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Can't Miss Marketing/Users/adamp/Desktop/APR08/Optimized/CantMiss

Considering cutting back on marketing costs? We’ve got a super list of the items that are worth the money.

Savvy sales associates know that it’s always smart to take a long, hard look at their marketing, no matter what the market is like. But, don’t be so quick to stop using your direct-mail postcards in favor of an e-newsletter to save money. It may end up costing you sales instead.

Whether you’re marketing yourself through a personal online video, through direct mail or by blogging, the goal is the same: to get your name out there so the phone will ring. “That’s the key,” says Amy Chorew, senior national trainer with Methuen, Mass.–based real estate consulting firm Matthew Ferrara & Co. “Agents need to promote themselves in any way possible.” And, as long as the promotion is working, the money is well spent.

Here, then, are six must-have marketing tools—both tried-and-true and new:

1. Online Information Trade
Few sales associates would debate that a Web site is an essential marketing tool. But what makes your site truly useful?

Chip Cummings, a technology marketing expert based in Grand Rapids, Mich., says that Web sites don’t reach their potential unless they can capture contact information about visitors.

The best way for you to do this is to require visitors to opt in by providing at least their names and e-mail addresses to receive specialized information, says Cummings.

“People don’t mind trading information for good value. You just have to make sure you’re providing them information that is useful and related to what they are looking for,” says Cummings.

For example, visitors may come to your Web site interested in buying vacant land. You can offer those visitors a series of reports—for example, five tips on working with builders, potential trouble spots to look for when buying land—related to that particular niche. But provide the reports only to visitors who opt in by providing their names and e-mail addresses.

Then, you can begin building relationships.

2. Blogs
It’s easy to find blogs written by real estate sales associates. Finding ones that have relevant local content is not as easy.

And that’s a problem, according to Tim O’Keefe, chief executive officer of Torrance, Calif.–based marketing firm Spider Workz. A localized blog, updated on a regular schedule, brings repeat visitors. These repeat visitors often steer others toward the blog.

Before long, your blog has built a fan base, including visitors who are considering buying a house or know a family member or co-worker who’s thinking about selling.

None of this happens without local content, says Cummings. “Most [sales associates] are confused when it comes to their blogs,” says O’Keefe. “If you’re selling in Sarasota, the conversation on your blog should be about Sarasota.”
Visitors don’t want to read “Five things you can do to get your house ready to sell.” They’ve already read that story … dozens of times.

3. Video Marketing
“You can set yourself apart from competitors with video,” says Chorew. This includes not only virtual tours, but also personal introduction videos.

Chorew advises that you pay a professional to create a short video in which you introduce yourself to potential customers and explain why you’re the best choice to serve the prospects’ real estate needs. You can put this video on your Web sites and send it to current and potential customers on CD.

“The consumers want to get to know you on a personal level,” says Chorew. “We used to make them come into the office for a face-to-face meeting. We don’t have to do that now. They can watch you on video.

Some places to turn to learn more about Internet video include www.turnhere.com and www.wellcomemat.com.

4. Drip Marketing Campaign
Too often sales associates waste good leads by not keeping in regular contact.

A drip marketing system—incorporating both old and new technology—helps solve that problem. By automatically sending direct-mail postcards, electronic newsletters and e-mail blasts, you can be sure to keep your name in front of potential buyers and sellers.

Dan Gooder Richard, president of Fairfax, Va.–based real estate marketing firm Gooder Group, points to the newsletter, delivered by either mail or e-mail, as a top drip marketing tool. He recommends sending the newsletter—filled with interesting and useful content—on a regular schedule, either monthly or every two months. Sales associates should send them to customers with whom they’ve already had contact and their sphere of influence.

“The biggest mistake sales associates make is they stop sending [direct-mail cards and e-newsletters] out,” says Richard.

In addition, “Too many sales associates concentrate only on the short term—on their current listings,” says Cummings. “But they have to think about the long term, too. Your leads may not be serious buyers yet, but when they are, if you haven’t been in touch with them, you’ve lost that lead.”

Remember—e-mail addresses go bad quickly. That’s why it’s important to combine an e-newsletter with a regular mail piece.

5. The Telephone
This one seems obvious: You must pick up the phone. And you shouldn’t restrict your calling to current customers. You should be calling past customers and potential ones, too. By calling them, you’ll stand out from your competitors, says Chorew.

Chorew knows of a very successful sales associate who calls past and current customers on their birthdays. It takes time, but pays off, often in the form of future business or referrals.
“I watch who keeps in touch with me,” says Chorew. “I’m more willing to give my business to people who remember me.”

The most important part of determining if you have your marketing must-haves is whether or not your idea is bringing you buyers and sellers. One associate’s billboard may be a must-have, while another associate finds that bus benches work better. However, all marketing campaigns should include the lead generators outlined here.

Dan Rafter is an Illinois-based freelance writer.