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Prove the Value of Your Commission in Any Market

Prove the Value of Your Commission in Any Market

In some areas of the country, real estate is moving very quickly. Unfortunately, with a strong seller’s market, there’s a lot of competition among Realtors® for listings. As a result, many Realtors® feel a lot of pressure to cut commissions in order to win business.

Of course, your commission is your livelihood, and once you cut it for one customer other will find out and expect the same. So how do you keep from cutting your commission in a seller’s market – or any market?

The simple answer is to show clearly how your commission is used to benefit the homeowner. Also, don’t be afraid to remind them that commissions are your only income, and you deserve to be paid for your work like they do.

Here are some steps you can take to prove the value of your real estate commission in any market.

Have a Premium Marketing Plan

The first step is to show clearly what you will do for the seller as a full-service agent. Having a premium marketing plan ready to go and detailed for the client is vital.

When sellers see your real estate service as generic and able to be done by anyone, they tend to expect mediocre performance and focus heavily on price. Instead, set out a clear plan of action that makes it obvious that you are not “just another agent” and really have unique value to offer.

Here are some of the key components of a premium real estate marketing plan:

  • Print marketing – using a series of postcards to draw interest in their property. We recommend a series that includes “coming soon”, “just listed”, “open house”, and “just sold” to maximize exposure. Be sure to indicate the importance of professional photography here as well.
  • Online marketing – beyond just listing the home on the MLS, what will you do for the listing online? Ideas include Facebook ads, featuring the home on your website, and creating professional walkthrough videos. Focus on your unique use of technology especially online.
  • Reach with other Realtors®. Most buyers have buyer’s agents – how are you able to reach out to them? Are you part of a real estate network that you can advertise the listing to? Does your brokerage have a national or international presence that can be leveraged? Do you have access to overseas real estate agents? Professional publications or magazines?
  • Personal Touch. Will you do door-to-door in a specific neighborhood for their listing? A specific number of calls? The personal touch is one of the things that will really set you apart from discount automated brokerages.

Have a Commission Defense Script

Because sellers are often used to being offered a discount, it’s very likely to come up during a listing presentation. In fact, many online home-selling resources “help” homeowners “avoid being taken advantage of” with premium commissions.

As a result, you need a clear non-threatening script ready for when sellers ask you for a discount. The script should match your style and personality. Here are some ideas:

  • Ask, “Mr./Mrs. Jones, don’t you think it’s best to have a strong negotiator on your side when you sell your home?” When they say yes, say, “So if an agent can’t even stand firm on their own livelihood, why would you trust them to maximize the sale your home? Besides, the commission helps pay for…” and then highlight the marketing plan.
  • Say, “Mr/Mrs. Jones, this is my specific marketing plan that will help ensure you receive the best price for you home in the least amount of time. If you’d like a lower commission, perhaps I could find a junior associate or less experienced agent for you who is willing to work for less money.”
  • Talk about the results you get for them and compare your service to other specialties. “If your doctor is operating on you or prescribing you medication, are you going to go with the one who works for very little, or the one with the best results? Why not do the same with the biggest investment you own?”

Break Down Where the Commission Goes

Unfortunately, many sellers don’t realize how the commission process in real estate works. They think that the Realtor® nets the full 6% of the home’s selling price, leading many to believe that real estate agents are overpaid. Here’s a way to help educate them.

First, tell the seller that you charge 3%. Then, ask, “How much do you want to pay the agent who brings an offer? It can be 2%, 3%, 4%, or more. The more it is, the more likely other agents are to bring their buyers here.” Perhaps they say, “3%.”

Then, talk about your three percent. One agent came up with this creative explanation:

“Just so that you understand what happens to the 3 percent that you will be paying me,” he takes three business cards and continues as he removes the first card, saying, “Every agent has to pay their broker part of the commission.” He takes the first card and puts it aside.

He then picks up the second card. “This amount goes to the marketing of your property,” which includes such services as professional photos; video; Web marketing; social media marketing; newspaper ads the agent pays for; brochures; gasoline; and all the other expenses entailed in marketing a home.

He then puts that card aside, picks up the last card and says, “This is how much I get paid.”

He then tears the card in half and says, “But I have to pay taxes, so this is how much I keep.”

He then asks a very important question: “So if another agent offers to lower their commission, where do you think the money comes from? Three percent goes to the other agent, 1 percent goes to their brokerage, and the government keeps 50 percent of what they earn. They’re not going to take food out of their children’s mouths, so the only place where this money can come from is by cutting into the 1 percent that I use to market your home.”

With these three approaches in your arsenal, you’ll be well prepared to explain your value, defend your commission, and educate the seller on how that commission is used. This will prepare you to defend and protect your commission – and your livelihood – in any market.

How do you answer questions about your commission? Share in the comments!

How to Use Online Reviews to Build Your Real Estate Business

Use Reviews to Grow Real Estate Business

Everyone knows that referrals are the lifeblood of real estate, but do you know what’s almost as amazing? Online reviews. Online reviews are like evergreen referrals – a chance for you to let prospects know what others have said about you and how much they love your work. In fact, 88% of consumers look at online reviews before making a purchase!

Capitalizing on online reviews is a great way to build your real estate business, and fall is the perfect time to get started. Your business may be a little slower so you have time, and most of all, you probably have some happy clients you worked with this summer who you can ask for reviews!

Here’s how to make the most of online review to build your real estate business.

Claim Your Real Estate Business Page and Update Your Information

Step one is creating a place for your clients to leave reviews. Be sure to claim your real estate business Yelp, Facebook, and Google+. Also, make sure your office location, contact information, and picture are updated and accurate.

If you’re unsure how to lock down your business pages, here are some guides:

It’s helpful to have all three pages active, along with Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor®.com. When someone leaves a review, don’t be afraid to ask them if they wouldn’t mind posting in other locations as well, or if you can use that review on your website. The more mileage you get from reviews, the better!

Ask for Reviews – With Perks

No, I’m not asking you to be unethical. But when you send along your request for a review, send along a small $5 gift card. Include in your request, “As you know, reviews are vital to our business. To thank you in advance for leaving a review on XXX.com, here’s a small token of appreciation.”

Because the gift is given regardless of whether they leave a review, it’s not considered compensation.

Here are some ways to maximize the number of reviews you’re able to get from your customers:

  • Mention Reviews Early. If you have a chance, mention early in the real estate buying or selling process that you request reviews from clients and ask if there’s anything you can do to help ensure an excellent review.
  • Request the Review More Than Once. Just as you should ask for referrals in multiple ways, you can ask for reviews in multiple ways too. In an email, make the request and include a link or two to online sites. In a letter or postcard, remind them of the request and include in gift card. In person, make one last mention of how important review are. Of course, don’t do all of these within 24 hours of each other! But do them within a week or so, to trigger reminders if needed.
  • Make Suggestions. Sometimes people just don’t know what to write in a review. Think about the relationship and, in your request, point out some things that went really well. “We were able to sell your house in XX days, which is great!” or “We got 10% over asking!” or “You mentioned how nice it was to have an agent that did XYZ.” Then, when you request the review, they’ll have those items right in front of them.

Ask for Reviews Even Without a Closed Transaction

Did you show someone homes, only for them to discover the loan wasn’t going to work? They may still give you a great review! Similarly, someone who didn’t sell their home because they changed their mind or had an emergency might still have enjoyed working with you. Don’t think that only closed customers will leave reviews. Anyone you work with can say something about the experience!

Zillow actually allows you to request reviews for a large variety of customer types, so consider all of these when you’re asking for reviews:

  • Listed and Sold a Home or Lot
  • Listed but Didn’t Sell a Home or Lot
  • Helped Client Buy a Home/Lot
  • Showed Clients Homes/Lots
  • Found Tenet for Client
  • Helped Client Find Rental Property
  • Property Manage a Home Client Own

Think outside the box. The more reviews you have, especially five-star reviews, the more you’ll stand out among your competition. Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews on multiple sites, or ask permission to use the review in your marketing.

People want to know what working with you is like. A referral is one way they find out. But reviews can be even more powerful. Start your review-building process today!

Need note cards or postcards to make those review requests through the mail? We can help, especially with seasonal or holiday postcards! Check out our selection today!

Are You Safe as a Realtor®?

Are You Safe as a Realtor®?

September is Realtor® Safety Month, so I want to ask you – are you safe as a Realtor®? There are a lot of areas where safety plays into real estate work. You can help your sellers stay safe, you can keep yourself safe during showings, and most of all, you can keep yourself from being a target.

How to Avoid Becoming a Target

You survive 100% of the attacks that don’t happen, so focus first on preventing yourself from being a target. Criminals are generally focused on opportunity, and go after victims that give them the best opportunities. With that in mind, here are some steps you can take to avoid being a target:

  • Pay Attention to How You Appear. Criminals target Realtors® who work alone and who appear to be wealthy. They often focus on women, as women are seen to be weaker than men and less likey to be able to defend themselves. When working as a Realtor®, avoid working alone and avoid ostentatious displays of jewelry or other wealth.
  • Limit Vulnerability. If someone stands too close to you, immediately make eye contact and establish personal boundaries. Don’t be easily intimidated. In addition, be wary of someone who asks a lot of questions about a showing that involve how alone you’ll be. Questions like “Are other buyers going to be there” and “Is the property vacant” and “Will you be alone” are all red flags.
  • Never Work Alone, Especially on Secluded Properties. The more secluded a property, the higher the opportunity for a criminal. Neighbors, foot traffic, and great lighting are all deterrents to criminal activity. The biggest deterrent, of course, is simply not working alone. Don’t allow yourself to be isolated.

How to Protect Your Sellers

Real estate safety is certainly about your personal safety, but it’s also about those you work with. You want to ensure that those who list with you are safe as well, especially as it concerns their personal property. Not only that, when you focus on the seller’s safety, it will help you stand out from other agents who aren’t talking about it.

Here are some important tips to share with sellers:

  • Prescription Drugs. Not only is your seller’s health no one’s business, but prescription drugs are a major temptation for criminals. If a criminal doesn’t use them personally, they can sell them on the black market. Prescription drugs should be locked up or removed before showings and open houses. Unlocked medicine cabinets are no safer than leaving them out in the open.
  • Remind your clients that you aren’t responsible for valuables during showings. They should carefully lock up or put away valuables during showings. This isn’t limited to jewelry – it can also include cell phones, mail that contains personal information, artwork, gaming equipment, and valuable collections. Do your part as well, and avoid posting photographs or videos of the home that contain shots of valuable technology, gaming items, or collections.
  • Beware of Strangers at the Door. Just because someone shows up saying they’re interested in the home doesn’t mean your sellers should let them in. Be sure they know that only a real estate professional using the lockbox should be able to access the home.
  • Put in Extra Locks and Security. When a home is listed for sale, criminals see it as being more vulnerable simply because people go in and out a great deal. Advise your sellers to put in deadbolts, put extra locks and sticks on sliding doors, and take other security measures.

Keep Yourself Safe

Finally, it’s vital to keep yourself safe during a showing and open house. It’s not hard to avoid being a target, but it can be inconvenient. Remember that a few extra minutes, a delayed appointment, and the buddy system are worth the trouble when it comes to your safety.

  • Never Meet Someone for the First Time at a Property. Yes, the home is on the way, they just called, and you don’t want to miss a buyer. But it’s not worth your safety. Firmly tell interested parties that they must have a meeting with you at your office before they see a property. Don’t let them intimidate or badger you into anything else.
  • Keep People in Front of You. A criminal will have a much harder time surprising you from the front. If you’re doing a showing, keep everyone in front of you. Don’t allow yourself to be trapped in a room without a way out.
  • Make Sure Others Know Where You Are. Your brokerage, your friends, and your family should always know where you are, the address of the property, and who you’re meeting. There are also cell phone apps that can enhance safety by tracking your location, such as StaySafe, bSafe, or Bugle.
  • Have a Buddy. When you’re doing a showing or an open house, don’t do it alone. It may be inconvenient, but if you set up a swap system with someone else, it doesn’t have to be a hassle. Remember, having two people makes you less vulnerable. It’s worth your safety to have a buddy.

In the end, remember that it’s worth the time and effort it takes to stay safe. When you start getting careless, you unfortunately open yourself up to being a target for an opportunistic criminal. It’s not just children who need to be careful around those they don’t know – we all do.

What do you do to stay safe? Share in the comments!

Automation Tools for Real Estate

Automation Tools for Real Estate

Some Realtors® feel that automation is the death of personalization. That’s not true at all!

In fact, you can make your leads and customer feel even more attended to by automating a few things, while giving you more time for you to interact directly with the highest probability leads and give them the personal touch.

What Can Realtors® Automate?

If you’re not automating or using a Customer Relationship Tool (CRM), you’re probably doing something like this:

  • A lead emails you or fills out the form on your listing/website
  • You manually check your email (Hopefully, not too long after they reached out)
  • You follow up with them with another email, and try to schedule a time to get together, when you get a chance
  • You manually follow up when you can, and add them to your newsletter/e-blast list to possibly nurture the lead.

Or, your CRM tool can take over those responsibilities for you.

“Enter marketing automation. Most automation platforms allow you to set up workflows that dictate what email messages to send after certain actions are taken on your website,” wrote Inbound marketing expert, Matthew Bushery.

“You can even set up multiple emails following a download: one to thank the user, then three, four, or more emails over the span of months to provide them with your digest, newsletter, and/or promotional emails.”

Imagine CRM as a paid employee who follows up with leads right away, and manages your relationship with customers at every phase.

Should I Automate Social Media?

The jury is actually out on social media. There are those who have data they claim proves that using a third party automated social media tool (like Hootsuite) actually hurts at post’s performance and visibility.

“Using scheduling services such as Hootsuite, Viral Heat, or Sprout Social to schedule your Facebook posts will gain you only one thing: an even lower reach,” wrote social media blogger,  Ash Reed.

“That’s because Facebook recognizes, and penalizes these third-party apps, giving them less credibility than posts made directly on Facebook.  This is true for businesses that push their Twitter feed through Facebook as well.”

Keep in mind, Facebook has openly denied this. So it’s your call on what you want to believe.

What Automation Tools Are Good For Realtors®?

You will find a ton of tools out there, but Infusionsoft is one of my personal favorites. It’s a complete CRM tool that helps you automate your lead management, customer interactions, and marketing, all in one place.

“Those in tune with their audience (or those who would like to be) will love Infusionsoft,” wrote Matthew Toren, Mentor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com.

“Staying connected becomes second nature after importing and organizing contacts using tags and segmentation. Infusionsoft tracks and records leads’ behavior (like checking your website or archiving your emails), then scores each lead based on ease of conversion.”

In my own business, Infusionsoft improved my revenue 472% and my marketing ROI by 4000%. A good CRM tool like Infusionsoft can help you reclaim your valuable time, by handling the burden of doing everything yourself, while making MORE money than ever!

They can also remind you to follow up with clients and send out postcards, thank you notes, and other materials on time. If you don’t have print marketing ready to go, you should! Let us help get it ready for you.

Properly using “REALTOR®” in Your Marketing

Using Realtor® Correctly

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has registered a trademark on REALTOR®, and they’re very serious about protecting that trademark. Properly using “REALTOR®” in your marketing can save you from a lot of headaches, problems, and financial liability.

If you do misuse the term REALTOR® in any of your print marketing, social media or website name or materials, or email communication, NAR can take action against you. These actions range from a simple letter asking you to correct the problem, to actually having your social media account or website shut down.

Keep in mind that NAR’s goal is to stop the misuse of the term REALTOR®, and they consider legal action a last resort. With this in mind, let’s look out how you can correctly use the term and avoid any problems.

REALTOR® is Preferred by NAR, But…

There is a bit of leeway there. Which is good, because having the same word appear in all caps throughout an article or page is distracting for the reader, and can ruin written/printed copy you’ve worked so hard on. So a more modest “Realtor®” usage is acceptable.

“The National Association of Realtors, recognizing that putting registered symbols or all-caps REALTORs throughout text can easily dilute the message of the text for the general public, allows the third preferred use of Realtor, with just an initial capital letter,” wrote Jim Frimmer, Real Estate Agent with HomeSmart Realty West.

If you read NAR’s blogs and news releases, they often go with “Realtors®”, clearly seeing that it’s the least intrusive version to a story’s copy.

In fact, to take it step further, Realty Times is one of the most respected real estate news sites on the entire web, and they feel that simply using Realtors, without the ® is more than acceptable. In fact, when a reader tried to call them out on their simple use of the term, they responded with:

“It is common media practice to use the term “Realtor” with a capital “R” and nothing more — otherwise newspapers and magazines would be filled with copyright marks and content would be difficult to read.”

NAR considers this far less than ideal, but generally allows the media to do this.

Things to Avoid When Using the Term Realtor®

You have to be very specific, so there are a number of common mistakes you can make:

  • “Realtor™” is incorrect, the term is registered, not trademarked.
  • “Realtor©” is incorrect, the term is registered, not copywritten.
  • “realtor” is incorrect. The term in all lower case is never correct.

And there are a few no-no’s for the word Realtor® itself:

  • The term REALTOR® must refer to a member or a member’s firm.
  • The term REALTOR® may not be used with descriptive words or phrases. For example, Number1realtor.com.
  • The term REALTOR® should never be used to denote an occupation or business. Do not combine words like “your,” “my,” “our” or any descriptive words or phrases between your name and the membership mark. Like JaneDoeMyRealtor.com.

And there are even more rules for how you can properly use “the big R” in your logo. There is an entire style guide you need to be aware of when creating your brand. For example, you cannot use the R to begin any other words, like you see here:

Bad R Use

How to Create The ® Symbol on Your Keyboard

A lot of people don’t put the registered mark next to the word, because, well, they don’t know how. It’s actually quite simple:

On a PC:

  • Make sure that Num Lock is on.
  • Hold down the Alt key.
  • Type 0174 on the numeric keypad.

On Mac:

  • Hold down alt and r at the same time

Now that you know the rules, you can easily stay out of trouble. Remember that REALTOR® is the official version. Realtors® is perfectly acceptable, and so is Realtor®. Just don’t use an all lowercase “realtor”.

Do you need to update your print materials to use “Realtor®” correctly? We can help. Click here to select your design and your layout.

4 Ways to Destroy Your Personal Brand

Personal Branding

You don’t control seasonal trends, market shifts, or interest rates. But you do control how you present yourself during all of these other changes. In real estate, the one thing you have absolute control over is your brand.

But because you have so much control, it’s easy to ruin your brand without even knowing it.

Here are 4 ways you can accidentally sabotage your personal brand in real estate.

Not Making Your Personal Brand… Well… Personal

Authenticity is at the core of a strong brand. This mistake actually has 4 things you can stumble over. Too many Realtors®:

  • Say what everyone else is saying (No unique selling positioning)
  • Do what they assume is expected of a Realtor®
  • Steal scattered parts of other people’s brands to make their own
  • Do whatever their branding agency says

These are all bad because they take the person (you) out of personal branding. If a brand is a facade, it will never reach its full potential, because you’re part of that brand. So, when people meet you for the first time, there’s a disconnect between the brand they’ve seen and the person they meet. They may wonder which one is a lie.

Keep your personality front and center. If you’re funny, make the brand funny. If you’re very environmentally conscious, make sure that’s a big part of your brand.

Handing Your Personal Brand Over to Other People

Police your own brand and how it’s used! Be a tyrant!

This means big things like staying true to your values and not letting anyone cause you to compromise. It also means small things, like reviewing any work you outsource, including social media and blogging.  You want to make sure that you’re authentic to your real self, so that your personal brand always matches the you that your prospects and customers encounter. Don’t let anyone push you off of that.

Like we said above, this is the one thing you can have absolute control over, so don’t give it away.

Not Measuring Your Personal Brand Success

Your brand may not work. That’s a marketing reality. Not all brands reach the mark.

So be sure to measure your brand success, while giving it enough time to succeed. There are dozens of ways to measure it. You can examine your brand reach, brand awareness, influence, or market share. But the important thing is that you do audit it to make sure it’s serving you well, and that you’re doing what you need to keep it strong.

Assuming it Will Grow By Itself

The brand may not automatically grow along with your success. Sure, your brand awareness may grow as you succeed and become a bigger name in the market. But that doesn’t mean you just leave your brand alone while you’re growing and thriving.

Maybe your success came as a result of tapping into a new target market, like recent divorcees. Your new brand should target that market and speak directly to their wants, needs and pain-points.

Use your newfound income to invest in the brand to help it grow.

Remember, you’re the one in control. So always remember to ensure your brand is reflective of your personality, and stay in control of how it’s treated. At the same time, measure it’s reach and success, and make any needed changes, based on those findings.

Do you have a new logo or brand image? Make sure it’s on all your printed materials. Click here to browse what we have to offer.

The Importance of a Personal Brand for Realtors®

Importance of a Personal Brand

Even if you don’t know exactly what a personal brand is, you know you want one. And you should.

Experts will forever debate the exact meaning of a brand. Is it a name? A logo? Something more, or something less?

Here’s the simplest version: when I say the name Nike®, the brand is everything that pops into your head next. It’s the swoosh logo, it’s Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, and the phrase “Just Do It.” These are all things Nike® has done to build their brand and create a clear difference between them Reebok® and Under Armour®.

You don’t have billions of dollars at your disposal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build your own brand. Here are a few reasons why successful Realtors® have a solid brand.

It Separates You From the Competition

Stand out from the competition by selling what makes you truly unique. But keep in mind, discovering what makes you truly unique is not easy.

Everyone else is selling themselves as trustworthy and an expert in your area. So what makes you better than them?

“In today’s real estate landscape, there is no room for being another face in the crowd. You have to separate yourself from the competition by being more appealing to your target audience. You can achieve that by creating a recognizable personal brand,” wrote Jarad Hull, CEO at Blueroof360.

“Before you begin, realize that you are the brand, for better or worse. The face you see in the mirror every morning is your starting point. Use this to your advantage — because nobody else can be you.”

It Helps You Own Your Online Presence

Once you have a brand, you have to own it. Figuratively and literally. That means you have to go out and buy the domain, and nab all the Twitter handles and other social media credentials to match it.

“Wouldn’t it be great if whenever someone Googles your name, the search engine immediately delivers everything about you: website, social media accounts, LinkedIn profile, etsy store, wherever you’re hanging out online, it’s all right there, and it’s well-crafted and professional,” wrote Social Media Strategist, Christina Berry.

“That’s an important part of personal branding.”

It Makes You Memorable

Take a look at some of the real estate brands listed here. They’re all very different, but it doesn’t matter if you’re positioning yourself as the Geeky Girls, or “The Skydiving Agent.” You need to define your brand, so people can find you online without having a business card, postcard, or brochure handy. People should be able to just Google something memorable like “geeky girls + real estate” to find you.

Are you the pet-friendly Realtor who knows all the best neighborhoods for dogs? Or the new family Realtor who helps people buy their first homes?

It’s up to you to find out what separates you, use the internet to sell the heck out of it and make you memorable in people’s minds.

It shows up in everything from your business card to your branded stationery. If you need to update your print materials, you can easily create your own design online, and make sure your brand resonates with customers.

Marketing Habits of Successful Realtors®

Marketing Habits of Successful Realtors

Successful Realtors® have the same number of hours in a day as struggling ones. The difference is the most successful ones have built amazing habits to fill those 24 hours – and that includes their marketing habits.

Sure, successful people can invest more money into their marketing campaigns and grow their success to even greater heights. It’s a virtuous circle when you’re on the right side of it.

But there are a number of good habits and things you can do that don’t cost you any money. They just take a bit of your time and commitment.

So here are some free habits that most successful Realtors® share.

They’re Never Too Busy for Marketing

The words “too busy for marketing” are not in their vocabulary. Is Coca-Cola too big to worry about marketing? No, they’re the biggest because they always focus on marketing. And successful Realtors® are busy because they focus on marketing.

So set aside some time every month to work on your marketing plan, and put it on the calendar.

“Like anything else in business and life, the key to marketing success starts with making time for it. Block out a certain amount of time each day and/or each week that you’ll devote to marketing (for example, one hour a day or five hours a week total),” wrote Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media.

“This time might shrink a bit when you’re super-busy, but marketing should never disappear off your to-do calendar altogether. If you need motivation, think about the last time you had no business in sight. Brrr.”

They Use Proven Marketing Tools, Not Trendy Ones

Not all tools are created equally. Most will seem amazing when they burst on the tech scene. But many will fold or become obsolete because you’ve even updated the software.

So before you upgrade to a new client relationship management tool (CRM) or appointment booking software, consider the time it takes to transition all your data and systems to this new tool, and how much would be wasted if you do it again in a year.

Free tools are no longer free if they cost you too much of your time.

They Blog and Contribute to Other People’s Blogs

The blog is not a trendy marketing tool. It’s a prerequisite these days.

Find time each month to blog. This could be twice a month or twice a week. It doesn’t matter how often you do it. The important part is that you stick to your schedule and it becomes a habit.

Also, try to find opportunities to blog on other people’s sites. These guest blogs are massively helpful in boosting your search engine optimization (SEO), because they will have a link back to your own site. They also help establish you as a thought leader in your area.

So look for opportunities that are outside of real estate, but could still use a Realtor’s® perspective. For example, pitch a story to a parenting blog about what new parents will need in a new home.

When you write a guest post, be insightful, be helpful, and let your personality shine through. But do not take this as a chance to sell yourself. Your expertise should do that for you.

They Have Exclusive Marketing for Their Existing Network

You can’t afford a giant billboard off the highway. That’s OK. You don’t need one yet.

You are going to generate most of your new business through old customers and contacts. In fact, 75 percent of a real estate agent’s business comes from referrals and word of mouth. So focus a lot of time keeping in touch with your existing clients and contacts with things like newsletters, and thank-you notes. And don’t just rely on email – take the time to invest in proven printed materials!

These four tips give you somewhere to start. Set aside time to do these things, using proven marketing tools. Also find the time to blog, and work on your existing network of contacts. You’ll find that success will come much more easily when you have the right habits!

7 Habits of Highly Effective Realtors

Habits of effective Realtors

Every Realtor® has their own style and their own approach. But the most successful people in the industry typically have a number of things in common, regardless of their age, experience or the size of their market.

It is said that success is not an act, but a habit. So let’s look at 7 habits that the most effective Realtors® share.

1. They Follow Up Immediately

Staying successful means staying accessible.

This means responding to anything your clients may send you, whether it’s a call, text, email, or any other message.

“They are the warriors of email, text, and phone and they keep that rhythm right up through the whole transaction,” wrote Realtor.com blogger Deirdre Woollard.

“Busy Washington DC agent Jeff Vinson told me he calls it his land, sea, and air approach, reaching out to clients through as many channels as possible in the beginning even using Skype.

2. They Know Their Brand and Stand Out

Yes, we know. You’re reliable and an expert in your area. So is everyone else.

Tell a different story and position yourself a different way. Use all kinds of marketing – printed cards and flyers, your website, social media, and more.

Differentiation in the marketplace comes from disruption: When something stands out from everything else. Make your brand something different.

Lock into your real strengths and sell them. For example, I once worked with a Realtor® who positioned herself as a “family first” agent. This resonated in everything she did—right down to having her own daughters babysit her clients’ children while they toured houses.

3. They Know How to Remarket

Just because someone came and left your website without contacting you doesn’t mean you’re done selling to them.

Remarketing allows you to keep your listings in front of would-be buyers, even after they have moved on from your website.

“As the house hunter moves to other websites, whether a local newspaper site or maybe a sports page, remarketing allows you to continue to show your ads to him, such as photos of the listing he was just looking at or other homes in that neighborhood that meet his criteria,” wrote Kacie Ricker, the Regional Vice President for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage’s Western Region

“The idea is to get him back to your site to have another look at the property or similar ones he might be interested in.”

4. They Don’t Ask for Referrals. They Earn Them

You shouldn’t have to say, “Don’t forget to tell your friends!” Your service and outcomes should be so good it’s impossible to forget.

Never forget that people want to refer you. People love telling their friends, “You have to call ____. They’re the best.”

This means being in the business of delighting your customers and exceeding their expectations—every time. Again, this needs to be a habit, not an act.

5. They Know Everyone and Make Connections

You should always have a fleet of contractors, plumbers, painters, home inspectors and lenders at your fingertips.

Being able to name them on the spot, versus going through your phone to find them, helps establish you as a local expert with all the answers.

It also creates a great synergy with local professionals, who appreciate you sending them business and will reciprocate some day.

6. They Focus on Clients, Not Sales

This is so much harder than it sounds, but it can really drive your success.

“It is essential to remove any personal/emotional dispositions from the real estate transaction. Agents must instinctively assume the perspective of the client, as their own bias can adversely affect the outcome of the client’s decision,” wrote listing specialist, Monica Diaz.

7. They Know How to Use Technology the RIGHT Way

This means staying current on today’s technology. But this doesn’t mean buying into or adopting every new app, system or gadget when they’re released.

Stay mindful of new ways to do things. Technology is constantly presenting new ways for you to manage your time, communicate with customers, and promote yourself. But be cautious.

If something new catches your eye, do your research. Look for reviews from real people to determine if this is really helpful, or just trendy.

What habits do you feel drive your success? Let us know in the comments below.

7 Can’t Miss Tax Tips for Realtors®

Tax Tips for Realtors

It’s that time of year again – tax season is upon us. Instead of the usual rush to the finish line on the night before April 15th, why not get a jump start on your taxes this year? That way you’ll be done and able to focus on business during the busy spring season. A good place to start is getting your deductions in order.

That’s right – deductions. As a Realtor®, there are numerous deductions you should be taking that will save you money on your taxes in the long run. As long as an expense is necessary, not out of the ordinary, and deemed appropriate for your business, there’s a pretty solid chance that you’ll be able to write it off as a deduction.

To help you prepare for tax season, we came up with a list of tax tips and commonly missed deductions, specifically for Realtors®. Take a look and give them a try…

  1. Mileage and Auto Expenses

You probably know by now that you can deduct gas and mileage used for business purposes, but did you also know that this deduction applies to things like parking fees and tolls as well? These small fees may not seem like a lot, but over time, they definitely add up so be sure to keep track.

As far as mileage goes, don’t slack on your record keeping! If you’re looking for a great way to keep track of your miles, give Mile IQ a try. An Apple app, it’s easily downloadable and once set up, automatically tracks the miles you drive so you don’t even have to think about it.

  1. Office Space and Supplies

This is a great one, especially if you work out of your home. Any portion of your home or apartment that is regularly used for business can be written off as a tax deduction. And don’t forget about utilities – you can write a percentage of those off too!

Plus, any office supplies you use throughout the year can also be written off. Whether it’s pencils, staples computer paper, or the actual computer, you can write it off as a business expense.

  1. Advertising Expenses

Did you know that you can deduct and money spent on advertising and/or marketing throughout the year? This deduction is lesser known that some of the others out there, but is effective in saving you tax dollars.

And don’t forget that advertising expenses extend to print advertising costs as well, including things such as business cards and postcards. If you used them to promote your business, don’t forget to include them in your deductions.

  1. Education and Training for You and Employees

Investing in learning and development for you and your employees is critical to the growth and success of your real estate company. Plus, all things related to training and education are also – you guessed it – tax deductible! If you sent your employees to a training seminar or educational conference, you can definitely write that off – double bonus.

  1. Tax Forms and Documents

Don’t forget to fill out the proper tax documents for any contractors and employees you have. This can be a time-consuming process, especially if you haven’t kept up with it throughout the year, but don’t let that get in your way. Take the time to properly complete tax documents – it will save you a lot of time and a large headache in the long run.

  1. Gifts for Clients

Did you purchase thank-you gifts for your clients this year? Don’t forget to include them in your deductions. This is an often forgotten deduction, so be sure not to overlook it!

  1. Stay Organized with Evernote

Even if your 2015 tax receipts and forms are a mess, it’s not too late to start planning for 2016. Staying organized and keeping good records throughout the year is much easier than having to go back and double check everything at the last minute. Do yourself a favor and download the Evernote app. This little app is a serious life saver, and can be used to keep track of everything from appointments to expenses. The initial version is free, so give it a try today!

With these 7 tax tips in your arsenal, you’re ready to conquer tax season like a pro. Don’t wait until it’s too late – start working on your taxes and deductions today. You’ll thank yourself in the spring when you’re listing homes and other Realtors® are stressing about taxes!