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Q: We’ve run classified ads, but attracted only people who don’t fit. How can my ads be more effective? 

A: Since the classified ads didn’t produce results, Wise should try writing ads that tout the “work from home” lifestyle. There are some sharp at-home moms out there, for example, who need a steady income and the flexibility of being able to work from home. Take a hard look at your copywriting (and perhaps consider contracting a professional copywriter to help with the ads), and create a very specific, targeted ad that lures more qualified individuals.

Meet the Expert:
David Fletcher, founder of Agents Boot Camp, helps independent broker-owners and their associates grow their businesses. Fletcher is author of Condominium Sales and Listings. Visit his Web site at http://www.agentsbootcamp.com.
Q: Our goal is to hire three new associates for each of our two branch offices within the next three months, but achieving that goal has been challenging. Since we don’t pay new associates a higher split, the competition gets many new associates, but they don’t do as well as ours and seem to get little training. Got any ideas? 

A: You need to 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.

Meet the Expert:
David Fletcher, founder of Agents Boot Camp, helps independent broker-owners and their associates grow their businesses. Fletcher is author of Condominium Sales and Listings. Visit his Web site at http://www.agentsbootcamp.com.
Q: We need a more effective 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. Where do we find go-getters? 

A: Tell prospects what existing associates say about the training program — the more adjectives associates supply, the better. Then quantify the information. Exactly what is the training program? How many leads can the new associates expect each month? Armed with testimonials and facts, send monthly mailings to experienced associates within the ZIP codes that the office services. 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, founder of Agents Boot Camp, helps independent broker-owners and their associates grow their businesses. Fletcher is author of Condominium Sales and Listings.

Visit his Web site at http://www.agentsbootcamp.com.

Q: This particular realty company has two symbols, an oversized custom truck painted with its logo and a hibiscus flower — which one should dominate its marketing? 

A: To address this question in particular, when you think long-term, the hibiscus flower is the brand identity because this company might not always have the truck, and the symbol is not unique.

Here’s some more info about logos.

Logos work by triggering people’s memories of previous messages, experiences, and impressions with a company. They leave a greater impact than words alone and serve as the lynch pins that fuse a company’s communications into an integrated whole. Logos dramatically increase awareness and visibility in the marketplace, which in turn leads to more sales.

Personal logos have their roots in ancient Greece. Typically, they consisted of one or more initials of a ruler, important person or place. By the thirteenth century, this simple letter form had evolved into trademarks for merchants. Early examples of logo design were personal symbols or marks for individual masons, goldsmiths and paper makers. By the 1700s, the stamp or logo on an item reflected the quality of its maker, and this quality reflected the maker’s value. The industrial revolution moved the focus of logos and trademarks from reflecting the individual craftsmen to reflecting companies and products. Today, logos are the faces of businesses and a visual representation of a product or company. They form the identity by which a clientele can easily and definitively identify a company or product.

As a real estate professional, your personal logo helps you accomplish the same goal as the master craftsmen of hundreds of years ago. Your logo reflects your reputation and value as an agent and distinguishes you from other agents. In turn, it triggers your target audience to conduct business with you instead of your competitors.

Meet the Expert
Greg Herder, CEO of Hobbs/Herder Advertising, 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, CA. www.hobbsherder.com.

Q: What software tools can I use to market listings to brokers and commercial property owners? 

A: Some of these information and database programs cost more than others. In any case, consider these software programs:

  1. REA 9, Real Estate Assistant — $695 new user, $395 upgrade, (888) 290-5770; www.gorea.com. A free demo is available online.
  2. Top Producer® 7i, Top Producer Systems Inc. — from $37.95/month, (800) 444-8570; www.topproducer.com

Online Property Information Tools

  1. IRIS (Integrated Realty Information System™), iMapp Inc — (888) 462-7701; www.imapp.com
  2. Win2Data, First American Real Estate Solutions — (800) 345-7334; www.firstamres.com

Online Commercial Real Estate Databases

  1. COMMREX™, Commercial Real Estate Exchange — $79.00 annually, (512) 346-9158; www.commrex.com
  2. LoopNet.com, LoopNet, Inc. — from $39.95 monthly, (888) 567-7442; www.LoopNet.com

Meet the expert:
Adam Von Romer is a commercial realty veteran.

Q: A husband and wife team -- he an architect/general contractor and she a Realtor® -- want to know: How can we become established and trusted? 

A: Real estate marketing expert Dan Gooder Richard is impressed with their experience in the new-homes market and recommends that they brand themselves as the area’s new-home specialists.

First, Richard suggests they imagine giving a seminar to 100 people who want to buy a new home in their farm neighborhoods, and then ask themselves: What would they tell the group in their marketing materials that they don’t already know about buying a new home and what services they’ll need?

He also suggests they share with buyers their expertise in these areas: location, builder quality, upcoming sales events, what builders have in the pipeline and the distinction between each housing project. “Builders [offer] specific upgrades, special financing, community close-out specials — things that only someone in the know will be able to deliver to their buyer-customers,” he says. 

 

Richard suggests the couple should list their services and market their combined market knowledge. “Your knowledge is the solution to the consumer’s problem of finding the right new home, the right builder or the right community.”

  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: As a working broker who takes listings, shows properties (though I give most buyer leads out to my associates when possible) and runs a busy office, I’m strapped for time and need help recruiting. Where do I turn? 

A: Sales associates, not the broker, should be the ones who talk up the firm’s great training program and referral-prospect system. Be sure to give cash incentives that will entice current associates to bring in associates they know and want as co-workers. Tell prospects what existing associates say about the training program. It’s a sales job when the broker talks, but it’s a credible fact when the associates say it.
 
Meet the Expert:
David Fletcher, founder of Agents Boot Camp, helps independent broker-owners and their associates grow their businesses. Fletcher is author of Condominium Sales and Listings. Visit his Web site at http://www.agentsbootcamp.com.
Q: Our goal is to hire three new associates for each of our two branch offices within the next three months, but achieving that goal has been challenging so far. We also tried a “New Agent Night” that included a meeting plus subs and coffee after work, and it went fairly well. What other ideas might entice new associates? 

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, founder of Agents Boot Camp, helps independent broker-owners and their associates grow their businesses. Fletcher is author of Condominium Sales and Listings. Visit his Web site at http://www.agentsbootcamp.com.
Q: How do consumers view the “cooling” market? 

A: The marketplace has softened but is still relatively good. To many agents, it feels like there is a significant increase in competition, and they suddenly have to work much harder to keep their sales pipeline full of quality buyers and sellers. It feels like the competition is more intense than ever before.

You might ask: “Given the current market slowdown, should I cut back on my marketing expenditures so that I can conserve my resources?”

The answer is a resounding NO! Now is not the time to cut back on your marketing, in fact, now is one of the best times to increase your marketing presence in your clients’ minds.

The key to understanding why this is true is to look at things from the consumer’s point of view. Over the past five years, the reality is that any agent could help a person buy or sell a home, and we have seen bad agents get away with things that normally would lead to complaints and lawsuits. However, the rising wave of appreciation that has put cash in so many pockets has swept all but the most blatant abuses away.

Today, as the time it takes to sell a home is rising, consumers are quickly starting to become more selective in the agents they call. They are looking for agents that have the knowledge and professionalism to guide them through this slowdown. They don’t want to lose the wealth their real estate has created for them. Now is the time that all the money you have invested in building your personal brand identity will finally pay off in spades.

As the market slows, consumers look for agents that they perceive are able to make things happen. When the market is changing or perceived as being challenging, there are three elements that consumers use to select the short list of agents whom they call to talk to about buying or selling their home. First, they look for names that they have known for a long time. This is where long term branding really pays off. The consumer thinks: “If I have seen you for a long time you must be good or how could you have lasted in this competitive industry?” Don’t be fooled into thinking that having been in real estate for 20 or more years will give you this same advantage. If a consumer does not recognize your name and you tell them you have been in real estate in the local area for 20 years, they will think to themselves, “How come I have never heard of this agent? If they were any good and been here for 20 years, I would know who they are.

Next, consumers look for an agent who specializes in the type of property that they want to buy or sell. In their mind, a specialist has knowledge that general agents do not have. If done correctly, your branding was built around your niche so that they work together to reinforce your personal brand in your market.

Finally, they look for an agent whom they connect with emotionally. This emotional connection is the key part that allows them to believe in you and select you as their agent, even after you tell them their house is worth less then they want to get. You make this emotional connection by telling your life story, both in your personal brochure as well as on your web site.

The only way to accomplish these things is through consistent marketing. If you decide to cut back your visibility when the marketplace is in transition, people quickly assume that you are no longer in real estate and assumed you did not survive the market downturn.

In fact, this is the best time to increase your visibility so that you stand out from the masses of agents that are soon going to start exiting the business. Historically, about one year after the real estate market hits a peak in sales and starts to decline, the number of new agents coming into real estate starts to decline as well.

By investing in marketing this year as the market slows, you can be positioned to really grow your market share and maintain your income next year when the real estate market might slow even more and lots of agents are forced out. The good news is that difficult markets are the times that consumers see the highest value in real estate professionals and are willing to pay a little commission premium to the agent they perceive as the right agent for them.
   

Meet the Expert:
Greg Herder, CEO of Hobbs/Herder Advertising, has 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, CA. www.hobbsherder.com.

 
Q: How can I build business in the new-home construction market? 

A: Real estate expert Dan Gooder Richard recommends calling builders and offering to promote their communities on the Realtor’s® Web site. “When a builder generates 100 leads, they [might] actually sell only three homes,” he says. “So there are 97 residual leads [model-home visitors who never buy] that the builder doesn’t care about. This is where your cold-calling experience could be extraordinarily effective. Say you’re interested in bringing buyers to their community, but you’re [also] interested in the buyers they generate. They’ll say, ‘Yes,’ and give you elevations, floor plans, prices and so forth that you can put on your Web site. When resales come on-line down the road, you will have accumulated floor plans, specs of the houses and elevations. And when you make the [listing] presentation, you can say, ‘Oh, yes, here are my records. I know how this was marketed years ago — I know the most about your property.’”

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: In Florida, is it true that the average real estate practitioner gets a suit or a claim filed with an insurance company about two times out of every 1,000 transactions? 

A: My guess is there are probably, at most, 1,000 lawsuits [annually], statewide, against brokerage companies for some type of allegation of malpractice or otherwise, says attorney Joe Boyd.

Actual lawsuits aren’t as common as threats that a lawsuit will be filed, but the threat often results in some concession or accommodation that brokers wouldn’t otherwise do if they didn’t fear there was some merit to the litigation.

In other words, brokers pay to make cases go away because they believe a mistake was made somewhere down the line in their operation.

The cost of a mistake isn’t just a lawsuit. “When a lawsuit is filed, typically a complaint is also filed with the Florida Real Estate Commission [FREC],” Boyd notes, “and those two complaints usually require two different lawyers. So brokers get hit on two fronts.”

Even if you settle the civil lawsuit, that doesn’t necessarily settle the FREC claim. As if that’s not enough, Realtors® may also have to defend themselves before their local Association against claims that they’ve violated the Realtor Code of Ethics.

Defending yourself against each type of complaint can be costly. First, to defend any lawsuit today is going to cost a minimum of $10,000-$20,000 in legal fees, and it may cost as much as $100,000 or more in total. Defending an action to protect your license may cost comparable sums.

Those amounts don’t even consider the time you and your staff will be out of pocket—and not making money—because of the litigation. “There’s an enormous amount of opportunity time lost by brokers and their staffs in defending a lawsuit,” says Boyd. That includes attending depositions, meeting with attorneys and doing other litigation-related tasks.

Most cases never get heard by a judge. They get resolved by mediation, which is almost always court compelled, but only after the parties have spent tens of thousands in legal fees.

Meet the Expert:
Joe Boyd, attorney with Boyd, Lindsey & Sliger PA in Tallahassee.

Q: How can I tailor my services to the Hispanic market? 

A: To successfully sell in the Hispanic community, you need to fully integrate their values and concerns into your services and message.
 
In the past, the process for reaching the Hispanic market was often limited to one-dimensional efforts such as the literal translation of general market campaigns. “Taking English information and translating it to Spanish doesn’t cut it,” says Oscar Gonzales. “The point of reference doesn’t exist in other countries. Telling them you’re a [real estate professional] means nothing; you have to explain the role of the [professional].
 
Gonzales suggests brokers create and implement an integrated year-round marketing campaign that includes the Hispanic market. It should provide high-level customer service in Spanish from end to end. “Become valuable corporate citizens in the Hispanic community,” he says. “Offer culturally relevant products and services at competitive prices.”
 
One example of this is Prudential CA/NV/TX Realty, with offices in California, Nevada and Texas, a company that recently opened an office tailored to serve the Hispanic community.
 
“Following a company-sponsored internal study, we saw a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on the Hispanic market’s growing demand for homeownership,” says Jose Dos Ramos, broker/owner of the Redwood City, Calif. office. “We want to help break down the [Hispanic] community’s largely self-perceived barriers to homeownership by providing bilingual information and letting them know about avenues to homeownership that are open to them,” he says. “There’s a lot of misinformation held by the Hispanic community, particularly around loan programs.”
 
  Meet the Expert: 
  Oscar Gonzalez, of the Gonzales Group, is a nationally recognized expert on the Hispanic market.