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The 5 essentials of effective contact management

Contact management is a frequently overlooked tool for professionals, but with these five tips, the process will be maximized for higher returns and more meaningful interacting with clients and prospects.

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Effective contact management

Do you know what contact management really entails? Think you’re doing it correctly? In this article I’ll discuss the five essential components of effective contact management. Effective contact management will help you to convert more leads into clients and maximize the amount of referrals and repeat business you get year over year.

Having a consolidated database

I speak with real estate sales professionals daily who have client and prospect contact information scattered in many different areas: Outlook, their iPhone, their website, pieces of paper, etc. Without a consolidated database, these REALTORS® waste far too much time hunting for the information they need to manage their business – often hours a day.

A solid, well-managed database can be worth more than a million dollars in real estate commissions over as little as 10 years. In fact, the only real tangible asset Realtors have is their database. Upon retirement, a well-managed database that produces a six-figure income in referral and repeat business year after year can be sold for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars!

Having a consolidated database is extremely important. It’s actually the foundation of effective contact management and the starting point to building a truly successful business based largely from referrals and repeat clients. Without a consolidated database, it’s hard to stay organized and manage time effectively. Lacking a consolidated database, it’s almost impossible to master the four other “essentials of effective contact management” I’m going to discuss below.

Categorizing and segmenting contacts

Once you’ve consolidated all your contacts into one database, the next step is to categorize them appropriately. At the most basic level, this might entail categorizing people as either Clients, Prospects, Personal, or Business-to-Business. Another popular approach is to apply the 80/20 Rule by segmenting your contacts as either “A List” or “B List.” More advanced segmentation can include creation of community groups such as former work colleagues, church group contacts, people in your baseball league, etc.

The big benefit of segmenting and categorizing your contacts is that it allows you to communicate with specific groups of people in a way that is more personalized, relevant and timely than the dreaded “batch and blast” approach. When your mass communications are relevant to the people receiving them, they are far more likely to be opened and appreciated, and hence far more effective from a marketing perspective.

Keeping in touch with past clients

You may have heard the idiom that it takes seven times the amount of time, money, and energy to acquire a new client then it does to keep an existing one. The saying is very true. It’s your responsibility to stay “top of mind” with past clients and make sure that they don’t forget you. Your clients are likely meeting real estate agents through friends and family members, hearing others recommend Joe Smith’s Realty Services down the road, seeing billboards and posters of Realtors boasting that they’re number one. So, don’t automatically assume that a client who you’ve helped to buy a home five years ago will remember you and call you up again next time they need a real estate agent.

It’s in your best interest to ensure that you have the right technology, such as a contact management system, and a plan in place, so you can keep in touch with past clients effectively.

So, how should you keep in touch? Schedule quarterly keep in touch calls (better yet, try to call one past client each day), send out a monthly e-Newsletter, send direct marketing pieces to your best past clients, plan client appreciation events and various educational seminars, use social media, the possibilities are endless. A good contact management system (my specialty) will make organizing and executing all of this as easy as possible. I recommend that you make contact with your past clients at least 17 times per year.

Make sure that when you reach out to past clients, whether through a phone call, email, or any other method, that it’s all about them, not about you. You don’t want to keep in touch with them by always promoting your services and how great you are. Send out an e-Newsletter with helpful and interesting articles on home decorating, for example. Make a call to ask if they need any recommendations on a business professional such as a Plumber or Landscaper.

Assigning leads to marketing plans

As soon as you get a new lead, enter them in your CRM immediately and then assign them to an “automated lead nurture marketing plan” (also known as a marketing Activity Plan).

A lead nurture marketing plan consists of a number of emails and phone calls at regular intervals over time. The emails are sent automatically (also called “drip email), which means that you don’t have to worry about remembering to keep in touch with all your new leads. The system will remind you when to make a call, and will send relevant email communications to your prospects in between. By nurturing your new leads in this way, your conversion rate of new leads to clients will improve dramatically.

You can use your contact management system (your CRM) to create your own lead nurture marketing Activity Plan. Alternatively, good CRMs have pre-designed marketing plans created for you, so you don’t have to do a thing.

Tracking sources of business, including referrals

You need to know where your business is coming from. Knowing this information will provide you with insight into where you should be investing time and money. Use your contact management system to run various reports, such as an “Original Source of Contact” report and a “Referral History” report. Don’t waste your time and hard earned dollars guessing about where your business is coming from or about what you could be doing more and less to fully maximize your time.

Matthew Collis is part of the Sales and Marketing Team at IXACT Contact Solutions Inc., a leading North American real estate CRM firm. In addition to overseeing many of IXACT Contact’s key sales and marketing programs, Matthew works with REALTORS® to help them achieve their real estate goals through effective contact management and relationship marketing. IXACT Contact is a web-based real estate contact management and marketing system that helps REALTORS® better manage and grow their business. The system includes powerful email marketing capabilities and a professionally designed and written monthly e-Newsletter.

Business Marketing

Use the ‘Blemish Effect’ to skyrocket your sales

(MARKETING) The Blemish Effect dictates that small, adjacent flaws in a product can make it that much more interesting—is perfection out?

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blemish effect

Presenting a product or service in its most immaculate, polished state has been the strategy for virtually all organizations, and overselling items with known flaws is a practice as old as time. According to marketing researchers, however, this approach may not be the only way to achieve optimal results due to something known as the “Blemish Effect.”

The Blemish Effect isn’t quite the inverse of the perfectionist product pitch; rather, it builds on the theory that small problems with a product or service can actually throw into relief its good qualities. For example, a small scratch on the back of an otherwise pristine iPhone might draw one’s eye to the glossy finish, while an objectively perfect housing might not be appreciated in the same way.

The same goes for mildly bad press or a customer’s pros and cons list. If someone has absolutely no complaints or desires for whatever you’re marketing, the end result can look flat and lacking in nuance. Having the slightest bit of longing associated with an aspect (or lack thereof) of your business means that you have room to grow, which can be tantalizing for the eager consumer.

A Stanford study indicates that small doses of mildly negative information may actually strengthen a consumer’s positive impression of a product or service. Interesting.

Another beneficial aspect of the Blemish Effect is that it helps consumers focus their negativity. “Too good to be true” often means exactly that, and we’re eager to criticize where possible. If your product or service has a noticeable flaw which doesn’t harm the item’s use, your audience might settle for lamenting the minor flaw and favoring the rest of the product rather than looking for problems which don’t exist.

This concept also applies to expectation management. Absent an obvious blemish, it can be all to easy for consumers to envision your product or service on an unattainable level.

When they’re invariably disappointed that their unrealistic expectations weren’t fulfilled, your reputation might take a hit, or consumers might lose interest after the initial wave.

The takeaway is that consumers trust transparency, so in describing your offering, tossing in a negative boosts the perception that you’re being honest and transparent, so a graphic artist could note that while their skills are superior and their pricing reasonable, they take their time with intricate projects. The time expectation is a potentially negative aspect of their service, but expressing anything negative improves sales as it builds trust.

It should be noted that the Blemish Effect applies to minor impairments in cosmetic or adjacent qualities, not in the product or service itself. Delivering an item which is inherently flawed won’t make anyone happy.

In an age where less truly is more, the Blemish Effect stands to dictate a new wave of honesty in marketing.

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Business Marketing

Google Chrome will no longer allow premium extensions

(MARKETING) In banning extension payments through their own platform, Google addresses a compelling, if self-created, issue on Chrome.

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Google Chrome open on a laptop on a organized desk.

Google has cracked down on various practices over the past couple of years, but their most recent target—the Google Chrome extensions store—has a few folks scratching their heads.
Over the span of the next few months, Google will phase out paid extensions completely, thus ending a bizarre and relatively negligible corner of internet economy.

This decision comes on the heels of a “temporary” ban on the publication of new premium extensions back in March. According to Engadget, all aspects of paid extension use—including free trials and in-app purchases—will be gone come February 2021.

To be clear, Google’s decision won’t prohibit extension developers from charging customers to use their products; instead, extension developers will be required to find alternative methods of requesting payment. We’ve seen this model work on a donation basis with extensions like AdBlock. But shifting to something similar on a comprehensive scale will be something else entirely.

Interestingly, Google’s angle appears to be in increasing user safety. The Verge reports that their initial suspension of paid extensions was put into place as a response to products that included “fraudulent transactions”, and Google’s subsequent responses since then have comprised more user-facing actions such as removing extensions published by different parties that accomplish replica tasks.

Review manipulation, use of hefty notifications as a part of an extension’s operation, and generally spammy techniques were also eyeballed by Google as problem points in their ongoing suspension leading up to the ban.

In banning extension payments through their own platform, Google addresses a compelling, if self-created, issue. The extension store was a relatively free market in a sense—something that, given the number of parameters being enforced as of now, is less true for the time being.

Similarly, one can only wonder about which avenues vendors will choose when seeking payment for their services in the future. It’s entirely possible that, after Google Chrome shuts down payments in February, the paid section of the extension market will crumble into oblivion, the side effects of which we can’t necessarily picture.

For now, it’s probably best to hold off on buying any premium extensions; after all, there’s at least a fighting chance that they’ll all be free come February—if we make it that far.

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Business Marketing

Bite-sized retail: Macy’s plans to move out of malls

(BUSINESS MARKETING) While Macy’s shares have recently climbed, the department store chain is making a change in regards to big retail shopping malls.

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Macy's retail storefront, which may look different as they scale to smaller stores.

I was recently listening to a podcast on Barstool Sports, and was surprised to hear that their presenting sponsor was Macy’s. This struck me as odd considering the demographic for the show is women in their twenties to thirties, and Macy’s typically doesn’t cater to that crowd. Furthermore, department retail stores are becoming a bit antiquated as is.

The sponsorship made more sense once I learned that Macy’s is restructuring their operation, and now allowing their brand to go the way of the ghost. They feel that while malls will remain in operation, only the best (AKA the malls with the most foot traffic) will stand the test of changes in the shopping experience.

As we’ve seen a gigantic rise this year in online shopping, stores like Macy’s and JC Penney are working hard to keep themselves afloat. There is so much changing in brick and mortar retail that major shifts need to be made.

So, what is Macy’s proposing to do?

The upscale department store chain is going to be testing smaller stores in locations outside of major shopping malls. Bloomingdale’s stores will be doing the same. “We continue to believe that the best malls in the country will thrive,” CEO Jeff Gennette told CNBC analysts. “However, we also know that Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s have high potential [off]-mall and in smaller formats.”

While the pandemic assuredly plays a role in this, the need for change came even before the hit in March. Macy’s had announced in February their plans to close 125 stores in the next three years. This is in conjunction with Macy’s expansion of Macy’s Backstage, which offers more affordable options.

Gennette also stated that while those original plans are still in place, Macy’s has been closely monitoring the competition in the event that they need to adjust the store closure timeline. At the end of the second quarter, Macy’s had 771 stores, including Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury.

Last week, Macy’s shares climbed 3 percent, after the retailer reported a more narrow loss than originally expected, along with stronger sales due to an uptick in their online business. So they’re already doing well in that regard. But will smaller stores be the change they need to survive?

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