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Step Away From The Computer, Go Out and Sell

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I remember my first week or so as a Realtor like it was yesterday. I was affiliated with one of those huge real estate companies. I arrived at my new office with my laptop computer. I had to walk down a long hall and past several offices before I got to my own. There were agents working in the office but none of the office had computers in them.

Things have changed a bit since then. It seems like most real estate practitioners use computers in their businesses. I remember my first manager telling me that I should spend less time in front of the computer and more time in front of people.

I heard a similar comment from a colleague just last week. She said that agents shouldn’t spend their time in front of a computer they should be out meeting people. She runs her own business the same way real estate practitioners did twenty years ago and she is good at it too. She is a little uncomfortable with a class that I teach about web 2.0 and marketing.

What she doesn’t get is that we do meet people on the internet. We need to go where the home buyers are and more than 80% of them are surfing the net, looking for agents and looking for a home. If we want to meet the people who live inside of our computers we need to first spend some time on the internet.

Here is another way of looking at it. I could spend two hours at an open house and meet three people face-to-face. I could also take that same two hours and write a couple of blog posts that will be read by a couple of thousand home buyers.

If you have a manager who is telling you to go out and meet people and stop spending so much time on the computer, tell your manager about Teresa Boardman of St. Paul, MN who has 6 closing in the month of May, and that four of those closings are with people that she met on the internet. The other two are because of a relationship with some neighbors.

I currently have two sellers that I have never met in person and that I may never meet. I have met most of my clients in person but I don’t have to get in front of someone to sell a home for them or to find them one. I do most of that through the internet without ever leaving my home. I would truly enjoy meeting all of my clients but would be so expensive and time consuming that it just isn’t practicle.

If I were training new agents I would tell them to stop wasting their time at open houses and get in front of a computer. They will be able to sell the house faster and will meet more motivated buyers in a shorter period of time. I guess I am some what thankful that new agents are not being taught to work that way because there is plenty of competition in my market already. New agents should be taught how to compete with me. Right now I am the only one in my market teaching that class.

Much of my time is spent in front of a computer screen and a significant portion of it is spent behind a camera. I met a young man that I know about through Flickr, a social networking web site for sharing photos. I would not know him at all if I had not been on the internet. He introduced me to two other people. I call that networking.

The way I run my business is not for everyone but it really is possible to make a decent living as a REALTOR by spending more time in front of the computer than in front of people. My blog and the social networks I belong to serve as an introduction and make it possible for me to meet the right people in a fun and almost effortless way. I could spend my Sunday afternoons at open houses but I would much rather be out with my camera or sitting in the local coffee shop writing blog posts.

There is still a lot of skepticism about using the internet for meeting potential clients. Real estate is a people business. What some practitioners and managers are missing is that there are millions of people on the internet right now. The internet is for people and about people. Don’t tell me to step away from the computer and go out and sell, it isn’t going to happen, save it for someone who doesn’t know any better.

Full time REALTOR and licensed broker with Saint Paul Home Realty Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. Author of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com, Columnist for Inman News and an avid photographer.

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Missy Caulk

    May 1, 2008 at 6:13 am

    People that say, get off the computer have no clue about selling RE in this generation. I know people might pick up buyers in this market at an open house, but not in my area. They are all online.

  2. Diane Aurit

    May 1, 2008 at 6:21 am

    This is EXACTLY what I was told by my broker. However, if you start on the Internet/Blogging with open eyes knowing it is a long-term commitment the net result will be much higher and more far-reaching. The clients I have from my blog are incredible people whom I would never have met any other way. I am particularly disappointed when I hear “new agent” training programs that focus on FSBOs, Expireds, Phone Duty and Open Houses with NO mention of web 2.0. Great post!

  3. Maureen Francis

    May 1, 2008 at 6:21 am

    However works for you. Much of my business comes from my online activity, but far from all. My larger transactions almost never come from the web. Those clients come by referral from our sphere of influence, and from referring agents. The big ticket buyers and sellers still cruise the web looking at houses, but they tend to rely on referrals to find their agent. Often though, the referring agent will find us on the web, so that does add to the importance of what we are doing.

  4. Teresa Boardman

    May 1, 2008 at 6:31 am

    Maureen – My largest dollar transaction come in through the internet. They are people who are relocating from the East coast where housing is more expensive and so they spend significantly more than the referrals, past clients or other business that comes it.

    Diane – You broker has to say that. They have offices to fill.

    Missy – I agree and there is a little fear out there too.

  5. Bill Lublin

    May 1, 2008 at 6:47 am

    Teresa – You just have a newer paradigm – step into the computer and meet people so you can go out and sell. People still use the computer to hide though, and any manager needs to be aware of that tendency – after all its not the tool, its what you do with it –

  6. Teresa Boardman

    May 1, 2008 at 6:58 am

    Bill – excellent point. I know people who play around on the internet all day and accomplish little.

  7. Chris Lengquist

    May 1, 2008 at 7:44 am

    My laptop is so married to everything I do I just simply could not do business without it. Now, that’s not an excuse to not learn and utilize people skills. It’s not an excuse to never pick up the phone, mail a handwritten letter or knock on the ocassional door. But for me, it all starts on my websites. Really.

  8. John Pohly

    May 1, 2008 at 8:25 am

    Traditional real estate agents are going to have to learn some new skill sets with Web 2.0 and Social Marketing or pay someone to do it for them. The challenge that I am finding in teaching seasoned agents about Internet lead generation and lead nurturing is that they do not have the personality or discipline that it takes to follow an Internet marketing plan. What made them great as a traditional agent actually works against them in the world of Internet and social marketing online. As you probably know it does take a strategic plan, time discipline, a high level of focus, and learning based

    I think the hybrid model is the best. The real trick for an individual agent or new agent is changing hats between Internet Lead Generator to a social in-person or on-the-phone Buyers Agent or Listing Agent. You can go too far in either direction by spending all of your time with 1 or 2 clients or the opposite, spend so much time behind the computer that you forget how to communicate when your phone is ringing off the hook with leads.

  9. Teresa Boardman

    May 1, 2008 at 8:41 am

    Chris – no a computer is not an excuse to stop meeting people just another way to be introduced to them.

    John – my phone has been on silent for days. There isn’t any way I can keep up with the calls. Answering it isn’t a solution that is going to work because I won’t talk on the phone when I have people in front of me. I agree with your “hybrid” model, we really can’t just sit behind a computer or just not use it at all.

  10. Benjamin Bach

    May 1, 2008 at 10:08 am

    I can rarely provide great service when I pick up a cell call. Unless I’m in front of the computer, or know what the call is about, it’s going to voicemail. I NEVER pick up the phone or read blackberry email when I’m talking with a client.

    Teresa, I agree with you. There are real relationships to be made online. I’ve done 12 so far this yearwith clients who I met via my blog. From what I gather, that’s what the ‘average’ agent does in a year using the traditional methods.

  11. Mike Taylor

    May 1, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    Teresa – You make some very good points. I actually just picked up a client today simply from answering questions in forums. The internet is a great place to meet people you would have never had the opportunity to meet without getting on you computer and putting it to work for you.

  12. Jacob

    April 13, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Very interesting post and just what I need to see sometimes! I’ve stumbled upon it a little late but it was very helpful. I struggle with this topic every day as I continue to find myself fighting against a tide. I don’t look to discredit the folks who like to get out there and knock doors or make calls all day. It’s just not me and beyond that, I’m not convinced it’s necessary!?

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Business Marketing

The rise of influencer marketing and its effect on digital marketing

(BUSINESS MARKETING) More businesses are planning to invest a larger part of their marketing budgets on more relatable, branded content and influencer marketing.

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Influencer speaking to camera for marketing segment.

The digital age has created more savvy consumers, and the barrage of advertising on top of the plenitude of content online can be a lot. Many consumers have learned to hide ads or they simply scroll past them to their content of choice. Most business owners know that digital marketing is a crucial part of any ad strategy, and branded content and influencer marketing continues to grow in the market, because consumers see that it’s different from traditional advertising.

Hardly anything stayed the same in 2020, and traditional advertising also has shifted. Advertiser Perceptions reported on the trend for 2021, based on a survey from late 2020.

“More than half of advertisers using paid branded content and influencers say doing so is more critical than it was a year ago. Throughout the second half of 2020, 32% increased spending on branded content and 25% spent more to back influencers. They’re now putting 20% of their digital budgets into the complementary practices, which is more than they put into any other digital channel (paid search is 14%, display 13%, paid social 12%, digital video 12%).”

The benefits of branded and influencer content are that you are speaking to the consumer where they already are, when you choose an influencer. The people who follow their accounts are more likely to trust that the influencer would only share something they like or use themselves. The best matches are when the influencer marketing fits nicely into the kind of content, the voice, and any specialties they already deal with.

The word “influencer” as well as the concept rubs some people the wrong way. Marketers see the value, though, as influencer marketing can be effective if done well, and the cost to hire them is often less than a traditional ad campaign. If I want to know about food in a city, I’ll follow the hashtags until I find a local food blogger or micro-influencer whose style I like. Then I’ll seek out those restaurants when I visit. Sure, some of the meals are comped, but the truth is that food bloggers and influencers like to share their food recommendations. I have been influenced this way more than once, and not only for food. I am not alone in this, either, which is why it’s an important part of a marketing strategy.

In influencer marketing, the content creator is then given free rein to create within their own style, voice, and persona. They need to connect with their audience in an authentic, familiar way without creating a dissonance for their followers between their public page(s) and the brand. The level of trust is fairly high with influencer marketing, and many influencers realize that promoting something crappy or something outside of their area of expertise or recognition hurts everyone involved.

The power of storytelling comes into play here, as with all good advertising. Branded content is specifically all about the story, often the story of the business’s philosophy or some lifestyle aspect that goes with the brand’s vibe–or is so off that it goes viral. Some branded campaigns join into or build off of conversations already happening in the wider world. The purpose is to have people engage with the brand, with the content, build awareness, encourage conversations, sharing, comments, all with the long term goal of fostering a positive image of the brand so that down the line, they will become consumers.

Think of 2004 Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign, based on a study showing that around 2% of women saw themselves as beautiful. The widely studied, award-winning campaign featured women of all backgrounds and body types, without airbrushing and Photoshopping them into a narrow vision of “beauty.” While some people hated it, many loved it and applauded the brand for treading into traditionally uncharted waters. Among haters, fans, and people who weren’t sure what to think, the Dove Real Beauty branded content campaign generated conversations. The campaign also encouraged women to feel good about themselves and lift up other women. One could argue that the campaign you could argue that the Real Beauty campaign was a forerunner to the currently popular body positivity movement, which started gaining traction around 2012. Dove increased sales by at least $1.5 billion in the first ten years the branded content campaign ran.

The goal of branded content is to raise awareness of the brand, but the path from point A (creating the content) to point B (brand awareness, ultimately leading to better sales) is not a straight line. Brands are paying attention to grabbing attention, aka building brand awareness via more upper funnel marketing than lower funnel.

One thing that marketers are looking for now, however, is almost eliminating the funnel. With the mind-boggling increase in e-commerce since the beginning of the pandemic, clickable sales capability becomes important in any kind of marketing, including influencer and branded content. It pays to listen to customers, to find an influencer who meshes with your brand’s purpose, and to create thoughtful branded content that isn’t out of line with your core product or service.

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Business Marketing

Need design help? Ask a Designer offers free peer-review for better design

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Good design is more than just slapping some fonts and colors together. Ask a Designer promises free design advice on their new website.

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A white sign in an urban setting reading "In Design We Trust" with glowing yellow lights above.

With the necessity to create and maintain an online presence for our businesses nowadays, content creation is essential. One impact this proliferation of content has had on entrepreneurs, bloggers, and small businesses is that many non-designers have had to take a stab at design work. Sometimes this works out for the amateur designer, but often it could be better: More effective, accessible, and appealing. This is where Ask a Designer comes in.

Creating designs online can be fun, but your average Canva, Squarespace, or WordPress user, for example, has no more of a sense of design than the man on the moon. Design work encompasses so much more than just slapping some words on a stock photo and calling it a day. While there are truly incredible and helpful free or inexpensive DIY design and business tools out there, nothing beats the power of knowledge and experience.

Ask a Designer provides one more level of professional review and counsel before a business owner puts their DIY (or even paid) design work out there for the world to see—or worse, not see. As a writer, I have always valued editorial reviews, comments, and feedback on my writing. Second eyes, third eyes, and more almost always serve to improve the content. It makes business sense to get as much feedback as possible, even better to get expert feedback.

For example, an experienced web designer should have a good idea of how to incorporate and test for UX and UI purposes, thus making the user interaction more functional and pleasant. A skilled graphic designer knows what colors go together for aesthetic appeal, accessibility, and even the psychology behind why and how they do.

Take logos. Pick a color, image, and font you like, and go for it, right? I’m afraid not. There is a lot of data out there on the science and psychology of how our brains process logos. There are examples of logo “fails” out there, as well. Consider the uproar over AirBnB’s logo that many thought evoked genitalia. Or the raised eyebrows when Google changed their color scheme to one similar to Microsoft’s palate. Just search for “logo fails” online to get an idea of how a seemingly innocent logo can go horribly wrong. I haven’t linked them here, because they would need a trigger warning, as many of the worst examples can be interpreted as some sort of sexual innuendo or genitalia. Searchers, be warned.

It always makes good business sense to use professional designers when you have the option, just as it makes sense to use professional writers for copywriting and professional photographers for photography. After all, if you have the chance to get something right the first time, it saves you time and money to do so. Rebranding can be difficult and costly, although sometimes rebranding is necessary. Having a designer review your design (whether logo, WordPress, blog, or other) could possibly help you from missing the mark.

How does Ask a Designer work, and is it really free? It’s super easy—almost like designers had a hand in it! Know what I mean? First, you go to the website or app and enter your question. Next Ask a Designer will assign your question to the appropriate type of designer in their network. Within 48 hours, they’ll get back to you with feedback or an answer to your design question.

While Ask a Designer is available to anyone to use, the website suggests it is especially helpful for developers, teams, junior designers, and business and product owners. They suggest, “Think of us as peer-review in your pocket.” The team at Ask a Designer will provide feedback on specific projects such as websites, logos, and portfolios, as well as answer general questions.

Examples of questions on their website give a good idea of the scope of questions they’ll answer, and include the type of feedback they provide. Sample questions include:

  • “How do I choose colors for dark mode?”
  • “I’d love feedback on a logo for a restaurant.”
  • “I’m an industrial design student and I’d like to move into automotive design. What are some resources that can get me to where I need to be?”
  • “Please send me some feedback on [website link].”
  • “How can I use my brand fonts on my website?”
  • “I’m a full stack software engineer. Are there any resources you could suggest for me to level up my design or UX skills?”

Ask a Designer is new, and so they currently list 2 design experts, each with 20 or more years of experience in their fields. They promise to add more “desig-nerds” soon. It may sound too good to be true, but from what they state on their website, this expert design review service is free. Considering the other excellent tools out there with some free components out there for business, it is possible that this is true. Whether they will add a more in-depth paid version is yet to be seen. In any case, it’s worth trying out the app or website for your burning design questions and reviews.

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Business Marketing

6 tips to easily market your side hustle

(BUSINESS MARKETING) It can be hard to stand out from the crowd when you’re starting a new side hustle. Here are some easy ways to make your marketing efforts more effective.

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side hustle marketing

Side hustles have become the name of the game, and especially during these turbulent times, we have to get extra creative when it comes to making money. With so many of us making moves and so much noise, it can be hard to get the word out and stand out when sharing your side hustle.

Reuben Jackson of Big Think shared five ways that you can market your side hustle (we added a sixth tip for good measure), and comment with your thoughts and ideas on the subject:

  1. Referrals: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask!
    If you’re going to make a splash, you have to be willing to ask for favors. Reach out to your network and ask them to help spread the word on your new venture. This can be as simple as asking your friends to share a Facebook post with information that refers them to your page or website. Word of mouth is still important and incredibly effective.
  2. Start Where You Are
    Immediately running an expensive ad right out of the gate may not be the most effective use of your (likely) limited funds. Use the resources you do have to your advantage – especially if you’re just testing things out to see how the side hustle goes in the real world. You can do this by creating a simple, informational landing page for a small fee. Or, if you’re not looking to put any money into it right away, create an enticing email signature that explains what you do in a concise and eye-catching way. Check out these tools to create a kickin’ email signature.
  3. Gather Positive Reviews
    If you’ve performed a service or sold a product, ask your customers to write a review on the experience. Never underestimate how many potential customers read reviews before choosing where to spend their money, so this is an incredibly important asset. Once a service is completed or a product is sold, send a thank you note to your customer and kindly ask them to write a review. Be sure to provide them with links to easily drop a line on Yelp or your company’s Facebook page.
  4. Be Strategic With Social
    It’s common to think that you have to have a presence on all channels right away. Start smaller. Think about your demographic and do some research on which platforms reach that demographic most effectively. From there, put your time and energy into building a presence on one or two channels. Post consistently and engage with followers. After you’ve developed a solid following, you can then expand to other platforms.
  5. Give Paid Marketing A Shot
    Once you’ve made a dollar or two, try experimenting with some Facebook or Twitter ads. They’re relatively cheap to run and can attract people you may not have otherwise had a chance to reach out to. Again, the key is to start small and don’t get discouraged if these don’t have people knocking your door down; it may take trial and error to create the perfect ad for your hustle.
  6. Go Local
    Local newspapers and magazines are always looking for news on what local residents are doing. Send an email to your town/city’s journal or local Patch affiliate. Let them know what you’re up to, offer yourself for an interview, and give enticing information. The key is doing this in a way that your hustle is seen as beneficial to the public, and is not just an ad.

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