Real Estate Marketing Tip: The Power of Reciprocity

Real estate marketing tip

Reciprocity Within The Industry

In Canadian real estate circles, the term “reciprocity” typically applies to MLS Reciprocity, or the IDX feed for displaying MLS reciprocity results on the website. (IDX is an acronym for Internet Data Exchange.)

Real Estate boards like the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) and Victoria Real Estate Board (VREB) provide their own proprietary feeds. Their Reciprocity Programs allow participating real estate companies to share web based listings. FTP and RETS are the two types of data feeds many third-party vendors also use to aggregate MLS data and display it on approved real estate websites.

rec·i·proc·i·ty
noun \ˌre-sə-ˈprä-s(ə-)tē\

: a situation or relationship in which two people or groups agree to do something similar for each other, to allow each other to have the same rights, etc. : a reciprocal arrangement or relationship

As it applies to IDX, reciprocity represents a relationship in which MLS listings are exchanged and made available across many agent and broker websites. That’s the promise of IDX. Any MLS listing you enter, becomes immediately available across thousands of websites.

So why doesn’t it work all that well on most sites? It’s estimated that if at least 20% of the real estate professionals stepped up to the plate, providing real value to their visitors and search engines, and attracted “eyeballs” to their websites, IDX would fully deliver on expectations. The phone would be ringing constantly and the inbox would be full of inquiries.

Somewhere along the way, real estate professionals bought into the pipe dream that there actually is a quick, ultra cheap, “no work”, solution to success. Pay your fifty bucks a month, bang out a quick cookie cutter site, with MLS reciprocity feed, fill in the 5 or 6 standard pages, and wait for the leads to pour in. Yeah right!

Reciprocity With Your Buyers

There’s a far more important exchange, that many real estate professionals have not actively embraced… the one with the prospective buyer and the search engines that can literally ‘make it rain’. You must share to receive. When you publish regular, useful content, your website is:

1. Worth reading

2 Worth linking to by other sites (this influences rankings)

3. Worth indexing  by search engines (it becomes ‘findable’)

4. Worth subscribing to (you have permission to influence their decisions again and again)

5. Worth sharing through social media channels

Internet marketing works for those who work. There is no free (or nearly free) ride. Failure to invest time and effort into content marketing consistently produces abysmal returns for conventional small businesses, and it works the very same for real estate. It doesn’t have to be you, but someone must be actively publishing regular, epic quality, relevant, hyper-local content on your website. The content must be marketed, and there should be engagement with your prospective buyers in social channels. Subscribers and inquiry leads are nurtured with ongoing valuable content.

Whether you hire a coach for your team, or a content marketing pro that specializes in real estate, you need to become proactive. Traffic is earned. You don’t receive it automatically because you tossed up a cheap website in a few hours. There’s a proven blueprint and carefully executed strategy behind success.

When you sell real estate, you are the brand. Invest in it.

The law of reciprocity dictates that you get out of any relationship, exactly what you put in. When you provide value first, you can expect value in return. Is it worth it? If you’re about the only real estate website in your area anybody visits, and they check out the available MLS Reciprocity listings on your site, who do you think will get the call, or an email? Standing out from the herd has its advantages.

Back To You

In no relationship I know of, can we expect the most, by investing the very least. It certainly doesn’t work in a marriage? :-)

Would you agree, that providing genuine value to your prospective buyers, is the best way to upgrade them into leads? Or have you been led to believe that Internet marketing is a complete waste of time and money, by someone selling more ‘traditional’ marketing? I welcome your feedback…

Content Marketing Stats You Can’t Afford to Ignore

Content marketing statsSome business owners and professionals are still skeptical about content marketing. They’re gradually coming to the realization that advertising on traditional media is coming to an end, and they’re going to have to get on board with content marketing, or lose market share to competitors, but they see taking the plunge in 2014 as opttional.

27 million pieces of content are shared every single day and 9 out of 10 organizations already actively market with content. It’s mainstream, and everybody’s doing it.

NewsCreed has put together an informative slide deck, with 50 marketing stats website owners need to know.

Content Marketing is a Marathon, not a Sprint

Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprintOne of the greatest challenges we face as content marketers is overcoming unrealistic client expectations.

Even with high quality content, published on a regular editorial schedule, great search engine rankings and impressive traffic numbers, your readers will probably need to come back several times before they take any action. We have to keep investing the energy, without growing weary.

We live in an instant gratification generation, and publishing content rarely triggers the immediate buying response web owners are hoping for. There’s a tendency to jump ship before the return on investment kicks in.

If runners quit before the first water stop, nobody would ever finish a 10K run, much less a marathon. Rand Fishkin spoke on this yesterday on Whiteboard Friday. He makes a very good point. Competitor impatience is a wonderful thing for those of us that do stick with the program, and it’s one of the reasons content marketing works so well. If everyone hung in there, the competition may be too stiff.

Real Estate Marketing Tip: Are You Saying The Worst Thing Possible?

Real estate marketing tipAs those of you who read my posts will know, I come from the direct sales trenches, where we were taught, “Always be closing!” But more recently, I’ve read many articles that suggest the art of closing is an outdated tactic, that hails from the last millennium.

Quite a few years ago, we spent a lovely Sunday afternoon looking at houses. The third one was exactly what we were looking for. The agent could sense we really wanted it.

She had begun the ascending close. “So you really like this kitchen?” Yes, it’s perfect. “Is the second bedroom a good size for your sewing room?” Yes. “And will the den suit your needs, Cole, for an office?” Should do nicely. “It sounds like you really love the house?” Yes, it has everything on our list. One small “yes” after another…

The next question should have been something like, “So why don’t we write up an offer?” She would then have tactfully shut up and waited (for what often feels like an eternity), until we responded with what would have, in this case, been a yes.

Years later, I still drive by that house from time to time. We never bought it. Do you know what she said to us as we stood by the door, with all those buying signals? “Well you two obviously have a lot to think about…” She made sure we both had her card, shook our hands and smiled warmly, then walked us to our car. I received a voice message a few days later, and I meant to discuss it when I got home… not really sure what happened.

The real estate agent that drove us around that day, was very gracious, helpful and a wealth of information. She had a wonderful personality, and had built a great rapport with us. Sadly, she didn’t want to put those comfortable, friendly feelings at risk by asking us to buy.

Here’s the thing, it is only when we close the sale, that we open the door to future interactions. Had we purchased that home, we would have spent time together during the closing. She would have been invited to the house warming party. And we may have contacted her down the road with referrals. Because she never pressed for a sale, we never saw her again.

Back to you

Do you have a story to share, where you either didn’t pull the trigger, or you locked eyes with your prospect and waited until the answer was, “Okay, let’s put in an offer for…”?

 


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Is a Discovery Process Necessary in Effective Web Design?

Web design discovery process“Look, I just want a quote, okay.”

These are words I’ve heard many times over the years. Prospective clients often balk at entering a discovery process. They assure me they just want a price, so a decision can be made. “Why would you want to waste all this time, when all you have to do is give me your price and I can give you a quick yes or no?”

The problem here is that the new website is viewed as a commodity. People evaluate website proposals the same way they do hamburgers, based upon the list of ‘ingredients’ vs price. In an RFQ showdown, the Hardee’s burger (in the illustration) would lose, because it doesn’t have lettuce, tomato or pickles… a shorter list, even though there is far more burger for the money.

Burger comparisonA client-centric design process assumes that the customer is always right, they know what’s best for their business, and the designer/developer/marketer’s role is nothing more than that of a vendor or ‘work for hire’. That perception, and the way customers shop for internet marketing services, is the reason most websites are listed as a non-recoverable “expense” on the balance sheet.

I’ll be the first to admit that many so-called ‘web designers’ and online marketers are no more than mouse-pushing fulfillment contractors; the unfortunate product of the way most people shop for internet marketing services. It’s very important to differentiate ‘laborer’ from ‘trusted adviser’.

My question is: How is it possible to propose the perfect solution before knowing much about the client, their business, its history, their competition, who their customers are, their goals, or even attempting to discover the problems the solution is supposed to solve?

As an online marketing consultant of more than 17 years, I of course favor an ROI-centric approach with a discovery process, where client profit is priority #1.

Here’s something else few buyers of websites think about. Without proper discovery, a proposal is based on very sketchy information. If that proposal is accepted, the vendor now fears losing the contract by scrapping or revising some of the initial components of the project. So they’ll just stick with the original recommendations, or RFQ bullet points, even though further evaluation exposes a strategy and tactics that are not the right approach at all. Oops!

Commodity vendor vs trusted professional adviser

I see web design, development, SEO and content marketing as being just like any other professional service, such as legal counsel or medical diagnosis. I believe it is a seasoned professional’s duty to carefully research each unique project, assemble the very best solution options for consideration, and help the customer make quality choices based upon the unique aspects of their business, their marketing goals and budget. In the case of online marketing, the right decisions should always result in increased sales, and a healthy return on investment.

When determining the best treatment for complex symptoms, where misdiagnosis could be costly, or even life threatening, the competent physician asks plenty of questions, accompanied by a thorough examination. Additional tests are taken and evaluated. Often more tests are then scheduled to confirm the diagnosis. Physician and patient meet several times to discuss treatment options. And only then is the appropriate treatment prescribed.

With the conventional RFQ or interview process, the owner, or a few members of the management team, look at websites they like and create a shopping list. Without much internet marketing experience, if any, design aesthetics and features become the primary considerations. Requests for quotation are sent out to anywhere from ten to several hundred competing vendors. And the longest list of items on the proposal, for the best price, generally wins the bid.

Experienced estimators quickly learn how to game the RFQ system. For example, one company may list the inclusion of a ‘Blog’, with a paragraph describing it. A competitor breaks that item down into 8 components. They then do the same thing for each item. The resulting twenty page proposal looks a lot more substantial than most of the “thin” ones, almost assuring the project will be won based on perception of “bang for the buck”. For recommendations made completely off the cuff, it does look impressive.

When the buyer puts together a request for proposal, it’s like a patient doing a bit of Google research, providing a self diagnosis for their illness, and requesting physicians to tender bids for the delivery of the chosen drugs or surgical procedure. The approach would be ridiculous, of course, and a misdiagnosis could prove fatal.

Nobody takes quotes from a long list of dentists and chooses the lowest bidder to perform a root canal on the tooth pointed out. It may not even be the right one. Rather, we select an established professional, who takes x-rays, evaluates the bone structure, and then goes through the advantages and disadvantages of several solutions, that may include a root canal, an extraction and bridge, or dental implant.

For the legal profession, it would be the same as preparing your own defense for a serious crime, then selecting the attorney to present your defense in court, as your ‘courtroom puppet’, based upon his/her attire and the price on the quotation. While it’s highly unlikely any self-respecting lawyer would take on the case under those terms, the outcome would almost certainly include a long prison sentence.

Why do we automatically go to established, trusted professionals in these situations, instead of using a bid process? Because the stakes are so high. Yet, businesses live and die based upon the success of their websites and online marketing.

Your company’s future, or your career, deserve the benefit of the advice of an experienced internet marketing professional. To determine the very best solution, there is a discovery process that needs to take place before the adviser has enough information to design a solution that will deliver a solid return on your investment.

The takeaway

You’re buying a successful strategy, and the professional behind it, more than a collection of pixels that make up your website on the screen. Building a lead-generating site, and implementing the content marketing strategy, will probably involve working closely together for months or years. The pre-discovery and discovery processes provide an opportunity for the prospective client and adviser to work together to see if they might be a good fit.

 

Real Estate Marketing Tip: Seeing is Believing

Real estate marketing tipEver wonder why you’re not receiving many emails or calls from your site?

Talk is cheap

Any real estate agent can state that they have their thumb on the pulse of the real estate market in their community. Almost everyone claims that they are the leading local expert, they have the insider information buyers need, and they’re ever so passionate about their community, yada, yada… Read the About Me pages on almost every site and they say essentially the same thing.

Nobody has any reason to believe what you say. As a society, we’ve become very jaded towards marketing statements. A posed or Photoshopped photo in a community setting doesn’t prove you know anything about the real estate in your area. The years you’ve put in don’t prove you’re still a top player. Contrast and proof are key.

What’s contrast? Your website will succeed to the degree your message stands out from the ambient noise. In other words, look at what the majority of agents are doing on their sparse sites, and don’t do that. Be different.

So how do you prove that you are a wealth of up-to-date information, and the go-to Realtor® they should call? Simple…

Demonstrate it with content

Award badges are often suspect. If you say you sell more real estate, you can easily prove it through your site’s vast archive of sold properties. Please tell me you don’t delete listings as soon as they sell, or that you only display IDX reciprocity (3rd party) data on your site.

Your current and archived listings are pure gold. Current listings present your inventory to prospective buyers, but also for indexing by search engines. The archives are huge credibility builders with prospective sellers, and they also present plenty of keywords and content that support local search on Google. Time is money, and there are some brilliant, real estate software solutions for managing listings very efficiently on your website.

It has been said that if you want to be successful in any endeavor, study success. I have been building a swipe file from the real estate ‘heavy hitters’ ($1 million+ per year in commissions) in North America ever since I built the first site for a Realtor® in 1998. Almost without exception, they display their own listing inventory on the pages of their websites, and not through 3rd party IDX data. Think there’s a connection between that decision and the rankings, traffic and success they enjoy?

“To rank well, build a site so fantastic that it makes you an authority in your niche.”

Matt Cutts, Head of Google Web Spam Team

Google is trying to list websites that have real content, published by authority authors in the field, that real people use, engage with, share online and link to.

Most agent’s sites have terrible search engine rankings. No surprise there. They churn out the standard 5 or 6 web pages, have the webmaster drop in an IDX code snippet, so they display reciprocity data, and convince themselves they now have a lead generation machine. And then they wait… and wait… But take a look at the site, for a moment, from Google’s perspective. There’s a ‘Contact Me’ page, with a form, a Home page ‘slider’, and a self promotion ‘About Me’ page… no real content so far. The other 2 to 5 pages are just a regurgitated version of the fluff everyone else puts on their site… essentially duplicate content. And then there’s the 3rd party reciprocity data that isn’t part of the site at all. NO CONTENT is the problem.

The fact that most agents took the easy route in developing their websites and “content” (if you can call it that) opens up incredible content marketing opportunities for you.

When someone pulls out their mobile device in West Vancouver, for example, Google is going to provide a short list of websites for agents that list and sell properties in the immediate geographic area. In this case, let’s say that’s Ambleside. The on-site listings you took the time to re-enter on your website are legitimate on-site content, and validate your claim that you do business in the Ambleside area. Over time you may have accumulated 36 listings (current and archived) within a 10 block radius, so you should be listed right at the top.

While IDX data certainly has its place, it fails dismally at bringing traffic to your site. If you want someone to scan the IDX listings and call you for a showing, you will have to get them to your site first. Your site’s own content, and broader content marketing strategy, makes that happen.

If you’re the prospects’ eyes and ears, in the real estate market, someone needs to be writing in your blog every time there’s a new condo building available, they break ground on a new project, there’s a zoning change that affects the real estate market, etc. You’re very busy, so you may want to have one of your team handle this, or hire an SEO copywriter with real estate content experience, but someone needs to be building your dynamic content.

If you’re very active in your community, your blog and social media pages can demonstrate this as well. The trick here is to make these posts about the reader. Your inclusion in the photos should appear incidental. Focus on the experiences, and sense of community your prospective buyer can expect.

Again, if you take a page from the playbook of some of the heavy hitters, video tours of your listings provide both valuable content for your site, and quality media to share in video posts on Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo. As with listings, adding geographic references to video is a legitimate (non-spammy) way to establish yourself in local search. How-to videos are also very popular. For example, one week you could create a video on “Choosing the Perfect Vancouver Condo.” You would of course include several of your listings in the video, to illustrate the features available.

Detailed information for each of your neighborhoods can be invaluable for buyers considering a move to your area. And it’s an excellent way to build up your relevant content, authority and organic search traffic. Let’s say you have 7 neighborhoods that make up your geographic territory. If you create 4 or 5 pages of quality information on each, you could have 35 new pages that will decimate the other sites that only devoted a single paragraph to each neighborhood.

You’re selling a lifestyle; not so much a house. Your content is the perfect place for you to show that you really get that. Let the other sites embed their ‘canned’ data, while you give your visitors a taste of the lifestyle they’ll soon enjoy. People don’t tweet and share “listings”much, but they will share a post about a dream lifestyle, or a community experience that touches them.

This is just a short list of some of the wonderful content possibilities available to real estate professionals. Over time you’ll become adept at spotting content opportunities, or you can have a content marketing expert map out a content strategy and publishing schedule.

Is it worth it? Real estate is an industry in which even one or two additional, highly qualified leads per month can make the difference between making a living and enjoying an extraordinary income. A site that does what it’s supposed to — generate leads — is a valuable asset, rather than an expense entry on the balance sheet.

The proof is in the content. The very best of luck, “out contenting” your competition. I welcome your comments and questions.

 

How to Grow Your Business With Your Blog

Blogging for leads and salesIs it possible for the average business owner to develop a readership, build a list of subscribers to influence, and eventually generate leads from their blog? Absolutely! But like anything that reliably produces results, it’s going to take a lot of hustle. With some help, it’s definitely within your grasp.

The process works as follows. Blogging gives you something to promote in social and other channels where your prospective customers hang out. They follow the link back to your post. Hopefully they love the post, read a few others, and decide to subscribe to your blog’s feed. Or they give you their email address in exchange for your awesome white paper or other free downloadable. You now have a new subscriber you can influence.

Continuing to deliver valuable posts and email updates keeps them coming back to your site again and again. You have the opportunity to build your authority in the industry, credibility and trust. New information items are offered as downloads. The landing pages for these items ask for additional information about your prospect’s needs. This helps round out your prospect information ‘card’ in the CRM (customer relationship management system) database, and you have a warm lead to follow up with.

Instead of interrupting your prospects’ lives by thrusting annoying advertising in their face, you’ve earned the right to influence their buying decisions by delivering real value in advance. By creating useful content, you’ve caused genuinely interested prospects to seek you out.

The two things you need to get started are a business blog and time.

1. Your blog

For promoting your business, you will want to have your blog hosted on your domain as part of your own website. For example, if your domain is www.xyzwidgets.com, you would probably have your blog set up at www.xyzwidgets.com/blog, and add a menu item to the blog. Sending your visitors out of your site to a third party blog host, like Blogger, Typepad or WordPress.com will give you an address like xyzwidgets.typepad.com, and the SEO value for your site won’t be the same.

Having a blog built, to match the rest of your website, usually takes a professional a few days. I have designed, installed and set up over 150 blogs, so if you need any help, please don’t hesitate to ask me a question below.

Sharing makes the web go ’round. Make sure your blogging efforts don’t go unnoticed. You’ll want to have your blog developer add buttons to encourage sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. To encourage commenting, a comment system like CommentLuv Premium or Disqus can increase interaction.

2. Your time

Alas, there are no real shortcuts to building an audience of highly qualified, prospective buyers. It takes a clear understanding of your audience, a lot of posts, a ton of promotion, tactfully influencing the subscribers to your blog feed and email list, while continuing to provide extremely useful content (so they don’t drop off), while building many quality relationships over time. “But wait a minute,” I hear some of you responding, “I get emails every day offering automated solutions, instant rankings, quick traffic…” I’m certain you do, sprinkled in with the penis enlargement offers.

If you want to invest the required time in blogging and online promotion personally, is there someone that can take over part of your role in the business? Some business owners have done very well, becoming “the face” of their company online.

Writing your posts

Let’s face it, most blog posts aren’t worth reading. Posting is often viewed as a task on a to do list — an unpleasant duty — and the content reflects that. There’s no passion behind the content, no story to engage the reader. Providing really valuable information requires research… as in, it’s serious “work.”

So, too often, the posts are nothing more than shameless advertising, prepared by the sales team. They present the latest discount or product offer. It’s blog spam. Guess what; your readers are bombarded with offers all day long, and preservation of their sanity dictates they tune it out. They are not going to go searching on the internet for your advertising, then subscribe to your blog’s RSS feed or email newsletter, so they can get even more spam offers regularly.

Other blogs cover corporate appointments and staff events. And while these may provide value to the families of employees in attendance, nothing could interest prospective customers less. There are times when showing a bit of your company’s culture has value, by covering an event, but this should not be regular blog content.

And then there’s the journal of completed projects. These case study posts have some value. They do provide the search engines with product, service and geographic keywords to index, and really serious prospects may check the posts out at some point. If these make up only about 10% of your posts, by all means include them.

So what should you write about? Epic content is considered extremely valuable by readers and search engines alike. Valuable content is relevant, focused on the reader and useful. It answers a question or addresses a pain point of the reader, providing an actionable solution to a problem.

To build a readership and following, your content must be frequent and dependable. It’s also timely and has an ‘evergreen’ insight. In other words, while it addresses a current issue, it’s written to remain relevant for the foreseeable future.

It’s transparent, honest and open. You’re trying to build a relationship of trust with your future customers. Be genuine and let some of your personality shine through.

Promoting your posts

When the post goes live, the real work begins. As Jay Baer stated, “We often think about content and social media as different, but they are really two sides of the same coin. Content is fire, and social media is gasoline.

As soon as a good copywriter finishes a post, promotion begins. There are social media sites to post to, social conversations to engage in, comments to leave on related blogs, questions and answers to post on Quora and Yahoo! Answers, similar guest posts to prepare and have published. Every few posts, there’s an email newsletter to publish…

Other peoples’ time?

We’ve established that writing inspired, interesting, well researched and extremely valuable content on a regular schedule is very demanding. And very few business owners will be willing to sacrifice their few hours of personal time to learn how to become an outstanding blogger, and then commit to publishing one to three epic posts each week.

You get what you pay for

You could hire a professional web copywriter, that specializes in SEO and conversion of visitors into subscribers. While not on the payroll, these writers become part of your team. They learn everything they can about your company, its products and services, the competition, your customers… and they never stop learning how to write more effectively for you. In addition to writing some or all of your content, many offer coaching in blog writing and social media, so you or your staff members can learn to produce the caliber of useful content your readers crave.

How about hiring a budget writer, from Elance or Freelancer, as a lower cost alternative? You can buy twenty or more blog posts from one of those sites, for roughly the price of only one written by a conversion/SEO expert. If  blog content, and the marketing of that content, are viewed simply as a commodity, it does make sense to assign it to the lowest bidder. But, as the humorous tattoo comparison to the left illustrates, you tend to get exactly what you pay for when it comes to buying creative work.

Google’s algorithm updates weed out content that fails to provide exceptional value to the reader. Google wants to index epic content that informs and inspires, written by an author established as an authority in the field, with a loyal readership.

Information product marketers discovered a long time ago that paying a professional conversion copywriter $30,000+ for a single long form squeeze page was the best money they ever spent. Profits in the millions of dollars per year could be expected in return for that relatively small investment. In the same way, investing in twenty blog posts, at ten bucks a pop, could actually hurt your search engine rankings and online authority. Investing several times that in an experienced web copywriter, capable of placing your content in front of the right eyes, while building your list and lead database, can be an incredible bargain.

The takeaway

Whether you decide to take on blogging yourself, with some coaching and assistance, or bring in an SEO copywriter, the important thing is to make a commitment to publishing valuable content regularly. Then stick by that commitment. In time, it can deliver a steady stream of customers to your website.

 

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Blog writing
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Writing Content for Anyone Tends to Miss Everybody

Missed targetIt’s very tempting to ‘cast a wider net’ when writing, hoping to attract a larger audience. The more you need sales, the better that idea sounds. There may even be a little short-lived gratification in seeing a tiny blip in the analytics report.

In flyfishing, it’s possible to hook a fish with a generic fly like the Wooly Bugger or basic ‘egg’ pattern. And if you aren’t particular about what species you hook, or are unsure of what’s in the waters, it’s a place to start. But at some point, getting ‘skunk’, or just landing any ugly ass fish that swims by, loses its allure.

When fishing for rainbow trout, I learned to read the water and study the hatches at that time of the year, then carefully match my dry fly to an actual insect specimen I caught, by size, type and color. The results always improved dramatically after carefully presenting a fly tied and selected for my target.

Writing generic content, on the surface, seems like it would have broader appeal. But your prospective customers are bombarded with non-specific marketing all day long. Like the wary rainbow trout, they’ve learned to ignore the unappetizing crap that floats by. Your chances of attracting zero nibbles are very high with non-specific content.

When you take the time to study your audience persona carefully, determine exactly what they’re feeding on, and match the content to it, your results will improve significantly. Not only will you get more hook-ups, but they’ll be from the type of the customer species you’re after.

Content Marketing; Learn to Love the Game

Content marketing is a gameJanuary 1991, the Harvard Business Review published Regis Mckenna’s ‘Marketing is everything‘. It was a powerful prophetic piece that proposed the direction marketing would take over the following decade.

He was right; it’s all marketing, baby. And that’s a good thing! If it were up to fate, most of us would be seriously screwed :-).

If you think about it for a moment, marketing is at the core of every success story. It’s choosing to embrace life, put ourselves out there, and make sure we get our slice of the pie. It’s the way we move our pieces across the acquisition board.

Two people graduate on the same day, from the same prestigious university, with the same degree. Five years later, one has been promoted to CEO of a fast-growing company, that just released their IPO, with the income and lifestyle they both dreamed of back in school. The other is waiting tables at the local watering hole. Just dumb luck, or superior marketing?

We’ve all seen the clumsy nerd or ugly duckling in high school, that somehow married one of the most desirable hotties. He/she took action, out-marketed all rivals, and closed the deal.

The most brilliant invention, or life-changing idea, lies stillborn at the feet of its creator, without marketing. I’m looking at the screen of my Apple computer today, because a very simple product developed in a garage was enthusiastically marketed, and it expanded to so much more. Billions of people get up and go to work each day because the products and services their company provides have been marketed to the world.

Better marketing, better life. Some people instinctively get that. For others, it takes longer to reach that epiphany. Writing this post to you is marketing. Convincing my staff to enthusiastically service our customers is marketing. Sending a thoughtful text message to my daughter is marketing. The happy look on my husky’s face, after taking him to interact with his doggie friends at the beach, is the result of marketing. Every time we reach out and expand our relationships, demonstrating our value in their lives, we’re marketing.

Over the years I’ve heard many people complain, “I hate marketing.”

Call it street smarts, gumption or hustle… it’s marketing that separates the winners from the also-rans in every arena. To say that we hate marketing is to say we hate life.

I can envision our families still huddled in their caves, without the benefit of fire or wheel, had there been none to market new ideas. If we look at the entire timeline of human existence on this planet, 1731 was only yesterday, and The Gentleman’s Magazine was trying to sign on the very first advertisers to a brave new way of marketing, in printed publications. July 1, 1941 the very first television spot ran, for Bulova, and marketing has never been the same since. Some businesses fought each new marketing channel release, while others currently bemoan their rapid demise.

So how does this apply to content?

Content marketing may be a newer marketing channel — exciting or scary — but it’s just marketing. “Out content” the competition and you win authority, traffic, influence, new business and market share. Instead of waiting for the phone to ring, you can embrace it as your “edge”, become proactive today and begin kicking your competitors’ asses to the curb within only months.

Content marketing isn’t as new as the blog hype suggests, but there are some frontier advantages left. It’s still comparatively cheap, when placed next to last millennium marketing tactics like magazine ad spreads, television commercials, the trade show circuit or even pounding the pavement.

Fortunately, you don’t have to figure it out on your own, or even do any of  the heavy lifting. In other words, you need not become a popular blogger, social media evangelist, infogram designer, video producer, email list manager or SEO copywriter. Whether your in-house team needs a coach, or you require someone to handle some or all of it for you, becoming involved has never been easier. I welcome your questions and comments.

Love marketing, love life!

Turning Your Website Into a Lead Machine

I watched Glengarry Glen Ross again last night. The salesmen would do almost anything to get their hands on the coveted “Glengarry” leads, including breaking in to steal them.

Glengarry leadsThe movie took me back a few decades, to my days in vacuum cleaner sales. I worked out of the local Tri-Star office. Our ‘phone girl’ (there wasn’t a politically correct, more glamorous term for them back then) at the time was very pleasant, but most of the leads she wrote on those 3×5 cards were crap. She just didn’t have the courage (or motivation) to tactfully ask the important questions.

We’d be sent out to close people who were unemployed, in the throes of bankruptcy, or worse. A favorite trick was to sign on the dotted line, clean the entire home, and those of every friend and relative, with our gleaming machine, then return it within the 3-day cancellation period in unsaleable condition. The cost of the machine would come out of our commission.

Nobody in the office was making money any more and we were ready to walk. In desperation, our office manager reached out to the regional office. Enter Maya.

Maya was on loan to us, a day or two each week. Her brand new Corvette rumbled up behind our office and in she strode, Chopard on the wrist, Gucci bag, perfect nails and stunning pink dress. Maya knew how to qualify a prospect. She produced her own 3×5′s, custom printed with questions and check-boxes.

She was also sweet, but far more direct, and clever. “In exchange for the lovely steak knives, we’d love your opinion on one of our new products. Our head office would like me to file the responses under various demographics, so they can make better advertising decisions. Could I ask what line of work are you and your husband in? You’re an elementary school teacher, and your husband is a roofing contractor… thanks so much, that’s very helpful.” Check, and check… they’re gainfully employed. She worked her way down the entire list, carefully qualifying each prospect.

Maya’s cards were pink, with a red heart in the upper left corner. Our manager would tell us that if we couldn’t close a pink card, we should find a job flipping burgers, because we sure as hell couldn’t sell. They were the holy grail, “Glengarry leads”, and they didn’t come cheap. Maya put her money where her mouth was. She waived the minimum wage the phone girls received and asked to be paid $150.00 on each sale made (out of our $500.00). Compensated purely out of results, she reserved the right to hand the best leads to the top closers. She worked for about 4 hours a day, without a wage, but there were nights she made over $2,500.00 in kickbacks from the salesmen. Fresh out of high school, I quickly understood the value of a qualified lead.

Sales are the lifeblood of any company. And salespeople will always covet quality leads to follow up and close new business. Gatekeeper resistance is much higher than it used to be, and pounding the pavement is just too expensive. Expecting sales people to cold call their way to impressive sales, particularly within a few months, has become unrealistic in 2014.

Fortunately, the new millennium ushered in the internet as the efficient, cost effective “warm” lead generator. We’ve all been marketed to death. Wary B2C and B2B buyers eschew traditional marketing, preferring to research the products and services they purchase themselves. They value the opinions of others who have already invested. Sales tends to be a longer term process, consisting of quite a few interactions, and consultative selling has pretty much replaced the high pressure closer.

In 2014, highly qualified leads are not generated by a phone solicitor, offering steak knives, but through multiple points of contact. We offer valuable information and genuine connection. Today’s “lead machine” typically has social media relationship builders and content creators at the mouth of the sales funnel.

Transparency, a genuine interest in helping existing customers, and gently educating potential buyers, build value and trust online. Where sufficient content value is perceived, readers will subscribe to updates and follow you. If the caliber of the content your readers receive continues, you have permission to keep in touch. You have influence, the ability to interact again and again. And the subscriber list provides you with priceless information.

Back in the “good old days” of sales, we used the Haines Criss Cross directory to determine the address of our prospects from the phone number. We could then estimate what their income might be. That was what often passed for qualifying the prospect. Today, we can gain a vast amount of information about our subscribers through the internet. LinkedIn and Facebook profiles tell us a lot about each prospect, both professionally and personally. Skilled lead developers build relationships and trust with prospects weeks and months in advance. By the time your salesperson is introduced, it’s a friend recommending a friend; a very receptive lead versus a cold one.

Who is actively courting your potential buyers online today?

Over to You