Hanging around the hydrant.
In recent weeks, I’ve had quite a few conversations with agents about their lead generation techniques. Some of those conversations can be seen in comments on posts here at AgentGenius, some were personal phone calls I made to ask agents their thoughts, and some were just comments I overheard and made note of. The more I listened, the more I heard. The more I heard, the less I learned. That might sound a little odd to you as I am a big fan of learning from others and taking what I can from each person and adapting it to my use, but it’s true. My opinions on lead generation just took a giant step backward.
Don’t worry, I’m happy.
To make things sound even more nonsensical, I’m thrilled that I learned less and less the more I asked and listened. What? That doesn’t make any sense…or does it? Here’s the problem with any lead generation discussion: although there are a handful of basic methods, we all use them differently and to differing degrees of success. Ask every agent in your office what their top three sources are – ask them how they do it and how they use each one in combination with each other. Expect a lot of different answers.
My experiences with lead generation have been varied. I have to admit, it’s an area that I’m still learning and still working on every day. Trying to get a better understanding of how to speak with prospective clients – in a way that keeps my ideas as a real estate agent focused on my goals and how to get prospective clients interested enough to make that next step. Having said that, I don’t think I’m terrible at it, just that I could be better.
Talkin’ ’bout my (lead) generation.
With several different ways to generate leads, I wanted to talk about a few and give my opinions, thoughts, and experience with each. I don’t profess to be the expert on any of them and I’m sure some of the AgentGenius regulars will be able to add much more to the discussion and perhaps help give you some ideas about how you want to generate your leads.
Tried and True, Face to Face: Call it belly to belly if you’d like (I dislike the phrase myself), but this is probably the one thing you’ll hear over and over again. Being in front of people is where it all happens. If they don’t know you, they’re not going to buy and sell with you. Everyone has differing opinions of how to make this happen; networking meetings, open houses, community activities, church, your kid’s school – all different theories on the same basic idea. Get out there and get your hands dirty. I have to admit, this is not my strongest suit. I prefer more one on one interaction, so my networking tends to be on the small scale at any given moment. I know a guy who sits in a dumpy diner drinking coffee half the day and watches the rack of free real estate guides – if someone grabs one, he starts a conversation with them. I know another guy who sits in a bar half the day and drinks and mingles with strangers, only to give them his card. He’s sold a lot of houses in one particular bar. The opportunities to open up conversation with others about real estate are there, you just need to learn to see them and go for them without coming across as a pushy salesman.
Pay to Play, Lead Referral Companies: Sadly, these have become a fact of life for agents. They’re not going to go away. With websites competing for the eyes of the internet savvy buyer, inevitably some of those buyers will request info from a service who will be happy to sell you the lead. We can argue about how fair or unfair this is, but it won’t change a thing. Most of these companies have two camps – those who swear by the company and those who tell their friends what a rip-off they were. When I entered the business, I heard absolute horror stories about HouseValues (I have had no personal experience with them), yet I know someone who swears by the leads they’ve generated for him. I have personal experience with Market Leader’s Growth Leader (I was given the product for free last year in order to test drive and blog about it) and Real Estate Client Referrals (I am a paid customer) and although varied, my experience with both companies has been overall good. I’ve sold houses thanks to both of them and one of those homes was my biggest client to date. The key with any lead generation company is to know whether the leads are 100% yours (if they’re not, I wouldn’t bother) and to be sure there’s a financial sense to what you’re doing. Don’t throw your money at just any old solution. Get trial periods, ask other agents, talk to people – word spreads fast in the RE.net about what’s good or bad.
Follow My Footsteps, Systems: The only system I’ve tried is Brian Buffini’s 100 Days To Greatness. The idea is to generate business in your first 100 days of being an agent and get your database filled and your prospecting via referral business booming. What I found was an overpriced blue box of common sense. Brian’s teachings were dead on in most cases, but most of it was things you could have come up with on your own, but didn’t. Although I learned a lot, I wouldn’t consider myself a Buffinite as I don’t practice some of the basics taught here (the “Mayor Campaign” just sounds like cold calling with live people to me). I think any of the big systems has something to offer, but most of it can be learned elsewhere if you’re a self-starter type (and it could save you a few bucks too).
Playtime or Worktime, Social Media: I think we’ll be seeing a stronger backlash against social media in the coming year. Social media (as a concept) made some mistakes in the beginning and I think it’s going to help drive a firestorm of “is it of any value?” The mistakes? Being new and uncharted waters is never easy. Many agents dove in and started reporting successes. Some of the claims by agents seemed over exaggerated and baseless. In a struggling market, the hidden ROI on social media allowed some agents to use it as “sunshine and roses” prophecy. Social media is not (and in my my opinion, will not be) the golden ticket to real estate riches. In fact, I don’t think anything is. Like all methodologies, it can be a cornerstone of your business, but it is not the silver bullet. Because “social media” became such a buzz word, especially within real estate, the vultures saw opportunity. Classes on Twitter taught by people who had seven tweets, a board sponsored educational event by a man, who when googled, had his first result come up with a particular name for the male reproductive organs that involved size – in particular his (of note, that class was canceled mysteriously after I helped call attention to it), and gurus mass-email marketing their get rich quick schemes and e-books on how to generate a billion followers in an hour. Unfortunately, these are all real incidents witnessed by me. These don’t make me comfortable with social media and in some cases, these voices drowned out those that actually had something to say. It became so bad that words like expert, guru, and mentor became bad words to describe someone. I’m sure many of us would agree that someone like Jeff Turner is all these things and more, but no one would want to tag him with these monikers for fear of the stigma associated with them. My only advice on social media? Make it social – use it to expand your SOI and you can build results.
Lead Generation Leadership
Look to your fellow agents and find out not only what they like to use for lead generation, but compare it to their personality and yours. Do you know an aggressive agent who can convince a buyer to buy a shack and make them think it’s a mansion? If that’s not your style, you probably don’t want to use their techniques. Know someone who sits by the phone all day and waits for it to ring, yet somehow their phone is always ringing? Find out why it’s ringing so often. There are as many different ways to be a lead generating machine as there are stars in the Texas sky. Some of them are similar, but with a tiny twist can become something altogether new and refreshing. My list is in no way complete, just a few that I’ve had experience with and had the chance to speak with others about. What are your favorites? What do you think will be developed in the future as new tools become available (remember, there was a time when drip email marketing would have been unheard of)? What might be unconventional today, but commonplace tomorrow?
The companies above have given me no compensation for their mention in this post. As noted in each one, I have some experience, whether paid or free with them. None of the companies even know I’m using their names (until they happen to read this post). AgentGenius is not responsible for my personal views on these companies and if anyone has some sort of problem with what I say about the companies, please take it up with me – not them.
photo courtesy of mush2274