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!

How to Fix Your Broken Real Estate Company (before it’s too late)

Mr. Richard Feder from Fort Lee, New Jersey writes:

‘Dear Set Fee Blog.  I have been reading your posts for some time and am convinced that my current real estate company business model – what you call ‘Ordinary’ – is antiquated, out-of-touch with consumers, and, well . . . it sucks.  But I don’t know how to go about changing it without firing all of my agents, shutting the doors and starting over.  Help me, please.  Tell me how to go about abandoning the tired old agent-oriented model and converting to a shiny new consumer-centric,  set-fee model.’

Dear Mr. Feder.  Thanks for writing and, believe me, you are not alone.  I am considering starting a 12 step program for Ordinary Brokers and I’m sure the meetings would fill fast.

But first, let’s understand that the kind of change you’re talking about is HUGE.  It’s not just a simple matter of altering how you charge consumers or how you offer your menu of services.  Even a well-studied outsider would probably screw it up without expert coaching.

I am a good example.  I came to Help-U-Sell in 2004 as an outsider, hired to do a job:  upgrade the company’s University.  It took three months before I had all of my old paradigms out of the way and could see Help-U-Sell for what it really is:  a bold new way to deliver excellent service to consumers while making a healthy profit in real estate.  You have to question all of your assumptions, all of your beliefs about how the business works.  And you have to change from the core outward.  ‘ Sell Fast – Save Thousands’ is just the outward expression of a ton of tweaking behind the scenes. Nonetheless, here is what I suggest:

Start carefully monitoring the lead flow in your office.  Where are the leads coming from?  What (and who) is generating them?  What portion of the incoming leads are coming from company sources as opposed to agent sources?  You want to consider this to know how much business your company is likely to do in the event all of your agents pack up and leave; which is a possibility if you go through with the change.

By the way, ‘carefully monitoring the lead flow’ means to monitor it like it’s never been monitored before.  You want to get source information on every single inquiry, whether contact information is gotten or not.  You want to know why everyone, even the caller who was a nutcase or the one who simply hung up, called your office.

I don’t think you can realistically expect your current staff, and certainly not your current agents to do this.  My suggestion:  hire someone (or convert your best office admin) to handle ALL phone and Internet inquiries.  One person through whom all incoming traffic is routed.  This person collects source information, handles the inquiry, collects contact information and then turns the lead over to you for assignment to the appropriate agent.  By the way, if yours is a big office, you probably need more than one person doing this important function.

Try to maintain your sense of humor as you review the data your new call coordinators are collecting.  You’ll probably discover that many of your agents, in fact, most of them, have been living off leads YOU generated.  You’ve been paying them huge splits to generate their own leads, do their own marketing and so on . . . but it has been YOUR marketing, your investment in signs, facilities, web presence, and advertising that has been causing consumers to contact the office.  Surprise, surprise!  It’s time to wake up now.

As an aside, I once did a modified version of this exercise with an Ordinary broker who had a ‘Top Producer’ who did about 30% of the office’s production.  The broker spent most of his days living in fear that the agent would leave.  When we did the analysis we discovered that more than half of that agent’s production came from office-generated leads.  Then we put a pencil to the company dollar she generated (after the huge split she was paid), deducted a factor for what it cost to produce those company-generated leads and discovered that the broker was probably losing money every time TP closed a deal!  He was making more from some of his less productive people.  He said goodbye to TP then watched as everybody became more productive and his bottom-line improved.

Start calculating what it actually costs you to market a properly priced listing.  Don’t consider what you have to pay a listing agent.  We’re only looking at hard costs here:  how much marketing, how many days of office operation and so on.  Be aware that whatever number you get today may be different tomorrow.  Cost to market a listing varies in direct proportion to days on market.  If your marketplace slows and DOM goes up, so will your cost to market a listing . . . so take your figure and add a ‘fudge’ factor – say 25%.

Now consider:  is there a way to effectively accomplish the successful marketing of a listing without paying an agent 70% or more?  This involves carefully examining what a listing agent actually does.  We could go through the whole laundry list here and then we could demonstrate how almost all of it could be done much less expensively . . . but instead, let’s just acknowledge a fact you already know to be true in you gut:  You’re paying that agent 70% NOT to sell the listing, but to GET the listing.    It’s the damndest thing!  Today, we pay listing agents at closing not for getting the listing sold – listings, properly priced and plugged into an effective marketing program pretty much sell themselves – but instead as a reward for bringing business into the company.  In other words:  for getting the listing.

Now your task is becoming clear.  You must create marketing and administrative systems for standardizing the marketing of your inventory.  You have to take marketing BACK from your agents.  You need to design it, orchestrate it, hire the admin staff to get it done.  Marketing has to transition from being idiosyncratic – created willy-nilly but a pack of individual agents who have widely different ideas about marketing – to being automatic . . . standardized, monitored, controlled and adjusted by you.  In your new universe you’ll be plugging your listings into your already operating marketing system, not designing a whole new marketing program for every listing you take.  Its a very big shift.

Then you have to take BACK the ‘getting’ of  listings from your agents.  You and your team of assistants now need to be in charge of this inventory procurement function.  I am aware that the faint of heart, having read this far, are now shutting down their computers. Oppressed by their own paradigms, they cannot envision a world in which listing inventory is secured without agents.  But I assure you it can be.  It starts with an examination of your seller offer:  what do you have to offer that is, far and away, better and different than most of your competitors.  If – like most real estate brokers – your offer is identical to every other broker’s, you have a problem.  You’re going to have to refine who you are and what you have to offer until you stand out from the crowd and are thus, easy to spot by consumers.  Then you must market that offer.

Once your offer to sellers is fine tuned and really different, you will discover that it is much easier to present.  Your listing consultation will look something like this:

  • Tell me everything I need to know about your move
  • This is who we are and how we work
  • This is what makes us special and different
  • Here is what our past clients say about us
  • This is how much we can realistically sell your house for and what you’ll likely net
  • Sign here

If you take out all of the fluff and show-biz most listing agents trot out during their presentations, this can be accomplished in, oh, 30 minutes of less.  When you have a better deal to present, you don’t need the smoke and mirrors, the fluff and show-biz to get the listing.

Up until now, most of this could be done in stealth mode.  You could do your research and preparation without telling your agents.  But now that all the ducks are in a row, everything is lined up and ready to go, it’s time to call a special meeting.

Present the state of the company – get right down to profitability.  I don’t know what yours is, but if you’re like most Ordinary brokers your company is making less than 5% profit – which is obscene considering the risk owning a real estate company involves.  Get their buy-in that that’s a pitiful bottom line for a fine real estate company like yours.

Then present your solution:  you are going to become a lead generating machine, which means taking back marketing and investing in it heavily.  They will like that.  But, you’re also going to take back the listing function.  You will no longer need agents to find consumers – you’ll be doing that with marketing.  What you will need agents for is handling the buyer leads your marketing and your listings generate.  You anticipate that a good buyers agent in this new company you are building should close in the neighborhood of 20 transactions this year – all basically fed to them by the company marketing program.   You may now invite all who are not interested in this opportunity (which will be most) to leave.  Now, interview the ones who are left.  Since you will be shouldering the financial burden for lead generation, who on your remaining staff would you trust with the important task of converting them to sales – for a much more reasonable 50% split.

At the end of the day, your office population may have dropped from, oh, 50 agents and 3 admins/assistants to 5 agents and 4 admins/assistants.  You can now begin to look for smaller, less expensive space.

By the way, all through this process, it’s a good idea to contact Ron McCoy at Help-U-Sell for advice and to begin a conversation about becoming part of the family.  The Brand will help you through the transition and position you properly for maximum impact in your marketplace.

As you start to walk down this new path, you will begin to feel as if you are waking up from a very long nap.  Real estate will look new and it will be exciting again. You will be filled, even driven by a new sense of purpose:  the mission.  You’ll work harder and have more fun than you have in years.  And, in six to nine months, your personal bottom line should be way ahead of where it is today.

Google Adwords and Analytics for Real Estate

On the Help-U-Sell Power Hour today, Ron McCoy talked with the group about the importance of monitoring website performance using Google Analytics.  It’s a fairly simple process to set up, especially for Help-U-Sell brokers who have an easy to use field in their website back-end for the Google code and a tech support team to help.

What Google Analytics will tell you is:  how many visitors find your website over a given time, how many pages they visit, how long they stay, where they came from (location and referrer), and so on.  It’s great information that can help you evaluate and upgrade your website.

Once it’s set up and running, once the website is localized and optimized,  Analytics is great for monitoring the effectiveness of your marketing.  In today’s online universe, much of your marketing should drive consumers to your website.  If that’s the intent of a marketing piece, you should see a spike in visitors when it runs.

I look at Analytics for The Set Fee Blog every day.  Day in – day out, the numbers are fairly consistent.  My traffic goes down a bit when I go through a dry spell and don’t post for days.  It goes up a bit when I post something that strikes a chord with readers and they share it with others.  But I can also see increases when I market the blog.

I ran a campaign a couple of weeks ago using Facebook Ads.  For $100 (I’m on a budget!), a little side panel ad questioning why real estate commissions are so high appeared on the Facebook pages of consumers who have expressed an interest in real estate.  The ad made about 300,000 impressions and garnered about 100 ‘clicks.’

Analytics for the period showed a nice jump in visitors, page views and time on site.  Of course those 100 people were in the mix, but so were all the people with whom they shared the specific post I linked the ad to:  Real Estate Commissions Revisited.  My Analytics traffic was up enough to convince me (once again) that a few hundred dollars tossed at Facebook Ads once in awhile is well worth the expense!

Here’s an idea for you.  You probably have a card or coupon for $100 worth of free Google AdWords in your desk drawer or in your email.  I say probably because I have several just because I have a real estate license and a corporation.  If you don’t have one, just call Google or send them a request for one (they give them away like candy).  Tell them you want to evaluate the effectiveness of AdWords in driving traffic to your website and they’ll give you the credit.

Then decide what kind of traffic you want, buyers or sellers.  Me?  I want sellers because listings are what’s in demand in my marketplace.  But that’s a problem, too, because I really don’t have a good seller capture page on my website.  So I need to work with Robbie and Peter in Sarasota to build that page.  It ought to look like an ETM . . . OR, hey, maybe it should look like THIS , but including a contact form, too.  The page ought to tell what I do for sellers and include testimonials from happy customers.  Once that’s done I will have a page to drive sellers to.

Now I can go to Google AdWords and create an ad.  But what should I advertise?  Hmmm.  How about:  ‘How to sell your San Diego home and save thousands’ or something similar.  Since you have $100 to spend, set the budget at something like $12 a day – that will get you about a week’s worth of placement.  And then start watching Analytics.  Do you see an increase in traffic to that landing page?  Now, check your own office analytics (your incoming call/inquiry logs):  of the traffic that gets to your landing page, how many actually contact your office.

This little exercise will not only get you familiar with Google Analytics, it will also help you evaluate the value of Google Adwords.

As an aside, given my limited experience, I like Facebook Ads a little better than Google AdWords because their targeting mechanism seems more detailed and precise.  But, to my knowledge, Facebook isn’t routinely giving away $100 of Ad credit and Google is.  Since this is a test and a learning experience, why not do it as cheaply as possible?  If it works for you, then invest a couple hundred bucks in a Facebook campaign targeting people around your office and see how that performs on Analytics.

 

Help-U-Sell Success Summit Update

Ahhhh.  That’s what I feel every year at this time.  The NAR Expo is history and the Help-U-Sell Success Summit is done for another year.

I had lots of anxiety going into this year’s Summit.  Last year’s event was so good I thought it would be hard to top.  Also, our numbers were down slightly because of the location.  Not that Orlando isn’t a great place for a meeting, it’s just that the largest concentration of Help-U-Sell brokers is in the West and they pretty much stayed home.  One of our newest members, Kurt Steffein, made the haul from California (and what a wonderful energy he brought along), and Lona Murphy from Oregon surprised everyone by showing up unannounced!  A special thank you goes out to both of them.  But as we set the room for the meeting, we kept adding chairs and adding chairs, and by the time Jack Bailey rolled in with his entire Coaching Group in tow, we were about 30 people.

I could go on and on about who came and the nuggets they shared, but here’s something that’s more important: It was once again, a great meeting.   There is excitement about the business and the the opportunities bursting forth over the next several years.  Our crew is hungry and ready – their enthusiasm and love for what they do hasn’t paled in the downturn of the last few years.  Everybody who attended stayed fully engaged for the entire meeting.  We had no dropouts and no nod-offs.  Conversation was lively and productive.  And there was something else about this group that came through loud and clear – they all genuinely like and care for each other.  We talk about a Help-U-Sell Family a lot, and I know, that language is typical of a lot of real estate organizations.  But here it means something.  It really does.

What were the key messages of this meeting?  There were many, but here’s what I take away:

This year – and next year – are OUR years.  For the first time in a long time, sellers with equity are returning to the market.  That’s our target.  Always has been.  We have a huge competitive advantage in a marketplace where Joe and Sally Homeowner want to sell, because Joe and Sally also want to save – and that’s what we’re all about:  selling and saving.  After slogging through a market where many if not most of our sellers were . . . banks . . . who really couldn’t care less about what makes us unique, special and better, we are once again going to be in the driver’s seat.

That’s great, but it also means we have to return to an old habit that we’ve gotten away from in recent years:  marketing.  We have to dust off our logos (so to speak) and go back to spreading the word that we are here, people use us, it works and they save money.  The way we spread that word has changed somewhat.  It’s much more electronic and frankly, less costly.  But make no mistake about it:  as right as the timing is, it will mean nothing if we don’t re-invest in marketing who we are and what we do.

We are real estate people (thank goodness!) and as such are people people.  The highest and best use of our time is usually to be face to face with consumers.  However, there is an electronic universe in which the people we need to be talking to are living, at least part-time.  We have to be comfortable with that electronic landscape, with how it works and how to position ourselves within it.  I know, for most of us, that means hiring someone to manage our online presence; but even then, we have to have a basic understanding of how the Internet works from a marketing standpoint and how to take advantage of the huge opportunities there.

We are exceptionally blessed to have Robbie Stevens, Tony Tramontano, and everyone else at Help-U-Sell dedicated to securing our position in this new world and patiently nurturing our collective understanding.  I saw so many lights going on in that room the last couple of days as Robbie worked through some of the basics of our own Office Management System.  I think we’re all going home more comfortable and a little wiser.

I also remain in awe of Ron McCoy.   Of the Corporate team, he has the greatest longevity – about 12 years – but it’s much more than that.  In addition to all of the history, the great ups and downs of Help-U-Sell, he has a depth of understanding of what makes us tick and how to turn that into business success.  He has a great strategic mind and his attitude is unflagging.  After a grueling hour of tool after tool with an Internet marketing ‘guru,’ Ron showed us how to use Instagram to improve our online impact.  He showed us, we did it, we had fun, and we got it.  If you don’t believe me, check Facebook for yesterday, Nov. 13, and you’ll see a whole passel of pictures of Ron during the presentation, taken and posted via Instagram.

Mostly we are blessed to have such a delightful, scrappy team.  So many of the people who attended the meeting joined the Franchise in 2005 and 2006 – at the onset of the worst real estate market in history.  And they are still here, still strong, still smiling and many have done much more than simply survive.  Many have built remarkable businesses as one after another of their traditional competitors have downsized, consolidated and gone out of business.  It’s always been great to be Help-U-Sell.  It’s once again a great time to be Help-U-Sell.

Help-U-Sell, where different is better
It’s Good To Be Help-U-Sell