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 look like the competition, and you sound like the competition, there's no reason to choose you over the competition.
- Ben Hunt
If you're thinking, "I'm doing exactly what everyone else is doing," you're probably right. That's your problem, but 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 copywriter/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.
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.
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?
Cole Wiebe helps brands and professionals grow their influence and value online; so they can “out content”™ their competition. Cole is a content strategist, content writer, conversion copywriter and online marketing coach.
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