Dear Ginny WTH,
The web has proven to be a huge benefit for getting product and service messages to prospective buyers faster, easier, and more cost effectively than many traditional marketing vehicles. This expansion has given rise to even more marketing real estate in the form of banners, sponsored links, blogs, etc. There are quite a lot of marketing content out there. The question is: Are the customers getting it?
Sincerely, Trying to be a smarter agent
Dear Smarter Agent,
As the web is the great equalizer, most companies have launched a multitude of marketing pages, resulting in a deluge of pitches, promises, and promotions. As if that weren’t enough, business messages have infiltrated social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and are now competing with recreational favorites such as video, music, and chatting.
With a growing flood of messages rushing at customers, how are they handling it? Well, if you buy into the rationale that we all have more to do in less available time, prospective customers are drowning in information. Additionally, the current economic climate has decreased the number of purchase decisions being made, giving prospective customers fewer reasons to take notice.
The amount of noise in the marketplace has increased drastically. Consequently, your marketing messages must be razor sharp to cut through the noise and be compelling enough to immediately hook prospective customers.
Here are eight characteristics of good messages that get results. Incorporating these attributes into your messaging will help you get heard, be remembered and, most importantly, prompt customer action. Effective messaging that reaches out, grabs the intended audience, and draws them in typically contains a number of the following:
1. Targeted – Good messaging first identifies the audience you’re attempting to reach and answers the question, “What’s in it for them?” Once you define who the audience is, state the value they can expect from your service in terms they can relate to and understand. Keep in mind that your message may have to be restated for different audiences. Don’t assume that your audiences understand the value they’ll receive — make it clear by specifically targeting your messages for each one.
2. Simple and brief – With today’s onslaught of messages aimed at your target audiences, there is limited capacity for customers to remember who you are and the value you can provide. Some experts contend that humans can typically remember phrases containing up to about seven words. Beyond that, most memories are challenged. There are numerous taglines and sound bites that have been able to effectively convey a key message with a minimum of words. The California Milk Processor Board’s “Got Milk?” and IBM’s “e-Business” are great examples of how keeping it short makes it stick.
3. Compelling, bold – Making a bold statement gets your audiences’ attention and allows you to stand out from the crowd. A good example is Ford’s 1980s message, “Quality is Job 1.” At the time Ford was trying to overcome some hits to its image it had taken for quality problems. The message was extremely successful and went on to become a household slogan.
4. Credible – Provide real evidence that your offering has a true advantage and delivers value. Beer manufacturers have been telling us for years about their “cold filtering,” “3 step brewing processes,” and “mountain spring water” as proof of their great taste. There’s no better way to build credibility than by placing your unique advantage right in the main message. Give your audience a reason to believe your service will truly deliver value.
5. Memorable – Send a message that they can’t get out of their heads. Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” and Sun Microsystems’ “Sun is the dot in .com” come to mind as incredibly memorable messages.
6. Highlights what’s important – In addition to keeping each message brief, the number of key messages should be kept to a minimum. Beyond three key messages on a web page, or on any other marketing vehicle for that matter, it becomes difficult for readers to take away your story. Make sure the messages are contained in the title, headings, and subheadings. Often this is all the reader will have time to read. Don’t believe that just because you have compelling messages in the body of your pages that everyone will take the time to read it.
7. Ubiquitous – Make sure your key messages are everywhere and repeat them frequently — in the title, the headings, the bullets, and the main text. Research has shown that the average person needs to see a message 7-10 times before they are comfortable making a purchase decision. You may wish to state it a little differently each time, but be sure prospective customers walk away with what’s important — the value to them. In addition to your web pages, the same messages should appear in all of your marketing materials, including presentations, web and print ads, and videos.
8. Communicates advantages – Placing your key competitive advantages right in your main message leaves no doubt that you’re offering something better. Arm and Hammer’s new Teeth Whitening Booster Toothpaste’s key message contained on its packaging and web site takes this approach:
“Easier, Faster and 2x More Whitening Agent than leading whitening strips.” The advantages against the unnamed (but presumed) leaders are clearly stated, leaving no doubt to the product’s strengths.
Disputing a property’s value in a short sale: turn a no into a go
During a short sale, there may be various obstacles, with misaligned property values ranking near the top, but it doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker!
It’s about getting your way
Were you on the debate team in high school? Were you really effective at convincing your parent or guardian to let you do things that you shouldn’t have been doing? How are your objection-handling skills? Can you flip a no into a go?
When working on short sales, there is one aspect of the process that may require those excellent negotiation or debate skills: disputing the property value. In a short sale, the short sale lender sends an appraiser or broker to the property and this individual conducts a Broker Price Opinion or an appraisal, using special forms provided by the short sale lender.
After this individual completes the Broker Price Opinion or the appraisal, he or she will return it to the short sale lender. Shortly thereafter, the short sale lender will be ready to talk about the purchase price. Will the lender accept the offer on the table or is the lender looking for more? If the lender is seeking an offer for a lot more than the one on the table, mentally prepare for the fact that you will need to conduct a value dispute.
Value Dispute Process
While each of the different short sale lenders (including Fannie Mae) has their own policies and procedures for value dispute, all these procedures have some things in common. Follow the steps below in order to conduct an effective value dispute.
- Inquire about forms. Ask your short sale lender if there are specific forms that you need to complete in order to conduct a value dispute. Obtain those forms if necessary.
- Gather information. Your goal is to convince the lender to accept the buyer’s offer, so you need to demonstrate that your offer is in line with the value of the property. Collect data that proves this point, such as reports from the MLS, Trulia, Zillow, or your local title company.
- Take photos. If there are parts of the property that are substandard and possibly were not revealed to the lender by the individual conducting the BPO, take photos of those items. Perhaps the kitchen has no flooring, or there is a 40-year old roof. Take photos to demonstrate these defects.
- Obtain bids. For any defects on the property, obtain a minimum of two bids from licensed contractors. For example, obtain two bids from roofers or structural engineers if necessary
- Write a report. Think back to high school English class if necessary. Write a short essay that references your information, photos, and bids, and explains how these items support your buyer’s value. This is not something that you whip up in five minutes. Spend time preparing a compelling appeal.
It is entirely possible that some lenders will not be particularly open-minded when it comes to valuation dispute. However, more times than not, an effective value dispute leads to short sale approval.
Short sale standoffs: how to avoid getting hit
The short sale process can feel a lot like a wild west standoff, but there are ways to come out victorious, so let’s talk about those methods:
What is a short sale standoff?
If you are a short sale listing agent, a short sale processor, or a short sale negotiator then you probably already know about the short sale standoff. That’s when you are processing a short sale with more than one lien holder and neither will agree to the terms offered by the other. Or… better yet, each one will not move any further in the short sale process until they see the short sale approval letter from the other lien holder.
Scenario #1 – You are processing a short sale with two different mortgage-servicing companies. Bank 1 employees tell you that they will proceed with the short sale, and they will offer Bank 2 a certain amount to release their lien. You call Bank 2 and tell them the good news. Unfortunately, the folks at Bank 2 want more money. If Bank 1 and Bank 2 do not agree, then you are in a standoff.
Scenario #2 – You are processing a short sale with two different mortgage-servicing companies. Bank 1 employees tell you that they cannot generate your approval letter until you present them with the approval letter from Bank 2. Bank 2 employees tell you the exact same thing. Clearly, in this situation, you are in a standoff.
How to Avoid the Standoff
If you are in the middle of a standoff, then you are likely very frustrated. You’ve gotten pretty far in the short sale process and you are likely receiving lots of pressure from all of the parties to the transaction. And, the lenders are not helping much by creating the standoff.
Here are some ideas for how to get out of the situation:
- Go back to the first lien holder and ask them if they are willing to give the second lien holder more money.
- Go to the second lien holder and tell them that the first lien holder has insisted on a maximum amount and see if they will budge.
- If no one will budge, find out why. Is this a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan? If so, they have a maximum that they allow the second. And, if you alert the second of that information, they may become more compliant.
- Worst case: someone will have to pay the difference. Depending on the laws in your state, it could be the buyer, the seller, or the agents (yuck). No matter what, make sure that this contribution is disclosed to all parties and appears on the short sale settlement statement at closing.
- In Scenario #2, someone’s got to give in. Try explaining to both sides where you are and see if one will agree to generate their approval letter. If not, follow the tips provided in this Agent Genius article and take your complaint to the streets.
One thing about short sales is that the problems that arise can be difficult to resolve merely because of the number of parties involved—and all from remote locations. Imagine how much easier this would be if all parties sat at the same table and broke bread? If we all sat at the same table, then we wouldn’t need armor in order to avoid the flying bullets from the short sale standoff.
Short sale approval letters don’t arrive in the blink of an eye
Short sale approval letters may look like they’ve been obtained simply by experts, but it takes time and doesn’t just happen with luck.
Short sale approval: getting prepared, making it happen
People always ask me how it is that I obtain short sale approval letters with such ease. The truth is, that while I have more short sale processing and negotiating experience than most agents and brokers, I don’t just blink my eyes like Jeannie and make those short sale approval letters appear. I often sweat it, just like everyone else.
Despite the fact that I do not have magical powers, I do have something else on my side—education. One of the most important things than can lead to short sale success for any and all agents is education.
Experience dictates that agents that learn about the short sale process
have increased short sale closings.
Short sale education opportunities abound
There are many ways to become educated about the short sale process and make getting short sale approval letters look easy to obtain. These include:
- Classes at your local board of Realtors®
- Free short sale webinars and workshops
- The short sale or foreclosure specialist designations
As the distressed property arena grows and changes, it is important to always stay abreast of policy changes that may impact how you do your job and how you process any short sale that lands on your plate.
The most important thing to do is to read, read, read. Follow short sale specialists and those who blog about short sales on AGBeat, Google+, facebook, and twitter. Set up a Google Alert for the term ‘short sale’ and you will receive Google’s top short sale picks daily in your email inbox. Visit mortgagor websites to read up on their specific policies and procedures.
Don’t take on too much
And, when you get a call from a prospective short sale seller, make sure that you don’t bit off more than you can chew. Agents in most of America right now are clamoring for listings since we are in the midst of a listing shortage. But, if you are going to take on a short sale, be sure that it is a deal that you can close. And, if you have your doubts, why not partner up with a local agent that can mentor your and assist you in getting the job done? After all, half a commission check is better than none!
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