Our office is contacted constantly by email and phone spammers claiming they are responding to my request for information.
This brazen approach is based on the assumption that I'm so busy I can't possibly remember who I requested information from, so I won't catch them in a lie. But, like you, my time is valuable, and I actually do remember that I've never contacted these companies before. Will I do business with people that attempt to initiate a relationship on lies? Would you?
Hundreds of CRM (customer relationship management) and other online marketing services exist that offer insider information on anyone who fills in the contact forms on your website, or in some cases, just visits your website. Some 'scrape' the information from sites like Facebook, providing personal information only available to authorized "friends", and you can have this insider intel for a modest monthly fee.
Other companies attract subscribers by offering well written ebooks and white papers in exchange for a name and email address, then collect more and more answers entered into their landing page forms every time you download another document. If you've ever been overwhelmed by almost daily offers of exciting content for download, you've probably been on one of these lists. The information they provide is valuable, so you don't suspect the consequences of sharing your contact and 'interests' information. You believe you're helping them create better future content.
But along with the form data they've collected over months, they stored your IP address. They can then sell this marketing intel to their own clients for a monthly fee. Every time you visit a site of one of their clients, these second generation users can now access all of the stored information on you, plus anything they may have scraped.
On the surface, this insider knowledge is very enticing. Wow! You can know exactly who visited your website. They don't even have to fill in a form and you can pounce on them with a phone call or email the very same day.
First of all, I have no problem at all with gaining subscribers by offering high quality information in exchange for a name and email address. Call it an ethical bribe, or simply a value-for-value exchange. If you use the CASL-approved double opt-in process, and then follow up with more valuable information as promised, you have a firm grasp of effective email marketing. You're building a relationship of trust with your audience.
It's the organizations gathering intel on subscribers that sell the data as part of a monthly service that can be "trust busters."
1. IP addresses can represent an entire office, family or coffee shop. The chance that you are contacting the person that actually visited your site is a crap shoot. Your opening statement, when contacting them, could therefore be an outright lie: "You were on my website yesterday, and I notice you were looking at..." It's not a good way to begin a relationship of trust, particularly when discussing what is probably the largest transaction these people will ever consider.
2. Information gained by scraping represents an invasion of privacy. Contacting people, with far more information than you should have about them, is downright creepy. Don't expect them to warm to you.
If you can't pass up the allure of insider information, at least reach out to prospective clients in a more natural way. If you call them before a connection has been made you risk being caught in a lie, or creeping them out. You might follow people that have visited your site, in social networks, and find more authentic ways to enter conversations by adding thoughtful and useful comments.
Content marketing offers you a refreshing way to demonstrate genuine value to your prospective clients.
Real estate is a relationship business, and trust is at the foundation of any successful relationship. Clients need to know that you are the best person to help them buy or sell their home. Why not show your audience that you know a lot more about your geographic area and local property than the competition by producing far more valuable content? Instead of stalking prospects with insider information you shouldn't have, why not have them contact the most knowledgeable and helpful agent they've come across.
Consider earning leads instead of buying insider information about prospects. It's content that gets visitors to your website in the first place. Provide invaluable additional hyperlocal information as free downloads and you can expect your visitors to very willingly give you their information in exchange for more of the same.
Have you considered some one-on-one assistance with lead generation? A free 20 minute coaching call could be a game changer.