ELUSIVE DATABASE AS A MARKETING TOOL
There is a huge amount of money spent by real estate companies and
their clients to attract the ever-elusive buyer. All are targeting
that special buyer the one who will pay the most on the day.
Every week we are bombarded with volumes of publications displaying
huge quantities of properties, generally sorted in brand
order and almost daily my letterbox is host to photocopies of flyers
about property and salespeople.
All are worthwhile strategies, but diminishing in return, as everyone
starts to do the same thing. Some have resorted to volume to gain
an edge, whilst others have chosen quality. A focus on auction and
vendor marketing contributions has built some companies profile and
sales success. But endlessly we see the majority of real estate people
reacting to marketing exposure, rather than setting out to create
Amongst the very best performers right now I see business owners and
salespeople who understand the power of working their personal networks
and past clients. They have effective and managed databases. Used
not only for targeting when specific properties are for sale, but
as contact points for referrals ( Id rather call these Preferrals)
and building credibility so that when this contact has a need for
real estate servicing, they are their consultant, or at
very least on their shopping list.
Over the years various articles have appeared discussing client databases
and right now in the market there is a range of software products.
They vary from in-house single entry systems integrated with the listings
and sales data, to stand alone products like Tracker and Act. I dont
intend to discuss the merits or failing of the various systems, just
the power of their use and some strategies that you may be able to
So who owns and manages the information
The biggest debate seems to be Who owns the database?
This is a hairy one. The pragmatist in me says the Office owns
the data of past buyers and sellers, and the salesperson owns their
network of contacts. I take the view that the sharing of the information
is far more important than the ownership. If we take the view, that
selling at this level is a relationship business, then quite clearly
the salesperson has a serious claim. The office on the other hand
may be providing all the administration, stationery and postage for
the programme and rightfully claim ownership.
The issue with total salesperson ownership is the ability for that
salesperson to transport their business to a competitor and continue
to work the contacts you have helped them to nurture. I do however
see sales people running their own systems totally because the office
either doesnt have the technical or administrative resources,
or there is a culture of secrecy and mistrust. I dont
want anyone to access my contacts thank-you
I believe this culture will change as people see the benefit of accessing
all available contacts when new listings come into the office. The
option of the sales person who knows the contact, deciding whether
their contact is informed about any new listing, is fast disappearing,
as the clients become more techno-literate and can access the information
themselves. The fastest growing offices have a culture of trust! Not
only is the technology used to manage the contacts, it is used to
distribute information to them, on behalf of their registering salesperson
and in the interests of all salespeople in that office.
I sense a rapid movement from protected databases to open databases,
but with the interests of the registering salesperson protected, so
long as they are active in managing the contact.
Which-ever philosophy you adhere to, there is no doubt that many have
gained an edge over the last few years by developing their networks
into databases. These are used not only to manage existing potential
sellers and buyers, but to nurture a
Client-base of people who will send those Preferrals
and use them as their agent.
So who should be in the database?
Obviously all your personal contacts and network should be included.
I believe in permission marketing. That is no one goes in this database
and gets a surprise to get further contact from you. Get their permission
first. If you are new to the real estate business you will need to
write to them over a period of weeks, starting with the excitement
of your new career and building through to some useful real estate
information, so you change your contacts view of what you do. If you
are starting a new business or embarking on database marketing for
the first time, you need to understand the need for frequent and persistent
communication before you have any real impact.
So heres the list:
Personal Contacts get really thorough here, including professionals
Use your network
Appraisals = future sellers
Active buyers as A, B and C
Open Home attendees you need to follow-up
Local influencers Mortgage Brokers
A salesperson needs to start with a list as close to a minimum of
200 as possible. I have some clients at the moment who are personally
in contact with over 500 a month by mail/e-mail and the majority of
them get a phone call as well. Their businesses are growing as others
lament their lack of progress.
If you dont have a proprietary software programme, or you want
to run your clientbase separate from other elements of the business
I find Microsoft Outlook (not Outlook Express) suits my purposes admirably.
Its a programme supported by a company that will be around for
a while, it does mail merges, single and bulk e-mails, dials from
the contacts card, has endless category choices. I can customize the
screens and printouts to suit my purposes. The other benefit is, you
dont have to wait to get started its available
It does not allow for the more complicated aspects of database management,
but it allows you to maintain and manage your contact programme simply.
Not all contacts have the same value
The biggest danger is to treat all contacts the same.
Whilst Buyers and Potential sellers have an obvious daily priority,
the balance of your network needs some organization.
I prefer to break it down to three zones.
Put simply, these people are your favourites. These people know you,
trust you and want to help you. They are the source of the Preferrals
I mentioned above.
At Christmas time they get the Calendar, the bottle of wine and the
Christmas card delivered personally.
Each month they get your letter or newsletter, a phone call and a
personal visit. These are the people you have a coffee
with, whom you invite to company functions and take to sponsored events.
Some companies go so far as to levy every transaction an Account Management
Fee, so there are always funds to entertain and foster key accounts.
The building of this Advocate base is a key strategy to removing your
reliance on volume advertising for your future business.
Pretty simple definition really. Youve done business with these
people but they are not yet referring you business. The aim is to
turn more of these people into Advocates.
Each month these people get your letter/newsletter and a follow-up
phone call. The phone call can increase the response up to 5 times
that received by just mailing.
You already have a professional relationship with these people and
there is no knowing when they or some one they know will need some
more real estate attention. So keep in touch with a range of letters
and articles. Never be afraid to ring them up and say hi. Take on-board
the concept My Clients love hearing from me.
People who Know You and what you do
Now this is where the work starts. Never be afraid to ask any one
you meet if they can go on your mailing list. Get their e-mail address
if they have one, and distribute your newsletter that way. Its
so much cheaper and quicker.
Each month send them a generic letter and if your total client base
is under 250, these people should all get a phone call as well. You
want to become the person they will turn to, or recommend when real
estate is on the agenda.
Dont be afraid to make this big.
To keep it simple there are some straightforward guidelines.
Keep the letter to one page
Put an interesting PS at the bottom of the page
Bold the recipients name and address
Tell them how busy you are
Tell them how proud you are to work where you work
Ask for the business
Mention something personal
Ask for the business again
Something personal gives you something to talk about rather than real
Isnt it amazing when people send you e-mails with hundreds of
other peoples names and e-mail addresses attached. If you are techno-literate
enough to run a database and do bulk e-mails one would think you know
how to use Bcc or Blind carbon Copy.
This hides all the recipients names and saves the risk that
some one else will capture your list of contacts.
Persistence and Frequency
So the database as a business builder has a real place in your business
One of the key elements is the need to maintain frequency and persistence.
Too many people expect an immediate response to flood their days,
following a mail out.
Not only do you need to call on the phone, but also you need to make
sure you persist on a frequent cycle. In residential sales and with
personal contacts, a monthly cycle is not out of the question. Rotate
your contacts between personal letters (So learn to run a mail merge)
and the office Newsletter. Include flyers on recent sales successes
and selections of new listings. Show how active and successful you
Many people start with one or two mail outs, never get round to the
phone calls and then complain it doesnt work. This takes self-discipline
and persistence. Stick at it, and it will pay handsome dividends.
Use this list to promote special events such as Auction Promotions,
Sponsorship events and company functions. Never be afraid to organize
a Premier night at the movies and invite your company and personal
Advocates. Im sure there are a multitude of events you could
apply this strategy to.
Real estate has an entrepreneurial bias but more than ever I am convinced
there is an urgent need for some operators to place more process and
system into their business.
Whether you are a business owner, manager or sales person you can
establish a plan to build a personal list of contacts and current
buyers and future sellers. Once this is built it is a simple matter
of preparing a plan to prepare and distribute information, which adds
value to the relationship between the client and the business.
Yes it takes some time and resources, but done with regularity and
followed up with a phone call it is the fastest way to build both
your credibility and referral base. That means business growth!
Your technology is meant to add a competitive advantage take
some steps to make sure yours does.