Posts Tagged ‘Newsletters & Doo-Dads’

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Romancing the ‘Hood? What on earth does that mean?

You’ve heard of geographic farming, right? Where you blanket an area with your marketing in hopes of becoming the go-to agent in the neighborhood because the homeowners there recognize your name and know how to reach you when they have a need for real estate services? Well, Romancing the ‘Hood takes that a step further so that all those homeowners not only know your name, but they also LIKE you, or at least, they like what they know about you and therefore are even more likely to hire or refer you.

That was the topic of the most recent teleseminar show in the SWS Virtual Studio. At the end of the show, we polled the audience for their favorite ideas, strategies or tips… and here’s what they told us:

Favorit-est Tip #1
Order ‘hood-specific “Top Ten” Magnets to mail out and make available at open houses. This not only guarantees your magnet will be of value, but may also endear you to the local shop-owners featured. Read more here.

Favorit-est Tip #2
Be authentically YOU in your ‘hood marketing – don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through in your mailings, advertising or self-promotional material. Use common sense (e.g. you probably don’t need to share your opinion on the pro-life/pro-choice debate), but neither should you try so hard to be liked by everyone that you’re just boring!

Favorit-est Tip #3
Do open houses in the ‘hood and pre-market the heck out of them. Don’t use your open house to “pick up buyers” (that attitude scares visitors away); just promote the house itself and be non-predatorily pleasant to everyone who comes in the door.

Favorit-est Tip #4
Choose the ‘hood to romance based on your comfort level relating to the people who live there, or want to live there, not just based on the price range.

Favorit-est Tip #5
Become a “regular” in the ‘hood’s restaurants and shops. Find non-cheesy ways to let the business owners and staff know you’re in real estate (e.g. “I need to find a closing gift for a client who just moved to town – do you have any suggestions?”)

– See more at: http://activerain.com/blogs/sellwithsoul#sthash.LLRpWElP.dpuf

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After my Soulful Doo-Dads teleseminar a few weeks ago, I was asked a great question by an agent who had attended the show. He asked (very nicely) why I thought reusable grocery bags were cool (aka “soulful”), yet a meat thermometer sent with a personalized magnet with grilling tips was cheesy. He wasn’t arguing with me, just curious. After all, I’d made the statement that I believe Doo-Dads should either be representative of the professionalism of the agent (no personalized fly-swatters!) and/or be of true value to the recipient.

So, JA, tell me – what’s the difference? Why do you like one, but not the other?”

My answer? After stumbling around searching for just the right response to clear things up for him, I came up with this little piece of brilliance:  

I dunno. I just do.”

And that answer might actually be good enough. It comes back down to the Golden Rule – to paraphrase:

“Doo-Dad unto others as you would like to be Doo-Dad’ed unto!”

I can’t possibly know for sure what my sphere would find useful or valuable (although I can probably accurately guess what they’d find stupid or cheesy). So, perhaps the best I can do is to ask myself what I would like, what I would appreciate, and what I would keep… 

And Doo-Dad (or not) accordingly…  

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

  Cheesehead
I probably have enough opinions on the topic of Newsletters to fill up half a dozen blogs… and I may just do that. But we have to start somewhere, so let’s start, um, here.

We real estate agents love our newsletters, don’t we? I wonder how many companies out there are capitalizing on our affection for the newsletter? Encouraging us to “build relationships” via our newsletter… to stay in touch with our friends via our newsletters… to promote ourselves and our wonderfulness via our newsletter?

I’m on a lot of newsletter distribution lists from agents around the country. Some are… well, let’s just say that some are better (less-cheesy) than others. Most are clearly purchased “as is” and distributed at the touch of a button (or click of a mouse). Some display a little bit of customization, such as a spot to write a “personal” note and feature a listing or two. A few appear to be 100% created from scratch.

What are the typical topics covered in a real estate agent’s newsletter? Lessee… home improvement tips, gardening ideas, recipes, market stats, Just Listed and Just Sold announcements, mortgage news… sorry… but YAWWWWWWWN. Not only does every real estate newsletter seem to follow the same pattern, but half the time, the information is so boilerplate as to not even apply to the local market! Even the fully customized newsletters, while more relevant to the audience, still tend to look, sound and feel like templates.

So let’s step back a bit.

What’s the real purpose of your newsletter? Is it to…

  • Educate your audience on the average Days on Market or Price per Square Foot in your area?
  • Impress the reader by displaying your new listings or bragging about your recent closings?
  • Ensure your friends know how important it is to winterize their sprinkler systems?
  • Share your gardening expertise, even though the monthly “tip” is clearly from a different climate?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, I’ll encourage you to think about your answer.

Isn’t the ultimate goal of a newsletter to make your audience like you? And remember you?

We can debate all day about what exactly “like” means, but in general, I believe the point of a newsletter is that the person who receives it thinks a little more highly of the person who sent it than they did before it was sent. Which naturally leads to them being just a little more likely to remember that person than they were the day before.

So, what, in a newsletter, might inspire that reaction? Or conversely, what might be the kiss of death?

More next time…

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

cheeseheadIn yesterday’s installment of the Cheese to Soul series,  I commented that I might have half a dozen posts in me about how to create an effective newsletter. Fortunately, or unfortunately, that might actually be true. We’ll see how far I get today.

Remember, the goal of a newsletter is to make the recipient of the newsletter smile and think of you fondly. Which is best accomplished not with gardening tips, Just Sold notices or descriptions of your listings, but rather with interesting content that reflects YOU – your voice, your personality. And the best way to do that is to write the content yourself.

Now, don’t freak out on me. Writing interesting content YOURSELF is not all that hard, especially if you work under the principle that less is more. As in – don’t feel your newsletter has to be formally formatted with a Volume Number, Table of Contents and a three-column layout. Nope. In fact, a simple email-style newsletter will work much better. If you’re on my mailing list, you’ve seen my “newsletters” which are nothing more than me rambling about something, hopefully of interest, with my cute little signature logo at the bottom. No sidebars, very few graphics, and only the occasional sales-pitch (which I usually apologize for).

And, by the way, my newsletters are probably the most important (and effective) self-promotion I do.

Write your newsletters with the goal of inspiring your audience to respond. Responses are good. They open the door to ongoing conversations with your readers and you never know where they’ll lead. You’re much more likely to get meaningful responses to your newsletters if they’re done in a casual format, rather than a formal newsletter format. Whenever I get a newsletter that appears to be professionally-designed, I might be impressed, but I’m not inspired to respond. And, frankly, I make the assumption that the newsletter is mostly boilerplate or sales-pitchy anyway, and not likely to be of interest to me. If I’m pressed for time, I hit DELETE. Which is most of the time.

Make sure your newsletter goes out from YOU – as in, from Your Name. Not from some professional-sounding company or even your fancy tagline. YOUR NAME. Period. I can’t tell you how many newsletters I get from people I know, but I’d never know who they were from because the “From” field is a company I’ve never heard of.  

One last tip for today … DON’T use a program to send out your emails that doesn’t allow replies! I was recently added to an acquaintance’s Avon drip campaign and right across the top of my daily marketing email (sigh) is the note:  “PLEASE DO NOT RESPOND TO THIS EMAIL. This email box is not equipped to handle correspondence.” Sheesh.

So… what might you write about that would be “meaningful” to your audience and inspire them to respond?

You know the drill… stay tuned.

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I’m on a roll. Late last week, I posted a blog about the worst open house I’ve ever visited; today’s Worst Of topic is a sales-pitch I recently received via email.

Here it is, in all its glory…

Dear Jennifer,

Okay, I’m at the end of my rope. Either you just can’t recognize a great offer when you see it, or I’m just not smart enough to realize that I’m wasting my time taking all the risk so you’ll at least TRY <my product>.

I’m serious about this. I’m sitting here almost in tears because I can’t seem to get across to you the life-changing benefits you’re missing out on by not trying my new low-cost <product> option, <product name>

First, I sent you a free demo. I also sent you extensive information about the benefits <my product> has brought to nearly a million people, all over the world, including many of the world’s top personal and spiritual growth leaders. and get started on changing things for the better.

Finally, wondering if money might be the problem, I created a much lower-cost option for you, <cheaper product name>.

But still, despite all my pleading, and all my attempts to convince you, you’ve done nothing.

You know, it continually amazes me how a person can be looking for a solution to a life problem, and can have that solution placed right in their lap, and still not take advantage of it.

Please don’t sabotage yourself from making the positive changes you want to make. <My product> is SO effective, and so easy to use, and has such a long and impressive track record. Please, do yourself a favor and at least give it a try. What do you have to lose? If you decide it isn’t for you, I’ll refund your money.

It’s just $49.95. Take a chance. Please don’t just sit there stuck in cement, continuing to experience the same problems and challenges. Go to <my website> 

I’ll tell you the truth. My wife told me I shouldn’t send this email to you. She thought it was too strong. But my entire career has been about helping people like you, and I just had to give it one more try.

Are you a lost cause? Or are you willing to give <my product> a try and find out that it really will be the best decision you’ve ever made? 

Be well.

I think he should have listened to his wife. And I told him so right before I unsubscribed to his newsletter.

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

The other day I got a very timely question from my cyber-friend Ron, considering this week’s Cheese-to-Soul series.cheese

Ron asked if I knew of a source for good real estate-related newsletter content that would be “meaningful” to his Sphere of Influence (his “SOI”). He’s frustrated by the material available for purchase, most of which simply feels canned. Moreover, he’s uncomfortable using much of it because it relates to topics he’s NOT an expert in, such as tax planning, home staging and credit reports.

I agree. As I may have mentioned a time or two, I refuse to use canned, boilerplate material. I think it’s cheesy and dorky. (My definition of Dorky is any written, self-promotional communication that is dull, dry, boring or corporate. Most content-for-purchase pretty much qualifies. )

But let’s go back to Ron’s quest for real estate information that would be “meaningful” to his SOI.  Here was my response to him:

“Here’s the thing – your SOI doesn’t have a lot of interest in real estate on a day-to-day basis. Therefore, there’s not much in OUR world that would be generally meaningful to people outside of our world, with a few exceptions that come up from time to time.

You want your newsletters to be interesting to your audience, more so than “meaningful.” And you know what’s interesting to your SOI? Stuff from YOU.  From YOU, their friend, Ron. Maybe an observation about the real estate market, if it’s interesting, or to pass on a funny story from your career. Or maybe not related to real estate at all.

I write to my SOI every month in email form, not newsletter form. I want my SOI communications to clearly come from me, not some canned product I bought off a virtual shelf. If newsletters/emails are going to be part of my marketing plan, I’m going to put some effort into them in the hopes of inspiring my friends and acquaintances to think fondly of me, rather than to just simply remember that I sell real estate (and promptly forget).”

So, to pick up from yesterday’s blog post on this very topic, remember that the primary goal of your “newsletter” is not to impress, educate or overtly prospect. It’s simply to remind the people you know that you exist and that you’re a pretty cool guy or gal.

What topics might do that? Well, kinda like blogging, the list is endless… and once you’re in the habit, it gets easier and easier to come up with ideas. Here are a few of mine:

Didja’ See Me on the News?

Denver Dwellers, what’s YOUR special day?

And I thought I was so smart…

I recommend that you always have a notebook with you to scribble down ideas for SOI newsletters – and I think you’ll be pleased how quickly your list will grow once you get in the habit.

Okay, so that’s three blogs on the Art of the Non-Cheesy Newsletter. I think I’ll move on now… next up – Greeting Cards! Or… maybe listing presentations… or maybe… heck, I dunno. Just stay tuned!

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Many of you have joined my Sphere of Influence (SOI) email list so you can take a peek at the material I email to my SOI on a monthly basis. In the continued spirit of sharing, I thought I’d also share a snail-mail mailing I’m doing in “celebration” of the USPS’s upcoming penny increase to the price of stamps…

Below is a picture of a simple notecard I created. I’m mailing it to my friends with my business card and a pane of 20 penny “transition” stamps enclosed.  I printed it on stock paper and used brightly colored greeting-card-sized envelopes.

Pretty simple, not too gimmicky… I’ve already had a few Thank You’s!

postal

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

As many of you know, I’m a big proponent of communicating with my SOI (Sphere of Influence) via mass emails. NOT cheesy template newsletters or blatant pleas for business and referrals, but rather periodic chatty messages that are fairly personal in nature, sometimes about real estate, but often not.

I’m always looking for a good excuse to send a mass email, and here are some recent ones I’ve sent out:

Here’s one I sent last year at this time – it’s about the state of the market, coupled with a little snippet about the upcoming time change (it’s this weekend, BTW).

Haven’t written mine for this year yet… it’s on tomorrow’s to-do list.

Feel like sharing yours? Please do!

ja

www.SellwithSoul.com

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Am I the only idiot on the planet who can turn a simple Christmas Card mailing project into a full-time job? My plan… send out Christmas cards to my local Denver SOI (sphere of influence) and toss in my hot-off-the-press Referral Directory magnet as an extra-special holiday gift for my friends (hey, I sprung for the xtra large magnet at over $1 each!).

Simple enough…

Well, it’s been anything but. One thing after another created delays in my sending-out-cards process – first, the cards I bought (and addressed & stamped) weren’t big enough for the magnet (remember, I bought the xtra large one!), so I had to re-do all the envelopes. Then I realized that I needed extra postage for each envelope (that xtra large thing again), so I had to stand in line at the pre-Christmas shipping extravaganza at my local P.O. I finally got all the cards written, stuffed, addressed & stamped, so it was time to seal ’em up. I used cute little holiday-themed sticker-sealers I bought at Wal-Mart so I wouldn’t have to lick all those nasty envelopes.

Got the cards in the mail, marked that particular project off my list.

Couple of days later… empty cards started coming back. Apparently the cute little holiday-themed sticker-sealers weren’t strong enough for the enclosed magnet (y’know, the xtra large one) and the magnets broke thru the seals and fell out.

SHEESH!!!!!

Anyway, where’s the lemonade in this? Well, I sent out an email to my entire SOI telling them the story and asking them to let me know if their magnet didn’t arrive. So far, I’ve gotten tons of responses back, wishing me well and letting me know their magnets made it (most of ’em anyway). In fact, this may turn out to be the best responded-to SOI email I’ve sent out in a long time! 

If you’d like to see the email I sent, just shoot me your email address and I’ll forward you a copy.  

Happy Holidays, my friends!

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If you have a mailing list with that handy-dandy UNSUBSCRIBE option, you probably know how painful it is  when someone does… that is … UNSUBSCRIBE!check

Of course, I’m mildly devastated (is that an oxymoron? Yes, I believe it is) when I get my little report of unsubscribes after I’ve sent out a newsletter – either to my readers or my real estate Sphere of Influence. After doing it a few years now, my skin has toughened a little bit, but still… it’s not something that’s ever gonna feel good, right?

But here are some random thoughts on the matter of unsubscription.

•       Sometimes people unsubscribe because they accidently signed up twice and are unsubscribing one of their email addresses. I’ve even had my readers write to me explaining this so that I wouldn’t get my feelings hurt. I love you guys.

•       I got unsubscribed-to last week by someone who sends me HER crap material almost every day – sometimes more than one a day! I don’t get that – it seems kinda rude. If you’re going to send me your stuff, you should reciprocate and accept mine.

•       Doesn’t it suck when someone in your Sphere of Influence unsubscribes you? Especially someone you thought really liked you? WhatdidIdo?

•       Several months ago, a guy unsubscribed to one of my free newsletters and felt the need to write a long letter of explanation as to how my ideas and philosophies were “whack” and utterly worthless in today’s world. Note – the guy had been a licensed real estate agent for three months, so I guess he knew what he was talking about. Anyway, it was heartwarming to know that my whack philosophies affected him so deeply that he was inspired to spend that much time telling me about it.

•       I rarely unsubscribe from a newsletter I volunteered for (however, I don’t hesitate to do so when I’m spammed). I figure I’d rather just hit DELETE when the messages come in if I’m not interested, rather than risk hurting someone’s feelings (who is a real person, most of the time).  They’ll never know if I DELETE, but they’ll definitely know if I unsubscribe them. Why create that little bit of sadness in the world if I don’t have to?

I will say (with thinly-disguised arrogance) that my SWS-reader unsubscribe rate is extremely low – like maybe one a week. Why? I dunno. I have some thoughts on the matter which I’ll probably share in a future blog, but for now, if you’re one of my readers who hasn’t unsubscribed me – THANKS!!!!! The absence of your email address on my unsubscribe report is noted and appreciated!

(If you want to subscribe to my newsletter(s), just go to my home page – there are three free ones there.)

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butterfly

As the Introverted Real Estate Agent’s New Best Friend (I just made that up), I give out a lot of advice on how to make a real estate career work even if you aren’t the most outgoing, charismatic social butterfly in town. The other day I was asked about the appropriateness of adding people to your mailing list (either email or snail-mail) without their permission. Spam issues aside (we’re talking about people we know, not strangers), many introverts are hesitant to begin any structured communication with a friend or acquaintance for fear of annoying them.

I get that. Oh, how I get that. I agonize over my mailing list every time I send something out, whether it be to my real estate Sphere of Influence or my Sell with Soul readership. I wonder if I’m communicating too much; if I’m wearing out my welcome; or conversely, if I’m not communicating enough and my audience has forgotten who I am. I worry about the appropriateness of including a little promo for my next product or new listing. Conversely, I worry that if I don’t, I’m not fulfilling my duty to myself to effectively market my stuff.

It’s easy to over-think such things and end up doing nothing. Which is a bad plan. So, if this sounds anything like you, here are a few thoughts to put your mind at ease…

First, ask yourself if what you’re getting ready to send out is something you’re proud of. If it’s something you’d enjoy receiving in your mailbox or inbox. Or, egads, if it’s some cheesy newsletter or sales piece that you’d toss without reading if it were sent to you.

If your communication is something you are proud of and would enjoy receiving, then move on down to the next point. If it’s not, if you’re actually embarrassed by your effort, then you need to honor that gut feeling and return to the drawing board. Because, in my opinion, sending something cheesy or dorky is NOT better than doing nothing at all! But that’s a topic for a different day.

If you’re pleased with your piece, send it out. To everyone. Here’s the thing. A few might be annoyed or feel spammed. That’s a fact. But most won’t. The vast majority won’t. If you’re sending out good stuff, most will enjoy it and be impressed by you. Which is good for business.

I’d rather impress 10 people and risk annoying one than take the chance of some other agent getting my SOI’s business because I was worried about the one…

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I’ve struggled for several days on how to write this blog without coming across as mercenary, crass or just plain tacky. And forgive me if I fail in that effort. But I can see a financial silver lining in just about any rainbowsituation. 

A Realtor friend of mine recently tried to adopt a child. It was a painful process, and unfortunately, the adoption failed. My friend has a fanatically loyal circle of friends with whom she’d been communicating the details of the process, asking for their prayers and keeping them updated via an e-newsletter.

My friend announced the failure of the adoption via the newsletter. In that newsletter, she included the following:

There’s a part of me that feels a little foolish for dragging all of you through this — kinda like a woman who tells people too early that she’s pregnant, and then miscarries.  But there’s a much bigger part of me that is overwhelmed with gratitude at the incredible outpouring of love and support that I’ve received from you over the past month, and particularly during the past week.

I’ll let you know if any further developments emerge.  And in the meantime, remember that September 20th date I asked you to save?  [This was to be a party for the little girl.] Go ahead and keep it saved.  It’s time for my annual Clients and Friends Appreciation Picnic, and who better to appreciate than all of you?  Details will emerge soon, but the date will be September 20th.

I’m also going to have a lot of unexpected time on my hands in the coming weeks, and a much-too-quiet house.  So I plan to catch up on all of the lunches, dinners, coffees and cocktails with my friends that I’ve missed over the past month.  So if you live here in town, expect a call from me . . .

Thank you all, so much.  I can’t believe how blessed I am to have such amazing friends. Know that all of you and your intentions remain in my daily prayers. 

Now, I know with 100% certainty that my friend was not looking for a Sphere of Influence marketing opportunity within the context of her disappointment. But she created one, nonetheless.

Is my point that you should exploit the sadness in your life for personal gain? Uh, no. Even I’m not that opportunistic! But do know that your friends care about your challenges and, if handled deftly, you can create a little lemonade out of an otherwise bitter situation. And, truth be told, there’s nothing like a little extra business to take your mind off your troubles!

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Cheese

At the end of last year, I went on a rampage about cheese. Not the edible kind (heavens, no!), but rather, the prospecting variety. As in, promoting yourself with dorky, pitchy, predictable material that you bought off the shelf or copied and pasted from some free online resource (or egads, maybe you even paid for the krap!). Y’know. Prospecting cheese.

It is my opinion that if you’re going to spend your time and your money promoting yourself to your adoring fans, it’s far more effective if you actually create the material yourself to ensure that it’s not dorky, cheesy or boring. Everything you send out, whether via snail-mail or email, should be done with the intent of inspiring the recipient to smile and think of you fondly.

And yes, that might just take a little more time than you’re used to devoting to your mass-prospecting efforts.

Well, seeing how “time” is usually in short supply, many agents read my stuff and say “Okay, I agree in principle, but at least I’m sending out SOMETHING! I figure that’s better than nothing, right?”

Nice try, but no. It’s not. Especially when you’re sending out that SOMETHING to your Sphere of Influence – aka your friends and acquaintances. If you must, go ahead and send out cheese to strangers, but PLEASE don’t do it to your Sphere.

Why?

Your Sphere of Influence contact database is precious and should be treated as such. In fact, it may be the most valuable tool in your arsenal for getting good business and bringing in juicy paychecks. Treat it with the respect it deserves. Let me rephrase that. Treat the PEOPLE who make up your contact database with the respect they deserve.

Every single person in your Sphere of Influence has the potential to bring a $10,000 check your way. More than one, even. That’s a fact. So, it’s well worth the effort to MAKE an effort to, as above, inspire those special people to smile and think fondly of you every time they hear from you. Don’t do anything that sends a message that the person is simply a name on your list, someone worthy of your prospecting efforts, but maybe not your personal attention. And that’s exactly what canned, boilerplate, cheesy marketing material does. It sends the message that the recipient is just a name on your list.

Frankly, I’d rather take the chance that my Sphere of Influence (which remember, includes my social network) forgets I sell real estate, rather than take the chance that they roll their eyes every time they hear from me. If I’m not willing to take the time to create interesting, relevant, non-cheesy promotional material to send to my precious Sphere of Influence, then a Sphere of Influence business model may not the right model for me.

So, no, Prospecting with Cheese is NOT Better than Nothing. At least not with your Sphere of Influence.

RELATED CHEESE-TO-SOUL BLOGS
Turning Cheese into Soul
Expireds & FSBO’s
Newsletters
Open Houses

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Calendar

Ahhhhhhh… flickering jack-o-lanterns… the changing o’the leaves… the first snowfall… chestnuts roasting on an open fire… and time to order your end-of-year Doo-Dads!

Every year ’round this time, real estate agents open their checkbooks (or, better said, key in their credit card numbers) and spend millions of dollars on calendars and other Doo-Dads designed to be distributed to anyone and everyone who crosses their paths. The goal? Why, to ensure that every human being on the planet knows who they are, what they do and how to reach them, of course!

A worthy goal, indeed.

Even I, staunch opponent of the typical Doo-Dad, am sorely tempted this time of year to spend my few remaining marketing dollars on something of value to throw at my sphere of influence in hopes of drumming up some last minute fourth-quarter business or filling up my pipeline for the spring season.

fly swatterBut sheesh, most Doo-Dads are really silly. C’mon – personalized fly-swatters? Ice-scrapers? Lip balm? Oh, I’m not sayin’ that I won’t use a free fly-swatter, ice-scraper or lip balm, but I can pretty much promise you that such Doo-Dads are NOT going to make me feel obligated to use the person or company whose name graces said Doo-Dad!

That said… I like magnets. Always have. Not just any old magnet, mind you; it has to be cool if it’s gonna go on my fridge. Even more important, it has to be cool if it’s gonna get sent out to my precious sphere of influence.

What do I mean by “cool?” Glad you asked.

A “cool” magnet is one that is 1) extremely clever or attractive, and/or 2) contains truly useful information that the recipient will appreciate and 3) reflects my personality or interests.

What are some examples of UNcool magnets? Oh, how about a plain-jane, vanilla business card magnet? Or a list of kitchen measurements? Or, from someone like me, the sports schedule of the local hockey team? (But if you LOOOOOOOVE hockey, this would be totally cool for you).

If you’re going to spend your hard-earned dollars on Doo-Dads, put your money where your heart is. If something seems a bit silly to you, it probably is. As with every other prospecting method you evaluate, be willing to listen to what your gut has to say on the matter. If your gut seems to be saying “Eh… we can do better,” trust me, you can.

Here’s a link to what I consider to be the ULTIMATE in Doo-Dad-Coolness. Yeah, I had a hand in creating it, so of course I think it’s cool, but I’d love your thoughts as well. And please share your own experiences with Doo-Dads – d’good, d’bad and d’ugly!

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A long time ago (last week? The week before?), I promised to continue a little series I was running about Turning Cheese into Soul – that is – taking yesterday’s tired old prospecting techniques and making them less, um, cheesy. Well, I got a little distracted, but it’s been driving me NUTS to have the remainder of the series on my to-do list… so, I’m back.

Today’s topic is about greeting cards. Specifically, a program called Send Out Cards.* If you aren’t familiar with the product/program, it’s a greeting card system where you choose a card from an online selection, customize it, and “sign” it… hit SEND and a real, live greeting card goes out in the mail with what appears to be your signature. You can even provide samples of your handwriting and the system will “handwrite” your personal note in the card so that appears to actually have been written by you. Pretty slick.

I’ve been rather critical of the program for awhile now. I did try it a few years ago, had a negative experience – my cards were sent out twice, thus destroying any notion the recipients might have had as to the authenticity of the cards. I’ve never used or recommended Send Out Cards again. Here’s a blog I wrote on the topic, in fact: http://activerain.com/blogsview/430334/if-you-re-gonna-soi-don-t-over-systemitize

However, I had a conversation a few weeks ago with my new friend John Lind who might have changed my mind. At least, sorta. Maybe I should say that he opened my eyes to a better way to use the product/program; one that is much more in line with my philosophies of how such things ought to be done.  

John uses his Send Out Cards membership in a decidedly non-dorky/non-cheesy manner. In fact, his use of the program falls right in line with what I teach about staying in touch with your Sphere of Influence. Instead of simply relying on the program to sign and mail a mildly clever, but run-of-the-mill greeting card, he takes the time to use the technology offered by the program to create a truly memorable card – one that will almost certainly make the recipient smile; maybe even LOL!

Here’s an example of a card John sent me:

Send out cards

John generated this card after our discussion where I explained why I didn’t like the idea of Send(ing) Out Cards. He “wrote” a very nice note on the inside of the card; one that was personal to me and our conversation. I am, in a word, impressed. And yes, I did LOL when I opened it. I even kept it!

Here’s another card John did at Thanksgiving…

 

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, what’s the punch line? While it’s cheesy (IMO) to rely on technology to do your staying-in-touching FOR you, it’s not at all cheesy to use technology to make your staying-in-touching memorable!

See the difference?

Let me know if you have any cool ideas I can steal admire.

* I have nothing to do with the Send Out Cards program – I don’t sell it, promote it or distribute it, so the above is definitely not any sort of infomercial for the product. However, I’m sure John would be happy to brainstorm ways that you can make more of an impact with your staying-in-touching! Here’s his email address. 

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

Thanks for all the great feedback from the last blog on the topic of how often your Sphere of Influence (SOI) “needs” to be reminded that you sell real estate! I had my follow-up all ready to go in my head, but many of the comments made me back up a little bit and think some more. I like it when that happens.

(Before I continue, let me say that if something is working for you and you’re happy with your results, don’t change a thing. Even if what I Mailboxsay next is completely contrary to your way of doing things – if you’re happy, I’m happy. I’m mainly talking to agents who either haven’t yet figured out an appropriate SOI strategy or to those who have one in place but aren’t satisfied with the results.)

The truth is, there isn’t one truth. There’s no Right Answer that is perfect for everyone. Well, maybe there is, but if so, I don’t know what it is. Neither do you, probably. It’s a question you’ll ask yourself throughout your entire career and never be fully satisfied with the answer(s) you come up with.

That said, call me cynical, but I believe the advice to incessantly bombard your SOI with marketing materials is mainly propagated by the companies who stand to profit from said bombardment. The more agents who buy their postcards and newsletters and trinkets, and the more often they send them out, the more money flows INTO the company. So, it makes sense that they’d advise you to do it MORE, not less. And to back up that advice with official-sounding statistics.

As I said, call me cynical.

But let’s assume my cynicism has merit and that the statistics tossed out by these companies are, um, a bit inflated. Let’s pretend that we have no data or statistics to work with; we only have our own intelligence and experience to make the decision as to how often to communicate with our SOI’s.

Got it? Forget EVERYTHING you’ve ever heard about communicating with your SOI and ask yourself… if you were a member of your SOI, how often would you need to hear from you in order to remember that you sell real estate?

And what sorts of things would: 1) remind you of your existence, 2) inspire you to think of you fondly and 3) inspire you to call you if and when a real estate need arises?

And remember, we’re not talking about your geographic farm; we’re talking about people who know you and, presumably, like you, even just a little (if they don’t like you, it doesn’t matter how often you communicate with them).

Okay, that’s it for today. Give it some thought. And please share those thoughts!

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

On Wednesday evening, we did a show in the SWS Virtual Studio about Doo-Dads – y’know, those customized promotional trinkets we hand out to our spheres of influence throughout the year, but especially during the holidays?

During the show, we got into a discussion of what makes a Doo-Dad “soulful” – and by “soulful” I mean a little special, a little unique and likely to make the recipient smile, think of you fondly and hopefully even keep your Doo-Dad. As opposed to some dorky piece of junk that makes him roll his eyes and think the giver of said Doo-Dad is an idiot. Or even barely acknowledge the Doo-Dad because he has ten more just like it from the other real estate agents, financial planners and insurance agents in his life, all of whom desperately want his business (which is obvious from all the I <Heart> Referrals slogans on the Doo-Dads).

And that’s the topic of today’s blog. No, not referral-begging, but rather, burdening your precious sphere of influence with Doo-Dads they don’t want.

What do I mean by “burden?”

Well, when we receive Doo-Dads from strangers, we have no qualms about tossing it into the trash if we don’t want it. No muss, no fuss, no angst – Doo-Dad gone and forgotten.

But when we get a Doo-Dad we don’t really want from someone we know, we aren’t so quick to throw it away. We might hold onto it for awhile, out of respect for that relationship.

Um, yeah, Jennifer – that’s the point! I want the recipient of my fancy Doo-Dad to hold onto it – DUH!

Not so fast. Let’s think about what’s going through his or her mind. This person really doesn’t want to keep that Doo-Dad. It’s likely just one more thing to find a home for and to collect dust. But his loyalty to you forces him to make a decision that he’s going to be uncomfortable with either way. Throw it away and feel guilty or don’t throw it away and feel irritated.

That’s what I mean by “burden.” I don’t want my precious SOI spending one second trying to decide whether or not they’re willing to hurt my feelings by throwing away that trinket I sent. And I REALLY don’t want them to make the decision to throw it away, thus subconsciously relegating me and my service to the round file. <she shudders>

Let me give you an example. A few years back, I seem to remember a particular Doo-Dad making the rounds in early July. It was a little flag on a stick that served no real purpose except to give the real estate agent an excuse to drop it off. There really wasn’t anything the recipient could do with the flag except maybe stick it in his pencil holder.

I thought this was the epitome of a burdensome Doo-Dad. First, no one wants to throw away an American flag, especially at such a patriotic time of year! And of course, since it came from a friend, that adds even more fuel to that I-Feel-Guilty fire, should the recipient choose to dispose of it.

So, what’s the answer?  Any thoughts? I’ll share mine next time!

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

Had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine the other day. I was telling him about my recent Go-Giver Chronicles and interactions with Bob Burg (co-author of The Go-Giver). My friend mentioned that his first real estate agent helped him find a rental house when he moved to the area, free of charge. Just helped him. No compensation, no contracts, no obligation. Just helpful help.newsletter

So, my friend continued, when it came time for him to purchase a home in the area, he called up the agent and hired him to be his buyer agent. His point was that because the agent cheerfully gave of his time in the beginning, he ended up with my friend’s business when he had business to give.

I was curious who the agent was; if I knew him or had heard of him, so I asked for the guy’s name.

My friend pondered the question. Couldn’t come up with a name. John, maybe? He said he’d recognize it if he saw it or heard it, but, darnit, just couldn’t remember it right now.

<wheels spin in JA’s head>

Obviously, my friend hadn’t heard from that agent lately. I asked if he’d ever heard from the agent after the sale and he didn’t think he had. That’s not surprising… “they” say that the vast majority of agents do a lousy job of staying in touch after a closing and I’m certain that’s true.

So, I continued questioning interrogating my friend. I asked if he had heard from the agent, say, two or three times a year for the last five years, would he have been able to recall his name?

He pondered again and said, yes, he would be able to recall the agent’s name if he’d heard from him two or three times a year since the sale. But, he said: “Even once a year would have done it.” 

So, I asked “What if he’d been in touch every month?” My friend groaned… “That would have annoyed me to the point of not wanting to remember him!”

We moved onto a different real estate-related topic that you’ll see rambled about here in a few days, but this conversation validated one of my long-held suspicions about our industry… or rather… one of the industries who SELLS to our industry.

I’ll continue this soon… but any thoughts on where I’m going with this?

 

 

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

Cards

Pretty much everyone agrees that one’s sphere of influence can be a great source of business. But lots of agents hesitate when it comes time to actually implement a sphere of influence campaign – they don’t know how to take the first step without coming across as phony or even mercenary.

I mean, really, you have this list of people – some friends, some acquaintances – to whom you’ve never, ever written, and most haven’t heard boo from you in years… and suddenly you’re just supposed to start communicating with them out of the blue?

Seriously?

I hear ya. Even I struggle every time I send something out to my sphere – worried they’ll “see thru” my attempts to communicate with them and <gasp> realize I’m doing it to subtly promote my business. And I’ve BEEN in touch with my sphere on a fairly consistent basis!

But here are a few thoughts to, perhaps, get you past this emotional hurdle and back in touch with your SOI.

First, ask yourself how you’ll feel if you find out that five old friends hired someone else to be their real estate agent because they hadn’t heard from you lately? Or, shoot, just one old friend?

Or how you’d feel if you heard that someone you “used” to be really good friends with referred a sweeeet listing in your favorite neighborhood to someone else because she wasn’t sure you were even selling real estate anymore?

Or if, as scrolling thru your MLS Hot Sheet one day, you see a new listing come on the market – one you sold to your buyers a few years back, but-never-got-around-to-following-up-with-and-now-it-feels-weird-to-do?

Does that motivate you a little bit?

If so, consider this… the holidays are a GREAT time to reconnect! And you can do it without much fear of being held in suspicion by your audience (as long as your reconnection attempt has nothing to do with begging for referrals!)

Just do one of those tried-n-true annual family newsletters – make it interesting, authentic and include pictures (and this can be done after the holiday season if you’re overloaded with holiday stuff before). Or, personally signed and short & sweet-noted holiday cards, if that’s more your style. Or a customized photo-postcard with a cute & clever message will do the trick. Or, of course, your annual doo-dad (calendar, magnet or whatever) delivered with a card with a nice note.

Then… the trick is… once you’ve reconnected, keep up the good work throughout the year so you aren’t in this position again next holiday season.

Hey, I know it’s a busy time, but since we’re all making plans to ensure a sweeter 2011, this seems like a great place and time to start making that happen!

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

Yay Me!I’m a big fan of communicating with one’s sphere of influence (SOI) via the written word – with the caveat that those written words are YOUR written words, not some words written by someone else who doesn’t know you!

If your SOI “hears” from you on a reasonably regular basis – and again – that means they hear from YOU (not that mysterious someone else), they’ll remember you, and even better, they’ll remember you FONDLY. I’ve written about this concept once or twice or a dozen times – see the list below for related blogs.

Anyway, agents ask me all the time what they should write about that will inspire their SOI’s to remember them FONDLY. Their new listing or recent sale? How low interest rates are and what a great time to buy it is? A reminder to winterize their sprinkler system or change smoke detector batteries?

YAWN. No, none of these.

There are a gazillion things you can write to your SOI about that won’t come across as pitchy, pushy or just ho-hum. One of those things is the YAY-ME letter.

Huh? YAY-ME? Isn’t that the epitome of pitchy, pushy or even ho-hum (after all – who cares about ME?)

Yep – if you do it wrong.

But if you do it right? It’s a fabulous opportunity to very subtly remind your sphere that you’re competent and confident AND give them a chance to congratulate you on whatever it is you’re telling them about which can open up the door to conversations! And conversations with the people we know can lead to all sorts of wonderful things.

So, Jennifer, um… what’s an example of doing it right?

Glad you asked ;-]

Here’s a letter recently sent out by one of my faithful readers. She sent it individually to each of her 2010 clients, although I’m sure it could be tweaked to be sent to her entire SOI. My reader enjoyed a tremendous response to the letter, got a few (unsolicited) glowing testimonials to use in her marketing and may even have a few new clients to show for her efforts.

The subject line of the email was: “And the award goes to…”

(and here’s the text of the message)…

…me!

This week I had the pleasure (and total surprise) of winning an award from RE/MAX for 2010! It is a beautiful cherry wood plaque that reads:

In Appreciation and Recognition
Of Your Outstanding Performance and Achievements In The RE/MAX® Organization.
You Are Truly “Above The Crowd!”®

Out of 30+ agents in my office, I was one of only 9 to receive this honor!

Why am I sharing this wonderful news with you? Because, without you putting your faith and trust in me last year…well, I wouldn’t be writing this email at all!

So thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!  : )

Jane”

Do you have something you could YAY-ME about to your sphere? I bet you do… want to share some ideas? Or ask for feedback??

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