Marketing Magic

I really enjoy marketing. While I enjoy the activity of marketing – the planning, designing, executing and tracking of it – I really enjoy looking at the marketing that comes to me, deciphering the message and how it is communicated.  

One thing I know is that, unless a piece of marketing is able to grab attention very quickly, the message will not make it through; there are just too many things competing for our interest in this media saturated time. That’s why Clara Peller, all those years ago, opened that Wendy’s commercial with, “Where’s the Beef!!” That was the grabber. The message that Wendy’s hamburgers had more beef in them than, say McDonalds or Burger King would have been ignored, never communicated, without it. 

Look at Insurance Industry advertising over the past decade. Led by Progressive, insurance companies have turned advertising into sketch comedy. We know the characters; Flo and Jamie from Progressive, Jake from State Farm, Limu Emu and Doug from Liberty Mutual, and enjoy following their always humorous episodes from commercial to commercial.

That’s a pretty good gig, too. Stephanie Courtney has been playing Flo from Progressive steadily for twelve years. Twelve years! The longest running sitcom in history, ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ ran for 12 years. 

Beyond the personalities, think about the meat of the insurance message. Progressive started a trend with the ‘Name Your Price Tool,’ a mythological hand-held gizmo that would enable you to buy car insurance based on your budget. It was prominent for years. What’s funny is that we all knew we could buy auto insurance by budget with any carrier at any time. It didn’t matter that the prop was silly or that naming your price was hardly innovative. What mattered was that we understood that we could save money with Progressive.  

That little bit of absurdity was picked up years later by Liberty Mutual with their pitch that you only pay for what you need with LiMu.  Come on. You’ve always paid only for what you need with any auto insurance carrier! It doesn’t matter what the meat is. It matters that the marketing can grab you and hold you.

Lately it’s been fun watching State Farm work quickly to establish ‘Jake . . . from State Farm,’ as a character we recognize and look forward to seeing. The first spot, with the wife catching the husband on the phone at 3am used the phrase ‘Jake . . . from State Farm’ three times in the first 10 seconds, delivered with great comedic inflection. After a couple of viewings, Jake was established in the consumer’s mind and could be used to bring the message that State Farm is always there (like a good neighbor) home.

When you are putting together your marketing plan and message, consider the grabber first. How will you arrest the consumer’s attention so that your message might get through? Your message is that you are a full service real estate company that can save consumers thousands with logical set fee pricing, but that doesn’t matter if your marketing doesn’t first shock the consumer open

For Help-U-Sell, we too often lead with our message: Full Service – Save Thousands. For years that served us well and it’s still great as a message. But today there are many competitors with a similar message, so the consumer has become a little numb to it. That’s why I always push Help-U-Sell brokers to use ‘Crazy Guy’ or ‘Crazy Girl’ consistently on ALL of their marketing. Those characters are our Clara Peller, our Flo, our Jake . . from State Farm. They cause people to stop; and create a nano second of an opening through which your message might get through.

And here’s another great truth: it really doesn’t matter what the message is as long as it communicates the Big Four: we are here, people use us, it works and they save thousands. You do that with testimonials and sold & saves.  S&S are superior because they don’t require reading, which people do less and less of today. And what does that say about your testimonials? They should be short; a sentence or two. Don’t use the one that is a paragraph of praise; it won’t get read. 

I don’t think we will ever have a gecko with an Aussie accent pitching Help-U-Sell, though a red one might . . . . never mind.  Truth is we don’t need one. We already have a great message and a couple of Crazy people to get it through. Your task is to use them, a lot, in a focused, targeted area. That’s marketing. 

Being Help-U-Sell

We have a wonderful, relatively ‘new’ Broker in Port Huron, MI. Jeff Hedberg, Help-U-Sell Real Estate Masters has been with us for about 18 months. Last year – his first full year in the system – he closed 75 sides of business; and that was starting from scratch.

Jeff shared something with me today from his Bible App that truly clarifies who we are and what we are doing as a Help-U-Sell family. I’ll reproduce it here:

FOR the Customer

Every day when businesses, churches, and nonprofit organizations open their doors, some type of growth is the goal. It could be an increase in customers, sales, or membership, or personal or spiritual growth, but ultimately every organization needs to grow. Healthy things grow. Unhealthy things die.

Growth may look different, but it’s something we all should want. Knowing this, what causes a business to grow? Sure, there are lots of answers, but ultimately it comes down to one word—customers

We must learn to care more for the customer than we care for the business. We must learn to care more about people than about the organization. This isn’t bad for business because customers are the business. Caring for the customer creates an emotional bond that allows them to care more about the business. Now, more than ever, we have an extraordinary opportunity to show customers we care. 

Two Questions That Cause a Business to Grow:

  1. What do we want to be known FOR?
  2. What are we known FOR?

“What do we want to be known FOR?” is our vision. It’s our big idea. It’s our niche, our foothold, in the marketplace. The first question is the one we answer. Here lies the purpose, the vision, the why.

“What are we known FOR?” is the customers’ experience of our vision. It’s their reflection of whether or not they are experiencing the purpose and vision of the organization.

The first question is what we say; the second question is what customers say.

Within these two questions is the secret to growth. When the answers to these two questions match, growth happens. It’s that simple. And it’s that hard.

When what you want to be known FOR is actually what you are known FOR, customers become a free sales force by telling others about you. When you have a compelling vision, product, and purpose, and customers experience it, they gladly become a source of positive word-of-mouth advertising.

To help us get there, let me introduce you to the essence of the FOR strategy. I believe this is the pathway to future success for any organization that wants to thrive and grow:
Winning organizations of tomorrow will be more concerned with becoming fans of their customers instead of convincing customers to become fans of the organization.

Adopting a FOR strategy is more than semantics. It is a call for a new way to view your business. 


Reading this, I couldn’t help but think of Jack Bailey of Help-U-Sell Greensboro. Jack finished last year in the #2 position for production, with 144 closed sides. That’s impressive, but what’s important is how he got there.

I proctor Jack’s Buyer Consultant Training Program a couple of times a year, so I get a pretty close look at what he believes and what he does (hint: they are the same thing). Jack pursues his business with one thing in mind: to help people.

Yesterday, I listened to Jack tell a story about one of his clients, a young family who were so upside down with debt that it was affecting their health. Jack worked with them to develop a strategy for attacking and getting out of debt, AND, at the same time, got them out of their apartment and into a house with no money down (Good Neighbor Program). They sold that house three years later for about three times what they paid. By then they were completely out of debt, healthy, and living an entirely different life.

I know this sounds impossible, but I assure you it is real. Jack has spent his life learning how to do these kinds of things for his people. I’ve heard similar stories from Jack and dozens of other Help-U-Sell Brokers for years. It is who we are and what we do.

You guys are HEROES. Don’t ever forget that. You’re not just selling real estate, you are transforming lives. And that’s what makes for a great business.

Why Wouldn’t You?

I am going to tell a personal story.

I need a new roof. My need is real, but not urgent; so I have been paying attention to the roofing jobs going on in my neighborhood for a few months. Based on what I’ve observed and on the signs the roofers place in yards, I had narrowed my list of possible roofers down to three, but I hadn’t reached out to anyone.

Then, a few weeks ago, there was a knock on my front door. When I opened it, low and behold, there stood a rep from one of my final three. He was bidding on one of my neighbor’s roofs and wondered if I needed a free inspection.

Guess who got the job.

This is such a common scenario! It happens all the time, but not just with roofs. It happens with landscaping, painting, remodeling and . . . with real estate sales. People have a need, perhaps not pressing, but hovering there on the back burner. They are in watch-and-wait mode. And then someone shows up At The Door and Bingo! We’re moving forward.

When you take a new listing, I URGE you to go door-to-door around that listing with information about it and also about neighborhood activity. If you want to be super-prepared, take a look at (also on Facebook).

This is a screenshot of the Knockwise app.

It will provide you with all the information about every property in the neighborhood (thanks to Ruth Moisa of Help-U-Sell Wisdom Realty for cluing us into that great tool).

You don’t have to be fancy. Just ring the bell and say, ‘Hi, I’m James with Help-U-Sell Acme. We just listed the Baker’s house down the street and I wonder if you know anyone who might like to live in the neighborhood.’ That’s probably all you need to say because their curiosity will take over with questions about price and the market and so on. It’s a perfect time to offer something free; not a roof inspection, but a competitive market analysis.

Do the same thing when the house sells.

That’s it. Short, simple, easy and non-technical. Just MEET THE PEOPLE. After all, there’s nothing more powerful than face-to-face contact in helping people decide to move forward. According to the prestigious James Dingman Real Estate Research Group, it’s 65% more effective than putting a card in the mailbox and 80% more effective than in electronic communication.

Use every opportunity (or excuse) to knock the door, get face-to-face. MEET THE PEOPLE.

Buyers Agent Followup

One question always comes up when we talk about the Buyer Consultation:

How do we solidify the relationship after they’ve decided to work with us?

Do we pull out the official Buyer Representation Agreement, the 6 – 8 pages of legalese the State Association of Realtors has created and have them sign it? I hope not. While each State is different, those documents generally say nothing except that you can sue the buyer if they get away from you. And let’s be honest: if they DO get away from you, you’re not going to sue them, are you? You don’t have time for that! So why introduce that scary document at the end of your powerful discussion of the value you bring to the transaction?

Instead, create your own one page list of the things you’re going to do for them and what you expect them to do as they search for a home with you, and then sign it. Call it a Home Buying Pledge. Start by listing, 1-2-3-4, the things you’re going to do for them. Things like put them on a first to know program, give them access to your MLS portal or Listingbook, run a CMA on any property they find interesting and advise them about the value, coordinate and review the results of all inspecitons, and so on. It’s probably about a dozen things.

Then describe how you want them to behave:

*When going to an open house on your own, always inform the agent on duty that you are working with me.

*If you see a home online or in person that you want to know about, call or text me so that I can get that information for you.

*If you come across a For Sale By Owner or non-MLS listing that interests you, let me know. I can get the details and arrange a showing.

All you’re really doing here is emphasizing their decision to work with you and providing some guidance on how to make that relationship work. If you’ve done a good job with the Consultation, reviewing it and getting signatures should be easy, and they’ll be leaving the meeting so confident that they wouldn’t consider making a move without you.

Buyer’s Agents!

Your job is not to sell houses.* It is to sell representation!**

History lesson: back in the Dark Ages, when I sold real estate, the agent’s value was access to information and available properties. Home buyers didn’t have this information and had to deal with us to gain access.

Today, they have all of the information . . . so if we stay stuck in that old paradigm, our value is our lockbox key – the ability to open the door.

Is the fact that you have a key worth, oh, thousands of dollars?

If you answered ‘no,’ you’d be correct!

So why would any buyer work with you rather than going directly to the listing agent (where they think they might save that buyer side commission)? What is your value?

You may be thinking of a lot of different things you do for you buyers; things like advising, solving problems, negotiating, handling inspections and so on. But what they all boil down to is this:


So, why are we so reluctant to talk with our buyers about it? Why is it so difficult to have a frank conversation about agency and how it affects them, so that they can make an informed decision?

I know. You think that’s all implied, understood and taken care of by that little box you check in the purchase agreement. And I guess, if you’re lucky enough to get them on paper, that little box protects you somehow. But that’s not the point! Talking with your buyer prospects early on about representation makes a strong statement about the value you bring to their transaction. It is why you are worth, oh, thousands of dollars!

My crystal ball tells me that in the not so distant future, buyers will contract with agents to represent them for a fee. The fee may be paid up front or maybe it will be rolled into the transaction . . . but it won’t be paid by the seller. This is a good thing! It’s logical and transparent.

It also means that in order to secure a buyer client, you’re going to have to make a presentation about the value you will bring to their transaction in exchange for the fee they will pay.

So why not act as if that’s what happens today? Why not plan to have a discussion about representation with every buyer before becoming deeply involved? It’s the best way I know to demonstrate your value and cement the buyer relationship.

And by the way – the discussion has a name. It’s called:

The Buyer Consultation.

If you’ve taken Jack Bailey’s Buyer Consultant Training program you learned it. If not, I have a resource for you. Log on to OMS. Go to Marketing & Content and then to the Download Library. Select the Training folder and then Buyer Consultation. In that folder you will find two different versions of ten videos on how to do the consultation. The .Mp4 versions can be viewed online, while the .WMV versions can be downloaded and kept on your computer. You’ll also see another folder entitled ‘Buyer Consultation Software.’ It includes the installation files and guides on how to install and how to use it. The software is an excellent addition to your consultation and makes you look even more valuable.

So: stop thinking that people will gladly pay you thousands of dollars for your sparkling personality and your ability to open doors. Your value is so much more than that! But, they’ll never understand your value if you don’t take the time to tell them. Have the agency discussion – the Buyer Consultation — up front before you invest time and energy.

*’You job is not to sell houses.’ They sell themselves. It has been scientifically proven in several double blind studies that you can’t sell someone a house they don’t want. So stop thinking you sell houses for a living. Your Value lies elsewhere!

**’It is to sell representation.’ I used the word ‘sell’ for shock value. No, you don’t ‘sell’ representation; you present it. And the customer chooses it. And they can’t choose you if you don’t explain what they get when they do!

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