Saturday, May 27, 2017

In Step with VIP Broker Cindee Cullingford

We often interview agents with success stories, but this week we had the awesome opportunity to share an interview with one of our power brokers who uses smart marketing tools to help her agents succeed at a high level and brand her business throughout her market.

Here’s what we learned…

Q:  Thank you for agreeing to our interview. Can you first tell our readers a little about yourself?

A:  I am a small-town girl with a big appetite to succeed!  I am the youngest and only girl with three older brothers, and I adore each one for different reasons.  I lost my middle brother in Vietnam when I was 14, so I believe that shaped a part of me for the rest of my life.  I flew off to one of the biggest cities when I was 18 years old.  I moved to Los Angeles, California with the blessings of my family.  I never looked back. Real Estate is actually my third career.  I was excited to join the Real Estate industry back in 2004, and continue to learn every day.

Q:  As a Broker/Owner, you’ve probably waded through many different marketing options, can you tell us what attracted you to ProspectsPLUS!?

A: Boy, have I!  I actually used ProspectsPLUS! many years ago, but stopped mailing postcards as so many agents tend to do.  When I opened my Brokerage, Coral C’s Realty & Property Management, LLC. just 4 years ago, I started receiving emails from your team?  The Just Sold postcard was completed for me and all I had to do was approve it and click “OK”.  So, it was Ramona and the ease of use of the postcards.

Q:  I know you offer Just Listed and Just Sold postcards to all your associates, which is awesome. What has that meant for you in terms of company branding, agent retention and recruiting?

A: It is in my best interest to make sure each of my Sales Associates mail out those important Just Listed and Just Sold postcards to keep my branding (and their business) alive.  So, I made the decision to include 100 postcards, complete and mailed out for each Sales Associate every time a home is sold or listed.  This is a great incentive to offer new Sales Associate for a small amount of money.  Even the seasoned agents find it a great tool and stay loyal because of it.

Q:  What advice do you have for agents eager to compete in this busy market?

A: Take every advantage offered to you in the way of marketing, but STAY consistent when you start farming.  ProspectsPLUS! offers a variety of inexpensive ways to keep your name in front of everyone that needs real estate assistance.

Q:  Can you share what’s working for your associates in terms of staying top of mind with their sphere and farm?

A: I can honestly say that all of my Sales Associates at one time or another have said “Thank you” for including the postcards in our Sales Package.  But more importantly, they have each had responses back from owners wanting us to list their home because they received our postcards.  The other awesome way to stay in touch with clients is to pick up the phone and prospect at least 5-10 people a day, five times a week.

Q:  Any fun ideas you’d like to add for agents or brokers for staying ahead of their competition?

A: Keep your sales associates happy because they are your bread and butter.  We spend considerable time inside and outside of the office together.  We love getting the agents and their spouses together for comedy night.  I know we have all heard of the “team environment”, but we actually have one.  If an agent can’t show for any reason, another agent will step in and assist.

Q: How can our readers connect with you if they have referrals they’d like to send your way?

A: We are always available for referrals! Coral C’s Realty office number is 321-613-5605.  We are on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Thank you so much Cindee! Your advice has been awesome. If you’d like to learn more about sending postcards for your team as a broker, or how to stay consistent and out front of your competition as an agent visit www.prospectsplus.com today or call our team at 866.405.3638.

 

With Top Agent Carmen Wieck

By Julie Escobar

It’s so powerful to learn from our customers, hear their stories and be able to share their insights and ideas
with others. Every time we do, it’s wonderful. We often get a behind-the-scenes glance into what brought them to our great industry – and what they do that allows them to flourish.

What a treat it was to learn more about our VIP customer Carmen Wieck. Her story inspired us, and I know it will inspire you too. Here’s what we learned:

Q: Carmen, can you first tell our readers a little about yourself?

A: I was born and grew up in communist Romania, and 1989 was a big turning point in my destiny. I always felt I was missing something big, but I never knew what it was. After graduating from the Academy of Economic Studies, I had a very short period of “trial and error” in finding the right career path for myself. I was a lieutenant in the Romanian Police, dreaming of “bringing justice for all.” I also worked for the government, dreaming of “making a difference” until I finally found that working in marketing for private multinational companies was where I fit best. I was so fortunate to work with exceptional managers in several blue chip companies such as Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Frito-Lay and Ipsos Research.

While I was living in Croatia working for Coca-Cola, I met my husband, who’s from Wisconsin. Life took a big turn for both of us, as we started a family and moved around the world with new job assignments. A few years ago, we decided that the best thing for our two daughters was to benefit from the educational system in the United States, so we moved to Florida. One of the best decisions for our family!

I know from several hands-on experiences that navigating the real estate environment can become overwhelming and emotionally wrecking. Moving so many times from country to country gave me enough personal exposure as a customer… and not always very pleasant. After more than 18 years in the corporate environment and one too many traumatic experiences in real estate, I decided to become a REALTOR® and bring my contribution to restoring the belief that this profession can be conducted with high ethics and, more important, with genuine care about the needs of customers.

Q: What is your go-to marketing tool for branding yourself in your market and driving new business?

A: I’ve “toyed around” with several marketing tools when it comes to marketing in real estate and had my fair share of no’s and wows! One thing I would say is that driving new business starts with exceeding expectations on your existing business. That will always secure your “organic” growth, which should be the foundation for your long-term business.

For tapping into new business opportunities, I’ve learned that a combination of passive and active
prospecting works best for me. For example, a combination of three touchpoints direct mail campaign for Expireds (which I adapted to fit my brand and personality from existing marketing materials/postcards from prospectsplus.com library in such a way that fits my branding and personality) followed by direct contact (calls or door knocking) can prove really productive.

I consider Just Listed/Just Sold postcards a must. However, don’t just sell it or list, put a spin on it and have an unexpected approach or added value. Give your target a reason that matters TO THEM, not to you. I absolutely dread the postcards I receive in my mail from agents stating, “Thank you for making me the #1 agent in your neighborhood.” To me, that is such a turnoff. As a customer, I don’t care that you are #1; I care about my motivation for selling and buying and how you as a real estate agent fit in my motivation! Again, the prospectsplus.com library is such a great source of inspiration. My first Just Sold postcards using a template from ProspectsPLUS! generated two listings!

Q: How do you believe agents can differentiate themselves from other agents in today’s competitive market?

A: Exceeding expectations, going the extra mile. Anybody can put a listing on the MLS now, even FSBOs (with the flat fee companies that offer this service to FSBOs for a nominal fee), everybody offers free CMAs, everybody has a marketing plan that includes internet, maybe open houses, maybe Just Listed postcards, maybe flyers, etc. All seen and done by all REALTORS® to a certain extent.

In a market that’s becoming more and more of a commodity, where everybody knows at least one REALTOR®, true differentiation in added value on trending aspects of real estate is what sets you apart. For example, offering a complimentary Staging Analysis and Assistance, complimentary home protection plan during listing, complementary inspection or appraisal before listing, complimentary full cleaning of the house before listing, etc., depending on the property, owners, their motivation, etc.

Q: Any outside-the-box ideas you’d like to share for building your book of business?

A: Yes. Use an introductory video for your pre-listing package. Tell your short story, show who you are, instill confidence and energy. It helps homeowners get more comfortable and relaxed about meeting you before you show up at the door.

Find something that’s your “thing,” and embed it into your touchpoints with your customers to show genuine care. For example, I LOVE baking, and my whole family loves my signature apple-raspberry pie I make from scratch. So I bring my signature pie for my clients at closing and drop by at their one-, two- and three-year home anniversaries and bring them the pie. One time I had the extended family of one of my past clients waiting for me at the house, just to make sure they got to taste the pie while it was still warm.

Q: How often do you connect with your sphere and farm, and what kind of results do you get from that?

A: I recently started the Market Dominator for my farming area. I find this approach indeed standing out from the crowd – the content, the quality of the printing, everything spells out professionalism, exceeding the “norm” standing out from the crowd. I recently started this; it’s basically a monthly touchpoint approach with my farm, and I do expect to see results in the next few months.

With my sphere, I make sure I stay in touch and call, drop by or send a card for special holidays or birthdays, usually three to four times a year.

Q: Any fun advice to help agents master this business?

A: How one becomes a successful real estate agent? Same as one becomes a butterfly: You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.

Q: Last, where can our readers send a referral if they have someone in your area?

A: My focus is in Broward County, and I can be reached at carmen.realtorflorida@gmail.com or 786-449-9882.

Wonderful, Carmen! Thank you so much for sharing your inspired story with our readers. You’re amazing!

If you’d like to stand out in your market and soar past your competition the way Carmen does, please don’t hesitate to contact us today at 866.405.3638. We can put you on the path to success.

Sage (and Funny) Advice from Top Agent Steve Turner

By Julie Escobar

I love agents who take a walk on the funnier side of life. They’re fun to interview and amazingly good at sharing perspective and insights. Catching up with our VIP customer Steve Turner was a perfect example of
that. He has a great approach to business, life and staying on track. Here’s an excerpt from our interview:

Q: Hey, Steve! Can you please start by telling our readers a little about yourself?

A: I consider myself the rookie with 19 years of experience – and the Big Guy of New Homes Sales! Since 1997, I’ve been an employee of various homebuilding companies, leading their sales teams. About two years ago, I figured I could make it even bigger by being an independent agent, as I was sure I knew everything I needed to succeed. Little did I realize, I had A LOT to learn (or unlearn) about being a REALTOR®.

Q: It’s crazy competitive in most markets. What advice would you share with agents for staying top of mind and edging out other agents for branding and business?

A: Planning your work and working your plan is timeless advice that I continue to utilize. I make sure I have a plan such as what I am going to do this month, next month and even six months from now. Working the phone, sending emails, mailings and pop-bys are all in my plan. I’m also guilty of using the plan you publish in your magazine for my mailings. Then all I have to do is figure out when I think my postcards or mailers will arrive in their mailbox so I can plan my calls and follow-up emails around those dates.

Q: What is your go-to marketing tool for generating new business?

A: I have several that always seem to work for me. With first-time buyers, I love using door hangers to canvas certain areas to pull from. Also, memorable postcards to targeted homes help me get listings. Another one that helps me is postcards to just keep in touch with my settled buyers for referrals. Don’t forget your past clients; they truly are some of the best sources for your next clients.

Q: I know you’re a fan of the Master Marketing Schedule. It’s fun, right? What can you tell readers about how that works for you and what you like about it?

A: The Master Marketing Schedule is great because I don’t have to put much thought or effort into what message or theme I focus on during the different months. I can just pull from the monthly suggestions and then build my monthly marketing and follow-up plan around that. My energy is best focused on helping clients instead of trying to figure out my own marketing ideas, and the Master Marketing Schedule from ProspectsPLUS! gives me ideas for success without taking time from my income-generating activities.

Q: How often do you stay connected with your sphere and farm, and why, in your opinion, is that so important?

A: Working for builders over the years, I relied too much on their marketing and didn’t focus on building my
own sphere. That truly was my biggest mistake of the past. Imagine how amazing it would be to know every single owner in a community because you sold every home there with the builder? However, making calls years later saying, “Remember me? I’m the guy who sold you your home 10 years ago and haven’t spoken to you since! Are you looking for a professional to sell it now?” That conversation doesn’t go over well.

Really, I now try to stay in touch with my sphere on a monthly basis and more frequently, if possible. Social media helps make it easy to stay in front of them, but it can’t be your only way of staying in touch. I want to be on their Facebook feed, at their charity event, in their mailbox and a voice on the other end of the phone with them.

Q: Any fun, out-of-the-box ideas you care to share with readers?

A: I’ve been told that I have a good sense of humor, and I love having fun. As such, I tend to use a lot of humor in my follow up. I’ve designed a few memes on Facebook so that every time my friends and clients share it, my website address is watermarked across it. To get a good long life out of it, I’ve used the same meme as postcards too. These tend to get stuck to their fridge or posted to their pin board at their work cubicle.  

Q: I love that! What keeps you motivated and on track for your goals?

A: Nothing is more motivating than helping someone buy or sell their own home. Seeing their joy helps lift me up and keeps me wanting to go do it again, for someone else. There’s an amazing high that comes with getting my clients the offer or home of their dreams. I always say that sales is a job for a manic depressive – if you’re not one when you start, you will be!

Q: Last, how can our readers send referrals your way?

A: Brand-new homes and custom homes are still my specialty. I’ve built a network that has become the best team in new construction in Central Pennsylvania and Northern Maryland. My contact info can be easily found on my site: www.TheSteveTurner.com, or follow along on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/TopAGENTinCentralPA.

Wonderful, Steve! Thank you so much for sharing. We hope everyone takes a little time to implement some of your terrific strategies and ideas.

If you need help getting started or implementing part of your marketing plan, call our team at 866.405.3638 today, or visit us at www.prospectsplus.com.

The One Thing You Can Start Doing Today with Marketing Guru Stacy Stateham

By Julie Escobar

I’ve been really fortunate to meet some extraordinary people in this industry – bright lights who are always willing to share some brilliance with like-minded people.

One person I’ve really enjoyed getting to know and learning from is BloomTree’s Stacy Stateham. She’s witty and smart and has a lock on what it takes to elevate your career to the next level in this business. She was also recently selected as an Inman Connect Select Ambassador for the work she is doing and her contribution to our industry. She was kind enough to share some of that with us. Here’s what we learned:

Q: Can you tell the readers a little about yourself?

A: I’m one of the founders of BloomTree Realty, and my function is VP of Marketing and Branding. In addition to working on building our name as a company, I spend a lot of time training and coaching agents, and I also work on our tech and systems.

When we started BloomTree, we set out to create a company built around providing the absolute best level of service possible to clients and, to do that, we knew that we needed to create an environment where the best agents can grow and thrive.

Everything we do is built around our culture of collaboration, sharing knowledge and support. Not just the company supporting our agents, but agents supporting each other.  It’s awesome to see how successful agents can be when they work together!

Q: You’ve been around this real estate game for a long time and, in your position, you’re helping agents get their careers started off on the right foot. As we’ve spoken of many times, one BIG component of developing a long-term real estate success story is really focusing on building a database that represents your book of business. Can you expand on that for us?

A: A database? I’d say it’s one of the biggest differentiators between agents who earn the national median income and those who earn three-plus times that. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the things agents are most likely to neglect – not just having one, but constantly building on it AND really leveraging it as a regular daily function of doing business. Agents should be constantly building their databases over time – whether the real estate market is good or not – from the start of their careers to the time they retire.

Think of it this way: We all know that when we invest money long term, we can weather the ups and downs of the stock market. Investing by a consistent trickle – whether the market is good or bad over time – lets us ride out the lows, leverage the highs and, in the long run, earns a higher rate of return. Just Google “dollar cost averaging.”

If we see our database as a “fund” of business for when the real estate market fluctuates, the effort that we invest in building it is not only a source of business when times are good, but it also is a safety net for when the market is down.

If you’re going to start doing just one thing today to set yourself up for a successful business in the long term, get started on building a strong database.

Q: If putting your database together is the first priority, helping agents understand the importance of CONNECTING with those folks in a consistent and effective way so they stay top of mind as the agent to call is definitely equally as important. How do you recommend agents stay in touch, and how often?

A: In any business, clients and potential clients are a salesperson’s most valuable asset, yet many agents keep their contacts on sticky notes, in their Gmail contact lists, try to manually update spreadsheets, etc. Working that way, it’s easy enough to see which contacts have turned into clients, but it’s nearly impossible to see which haven’t.

So the first step is to use a CRM. We have all of our agents on FiveStreet for lead routing and TopProducer for their CRM as part of our overall tech package, so that all of their leads feed to their databases without having to do manual entry. It helps us as a company to have our agents use one system, because we’re better able to offer support and training. But whichever CRM is best for an individual agent is the one that they’ll actually use. They all have benefits and downsides, so just choose the one that fits best.

How often to stay in contact? As often as possible, provided that it’s done the right way (don’t be creepy). With so many tools at an agent’s fingertips today, it’s easy to mix it up with methods and platforms – newsletters, social media, postcards, in person with a friendly call, holiday greetings and so on. The key to success is to be approachable, genuine and human. Be consistent with your style and content. Give information in an honest way, and be a resource. People don’t like being sold to, but they love someone who’s there to help and guide them.  

On average, people move every seven years. And even though NAR stats say that most would refer a friend to their agent when they’re asked immediately after closing, a dramatically lower percentage actually do. That tells me that many agents aren’t staying in touch as much as they could. Most people will use the agent that’s front of mind when their need arises, so being that agent whom they know and trust is crucial to being the one who gets the phone call.

Q: I know you’re a fan of making a strategic plan for marketing a real estate business rather than that whole “throw enough things against the wall” approach. Can you share what you believe to be some must-have elements to an effective marketing plan?

A: A balanced marketing strategy is like a balanced diet. We can’t stay healthy on just French fries (but wouldn’t that be awesome?). We need protein, fruit, veggies, etc. too.

I see so many agents focusing on just one or two marketing platforms because they like them and they’re comfortable with them, and not layering those with other points of contact. They’re great at calling, so that’s what they do, while they ignore print and online. Or they have a killer website, so they don’t take the time to reach out in person. Or they’re great in person, so they don’t think they need a strong website.

Agents absolutely should focus on what they’re best at, but they can offset their weaknesses on other platforms through training, learning over time or by finding a great solution provider who can help them.

Eating a balanced diet every day keeps you healthy, and maintaining a balanced marketing strategy can do the same for your business.

Q: You’re also a social media strategist. Can you share some of your top tips for using those resources to build a strong real estate business?

A: It wasn’t all that long ago that social media was considered optional in marketing. It’s not anymore!

If you’re only going to use one, use Facebook. Agents should have both a personal profile and a business page, keep both active and use them in the appropriate ways. It’s super easy to set up a list in “friends” to keep clients and prospects separate from school friends and Aunt Harriet, and it allows us to be more personally connected than ever before.

Business pages not only help keep business posts separate, but they also allow agents to use Facebook Ads (I looooove Facebook Ads!). They’re much less expensive than regular pay-per-click, and the targeting capabilities are downright awesome. Probably the two coolest things you can do with Facebook Ads are to target only people who have been on your website (low cost, and you know they’re interested because they’ve already checked you out online) and to aim ads only to people in your database. There we are with the database again… yes, you can upload your database to your Facebook Ads account and send ads specifically to those people.  

Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, etc. are all extremely powerful tools too.

Q: You’ve been a ProspectsPLUS! fan for a long time. Can you share which tools you most recommend to other agents?

A: Is all of it an option? If I had to choose, I’d say Just Listed/Just Sold campaigns and property brochures. The neighbors around your listings are a great source of business for the next one, and people always want to know what’s going on in their neighborhood. Just Listed and Just Sold campaigns are a solid way to let them know that you’re actively selling in their neighborhood.

Pro Tip: Getting back to Facebook Ads, did you know that you can layer over Just Listed/Just Sold mailings with a Facebook Ad that runs just to that neighborhood? In the geographic options in ad setup, you can drop a map pin to exactly where your listing is and limit the radius to as low as one mile. Doing both print and online together dramatically increases the likelihood that your marketing will get seen. Go ninja level, and tie that hyper-targeted Facebook Ad back to your listing on your website, collect a lead, and have that lead go to your CRM.  

Consumers today expect something better than an MLS printout on the kitchen counter at a listing. Aim for something modern and sharp and, for heaven’s sake, don’t go DIY unless you’re awesome at graphic design. Make sure your photos look amazing, then check out the Luxury Marketing section on ProspectsPLUS! (your listing doesn’t have to be high end to look high end!). How you market this listing not only helps get it sold, but also may very well be the tipping factor in whether or not you get the next one.

Q: Any last hot tips for agents eager to knock it out of the park this year in terms of their goals?

A: What I tell our agents? First, do a business plan. Second, stick to it. Third, set one hour aside every week to focus on long-term improvements to their business.

Let’s be real… our future selves can’t be trusted. Thinking to yourself that you’ll do it eventually doesn’t get the job done. Actually put it on your calendar as a critical meeting with yourself so you actually do it. One hour once a week spent on setting up systems, automating a process, learning something new, setting up a long-running ad, training an assistant, adding SEO to a website or whatever will pay back big time in the long term.

If your goal is to earn $100K a year, one hour is worth about $48 if you’re only working 40 hours a week. In our market, commission on one side of a deal averages about $5,000 for the agent in earnings. So if you spend an hour once a week building your business for the long term, the math works out to a time investment annually of about $2,500, or half of one of our average deals. But what we see with our agents is that those who actively work their plans do more deals and, with just one more closing, it’s a win. Some have as much as doubled their business by working smarter.

Q: Awesome! How can readers connect with you if they want to learn more or send referrals your way?

A: Hit me up on Facebook! I’m there more than I am anywhere else online. I don’t personally list and sell anymore, but if you need a great agent in Arizona, just let me know. We have three offices full of amazing agents who can take care of a referral client for you.

Terrific, Stacy! As always, thanks for your amazing insight. You’re a treat to talk to and learn from.

If you’d like to know more about building your book of business, staying in consistent touch with your sphere and farm, and generating more listings and leads, visit our site at www.prospectsplus.com, or call our marketing team today at 866.405.3638.

Insight and Experience from Agent Debbie Figueroa

by Julie Escobar

We have the best customers. They’re insightful, fun, professional and willing to share what’s working for them. That’s gracious in today’s competitive market, and we truly appreciate their candor.

I was eager to learn what’s working for top agent Debbie Figueroa, so I reached out to get her thoughts on growing a real estate business. Here’s an excerpt from what she shared:

Q: Thank you so much for sharing your insight, Debbie. Can you start by telling our readers a little about yourself?

A: Sure. My name is Debbie Figueroa of the Real Estate Power Houses. I’ve worked in the real estate industry for more than 25 years – as a full-time REALTOR® for almost five years. I primarily work with residential homebuyers and sellers in the El Paso, Texas, area.

Q: It’s a competitive market. What’s your go-to tool for staying branded in your market and getting results?  

A: The Just Listed/Just Sold postcards are a huge tool for my business. They not only help promote my listed or sold properties, but they also help get my name out in the marketplace. I obtain at least one solid buyer or seller lead from each mailing. It’s a huge tool to utilize during listing presentations as well.

Q: How are you staying consistently in touch with your sphere and farm, and what advice do you have for agents eager to boost their listings and referrals?

A: I reach out to my sphere of influence every other month by mail, at least three times a year by text message, twice a year by phone and once a year with a personal marketing “pop by.” I also email a monthly newsletter and send an electronic postcard for each of my listings to my sphere of influence. Some of my contacts in my sphere of influence have not directly done business with me, but they’re fabulous at passing my name along to their friends and family.

Q: What are your thoughts on differentiating yourself from your competitors in your market?

A: It amazes me when I meet clients who have either purchased or sold a home in the past, and they don’t remember the name of the agent who helped them. Staying in constant contact with past clients and your sphere of influence is key to helping your business grow and continue in the future.

Q: What brought you to ProspectsPLUS!, and what’s your favorite marketing tool?

A: The broker I was with when I made the transition back to selling real estate full time recommended the site. The Just Listed/Just Sold postcards are such a helpful tool in growing your business. Obtaining at least one lead from each mailing pays for itself multiple times over.

Q: Any last fun advice for agents?

A: Enjoy it! No one is perfect. Mistakes will happen, and you need to learn from them.  Make sure to take time during the week for yourself to relax and enjoy life and laugh.  Humor is needed to get through those tough times.

Q: If agents would like to connect with you for referrals, how can they reach you?

A: They can reach me directly at 915.261.8077 or via email at debbie@debbiefigueroa.com.

Awesome advice, Debbie! Thank you so much!

If you’re ready to get the kind of terrific results Debbie is getting and take your business to the next level, visit our site today at www.prospectsplus.com, or contact our team to get started at 866.405.3638.