Real Estate Marketing: Need Leads Before Content Marketing Kicks In?

Real estate marketing tipMany agents simply can’t wait months for enough of their content strategy to roll out for the leads to start coming in. Does that mean content marketing’s not for them?

Paid search platforms like Google AdWords, Bing Ads and Yahoo! Search Ads can begin delivering qualified leads in as little as 48 hours. If you have a new domain, or have changed your marketing focus recently, you may not have any search engine rankings or organic traffic. Paid search offers a wonderful stopgap solution.

The instant gratification of buying ads can be a trap, however, and it’s something you need to be aware of. When you’re maxing out your marketing budget in paid ads, there may be little or nothing left for creating and publishing brilliant content or marketing it through social media. Relying on ads for most of your traffic, for the life of your website, isn’t a cost effective strategy. It’s important to invest part of your marketing budget into epic content (epic = far better than anything your competitors are publishing) as well.

A strategy in which paid search decreases as content marketing results increase can be the ideal solution for website owners that can’t wait for organic results to kick in.

The balance between paid and organic search

Think of paid search as “renting.” You aren’t building any equity. If you have a slow month, and find yourself cutting back on PPC (pay per click) advertising, your traffic will evaporate when you need it most.

Conversely, you own the content you create and publish. Your site’s content, and the marketing of that content in social channels, gradually builds up your online equity every week. When you invest time and money into organic search on your site, in Google, Bing, Yahoo!, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and others, you’re building credibility and authority online. You have the ability to establish yourself as the go-to expert in your field.

If you’re new to PPC (pay per click) advertising, be sure to get some expert assistance. An effective strategy, carefully implemented, with well-written ads, landing pages and expert copywriting, can dramatically increase your return on investment.

High converting landing pages are essential. If your paid visitors aren’t contacting you and joining your email list, you’re losing money. A high bounce rate will also decrease your quality score with Google, and that means you’ll pay a lot more for your ads.

Qualified Real Estate leads in as little as 48 hours

Real Estate Marketing: Becoming the Go-To Agent in Your Area (Part 2)

Real estate marketing tipBecoming “findable”

In part one, I discussed the ‘Quick, Easy and Cheap’ rent-a-site solution so popular with real estate professionals in North America. Agents pay their monthly fee, slap up a cookie cutter site in under an hour and wait for leads. And while well established agents can turn up in Google when their name is searched, this minimalist approach doesn’t produce results for newer agents, where they aren’t known as the go-to agent in the area, and someone is searching for a particular type of property in their neighbourhood.

As in all areas of life: minimal investment, minimal return. Contrary to all the spam emails that promise otherwise, there are no shortcuts to becoming the best.

Without “eyeballs” nobody is going to contact you regarding a home they saw in IDX (MLS Reciprocity in BC). They won’t join your email list, phone or fill in a form.

Bottom line: if they can’t find you, they can’t buy from you or give you the listing.

So how can someone rise to become that go-to person? If it took your competitor twenty years to become established as the local expert, can you realistically overtake him/her in a year or two? With the incredible exposure the Internet can give you, the answer in 2014 is “Yes!”

Your website

Credibility and authority are earned by providing incredibly valuable, unique information to prospective buyers and sellers. (The standard regurgitated buyer and seller pages that appear on almost every site in the country do not qualify as unique or valuable.)

With the Google algorithm updates that have been rolled out since February 2011, earning Google rankings has become a ‘local content’ play. And that’s good news for real estate professionals. Create and publish epic (far more valuable than anything the competition is churning out) hyper-local content on a regular schedule, promote it well, and you can expect Google to favour your site with high rankings.

You need to begin thinking of your website as a content platform. Each piece of content should become an asset; it either builds your relevance online, or dilutes it.

Focus

You can’t be all things to all people, if you want to become a recognized expert. You must choose an area to become the leading authority for. Specializing in one type of property or buyer also helps considerably. Specialization requires an act of courage, and not everyone is capable of such a bold step forward. And that’s a good thing, because it allows you to rise above the ordinary agents that are so afraid of missing anyone, they target and consequently miss everyone.

Becoming “more local”

I was in a Skype meeting with someone yesterday. To illustrate the value of relevant content in achieving rankings, I Googled “vancouver real estate”. Google indicated it had 72,500,000 page results indexed. Talk about competition!

The top 2 positions went to MLS sites, followed by Realtor.ca. After that, we came across major news providers, Craigslist, major brokerages and a few specialty real estate sites. Half way down the third page of results we discovered the first agent’s website. So why was he ranked that far down?

The top agent’s website simply had less relevant content for “vancouver” + “real estate.” The MLS sites had thousands of optimized listing pages for homes in Vancouver, so that was a no-brainer. The top ranking news sites had published many articles on Vancouver real estate over the years. And so had the websites of the major brokerages. Craigslist had tens of thousands of current and archived classifieds.

The two specialty real estate sites both focused on condos in a very small farm area in Vancouver. Because their content focus was tighter, one turned up on page one in Google’s results and the other on page two. But even those sites missed the mark, with only one or two pages of local information. Their on-site listing pages (not IDX/MLS Reciprocity feeds) had been aggressively optimized, and that’s the only reason they were able to “out content”some of the big boys.

In case you missed that, one of the quickest ways to generate plenty of local content on your site, for your SEO to optimize for your keywords, is to bring all of your current, expired and sold listings “home.” If they’re only available in IDX (MLS Reciprocity), they aren’t “your” content. (Displaying “piped in” IDX feeds on your site, from an external database, doesn’t physically place that content on your domain.) We will usually install software on client sites that allows them to easily re-enter all of their current and past listings on their own website. The MLS descriptions are rewritten, so they aren’t duplicate content, and then we carefully optimize each page for the keywords we’re targeting. That one insider trick could potentially get you ranked among the specialty real estate sites on the first two pages on Google.

But rankings and traffic alone will not establish you as the leading authority for real estate in your neighborhood.

Trying to “out content” top ranking sites like the top brokerages, MLS providers and directories in volume may not be affordable. But there’s another approach: become more local. And that’s what hyperlocal content is all about, providing higher quality local information than any other website.

We create a long list of things someone considering a move into the area may check out. Where are the parks? The schools? Churches? Grocery and convenience stores? Hair salons? Athletic facilities? What are the annual and upcoming community events? Are there any zoning changes that will affect new real estate and property values? Any new developments coming up? There are over a hundred potential pages and posts in every neighborhood.

If you’re writing a page on the Kitsilano schools, Google what’s currently available. For every piece of content you create and publish, your site’s version must be considerably better. If the top contender has 4 paragraphs and one photo, why not write 4 or 5 paragraphs for each school? Go out and take a main photo of each school, and a few more that feature things like the playground, a sports event, the charity drive results… you get the idea. Include a Google map, with pins for the locations.

So how does becoming the top local information resource help you sell real estate? For one, you’re also building out the on-site pages of your listings. And you’re creating valuable “real estate” information pages. If you sell condos in Kitsilano, for example, I recommend creating at least ten evergreen (will still be current and relevant a few years from now) pages that help buyers evaluate their condo options in the Kitsilano area, and make quality decisions when buying a condo. Some pages would target relocation buyers. Another might be written for retirees. And then there’s the investment buyer.

You will also want to create several must-have ebooks for download. You’re going to entice visitors to give you their contact information in exchange for this extremely valuable information.  For our example, how about an ebook entitled “Kitsilano Condo Buyer’s Guide: 10 Things You Must Consider Before Making Your Decision.” Others could be a “Kitsilano Relocation Kit – 2014 Edition” or the “Kitsilano Condo Investor’s Guide – 2014 Edition.” Each document will be marketed in an attractive landing page, with expert copywriting and attractive graphics.

But what if you’re targeting sellers, not buyers? For starters, it’s far more difficult to write inspired content for sellers, and you are going to need quite a lot of it, published regularly. To attract sellers, you require great rankings. You must be extremely “findable” on the search engines and social sites. Once you have rankings and qualified traffic, you can of course offer ebooks that target sellers; something like “Selling Your Kitsilano Condo: 10 Things Your Must Do to Get The Best Price.” In that way you control the type of leads you’re getting. (If you really don’t want buyer leads, you might also consider selling them to agents that do.) :-)) The other important reason for planning seller content carefully is that you could unwittingly convince visitors to take the FSBO approach. It’s better to provide a lot of hyper-local neighbourhood information on your site’s pages and exchange the really great seller content for a lead.

 Social media

Real estate is a relationship business. But everywhere you look you’ll find offers for a solution that automates social media and avoids the human connection. Saving time and leveraging our efforts can have advantages, but not when it makes our potential clients feel alienated. The primary advantage you offer over your competitors is the quality of experience and personal commitment you bring to the table. That’s another topic, and in an upcoming post I’m going to get into the importance of connection in social channels.

For the purposes of this article, I only want to stress the importance of getting the greatest return from your fresh content, by promoting it when your social posts are most likely to be read.

Facebook: 7 days a week, 10:08 am and 3:04 pm.

Twitter: Monday through Friday, 10:00 pm PT (midnight CT) to 8:00 pm PT (10:00 pm CT) the following day. On weekends, 1:00 am PT (3:00 am CT) to 7:00 pm (9:00 pm CT).

Google+: 9:03 am and 7:04 pm. Don’t bother posting on weekends.

LinkedIn: 8:14 am. Again, don’t bother posting on weekends.

You can install plugins on most popular web platforms that post to social channels automatically. I can never understand why bloggers will so willingly drop the baton right at the finish line. If you spend a few hours researching and creating a piece of extremely valuable content, why would you rely on software to blast out an excerpt it selects out to your audience without even proofing it?

It only takes a few minutes to manually post to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. And it gives you the opportunity to proof and carefully tag your posts before they go live. You can also add a photo in Twitter, something most auto-post software won’t do. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ tabs are always open in my browser.

It should be noted that in order for your social media promotion to be effective, it is important to have a sizable list of subscribers/followers to post to. If you are only marketing your new content to 20 people, magic is not going to happen. And the quality of your readership is equally important. If you’ve been connecting with anyone you can, to create an impressive number of fans/followers/connections, I’m telling you the value of “social proof” has been grossly overrated. You need to be promoting your content to potential clients. Developing a good social following  is an area where many real estate professionals require coaching and assistance.

How content marketing is supposed to work

When you’re implementing a quality content marketing strategy, every time a new piece of content is published, and then promoted in social and other online channels, you should see a very noticeable spike in traffic on Google Analytics within hours. You literally have the handle of the faucet in your hand. If you want to turn the flow of leads on, create a great article or post, then promote it. There may be some new subscribers to your RSS feed, and more people will opt-in to your email list. These new subscribers represent influence. They’ve invited you to keep in touch. Some may call you directly, after seeing your new post on LinkedIn or Google+.

Any agent can say they have their finger on the pulse of what’s happening in real estate in your area. You’re proving it, and that’s how you’ll become the leading authority over time.

Need leads right now?

Can’t wait for organic results? In the next post I discuss a way to strike a balance between quick results and long term growth and sustainability.

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Qualified Real Estate leads in as little as 48 hours

Real Estate Marketing: Becoming the Go-To Agent in Your Area (Part 1)

Real estate marketing tipQuite a few years ago, as I completed the Real Estate Licensing course in Abbotsford, I was sent into the Vancouver regional office for orientation and training.

One of the things our instructor covered was the stiff competition we would face as new agents: seasoned heavy hitters with an established reputation, a formidable network of referrals and contacts, and efficient systems fine-tuned over decades. He warned us of the folly of believing youthful energy, and the willingness to work ridiculous hours, would magically enable us to overtake the seasoned pros.

He produced dismal statistics for the failure rate among new agents, and urged us to find a way to stand out. Specializing by market and/or geographic area, and finding a way to be truly unique was to be our salvation. He warned us against blending in, or trying to become all things to all people.

I made a sketch of the Pareto Principle triangle our instructor put on the overhead projector that day, and have made some tweaks to it over the years. Real estate is no different from other careers: 20% of the agents will make 80% of the money. If they don’t quit, most will fall into the dreaded comfort trap. They make just enough to cover the bills, perhaps finance the token Mercedes and take a vacation every year. They won’t muster the courage to specialize in one type of property or ‘farm’ area; and they will never really “buy in” to their career, investing in “get it done” marketing, coaching or shadowing the very top experts. He warned us about a minimal investment / minimal return mindset. (Been there, done that… more concerned about holding onto every penny of a small income, than investing in a better one.)

Real Estate Agent Incomve Pyramid

I’m sure similar speeches have been delivered to new agents across the country. So why is it that when I check out website after website, almost every real estate agent is doing the very same thing? Monkey see, monkey do.

In my real estate coaching, I often ask new agents how they arrived at their online strategy. I quickly discover that there actually is no strategy. They looked at the sites of a few of the better known agents and brokers in the area, then found a solution provider to essentially duplicate what they had. If the established agent doesn’t use social media or blog, and says it’s stupid, they avoid the content marketing approach as well.

This internet-averse solution generally includes an ultra-cheap rent-a-site solution, at under fifty bucks a month. (Some of the vendors promise your do-it-yourself cookie cutter website will be online in minutes. A lot of research and planning goes into these ‘easiest and cheapest’ marketing solutions. :-) ) A template is chosen, an About Me page is hastily written, a few standard Buyer and Seller pages are selected and the rest of the content comes from IDX (MLS Reciprocity in BC). Ta da!… another live website. And now all they have to do is wait for the leads to pour in. And they wait… then wait some more…

Does this no-brainer / no effort / no investment solution actually work? Unfortunately, for the old school agents that are already well established and connected: sometimes. Why? Because people already know them by name and reputation, and will search for these agents in Google directly with something like, “john smith north vancouver realtor.” They don’t have to be great content creators or active in social media. All they have to is rank for their name. They don’t require any help in getting up to speed with 2014 marketing. In fact, their rankings on Google can be shit (page 50 or worse), and they’ll still get customers by reputation.

But will this work for a new agent, when someone looks for “condos in vancouver?” Hell no! People will only click on MLS Reciprocity listings on your site, or contact you, if they visit your site. So what do you do, when you haven’t established your “kick ass and take names” heavy hitter reputation yet, and you’re not connected with the right people?

You must become incredibly “findable”!

If someone searches for the type of property you specialize in, in your ‘farm’ area, you need to come up in the top 5 results on Google, Bing, Yahoo!, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. #1 would be better.

And that’s what I’ll talk about in the next post: How do you become findable?

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Qualified Real Estate leads in as little as 48 hours

Real Estate Marketing Tip: Best Times to Post to Your Blog and Social Media

Real estate marketing tipI’m often asked what the best times are for releasing blog posts and for posting to “the big four” in social media: Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Newspapers around the globe have the paper waiting on the porch to go with the first cup of coffee in the morning. The general consensus among bloggers is to have the post available before 7:00 am.

Social media is a bit trickier. Here you want to time your posts so your readers will come across them as they skim their social media wall or feed. Time the release incorrectly and your readers would have to scroll down too far to ever spot your content.

For much of our in-house and client work, we use the Buffer app to time-release social posts at optimal times, based upon the content volume. (Client budgets usually dictate the amount of content we publish for them.)

To determine the very best times to post I again checked what Buffer has to say about posting times and frequency.

https://twitter.com/buffer/status/491781752592269312,
http://blog.bufferapp.com/?s=best+times+to+post,
http://blog.bufferapp.com/social-media-frequency-guide

Here’s a quick summary of the information:

Facebook

2 times a day, 7 days a week, 10:08 am and 3:04 pm.

Twitter

14 times a day, Monday through Friday, 10:00 pm PT (midnight CT) to 8:00 pm PT (10:00 pm CT) the following day. Maximum 1 post per hour.

On weekends, reduce the posts to 7 times a day, 1:00 am PT (3:00 am CT) to 7:00 pm (9:00 pm CT) – roughly every 3 hours.

Google+

2 times a day, 9:03 am and 7:04 pm. Don’t bother posting on weekends.

LinkedIn

Once a day, 8:14 am. Again, don’t bother posting on weekends.

Over to you

Have you discovered your own “sweet spot” for getting content in front of readers? Is there a tool you like to use to release your posts at the best times? I welcome your comments.

Qualified Real Estate leads in as little as 48 hours

Real Estate Marketing Tip: Generating Leads with LinkedIn (Part 3)

Real estate marketing tipConversion: Acquiring and then moving a member of your audience step by step towards an action that makes them a buyer (or seller)

In the first post in this series I covered packaging; making yourself look outstanding online with a kick-ass LinkedIn profile. In the second post, we discovered ways to make connections. So now you have a network of hand picked connections. Some are prospects, others connect you with potential buyers and sellers. What do you do with them?

As anyone that is very serious about marketing themselves online has discovered, you can have thousands of social media followers, earn dozens of top ten Google rankings and a flood of traffic to your website, and still generate little or no leads. But how could this be?

Let’s bring it closer to home. Do you know of any real estate professional that sits at an open house every weekend, shows more than twenty homes a week, or literally lives in the sales centre of a new development, but rarely (if ever) writes an offer? Close, but no cigar! If “coffee is only for closers“, most web strategies don’t come within a hundred yards of the coffee machine. They simply don’t convert.

There is no business problem that cannot be fixed with a significant increase in sales.
– Kevin O’Leary, on Shark Tank

Visitors rarely contact an agent on the first visit.  A small percentage of the people that find you in LinkedIn will contact you directly. These are people that are looking to buy or sell immediately. And when they do, they will probably contact you through LinkedIn. The strength of your profile and the expertise you demonstrate in your regular posts will be the determining factor.

Our generation has been marketed to death. The last thing any of us want is to be pounced on by another salesperson. That’s one of the reasons social media sites like LinkedIn are usually the first connection with prospective clients. It’s a safe place.

The next step in the sales funnel is getting them to your website. The quality of your profile and posts must intrigue them enough to click through to your site or blog for more information. The better you can align the titles and intros on your posts with specific audience needs, the greater the chance they’ll end up on your website.

This is where many real estate professionals get it all wrong. Instead of providing unique and valuable information for their target audience, the website is all about the agent and what they want to sell. (The standard buyer and seller pages found on almost every real estate site in the world are rarely valuable and certainly not unique.) Industry statistics and analytics data we’ve collected suggest your visitors may come back 5 to 8 times before filling in a form or dialing the phone.

Let’s face it, people are not going to come back to your site several times to hear you toot your own horn. MLS Reciprocity (IDX) listings are available on almost every real estate site. What possible reason is there for them to return to your site enough times to become a warm lead?

If you’re thinking, “I’m doing exactly what everyone else is doing,” you’re probably right. And therein lies your advantage: the ability to provide contrast. You will succeed in online marketing and lead generation to the degree you stand out from the ambient noise. All those competitors saying exactly the same thing… just noise to your audience.

Brace yourself for a shock. Your buyers and sellers don’t actually care about you. The only reason they will contact you, over any other agent, is if they come to believe you can provide a solution for their point of pain. Whether they need to buy, sell, relocate or invest, your content provides you with an incredible opportunity to demonstrate value, and your ability to solve their problem.

Many of the clients I have coached have expressed concerns over “limiting their audience” by specializing. As a copywriter of twenty-seven years, I can tell you it’s a lot easier to write for a very specific reader persona, where I know exactly what their needs are. It’s writing for “anybody” about “whatever” that’s the big challenge.

Let’s say you specialize in single family homes, for young families, relocating to the North Vancouver area. If a family is considering a move into the area, what are their needs? Where do these people shop? Where will their children go to school? If they have a few hours to relax in the evening, what are the areas and activities they might enjoy? If they are religious, where can they go to worship? Where will they walk their dog, go to the vet, or have him groomed? Creating plenty of hyper-local pages and posts that deliver genuine value to these prospective buyers, provides a reason to come back again and again. (And the positive affect building this content has on SEO, rankings and sustainable organic traffic can be significant.)

The power of influence.  When you write authoritatively for a specific audience, on a regular basis, some people will want to subscribe, to avoid missing a single post. For this to work, of course, the content must be extremely valuable to the target reader. Make sure your website offers the opportunity to subscribe to your post updates by email and/or in an RSS reader.

Subscription allows you to gently influence your readers’ buying decisions again and again, with their full permission. When you have visitors returning repeatedly for your content, the next step in the sales funnel is getting them to subscribe to your email updates. You’ll want to offer a downloadable ebook or white paper, that offers even more information to your readers, in exchange for their name and email address. For the example above, something like “North Vancouver Home Buyers Guide – How to Choose the Ideal Location for Your Family,” might be popular. Have your conversion expert craft a powerful landing page that gets readers excited about the free incentive, and provides a form for subscribing to your list. To be CASL-compliant, in Canada, you must use the double opt-in process for sign-up. Make sure to include an added free bonus in the opt-in email your auto-responder sends out.

Your new subscriber is not a warm lead. Do not pounce on them, with a phone call or personal email.

The next step is to fully deliver on the value you promised when they signed up. If you offered a monthly email, with tips for North Vancouver home buyers, make them so thrilled with the information they receive, they can’t wait for the next email. Get a graphic/web designer to make them stunning. Do not send plain text emails.

I’m going to recommend you build at least two lists: one for VIP Updates and another for content subscribers. Do not blast your new listings to the people who have trusted you for the North Van. home buyer tips.

The transition from influence to lead. Avoid “selling” in your email updates. But this doesn’t mean you can’t move your subscribers ever forward in the sales funnel. Every email should provide intros to exciting, extremely useful, pages and posts on your site. And at the bottom, offer them another downloadable ebook. The new freemium item should provide new information they simply must have.

The link will take them to a ‘second tier’ landing page. The form on the page will ask one or two additional questions about their needs. The autoresponder will thank them, providing a link to the new ebook and another bonus item. The new information is added to your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system.

Many email strategies include a series of 5 to 10 related ebooks, offered in rotation in the emails. The related landing page for each ebook asks another question or two. By the third or forth download, your CRM’s database will indicate whether you have an interested collector of your content, or a warm lead that has willingly shared additional information about their buying or selling needs.

Real estate lead generation

It’s appropriate to send out a personal email of introduction to your warm leads. Offer to answer any questions, but avoid going into a pitch. You might want to include a link to one of your free downloads as a gift. (You’ll know which ones they have not downloaded from the CRM database.) And then you could mention two properties that might interest them, based upon the information they provided.

Insider tip: MLS Reciprocity allows you to enter the two listings directly into your site’s own listing database, whether they are your listings or not, so you can provide a link back into your own site, rather than the MLS. (If your site does not offer this powerful option, you might consider an upgrade.)

Speeding up the process. There are several ways to accelerate the lead generation and nurturing process. You can publish more content and promote it on LinkedIn more frequently. This will load more prospects into the funnel.

You can send out updates to your subscribers more often, with more great downloadable freemium items. If you want a bigger, better real estate business, build bigger and better content.

And you can interact with your visitors sooner by encouraging them to comment on your posts. Again, no selling when you reply to comments, but this is a great place to recommend they download the ebook that best applies to their comment. You may also consider adding a live chat feature, offering to answer any questions your readers may have.

Lead nurturing is a marathon, not a sprint. Many agents have a churn ‘em and burn ‘em old school “numbers game” mindset. Don’t be so ready to toss a good lead in the bin. If your prospect has downloaded several informative ebooks, and filled in additional fields of information, there’s genuine interest there. They may not want to look at homes or list theirs today, but they’re reading your content for a reason.

Make sure you stay top of mind, in a way that is friendly and genuine. Facebook is a great place to find out more about your new friends, and engage in their lives. For example, you might congratulate him on coming in third in the charity golf tournament or provide a thoughtful comment when her mother goes into the hospital for surgery. Update your CRM constantly with new details and commit to keeping in touch. Always remember that people prefer doing business with people they like. Your engagement lets them know you care about more than the potential commission.

Every few weeks, nurture your leads by sending a personal invitation to a post or article you think they’ll find interesting or useful. The content doesn’t have to be on your site, or related to real estate. You might send a skier a humorous skiing cartoon, or link to a YouTube video. A foreign investor in condos may enjoy an article with forecasts and condo trends on Inman News.

 Back to you

Do you have a LinkedIn success story to share? Or a question about LinkedIn marketing, setting up an autoresponder and CRM or developing all the content you’ll need?

I welcome your comments below, or private email inquiries.

Qualified Real Estate leads in as little as 48 hours

Real Estate Marketing Tip: Generating Leads with LinkedIn (Part 2)

Real estate marketing tipMaking connections

In my last post in this series I covered a LinkedIn profile makeover. Assuming you spent a few hours polishing up your profile, or hired a social media expert for a complete ‘kick ass’ social media rebrand, you should now be ready to begin building your network.

LinkedIn isn’t like most other social media sites. You can’t just contact anyone and ask them to be your friend. Contacting strangers can affect your reputation as a real estate professional. It could even get you banned from LinkedIn.

So how do you connect?

Start with who you know. Most of us don’t knock on almost every door, in our area, asking people to be our friend. But that’s how many networking sites work. LinkedIn has tried to duplicate the natural process we use to connect in business, through an introduction.

Use the search field, or LinkedIn advanced search, to find everyone you already know in the real estate industry. Then look up friends, your alumni and professional associates from previous positions. In the options you have to select from, when you click the “Connect” button, truthfully indicate how you know each person. (If you claim to have done business with strangers you would like to connect with, you can expect a warning email from LinkedIn within a few days.)

Consider the bigger picture. If you want to connect with condo investors in the Vancouver area, for example, who can you think of that already has these people in their connections? Aha… other real estate agents and brokers. You can connect with the ones you know. And who would have these real estate professionals in their list of connections? How about condo developers, home staging businesses and mortgage brokers? Every connection you make gives you potential access to that person’s network. You have to think like a chess player, with more than the next move in mind.

Maximize your invitations. When you receive “please add me to your LinkedIn network” invitation request notices by email, these are pure gold. Do not delete them before fully leveraging the power of these invites.

Click the blue “Accept” button in the email. A page will open in your browser, displaying the “People You May Know” list, which now includes introductions to people from your new connection. Look for new faces. Take the time to carefully send out your own connection requests to people on that list you believe are either a) a good prospect, or b) could potentially introduce you to a good prospect.

Take the time to click the profile pages of potential connections. (The link opens in a new page, so you won’t lose your place.) Every connection you make, influences your potential future connections, so choose wisely. You’re looking for prospective customers, and those that can provide a connection to those buyers or sellers.

With Twitter, there’s an element of social proof that comes from having a large number of followers. 15,000 followers is supposed to imply that the person’s tweets are actually worth reading. LinkedIn has discouraged building enormous networks of useless, unrelated followers by publishing the message “500+ connections” for larger networks. As a real estate agent or broker, geographic location is usually important. If you connect with people in Vancouver, they will help you network with other people in Vancouver.

How to get more invitations. The more visible you become, the more invitations you can expect to receive. And each invitation delivers another fresh list of potential connections. It’s like Christmas! So it’s time to stop lurking in the LinkedIn shadows and become very actively involved.

Join relevant groups and contribute. Search LinkedIn Groups for topics your prospective buyers may be interested in, like “Vancouver real estate investing” or “buying condos in Vancouver”. Join a few that are on topic and popular. Then contribute to the conversations regularly. If the ideal group does not exist, consider starting one.

Like and comment on the status updates of  your connections. When positive and negative changes occur in the lives of your connections, take the time to provide thoughtful and supportive comments. When they post an update, interact and engage. What did you like about the post? Which ideas will you be able to put into practice in your business? The writers love receiving feedback and their connections can read your comments. Always remember that people do business with people they like.

Follow companies. A great way to gain the attention of other people searching for companies connected with the real estate industry is to follow companies that do business in your area.

Create your own company page. If you haven’t created your own company page yet, and you have incorporated your real estate business, you should definitely set up your LinkedIn company page today.

Publish regular updates. You should be blogging on your website a few times a week. Each of these posts provides an opportunity for a status update on LinkedIn, with a backlink to the post on your site.

There is a place for making announcements, like the new condo project you listed this week. But you want to keep self-promotion to 20% or less, or you’ll risk driving away your audience. So what should you blog about? If many of your ideal customers are real estate investors, how about writing a regular ‘how to’ column on real estate investment? You can also blog about zoning changes and their impact on local real estate opportunities. If your buyers are young families, looking for a townhouse, your blog offers you endless topics for your area, like daycare, playgrounds and parks, places to walk a dog, etc.

Curate great content. In addition to your own blog post excerpts, you will probably want to curate content from other relevant sources. A tool like Feedly allows you to monitor the feeds of many blog feeds. I like to begin each day with an espresso, while checking the industry news on my iPad in the Feedly app. (Feedly is also available in popular computer browsers and as an Android app.) Anything I believe my readers would like to read, is sent to Buffer, where it is time-released to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Publish articles. LinkedIn now allows you to publish long-form articles. This opens up incredible opportunities for establishing your authority in your industry, for gaining followers to your company page and connection invitations. One word of caution: make sure this content is completely unique, not a duplicate of something you read online, or even one of your own blog posts.

LinkedIn Invitations emails

When people accept your invitations, LinkedIn will send you an email with the subject line: “LinkedIn Invitations.” Your new connection will be featured at the top, and you will be prompted to check for other people you may know. Clicking the “See more >” link will take you back to the list of people you may know. Chances are you’ve already selected everyone that met your criteria on this list, but it’s a great opportunity to send out a few reminders.

The takeaway

Most real estate pros crash and burn at LinkedIn. They put up a half-ass profile and wait for it to rain. But with a solid strategy, carefully implemented, and plenty of good old fashioned work, the payoff can be extraordinary.

If you’re just starting out or in considerable need of leads, with the help of some coaching, building your LinkedIn connections may be a very productive use of your time. If your days are already full, engaging with prospective buyers and/or sellers, you will probably need someone to handle your LinkedIn lead generation. With coaching, one of your assistants may be able to take on the roll, or you may find it more cost effective to bring on a dedicated expert on a contract basis. If I can answer any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment, or contact me.

 Coming up

In the next post, I’ll tell you how to begin converting your LinkedIn connections into email leads and contacts in your CRM.

Qualified Real Estate leads in as little as 48 hours

Real Estate Marketing Tip: Generating Leads with LinkedIn (Part 1)

web-to-sold-tip129LinkedIn has changed the way real estate professionals connect, network and engage. With over 300 million members, it has become the world’s largest professional network.

Many of your local prospective buyers and sellers are carefully evaluating professional profiles before ever making a call or sending an email. LinkedIn has also replaced the Rolodex for networking with other agents and brokers.

An incomplete or outdated profile can hurt your chances of being found in searches, and it can create a negative first impression.

Does Your Profile Need a Makeover?

Update your headline. Does your headline grab the reader’s attention? Will it position you as a leader in your chosen field of expertise?

If you specialize in marketing condos in Downtown Vancouver, make sure “condos” appears in your headline. With so many faces to choose from, the more carefully you target searchers, the more likely you are to be found. If you specialize in oceanfront view properties in Whiterock, stating that in your headline makes you a front runner in related searches.

Trying to cast a wider net tends to work against you here, diluting your relevance. The more you try to appeal to everyone, the less likely you are to connect with anyone.

Specify your location. It always amazes me how many real estate marketers will not fill in the geographic area they service. “Canada” is far too broad. You will never be found by searchers looking for “condos in Surrey”, for example, if you avoid associating yourself with “Surrey.” Commit to your chosen ‘farm’ area when you fill in the Location and Industry details.

Update your photo. If you don’t have an amazing, recent photo of yourself, have a professional photographer take one right away. You want an image that makes you appear professional, but also friendly and approachable.

The mug shots that hang in many real estate offices can be too standoffish, particularly if they were taken with the arms crossed pose so popular a few years back. Cell phone ‘selfies’ and photos where you’re included with loved ones are not professional. The caricature you took home from your Christmas party may be cute, but it makes a cheesy business icon.

It goes without saying that hiding behind a logo or QR code is a very bad idea. This is a people business and, like it or not, you are the brand. Striving for anonymity and a successful real estate career is like trying to drive in opposite directions at the same time.

Fill in the blanks. Take the time to fill in your career background and educational history completely. LinkedIn provides a handy profile completeness meter to assist you.

People that seem to appear out of nowhere aren’t as credible as those that are confident their background and life experience provide a foundation for their current career in real estate. If your career history only covers the last four years, readers will not naturally conclude you’ve always been in real estate. They are more likely to draw from the omission that you may be ashamed of your roots.

You don’t have to include every embarrassing detail of your life, but allow people get to know you. Letting them know, for example, that you’re a golfer, can be a point of connection with a potential buyer.

Be different! As you’re filling in your profile, write for the readers. Think in terms of benefits. If you make a claim, jump to the readers’ side of the table and ask what difference that makes.

Studying the competition can be risky, if it causes you to become another clone. The concept you want to embrace is “contrast”. Show your personality in your profile. The general rule of thumb here is: you will succeed to the degree you stand out from the ambient noise.

Back it up. Anybody can say they are the eyes and ears of their customer, or they have their thumb on the pulse of the local real estate market. In fact, most do say something to that effect.

If you claim to be a hard worker, and incredibly driven, include one or two small stories in which you staged a marathon event to sell out an entire condo building, skipping meals and running on caffeine and passion alone. It can be light and entertaining, and makes the point in a way the standard one-line claim never could.

Optimize it. Go over your profile to make sure you’ve included keyword terms that pertain to your area of expertise and location.

Do your recommendations align with your headline and optimized keywords? It may be difficult for some to delete endorsements for terms like “commercial real estate”, but if 90% of your business comes from condo sales, those endorsements could represent dilution. A bit of pruning can help you show greater focus for the business you specialize in.

Check everything over carefully. In your blog, you wouldn’t click the ‘Publish’ button before checking the spelling and grammar, and verifying dates. Put the same effort into your profile. Errors in your profile send the message that you’re a person that doesn’t care.

This is the first in a series of articles for getting the most out of LinkedIn; turning it into your own personal lead generation machine.

Coming up

In the next post, I’ll tell you how to make connections and build your LinkedIn network.

Qualified Real Estate leads in as little as 48 hours

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…

Qualified Real Estate leads in as little as 48 hours

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.