Working Unqualified Leads, Oh Goody!
I’ve had some interesting conversations this past week with several fairly successful RE bloggers. In each situation, these individuals have had prior experience pulling in contacts through traditional static websites, as well as working ‘paid’ leads provided by search/listing aggregators.
Now most of us have had the wonderfully thrilling experience of working ‘raw’ unqualified leads. You keep telling yourself that eventually one of them HAS to evolve into a real ‘live’ lead. It’s the ole’ “1-in-100 Rule.” You know, the eternal hope that someone somewhere is actually going to DO something at some point; like buy or sell a home; as in create badly needed revenue, aka ‘commission,’ aka ‘income!’
Content vs. Contact: Is there a Correlation?
Well, in talking to these accomplished writers, a very interesting and exciting common thread began to surface…..
As they began to blog consistently, generating good, locally relevant, quality content, – the quality of their leads improved,….dramatically!
They were discovering that the people who were responding to their articles, by comments, and eventually through contact e-mails, were highly-qualified, motivated consumers. For the most part, they knew what they wanted, and articulated their needs quite thoroughly. And, as a result of many times ‘lurking’ and digesting their blogging ‘good stuff,’ a sense of virtual trust and respect had been formed/developed. Reading consumers had learned to value their opinions and listen to their expert counsel.
Now, we all realize that you have to start-out with a blogsite platform that has been well-constructed and optimized, chock full of good, relevant key search terms. It may help your site to rank well, and attract readers. But what gets them to stay, and eventually ‘ACT?”
W H A T – S A Y – YOU?
What have YOUR experiences been? Have you noticed a decided change/improvement in the level of lead quality as a result of posting good quality content to your blog(s). Do you see the correlation of quality content to quality leads?
(The picture is of my oldest son, Ben, along with our days catch of Dungeness Crab from out on Hood Canal)
May 31, 2008 at 9:05 am
Absolutely, Rich! I did Housevalues for a while, I’ve done referral services, I’ve been suckered by “guaranteed leads” and none of them were successful at all.
When I began my community blog, focusing on Gig Harbor and touching on real estate, I’ve closed 3 deals since October from out of state clients who landed on my blog, and I have 4 more waiting for their homes to sell elsewhere before they come here.
You meet folks who are really looking for info on an area, not just cruising home search sites looking at prices.
May 31, 2008 at 10:13 am
The best thing about good content is that it is a perpetual sales person for you. If you are writing lots of good content, in 2-4 years you’ll have enough stuff to “sell” any prospect. The result? Prospective customers who are already sold by the time they call OR people who subscribe to or give permission for more information from you.
The content serves as the qualifying funnel. People will read everything you write until they come to one of two conclusions:
1- They don’t want you- they click away
2- They NEED you- and they call.
May 31, 2008 at 11:52 am
Content is king, seo is prince, plain old hit and miss traffic that goes to billboard site is pauper.
May 31, 2008 at 12:50 pm
Rich, I wish you could post helpful advice like this at ActiveRain without igniting a firestorm of “free speech” protests. I’ve spoken to a local agent who gets several hits per month from just one post about a local candy store. Most of the hits he’s getting are local. His blog is generating revenue.
May 31, 2008 at 1:14 pm
Rich, Like Frank says above…too bad you can’t post this on AR. But what if you did? Would this be advocating that they get their own blogs? I could not even imagine what you might have to go through.
Yes, you are correct, but what exactly is “good content”? That would be a great follow up to see what everyone defines as great content. Seriously…really wondering about that one as only the local person I would guess would know what would work on their blog.
May 31, 2008 at 2:07 pm
Frank: I post about this on AR all the time!
I will be coming back later tonight to respond to comments. Gotta run out and sell something right now!…
May 31, 2008 at 2:09 pm
I think good content is useful information about real estate in the area you serve, or useful information about the area in general. If I am looking to buy out of town and I find a blog that consistently updates with useful real estate information about the area, then I will save that blog to go back to and will begin considering the author as my agent. I would appreciate information that gives me a better understanding of where I’m moving — the market trend, the neighborhoods, the feel of the town, the school systems, etc.
May 31, 2008 at 3:34 pm
Mike..I knew the day would come. We actually agree on something. Many people subscribe to only writing about real estate but I also think people want to know a bit about the area. I think once they are on your blog you have a chance to sell the area and your knowledge of the area as well.
So what if someone googles a restaurant review and is not interested in buying…once in a while that is bound to happen. Just keep writing. I think it would be so boring for a reader to just read about numbers and stuff all the time.
So this time we agree.
May 31, 2008 at 3:39 pm
Agreed, it’s the content that matters. Years ago, in website infancy, I had a great looking website whose content was basically a bio and listings; and then I started a horrible looking site that had rick content. Guess which one brought business? the latter. Of course having both is better, but never forget the good content part.
May 31, 2008 at 3:56 pm
wow, thats quite a lot of crab legs there 😛
May 31, 2008 at 5:41 pm
Rich, The leads are better from blogging because not only does the consumer get to pick us based on what we write but we can also gear our writing towards the consumer we want to work with. For example, I wrote a few posts geared towards picking up some investors to add to my current data base. In one post I mapped out specifically what I was looking forward i.e. experienced investors with money who were not afraid to purchase sight unseen. I wrote this particular post about 2 weeks ago and have thus far added 6 solid investors to my data base. I also turned down several who didn’t meet my qualifications financially.
So not only is it important to write about what we do it’s also important to write TO who we want to work with.
May 31, 2008 at 5:51 pm
It was bound to happen, Barry.
May 31, 2008 at 10:33 pm
Rich, I know you post this message on AR. It always brings out the kooks waving flags, bibles, and souvenir copies of the Constitution claiming (for no sane reason) that you are trying to censor them. The platform has broken containment. I don’t think you will convince people to post in a way that enhances their personal business and the attractiveness of the entire platform, especially with the points system providing a fool’s gold incentive for writing “Dear Diary” posts and “Attaboy” comments.
The key to the success of Localism 2.0 isn’t a better interface (though that would help – the California page still shows the Google earth map of northern Saskatchewan), but a clear and strong editorial direction that delivers quality content to local readers. It needs to be a meritocracy rather than a democracy, but it can’t be “self judging” because those types of systems will always be gamed. You really need an editor with no agenda and no friends who simply applies the standard to all submissions.
You’ve already seen how a simple, obvious standard like “no stupid racist comments” can lead to personal attacks against yourself, Jonathan, and any other group that can be thrown under the bus. Imagine the firestorms if you didn’t feature certain people’s posts in their local markets, even though their posts were thinly veiled commercials, off-topic ruminations, or slapdash cut and pastes from the local papers with a couple of comments to sneak around the plagiarism issue. You’d get crucified.
No offense to Teresa Boardman, but what she writes in her blog does not require tremendous writing skill. What it does require is thinking and writing in a very different manner. What differentiates her from the vast majority of bloggers is her understanding of what works and her ability to subjugate herself to that format. She doesn’t write the typical Realtor stream of self-importance. She’s already showing the way, so bloggers don’t need to solve the puzzle. They simply need to follow her solution.
The question is how many people in an ego driven business can learn to put those egos aside and write for their target audience rather than writing to please themselves and their peers. So far the results have not been encouraging.
June 1, 2008 at 12:00 am
Frank – the individuals you make reference to are a very small minority of our platform, and they’re entitled to an opinion, just like all of our valued members, including you. From my vantage (and I probably have the most qualified view, other than Jonathan or Bob) our Network is far from losing any ‘containment.’ In fact, in some respects, it’s never been healthier. With nearly 90K members, there’s bound to be some ‘drama’ from time to time. We’ve actually been pretty fortunate, compared to other similar platforms.
In my experience, there will always be those who ‘get it’ and those who don’t. You can talk to the ones who don’t get it until you’re blue in the face, and they still won’t get it. And typically, for the ones who do actually ‘get it,’ the points are an after-thought. Some of the old school marketing habits of RE professionals are so deeply ingrained, that it’s challenging to teach new tricks.
As I have alluded to you on numerous occasions, while I tend to agree with your criticisms of our current edition of Localism, a completely revamped version is being released shortly. I will gladly welcome your critique after it’s debut.
Teresa is one of the better examples of how things can be done right. She is true to herself and genuinely ‘reader-centric.’ The beauty of blogging, in my humble opinion, is that, while there are obviously certain proven methods to success, one size doesn’t fit all. Each of us ultimately must determine what works best for our own business models in our individual markets. To thine own blog be true!
Ah, the Ego-Driven RE professional! Fortunately, they appear to be a dying race. Web 2.0 has raised the bar and placed the focus solely on engaging today’s consumer with quality content. If enough of us preach THAT gospel, perhaps we can effect positive change!
June 1, 2008 at 6:03 am
Rich – Nice legs (on the Crab I mean) I really think this is a way deep post – Finding a voice is not the easiest thing to do in any creative endeavor.
I have to disagree with Fank and agree with you about Teresa – I think she has a very rich voice in her blog which speaks to her audience. To me writing skill is not about how much you say but how well you speak to your chosen audience </b? (though you wouldn’t think that from the length of my posts or my comments – I’m just not as good as Teresa)
I do disagree when you say, ‘”Ah, the Ego-Driven RE professional! Fortunately, they appear to be a dying race.”,/i> I think blogging is by its nature (at least in the real estate world) self-promoting and I think very ego driven – But I agree that the effective bloggers are smart enough to get their ego strokes from . “engaging today’s consumer with quality content”
BTW, Good looking son – I assume that those kind of good looks skip a generation in your family as it does in mine
June 1, 2008 at 6:04 am
Look at me messing up my html You forget to close one thing 🙁
June 1, 2008 at 7:03 am
A BIG amen to Broker Bryant:
“So not only is it important to write about what we do it’s also important to write TO who we want to work with.”
It is about targeting your audience, being authentic and exploiting, errr…dominating a niche. When you do that, you will get QUALITY leads. Much of today’s online REALTOR time is spent talking inside baseball and I think we need to push to more consumer focused content–NARROWLY focused IMO as well.
June 1, 2008 at 7:33 am
Rich, of course blogging brings the quality of leads up. But, it takes time. Yes, I agree with you that the content and consistency brings people back to read more and begin a level of trust. Using an analytics program, I use getclicky lets you know what the consumers are searching for and you can start to see a pattern in their searches.
I think you know that I am an advocate of my pay per click campaign. If not for it, I would not have had to add 2 more buyer agents to follow up potential customers.
In a soft Michigan market, all my buyer agents are busy with buyers who found us at my search site. Marketing is all about testing and increasing what works, and dumping what brings no results.
Blogging and PPC is both working for us.
June 1, 2008 at 7:48 am
@Missy- Spot on IMO. The key is it takes investment of time…or money…or both. Time to craft a quality site and good content…and then either time or money to market it. (folks often forget that piece of it).
“I think you know that I am an advocate of my pay per click campaign. If not for it, I would not have had to add 2 more buyer agents to follow up potential customers.”
Congratulations and well earned. You’ve invested and it is paying off.
June 1, 2008 at 10:12 am
Eric, I know some people perish the thought, but it works for me in a huge ROI. I will share my numbers at the end of the year. Open houses don’t work for me or in Ann Arbor. That’s ok, I respect people in area’s where they do work.
June 1, 2008 at 12:03 pm
I’m going to go a step further and tell you that we have the ability, with our blogs to focus on the type of business we want. If you want to work short sales and foreclosures, write about that – if you want to focus on historic homes, write about them.
Writing about your expertise and showing what value you can bring to the transaction is what gets me quality leads. And Rich, once those people do call me, they are ready to go, so definitely better qualified leads from blogging.
June 1, 2008 at 12:12 pm
Bill, I don’t see how you praising Teresa is disagreeing with me. I’m sorry if my praise wasn’t effusive enough, but I think it is important for other brokers and agents to recognize that what makes her so effective is the way she writes to her audience rather than her writing ability. You don’t need to be the next J.K. Rowling or Kurt Vonnegut to write an outstanding blog. The most important skill is being able to write for your audience rather than for yourself. Unfortunately that skill is so rare that Teresa does stand apart from the crowd, but it’s not because she’s a literary titan, as I’m sure she would admit.
June 1, 2008 at 12:18 pm
Rich, one size doesn’t fit all, but “Realtor stream of me” only appeals to the author and a handful of peers. When I speak of breaking containment, I’m speaking of the notion that no topic is off-topic. I don’t see you ever getting that genie back in the box. We can disagree on that being a bad thing.
As for the ego driven professionals, I saw them this morning at the grocery store. They’ve all bought license plate sized placards on shopping carts so they can display their out-of-date pictures. Yeah, I choose accountants, dentists, doctors, and other professional consultants off shopping carts. Right! 🙂
June 1, 2008 at 3:20 pm
@Missy– I agree totally. I will be writing a post on the BHB shortly about marketing channels (and search engine optimization isn’t the only way!). Ken Smith said in another post somewhere here that if you are seeing a positive ROI, no reason to stop that approach…spot on IMO.
@Ines- You are exactly right IMO. We have about 20 bloggers in our office. Here’s the kicker–to get in, you HAVE to be focused on a niche other than someone else–. We have someone doing investments, someone else doing first time homebuyers, another doing new homes, another doing the Louisville Medical school and dental school…and then there’s the husband and wife team who are KILLING it with a blog about Kentucky Horse Farms… That way everyone works together and supports each others efforts. Really like the look of your blog BTW.
June 1, 2008 at 4:53 pm
I couldn’t agree more with your statements. I remember when I first started getting a few leads from blogging, that they didn’t pan out. I think I was like 1 for 8. Since then, after blogging for a longer time, more quality, and directed at a specific type of buyer, I have received about 40 contacts/leads and I have been able to convert at least half of them. A few tried other avenues, but after the loan officer dropping the ball, 2 of them came back to me.
Overall….. not only quality, but content that you focus on that is in your knowledge of expertise. I think so many people try to blog about stuff that they don’t know much about or if they are knowledgeable about something, that they don’t blog about it often. jeff
June 1, 2008 at 5:44 pm
I have only been seriously blogging since Dec 2007, and I have an AR and another blog. I have 4 signed buyer agency agreements from my blogging efforts and 5 people looking to move in the next 6-12 months who are currently “working” with me. Just from blogging…
I am still a newbie at this, but went into it with the consumer in mind and both of my blogs are geared that way. I can’t imagine doing it any other way. What is great is that people immediately “click” with me since they pretty much know my opinions on things and so there was no “sale” on my buyer agency agreements. Not one buyer questioned my value…sign on the dotted line, please.
People that don’t get this, aren’t going to get it. There is no point in arguing about it. I am a high tech agent that wants high tech clients. If you read my blog, then you are my kind of client. Everyone who has contacted my off one of my blogs, is still in contact with me. While I can’t imagine I will convert 100%, so far I’m on track to be pretty dang close. THAT is an efficient use of my time.
June 1, 2008 at 5:59 pm
June 1, 2008 at 7:02 pm
Rich, you’re killing me with that picture of crabs. You know how much I LOVE them! Cute son, btw, must take after mommy? 🙂
The key to good quality leads in my opinion is consistency in writing, writing about the business that you want to attract and having a nice combination of real estate (70 to 80%) articles and community information (20 to 30%).
My new blog has been launched 6 weeks ago and I have 2 solid buyers and 1 potential seller. Not bad for a beginner. 🙂
June 1, 2008 at 7:36 pm
Melina I like your points.
Missy..wondering why you need PPC if your blog is providing keyword covergae. Is your blog new? As we seed our real estate focused blog we are seeing both short tail and long tail appearances.
June 1, 2008 at 7:55 pm
Frank; I don’t want to debate with you on terms. The point I was trying to make was that by writing for audience Teresa was by definition a good writer. I wasn’t trying to make the point that she was writing at some specific level of competency, but that, by reaching her audience effectively, she was a good writer. Frankly, I think we would both agree that her great visual impact is her strength, and one I wish I could duplicate, but my comment was really about her having a good voice to reach her target audience – Not a criticism, just a different viewpoint.
Barry; Could you explain to me the term “as we seed our real estate focused blog”? or help me out with some examples – I’m new to the process and I know you’ve been very effective in establishing a broad presence with your blogging and your radio show.
Irina – Congrats – you give a new writer hope with such rapid success. 🙂
June 1, 2008 at 8:50 pm
Barry, (sorry Rich no hijack intended.)
I have been using PPC for 2 years in July, blogging since Dec 2006, didn’ t get the hang of blogging until April -May 2007. I get so many leads from my PPC campaign. My team of 6 Buyer Agents does great follow up and it works. I just don’t believe in putting all my eggs in one basket. No one else on my team blogs, yea, I’ve told them and encouraged them to.But, so far no interest.
My blog was launched in November 2007 outside of AR. So yes it is new, but only a few leads from it, mostly from AR, referrals and SEO from that site.
When and if my blog is able to bring me the amount of business that my PPC campaign gives me I will be thrilled to stop it. If you want to see my search site, email me off line and I’ll send you the link. IMO it is really “sticky”. Consumers return all the time.
June 1, 2008 at 10:54 pm
Missy yes, I’d like to see that information and will email you. It is kind of confusing to me. We just launched our real estate estate site outside of our radio program and it’s kicking off serious leads. “Real” leads…I could not imagine also needing to do PPC but if you have found an angle I have not been aware of then hey…let me in.
June 2, 2008 at 3:05 am
Studies (don’t have them at my fingertips) have shown that SEO and PPC are two different realms. There are folks who will click on organic search results (quite a few) and then those who will click on paid results.
As well, more than a few studies have shown that if you have a site with organic rankings for a keyword (a) and paid rankings for the same keyword (b) your traffic will actually be a+b+c. C= would be a little extra traffic you get from the synergistic effect of the two ads on the same page.
Paid search is just a different marketing channel from organic search and as long as it is making a solid ROI, why not do both? One does not IMO take away from the other.
Jennifer in Louisville
June 2, 2008 at 5:23 am
Obviously, content does make a difference. If your site is complete spammy garbage, then most persons are unlikely to stick around.
But I also think personality makes a big point to consumers. You need to make a connection with them. Sharing of some of your personal thoughts/experiences rather than regurgitating the same ole stats/information that everyone else is saying, will appeal to persons. And the nice thing is – a lot of those persons that are attracted to your personality on your site, you’ll also likely be great friends with once you meet them.
June 2, 2008 at 9:13 am
Rich… you know it’s coming…. “Great Post”!
Really… I see why all of “us” would agree that blogging is better, especially since you can do it for free and still get good responses from it. I totally agree that “lead” services are junk and I’ve wasted a consider amount of time and effort on them, but I can’t deny that some agents who have mastered things such as Homegain and HouseValues are making a killing that I wasn’t able to.
I think that blogging works because the agent is putting time, effort and focus into it. It’s now, it’s wow and it’s working. But let’s not forget that there are agents out there who are still door knocking, cocktailing and cold calling and for that very small minority it works.
Likewise there are a number of agents “trying” blogging and are complete failures at it.
I think that a successful approach is created through meeting the consumer where they are at the time as well as putting WORK into it. No matter what it is, good marketing required effort and dedication to task.
(again, let me say – I never could get online lead generators to work, but I never went in with a dedication to it, because I hate the premise)
June 2, 2008 at 9:56 am
Matthew, I think the reality is that there are very few agents who consistently do anything, but those who are consistent will get some level of return. I’ve had one door knocker in the past four years. He handed me a lame brag sheet with his picture on both sides. I looked him up. He’s doing well above average. Imagine if he was actually delivering something worthwhile, like market information.
You’re right, there are agents having success with a variety of methods. The common thread is persistence. Where bloggers can easily fall down is by not promoting their blog. Even if your content is awesome, you need to get the word out to your target audience. People seem to think SEO will do that (especially those selling SEO services), but I think blogging should be tied to the “door knocking and cocktailing” you mentioned.
On the subject of SEO, how many people click each link from 1 to n until they find what they are looking for? Me neither, which suggests that the title and the context in which the terms are found and displayed in the blurb is at least as important as rank. As search engines become more popular, readers will become more versed is filtering out lousy matches without ever clicking through.