Video You Should Be Doing

There’s no denying it:  Video Works!  Use of video in email will more than double your click-thru rate.  Webpages with video have a much better retention rate than those with just text and graphics. It’s clear we have become a video dependent culture.

So why arent you using video in your business? Let me count the reasons:

  • I don’t have the equipment (yes, you do)
  • I don’t know what to say (yes, you do)
  • I don’t know how to set it up (it’s easy)
  • I’m not a tekkie – I don’t know how to edit a video (it’s easier than you think)

Truth is, the kind of video that will help you build trust and confidence in your local market IS EASY TO DO.  Here – let’s take a look at an example:

Yep, that’s  Help-U-Sell Greensboro’s Jack Bailey doing a great job.  And notice:

  • He’s got a great homemade logo and title for his video series:  <2 with Jack Bailey.  That’s less-than-2 minutes – the length of each video.
  • He’s using a simple office background.  It’s uncluttered, and does not distract.
  • He’s using natural lighting.  In other words – not using special lighting.
  • He’s not using a microphone.  Although the sound would be cleaner if he was using an exernal mic, he certainly can be heard and understood without.
  • I know you can’t see it, but Jack is using a Cannon digital SLR camera on a tripod to record. Almost any digital camera you buy today will have video capability.
  • Probably most important: he’s not reading a script. He’s simply presenting something he knows very well.

You absolutely CAN do this.  Some pointers:

  • Keep it short!  Two minutes or less ensures that most people will stick with it to the end.  Exceeding three minutes will greatly decrease the number.
  • Be educational. Yes, there are times when you probably should tell your story, sell your system.  But information (without obligation) is an item of value.  The educational approach will build credibilty and recognition for you and your company.
  • Plan what you are going to say, but don’t script it.  Trust yourself!  You talk about this stuff every day – you know it backwards and forwards.  If you are going to get into something detailed, write it on a piece of paper taped to the tripod.
  • Forget being slick and polished.  That will actually work against you! Be natural. Be less than perfect. You’ll be communicating a genuine sincerity that will pay off big time.
  • Don’t buy a lot of equipment.  Stage your videos near a window so you can take advantage of natural light.  Get a tripod.  A whiteboard is great if you are going to use it. Any digital camera will do – even a good smartphone can be used to record.  If you want to splurge somewhere, find an inexpensive lavalier microphone with enough cord to plug into your camera or phone.
  • Do a little light editing.  You will probably want to trim off the dead space at the beginning and end of the video.  Adding a title on the front and contact information (and a logo) at the end is essential.  Once you’ve worked with editing software a bit, you might want to put some words or numbers on the screen to emphasize what you’re saying.
  • A good basic editor is Microsoft Movie Maker.  It’s free and can be gotten here.  There are lots of more sophisticated – and more expensive – programs available but Movie Maker will serve your needs for awhile.  If you are an Apple person, IMovie works well.

Jack tells me he spends about 15 minutes setting up and recording his videos.  His assistant, Kay, will spend about twice that editing.  Once the video is done, she uploads to Jack’s YouTube Channel (It’s a free and easy thing to set up) and then Boosts them on his Help-U-Sell Greensboro Facebook Business Page.  $20 – $30 in boosting to a well defined target will produce thousands of impressions and hundreds of views.

So, quit telling yourself you can’t do this!  It’s not difficult.  And it can make a big difference in our business!

By the way, you can study Jack’s approach on his YouTube Channel.

Whiney Home Sellers

I had a very interesting call with a Help-U-Sell Broker today.  She was talking about her preference for working with Buyers, which is fine.  Buyers are great.

However, the Help-U-Sell edge, our identity, is our low set fee offer to home sellers.  It’s great to love buyers but your primary marketing thrust should be to find and list sellers.  It is our LISTINGS that create the buyer leads that flow through the office.

‘What is it about the listing process you don’t like?’ I asked. ‘Is it the presentation and dealing with pricing issues or is it the followup and the communication?’

She prefaced her answer by saying, ‘Oh gee . . . this is going to sound really bad, but . . . what I really don’t like is . . . the whining!’

Sellers whine because they want a higher price or they want more or better marketing or they don’t think there’s enough activity or they don’t know what you’re doing and on and on.  It’s just what they do.

Because that’s how ordinary Realtors pre-frame the relationship.

Think about it.  In the ordinary real estate world, every company has the same tools.  Every company has the same consumer offer (6%).  There is no difference between companies beyond the color of their signs. In that world, sellers make their choice of listing agent based on personality.  The key question becomes, ‘Do I like and trust you? Are you warm, friendly and accessible.’  Being the listing agent begins to look like becoming a friend.

An there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that . . . except that it erodes your power as a business professional.  If the basis of your business relationship is personality and accessibility, people are going to be comfortable whining to you . . . which is to say they don’t really believe in what you’re doing and think if they will get better results by putting pressure on you.

Help-U-Sell is different.  We charge less and we charge differently because we have marketing and back office systems that get the job done quickly and efficiently.  While we all have wonderful personalities, that’s not what we sell on the listing consultation.  We sell our step-one, step-two systems.  A business relationship based on systems is much more business-like.

Here’s an example:

I have a financial adviser who manages my paltry retirement account.  He’s a friend and was for years before I moved my account to his firm.  He’s a delightful guy and he clearly knows his business backwards and forwards, but . . . when I went to his office for our first meeting, he quickly introduced me to his two assistants, each of whom has specific functions and then excused himself.

The message was clear:  we are a business based on systems.  We don’t make it up as we go along.  I have competent personnel who manage my accounts with my supervision.  This frees me to focus on creating more business and making sure the system works as designed.

Here’s the thing:  I still talk with my friend who happens to be my financial adviser, but I would never ask him about the details of my account.  He trained me during that first meeting that my questions can all be handled by his team, and that’s the way they do business.  (It was helpful that the assistants were knowledgeable and impressive.)

That’s how you need to behave on the Listing Consultation.  It’s not about you (although they’re going to love you).  It’s about your systems.  You’re not a loosey goosey real estate person, running around like a chicken with your head cut off, available 24/7 to handle every issue that may arise (real or imagined).

I’m suggesting that you become more business-like when you do a listing consultation.  Yes, be warm and friendly, but stay focused and on track.  Your Help-U-Sell office is a machine based on systems.  When we plug a properly priced listing into this machine it spits out successful sales and happy sellers!  Your sparkling personality is nice but it’s not what gets the job done.

So:  start having your sellers come into your professional place of business for the listing consultation.  Fine tune your consultation so that you can get through it in 30 minutes (+/-). Take a few minutes explaining the process and how things will go – and maybe create a graphic to illustrate it.  Pre-frame your listing relationship as a business relationship.  Let all of those ordinary Realtors sow personality and reap the whinies!


How to Price Your Home to Sell

Robbie has asked me to look at creating a consumer video about pricing.  It would be something Help-U-Sell brokers and agents could use to emphasize the importance of proper pricing and to describe the process.  I started reworking the script I used for the longer broker/agent training piece we did for Help-U-Sell Pro-Coach Univeristy and have shared what I have done so far below.  Please take a look and give me some pointers.  Bearing in mind that we want to be a brief as possible, what other things ought to be included in such a video?  Is the price trend information too complex for public consumption?  Your help is appreciated!

Pricing to Sell

I’ll let you in on a little secret:   pricing is the single most important thing you’ll do to ensure the salability of your home.  All the marketing in the world can’t cause an overpriced home to sell.  An army of top salespeople can’t cause an overpriced listing to sell.  Overpricing means your home sits and sits until either the market catches up to it or you reduce it back to where it should have been from the start.  Unfortunately, if you start out too high, you’ll miss the most important marketing period for your home.  Here’s why.

At any given time, there are a certain number of people looking for a home like yours in a neighborhood like the one in which your home is located.  Let’s  call them your ‘Best Buyers’ –  these are the ones who will recognize the value of what you have and will be willing and able to pay top dollar for it.  It might be a few people or dozens of them.  The moment your property hits the market you have the opportunity to be in front of the largest number of these ‘Best Buyers’ you will have during the course of the listing.  Yes, more will trickle in as time goes by, but the initial weeks of your time on the market present the greatest opportunity to reach that larger pool of buyers who are already looking.

Now think about those people out there looking for a house just like yours.  They’ve already looked at dozens, even hundreds of houses on paper and they are probably a little tired of the process. What they want to do when they look at new listings (like yours) is to quickly narrow the field, eliminate anything that does not meet their basic needs,  and then investigate the few that might work for them.  This narrowing and eliminating process usually involves three things:

  1. Location – is the house in an area they’d consider
  2. Beds and Baths – are there enough
  3. Price – is it within a range they would consider

If any one of these three items does not match the buyers criteria, the home is eliminated from the list of possibles.  Now you can’t do anything about the location and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms is pretty well set. The one thing you can control is price.  And you want to hit the market with a price that is within the range of market value so that you end up on the list of possibles for the largest number of ‘Best Buyers’ who are in the market at that moment.

There are three things to consider when setting a price:  the price of similar properties in the area that have recently sold, the trend in prices, and the current competition.  The data is readily available, however, you are wise to rely on the information provided by your Help-U-Sell broker.  What’s available to the general public is often confusing and sometimes inaccurate.  We use the most up-to-date and accurate database in existence.

Sometimes, there are enough sales of similar properties in the previous six months to give an indication of value.  At other times, we may have to look back a little further.  But it is always important to remember that you are looking back in time at prices.

For example, assume you have a comparable property that sold six weeks ago. That’s the date the sale closed.  The actual date the buyer and seller agreed on a price was probably earlier – at least a month and most often two months or more earlier.  So when you look at comparable sales, remember that you are looking back in time three to twelve months.  To arrive at a proper price for today you must anticipate and adjust for the trend in prices.

Are prices rising in your neighborhood?  How much?  How rapidly?  Or are they declining?  And how does this information factor into your decision about pricing?  If prices are rising rapidly and you base your price on recent sales, you could be underpriced from day one . . . or the opposite could be true!  These are the things your Help-U-Sell broker will help you weigh as you establish a range of value for your neighborhood and then a proper price for your home within that range.

So far we’ve been fairly scientific in our discussion of pricing; but there is another side to this process and it is not scientific at all; it’s emotional.  We love our homes.  We work hard to make them comfortable and welcoming.  We decorate and improve them to reflect who we are.  Even if we’ve outgrown them, even if they no longer meet our needs, the value we place on our homes can still get strangely tangled up with the value we place on ourselves.  While self-esteem is a marvelous thing . . . it really has nothing to do with the price and salability of your property.   It is very important that you understand the moment you put a for sale sign in your yard your house stops being a home that reflects who you are and starts being something very different:  a product.  A product that has to compete with similar products for the attention of buyers in the marketplace.  I know that sounds cold, but it is the right attitude for a home seller – as opposed to a home owner.

Please, don’t go fishing outside the range of value for just a few thousand dollars more thinking you can always come down.  You’ll miss that pool of buyers in the marketplace looking for a home like yours right now!  And please don’t cling to an unsupportable price because your house has been so special for you and your family.  It’s a product now. It has to compete on every level including price.

Tech-Turkey Tip: How Share/Email/Embed a Video

Great truth about (some . . . many . . . maybe most) Great Realtors:  We tend to be all thumbs when it comes to technology.  We want so badly to be right there in the thick of Google/Facebook/YouTube/LinkedIn and so on, but somehow that chromosome was left out of the cocktail shaker when were were hatched.  Oh, sure, we could learn this stuff, if we could only find an hour a day.  Unfortunately there hasn’t been one of those for, well . . . years!  So we continue on, trying to type the Gettysburg Address using only our thumbs! We are indeed, Tech Turkeys!

Now therefore, I’m going to drop in an occasional post on how to do the simplest (though for some the most frustrating) electronic tasks.  First up:  Video!  Which usually, but not always, means YouTube.  Let’s assume there is a great video on YouTube you want to share.   Let’s assume it’s this one:

Assuming you found this video somewhere other than on YouTube, i.e. on Facebook, click the play button.  When you do, a navigation bar will appear at the bottom of the video.  See it there, on the video just above?  Go ahead and hover your mouse over the YouTube logo.  See?  It lights up and says ‘Watch on YouTube.’   If you were to click on the logo it would take you to this video’s YouTube page.  It would look like this:

Look below the video, and below the title, where it says ‘Share This Video.’  There are logos for most Social Media sites there, starting with Facebook.  If you wanted to post this video to your own Facebook page and share it with your friends, you’d just click that button.  It would open up a Facebook window with the video and a place for you to comment.  No need to hop out of YouTube, it all happens right there.

Now look below the logos.  There is a URL highlighted in blue.  That’s the link to this video on YouTube.  If you wanted to email the video to someone, you’d right-click on that link and select ‘Copy.’  Then, go to your email message, right click in the body and select ‘Paste.’  You’ll be sending a link to the video because emailing video is . . . well, it’s a mess.  Video files are so big, most email servers will reject them and even if they get through, the time it will take your recipient to download and then play the video will be irritating to say the least.  Send a link as outlined here and your recipient can stream the video almost instantly from the Internet.

By the way, you’ll notice an ‘Email’ tab above the Social Media icons.  If you are logged in to YouTube, you can email a link directly from there.  However I find it just as easy to copy/paste the link as outlined here.  That way it doesn’t matter whether you are logged in or not.

Also above the Social Media icons you’ll see the word ‘Embed.’  Click it and you’ll see something like this:

The code highlighted in blue can be used to place the video on your website or blog.  Again, just right-click/copy the code, then go to your website or blog editor and right-click/paste.  Notice below the highlighted code there is a drop-down menu for Video size.  You are given a handful of options here and should pick the one that will fit the page into which you are pasting the video.  In this screenshot I’ve selected 560 x 315 because the web page into which I want to paste the video has a column width of exactly 560 pixels.

And that’s enough for now.  You don’t want to know the history of video compression and which codec is best.  You just want to know how to share one, right?  And that’s it!  Ciao.

The Stupidest, Dumbest, Lamest, WORST Ad in Real Estate History

I don’t want to offend anybody.  I know a lot of really good Century 21 agents and a bunch of good Century 21 brokers.  But, come on!  The ads over the past several years have been so bad that they are embarrassing!  I mean look at the stupid thing that graces the back cover of the latest California REALTOR Magazine:

Century 21 Ad

I guess this is an improvement over the ads in this series that ran over the past 3 or 4 years.  They featured beautiful actors and actresses smiling – or more often smirking – confidently at the camera, pretending to be Century 21 agents while glowing adjectives flowed below.  This ad makes no pretense at reality.  It’s a cartoon.  It’s a parody of the company’s own advertising.

If I were a Century 21 person (and I was for more than 20 years) I would be insulted, first by the color scheme.  There’s not one drop of gold in the damn thing.  Century 21 corporate declared war on gold sometime in the early ’90s (sad to say I was there and in on the discussions; I dissented).  But no matter what they’ve done, no matter how hard they’ve tried to eradicate it, to distance themselves from that color,  twenty years later THE PUBLIC still sees GOLD as Century 21’s color.

I watched an episode of ‘Breaking Bad’ last night – from the first season.  They wanted a real estate agent on screen to be easily identified as such.  What did they do?  Put her in a gold coat.  No question.  Instantly anybody watching knew that was a real estate agent.

That kind of brand equity is priceless.  And it’s very difficult to achieve.  Century 21 owned the color gold and blew it up . . . and replaced it with . . . Green?  No, Bilious Green?

But let’s take a wholistic view, too: let’s look beyond the bad color and the dumb message.  Where is this ad placed?  Back cover of REALTOR Magazine.  That’s a $50,000 – $75,000 pop, depending on how big the contract is.  The ad seems to be aimed at the buying and selling public . . . but it’s placed in a publication for REALTORS.  So it’s suppposed to be a recruiting ad?? Or are we just becoming a little unfocused in our old age?

Again, the first ads in this series really were recruiting ads.  The idea was by showing actors as bright, confident and beautiful Century 21 agents, failing agents at other companies would want to jump ship for a chance to be just like the ‘agents’ in the ad.  (With logic like that is there any wonder per person productivity at Century 21 is said to have been in decline for decades?).

So back to the placement of this ad:  I guess REALTORS seeing this ad are supposed to feel as if Century 21 agents have some kind of super-human advantage over them with buyers and sellers.  Really?  From this silly, embarrassing ad they are supposed to feel that?  If I were a competitor in the field, I’d put this ad in my listing presentation to illustrate to potential sellers how stupidly some real estate companies spend their money!

Listen:  I got a PhD in Branding and Marketing at Century 21 in the 80s and 90s.  I learned from legends like Bruce Oseland, Elaine Hamilton, Dick McKenna, Rick O’Neil, Don Martin, Marty Rueter and many others.  This was one of the things Century 21 did extremely well in the early days. They did it so well that, in the late 70s – early 80s, the effectiveness of their marketing was scary!  They pretty much owned the concept of ‘Real Estate’ in the consumer’s consciousness.

The monkeying with with brand that started in the mid-nineties and continues to this day has undone that once very special organization.  Today,  Century 21 stands for generic real estate at its most mediocre.  There is nothing special about the consumer offer (it’s just like everyone else’s), nothing special about the operating system (It’s an old -fashioned, percentage based, agent oriented model), and nothing special about the identity.  If the function of marketing is to express the culture of the organization . . . well, I guess this ad has succeeded because today, Century 21 stands for nothing.

And it breaks my heart.

Hey, all of you marketing scholars out there!  If you want a great case study on how to build a powerful brand and then systematically destroy it . . .well, here it is.

Footnote:  There is a Help-U-Sell logo on this blog.  It is a brand and operating system I happen to love.  I do not, however work for Help-U-Sell.  I did, but not now.  Please don’t assume that I speak for that organization or anyone in it.  This is my blog and my opinion; so if you are sharpening your arrows, aim them here. -JD