Data Mining

What if we were more than just a business looking to sell or lease your home?  What if we were an organisation actively involved in all aspects of property for you and your children?  How would our organisation treat prospects differently, and what would we be doing to ensure the future of the business in 40 or 60 years time.

What if we gathered knowledge about our customers that enabled us to know when they would be looking to renovate, when they would be upsizing because their kids are now approaching 16,17 and 18,  looking to downsize cause the kids have moved out?  What if we started sending information to parents when their kids were 10 years old on how they could purchase a property as an investment (almost totally covering the mortgage) and ensure a house deposit for their kids.  Interesting? If your business was around for next 50 years, yours than your daughters or sons, what data would you gather now to ensure a relationship that spanned decades?

If I just bought a house from you, I don’t need to know what else is on the market (making me question my recent purchase).  But maybe soon, I’ll think about buying an investment property, so why not send me monthly emails with basic to more advanced knowledge about how to take this next big step?

We are living in a world where information and data is abundant. A good first step is to separate your database into a few key categories:

1. Past Purchasers

2. Past Vendors

3. Buyers (met in the last year)

4. Appraisals/Home Owners

Each person in these groups needs different information from you to be relevant to them.  Set up these groups, and then setup simple email newsletters targeting each group.  

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Being a woman in real estate.

lean_in_sheryl_sandberg_book_cover_28471I’d never heard of Sheryl Sandberg till I came across her inspiring TED talk a month ago, I’d been to a conference where a UN Gender leader spoke about the need for more woman leaders to provide balance in the political landscape. I had never been particularly interested in the “gender fight” and considered myself “anti feminist” as I liked men – a lot, and frankly, disagreed with a lot of the judgement and negativity provided by other woman.  But thinking about it closer, I was part of the problem and not the solution.  I think fundamentally I still think differently to a lot of woman I’ve met, but really, we’re all struggling with the same things.  It’s time to support each other, assume the best of each others intentions, treat each other with respect and move forward with achieving our dreams.

Sheryl’s book and talk are timely to remind us the fight for equality is not yet over.  The amount of woman in strong leadership positions is far outweighed by men, and men taking on household duties are still victimised for the choice and are severely under represented.

Never one to want to go down the “gender excuse” path I had never really considered the gender injustices I had seen around me, especially in the real estate world. I’m not even sure those creating the gender divide realise they are indeed unconsciously not moving woman forward as fast as their male colleagues.  In the executive assistant world, it was assumed if you were female you weren’t looking to become a successful agent, but if you came into that role as a man – it was assumed you wouldn’t be there for long.

Sheryl has reopened the debate, but made it clear she’s looking for equality for both sides of the equation. Her words “sit at the table” ring in my ear daily, it was something I always did as an 18 year old, but as I got older and more unsure of myself I needed to be reminded that my opinion and thoughts counted.  She doesn’t for one second suggest the male should take over all household responsibility, she looks for balance and support from both partners in each others goals.  For me personally, none of the men in my life have ever been anything but supportive of who I am and where I want to go, they all cook better than me(!) and certainly don’t hold anything against woman in leadership positions.  It’s women that need to start supporting each other, and helping to lead the way for others in the workplace.

In real estate, I think we have come a long way from a mostly male dominated industry. There are many successful woman agents, and owners. However, there is still a need for a greater balance between the high earning roles and the support roles, and mentorship programs to help grow and encourage career possibilities.

Traditional business marketing applies to real estate as well

In traditional business marketing it is not just acceptable to have a website now, you need one that works for you.  When we design an advertisement for the newspaper, almost everybody recognises the need for a “call to action”, something we want the customer to do after seeing the ad.  In non-profits it might be to make a donation, or to enquire about volunteer positions, for Amazon it’s to get the customer to the website to make a purchase, for real estate it’s to get them to call us for a market appraisal.  The same applies to websites, with the world now increasingly being online, it’s critical to have a website used as a marketing tool within the business.  

In real estate, understanding the marketing objective is easier than you may think. For every agency, the same applies, to make money we must find buyers to enquire and eventually purchase the property – and find sellers who wish to engage us to help them sell their home.  Given the likes of realestate.com.au and domain.com.au, the main objective I would focus on is getting home owners to call you or enquire further about selling or leasing.

If that was your core focus, how would your website look? Would it make it much easier to speak to the lead salesperson, would it focus mainly on the real estate’s unique selling proposition?  What about email forms for each agent on their profile page, what if the agents appeared on the front page with statistics under their details so consumers could pick the best agent for them. Agents might hate it but your customers might love it.

Just having a website, facebook page and twitter account is now arbitrary.  If we are going to invest in these pieces within our business, it is only a benefit if they work to create customers and to nourish the customers we already have to continue to do business with us.

Big, bad, scary Social Media

ImageBringing up the idea of “social media strategy” to a 40 year old ex corporate, owner of a real estate agency, should be done with an espresso and a shot gun. From numerous head banging conversations, I realized I was in the wrong.  “Social media strategy” might make you sound intelligent and important, but it offers no real insight for someone with no idea. What they can get their head around thou is “I think we should have a Facebook page like 68% of other Australians”.

Understanding “social media” becomes a lot easier when we understand it’s just a way to continue the conversation and build a community of people that are interested in our business, and want to hear from us. Where people once communicated by rock drawings, then fax, later email – the majority of our audience now regularly communicates via their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

John McGrath got on the Facebook band wagon late, but when he did – he reinforced his brand’s image by showing how much he loves design, houses, architecture and innovation.  It’s often been heard in real estate that “people don’t buy from companies, they buy from people”, by engaging personally in his brand’s Facebook page his engagement makes me want to engage with him.

Where websites failed to evolve and reflect a companies values and beliefs, Facebook steps in and allows you to express yourself.

Facebook business pages can be set up in 10 minutes or so, companies like Page Modo make it easy to reflect your brand’s image, and to set up regularly scheduled posts, without you actually having to do it.  If you direct 100 people to your website, and 1 can buy now – you’ve lost 99 people unless you encourage them to engage you on Facebook, where you can start to build their trust and have them call you when their ready to buy.

The “D” Word

Database.  It’s a scary word and we all know it makes no sense not to invest time and energy into something that captures and preserves the people we try so hard to meet – but yet I’ve never meet an agent that effectively ran a healthy database that they used to effectively to communicate with clients consistently.

If we spend energy running open homes, sending out thousands of mail out’s and constantly seeking to give our business cards out to prospects – and then write them down on a piece of paper never to be seen again? What sense does that make?

You will only get out what you put in, but what you can get out can put you miles ahead of the competition with a lot less effort.  Technology is your friend, and it’s here to stay.

If you haven’t got anything, excel is a better option than nothing and will allow you to import your data into a database system once your up and running. However, if your in this industry – be in it.

Must have’s for your database:

1. Accessible. Your not always in the office, and you shouldnt have to be.  Make sure its available to log into from anywhere.  So you can take time off and still login and track conversations your having.

2. Easy to Use. I don’t know many real estate agents with computer skills, but either way it needs to be quick and easy. If you put on an assistant on will they be able to use it? Is it teachable?

3. Ability to SMS/Email/Mail Merge straight from database. Critical, simple SMS to confirm appt? Email to let enquiries know a property has sold??  Imperative.

4. Trails. Lets make our easier yea? Set these trails in place on a contact and have an automatic To-Do list when walking into the office.

5. iPad compatibility. I don’t want to have to do things twice, and I want to be able to add things quickly. Standing at an open homes, with an iPad bringing up my required calls for the day makes me happy.

Options.

There’s tons of options available, below is a list of each option that I’ve used in various businesses and there pro’s and con’s to you.

LockedOn – I really like this software, it’s cheap for what it does, achieves all the above criteria and I haven’t found anything it doesn’t do that I’ve required. Im reasonably critical, and Im impressed.

Complete Data – for a small business running a platform with 5 or 6 agents all using an integrated database, Complete Data is the bees knees. It has a high end capability, and price to go with it. Great for a company, shit for an individual agent.

AgentPoint CRM – usually comes packaged with a real estate website. Not the greatest to be honest, can sometimes be slow, and hasn’t been developed by a real estate agent like Locked On.

There’s plenty of options; and more will come in Part 2.

What to worry about when you have your database:

1. Every person you’ve ever sold for, and every person you’ve ever sold too. Call them every year on the day they moved in and send them something to let them know they’ve been in the property now for 7 years etc.

2. All your current sellers.

3. All your past market appraisals.

4. Hot Buyers.

More to come.