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Are you a Flintstone or a Jetson? or Both?

flint-vs-jetThere are two sides of our business. There’s the stuff that we do without technology, let’s call that the analog you, and then there is the stuff you do with a computer, that’s the digital you. There is no question that technology is having a significant impact on our business. It seems like every six months or so there is a new launch of the next shiny new toy/gimmick making promises to increase our business.
The truth, I believe, is that technology will help us reach more people and even make our job easier. If you consider yourself a Jetson you can use tech tools to increase your business flow…that is, increase the contacts that pass through your life. But being only a Jetson isn’t going to make you more money. To do that you also need to think like a Flintstone. Understand that before there was Facebook, Twitter, emails, texts and digital signatures there was the simplicity of face to face interaction. Granted today’s fast-paced world makes that personal interaction more difficult, but clients learn so much more about you, as a real life person, than an email signature or Facebook post.
My goal for 2017, and I hope the goal for every realtor, is to ditch my jet pack and adapt the more foot powered car alternative to increase my business. This doesn’t mean giving up on tech tools that help you and I meet and interact with people but we should also ramp up those phone calls, letters, hand written notes and personal interactions. Above all, increase our frequency and speed of those old school interactions. Consumer surveys reveal that our new digital world has created a population that is impatient and compulsive so the key to connecting is a quicker response time combined with increased frequency.
Personal interaction has another benefit. It allows you to ask more personal questions and in order to get truthful answers the clients just need to know you better. I suppose that is why video bios have become so important to our business. Not only is it easier to get information (watching rather than reading) but it gives clients an idea about who you are well before they meet you and divulge their motivations for moving. The reality is that we can’t help our clients until we truly know them.
So be more like a Flintstone this year. And don’t give up. Remember to keep calling and interacting until you get the business or they tell you to stop.

img_8798Mark McLean is the Broker/Manager at the Bosley Real Estate Queen St W office, the Immediate Past President the Toronto Real Estate Board and a director at the Ontario Real Estate Association. The opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of TREB, OREA or Bosley RE.


What’s Your Five Star Rating?

testimonialsI have just returned from a conference in Banff, Alberta called the Banff Western Connect. I’ll fully admit that I am a bit of a conference junkie. I love to learn. I love to network and I love to swap success stories with other brokers. At the end of the day I always walk away with valuable insights and ideas that I can bring back to my board or my office. This blog post focuses on the importance of on-line reviews.

My latest brush with a review system came just a few weeks ago. I had to run into Loblaws for a few things. Everything ran smoothly. I grabbed what I needed, I self scanned everything, bagged and paid for my purchase and was in and out in 10 minutes. As I left the store there was a stand with a sign asking me to rate my experience by pushing one of four buttons. So I did. Because I found everything I needed and didn’t wait in line, I gave the highest rating possible. No fuss, no muss. But that simple button system does so much more than track your experience. Behind the scenes it is taking the simple data that the customer is inputting and adding on layers upon layers of data that already exists. Traffic in the store, time of day, weather conditions, number of staff on duty, etc, etc. All the data collected gets mashed together and helps the store deliver a better experience…and isn’t that the point of a review system?

It’s not that much different in the real estate space. It’s probably not nearly as complex but the data is still valuable. Here is the problem however; the collection of data is so much harder to get. To really understand how a client enjoyed their real estate experience one needs more information than one can get by pushing a simple button. If I am really interested in knowing how I did I want to ask about a hundred different questions; Did I show up on time? was I knowledgeable about the market? did I answer questions clearly and affectively? The list goes on. The problem is that clients are not likely to sit through countless minutes answering questions about their experience. One quick solution is to whip out your handy smart phone and record the happy clients telling you how great you are or what an awesome job you did. On line agent reviews are a joke. The reviews don’t mean anything and because the reviewers are anonymous, anyone can write reviews including your friends (who leave great reviews) and competing agents (who leave bad reviews). On top of that, there is no business model that supports the financial an online agent review website.

The unfortunate problem is that we live in an economy that relies on reviews and ratings. From the simple “like” button on Facebook to Yelp to Uber and AirBnB (where reviews go both ways). We know that 51% of Canadian Millennials surveyed say that online reviews, comments and feedback are the largest influence on their buying behavior, yet the flip side to the coin is that the internet has created a population of people with attention deficit disorder so those reviews have to stand out in order to be recognized and the process of getting that elusive five-star rating has to be quick and easy. I believe that over the next few years the key to success in any business will come from unlocking the keys to an honest, fast and easy rating system. Recently I took a trip to Iceland. I posted a ton of pictures from my trip and made a lot of positive comments about the country. Now my friends are messaging me about future travel plans there and want to know what places to go to, where to eat and stay. In effect my friends are looking for a referral of sorts.

So, is it possible to create a review of your services that comes off as truly authentic, and trustworthy? From the start we know that real estate is a referral business, but once you get recommended, that potential client is going to check you out online to confirm that you are the real deal. This is where the one-two punch needs to happen. Recognize that you only have a few seconds to make the connection so testimonials and ratings need to be above the fold in order to work, not buried on an afterthought tab at the bottom.

Mark McLean is the five-star Broker/Manager at the Bosley Real Estate Queen St W office, the Immediate Past President the Toronto Real Estate Board and a director at the Ontario Real estate Association. The opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of TREB, OREA or Bosley RE.


What Does It Cost To Farm A Neighbourhood?

farming So you want to be a Realtor? Well most books you read out there will tell you that you need to farm a neighbourhood. Hey, I’m not saying that rule is written in stone because in this day and age you can prospect from your social groups or by targeting a particular age or demographic through tools like Facebook. But there are advantages to working one neighbourhood…especially one that you live in. Obviously you are familiar with it. People see you out and about (maybe with your dog) so there maybe some recognition. You go to the local stores and of course you tour properties in the vicinity to gain expert knowledge. Your geographic farm is only as big as you determine, but the realities are that the bigger the area, the more expensive it is to farm it and promote it. I like to tell new agents that you should target one or two buildings or about 500 homes before taking on more. So, last week we did a little noodling in our office about just how expensive farming can be. We outlined the action and the cost associated with it. Here’s what we came up with;

farm 2

farm 1

As you can see there is a healthy mix of the good old tried and true techniques that I believe should not be disqualified. They still work and provide the public with name recognition. They include newsletters, flyers, local paper ads, door knocking, cold calling. Add into the mix some ideas, like joining local BIA’s and neighbourhood committees, holding buyer or seller seminars and sponsoring kids teams and you have the making of a fairly substantial marketing program. On top of those more traditional approaches, social media has given the savvy realtor even more tools. Agents are creating neighbourhood channels, websites and Facebook groups, to speak with authority about what’s happening in the area. They are using video to promote local attractions and businesses and are tweeting out the latest gossip. They aren’t mentioning that they are Realtors right away though. It’s a round-about marketing technique that aims at gaining trust before asking for the business. It’s about proving to buyers and sellers that you are more dialed in to the nuances of the neighbourhood than the next guy.
You do all these things are for the sole purpose of networking (prospecting in real estate parlance). For the most part the things that you do take more time than money, but when you are starting off, you’ve got nothing but time.
Add it up and you have an idea on what it’s all going to cost you. About $20,000 per year. That falls in line with our company’s belief in spending about 10% of your earnings on marketing. The cost associated with the actions we came up with were based on actual costs that agents in my office spent and we tried to limit the size of the farm area to 1000 doors. Obviously there are some economies of scale in farming. For example, the cost to produce a video isn’t going to change depending on the size of your farm but the cost of gifts, newsletters and flyers will. There is one other factor to consider and that is location. A billboard in Rosedale (one of Toronto’s most affluent neighbourhoods) is going to cost a lot more than one in Kingston Ontario. Don’t let these numbers scare you. In a perfect world you would accomplish all this and more. For now though it’s important to recognize that some of the best things you can do is get out there and shake some hands. That’s the most cost-effective farming you can do!
Is there any downside to geographic farming? Sure. a Client you’ve taken out a bunch of times decides to look across town and thinking that you don’t know anything about it hires another agent. The best defense is a good offence so while you are out, let the clients know that you are familiar with all the neighbourhoods of the city.

mark mclean is the Broker/Manager at the Bosley Real Estate Queen St W office and President-Elect for the Toronto Real Estate Board. The opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of TREB or Bosley RE.

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