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Q: What are the benefits of working with a personal assistant? 

A: If you don’t have an assistant, you become the assistant, says real estate trainer Terry Watson.

Every minute that you spend on paperwork, producing newsletters or setting appointments could be spent bringing in sales, networking or relaxing with family.

Some of the main benefits of working with an assistant include:

  • Reduced workload.You can spend more time with your family or pursuing other personal interests.
  • Focused tasks. You’re free of administrative tasks, so you can spend time on revenue-generating activities, such as prospecting and working with clients.
  • Increased productivity. Close more transactions and make more money but spend less time doing so.
  • Complement your weaknesses. Not good on technical skills or computers? Everything will work more efficiently if your personal assistant is strong where you are week, perhaps by taking care of problem area or being very detail oriented.
  • Nix the routine or mundane tasks. Hire someone to do the things you hate doing and spend more time on the tasks you love.

Meet the expert:
Terry Watson is a real estate trainer at Chicago-based Watson World Corp.


Q: As a sales associate, I’ve used virtual tours a lot. But how can I use them as a manager?
 

A: Akin to yesterday’s photo albums and slideshows, today’s digital photo presentations — virtual tours — create marketing opportunities at nearly every turn. Try these ideas in your business.

  1. Broker Networking
    For your associates’ new listings, send an e-mail containing a links to virtual tours to other top area brokers in your “First Alert” network (Be sure to have their advance permission.)
  2. Market Area Tours
    Prepare multimedia tours of your market area for associates to send to out-of-town prospects. Consider a broad overview (basic maps are good) as well as community-by-community tours. Neighborhood scenes and lifestyle photos can be interspersed with individual property pictures in these area tours. Create presentations for each neighborhood or subdivision you serve and add them to your Web site to brand yourself as the “community expert.”
  3. Referral Source
    After a business meeting or convention, create a virtual tour of the event, including photos of people you met. Send the virtual tour as a follow-up reminder of their having met you and make a gentle referral request, such as “We’re never too busy to handle your real estate referrals.”
  4. Self-Promotion
    Create an “About Us” virtual tour that includes photos and information about yourself, your team, your services, your office and company. Use individual staff photos instead of group photos to avoid expensive updates when personnel changes occur. Your associates can use this tour to introduce themselves to prospective buyers and sellers, of course, but it’s also good for showing out-of-town referral professionals the full lineup of services their customers will receive from your firm.

Meet the expert:
Dan Gooder Richard is a Virginia-based writer and author of “Real Estate Rainmaker Guide to Online Marketing” and “Real Estate Rainmaker Successful Strategies for Real Estate Marketing” published by John Wiley & Sons.
Q: Are homeowners generally optimistic or pessimistic about the housing market? 

A: America’s homeowners are generally optimistic about the housing sector, according to a new Pew Research Center poll. Homeowners are also more educated, which means they follow the market’s ups and downs and have kept their expectations in check.

The Pew survey, which queried approximately 2,000 homeowners, states: “As if to underscore that point, homeowners also report that they’ve largely taken in stride the recent run-up in the value of their home. Only about a quarter say it has had some or a great deal of effect on their personal finances, while three-quarters say it has little or no effect.”

Findings in the report include:

  • More than 80 percent of homeowners expect the value of their homes to go up either “a little” (55 percent) or “a lot” (26 percent) in the future. Meantime, just 10 percent say they expect the value of their houses to decline.
  • About twice as many homeowners (46 percent) say their house increased “a lot” in value over the past few years as say they expect similar increases in the future.
  • Some 20 percent of all homeowners currently have a second mortgage or home equity loan. Those most likely to have such loans include homeowners on the younger side (ages 30 to 49) and homeowners with higher incomes and more valuable homes.
  • Among homeowners with second mortgages or home equity loans, fewer than half (45 percent) say they are using the loan money to pay for home improvements or repairs. Another 14 percent say that they’re using the money for a second home, a real estate investment or a home purchase. The remaining respondents say the loan is paying for a mixed bag of items: 11 percent for credit card or other debt; 10 percent for a car; 6 percent for education; 2 percent for business-related expenses and the remainder say “other things” or “don’t know.”
  • About a third of homeowners say that their home accounts for “all or most” of their personal financial worth and another third say it accounts for about half. These figures are unchanged from a similar survey taken in 1992.
  • Just under a fifth (18 percent) of all adults, and just under a quarter (24 percent) of all homeowners, report owning a second home or other real estate apart from the place where they now live. More than a third (36 percent) of people with annual incomes of $100,000 and above report owning such real estate.

SOURCE: Pew Research Center

Q: We have clients looking for investment properties. What resources can I use to communicate home sales trends to associates in the office? 

A: According to a National Association of Home Builders study, homes will change more rapidly during the next 10 years than they have in the past. In general, though, look for about 2,400 square feet, handicapped access, upscale bathrooms and kitchens, and a great garage.

Here are some other interesting facts gleaned from “The Home of the Future” study.

Average home in 2015:

  • 2,330-square-foot, two-story home with two to three bathrooms and four bedrooms
  • One-story entry foyer
  • One-story family room (no loft or volume ceilings, etc.) Living room will vanish or become parlor/retreat/library Nine-foot ceilings on first floor; eight- to nine-foot ceilings on second floor
  • Exterior walls of vinyl or fiber cement siding or brick
  • Staircase located in foyer
  • Front porch patio
  • Fiber optic network, programmable thermostat, structured wiring system, multi-line phone system
  • Both shower stall and tub in master bathroom
  • Toilet in master bath will have separate enclosure.

        Upscale home in 2015:

        • More than 4,000 square feet
        • Two-story home with 3 to 4 bathrooms and 4 or more bedrooms
        • Two-story entry foyer
        • One- or two-story family room
        • Likely to have formal living room, but living room may be replaced by parlor/retreat/library
        • Nine-foot ceilings on first floor; nine- to ten-foot ceilings on upper floors
        • Exterior of stone, brick, stucco or fiber cement siding
        • Stairs in the back or side of the house
        • Front porch, rear porch, patio and deck
        • Two master bedroom suites
        • Outdoor kitchen with grill, sinks, refrigerator, cooking island
        • Outdoor fireplace, pool/spa, audio/TV equipment, lighting
        • Programmable thermostat, structured wiring, multi-line phone system, multi-zone HVAC, remote control fireplaces, instant hot water in bathrooms/kitchens, lighting control system, monitored burglar/fire/toxic gas alarm system.

        SOURCE:
        © 2007 FLORIDA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

        Q: I use email but only from my desktop. What other options I can use to communicate with clients and colleagues? 

        A: Instant Messaging (typically abbreviated IM) is a computer-based service that enables users to communicate in real time over the Internet. Basically a typed version of a telephone conversation, IM facilitates faster communications than email primarily because the system lets the user know whether the person they want to chat with is available. This is accomplished through use of a “buddy list” which contains the names of friends, colleagues or others on the user’s list of contacts. When the user is logged onto the IM system, the buddy list appears along with an indicator of whether each buddy is available or not. If a contact is available, the user can initiate a chat session or conversation, with that person by simply typing in the message and hitting “send.” The recipient receives the message immediately and can respond at once, creating a conversation-style atmosphere.

        Because of its immediate, unobtrusive nature, IM is ideal in a work environment where a colleague may not want to interrupt someone with a phone call when only a simple, quick response is needed. Recipients do not need to respond, and can turn on “busy” or “away” features when they are not accepting messages. IM activity can be tracked through logs.

        Popular IM systems include Microsoft’s .NET Messenger Service, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), Excite/Pal, Gadu-Gadu, Google Talk, iChat, ICQ, Jabber, Skype, Trillian and Yahoo! Messenger.

        Texting

        Short message services (SMS), also known as texting or text messaging, is a cell-phone function that allows users to send real time text-based messages to other cell phone users. This is done by using the cell-phone keypad to tap out the message. The recipient can be selected from the cell phone contact list or recent calls, or can be reached by typing in their cell phone number or email address. Phone plans typically allow text messages to be sent for a fixed charge for each message sent or received (usually around $0.10 per message), or may be bundled to allow a larger number or unlimited messaging for a set monthly price. Texting is especially popular among young urbanites, who enjoy SMS due to its relatively low cost and ease of use in comparison to other forms of communicating. Text messaging is also convenient because you don’t have to be at your computer to send a message to someone’s email address.

        A practical consideration of texting is that it is a short message service, usually allowing only up to 160 characters (typically) in a message. Some providers will simply truncate messages that are too long, while others will break it up into multiple messages or discard or bounce the message back to you. The need to accommodate character limitations and small keypads has led to the development of SMS language, or txt talk, an abbreviated form of language that uses the least number of characters needed to put across a comprehensible message. Punctuation and grammar are typically ignored so that an entire thought can be sent in one message.

        Meet the experts:
        Michael Marciel and Linda Rohrbaugh, © Real Estate Industry Solutions LLC. All rights reserved
        Q: I have budgeted $10,000 for marketing. Can you share some ideas to help me reach my goal? 

        A: “Perception is reality,” says Realtor® Victoria Zapantis.  “If people perceive you to be the dominant salesperson in a community, you’ll get listings and sell more.” To generate that perception, Zapantis spends approximately $10,000 a year on marketing; she has a 30 percent market share in her community.

        In her farm area, her name pops up everywhere. She mails newsletters, hosts a community Web site and participates in local events. Here’s how she spends her marketing dollars:  

        Direct mail. More than half of her marketing budget—about $500 per month—is spent on mailings. She uses templates for her marketing materials—which include Just Listed postcards, brochures, and flyers—from the direct mail marketing company Quantum Mail. Zapantis says she’s learned that patience pays in direct mail. She used to quit mailing after a couple of months when she saw no immediate results. Now she consistently mails marketing materials to one specific community with 540 homes about three times a month.

        Interactive Web site:

        Zapantis spent about $900 to develop a community Web site and allocates another $60 per month to pay Connecting Neighbors, an Internet-based neighborhood marketing company, to host the site and make any updates she needs. The site lets residents post free classified ads, chat with their neighbors online, exchange recipes, access online coupons, and view her listings. She drives people to the site through her newsletter and other marketing materials.

        Neighborhood participation:

        She stays involved in neighborhood events, such as judging a local Halloween house-decorating contest or sponsoring a neighborhood garage sale. That sponsorship cost Zapantis only about $100 for 150 signs and some balloons, but she was able to form new relationships with residents, and she made sure to buy something from each resident who participated in the sale. Her involvement is part of her overall strategy to keep her name constantly in people’s minds. “I learned from real estate coach Debra Asher that people need to see your name about 29 times before the brain associates you and your business with your name,” Zapantis says.

        Bimonthly newsletter:

        Zapantis spends about $400 per issue to produce a four-page, color newsletter. She uses a template that includes prewritten real estate articles—on subjects such as understanding commission fees—which she buys from ProCalibre Associates Inc., a real estate marketing company. She adds color to the template for more impact and writes one or two pages of copy about her current listings and what homes sold for in the neighborhood. The result: In nine out of 10 appointments, the prospect has the newsletter in hand or comments on it, she says.


        Meet the expert:
        Victoria Zapantis works with Long & Foster Real Estate in Princeton Junction, N.J. Her strategy to become the community expert helped her sell more than $6.2 million in real estate in 2006.

        SOURCE: REALTOR® Magazine Online, May 2007
        Q: What do you say to prospective clients who are nervous about investing in a changing market? 

        A: It drives me crazy when local editors print national stories about “the real estate market.” No national story will fit any particular location, and the variations in price and market conditions are substantial, across the country.

        To any prospective buyer or seller, I’d advise paying attention only to the local market. And to the seller who is going from one house to another — if you’re buying and selling in the same market, it doesn’t matter which way things are going. What you lose on one end, you’ll make up on the other.

        Meet the Expert:
        Edith Lank, national syndicated real estate columnist and author of “Confessions of a Real Estate Columnist: I've Heard it All and So Should You” (Dearborn Financial Publishing, 2007).

        SOURCE: REALTOR® Magazine Online, May 2007
        Q: I sell to a niche market. How can I maximize my efforts with a targeted online-marketing plan? 

        A: Let’s start by analyzing one Realtor’s newly remodeled site that’s going way beyond generating business to help her build a more fulfilling career.

        Linda Jefferson, broker-owner of Jefferson Bentley Real Estate in Lawton, Okla., realized she needed to bolster her Web marketing efforts to better serve her niche: Military families living near Fort Sill, about 80 miles southwest of Oklahoma City.

        Her first attempt at redesigning the site didn’t go so well; the proposed site redesign was disorganized, hard to read, and didn’t come close to reflecting her passion for her niche market.

        I put Jefferson in touch with two Internet marketing specialists.  The companies did the work for free. Their cost for Web design overhaul usually ranges from $5,000 to $7,500.

        Jefferson’s dedication to her niche made her an ideal Web makeover subject. Not only are her neighbors in the military, but her son is currently serving in Iraq and her daughter-in-law just returned from there. “I feel personally connected,” she says.

        Last fall, after her son was deployed for Iraq, she began volunteering for the Adopt a Soldier Now program. Jefferson ended up launching a local chapter of the organization, which provides care packages, letters, and other support to U.S. soldiers abroad.

        With her passion brewing, she decided to gear her real estate business to the newfound niche. “Before, I was trying to be everything to everyone,” she says. “I didn’t want to risk losing business by targeting a niche.”

        Over the next couple of months, Jefferson worked in concert with the design team to launch a drastically improved Web site.

        Here’s what went into Jefferson’s new site:

        • User-centered content. Prove just how well you know your target audience. Create an outline of useful and relevant content for your prospects that will convince them to return to your site often.
        • A catchy domain name/brand. GoArmyHomes.com is easy to remember and speaks directly to Jefferson’s niche. It’s more than just a Web address; it’s a brand. Because GoArmyHomes.com is focused on the niche rather than on the practitioner, Jefferson could license the brand in other markets, and sell the brand with her business when she retires.
        • Powerful marketing tagline. Jefferson came up with a Unique Positioning Statement, or UPS, that spoke to her niche audience — “When you’re ready to move, we’re proud to serve.”
        • MLS listings. With an information feed from Jefferson’s local MLS, her Web site visitors can easily access home listings from around the metro area.
        • Flexible template. Don’t think that just because you have a template Web site, it has to look just like every other site out there. Personalization is the key to your success. Jefferson’s Web site, created with a Point2Agent Premium template, goes well beyond any run-of-the-mill real estate site. You may have to hire a Web designer to help you, but a highly targeted end result is well worth it.
        • Ties to the community. Jefferson has natural ties to the military, but she took it a step further by founding a local chapter of Adopt a Soldier Now. On her Web site, she also includes links to Operation C.A.R.E. (an acronym for Continued Appreciation, Respect, and Encouragement) and to stories about military families in the community.

        Meet the Expert:
        Michael Russer is an Internet speaker, trainer and author (aka Mr. Internet of Russer Communications).

        SOURCE: REALTOR® Magazine Online, 03/2007.
        Q: Would you give me some quick links for broker business resources? 

        A: Sure. Visit these sites at www.Realtor.org:

        Learn all about personal assistants
        http://www.realtor.org/rmotoolkits.nsf/pages/
        personalassistants?OpenDocument


        Need a prepackaged sales meeting? Go here:
        http://www.realtor.org/rmotoolkits.nsf/pages/
        salesmeetmain?OpenDocument&Start=1&Count=1000&Expand=2


        You can market your brokerage
        http://www.realtor.org/rmotoolkits.nsf/pages/
        brokermarketmain?OpenDocument&ExpandView&count=1000


        Risk management
        http://www.realtor.org/rmotoolkits.nsf/pages/
        brokerriskmain?OpenDocument&ExpandView&count=1000


        How to retain top personnel
        http://www.realtor.org/rmotoolkits.nsf/pages/
        retainmain?OpenDocument&ExpandView&count=1000


        For consumer handouts:
        http://www.realtor.org/rmotoolkits.nsf/pages/
        consumermain?OpenDocument&ExpandView&count=1000


        SOURCE: Realtor.org
        Q: I’m interested in developing a niche with foreign investors. Can you offer me some insight? 

        A: Developing a successful niche in the international real estate arena area requires plenty of patience, personal attention and problem-solving abilities, says broker James Wright.

        “Globalization is becoming such an important part of our lives,” Wright told an audience at the 2007 Realtors® Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo. “The lines between countries are just evaporating. One day, possibly even in my lifetime, I really think that we’ll have a single worldwide currency.”

        Wright offers these 10 personal insights into what it takes to excel with foreign nationals who want to invest in a U.S. property:

        1. Know the culture and language. If your market has an influx of investors from Thailand, for example, study up on the cultural norms and business practices. Ideally, you will have traveled to the country. It will give you common ground and prove that you’re really interested in their background. Also, take at least a basic language class so you have a foundation for communications.

        2. Explain your credentials in detail. Most foreign nationals want to know about your educational background, your advanced degrees and honors, your designations or certifications, awards and any specialized training you’ve received. This builds credibility and assures clients you’re qualified to handle their complex transaction.

        3. Promise to work with them until the end. A transaction with a foreign national can take a long time – up to several years – and it can get very complicated to arrange financing and to secure the appropriate residency status with the U.S. government. Let clients know you’re in this for the long haul. Put in writing the service expectations you will meet and exceed.

        4. Let them know how you do business, how you get paid. Don’t assume your foreign clients know how things work in the United States. Explain how you typically work with clients and emphasize that you are not paid until the deal closes. Be sure to get a buyer agreement signed.

        5. Be familiar with U.S immigration law. Understand common visa options and the requirements or limitations that an investor and his or her family will face. There’s a wide range of immigration statuses, from permanent resident alien – which is most similar to being a U.S. citizen – to undocumented alien, which presents far more hurdles in obtaining a mortgage and buying a home. Immigration law is very complicated, so be sure you have a trusted legal expert who you can consult on these issues.

        6. Translate all contracts and disclosures into your clients’ native language. This is not only for their benefit, but also for your legal protection. If a translator is needed, be sure that it’s someone you trust. If the client brings in his or her own translator, you also will want to have one of your own.

        7. Don’t forget conversion rates. If a client has the equivalent of $1.5 million in his bank account, but the money is in his native currency, a sudden change in currency rates can reduce the funds to $700,000 and throw the whole deal off track.

        8. Help them integrate into the local culture. Clients who are new to the United States may need help. Show them around town — point out the banks, schools, and hospitals. Give them contact information of other clients from the same country, and provide names of local organizations that can be resources.

        9. Patience. Build rapport slowly; trust is absolutely essential. International clients might need more time simply getting to know you before they share personal information and motivations. Be ready for hurdles. Documents and verifications from other countries take time, especially if they must be notarized by a U.S. embassy. Lending also can take longer if the client lacks a traditional credit report.

        10. Referrals. If you’re good at what you do, you just may become an unofficial member of your client’s family! Working with foreign nationals is an intimate process, and you can expect lots of referrals to their friends and family if you exceed their expectations.

        Meet the Expert:
        Broker James Wright, RSPS, is president and CEO of Century 21 All Islands in Oahu, Hawaii.

        SOURCE: Kelly Quigley for Realtor® Magazine Online, May 2007
        Q: My niche is the international market. Where can I get more information about cultural etiquette around the world? 

        A: Realtors® working in the global marketplace often find themselves performing various types of diplomatic functions – serving as the bridge between two countries, two cultures and of course, the buyer and seller.  

        Check out eDiplomat.com. This site is designed to assist individuals in diplomatic posts and also can be a great resource for real estate professionals as well.

        You’ll also find a section on cultural etiquette around the world, with links to more than 50 country pages that detail etiquette on meeting and greeting, body language, corporate culture, dining and entertainment, dress, gift giving and more.      

        SOURCE: Realtor.org
        Q: Our brokerage offers lots of training programs. Is there a way to hold sales associates accountable for what they learn?
         

        A: The challenge with many sales associates is not training – it's getting them to take the action after the training courses.  

        Action only takes place when there is tension; I don't mean stress. I mean tension: a specific, measurable and actionable commitment with a "by when" date of delivery. Consider these questions: Are you challenging and inspiring your staff? How are you coaching them? What sort of accountability do you have for them and their post-training periods?

        Here are some helpful tips to turn training into accountable action:

            * Hold progress reports with each sales associate. Find out what they feel – and what you feel – they need to improve.

            * Help your sales associate find the right type of training. Is it to tag along with a more experience agent for a day? Attend a seminar? Hire a real estate coach?

            * Set goals with each staff member.

            * Set timelines for reaching goals.

            * Hold end progress reports to see that goals have been met.

        Meet the Expert:
        Jon Cheplak, ABR, GRI, CRS, CRB, CLHMS, is the founder of The Real Estate Recruiters, The Management and Recruiting Solutions Experts. Visit his website at www.therealestaterecruiters.com.
        Q: Are you putting finishing touches on property advertisement copy that will appear in this weekend’s real estate section of your local newspaper?  

        A: Before you send copy to a newspaper, put it to this test. Ask these questions:

        • Who says? Unsupported hyperbole won’t convince sophisticated home shoppers. Don’t offer opinion only. Provide as many facts as you can about a property that substantiate a claim. Let’s say the ad is about a golf course property. You use the headline “Room with a view.” Support this headline by mentioning that the property is 4,000 square feet, is situated on the 15th fairway yet surrounded by trees for privacy -- and a view of nature.
        • So what? Buying a home is not trivial. Don’t bombard buyers with the inconsequential. Most every home has central air in Florida. So why waste space mentioning this feature? Instead, mention the ones that are attractive to most buyers or which would appeal to a specific market segment.
        • Could you be more specific? Ads promoting you and your company need to be detailed. Vague promises of good service won’t be very convincing. Instead of saying, “XYZ Real Estate provides the best service in town,” cite specifics that will lead consumers to conclude for themselves that your firm does, in fact, provide the best service in town. And remember to keep in mind the target audience. This will make a difference in which services you choose to promote.

        Meet the Expert:

        Joe Klock is a real estate coach, trainer and national speaker. Joe holds CRB and CRS designations and is the former dean of Coldwell Banker University and a 50-year veteran of real estate.
        Q: What are some of the tricks on the trade when it comes to effective direct mailing? 

        A: It’s no secret that Realtors use direct-mail postcards, fliers, newsletters and other materials to announce their presence in the market, to send notice of just-listed and just-sold properties, or just to say “hi” to a past or potential client. Get in on the secret of how to do direct mail well by checking out the tips below:

        1. Develop a Series
          “Direct mail for new associates is very important as it is the initial mode of communicating with their farm area,” says real estate instructor Lamarr Seader. He suggests starting with a letter that features a color photograph of yourself as an introduction. Follow the letter with a series of four postcards (also with color pictures) to arrive at the farm addresses every two weeks.
        2. Get Good Lists
          To get lists of the names and addresses in your farm and any other subdivision you want to mail out to, use your local MLS’s labels program or turn to your county tax assessor’s or collector’s properties database. From that point, it’s just a matter of buying printer labels from your local office supply store and having the color postcards printed (a task made simpler with today’s graphic programs like Microsoft Publisher and color printers).
        3. Get Your Message Out
          Expect a 2 percent return on your mailing efforts, says Seader, but realize that the initial marketing postcard is less of a response mechanism and more of an introduction that gets you face to face with prospective clients. “Keep the message short and to the point,” he adds, “as you have five to eight seconds of the receiving party’s attention before they set it aside or throw it away.”
        4. Follow Up in Person
          Next, Seader says, new associates should walk the farm area, knocking on doors and introducing themselves. Have a giveaway item in hand (a postcard-sized list of emergency phone numbers for city offices, water department and police department is one good idea), and personally meet as many farm families as possible.

        Meet the Expert:
        Lamarr Seader is a broker-associate with RH Realty in Milton and a licensed real estate instructor.
        Q: How can you make one company’s loss your company’s gain?
         

        A: Consider contacting companies that have recently experienced layoffs or downsizing.

        Just think about all the talent that’s available in the marketplace when a major company reduces its workforce.  Whether it’s electricians or engineers, secretaries or mid-level managers, accountants or public relations experts -- all kinds of people will be among the recently unemployed. Suddenly searching for work, some will want to give real estate a try. Many will be fast learners.

        You could call personnel managers of affected companies because they’re often looking for new opportunities for out-of-work employees. You could also take out a help wanted display ad in the classified section of area newspapers.

        Meet the Expert:
        Joe Klock is a real estate coach, trainer and national speaker. Joe holds CRB and CRS designations and is the former dean of Coldwell Banker University and a 50-year veteran of real estate.
        Q: How do you make your business stand out from the competition? Prospects have many choices -- how do they know that you’re the expert that they can count on?
         

        A: You need to get the word out. Consider these tips so that you can network and get your name in print.

        • Write articles. Writing articles on your subject of expertise in magazines, trade journals, newspapers, on-line publications and newsletters that your target audience reads.
        • Give speeches. You can give speeches at your local community organizations and associations. You can add audio clips to your Web site for prospects to hear. You can also add transcripts of your speeches for prospects to download and read.
        • Be available for interviews. Getting interviewed by the media as an industry expert will help to increase your credibility and gain status as a recognized expert.
        • Hold seminars and workshops. Offering free or paid seminars and workshops to your target audience enhances your credibility and exposure. You can take this opportunity to sell books, tapes, CDs, newsletter subscriptions and much more.
        • Offer e-classes. You can offer free or fee-based e-mail classes to prospects. You can have participants sign up and automatically send assignments by e-mail and they can complete the assignment and return them by e-mail.
        • Create in-depth reports. Reports can be written on specialized topics and made available on your Web site. You can create the report, add it report to your Web site, and create a way for prospects to be able to buy your reports.
        • Write a book. Writing a book about your specialty will quickly build your credibility and gain you expert status.
        • Send newsletters. Newsletters make it easy to stay in contact with clients and prospects. Your newsletters can be free or paid subscriptions. Newsletters give you the opportunity to show your expertise, sell products, promote seminars and other information about your business.
        • Join clubs. You can join professional organizations, civic service clubs, social or religious organizations. You will gain the opportunity to meet people and spread your expertise. Professional organizations will keep you abreast of your industry news and show prospects that you are serious about your profession.
        • Get designations and certifications. It shows prospects that you’ve mastered your skills and have the necessary credentials to be considered an expert in your industry.
        • Have a polished Web site. Web sites allow potential clients to learn information about you and your services without having to wait for an appointment or brochure. Prospects can become familiar with you and your standard of service.
         
        If you put just a few of these tips into practice in your business, you will move yourself from just another service provider to an expert service provider that is in demand, Woodward says.
         
        Meet the expert:
        Jennifer Woodard is a Detroit-based marketing communications consultant. 
        Q: I see my competition offering “New Agent Nights” as a recruiting tool. Should I do the same?
         

        A: Since most brokers use the “New Agent Night” strategy, you might have better luck offering education seminars — on topics such as “10 Strategies for Successfully Listing Homes” or “How to Create a Solid Business Plan for Success” — targeted at associates who are newly licensed or still in real estate school.

        This allows associates to come in knowing that they will spend three hours learning something new without being hustled into working for your firm. The seminar allows you to weed out attendees who aren’t as serious as you like, and you can hone in on those who ask intelligent questions and seem genuinely committed to a successful real estate career.

        Meet the expert:
        David Fletcher, president of Agents Boot Camp Inc., an Orlando-based real estate training firm that serves brokerages around the country.
        Q: How can I generate residential buyer and seller leads?  I’ve started a new company, so people don’t know the name — it takes repetition and time to become established and trusted.
         

        A:
        1. Brand Yourself as a Specialist
          Richard recommends she start branding herself as “Orlando’s new home specialist.”
        2. Serve Buyers’ Information Needs
          Tell buyers what they don’t already know — builder quality, upcoming sales events and what builders have in the pipeline, builder’s specific upgrades, special financing, community close-out specials — things that only someone in the know, you, will be able to deliver.
        3. Build Rapport with Builders
          Call builders and offer to promote their communities on your Web site if they’ll give you elevations, floor plans, prices and so forth. There’ll be residual leads the builder doesn’t care about. And when resales come on-line down the road, you can make the [listing] presentation and say, ‘Oh, yes, here are my records. I know how this was marketed years ago — I know the most about your property.’
        4. Develop a Trophy Database
          You’ll need a contact manager [software]. Top Producer is one [program] in popular use in the industry, and also ACT! or Agent Office.
        5. Turn Owners into Sellers and Buyers
          The way to generate listings is to treat homeowners as a buyer first because homeowners tend to search for a home to buy before they sell a property. And every lead you generate is a buyer who also has a home to sell, which will mean you’ll get two commissions from that one transaction.
        6. Advertise in the “Search Channel”
          Here’s a marketing principle that will sharpen your budget: Advertise in the ‘search channel’ — where people are searching for what you can provide. Advertise small and frequently in local media where local buyers are looking and the builders are advertising.

        Meet the Expert:
        Dan Gooder Richard is an author, motivational speaker and authority in real estate marketing and lead management. He is the founder and president of Gooder Group, which publishes six monthly real estate newsletters, a wide selection of print and online marketing tools and his book “Real Estate Rainmaker® Guide to Online Marketing.” Visit his Web site at http://www.goodergroup.com.

        Q: Between managing associates and managing my listings, plus any new business and referrals, rarely does a day go as planned. All it takes is two phone calls from associates in the office needing something, and everything gets thrown off track. With so many distractions, how do I plan for growth and stick to it?
         

        A: To achieve growth, manage for success every day. Many real estate managers have fallen into the trap of becoming “reactors” to the events in their offices. The key is to remain focused on what is truly important to growing your business — the difference between the “urgent” and the “important” — and to leading sales associates by example. Instead of putting out fires, your role becomes that of mentor and coach to develop better businesspeople. Will emergencies still pop up from time to time? Of course, but when your associates are well trained and know where their businesses are headed, the number of crises decreases and the odds of success greatly increase.

        Operating without a business plan is a prescription for failure. Today’s most effective managers are creating comprehensive business plans that detail not only how they plan to build market share, but also their recruiting and retention strategies, and much more. Simply having ideas in your head isn’t good enough anymore — a plan isn’t a plan unless it’s written down.

        Meet the expert:

        Greg Herder, CEO of Hobbs/Herder Training in Newport Beach, Calif
        Q: I need a more effective recruiting system and a way to get the word out to associates whose work backgrounds include the willingness to work hard, learn the business and put in 40- to 60-hour weeks to get going. How can I find these go-getters?
         

        A: For starters, develop a recruiting strategy that includes incentives that will entice current associates to bring in associates they know and want as co-workers. Immediate cash is the best incentive. It’s better than a percentage of closings because closings will take too long and the sales associates know it, and it’s better than free trips because they sound good but are of little interest to busy associates.

        Sales associates, not the broker, should be the ones who talk up the firm’s great training program and referral-prospect system. Tell prospects what existing associates say about the training program — the more adjectives associates can supply, the better. It’s a sales job when she says it, but it’s a credible fact when her associates say it.

        Wise also needs to quantify the information provided to prospective associates. Exactly what is the training program? How many leads can the new associates expect each month?
        Using this information, Wise should send monthly mailings to experienced associates within the ZIP codes that her office services and then follow up with telephone calls to net some “mid-level” associates who may be ready for a change of scenery.

        Be sure to check the National Do Not Call Registry before calling associates at their homes (the law doesn’t limit business-to-business calls, such as calls to the associates’ company phone numbers).

        Meet the expert:

        David Fletcher, president of Agents Boot Camp Inc., an Orlando-based real estate training firm that serves brokerages around the country.
        Q: Can you give me some tips for effective public speaking? 

        A: What you say is only part of the equation – equally important is how you say it. Consider the following when speaking before people, whether it’s a public hearing, business meeting or listing presentation:

        • Garner credibility in the first minute. Make eye contact, speak slowly and articulate how you’ll address the needs and concerns of the audience.
        • Stay in real time. Focus on what you’re trying to say instead of thinking ahead to what you want to say next.
        • Repeat important points. Effective communication is about what listeners remember, not just what they hear.
        • Use positive language. If you say, “This is not a problem situation; I wouldn’t worry that this will turn into a disaster,” what the listener hears is “problem,” “worry,” and “disaster.” If you mean that everything will be just fine, then say, “Everything will be just fine.”
        • Write factual information down. Use verbal communication to motivate and persuade. Statistics and other factual information are more easily digested in printed material.

        Meet the experts:
        Kay Peters, KTT Communications, New York; Thom Brockett, Long & Foster Real Estate, Gaitherburg, Md.; Don Patrick, CreatePlus Inc., Seattle