If you're a real estate agent / Realtor, I'm sure you're trying to be seen by anyone who's ready to buy or sell a home. But by the time they're looking, it may be too late. Why? If someone doesn't bother to actively research agents and find the right fit for them, they may simply call the name on a listing sign. Right?
But if they do go searching for an agent, who are they going to find? Chances are, they'll find:
In all these examples, I could be talking about you. But the vast majority of real estate agents are not doing these things. Many will simply take calls through their agency, and will perhaps send out some printed letters or postcards in hopes of attracting some clients. Some will also use social media, but the world of social media has changed, and even if you build a big following, only a small fraction will ever see your posts unless you "pay to play."
This is why email marketing is so critical for real estate agents, just as it is for any business. Most marketers will list this as one of the most important things to do from day one in a business. Yet many real estate agents / Realtors never understand the importance in building a consistent clientele in this way.
And given how inexpensive email marketing is, there's no reason you shouldn't be doing it.
How Would You Use Email Marketing?
In some cases, you can catch people at the exact moment they're ready to buy or sell a home. But if you want to think long term about your business, then it's important to develop a list of people who grow to trust you over time and remember you when the time is right.
This is why email marketing is so powerful. It lets you stay in people's minds on a weekly or monthly basis by sending out a newsletter. And this doesn't have to be some in-depth email that few will ever read from start to finish. I know one Realtor who used to send out a monthly email with one tip per e-mail that most people would find useful, even if it had nothing to do with real estate.
This way, he continued giving people value, building on the power of reciprocity (where people want to pay you back for the value you have given them; this is built into most people). He also branded himself by following the tip with a reminder about his success in real estate. This helped with both trust ("he's successful") and recall.
Another form of content could be special deals you've scored with local businesses exclusively for your readers. People love to feel exclusive, and anyone who used the deal would get a clear financial benefit for reading your newsletter. Make sure they get their deal by mentioning you to the business -- this way the business can track the benefit of working with you, and YOU are making people say your name and associate that with a great value.
Of course send out your listings. If you have local readers, share your listings. If you happen to have so many that this would overwhelm readers, send a weekly digest of new listings, or send your best ones. You never know who's starting to think about a move, and what listing might strike a chord. Plus, your readers may know someone else who's looking for a listing.
Automatically send your blogs. That's right ... a good system can automatically send out the blogs you write on your site. So if you're having an open house or have other news to share, there's no need to spend time writing an e-mail to your list about it. The system can send this news out automatically. I recommend using one blog for this kind of news and a separate one for your listings and NOT automating your listing e-mails. That's because you'll want to more carefully prepare a listing e-mail. For instance, check out the section on "Images" below.
Think of all the time or money you put into trying to land clients. With email marketing like this, you could spend just a couple hours a month (at most!) putting together an honest tip or deal for your readers. You could have a boilerplate reminder about who you are at the end of each email (including a link to your listings.) It wouldn't take long, and a good autoresponder system (see my recommendations below) can cost under $20/month. (Or FREE up to 500 subscribers if you don't mind their branding included and don't need more advanced features.)
Now imagine that you've built a list of 500 people in your community who hear from you each month. If each one moved only once every 10 years, that would be 50 people per year, or about one a week. Each one might represent both a home sale and purchase. If you only landed 10% of these (5 per year) as clients, wouldn't that be a pretty solid return on a couple hours of effort per month?
Now what if you scored more than 10%? Or built a larger list?
This is the power of staying in people's minds and giving them value over time.
How Do You Build a List?
Of course it's one thing to talk about staying in touch with a list. It's another to figure out how you build that list. While I can't explain all the following in detail in this blog, let me give you some ideas:
My Recommended Service
Hopefully by now you see how obvious it is that you should be email marketing by building a list and reaching out to that list at least once a month. And hopefully I've stimulated ideas about how to build that list and what to do with it.
Now what service should you use for your email list? Honestly, there are a lot of good ones that start at "FREE" if you don't mind their branding and missing a few advanced features. That said, as a professional, you might not want to show their branding, and it's under $20 to have up to 500 subscribers.
I personally recommend AWeber because they're less restrictive than others about sending things like "affiliate" emails. So if you ever had an arrangement, for instance, to promote something to your list (besides homes) that you earned from, that could be a problem with other providers. If you do look at other providers, just make sure to check out their Acceptable Use policies.
$19/month for your first 500 subscribers. (Less when paying ahead.)
Please share! I hope you've found this information on email marketing useful and that you'll share it with other real estate agents! No, of course not your competition. That would be crazy talk. But share it with your friends in real estate who you want to see succeed. Thanks!
Two of today's newsy names have just made big changes to how they do business, and it raises the question of when it makes sense to change a business model.
On October 6, McDonald's rolled out "All Day Breakfast." While there are some limitations, this was overall something that McDonald's fans had requested for years. Now there are a lot of pundits talking about whether or not this will be enough to save McDonald's, and only time will prove anyone right or wrong.
But the point with McDonald's is that they've been falling from their once great heights, and they have to do something to adjust to today's market. So kudos to them for trying something. They're also working on some healthier food options, and I suspect that both will be good moves for them. I personally wonder, though, whether the brand itself is what consumers are looking for. In an apparent effort to create a different feel to the business, McDonald's launched a new creepy Hamburglar, as you can see from this Google search result.
In any case, when business is NOT going well for a long period of time, some sort of change is needed, and McDonald's is responding. We'll see if they responded in the right way.
Meanwhile, though, this brings up the question of whether you ought to change your business model when things are going exceptionally well. Or at least appear to be going well.
Jet.com emerged from beta in July of this year with a goal of having millions of members by the end of the year. They are touted as an Amazon competitor, but they had a different business model. They would make most of their money from annual memberships of $50 and then provide prices close to wholesale. Which would be highly valuable to the consumer, if they truly gave wholesale prices, which are often 40% or more below retail. In this model, if you shifted just $500 per year in groceries and home essential shopping to jet, you might save $150 or $200 per year. And I think many people would do much more shopping than that.
Since their launch, Jet has become one of the leading online retailers, is approaching 20,000 orders a day, and has garnered all sorts of media attention. Seems like the kind of results you'd want to have.
But even as I've shopped at Jet, I couldn't help but feel I wasn't really getting wholesale prices. In fact, I would compare with Amazon and a couple other low price stores; Jet was often the lowest. But not always by a ton, and not to the tune of making me think I was buying at wholesale. In fact, prices seemed to be creeping upward since launch.
Then yesterday (October 7) just 3 months after their public launch, they announced that they would offer memberships for free. This only confirms the fact that they're not offering wholesale prices, because they have to make profit somewhere. And what this says to me is that they don't want to beat Amazon by being different. They want to beat Amazon by being the same. Sure they have tricks like choosing smart cart items to save even more. But in short, they're trying to get people to sign up and shop regularly for low prices.
Amazon's already doing that, Jet. You had me at "wholesale," and sure ... you'll continue to have me with low prices. When I can find what I want. But Amazon has a big jump on Jet in terms of functionality, features, infrastructure, selection, a marketplace where others can sell items, a powerful affiliate force, and so much more. It makes me wonder how long Jet can compete by being another version of Amazon. Or for how long they can lose money trying to beat Amazon prices while ramping up. Or really ... why they changed their business model.
This isn't to say the new approach won't work better. But they must have thought long and hard about a membership site that offered wholesale pricing. Why would they so quickly abandon something they knew would take several years to turn profitable?
I'll love to see where this goes, and more competition at this scale is generally good for the consumer. But it makes me think on business models and when it makes sense to change. And I'd love your insights on McDonald's, Jet.com, or anything related to this topic of changing business to stay on top.
I've been wanting to write for a while about digital ads and conversion rates because there seem to be so many assumptions without understanding how complex the answer is. Although, in short, you can simplify it by saying, "It depends." On the business. Its goals, revenue per conversion, etc.
But I came across this article today on The Myth of 2-3% Conversion that I thought was really well written, and still applicable despite having been written a lifetime ago in terms of digital marketing. In fact back in 2007.
More important than just touching on the myth of an "average" 2-3% conversion rate in paid ads, he goes on to talk about what might be right for a business. In the end, of course, it boils down to making more money from those ads than they cost. Enough, in fact, that you cover the ad costs, and all your business costs, and end up with profit. I mean, that is what business is for, yes?
That's 2 calls in 2 days, both from a company called Marketo. They used call centers to reach me during my business day, the first time inviting me to a webinar and the second time -- if I understood the caller correctly -- to invite me to some sort of event that was not a webinar.
Before I get further, let me mention the point of this blog post: to bring up the questions we ought to consider when we choose how to market. I don't have any hard data about whether we should cold call in this way, so I won't be answering the title question, but invite your opinion on it. Instead, I want to point out that this is a different approach to cold calling. And it falls in a fuzzy grey area of whether we should or shouldn't.
So these days we're surrounded by advertisements, and everyone's trying to break through the noise. And sometimes, as we all well know, businesses cross the line between shining their messages at us and actually interfering with our lives.
When we're driving down the road, we all know we'll see ads. In some ways, these interfere with our lives -- billboards have replaced trees, the screams of ads might drown out own our thoughts. But in a sense, we have tacitly agreed to have these ads here by choosing to live, perhaps, in or around a city and drive on paved roads, etc. We've chosen this as society, and those who want to avoid it might need to live in farm country.
We're also hit with ads across media like TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, and yes ... even social media. In these cases, we've agreed to accept these ads in exchange for benefits that are free or subsidized because of advertisers. So we might not love the ads, but they're worth our while. (And in the digital age, we can often "upgrade" something to remove this subsidy.)
But as far as I can tell, there's no social agreement that by buying a phone, we've given permission for others to call and sell us things. Now if the phone were given to us for free, in exchange for receiving one sales call a week, then we'd be agreeing to it and getting a benefit for it. Or if we were given discounted phone service for the same sort of thing, then this sort of calling would be legit -- especially if we were able to opt into topics of interest for those calls. (You can call me about books and digital products, but not about underwear and socks.)
This is basically what Amazon has done with their subsidized Kindles. Pay more for a Kindle without ads, or pay less for one with ads. (Though these ads are far less intrusive than a phone call that takes your time. Not to mention that cold calls have opened the door to scammers that have cost so many people so much.)
The point here is that, on some level, we at least agree to ads in most cases, and in some cases we even invite them. (Like when you sign up for someone's mailing list.) And it seems to me that, the more we can get someone to INVITE our communications, the more effectively we can carry on a conversation with them and ultimately grow our business.
In a similar way, the more we can give through our communications, the more we can engage and become a community with our audience, the more likely we are to break through the noise when it comes time to talk about our products and services. And so we don't need to resort to cold calling at least for this following.
In short, cold calls are out (they were never "in"), and invitation is in (it has always been "in").
But what happens when someone cold calls you to invite you to something? To give you something? This is what Marketo did twice in two days. Both times I was unhappy about having my work flow disturbed by a phone call for something I wasn't interested in. Both times I declined the invitation. But in both cases, I was being offered something for free, and they never asked if they could just pitch their product to me. I know that would have happened during the events, but hopefully in an educational way, in a way that showed me what I could accomplish ... and by the way (they would tell me), Marketo would be a great way to accomplish it.
To be honest, I'll feel more resistant to any exposure to Marketo in the future because of this interruption. But I can't help but feel that this is a far better approach to cold calling than a traditional sales pitch. And I'm curious what kind of results companies are having with this.
I still feel that there are other ways Marketo could reach me when I am most receptive. Ads that target keywords can invite me to a free webinar on a digital marketing topic any time I'm looking for keywords related to its topic. They could run video ads to hit me when I'm watching YouTube -- another place I've tacitly agreed to see short ads (that I can usually skip) to receive the benefits of YouTube. They could market to me on LinkedIn since I have terms related to "digital marketing" in my profile. They could be very targeted about reaching me in way that asked no time from me. Could Marketo get better results in this way? Could they keep from making me disappointed in their brand?
I'm genuinely against brands that cold call me. I will never hire you or buy from you if you cold call me. But I'm less against you if you "cold invite" me. And that's why I'm just annoyed with Marketo.
What do you think? Are you open to cold invitations? Have you tried them in your business and have they worked well for you? Have you had any negative reactions to it that hurt your business?
Dish Network is currently running a series of ads featuring identical products at different price points. And -- whether it's real or acted -- they show people utterly confused by the options. "What's different about this one? Why does it cost more?" they wonder.
And Dish's point is that they aren't different ... and why would you pay more for the same thing?
While humorous and noticeable enough to talk about (they obviously got my attention), I'm noticing it for the wrong reason. To me this ad campaign is saying, "We're the same as our competition, but we cost a little less." And this is the classic race to the bottom -- who can charge less for the same thing?
Building a brand is about differentiating yourself from the competition, whether because of features or customer service or the sheer "feel good" that comes from your message. Building a brand is what allows you to keep operating with reasonable profit margins. Racing to the bottom is an ongoing task of better buying, increased efficiencies, and a ravenous need for volume. These are two very different models ... although usually combined to some degree, and the question is one of emphasis / balance.
In any case, I thought it interesting that Dish's campaign was so clearly talking about how they were the same; and while many people will no doubt respond to the savings, I felt like this campaign was distinctly shooting their own brand in the foot.
As it turns out (click this link to see), the campaign is actually not at all about being the same for less, even though the images and videos use that message. So again, humor aside, I feel that this sends decidedly confusing signals.
In fact, they're offering you a good deal for 12 months, just like anyone will to acquire a new customer. After that, their monthly price is almost identical! (Less than a 3% difference with Dish a tiny bit lower on the packages they've compared.) But if you visit that page, you'll see that they've emphasized a TON of benefits to having Dish over having DirecTv.
Now this isn't to say that Dish is better or that DirecTv wouldn't have its own benefits to tout. This is only pointing out that the front end commercials getting you to visit Dish were saying almost exactly the opposite thing as the end result. Wow.
Meanwhile, maybe an even more interesting point in all of this is that they're bragging on a 290 channel package vs. a 225 channel package in an age when everything is moving toward personalization and people want to be able to pay for only what they want, and not a bunch of extras. Who wants to pay $50/month for a package of channels they'll never watch just to get access to a sports package that they'll actually watch? But that is how the old guard works for now.
At least Dish came out with Sling, offering people a much smaller package of channels without the need for a Dish at all -- just an internet connection. This seems clearly the way of the future, but until more people drop the big packages and move to Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, and the like, Dish and company will keep squeezing out profits from over selling while they can. We vote with our wallets.
Call me crazy, but I suspect there are ways to monetize personalized packages in a way that would yield them more money, and the first companies to aggressively pursue that avenue may be the gargantuans of tomorrow. Will that be Dish? DirecTv? Or someone else?
If you're a small business that relies on "free" traffic from good search engine rankings, hopefully you've heard about Google's upcoming "Mobile-Friendly" algorithm update. Supposedly beginning on April 21, sites that are not mobile friendly will not do well in Google search results on mobile devices.
As far as I can tell, desktop searches will not be affected for now. But people are now searching as much on their mobile devices as they are on desktops, and this trend is only growing. This is no doubt especially true for local businesses when people are on the road trying to find a local restaurant or any solution to a problem at hand.
I opened this year with a blog on the need for having a mobile friend site, and this drives home the point. If you're not ready for mobile traffic, you won't be getting much from Google. So have you developed a mobile friendly site?
Being ready means either having a responsive site (once that automatically adjusts to a device), or a separate mobile site, optimized for mobile devices, which automatically shows up on those devices (in place of the main website). If you don't have this kind of solution in place, you can no longer afford to wait on making it happen. And if you need a hand, I hope you'll get in touch.
Of course another way to make your business mobile friendly is by having a smart phone app, which doesn't have to be expensive and can let you reach customers on a regular basis with simple "push notifications."
Digital marketing is a phenomenal opportunity for businesses to market on budget and in a way they can measure. And going mobile is a central part of doing this today. So how are you going mobile? And what questions do you have about doing so?
I'm super excited to be able to offer something I'll bet few (if any) online are willing to offer.
I've been writing press release for years, and now I'm able to include distribution equal to the largest services online ... at half the cost. AND ... for local businesses, I guarantee results.
Yes, this is still perfect for ANY size business, because I reach all the major media along with bloggers, the Associated Press, and the news section of the major search engines. It's truly inclusive. The biggest online service charges $369 for this, and they do NOT include writing.
But I'm offering writing PLUS this distribution for just $249. Oh, and true to mccardellwrite style, that includes unlimited revisions to the press release because I'm not happy until you're satisfied that it's just how you want it.
Yet I'm taking this a step further for local businesses. If you're a local business, you've got to know the value of someone searching for your business type along with your city name. That's a targeted, local prospect. I guarantee a minimum of THREE first page results on Google within days of distributing your press release (and I'll show you those results).
For details, please visit my press release page. Questions? Please contact me.
It's a new year. Not just any new year. It's 2015.
That's right, 15 years have passed since we entered "the future" -- the year 2000. Back then, Google had just been born (and could be gamed like crazy), most websites looked like children had built them (and that was sometimes true), and probably most businesses thought that sites were unnecessary. After all ... they still had the Yellow Pages.
Today, most businesses know that websites are completely necessary, and many are coming to understand that mobile websites are important too. Either you need a separate mobile site (easier to read on a small mobile screen), or you need an "adaptive" site -- something that automatically adjusts itself to every screen.
And really, you need more than just a website. You need one that: 1) gets traffic; and 2) converts traffic. So ... have you covered all your bases?
The world is honestly going digital, and unless you're in some sort of unusual niche where these realities don't apply, the question is whether you've invested in the continuation of your business. If you're not going digital, if you're not investing a serious portion of your marketing budget into online options (which are FAR more measurable than direct mail, TV or radio ads, etc.), there's a good bet you're leaving money on the table or even putting your business at risk.
So are you ready to make a digital marketing resolution? It's 2015, and it's time to know that digital plays a massive role in the successful future of your business and to invest in line with that fact. What digital marketing resolutions will you make? Are you just getting a business online for the first time? Do you need a mobile solution? Do you need to add e-commerce, or to start running (and tracking) paid ads? Do you need more people finding you through natural search engine results?
What do YOU want to accomplish online in 2015? So much can be done, and you may be surprised at how much you can get online compared with what you can get through old media solutions.
If you want to start developing your digital marketing efforts this year, please contact me and let's talk. One of my favorite things is helping business owners or marketing managers avoid getting oversold or overcharged by others. Obviously I'm encouraging everyone to spend on digital marketing, but only to spend where it makes sense and in ways that can be measured. This is critical to seeing, long-term, that you've made a good choice and that you can continue spending with a positive return on investment.
If you're already growing online, if you're already developing what you need to in our digital world, fantastic. Then it's just time to celebrate a new year and the prosperity ahead. Wishing you the best!
Just a quick notice about my latest article, this time on Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising on Google Adwords and Bing Ads. If you're running your own PPC campaigns (or overseeing an agency and need a little knowledge to better keep an eye on them), these tips can be really important.
This is a long article, in an effort to get you some meaningful information.
PPC Advertising Tips
I've posted my latest digital marketing article on LinkedIn. If you're at all interested in understanding the basics of search engine optimization (and getting some specific tips for success), I encourage you to check it out:
SEO in 2 Words
SEO, like any aspect of marketing, is not a one-time thing, and it isn't something that stands alone. And in many ways it's a complex topic. But it's easy to understand conceptually, and I think this basic understanding can help to steer any business and help to make better online decisions.