Friday, September 29, 2006

Big updates for REALTOR leads and marketing

As you know, I am a big believer of the prospecting engine which is simply a system to continually expose your clients to your marketing message across a variety of different mediums until you are top of mind when they are ready use your real estate services. In that vein, I have been working diligently to develop a number of new techniques and tools that will further this type of system. My own reason for creating this type of system is so that I can help real estate agents really become successful with their own marketing endeavors. I also envision including the system in as a small revenue stream for our company.

So what are the tools that I am working on to help real estate agents attract more leads? Well, the first is a more formalized prospecting engine to track and measure exposure and response for your leads so that real estate agents can spend their time only on leads that will turn into sales. I can’t comment on this further because it would be giving away too many secrets.

The other tool that I am working on is a system to get your REALTOR message in front of your clients while they are busy at work, sitting at their desk, and sneakily searching for their next home. If I can get this system worked out, it will be a huge marketing tool for our real estate agent clients.

Finally, I was very excited that Brian Rodgers stopped by my site this week. I have been a fan of his systems for some time, and it is nice that he showed an interest in our system.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Supercharging your real estate website

I was reading an article this morning in MarketingProfs about Five Advanced Web Writing Secrets. The article may not be fully accessible without a membership, but I did want to summarize a few points that I found compelling. The article goes into the typical descriptors about how to increase your search engine profile, but then makes some suggestions that would make websites a lot more fun and memorable…. hink Zillow and Zestimates.

So here are the bullets in the article and my own take on the descriptors:

- Make their story your story: In the about us tab, instead of saying something like “Serving the area for the past XX years.” Restate your about so that you identify with your audience “Every customer deserves a worry free experience and the highest level of service. My mission it to…..”

- Use Descriptive Navigation Tabs: Why do we just use tabs that say “Listings, About Us, Free Report, Contact us?” Why not use descriptors that actually convey a message to the user: “See Your Dream Home, Save Thousands Now, Learn the Secrets of the Professionals, Service Guarantees, My Mission to Help You?”

- Move out of the content ghetto: Not really a self explanatory headline, but the message is to intersperse different testimonials and informational resources throughout the site in areas that are congruent with the data. Don’t have a dedicated white paper page when the topics of various papers are discussed on different pages. Instead add the links to the white papers on those different pages.

- Make Offers: This is actually my favorite. You should have compelling offers on each and every page, You don’t have to ask for the real estate listing right then, but you can make an offer that will move your client further into the pipeline of your prospecting engine.

If you have access to the full article, it is worth the read.

BN at

Monday, September 25, 2006

Real Estate Marketing, Do You Use Direct Mail?

Prospecting for leads is by far the most difficult part of being a Realtor or small business professional. In fact, lead development is by far the most expensive and time consuming aspect of your job. However, you level of success in lead development will determine if you succeed or fail as a real estate agent or small business professional.

So how do you develop leads? Well top selling professionals realize that they need to touch as many people as possible without spending a fortune or taking up a lot of their time. They also realize that they must make some form of contact with a prospect as many as eight times before that contact will even consider doing business with the professional. Many of these professionals use direct mail to recruit prospects, and direct mail tools to close their deals.

The fundamentals of direct mail are very simple. At is most basic level you are sending out message with an invitation for a prospect to contact you. The key is targeting your specific audience, and making your message stand out against all of the other junk mail that you prospects receive. In addition, you must expose your prospects to the message enough times to make them consider taking action.

The first step in creating a direct mail program is to determine where you are going to focus your message. What type of client are you specifically looking for? How old are they, what are their interests, fears, income levels, etc. With this type of very specific demographic information you can customize your message to invoke them to call you. Next, determine how many people you are going to send your message to and what geography you are going to focus on. Keep in mind that a direct mail piece with more than a 1% response rate is considered exceptional, and that statistically, post cards get more attention than envelopes in peoples mail boxes. Essentially this means that if you mail 500 pieces and you get five phone calls, you are doing exceptionably well.

After you know what your customer looks like and the area in which they live, create your marketing message. It should invoke emotion and request a response. The most effective messages offer something for free such as a free home report, assessment, or giveaway such as a software program or product. Other useful messages show what has just been listed and invite prospects to "cash in" on their rising home values.

Now that you have your message designed contact a local or internet based direct mailing list seller and rent a list of prospects addresses. You will be mailing to this list more than once so make sure you get repeat mailing discounts. All of these list brokers have test addresses in the lists they sell to make sure you only mail the agreed number of times. Many of these list sellers will offer mailing services as well, and some will even provide design and printing services. Companies such as and are excellent resources to get both mailing lists and design services.

Use the design services as needed and remember that statistically, an enclosed letter with blue ink and a first class stamp will get the best response. Letters and postcards follow with lower responses. Regardless of the type of mail that you are sending, it is important to realize that you are hoping for at least a 1% response to your campaign.

Mail your message to the list and see what happens. Plan on mailing at least two more times to get your desired response, but feel free to modify the message and the medium. It is just important to provide your target customer with repetition so that they become used to your message and will consider doing business with you. It is through repetition and a message that stands out that you will get your client’s attention and earn a response to your marketing.

Direct marketing is a very effective tool for realtors to grow their businesses. It can create a significant number of leads and a significant addition to your cash flow, However, direct mail must be done with proper planning and the right expectations for response. Never has a single one-time direct mailing been successful. Alternatively, real estate professionals who practice repetition in their direct mail and their marketing grow wealthy while they leave their competition behind.

The Internet is The Great Real Estate Equalizer

An article in Broker Agent News this week focuses on the impact that national real estate firms have had on the search engine landscape and ways that rural agents can leverage the web to overcome these giants in their specific markets. The article provides some great insight, but it only touches on a point that I want to state explicitly. The internet is the great equalizer for business. Only on the internet can an individual real estate agent present a business façade that competes with billion dollar firms for the wallets of the same client. With this in mind, my advice is to read the Broker Agent Article, develop your web strategy to leverage your local market, and make your online presence unique, compelling, and useful for your clients.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Too Flabbergasted for Words

I’m too confused for words, but I thought I would post this anyway. The confusion being that it’s late Friday afternoon and I am flabbergasted at an online service that claims to be affiliated with my services.

Okay, so here’s the deal. I did a search on Google for “4MySales customers.” I do this once in a while to keep track of how our product is being perceived by our peers so we can address any complaints and find ways to improve the product offering. Anyway, I came across this site called The reason that I came across is it that one of their “deal sweeteners” is an extended trial to the REALTOR Success Service. Now the reason that I am flabbergasted is that nobody in my organization has ever heard of this guy. He’s not an affiliate, and I can find no record of him ever negotiating a deal with us for extended client trials.

Here is a copy of the “Special Bonus” text placed on his site”:

We've made a deal with, a leading real estate
marketing solutions provider, to give our customers a special offer where you
will get a 15-day trial (regular clients get a 7-day trial only) to their
outstanding service. Here's what they will do for you, free of charge for
15 days.

Customers Come To You! The system allows you to create a
complimentary email and direct mail marketing system to grow your sales. After
logging into, you will be given access to customers in your area
who have asked for help from a real estate professional. To close these
customers, you have the option of sending a personalized market report, an email
newsletter, or a personal message. To follow up, you will be given the tools to
contact them directly, as well as the option of adding them to your database to
keep on your direct mail and email list. Online and offline marketing is
fully automated, easy and successfully blended.

I am not sure whether to be flattered or offended. Either way, I am contacting the owner of the site to “re-negotiate” our deal with them.

Have a great weekend. May your open houses be productive and your leads be plentiful.

Barrett Niehus A Simple System to Close More Sales

The Time To Buy a Home is Now

RealtyTimes posted this morning that there are still islands of opportunity across the US where homes are moving. Their article features Raleigh, North Carolina as an example of an area where sales are getting stronger; where the number of homes for sale is down significantly and the number of days on market is down as well. I keep telling everybody I can that the time to buy a home will never be better than right now. Hopefully this trend in North Carolina is a sign that we are starting to turn a corner.

As I have said previously, if it is not a seller’s market, which it is most definitely not, then it must be a buyer’s market. For buyers of real estate or any other investment, the time to buy is when everybody else has been scared off and while there is significant potential for growth in the market. For real estate, that time is now. Even though we will probably not see the double digit growth that we saw in the last few years, prices and interest rates will inevitably creep up and as they do, affordability will diminish.

If you are thinking about buying a home…. BUY NOW

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Be the First Message That Prospects See When They Start Their Day

I wrote a couple of days ago about the fact that most of your target clients do their searching for a home on the internet while at work. I posed the question, how do we get in front of those people? I thought a lot about that question over the last few days, and I think I came up with an answer….. However, I don’t know where I can find this type of resource and I want to know if you can direct me to someplace where it can be downloaded. If not, I will direct my programmers at to include it as a feature that our clients can use to get in front of their clients at work.

Okay, so here is the idea… once again, tell me where I can find it, or else I will have my guys build it…. The idea leverages RSS feeds, the systems employed by Trulia, as well as our own unique approach to marketing. The idea is to allow your prospects to customize their desktop wallpaper with your information and all of the tools needed to help them in their home search.

I know that descriptor is a little fuzzy, so let me expand on my description. Your desktop wallpaper is the background graphic that is posted on the screen of your computer desktop when all of your windows are closed. For most people this background is completely static with the exception of the occasional clock graphic. Now what if, instead of a static picture, the background routinely updated with new listings that fit the client’s criteria, your blog updates, a box that details current interest rates, a picture of the client’s kids, market updates, as well as any additional news feeds that the client chooses? The layout of the background and data feeds would be completely customizable to the client, but your name, logo, and contact information would always be displayed somewhere on the screen.

It got the idea by reading about a website called NetVibes that allows you to completely customize your home page with various news feeds, graphics, etc. What if you could provide this same type of feature to your prospective clients, but on their desktop instead? Every time your prospects log in they would be quickly updated on the latest listings, market updates, interest rates, your blog, even before they went to work. Finally, what if you could include in these updates the current status of their purchase or sales so that they are completely updated at all times? The service would essentially put you directly in front of the client every single day.

What are your thoughts? Does this type of service currently exist? If yes, where can I find it? If no, would you like to build it with me? Finally, do you think the idea is of any value? Let me know what you think?

Barrett Niehus

Monday, September 18, 2006

Help your clients sell their home... to their friends

Let’s face it; we all make purchase decisions based on our emotional response. You don’t buy a BMW just because it will drive you from point A to point B, and you don’t buy a home because you need a roof over your head. We all make the decision to buy something because of how we believe ownership of the item will make us feel. If you look at real estate, the purchase decision is fundamentally an emotional one. Buyers preview a house and make the decision to buy based on a number of features that justify how they think they will feel living in the house. This fact is proven over and over again by professional home stagers and effective sales people.

Given the importance of the emotional response associated with a purchase decision, many real estate agents overlook the follow-up conversations that clients will inevitably have with their loved ones and peers. Unfortunately, if the client is not equipped with the proper language to justify their purchase to their peers, they may end up suffering from buyer’s remorse. The client signs the contract and is very excited. They then call a family member and tell them that they just bought a house. If the client has fully prepared their justification for the purchase, they can describe the features and benefits of the home and hopefully gain support for their decision. However, if the client has not fully worked through the language that supports the buy decision, they may end up being talked out of the purchase by their peers….

Just to reiterate, your client’s make purchase decisions based upon emotion. They then justify the decision by describing features and benefits. With this in mind, it is important to equip your client with the language and verbiage that they will use to sell their decision to their friends and loved ones. You can help by repeatedly articulating the benefits and features of the property that you client is buying. Repeat in a number of ways the features that they find most compelling, and use terms that they can repeat to their peers. Buying a home is a very emotional decision and it is typically up to the client to “sell” the property to their friends and family. By making the process as easy as possible, you can avoid a lot of buyer’s remorse.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Be relevant, be timely, and give the client what they want

Be relevant, be timely, and give the client what they want. This mantra is being repeated over and over in the blogspace in reference to marketing and the change in the online marketing environment. An article by Tom Asacker puts the explanation of this phenomenon into a metaphor about butterflies; which is strangely appropriate given the flighty attitudes and tastes of today’s online consumer.

Marketing today has quickly shifted from newsletters and direct mail to blogs, podcasts and viral distribution of videos. For many real estate agents the old ways are still pertinent to developing and farming an area. However, the advancement of technology requires that they augment the traditional method of door knocking with new technologies.

Be online:
Most of your clients are now surfing the net and looking for a home from their desk at work or at home. Blogs, websites, listing feeds and news sites all serve to get your message in front of that client when they are looking.

Be present:
Any marketer will tell you that the reason money is spent on marketing is to put the marketer’s message in front of the client at the exact point in time when they are ready to spend. For real estate agents, this means associating yourself or your site with an MLS feed so that the prospect sees you when they find their dream listing.

Be pertinent:
Most clients not only find their dream home online, but also learn as much about the transaction as possible before committing to calling an agent. Be a source of guidance to these prospects and guide them to your door.

Be viral:
How many jokes, stories or videos have your friends emailed you this year? Find ways to be one of those forwards.

It is a brave new marketing world, and by positioning your real estate marketing efforts properly both online and off-line, you will be positioned to succeed.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

How to become a great media speaker

One of the greatest marketing tools that real estate agents have available to them is the opportunity to organize and present their message to local community groups. We all know about these types of presentations and many of us have attended a few. However, very few of us have leveraged them to grow our own business. Reasons for not leveraging this type of resource vary, but it typically boils down to a large investment in time, marketing, and resources. Honestly, it takes a lot of work to rent a facility or get the agreement of a local community group, write a Power Point presentation, and print and post flyers, signs and mailers to get people to your event. In spite of the investment, the return that you receive in notoriety, community awareness and leads can be significant.

Now when I started this post, my intention was to focus on a recent article posted in Marketing Profs this week that deals with the topic of how to speak to the media. The article, How to Become a Great Media Spokesperson, had some very good points that real estate agents can incorporate into their presentations and speaking events, and I wanted to share it with my readers. I just got a little sidetracked….

Okay, so back on target and back to the point. Read the article. The points that I found most useful are the following:

* “Normally, in a conversation or presentation, you start with premises
or facts and build to conclusions.

* In talking with reporters, you must start with conclusions, known as key points, use facts only as illustrations, and repeat your messages.

* No matter how sophisticated the audience, assume an attention span sufficient for a maximum of three "ideas."

* Know in advance the two or three ideas, or key points, you want to communicate
in any interview.

* In answering any questions, state your key point, and emphasize it with your voice and gestures. “

The article makes a number of different points that you really would not think about unless someone pointed them out.

Friday, September 08, 2006

New features of 4MySales… How about a Podcast for Every Agent and an Automated Blog?

I am excited about some great new features that we will be implementing with 4MySales over the next few weeks. These days, everybody knows the value of a good real estate blog to attract clients. To help agents leverage this technology, 4MySales has had great success with their auto-blog service that populates our member’s blogs with new and pertinent data when they don’t have time to publish their own posts.

We have had great success with this part of our service offering, and are excited to release our next feature which is a complete podcast system for real estate agents. The new feature is an upgrade of our existing talking agent feature and allows any client with a computer and microphone to make their own recordings for podcasts, and email blasts as well as to add audio to their virtual tours, online listings and online promotion.

In addition to the ability to easily record podcasts, we are providing our clients with their own podcast page. This page is similar to a blog page, but allows agents to post their podcasts for immediate download by their clients and prospects. The new service can easily be linked to the agent’s own website, and provides yet another way to attract new clients and listings.

As I said, I am excited about the release of this new feature and can’t wait to share it with each of you.

P.S. Let me know if you would like to participate in our beta test of the feature. I would really appreciate your feedback.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

New developments in the online empowerment of consumers…

We all know that times are changing and the internet is quickly becoming king when it comes to continuing to operate your business. We are 4MySales continually strive to help REALTORS® adapt to this changing environment and thrive in this brave new world. However, technology is changing faster than many can adapt and it is becoming a struggle for most as website after website takes away services traditionally reserved for the professional agent. For real estate agents that do not take their businesses seriously, or view their real estate careers as more of a part time hobby, new online services may actually force them out of the market.

Some of these new online services don’t necessarily remove agent services, but instead empower the consumer. Recently a lot of real estate agent rating services have popped up across the web that allows consumers to do background and reference checks on their potential agents. Websites like, Realty Baron, and AngiesList are all offering related services to help consumers make sure that they are professionally represented by a reputable agent. For those real estate professionals that take their job and industry seriously, these new websites and technologies will give them an advantage over the competition. For those part time agents that got a license to get rich quick, these new services may forebode a change of profession. As I said in a recent article, Time’s they are a changin’ and it is time to adapt.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

New Article on Darwinian Real Estate

I am excited today to announce that Broker Agent News published another one of my articles this week. This specific article deals with inefficiencies in our current system as well as some tools that may be useful in getting additional clients and leads.

Here is the link to the full article: Darwinian Real Estate

Darwinian Real Estate, a New Value Proposition
By Barrett Niehus

One of the most significant impacts that internet technology has had on our economy is that it has given significant buying power back to the consumer and has eliminated many of the inefficiencies that were once present in business. These effects have been seen in a number of industries, and are finally catching up to the industry of real estate.

Consumers now have access to more information about real estate than ever before, and very often can become very well versed in each aspect of the transaction without the guidance of the real estate professional. Consumers can now learn about and orchestrate the entire transaction without needing the resources of a real estate agent. It is this expanded access to data and increased expertise has monumental implications on how we are going to do business in the future.

The revolution is upon us and there is no way to stem the tide. Companies like RedFin and Zillow are providing data and services that were once kept under lock and key by the NAR. The heated discussion about open MLS' is mute as home sellers now expect maximum online exposure as a minimum level of service by their representatives. Every day, new technologies and companies pop up that address inefficiencies in our established real estate system. Technology and access to information is creating these changes and there is no way to stop the flow.

So what do we do now? Adapt and survive; refuse to adapt and die (well not die actually, more like find a new line of work.)

I applaud and their edict to help each of us reach our potential and remain an integral part of the real estate transaction. Their premise, which I support 100%, is that behemoth companies are taking the REALTOR® right out of the equation and it is time to take action to stop the process. The question is: how do we do it? These companies are growing because they leverage inherent inefficiencies in the transaction process. RedFin leverages online access to listings to take the buyer's agent completely out of the equation. Zillow doesn't go that far, but removes the need for a comps report which is a fundamental service offered by REALTORS®. With companies such as these taking away activities that were traditionally reserved for the REALTOR® where does that leave the rest of us?

Whether we like it or not, it is time to adapt.

The days when the real estate agent could exclusively control the transaction and reap all of the reward are long gone. By extension, so are the days when an agent could just get a license and survive with no additional education or expertise. We need to change our value proposition and provide services of inherent value to our clients. Thanks to new technology, inefficiencies that once created revenue and opportunity are quickly going away. However, if we change how we present ourselves to the client we can survive and thrive in this brave new world.

I'm not a chameleon, how do you propose I adapt?

Changing your paradigm is not an easy task. However, it is time to take a look at the services that you bring to the table and critically evaluate which parts really add value to the client. Clients can now access listings online and shop for homes themselves. However, they don't know anything about their legal exposure in the transaction or the mountain of paperwork that it requires. Clients can find the property that they like, but they rarely know how to negotiate the deal, generally have little understanding in the financial process, and typically don't understand where to find the red flags in the transaction.

There are many areas where a REALTOR® adds value to a transaction and including these as core points in your value proposition can be an effective way to establish the necessity of your services in the transaction. Real estate professionals that adapt to the new paradigm are most likely to assume a role that better fits the definition of an agent: One that acts to advise and represent the best interests of their client in all aspects of the transaction.

In attracting clients, the adapted agent needs to refine their value proposition so that clients in the niche they serve understand and value the agent's services. We are no longer transaction managers; we are now advisors, consultants and guides. People looking to buy or sell property can do the shopping for the property all on their own. They can figure out the retail cost of the property and even develop their own buying or selling strategy. However, very few buyers and sellers understand the minutia of the process and everything that goes into the transaction. Our opportunity lay in our ability to communicate how convoluted and risky this process can be and how we can be an effective guide in the process.

For me, I choose to adapt. I am trying to identify where the inefficiencies are in the transaction and taking these out of the value proposition (The RedFin's of the world will fill those holes and they are far-better capitalized than me.) Instead, I encourage agents to leverage technology to get in front of the customer while they are shopping or learning online. They should develop tools to become an educational resource to their prospective customers and establish themselves as necessary experts that represent the best interests of their clients. Technology has shifted the industry and if real estate agents can adapt their value propositions and paradigms to this new industry, they will survive and thrive.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Increasing Your Local Market Presence

In an ever-increasing effort to attract clients, listings and referrals, there is one avenue that we have not yet tapped. That is the home of the cubicle-dweller. Just think about it. More than 80% of your target clients spend six or more hours a day staring at a computer screen in a cubicle. During that time, they spend much of it working on specific business tasks. However, they also occasionally surf the net and look for items of interest.... perhaps a new home....

This article in details how larger companies are finding ways to target the every-elusive cubicle dweller in their natural environment. Apparently there are now even services that you can work with to include coupons and booklets in employee paychecks. One of these organizations, Workplace Print Media specializes in getting your marketing message directly in front of the cubicle-dwelling client. They work with clients and businesses to include marketing messages in with employee HR communications and pay envelopes so that each employee is exposed to the marketer’s offer.

Many of us do not have the resources and capital to pay a company like Workplace Print Media. However, we can take a hint from their business approach and tailor it to our own market and resources. For example, you may choose to target a number of small businesses in your area and work with them to include your information in with their pay data. If you are even more industrious, you may even choose to create a co-op between non-competing businesses where you can include your message and data from participating members in the envelopes of participating businesses. With the co-op method, all participating businesses can enjoy increased expose and more customers as they all participate in the marketing activity.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Using Systems to Manage Your Real Estate Business

I have said numerous times that a prospecting and business management system is critical to allow a real estate agent to effectively manage their business without going crazy. In fact I teach the value of the prospecting engine and subsequent business management systems as an integral part of maintaining a successful real estate business. With systems in place, you can spend a lot more time focusing on the aspects of your business that will bring in money and not get distracted by the day to day grind of paperwork and other energy-sapping activities.

Broker agent news published an article this week from Greg Herder, one of the Guru's of Real Estate Marketing on the value of systems in their application of real estate. It's a quick read and well worth the time. Here is the link to the article: Running A Systems-Based Business