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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

Spruce up your product images with Glorify (just in time for Black Friday!)

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Want professional, customizable product images for your company? Consider Glorify’s hot Black Friday deal.

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Glorify app lets you create beautiful designs for your products.

Glorify, the app that creates high converting, customizable product images for your business, is offering a lifetime deal for $97 this Black Friday. In just a few clicks, you can transform one of Glorify’s sleek templates into personalized, professional-looking content – and now, you don’t have to pay that monthly fee.

Whether your business is in electronics, beauty, or food & drink, Glorify offers a range of looks that will instantly bring your product images to the next level. With countless font styles and the ability to alter icon styles, shadows and other elements, you can access all the perks of having your own designer without the steep price.

In 2019, Glorify was launched – the app was soon voted #2 Product of the Day and nominated for Best Design Tool by Product Hunt. Since then, they have cultivated a 20k+ user base!

Glorify 2.0, which was launched last week, upgrades the experience. The new and improved version of the app is complete overhaul of intuitive UI improvements and extra features, such as:

  • background remover tool
  • templates based on popular product niches and themes
  • design bundles for your website/store, social media
  • annotation tool
  • upload your brand kits and organize your projects under different brands
  • 1 click brand application
  • & much more!

“But the most important aspect of Glorify 2.0, is that it comes with a UI that sets us up for future scalability for all our roadmap features”, said CEO of Glorify Omar Farook, who himself was a professional graphic designer.

Farook’s dream was to provide a low-cost design service for the smaller businesses that couldn’t otherwise afford design services. Looking through reviews of the app, it’s evident that Glorify does just that – it saves the user time and money while helping them to produce top-notch product images for their brand on their own.

Glorify is one of the many new design-based apps that make producing content a breeze for entrepreneurs, such as Canva. As someone who loves design but doesn’t have the patience for Creative Cloud, I personally love this technology. However, Glorify is unique in that it is the only product-driven design app. All you have to do is upload your photo!

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Business Marketing

This new Chipotle location will be fully digital

(BUSINESS NEWS) In the wake of the pandemic and popularity of online delivery, Chipotle is joining the jump to online-only locations, at least to test drive.

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Chipotle exterior, possibly moving to a fully digital restaurant space soon.

A lot of industries have switched to an online-only model in the wake of the pandemic. Most of them have made sense; between abundant delivery options and increased restrictions on workers, moving away from the traditional storefront paradigm isn’t exactly a radical choice. Chipotle making that same decision, however, is a plot twist of a different kind—yet that’s exactly what they’re doing with their first online store.

To be clear, the chain isn’t doing away with their existing locations; they’re just test-driving a “digital” location for the time being. That said, the move to an online platform raises interesting questions about the future of the restaurant industry—if not just Chipotle itself.

The move to an online platform actually makes a lot of sense for businesses like Chipotle. Since the classic Chipotle experience is much less centered on the “dining” aspect than it is on the customizability of food options, putting those same options online and giving folks some room to deliver both decreases Chipotle’s physical footprint and, ostensibly, opens up their services to more people.

It’s also a timely move given the sheer number of people who are sheltering in place. A hands-on burrito assembly line is not the optimal place to be in a pandemic, but there’s no denying the utilitarian appeal of Chipotle’s products. To that end, having another restaurant wherein you have the option to order a hearty meal with everything you like—which is also tailored to your dietary needs—is a crucial step for consumers.

Chipotle’s CTO, Curt Garner, says he is hoping this online alternative will offer a “frictionless” experience for diners.

As a part of that frictionless experience, consumers will be able to order in several different mediums. Chipotle’s website and their mobile app are the preferred choices, while services like GrubHub will also be available should you choose to order through a third-party. The idea is simple: To bring Chipotle to you with as little fuss as possible.

For now, Chipotle is committing to the single digital location to see how consumer demand pans out. Should the model prove successful, they plan to move forward with implementing additional digital locations nationwide.

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Business Marketing

Your business’ Yelp listing may be costing you more than you think

(BUSINESS MARKETING) The pay per click system Yelp uses sounds good in theory, but it may be hurting small businesses more than helping.

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Man browsing Yelp for his business listing in open office environment.

We all know Yelp – we’ve probably all used Yelp’s comment section to decide whether or not that business is worth giving our money to. What you might not know is how they are extorting the small businesses they partner with.

For starters, it’s helpful to understand that Yelp generates revenue through a pay per click (PPC) search model. This means whenever a user clicks on your advertisement, you pay Yelp a small fee. You never pay Yelp a cent if no one clicks on your ad.

In theory, this sounds great – if someone is seeking out your product or service and clicks on your ad, chances are you’re going to see some of that return. This is what makes paying $15, $50, or even $100 a click worth it.

In practice, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. When setting up your Yelp account, you are able to plug in keywords that correspond with your business. For example, owner of San Francisco-based Headshots Inc. Dan St. Louis – former Yelp advertiser turned anti-Yelp advocate – plugged in keywords for his business, such as “corporate photographer” and “professional headshots”. When someone in the Bay Area searches one of those terms, they are likely to see Headshots Inc.’s Yelp ad.

You are also able to plug in keyword searches in which your ad will not appear. That sounds great too – no need to pay for ad clicks that will ultimately not bring in revenue for your business. In the case of Headshots Inc., Dan plugged in terms such as “affordable baby photography” and “affordable studio photography”, as his studio is quite high-end and would very likely turn off a user who is using the word “affordable” in their search.

How Yelp really cheats its small business partners is that it finds loopholes in your keyword input to place your ad in as many non-relevant searches as possible. This ensures that your ad is clicked more and, as a result, you have to pay them more without reaping any of the monetary benefits for your business.

If you plugged in “cheap photography” to your list of searches in which your ad will not appear, Yelp might still feature your ad for the “cheap photos” search. As if a small business owner has the time to enter in every single possible keyword someone might search!

In the case of Headshots Inc., Dan ended up paying $10k in total ad spend to Yelp with very little return. Needless to say, he is pissed.

So what does this mean for you if you use Yelp for your business? If you don’t want to completely opt out of Yelp’s shenanigans, try these 3 tips from Dan:

  1. Try searching some potential irrelevant keywords – are your ads showing up in these searches?
  2. Do your best to block the irrelevant keywords. It’s impossible to get them all, but the more you do the more money you will ultimately save.
  3. Keep an eye on the conversation rate on your profile – does more clicks mean more client inquiries? Make sure Yelp isn’t sending low-quality traffic to your profile.

Ultimately, it’s about protecting your small business. Yelp is the latest in big tech to be outted for manipulating individuals and small businesses to up their margins – a truly despicable act, if you ask me. If you don’t have tens of thousands of dollars for ad spend, then either boycott Yelp or try these tips – your company may depend on it.

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