Centers of Influence

When I was selling real estate, back in the Pleistocene Era, agents all had their ‘Sphere-of-Influence.’  In the 90’s, as computers became more and more a part of the equation and CRM programs moved to the forefront, agents started to referring to their ‘Client Base.’  The idea was the same:  these were people who had done business with you in the past and/or might do business with you in the future.

Being the anti-realtors* we tend to be, we never used that language.  Instead, we used the term our founder, Don Taylor, taught us:  Centers-of-Influence, or CI.

There is a subtle but significant difference between a CI and a Sphere-of-Influence, and it has to do with marketing.  We believe the most powerful form of marketing is word-of-mouth.  We believe that consumers put more faith in the recommendations of other people just like themselves than they do in slick advertisements on television, radio, in print or on the Internet.  When you look at ALL Help-U-Sell marketing, it is clear that we have a very specific and provocative message we are trying to install into our target markets:  that we are here, we are very different, people use us, it works and they save money.  The message is so powerful that it ‘sticks’ in the mind.  It hovers there.

Even if the person receiving the message has no need for our service, they are apt to remember the message when they talk with someone who does:  ‘Oh, hey, I saw an ad from this Help-U-Sell company the other day.  Looks like they might be able to save you some money.  I think it might be worth checking out before you do anything.’  And, Bingo!  Our marketing has worked.  It has caused one person to tell another person about us.  And that’s what we want to be happening with our CIs:  we want them talking about us with the other people in their lives over whom they have some influence.

While the typical Realtor is hitting their Sphere-of-Influence with, ‘Wanna buy? Wanna sell?’  Help-U-Sell folks remind their CIs they have a great program that saves people money.  All we are trying to do is build and maintain credibility with our CIs and keep our message in the conversations that occur day in and day out.

All of this brings me to a very important development.  Working with the Help-U-Sell Home Office and with Jack Bailey (the undisputed KING of CIs), Excel Print/Mail has developed an automated CI followup program.  It is a series of 8 beautiful cards that go out at specific times of the year.  The messages are informative, not sales-pitchey, and are designed to build credibility for your program and to keep your name in the forefront.  Cost is about 41 cents a card, including postage, and there is no contract (you may opt in or out at any time).  For about $100 you can reach a CI group of 250 people – and that’s pretty darn good!

The whole program is automated via OMS, is easy to set-up and use.  Without going into tedious detail, here’s what you do:

1.  Log into OMS and go to Setup-Office Details, and click on the ‘my office’ tab.  About a third of the way down the page, click ‘yes’ to opt-in to the CI program.

2.  Now, return to the menu on the left, select Contacts and My Office Contacts.  Note there is now a column with check boxes for CI.  Tick off the contacts you want to include in the program.  Make sure you have mailing addresses for them by clicking the ‘View’ button.  Add any other contacts that are not already in OMS.  AND:  if you have your CIs already on a separate spread sheet, you may get that over to Robbie and Kendra in Sarasota and they’ll get them in there for you.

3.  Again, back in OMS, select Marketing and Content, then Center of Influence.  This will take you to the page showing the cards and allowing your customization.  Set it up and you’re good to go.

You’ll notice on the card page, there is a Movement Mortgage Template button at the top of each card.  Introduced at Success Summit, Movement Mortgage has agreed to fund part of this new CI program if you so choose.  Cards will then include their Logo and RESPA required language.  It will be an optional feature and – it’s not ready yet.  So if you’re getting setup for this today, just keep that option set to No.  More information will be coming as the Movement Mortgage program is readied.

I can’t guarantee anything . . . but I can promise you this:  if you will take the couple of hours required to set this program up, get your CIs in, customize your cards, and then let it run for 2015, you’ll experience at least a 10% increase in closed sides next year.  I think this program is that good.   Go ahead, do the multiplication and see what impact a 10% increase would have on your bottom line.  And then get crackin’!  Excel will be collecting the mailing list on Dec. 29 for the first card, which goes out on January 15.

 

*Let me explain what I mean by ‘anti-realtors.’  It’s not that we hate Realtors or anything like that.  Heck, we ARE Realtors.  And it’s not that we always do the opposite of what Realtors do.  It’s just that Realtors in general are so off track, so far away from the essence of our business that, in an effort to remain relevant and viable,  we often do things differently than they do.  We make choices based on what’s good for the consumer.  They say they do the same (some of them even believe it), but all you have to do is look at the commission line on a typical HUD-1 to know who they are looking out for!  

The heart of our business is the consumer – the buyer and seller facing a big financial transaction.  It’s not the real estate agent.  Unfortunately, the contemporary business is structured around the agent.  It’s all about the agent.  Whole companies – big ones – focus their business plans NOT on selling real estate (and helping consumers with their property transactions) but on recruiting more and more real estate agents.  It’s completely upside down, and so deeply ingrained that the industry will collapse and evaporate in a cloud of irrelevance before it changes.  

Help-U-Sell is a brilliant re-invention of the real estate business.  It’s as if a group of really smart people with a big pile of money examined every aspect of the business and reworked it to make sense to buyers, sellers, agents and brokers.  It is real estate without all of the lunacy that results in consumers paying tens of thousands of dollars to sell their homes.

 

 

Cool Stuff From Success Summit!

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There was so much NEW at this year’s Summit!  The large group of attendees brought an energy that sustained us for three days and made it hard to say goodbye to Las Vegas.  In no particular order here are SOME of the  cool things that happened:

  • Mr. Westman attended!  Head of our parent company, Infinium, Ron Westman tends to stay in the background usually letting his team navigate the important Help-U-Sell meetings that occur from time to time.  Not so this Success Summit! He was present and involved for every minute of meetings and social functions as well.  It was a wonderful opportunity to interact with the man that got us through the worst real estate market in history.  Thank you, Ron Westman!
  • A new CI followup program was unveiled.  Working with Mike Paholke and Excel Print/Mail, Jack Bailey, John Powell and  the home office team developed a series of 8 customizable postcard mailers for staying in touch with past clients and other Centers of Influence.  The program is remarkably inexpensive and provides automatic followup to our most important friends.  Watch your email and attend the weekly Power Hour meetings for details.
  • A partnership with Movement Mortgage was presented.  This rapidly growing mortgage banker comes with an interesting proposition.  Instead of waiting to process a loan application until the closing date is imminent, they process everything immediately, completing the package in 7 – 10 days regardless of closing date.  This enables buyers and sellers to close early if they choose but more importantly, exposes problems EARLY so that there is no last minute panic.  In addition, Movement Mortgage has agreed to undrewrite 25% of the cost of the new CI program mentioned above!  Now it is an even better bargain!
  • Robbie Stevens showcased our new corporate website, slated to go live around the first of the year.  It knocked my socks off!  Really:  clean and sleek, very forward looking and modern, it makes our competitors’ sites look ancient.  And the functionality – rich in video and short on verbiage – is superb.  There is a great new home search function that includes a drawing component where any customized geography can be searched.
  • OMS Lite was presented.  This is a new app available at the Apple Store for Iphone and pad that enables Help-U-Sell brokers to add a new listing on the fly.  It includes the ability to upload photos and even phone-shot video directly into OMS.  An Android version is running through the approval process and should be available soon.
  • Platinum Edge got a dusting off and an update.  This tool for use with luxury properties has a new look:  stunning black and silver.  Guidance on how to use this tool when working with the top of the market will be a feature of future Power Hour meetings.
  • Ron McCoy presented a revamped awards program that recognized top listing offices, top buyer side offices and  top closed side offices as well as a new Don Taylor Award of excellence.  Congratulations to Jack and Cheryl Bailey and Help-U-Sell Greensboro for being tops in Buyer Sides with 59,  and to Richard Cricchio and Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties for being tops in New Listings with 151.  Honolulu Properties was also #1 in total Closed Sides with 167.  The special Don Taylor Award went to Brenda Fischer at Help-U-Sell Options Unlimited in Terre Haute, Indiana. In a smaller market with a lower average sale price Brenda, through some aggressive and very creative marketing has captured a BIG share of the market and shown us all there is more to parades than marching!
  • Maurine Grisso, back from almost two years of illness, delighted the group with her newly published book ‘Before You Sell Your Home.’ Available on Amazon.com and Kindle, it will be on SPECIAL for one day, October 22, for the ridiculous price of $.99.  Mark your calender, buy the book and then give Maurine a favorable review on Amazon.

If there was a theme about this meeting is was that marketing – particularly core marketing to your geographical target market – is supremely important today and that no group deserves more attention than our CIs.  Systems to get those two things done automatically (and others) are key to growth.

Having missed last year’s Summit, I have to tell you I spent many months hungry for the kind of interaction that only comes when Help-U-Sell brokers from across the country come together to share and learn.  I am delighted that I could attend and if I ever miss another – I’ll probably be dead!

Arounds

Of course, you have your ‘Just Listed’/’Just Sold’ programs mapped out and happening automatically, right? Good! You do that because you know it works; and there’s solid psychology behind it.

When a sign appears in your neighbor’s yard, a window of opportunity opens in your mind. Suddenly you are curious about why they are selling, where they are going, what they are asking, why they chose that particular real estate company and so on. In essence: you are OPEN to receive a real estate oriented message.

If I can put MY Help-U-Sell real estate message (sell fast-save thousands) in front of you while this window of opportunity is open, the chances of you receiving the message and perhaps responding to it are greater than at any other time . . . except, perhaps, when YOU need to buy or sell. And there’s not that much time to get the message to you. It’s a window, and windows shut.

Now, let’s expand that concept. And let’s change the pronouns. Now YOU are a Help-U-Sell broker. As such, you have carefully analyzed a ton of data about your area and have judiciously chosen a couple of ripe target markets within that area. You’re just getting started (or just getting re-started) and don’t have much of a presence in your target markets. You can use the ‘window of opportunity’ concept that works when YOU get a listing even when YOU don’t have one. Here’s how:

Start cruising your target markets every day. By cruising I mean driving and checking the MLS. You’re looking for new listings the moment they hit the market. They can be listings taken by anybody. All of the neighbors – and ‘all’ might be 40 or 60 or 100 – now have their real estate windows open. They are ready to receive a real estate message. Why shouldn’t it be yours?

Work with Excel Print/Mail (husmailnow.com) and The Alexanders (brandsawonline.com/helpusell) to create a postcard program to go AROUND the new listings that come up in your target market. I think the best thing to do is be fairly generic. Create an ETM-like Jumbo postcard with content that doesn’t change or doesn’t change much. That way, the program is easy to administer and you can get your message out faster. By an ETM-like card, I mean one with pictures of homes for sale, sold & saved listings, testimonials, an Easy Way, and a bulleted description of your program. Decide how many homes you’d like to reach whenever a sign appears and lock that geography down with Excel or Alexanders. Maybe it’s 20 homes across the street from the new listing and 10 on each side. Maybe it’s more.

Now when a new listing comes up, Push The Button. Get your message into those open windows as fast as possible and listen for the phone to ring.

What are the ethics of prospecting around someone else’s listing? Excuse me: last time I read the REALTOR Code of Ethics it didn’t say anything about this! But shouldn’t this kind of prospecting be reserved for the agent who worked so hard to get that new listing or to make that sale? Absolutely not! Because in all probability, the listing agent will NOT make any attempt to reach the neighbors. They will not have taken the time to create an easy to administer program for this kind of outreach and they will be too busy to do it now. It’s YOUR window of opportunity – take advantage of it and watch your target market share bloom.