capital intensive today. It is capital intensive, that is, if it is done right. This week we also saw homes go into escrow and new listings coming down the pike, but one failure has a tendency to eclipse, even briefly, all of the good. For all of our good intentions, studied counsel, and aggressive marketing, sometimes things just don’t work out.

A real estate agent’s business plan is a little like an actuarial table. Gains and losses, life and death, successes and failures. To look at the parts and not at the whole can make you crazy, particularly when markets behave badly.

Knowing the Unknown

We don’t take listings which we think will not or can not sell. This much should be obvious. Yet, we can’t control external factors and we can’t know the unknown. Sometimes the clients who assure us that they are committed to selling at whatever price the market will bear are not committed at all when that price becomes clear. Sometimes the clients who need to sell don’t need to sell at all; it is more of a want. Wall Street has had a nasty habit lately of failing to check in with me each time things are about to get really ugly, and for all of our good intentions, even when we predict trends, we may not predict the extent of the swings or the speed at which they occur. Mostly we are right, but sometimes we are wrong.

Since the beginning of time, agent fees have been challenged. Today, with the Internet explosion and on the heels the greatest short-term housing price appreciation in history, questioning my pay is so popular that it is on the verge of becoming an Olympic sport. We hear things every day which on the face may sound logical but, considered in the larger context, are quite illogical.

But What If…

“If I have to accept less than I (need, want, expected), will you take less?” Sounds fair, until you consider that I am providing a service, a service which, by the way, costs more to deliver the longer I am engaged and nets less the lower the price at which you sell.

“If you represent me (the seller) and the buyer, will you take less?” Sounds fair, until you consider that you have just proposed that I take a pay cut for doing what you have hired me to do — sell your home. Disincentives are rarely a solid strategy.

“If I allow you to write the offer on your listing, how much will you give me?” Sounds like a valid question, until you consider that my liability, both my legal risk and the risk that one party or the other or both will leave the experience feeling short-changed, increases exponentially when I am a dual agent.

“If my home sells quickly, will you charge less?” Sounds fair, yet until you are willing to pay more when it takes longer, this doesn’t pencil out. And paying me more when it takes me longer to accomplish the mission is just silly, isn’t it?

“Homes are selling for less now, so will you charge less?” Or, “Homes are selling for more now, so will you charge less?” Sounds fair, except that this is the same argument for two conditions on opposing sides of the spectrum, which is inherently illogical. And, while our fees reflect the hard costs of doing business (the ones involving dollar signs and my personal checking withdrawal slip), there are intangible costs whatever the market. In my case, there is more than a decade of experience and hundreds of closed escrows between me and my license issuance, there are several hours a day spent reading and studying and innovating, and there are ceaseless business management and continuing education time commitments, to name a few. Whether your home sells in one week or six months, I have still been on the computer since 5:00 AM this morning (as I am every morning, Sundays and holidays included) reading about my industry and your market.

Serious About Work

Any agent who is a career agent (and we are not talking about the part-time hobbyist here) is in business to make a living and dead serious about their work. Part of running a successful business is considering your costs of doing business and establishing a fee for services which both covers expenses and reflects the value of those services. All businesses have losses. Walmart does, Geico does, and so does the plumber who bids two or three jobs for every one he gets. You may pay the plumber by the hour, you may pay him less when your faucet is easier to replace than his last client’s, but imputed in his hourly rate are his losses. Believe it.

My particular stalled sale was unavoidable. I can’t control a life-cycle any more than I can control an unruly septic system. The client knows this, and when circumstances change, we will live to list again. Yet, moving past the depression stage toward acceptance, I realize that with every failed sale, I really mourn just one thing. It is not the money, and it is not the time. It is the failure to succeed, to delight and to ultimately feel great about what has been accomplished. Because, without raving fans, there really is no value proposition. And our clients are only truly delighted when they succeed.

Unfortunately, sometimes stuff just happens.

Kris Berg is Broker/Owner of San Diego Castles Realty. She is the perpetrator of the San Diego Home Blog, a locally-focused real estate blog, and in her spare time enjoys fencing, luge, and kittens.

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Ginger Wilcox

    September 23, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Sometimes we can predict when things won’t sell. As good agents, we try to avoid taking on something we can’t complete. I agree wholeheartedly, it is usually not so much the loss of income as the dissatisfaction of not being able to complete the job as we had planned and hoped for.

    With each set back, we always have something to learn.

  2. Gordon Baker

    September 23, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    Kris,
    With each situation you describe, it sounds so familiar. You could have added the other side where you work with a buyer for weeks or months and they say that they’re going to wait and lo and behold… the tax records show they purchased a home not on the MLS (FSBO). But for every bad client, there are more enjoyable ones.. Thank heavens.

  3. steve jenings

    September 24, 2008 at 1:41 am

    Just stumbled across your site very interesting will definitely visit again.

  4. sheilabragg

    September 24, 2008 at 3:55 am

    Mourning a Loss & the Agent Value Proposition: Get out of the feed reader and comment on this article.. https://tinyurl.com/3qdwjc

  5. Rich Jacobson

    September 24, 2008 at 2:09 am

    Kris: I paused in a moment of silence for you just now. No agent is immune from such losses. As much as we may try to the very best of our abilities, there are still aspects outside our realm of control. And it is so true – we may have dozens of success transactions & happy clients, but it’s that one dead-ended deal that consumes our thinking, and spoils our joy (I could tell ya a few septic system horror stories of my own!) Take a moment and write down a list of the last 10 clients you helped achieve success. Remember their joy and gratitude, and press on!

  6. Bill Lublin

    September 24, 2008 at 3:03 am

    I really couldn’t frame what I wanted to say in a more articulate and literary manner –
    I feel your angst – but the temporary postponement of this business event is not a failure to succeed on your part – it is just a postponement. Your sucess or failure is in the totality of your efforts, not just one event – and in your case, that is a pretty impressive total

  7. Ken Brand

    September 24, 2008 at 5:05 am

    Amen.

    Can’t control the outcome, only your own polished actions and communication.

    The keys to success, as you’ve shared, develop your professional policies/boundaries and master how to communicate them firmly, with respect, conversational grace and steely logic.

    Thanks!

  8. Thomas Johnson

    September 24, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Kris: Well said. Unfortunate outcomes put us that much closer to successful ones.

  9. James Bridges

    September 24, 2008 at 9:51 am

    Kris,
    Neat insights and honestly I hope that buyers and sellers read the “But What if..” section. I don’t think people realize that we are here to make a living and although that commission of $7,000, $10,000 or more seems large, they don’t see the expense side of the business so to many of them it’s just like vacation money.

  10. Justin Dibbs

    September 24, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Great post! In fact, I actually say many of the quotes/lines you typed to potential listing clients in the interview. Glad to see that we think alike! Hang in there and good luck with the next one 😉

  11. Missy Caulk

    September 24, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    Yea, I mourn too, I had two fall apart this month, One person walked into her job and found it gone. Another man couldn’t get his money out of China with the financial crisis. Fortunately I got another offer on that one the next day. But I hate it too, on an emotional level.

  12. Toby & Sadie

    September 24, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    I think good agents always are perfectionists and as perfectionists we are always looking to the next deal and keeping eye the “wins vs. losses”. We all want to reach that magical goal of perfection.

  13. Paula Henry

    September 24, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    Kris – It is an emotional turmoil we all feel when we lose one, not for ourselves, not for money, but for our client and our business. It is time invested we will never see again. Love the “what if” section.

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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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Business Marketing

Here’s how one employer was able beat an age discrimination lawsuit

(MARKETING) Age discrimination is a rare occurrence but still something to be battled. It’s good practice to keep your house in order to be on the right side.

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Jewel age discrimination

In January, the EEOC released its annual accounting for reports of discrimination in the previous year. Allegations of retaliation were the most frequently filed charge, which disability coming in second. Age discrimination cases accounted for 21.4% of filed charges. As we’ve reported before, not all age discrimination complaints rise to the level of illegal discrimination. In Cesario v. Jewel Food Stores, Inc., the federal court dismissed the claims of age discrimination, even though seven (7) plaintiffs made similar claims against the grocery store.

What Cesario v. Jewel Food Stores was about

In Cesario, all but one of the seven plaintiffs had spent years with Jewel Food building their careers. When Jewel went through some financial troubles, the plaintiffs allege that they began to “experience significant pressure at work… (and) were eventually forced out or terminated because of their age or disability.” Jewel Food requested summary judgment to dismiss the claims.

The seven plaintiffs made the same type of complaints. Beginning in 2014, store directors were under pressure to improve metrics and customer satisfaction. Cesario alleges that the Jewel district manager asked about his age. Another director alleges that younger store directors were transferred to stores with less difficulties. One plaintiff alleged that Jewel Food managers asked him about his retirement. The EEOC complaints began in late 2015. The plaintiffs retired or were fired and subsequently filed a lawsuit against their company.

Age discrimination is prohibited by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA). The ADEA prevents disparate treatment based on age for workers over 40 years old. However, plaintiffs who allege disparate treatment must establish that the adverse reactions wouldn’t have occurred but for age. Because none of the plaintiffs could specifically point to age as the only determination of their case, the court dismissed the case.

A word to wise businesses

Jewel Food was able to demonstrate their own actions in the case through careful documentation. Although there was no evidence that age played a factor in any discharge decision, Jewel Food could document their personnel decisions across the board. The plaintiffs also didn’t exhaust all administrative remedies. This led to the case being dropped.

Lesson learned – Make perssonel decisions based on performance and evidence. Don’t use age as a factor. Keep documentation to support your decisions.

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