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Get Them at "Hello"

Jo Gunthner
Looking for a way to reach prospects in an area that’s teeming with hundreds of real estate professionals? Take some tips from our expert as he shows one sales associate how to make a lasting impression on her farm area.

When Jo Gunthner was still in her teens, she was already a self-made woman. Barely out of high school, she got her commercial fisherman’s license, moved to the Keys and spent the next five years making a living catching yellowtail snapper from her 22-foot boat—all by herself.

By her mid-20s, Gunthner was tired of working offshore, so she took the skills she had learned as a dentist’s apprentice in high school and opened her own dental lab, where she would spend the next 18 years creating custom-made dentures.

The 1990s saw Gunthner reinvent herself yet again. She got married and had a son and twin daughters, but after 10 years as a stay-at-home mom she was ready for a new challenge. “I’m a people person, and I’ve been in the area for 30 years, so I thought that with my connections, real estate would be good,” she says.

In July 2005, she got her real estate license and joined Vaughn Realty in Tavernier, a firm that had been active years earlier but was considered dormant.

“People thought I was crazy to start my career without joining a big-name office,” she says, “but I’ve got a great broker, Joe Oliveros, who’s been an asset to me 24/7.”

Gunthner had 10 listings and sold two homes within her first six months in the business, but she didn’t have access to the marketing tools afforded most rookies.

Her marketing is limited to advertising in the local paper twice a month. “I have a spot for 10 listings, but that’s about it,” she says.

Bring in the Expert
For tips on turning her connections into more business, Gunthner spoke with marketing expert Greg Herder. Her challenge, he says, lies in getting her personality across to people who don’t know her. Here are his suggestions.

1. Share Your Story
Herder is curious to know how Gunthner got into commercial fishing. “I was my father’s ‘son,’” she jokes. “I grew up in Fort Lauderdale and loved to fish, but [as a profession] fishing is hard work.”

“You’ve got an interesting and diverse background, Jo, so if I were you, the first step would be to put together a personal brochure that tells your story,” says Herder. “Many sales associates go down this path of trying to be logical and end up making a sales presentation instead of a connection with people. But great marketing must have an emotional connection. If sellers call you, for example, I’m sure you have a good listing presentation. But unless somebody calls, you won’t get a chance to tell him or her about yourself. So let your personality come out in your marketing. Word of mouth can be amplified if you have a brochure that makes people want to talk to you.”

In creating marketing pieces for Gunthner, Herder says, he would look at the ways people relate to her and consider what questions they would ask her. “Your enthusiasm about the Keys is contagious, so we’d make that come across in your brochure and include at least one photo of you fishing, and pictures of you with your kids too,” he says.

Although Gunthner is gung-ho about designing a personal brochure, Herder wants her to pay someone to do it for her. “Trying to save money by doing it yourself usually takes more time, and then you become inconsistent with it.”

2. Commit to Direct Mail
Gunthner prides herself on her reputation as a long-time resident of the Keys and attributes her referral business to her good standing in the community. She explains that the Keys are like a small town. “If I don’t know you, I know somebody you know.” 

Herder disagrees. “As long as you’re visible, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve been there for five years or 30—you will get business,” he says. “You have a good contact base, but my impression is that things come to you because you’re out in the community talking to people.”

In talking with people, Gunthner says, she can relate to practically anybody. “If I’m talking to moms, I can relate to them,” she says. “And if I’m talking to fishermen, I can relate to them. Who I’d like to reach, though, are people who don’t know me.”

The difficulty with face-to-face promotion, Herder explains, is that it’s dependent on getting out there and being visible all the time. “Your business will never grow significantly [like that] because you’re physically limited by how many people you can actually get to. So, the question you have to ask yourself is, are you willing to consistently do direct mail and other advertising to draw people in?”

He recommends that Gunthner distribute at least 1,000 brochures every month—either by giving them out to the community or mailing them to prospects.

“If you’re interested in seeing some samples, check out my Web site:,” says Herder. [For a list of marketing design companies, see box at left.]

3. Choose a Clear-Cut Farm
Next, Herder recommends that Gunthner select a specific farm area and faithfully send marketing materials there two or three times a month to embed her “brand” in people’s minds. “The key is to be consistent so that you create name recognition and people get to know you over time,” he says, adding that it will probably take six months before she sees results.

“You cannot let your direct mail slide, even if you get busy,” Herder says. “Some [sales associates] stop their mailing campaign, and when their business starts to dissipate, they say ‘Oh, I need to get my marketing back [on track].’ That’s a lesson that many fail to learn, but a deal today isn’t nearly as important as having a consistent flow of business down the road.”

Herder also suggests that Gunthner create a market update sheet that talks about her just-listed and just-sold properties as well as recent home values. “Send something each month with an emotional marketing hook about community events or your family so people feel you’re part of the community,” he says.

A letter announcing Gunthner’s participation in an upcoming community event is another type of mailing to send. “Tell people why you’re involved, what you hope to accomplish and why you’d like their support,” says Herder. “Be sure to say something like ‘From Your Realtor® and Fellow Mom,’ and include something about you and your career.”

4. Tie in Your Advertising
Next, Herder suggests that Gunthner generate quality advertising featuring tidbits of information about her background throughout. “Tell part of your story from your brochure, and every few weeks you’ll [divulge] bits and pieces so that when people see your ads, they’ll get to know who you are,” he says. “Consumers tend to be nervous about talking to salespeople, but if you give information about yourself people will feel at ease with you.”

5. Improve Your Web Presence
A family member, as a favor, put together a Web page for Gunthner. Herder says it’s difficult, and unproductive, to impose the constant updating that a Web site requires on a relative. “Hire an independent company to do your Web site because family-run sites never become dynamic marketing tools,” he says. [For a list of Web design companies, scroll to the bottom of the article.]

Gunthner doubts she’s had more than a handful of inquiries about her Web site, and Herder says that’s because she hasn’t put any effort into promoting it. “A Web site isn’t going to be of any value unless you promote it in your direct mail and your brochure,” he says. “Once you have a good Web site, it can become an effective marketing tool.”

Herder isn’t a fan of template sites, and he advises Gunthner to avoid them. “You live in an incredible area, and you need to be talking about your involvement with people and properties there,” he says. “Template sites mute all of that because they make you look like just another agent in just another area of the country.”

6. Set Sales Goals
Finally, Herder asks Gunthner what her goals are for the next two or three years of her real estate career. Gunthner feels she’s doing well, but she’s not quite sure what Herder means by goals. “It would probably be to step up into areas that have bigger houses,” she says. “Keys living is very expensive. I’d like to finish my house, get my kids braces—it’s all about family.”

“See, being independent, you’ve got these things in your mind that you’re trying to accomplish,” Herder explains. “What kind of income would allow you to do all of those things?” Gunthner says she would like to make $100,000 in 2007, preferably from a smaller quantity of high-end listings rather than by increasing the number of lower-priced listings.

“If you start a direct-mail campaign and market yourself consistently, I would fully expect that in 2007 you would be able to earn that six-figure income,” says Herder.

This column, designed to provide advice from industry experts to real estate professionals who need help with technology, business or promotional issues, won the Bronze Award in the 2006 Best Column category from the Florida Magazine Association.
Before the makeover:
  • Stiff competition; lacks strategy for reaching prospects.
After the makeover:
  • Create a brochure and direct mail campaign to establish rapport with a specific farm area.

Marketing Design Firms
  1., (800) 260-5887;
  2. Hobbs Herder Advertising, (800) 999-6090;
  3. PostcardMania, (800) 628-1804;
  4., (800) 637-7373;

Web Design Firms
  1. a la mode Inc., (800) 252-6633;
  2. Advanced Access, (888) 902-4653;
  3. CyberSunshine, Inc., (239) 949-0012;
  4. Diverse Solutions, (877) 348-7654;
  5. Sizzling Studios, (401) 724-8480;
  6. Web Solvers, (407) 599-7515;

Meet the Expert
As CEO of Hobbs/Herder Advertising, Greg Herder has personally designed the marketing/advertising campaigns of many of the nation’s top associates. He’s published numerous books, manuals and articles. The company has 50 real estate coaches, trainers and professionals in its offices in Newport Beach, Calif.