High producing real estate agents share wisdom about what works

We consider ourselves very lucky here at Discover Publications – we get to know some of the most successful real estate agents that have ever graced this planet. Over the years, we’ve served more than a dozen agents on the WSJ Top 200, and at least a thousand agents in the top 5% of the industry. We don’t show them how to market – they show us!

We understand better every year just how tuned-in and no-nonsense our clients are. They are aware of how important it is to affirm their brand as a thought leader, and that localized marketing really “hits home.” They aren’t looking for the latest tech gadget or the cheapest way to blast people with ads. They have a valuable story to tell, and they know that if they can tell it well, their business will continue to grow.

We’ve gathered the wisdom a half dozen top agents have shared with us about how they market – and why. Each of these agents publishes a 12-page custom real estate publication; but why they do it, how they do it, and what got them to take the leap differs. Not every form of marketing is a fit for every agent; in reading these stories, ponder the take-aways and think about how these lessons may apply in your market.

1. Be Real

Not all real estate publications are the same – nor should they be. Mike Tristani in California publishes a 12-page paper that is vastly more custom than our standard edition, and includes many special features about the community. For example, he publishes a “Video Corner,” where the elderly owner of a well-loved old-fashioned video rental store talks about her favorite movies.

Tristani says:

“My newspaper reminds people of my presence in the neighborhood. Local articles stimulate calls and emails, mostly because of the content.” Another top agent, Russell Shaw in Arizona, emphasizes this same message: “I think it is our front page articles that create the biggest impact.”

These are the sort of statements that underscore the value of localized and customized content – an important element of Discover’s customized papers. David Brenton in Indiana points out:

“We get calls from our free market analysis offer, our free moving truck, sometimes on homes for sale. We are surprised by the number of people who call about the personal articles. A mom called to thank us for recognizing the hard work the kids did for the Riley Dance marathon last issue. Callers will ask for specific team members based on their bios.”

Brenton doesn’t market in a vacuum – he is a dominant presence in the community, and his custom publication is just one of the many ways he gets his message out. He explains, “callers reference that they know we are a big name in the area and always have solds and signs up, plus they see that reinforced by the solds in our paper.” Choose marketing methods that can work to tie all your efforts together, and communicate your message in a big way.

The power of marketing with content is that agents can connect with their community on a much deeper level than what email and social media alone can offer. In talking about his custom direct-mail publication, Brenton says, “they like knowing we are real people. They like knowing that we live and work in their community. And they like that we have proven results.”

2. Do What Works

Maybe you work with a coach, or have a top agent who mentors you. No doubt they have shared this seemingly obvious – but oft ignored – marketing wisdom: Do what works!

Our clients focus heavily on tracking the leads and the overall results that come from their custom publication (and from all the marketing they do). The message we hear again and again from agents is that they want to do what “works.” They often will call other agents who have worked with us and do extensive research before taking the plunge.

Samantha Villarreal in Texas discusses the importance of not just finding a tool that has worked for other agents, but of measuring it’s value on an ongoing basis: “30% of our closings are a result of the newspaper [alone] and over 45% are past clients and referrals [whom also receive the paper regularly]. So that is where 75% of our business comes from. Once we close a deal, we add the client to the newspaper so we continue to get in front of them. When we receive calls from people they say, ‘we love your articles and all the information about our subdivision.’ So, I would say it is a combination of the charts and the information in the articles that is getting us those results.”

Ashley Leigh gauges the effectiveness of his custom direct-mail paper through consistent feedback from local homeowners, such as: “Great article last month, we get your paper all of the time!” or “I’ve been reading your articles for years.”

Before starting with Discover, Ashley Leigh had trouble doing traditional do-it-yourself direct mail coupled with newspaper ads: “Trying to meet specs and deadlines was a hassle, and required an assistant to manage because it took so much time,” until he met another agent who recommended us: “he told me what a great value the paper was in comparison [to my current farming]. I reached out to them and determined, that’s a good ROI. After the first month or two, we were able to realize that the paper was a winner. In combination of everything we were doing, we grew by 15-20% in our market, and we’re still growing. Clearly, it’s about using the right tools at the right time.”

Leigh goes on to describe why his paper is effective:

“Our paper foremost is a branding aid. We lump the paper into our marketing tools that we will always keep in our toolbox. It only takes a couple of sales each month to reinforce that the paper is doing its job. With our custom publication from Discover, we can personalize our approach to our readership and circulation, write articles about our market. We have plenty of space to get our message across.”

This is a common message we have heard from so many agents over the decades.

At Discover, we realized from the beginning that the only way to help agents is to find out what works, offer true and tangible value, and deliver substantial results. Whether it’s content farming or something else, the take-away is to do what works, not what might work.

3. Be Regular

It shouldn’t come as news to learn that consistency is key with any marketing you do. This is especially true when it comes to farming for listings.

Kerby and Christina Skurat in Minneapolis share a detailed account of their marketing journey here in this case study. In it, they underscore how regular, consistent mailings led to better and better ROI over time. We believe this is true of any marketing an agent does, whether a 12-page publication or something else.

“Our two main goals were to increase profit and establish market dominance. Discover Publications made it possible for us to do both of those things. The authority alone made it worth the investment. We left postcards behind and became the publishers of a real newspaper that reached our prospects on a monthly basis,”

says Cristina Skurat – and her husband and business partner Kerby shares her enthusiasm for consistently mailing a content-driven paper:

“I was looking for a better way to add value to my prospects while also increasing sales. The response was immediate. As soon as our first paper hit mailboxes, we started getting calls. At the end of our first year, we had a 1.2x ROI. The newspapers more than paid for themselves. Now, in our second year, for every dollar we put into the newspaper, we get four dollars back. And that’s pure profit after we pay our agents.”

The lesson here is simple: develop a solid marketing plan with tried-and-true tools, and be prepared to stick with it for the long haul. In time, it will pay off.

4. Be Different

Our clients have taught us that if you do what all the other agents are doing, you’ll get the results most agents get. But if you are willing to do something different (something only agents in the top 5 or 10 percent of the industry would consider), you’ll get much different – much better – results.

Dale Ross is a client that understands (and whom has benefitted tremendously from) the value of standing apart from the competition and doing something different: “One of the first lessons I learned back in 1981 when I started my career was that if I have all the listings, I’ll have all the sales. When I looked over samples from Discover Publications, my head started spinning with possibilities. I was in La-La Land! [I thought], ‘No one else is doing this in my area.’

The investment in a farming tool like our 12-page paper starts at about $2,500 per run. This is good news for top agents.

Ross explains:

“The average agent isn’t going to make the investment. They simply don’t have the mindset that they need to spend money to make money. I’ve gotten to where I am now by reinvesting in myself and my company, and it’s treated me very well.”

Oftentimes, when agents see a top agent in town marketing in a new and exciting way, they want to follow suit. This can endanger effectiveness. Kerby and Christina Skurat share that when you are doing something different in the market, it’s important to use a tool with protected exclusivity: “Having ZIP code exclusivity [with Discover] is a big deal. We’re the only team in town with a newspaper, and that projects a professional image to both buyers and sellers.”

Whatever marketing you use, make sure it will cut through the endless marketing and advertising clutter homeowners are inundated with. And just as importantly, make sure other agents can’t easily duplicate your efforts.

Don’t Overthink It!

This last one is a lesson from our staff here at Discover. So often agents – including top agents – get so caught up in the details of their marketing that they lose sight of the bigger picture. Your primary focus should be on delivering exceptional value for your clients. With the right marketing partner, your goal should be to turn marketing on “auto-pilot.”

If you’re interested in a full-service, “done-for-you” solution, check out our turn-key custom publications.

David Watkins in California writes:

“I’ve been a client for over 10 years. I’m very pleased with their marketing expertise. I definitely recommend Discover Publications to anyone who is looking to boost their exposure.” We have long prided ourselves on ensuring the easiest, most effective marketing possible – but that doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for every agent in every market. Be sure to read through our case studies and to ask for a bunch of samples of real papers we’ve done. The most important lesson we can impart on agents in any stage of the business is this: do your research; if it’s right for you, do it and don’t overthink it.

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