Friday, December 29, 2006

Does this worry anybody?

I was over on this morning reading their predictions for 2007, and it is amazing how rapidly online social networks are taking over the online and mobile communication space. The site has reviewed hundreds of online social sites over the past year and the number of online social properties is growing at a phenominal rate. Online social networking is the newest .com boom. The only question is, how does the average real estate agent effectively leverage the phenomina to maximize their business?

Optimize Your Real Estate Blog for Google

I recently had a conversation with a gentleman who claims to be a specialist in viral marketing. We discussed the benefits of the new online social networks, but he pointed out one of the biggest mistakes most professionals make when they launch a blog is that they start writing, but never take time to optimize their blogs tags, title and descriptions in the html code. This often results in a poor ranking and index on Google, Yahoo and other engines because the basic title and phrases are missing.

It seems like a minor point, but I am sure that it is one that most of us overlook. When you create a new blog, please be sure to enter the proper meta tags into the HTML so that they can be indexed properly. This may require a small amount of additional text in the template, depending on who is hosting your blog. I am not sure how to do it for WordPress, but for blogger, you simply need to add the tag directly into the template html. To give you an example, this blog has the following HTML tags that are indexed by different engines (I pulled out the > and the < to allow blogger to publish the code):

title>Real estate marketing tools from 4MySales.commeta name="robots" content="index,follow" /
meta name="googlebot" content="index, follow" /
meta name="description" content="Real Estate Blog Marketing and Lead Generation" /
meta name="keywords" content="real estate blogs, realtor leads, real estate marketing letters, flyers, real estate marketing tools, real estate farming, realtor license, automated, podcasts, capture leads" /
meta name="author" content="Real estate marketing blogs for REALTORS" /
meta name="language" content="English" /
meta name="country" content="United States" /

A usesfull tool to see how effectively your blog is tagged is the Meta Tag Analyzer found at Widexl which evaluates your URL and gives you a green, orange, or red statement regarding how well your title, description and keyword tags are optimized. The tool is a great starting point to optimize your real estate blog.

13 Biggest Wastes of Your Real Estate Marketing Dollars

I’ve been a little lax in the real estate blog this week…. But hey, it’s the holidays.

I was reading this article in Marketing Profs this week on the 13 biggest wastes of money in your budget. The article is for general marketing purposes, but there are two specific points that bear mentioning as they apply to most real estate agents. The points that the article brings up are:

1) Marketing Waste No. 3: Failing to follow up on leads
2) Marketing Waste No. 4: Killing the conversation
3) Marketing Waste No. 5: Overemphasizing new leads

There are a number of other great points that are made in the article, but I feel that the three that I mentioned are some of the most important. I’m too lax to look up the specific NAR statistic, but I believe that between 70-80 percent of new leads received by REALTORS do not receive timely follow up. My only response to that is create a prospecting engine to automate the follow up. Use autoresponders and click to call features and take advantage of the latest technology to make sure that when a lead is captured that it receives the attention that it deserves.

In conjunction with the follow up statement, I feel that the topic of killing the conversation needs to be mentioned. When a prospect (some people call it a lead, but my version of a lead is a qualified target client) contacts a real estate agent, the conversation should revolve around serving the needs of the prospect as well as qualifying them as a lead. We all love to tell people about what we are selling, and you can quickly kill a conversation with a prospect by jumping right into the features of your most current listings. Use your first conversation to identify the needs and wants of the prospect as well as ask questions that will help you to qualify them as a client. Save the detailed list of properties for when you have them face to face.

As I said before, the article has a number of great pearls of wisdom… 13 to be exact.. but the third plays right into the explanation about the need for a prospecting engine. As I have said many times; out of 100 current home owners, 1 needs your help right now, 20 will need your help within the next two years, and an additional 50 will need your help within the next seven years. Instead of spending all of your money trying to find that one new lead, use your prospecting engine to convert those leads that you have into ready and waiting clients.

On a completely separate note, my hittail says I need to write more about free real estate flyers. I’m not sure how to effectively incorporate the text into my real estate marketing blog. However, I’m up for the challenge.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Back to Real Estate Marketing Basics

I have been babbling about social networks and abstract marketing ideas for the past month, and it is time to get back to my real estate marketing roots. For the next few posts, I will be talking less about the use on flickr, youtube, and other Mashups and focus more on the basics of marketing that every real estate agent can use; tools such as real estate flyers, real estate signage, realty advertising, and the basics of marketing your small business.

This holiday season has been great because I have had some time to catch up on my reading. I got caught up on reading Ardell’s SeachingSeattle as well as The Real Estate Tomato and Sellsius all of whom are prolific real estate writers (I think Jim is on the same technology kick as I was with his recent posts about new comment bookmarking.)

After catching up with the commentary of my peers, I spent a great deal of time reviewing the most recent articles in Marketing Profs and found some great advice that I would like to share. The specific article is entitled Ten Key Questions for Your Web Copy and it details a number of questions that you should keep in mind when developing your online presence. Click the title to read the full article, but if you don’t have time, here are the items that the article discusses:

1. Is your homepage empathetic to your visitors?

2. Is your site organized on your customer's terms?

3. Are your offers easily accessible?

4. Is your content distributed properly?
Use testimonials and reports across all of the pages of your real estate website instead of having a single dedicated page.

5. Do you offer print-friendly pages?

6. Is your contact information complete and easy to find?
I can’t tell you how important this one is. Many realtors buy websites that have contact forms as part of the offering. However, when you visit their website, there is no telephone number, not address, and the only way that you can get hold of the agent is filling out a form and sending it into the web abyss. Please make sure that your phone number and contact information is on your home page and make it as easy as possible for your clients to contact you.

8. Does your homepage have a place for timely announcements or news?
Can anybody say Blog?

9. Do you have a retention device?
We all know the value of real estate newsletters and auto-responders. Use them continually.

10. Do you regularly check your Web stats?
I would have finished at nine, but the point on the article is well stated.

More marketing commentary to come…. Viva Real Estate!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Sense of Community and Opportunity

I have been involved in the real estate and online industries for about six years now and I must tell you that over and over I see the most traffic online invariably comes from the communities. Chat rooms and forums used to rule the online traffic, and if you wanted to find a group of active target customers, you would simply search for a forum, Yahoo Group or chat room that served your client’s niche. With the advent of the new online social networks this truism is becoming more and more pronounced.

So as a marketer and real estate agent, how do you capitalize on this phenomena to drive people in your community into your office?

Thanks to the proliferation of standardized community tools you can create your own online network to serve your local community. As the host of this network, you can drive a lot of traffic through your front door. In addition, because of the new and emerging networking platforms, the cost is minimal, and the opportunity for customization is immense.

I have been researching the different platforms that you can use to create your network, and there are a variety of platforms to suit your needs. If you have no access to a programmer, there are a few such as, CommunityServer and which are primarily turnkey networks. If you do have access to a programmer, there are a lot of open source packages that can be customized to serve the needs of your community. The few that I have looked at are:,,,, AROUNDMe and DZIOC which I will most likely use for my new online project. Finally, if you want to go big, there are a number of platform providers and integrators that you can use to create a completely customized platform. In addition to Pluck Sitelife and Select Minds, here are the Google Picks.

With the advent of all of these online tools and the adoption of MySpace by individuals over the age of 35, people are moving online to find ways to connect. We all lead such busy lives that many of us miss the day to day interaction with friends and have given up social outlets in favor of longer work days and too many demands on our time. For the real estate agent or firm that can capitailize on this movement and connect with their neighbors online there is great opportunity. By extension, for those agents that can connect with others online and bring those connections into the brick and mortar world, through the use of meetings, mixers, and social events, the opportunity to become a fixture in your community is immense.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Time’s Man of The Year is you…. So What Does This Mean to Real Estate?

Time magazine recently announced that due to the explosion of online social media, its man of the year is all of us that participate and contribute to online content on the web. What this means is that unlike previous history, today’s western world provides an individual voice to every man, woman, and child with an internet connection. Now there are a ton of social, caste, and class implications about that statement, but for those of you who use the internet to promote your real estate services, this revolution may have some drastic implications on how you approach your business.

Over the past few years we have all read that Real Estate Agents need a good REALTOR blog and that if you promote yourself online, a static web site is just not enough. We have also been encouraged to use our real estate blogs to differentiate, provide value, and drive interest in our business. By embracing these new tools, many of us have been able to carve a deep niche into the long tail of our market and attract quite a few clients. However, the man (or woman) of the year announcement is a harbinger of a much deeper wave that is sweeping the tide of human communication. Much like the dot com bubble of the late 90’s, online social networks and YouTube mimics are popping up everywhere. SE's are servicing specific niches and the MySpaces of the world are being subverted by specific media networks that serve very narrow niches and industries…. Let’s remember that ActiveRain is a great example of this phenomena. The wave of social media is overwhelming, but the implication for real estate agents is that their voices may soon get mired and lost in the overpowering static that is created by billions of online blogs, networks, posts, forums, and video sites. If a new blog is created every two seconds and that number is accelerating, it won’t be long before having a voice online will just not be enough to get noticed.

I like this time in online development to the initial introduction of the internet to the public. In its initial stages, the net was used primarily by universities and academics to share studies, papers, data, and researched-based facts. As more and more people jumped online thanks to AOL, Prodigy, and later by NetZero, the use of the net to share data shifted to more of a commerce-based platform. This resulted in the volumes of academic data becoming dwarfed by the explosion in commerce-related activity, and the land grab of every business to have a presence online. After the bubble burst and the dust settled, we had a few mega corporations, a number of bankrupt start-ups, and a society that new how to buy Christmas gifts online. Just to reiterate the point, the landscape had shifted to where it was a lot easier to find content generated by business than it was to find content from academia from a volume of data point of view.

Now we jump to the current age where blogging and social media has given a voice to the average user. Those real estate agents who have been the early adopters are much like the early commercial sites on the net who were competing against the established real estate that was owned by academia. The obvious difference is now it is the voice of the individual which is competing for space against the traditional click and mortar websites. However, the wave is coming in once again. Everybody is jumping on the social media band wagon and the VC’s are funding investment into its growth.

As a result, I predict a very similar wave will hit us within the next few years. By 2008, most people online will subscribe to some form of online expression. Some people may blog, some may post and chat, a few will even create videos and share visual media, but most individuals with an internet connection will express their views online. (The takeaway is that your real estate blog is going to get a lot more competitive) In addition, a multitude of niche-serving social medial sites will pop up to compete with each other for access to the voices of the individual. (Just spend a few minutes on to see how many social networks pop up on a daily basis.) Finally, the business model for the social sites will prove itself in a handful of industries, and those sites that do not generate revenue will eventually fade away.

So what are the lessons to be learned from the past? For the real estate agent, be an early adopter of technology. Create your blogs and podcasts and generate a following while the landscape is still sparse. Also, plan for the future. Include online media as a way to promote your business, but don’t forget the more traditional methods of marketing as well. Finally, look for ways to tie your online community into your off-line world. Connect with the readers of your blog over coffee (in person) and take online social networking into the real world.

The $500 Cancellation Fee

Walter Sanford had a great article this week about small ways to improve the profitability of your real estate business. One of the items that he pointed out is that for a listing cancellation, not to be mistaken with an expired listing, he charges $500 to cover his time and investment in marketing. This approach resonates with me because I take the same approach with tenants in my rental units where I charge a $65.00 service fee if the tenant requires me to come out and replace a light bulb or un-clog a toilet.

Back to the point, your time is valuable and although you need to give your clients the flexibility to get out of a listing contract if their expectations are not being met, you also need to be covered and compensated for the time and money that you invested in this client to help them sell their home. Many agents will spend a few hundred dollars on real estate flyers, real estate letters, marketing tools, listing letters, real estate advertisements and other marketing resources to help your client’s listing sell. If your client chooses not to use you after you have made this investment, but well before the listing agreement has expired, you should be compensated for your time and investment.

When putting together your listing agreement, agree on the duration as always, but negotiate the cost of cancellation with your client. Explain during the sales process that you will be investing X dollars into print advertising and that if they choose to cancel the agreement early they are only responsible for that initial investment in marketing materials and your time. Modify the explanation to describe your specific approach, but overall the message is that your services have a high value and that there are costs associated with selling the home that the client will have to absorb if they choose to back out early.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

It’s Not The Length, But The Thickness That Counts

Okay, get your mind out of the gutter. I am talking about the application of the long tail theory to the 4MySale SE traffic. Using Hittail, I have been including a variety of different (suggested) search terms in a multitude of different blog entries. As a result, I am proud to say that I have significantly shifted how searchers end up on the 4MySales Real Estate Marketing blog. When we first started using HitTail, which was just two months ago, 83% of our search traffic came from the top ten search words. I am now pleased to tell you that thanks to the random placement of words such as free real estate marketing letters, free flyers, realty leads, real estate offers, house values (not to be mistaken with the company,) REALTOR License (and lisense) this real estate blog now receives 54% of its traffic from the top ten key real estate phrases.

Over the next few weeks I will see if we can’t get “free real estate farming letters” and “real estate flyers” into a few more blogs to increase exposure for those terms as well.

On a final note, I googled 4MySales this evening and it came back with 30,000 hits. This is not bad, but a far cry from the 100,000 that I am aiming for by the end of the year. Therefore, I have a challenge for you:


Blog about and send me an email with the link to your blog. I will both reciprocate by reviewing your blog and placing a few links back to it on this site. In addition, I will give you a free copy of the IP Ware Real Estate Investment Analysis Software which retails for $40.00. Send your links to me at b@, or just add the link in a comment on this blog.

(Remember to remove the space after the @ when typing the email address. I included the space to avoid a little spam.) I'll email you the download link to the software and start discussing your insights on this and the ActiveRain Blog

Be on Your Prospects Computer When They Look For A REALTOR

I wrote earlier in the week about how most clients are spending their time searching for a home while on the internet at work. In that post my suggestion was to create a tool that will allow them to find the listing and data that they want quickly and effectively. My original thought was to create a feed reader that became part of the user’s desktop wallpaper so that they could update their home search every time they closed the windows of their browser. My programmers have told me that this is more than feasible for, but I am not sure if I could justify the initial investment.

Therefore, for an alternative I have located a site from Conduit Solutions that allows you to create your own customized search bar; complete with your logo, rss feed (can anybody say listings on demand?) and other tools to help your client. My idea is simply that you create a real estate toolbar with Conduit, and design your specific toolbar to feed your blog as well as any rate and property information that you can syndicate through the toolbar, directly to your prospect’s computer. After designing your toolbar offer it up for download on your blog and website, and offer it to any prospects that you may come in contact with. If you can feed these prospects what they want, when the want it…. at work, you may do a lot for increasing your client list.

Oh, by the way, I am still waiting on suggestions on how we can achieve something similar to what Rosenblatt is doing…. I’m open to suggestions.

Foreclosures Are Up, Is This an Opportunity?

On an annual basis RealtyTrac announces its state of the foreclosure market which serves to drive traffic to their site as well as give another data point to the state of the industry. Last week they made their announcement about the state of the foreclosure market, and unless you are in the short sale market, the data is what we all expected… NOT GOOD.

The RealtyTrac article explains that the number of properties in some stage of foreclosure has jumped over the past few months, with the year over year number for October at 43%. Forty-three percent more homes are in foreclosure this year than last with one in every 1000 households in jeopardy.

Now, other than lamenting, what are we to do with this information?

My personal recommendation is to brush up on the local short sale requirements for the lenders that serve your area and start incorporating this data into your value proposition. Many potential clients in your area desperately want to sell their home, but are in too upside down in the financing to divest the property. For these people and their peers, you can be a resource, and may be able to sell a few homes while you’re at it.

I do want to offer a word of caution when looking into servicing those that desperately need to sell in order to avoid foreclosure and bankruptcy. There are legal requirements in these deals that may limit your commission. These restrictions aside, you may consider taking more of a consultant approach and getting compensated for the time that you invest in helping a panicked client navigate the waters of a short sale.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

New Opportunities for Real Estate Abroad

More and more I am seeing different real estate organizations expand their reach into Mexico. Even with local house values declining, the expatriate market seems to still be going strong, and for the real estate entrepreneur, a great opportunity has presented itself. For those that have the access to the resources and technology, servicing the niche of people that want to own beach front property in Mexico and other countries can be very lucrative.

The reason for this post and realization (I was slow to realize, but I see it now) is that over the past few years there has been a significant trend of US citizens buying beach front in Mexico. Articles in San Diego started popping up early last year about an entire colony of US citizens that purchased beach front homes in Mexico and commute every day to their jobs in San Diego. The benefit for these individuals moving to Mexico was that their beach front home cost around 15% of what a similar beach-front home would cost in San Diego. In addition, the recently announced Luxury Condominium Complex funded by Trump’s organization is adding to the movement with people buying the high-end units as second or primary residences.

So for the average agent, where’s the opportunity? If you are net-savvy and can understand Spanish or have close ties to someone who does, you could conceivably start coordinating with Mexican real estate professionals (Century 21 already has a small presence in Mexico) and start offering services to help those that are looking for a vacation home to secure property abroad.

For an entrepreneur that sees the larger opportunity, a great resource that I would certainly use would be a listing aggregator that posted the properties for sale in Mexico and posted locations on a Trulia-like map. This site would be a great resource, especially if it also provided white papers and guidance on how to structure the corporations and trusts that are required for international ownership in Mexico.

Hmmmm….. Anybody want to help me create this site?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Online Social Networks Taken to the Next Level

I was reading about Richard Rosenblatt’s new venture in Business 2.0 and I gotta’ tell you that the concept is pure genius. Loosely translated this means that everybody and their dog are going to try to duplicate the idea within the next year. If you haven’t heard about the former CEO of MySpace’s new project, it capitalizes on the social networking phenomena to create a media company that generates content and revenue in vertically integrated streams across potentially millions of online properties.

The idea as it was explained in the Business 2.0 article is as follows:
1) Buy up all of the random URL’s that people typically type in their browser when they are trying to land on a specific site. As an example, instead of searching “free real estate flyers” many people just type in Richard’s company, Demand Media has purchased the companies that aggregate these URLs.

2) On each of these sites instead of having AdSense or Yahoo Sponsored advertisements, have actual tools to let the arbitrary visitor stop by and leave their mark. This reminds me of my childhood where we used to go hiking and carve our names into the sandstone cliffs.

3) The arbitrary visitor leaves their mark, but others can come and do the same. Each random domain is a fully functioning online social network, supported under an intuitive URL that entails the interest of the community.

4) Content that is created can be syndicated, and you really can’t get a better target market for hyperlink advertising. Thus you spread the word and increase the cash.

URL aggregators that host sponsored listings can generate thousands of dollars in revenue. In fact a few companies claim million in revenue, just from posting sponsored links in these pages. Rosenblatt’s group has been busy buying up these properties and will likely be a billion dollar industry within the next two years.

Anybody have any suggestions on how we can duplicate this program on a much smaller scale? I’m all ears…..

Mind Your P's and Q's...

Ardell DellaLoggia made an interesting point in a blog last week. Her discussion, focused on the point that many real estate agents end up commiserating with their opponents during the negotiation for a purchase or sale of a home. They share with the opposing real estate agent their client’s fears, indecisions, and even the client’s pain thresholds as part of the general discussion over a deal. This discussion is often the result of two people commiserating over their foibles (I never thought I would get the opportunity to use that word in print.) However, if two opponents are giving up their secrets in the course of a general complaint session, the clients will inevitably lose.

My father always said “At the end of a sales negotiation if the sales person wants to take you to dinner, you paid too much.” I would rephrase that as: If you are acting as an agent on behalf of your client, your fiduciary duty is to represent their best interests and get them the best deal possible.

Making Your Real Estate Listings SOAR

This article from Marketing Profs was primarily about how to market yourself during a job interview, but I feel that it is extremely applicable to a listing presentation. After all, during a real estate listing or real estate sales presentation, you are really applying for a job. The article details the SOAR approach to selling yourself. The author’s description of SOAR is to use an example that has the S.O.A.R components, as described below, to demonstrate your value and unique selling proposition. Maybe a better name for the approach is “Let me give you an example of how quickly I can sell your home for maximum profit.”

Here are the points as described by the article:
Situation: The situation (briefly) provides the context for the specific accomplishment you want to talk about. This allows the other party to find out the basic facts about the situation you dealt with and establish an overall context for what you are talking about. A mistake people often make is that they forget they need only set the scene and not tell their whole life story.

Example: "We were dealing with a situation where voluntary attrition rates among employees were running as high as 50%. As a result, the morale was low, the customer service was poor, and the hidden costs were sky high. We estimated that the total cost to the business was more than $3 million annually. This was clearly not sustainable."

Obstacles: The obstacle describes why the situation was particularly problematic or thorny. It describes why your accomplishment deserves even greater kudos. Depending on the situation, particularly a forward-looking scenario, you can also use "O" for Opportunity instead of obstacles.

Example: "What made this situation even more difficult was that we were dealing with several call centers across the country with different job markets and leadership styles. To make things worse, the unemployment rate was at a historic low. In essence we were dealing with an employee's market."

Actions: The actions describe specific actions you took to remedy the situation or capitalize on the opportunity. The actions are only important to the extent they will showcase the competencies in question. Make sure that you describe the actions with powerful verbs rather than worn-out, boring expressions. (Hint: Highlight the word in question in Microsoft Word and press Shift-F7 for synonyms.)

Example: "I scrutinized the attrition data using a sophisticated statistical technique. Based on that, I generated profiles of employees who were leaving the company at a much faster rate than the average. I brainstormed with the larger team the root causes. We crafted specific action plans in three key areas: selection, engagement, and leadership effectiveness. We rolled out these insights in the form of an employee retention workshop with the help of the leadership team on the ground."

Results: Just as the proof of the pudding is in eating, the proof of your accomplishment is in the results. This is where the value of your solution is demonstrated. Make them powerful also using action verbs. The results need to be believable, justifiable, and sustainable.

Example: "The result was a dramatic 40% improvement in employee retention in less than six months. There was an equally dramatic upsurge in customer satisfaction and in quality scores of 10 percentage points. Most importantly, the enhanced retention was responsible for slashing more than $1.5 million in recruitment, training, quality, and productivity costs."

Your clients are listening…at work?

I have been reading a lot lately about the best ways to contact your prospective customers when they are most open to receiving your marketing message. For real estate agents, my hope is that these new approaches will be much more effective than solicitation letters and general real estate flyers. It seems however that the conundrum that we face is that while most people now start their search for a new home online, they do it while at work. As we all know, most people now begin their search for a new home through the internet, but they do it with the fastest internet connection they can find; which is the one that they use at their work. Therefore, the challenge for real estate marketers (me) and their clients (you) are to find ways to communicate with these people while they are open to your marketing message, but not available for conversation or in-depth interaction. Essentially this means that your online marketing must be a little sneaky (with respect to helping your prospective client mask the fact that they should otherwise be working) while providing your prospects with the information that they need.

With that in mind, here are a few ways that you can increase the likelihood that your site will become a resources for those that are looking for a home online; while they should be doing other things….

1) If you use audio on your home page, make sure it is optional. Nothing will encourage a member of the work force to close their browser faster than when they land on a page and hear a booming voice saying “______ REAL ESTATE! HERE AT ____ REALTY, WE….!” When this happens, every person in the surrounding cubicles stop to listen.

2) Make syndication of your blog AND YOUR LISTINGS available through multiple RSS feeds. Use Yahoo, Google, NewGator and other feed reader links to make the addition of your blog and listings to your prospect’s feed reader as easy as possible.

3) Your prospects will generally end up on your site looking for listings. You should require a user to register when they use your site so that you can collect enough information to market to them and send your real estate flyers. However, include an automated login system with cookies so that after they register the first time, they won’t have to login again unless they clear their cache on their internet browser.

4) Become a resource online. Offer through your site listings, market data, current rates, and any other feature that will make your REALTOR website stand out from the rest. The current model that I am proposing is something similar to Yahoo Real Estate.

5) Offer your own toolbar and feed reader. Feed readers are becoming more and more popular as aggregators of news. There are now a few utilities that allow you to create your own branded and customized feed reader and toolbar. Tap into these and offer them to your visitors to help brand your site and expand your online presence.

There are many other features that need to be considered. However, these are the few guidelines that I feel are most important. Just remember, if your prospective client should be working, but is taking a small amount of time during their work day to surf the net in search of a new home, take steps to help them remain discreet while providing them with as much guidance and information as possible. If your web presence becomes a resource that your real estate prospect can tap into to help the search, they can easily be converted into clients.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Yahoo Real Estate and Web 2.0

I had not been on Yahoo Real Estate in quite a while; not since they first partnered with Prudential. However, I stopped by this evening to search for real estate discussions on Yahoo Groups and ended up smack dab on their real estate page…Talk about Web 2.0, they have some pretty cool tool for the local home buyer or seller.

For the past while I have been getting most of my market updates from RealtyTimes and the local business report. However, it looks like Yahoo has added this feature directly to their page. Unfortunately new home prices have gone down by 1% since this time last year, but the median price is still around $866K… (In California we have a running joke… I’ve always wanted to live in a million dollar home. I just didn’t think it would be this one.)

Anyway, the revised Yahoo Real Estate pages have a Trulia-like map that shows local MLS listings, current mortgage rates and a chart of property values from Zillow that go back one, five and ten years. Finally, they have the foreclosure leads from RealtyTrac. All of these tools provide a pretty powerful combination.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Drainage Problems, Structural Damage... Sure, I'll Buy That!

There was a time, not so long ago…actually March it was March 2006 when a real estate buyer would completely overlook a number of different detriments to a property when they choose what and where to buy. As a result in this new buyer’s market, there are a number of people in properties that have less than desirable features such a no-yards, steep drives, drainage problems, extremely weird floor plans (I have a buddy that bought a house that must of at one point been used to host swingers parties) and any number of other aspect that compromise the resale value of their property.

I was reading in Broker Agent News this week an article entitled Help Your Buyers Avoid Re-sale Problems which listed a number of different items that typically get overlooked by clients that become infatuated with a property. Even though this is obviously not as big of a problem as it was last year, it is still good to point them out as you serve the best interests of your clients. The one item that was mentioned in the list which should act as a deal breaker is structural defects, unless your buyer has good an current estimates on the cost of repair.

RSS Pieces is Not Just Chocolate and Peanut Butter

I’ve got to tell you that Mary McKnight over at RSS Pieces has some great ideas on how to approach your blog and grow your online exposure. If you haven’t seen any of her posts lately, check her out over at the ActiveRain Network. Mary approaches her online marketing very methodically, as a former chemical engineer this appeals to me, has some great guidance; which can be seen in one of her latest analysis, The Lazy Man’s Guide to Real Estate Blogging.

In her post she give a few recommendations, and the associated costs on how to use your blog, even if you don’t have time. She offers ghost blogging as a suggestion, as well as syndicating content from others. In addition, she advocates guest blogging which is an interesting way to get content and create relationships with other opinion leaders in your community. Finally, she advocates generating revenue from your blog by signing up for an AdSense account, and who can argue with making money?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

My Dinner with Schwarzkopf

Okay, maybe not dinner, but I was invited to feature in an episode of World Business Review which is hosted by Former General Norman Schwarzkopf. As it was explained to me this morning, World Business Review is a business TV show that is distributed across the Bravo Network as well as through CNBC. It is also televised in feeds as entertainment on airplanes and syndicated into various business schools across the country. I watched more than a few episodes while getting my MBA and am familiar with their program. Overall, they have a reach of about 84 million.

So with all of that exposure, I am really flattered that they would like to feature and the concept of prospecting engines on their program. Apparently they are focusing on the real estate industry for the first quarter of next year. If it all works out, Schwarzkopf will be introducing me as I take the camera on a tour through the concept of prospecting engines and product offering of

Overlooked Source of Viral Exposure

I had a great conversation with Todd Tweedy this morning from BoldMouth marketing. He had some great insights about the application of different technologies to incite a viral response from your online marketing. We covered a lot of different aspects of web marketing, but he brought up a source of viral promotion that I have been overlooking for some time.

I have been focusing on blogs and blogging networks to spread the word about 4MySales REALTOR Marketing Tools. However, Todd’s recommendation, which I completely agree with, was to include the traditional chat and message boards into your promotion campaign. Todd brought up the example of a local company, VOI whose growth was decimated by negative chat on Yahoo Groups.

With that in mind, the expanded viral campaign for 4MySales is going to soon include features that will be useful, and hopefully chat worthy, on the various message boards. I think I have my work cut out for me. A simple search on Yahoo for REALTOR Chat returned 1.3 million links…. Anybody want to volunteer to help talk about 4MySales and different approaches to help REALTORS Succeed? I’m looking for partners, evangelists, and friends….

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Incomplete Guide to Viral Marketing... How to Explode Your Online Traffic

Viral Marketing With the 1% Rule, Blogs and Online Social Networks and of Course Thneeds

I think I figured it out. In learning about online social networks, blogs, the 1% rule and all of the rest, I think I have developed a pretty good way to generate A LOT of online traffic, and because I am a big fan of Who Moved My Cheese and Your Iceberg Is Melting, I will explain the process with a story. So here is my Once Upon a Time to help you explode your presence online:

Before we begin our story we must realize that for every online social network, 1% of the visitors will stop to create a profile and only 10% of those people will actively participate in the network. This is the 1% rule.

With this in mind, let’s turn our attention to Realtor Barrett (no relation.) Realtor Barrett has been a real estate agent for a while and has had limited success with real estate flyers, door hangers and farming an area. He has spent his share of Saturdays sitting in empty open houses, and until recently was doing okay attracting clients.

Now Barrett’s real estate business had slowed a bit this year and he has had a bit more time to learn about online marketing. At the advice of his broker he started a blog and approached Advance Access to create a web page. However, he was just not getting the traffic and clients that he needed. So he started learning about Web 2.0.

Barrett spent hours every day learning about online social networks and the MySpaces of the world. He started a flickr account, but didn’t have many pictures to share. He read voraciously about the web and the word of mouth and even accepted the mantra of the 1% rule.

Barrett read and read and read until one day it hit him. An EPIPHANY! An easy way to attract thousands of visitors to his website and blog. A simple system to be all over the internet, and everywhere his target customer may be. A simple approach that uses the 1% rule and all of the other lessons of viral marketing to explode his business.

With this great new insight Realtor Barrett set to work. The first thing he did was look for a cool tool on the internet that every client would like, (I’m a big Dr. Seuss fan so we will call it a Thneed) This Thneed would be a relatively unique tool that Barrett’s target customers would find useful, intriguing, and worthy of discussion (perhaps a branded Zillow API, something to do with Google Maps, perhaps a widget developed from Trulia or some other innovative tool.) Barrett spent some time on the blog and found some unique API’s which he used to create a unique, and quite discussion worthy Thneed. It may be important to note that Realtor Barrett is not a programmer, but a REALTOR® and as such had to outsource the programming of his Thneed.

Barrett posted his Thneed on a single webpage under a graphic with the WordPress and Blogger logo’s that said “Spread the word. If you like this tool Blog about it.” Next to his Thneed Barrett placed links to his blog and his home page. Barrett added forms that allow visitors to ask for more information, and he even added a feature to the page that would allow visitors to comment. Under his Thneed Realtor Barrett placed the social networking widgets so that visitors could Digg, Reddit, Del.ic.ious and otherwise bookmark and share this wonderful new Thneed with the world. Barrett hoped that his Thneed would compel people to share and that his request to blog about the Thneed would be heeded.

Now that Barrett had his Thneed (which by the way cost him about $800 but was hopefully worth it) he wrote two specific articles about his new tool for his customers. The first article that he wrote was actually a press release that described the excellent new features of his great new tool. He submitted his press release to and He also sent a copy to the editor of the local community magazine. The second article that Barrett wrote was posted directly into his blog where he included the widgets to allow his readers to syndicate, bookmark, digg and share his article with their peers.

Barrett had is new Thneed and had announced it to the world, but Realtor Barrett knew that this would only give him a small amount of traffic and only for a short time. He also knew that online social networks that served the specific needs and interests of his neighbors and target clients were being launched every day. Finally, Barrett knew that even though these sites may have many visitors, only around 1% will take the time to contribute.

With that knowledge, Realtor Barrett set out to create a viral wave around his Thneed. His approach was simple, but proved to be immensely effective. First he stopped at MySpace and created a profile. Barrett knew that 45% of MySpace users are over the age of 35 and many of his neighbors were members.

Next Barrett went to Google and searched for online social networks (he also went to Lycos, but he started with Google) that may serve his target clients. Knowing that for every 100 visitors to these sites only one creates a profile, Barrett understood that he could increase his visibility online, just by taking the time to become a member. Barrett spent the next three days finding online social networks that may interest his clients and becoming a member. (This was a dauting task because a new network is created every couple of hours and that pace is accelerating.)

Now Realtor Barrett understood that membership just implied that some people may stumble across his profile on these different networks. Therefore, when he created his profiles he took action to ensure that he would receive the maximum amount of traffic. For each profile that Barrett created, he uploaded his picture, wrote (not copied from the previous profile, but actually drafted anew) a real and genuine description of who he was and what he is about, and included all of his contact information (he used a junk email account to avoid spam.) In his profile he also included direct links to his Thneed with a very compelling description about its benefits, as well as an invitation to blog about it if they like it. Finally, in each network Barrett posted a copy of his press release and a few quick blog comments about the tool.

Barrett visited network after network taking this approach and his backlinks to the Thneed grew. However, Barrett new that he hadn’t yet started to move the viral iceberg. He was a member to all of these networks and maintained his own blog, but it was time for Barrett to move his promotions into high gear.

With this in mind, Barrett logged one of his online social networks. He spent about an hour reading and going over different blog posts until he finally started writing his own blog which was a commentary on one of the blogs from one of the network’s opinion leaders. Barrett knew the individual was an opinion leader because he had the most posts and the most views of anyone else in the site. Barrett created his blog post and submitted it to Pingoat for syndication. He also thought it was good enough to submit to Digg and Reddit and made sure that in the text he included all of the bookmarking widgets.

Now keep in mind that for every social network, only ten percent of the members generally contribute and that the contributing group generally has only a handful of opinion leaders that create the most dialog. Also keep in mind that this group of content creators is less than 0.01% of those that end up reading the commentary. Barrett understood this and understood that he only needed to make friends with a handful of people in every network. He simply needed to connect with the opinion leaders in each network and share his Thneed with them. Barrett knew that if he could befriend these few people who generate a lot of content and help them to share their opinions about the value of his Thneed with the rest of the online social network, the Thneed would become something that everyone needs.

So with every network, Barrett posted his blogs. He took part in discussions and commented on the opinions of the opinion leaders and participants in the network. He invited commentary about his Thneed and how it could be improved. He even asked his peers in each network to write formal review that he could link to from his Thneed.

It took time…. most big projects do. However, in just a few months, Barrett saw his web traffic explode. Online communities kept sending new members his way. In addition, those millions of people that visit the networks but never participate (only 1% ever bothed signing up) end up learning about the Thneed. They visit in droves and Barrett’s online presence soars.

Strangely enough, this exercise pays off. Realtor Barrett can be found everywhere on the net, and clients for Barrett start coming out of the woodwork….. and Barrett Sold Real Estate Until He Retired…. Happily ever after.

Some closing thoughts on this very lengthy post: Whenever you create a post in your blog, syndicate it across the web with Pingoat. If your entry is interesting, be sure to Digg it and Reddit. Finally, when participating in all of these networks, and there are a lot of them, be genuine, be consistent and be a productive and contributing member. In every community, you are a member of a family that shares common interests. Respect this relationship and care for your online friends.

As a final comment, Realtor Barrett has no relation to myself, other than a namesake. I fancy myself much more of a marketer and do not actively practice real estate…. I leave that to family members which I often recruit to beta test new features on A Simple System to Close More Sales.

New Opportunities with the 1% Rule and Social Marketing

I have been actively learning about how to use online social networks as a resource to develop word of mouth marketing. I have been spending a lot of time on the blogs of the member board for the Word of Mouth Marketing Summit and have found some very intriguing opportunities that can be applied to more localized marketing efforts.

Before I get into opportunities, I want to share with you the 1% rule and it’s sister, the 10% rule. Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba posted the rule on their blog and it is stated as:

The 1% Rule: Roughly 1% of your site visitors will create content within a democratized community. (Horowitz also says that some 10% of the total audience "synthesizes" the content, or interacts with it.)

So this rule states that for a given online community, 1% of the visitors will stop to create a profile and 99% will zip on through. In addition, of those 1% that stop, only 10% will become a contributing member.

Now for the opportunity…. How do we use the 1% and 10% rules to garner the biggest amount of exposure?

It is as simple as be the one and ten percent. Online social networks are popping up at an exponetial rate and the interests and reach of participants in these communites are becoming more and more tailored; which by the way is a marketer’s dream to have a direct communication link into a target market. My advice is to start looking for the online networks that serve your targe market or specific community. If you come across them, be sure to leave a profile, and stop by once in a while to participate. To give you a personal example, I spend my time on ActiveRain, I share my thoughts on MyBlogLog, and Ibsteam seems to send a small amount of traffic my way. I even Konnect every once in a while and grow within the netvibes eco system.

If you are looking for a way to take advantage of the explosive growth in online social networks to attract real estate clients, identiyf the social networks that appeal to your target market and dive right in. Sumit your feed, participate in the networks and blog blog blog.

Now for my shameless plug… Take Advantage of Marketing Plan To Grow Your Real Estate Business.

Best Viral Buzz

Some lead, some follow, some teach… I spend a lot of time taking about how different marketing programs can help to contribute to generating REALTOR leads, as well as how marketing is more than just letters and flyers. I also spend a fair amount of time reading and learning from people who I view as opinion leaders and peers in the real estate and marketing industries (See Blogs That I Digg.) However, I think I may have discovered one of the few people that really understand how all of this new technology can be used to catapult your brand and turn your into a super star.

We have all been talking about the power of real estate blogs, podcasts, real estate widgets and the multitude of new technologies that have come out of Web 2.0. However, I will be the first to admit that my understanding of how all of this new technology can be applied cohesively to generate universal brand awareness is limited. I understand how to use the technology and understand its implications, but until now was not fully cognizant of the underlying factors that make the 2.0 marketing technologies effective.

Fortunately, I have found the blog of a guy that seems to fully comprehend exactly how all of this new technology can be applied specifically to creating marketing buzz and brand awareness. The Blog is which is hosted by buzz marketing pioneer Todd Tweedy. His blog has nothing to do with real estate; in fact many of his posts are directed to some of his larger commercial clients like Volkswagen. However, the approach that he uses to create viral brand awareness should translate into the real estate industry with just a little modification. The guy is on the board of directors for the Viral & Buzz Marketing Association (I hadn’t heard of it either, but the title sounds like a group I need to know about) and is using Web 2.0 technology to generate viral buzz for his clients. The article that initially caught my attention was his commentary: Promotion and Publishing with Blogs

I will be following Todds commentary closely and adding his blog to my list of favorites. If nothing else, I will learn how to host a planning meeting in SecondLife.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

How are online social networks going to change the real estate industry?

I’m going to play devil’s advocate for a moment. Many of us are online and blogging specifically to attract attention, drive web traffic and hopefully close clients. I love to write, but even I have an ulterior motive when I evangelize about prospecting engines. We are spending innumerable hours reading, posting, and interacting online. For me this addresses a need to express myself and a desire to teach. However, I want to post the question, is this new movement toward online social networking really as pervasive as everybody is saying? Are a multitude of myspaces going make up the entire landscape of the internet of the future? Finally, are online social systems really going to affect how we treat real estate transactions; which traditionally require a lot of face to face interaction?

My personal feeling is that much like online commerce, this new trend of social networking will have a period of rapid growth over the next two years as venture capital funds the new wave of Web 2.0. This growth will lead to a small bubble (I am getting tired of the term, but much like America declares war on everything, American economy sees bubbles everywhere) which will result in the platforms and technology stalling out for a few years. Finally online social networks will be adopted as a main component of human interaction and the technologies of Web 2.0 will grow at a calm but steady pace until the next revolution. The reason that I feel that this is what is going to happen is that it mirrors what has happened in the past. The most recent example is the dot com bubble, but farther back you can see this same trend in numerous technological revolutions. I think the rail industry experienced this at the turn of the previous century and provides a good example of the trend.

With that prediction for online social media in mind, I feel that this industry is going to change as a result of these new technologies, but the changes are going to be in some very unexpected ways. The internet has been called the great equalizer because it levels the playing field between big organizations and small businesses. For real estate the internet equalizes the playing field and is continually moving to eliminate inefficiencies in this industry. In addition, social networks are serving to create professional connections between real estate professionals that will serve to grow the overall position and service offering of the industry. Finally, these networks serve to generate close relationships between REALTORS and potential clients.

Personally my view of how the real estate industry will change is that real estate agents will become more of a value-added consultant in the future as many of the tasks that were once under the exclusive purview of REALTORS (CMA’s, MLS Listings) become accessible to everyone. Competitive agents will move their services up the value chain to help clients negotiate transactions and navigate the litigious waters of the real estate industry. Many of the inefficiencies in the transaction will be eliminated and communication technology will streamline the appraisal, financial and documentation process. It is difficult to predict the breadth of the changes that will occur in this industry over the coming years, but I think we all agree that this industry is going to change.

My Frappr

What I digg in real estate blogs

These are a few of my favorite things…. This song echoes in my head this time of year. Specifically because every year my grandmother would play different songs from the Sound of Music on Christmas Eve. Inspired by this song of my youth, I would like to share with you a few of my favorite real estate and marketing blogs. These are the opinion leaders who spend innumerable hours reading, researching, and providing insight into this great industry…. With that in mind, these are a few of my favorite things… um’ blogs….

Real Estate Blogging:

The Real Estate Tomato and Sellsius: If you want to stay up to date on the state of blogging as it relates to this industry, these two gentlemen have it down cold.

BloodhoundRealty: Stay up to date in this industry, follow the bloodhound.

ActiveRain Blogs: This is a collection of a number of different blogs from the
ActiveRain community. It is a great resource and a lot of insight.
Industry insight:
Ardell DellaLoggia: A true leader in our industry, Ardell is great for insight, trends, and a few tips and tricks that every REALTOR should know.

RealBlogging: Stay up to date on the day to day events that surround the real estate industry.
Local insight:
Let’s face it, I live, work, and love Orange County, Calfironia. Often I
turn to our very own Jon Lanser’s OC Register blog to get the latest in what’s happening here.

Marketing tips and techniques:
The Future of Real Estate Marketing: If you are looking for the latest update on web or real estate 2.0, this is the place to turn. I get a lot of inspiration for many
of my marketing recommendations from the Future of Real Estate Marketing

REBlogGirl: Mary McKnight is a great resource for learning the fundamentals of online promotion and how to really grow your blog. She spends a great deal of time reading, learning and sharing the best ways to grow your presence online.

Real Estate BlogSites: Always great guidance on how to use current technology to
promote your business.

Broker Agent News: Not really a blog, but I look to them for inspiration… and
hey, they publish my articles once in a while as well.
Web 2.0 and General Marketing
Mashables: Keeping up to date on the latest new development on the web. This one is well

Marketing Profs: General marketing discussion, guidelines and some pretty cool tools.
There are many more sights that I visit during the day. However, these are the blogs and feeds that I have in my Live and NetVibes pages. These are the voices that I look to in the real estate industry for my own inspiration. I guess these are a few of my favorite things…..

Monday, December 04, 2006

Still working on my long tail….

I had mentioned in an earlier blog about the HitTail site that evaluates your incoming search traffic and makes recommendations on what topics you should specifically blog about to increase the width of your tail and corresponding search engine rank. Well, this little tool has become a mainstay in my bookmarks and receives one to two visits by me per day. Typically when I have nothing else to blog about…

Anyway, here are my current stats and the recommendations from HitTail. According to I have 25,200 links to 4MySales from across the web. This is up from around 13,800 which is where I am if you just search Barrett Niehus…. Looks like I need to write more articles under my own name…..

Okay, so back on topic. My HitTail results are posted below, but it looks like few people are finding my blog and when they search for free real estate flyers, realtor marketing (I would like term to rank much higher, but you have to start somewhere.,) real estate, realtor marketing tools, realtor blog, realty leads, and even realtor radio. Some of these terms warrant additional commentary and investigation, however I don’t think insurance agent leads are really part of my target audience…. Either way hittail is a great tracking tool to evaluate your online success.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Time to evaluate what worked

This time of year is a great time to take a look at your real estate marketing investment and determine what has worked, what has not, and what needs to change to make your 2007 financial goals. My specific approach to evaluating whether or not my investment in marketing, advertising, mail, email, etc what successful is to list out and determine the ROI from each marketing activity. I believe an economist once observed that if an investment does not provide an associated return, it is an unnecessary expenditure. I take this approach when looking at all of the money that I have spent last year and when evaluating my budget for next year.

My specific approach to budgeting and evaluating my marketing ROI for REALTOR Success Tools is as follows. First I list in a spreadsheet all of the expenditures that I have made in promoting my real estate related business over the past year. This includes real estate flyers, business cards, email marketing, real estate letters, direct mail, printing, advertising, classified ads, websites, pay per click, CPM advertising, web directories, and anything else that may have been used to promote my business.

Next to each of the items I list my overall cost or investment for each marketing item. Next to that I list the reach or number of people that the tool is expected to reach. For direct mail and email programs this is pretty easy. For the newspaper ads, billboards and other public advertisements, I estimate based upon the data that I have. On the fourth column I add the number of direct clients that the marketing tool has generated. There are a few campaigns that you will be able to identify a specific number, and if you are running a successful prospecting engine that exposes your prospective clients to your message often, you may have duplication in many of the activities. For those activities that may be counted as duplication, I assign weighted fractional values to each of the contributing tools. In the final column I print the total revenue that was generated by the clients that are listed in the previous column. For fractional numbers as described above I divide the revenue number among the contributing activities.

Now that I have this data, the value of each marketing investment can be assessed based upon the number of clients it brought to my door, the amount of money my clients spent, as well as the overall cost of the advertising investment. If I wish to calculate the specific return on investment of the different expenditures it is as simple as subtracting the revenue generated from each activity by its cost and dividing that number by the cost of the marketing tool.

Just by looking at these numbers I can determine exactly what marketing programs, advertisements and investments are worth keeping, and which programs were wastes of money. I can also rank them based upon their effectiveness and get a good snapshot of where my marketing worked and where it needs a lot of help. Finally, I can unilaterally cut any of the expenditures that did not provide any type of return from my plans for next year.

This approach to evaluating the effectiveness of your real estate marketing programs allows you to easily identify and plan the activities and expenditures for next year. This, in conjunction with your annual budget and goals provides a great foundation to start the year off right.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Value of Free

Jason Leister posted an interesting article this week in Broker Agent News about an experiment that he did where one night he gave away a free report and another night he charged a nominal fee for the same report. The outcome was that he sold far more reports than he gave away when they were free.

To some this result may be surprising, but it simply goes back to the expression and perception of value to target clients. If you hear the words free report, what level of value do you place on the statement? The word report is completely generic and we have been conditioned to believe that if it’s free it either has very little value, or has costly caveats associated with it.

To avoid these responses, find ways to differentiate and place explicit or implicit value on the promotion. Leister chose to place an explicit value on his promotion by charging for it. You can take this approach or find descriptors that imply value. As a secondary example, what level of value would you place on the statement: Exclusive report: Five Million Dollar Secrets? What value would you place on it even if it were free?

The point is simply that whenever you offer a deal sweetener to attract real estate clients; be sure that you communicate the value of that tool, report, or CMA to your prospects. Either charge a small amount for the resource which places an explicit value, or take an approach of using descriptors that imply a high level of uniqueness and value.