Now that 2020 is here, it’s time to usher in the new year with a clear 20/20 vision for marketing and prospecting. And real estate agents don’t have to go it alone! Tools for real estate prospecting are abundant these days, so we’ve honed in on the three that should be in every agent’s arsenal.
Prospecting Ain’t Marketing
As most agents know, prospecting is not the same as marketing. Often, services are sold as marketing tools when they are actually prospecting tools. An agent can grow by double digits when they prospect for listings effectively, but prospecting should never take the place of real estate marketing.
What’s the difference?
Marketing is about sending lots of one-to-many messages, consistently, over a period of time. The messages are broad and brand-building, and the goal is to generate leads. In some real estate markets, marketing should be sent to a certain demographic, but in most areas real estate marketing should go to a whole geographic region. Because market turnover takes years, it takes years to cultivate brand awareness and trust before a homeowner is likely to raise their hand.
Prospecting is about sending one-to-one messages to a specific person, for a specific reason. The messages are tailored to the individual, and the goal is to connect with a specific person to see if they are a good candidate for conversion or not. Door knocking, for instance, is prospecting; the agent is personally speaking to one homeowner at a time. Cold calling, a one-to-one email, or a hand-written note are all examples of prospecting. Prospecting is most efficient in clusters; for example, obtaining a list of FSBOs in the area and visiting each one personally.
Sales – it is worth noting – is the process of actually trying to convert a lead, once an agent knows they are a good candidate. Sometimes, a lead emerges from marketing and goes right into the sales process (right to a listing appointment) with no prospecting having occured. Sometimes a lead is identified through prospecting efforts, is discovered to be a good candidate, and moves into the sales process without ever receiving any marketing. So not every client will come both from marketing and prospecting, but every client goes through some kind of sales conversion process before signing on. The take-away is to not confuse prospecting with sales, and not confuse marketing with prospecting.
Before thinking about how to improve prospecting, agents should plan their broad strategy. Top agents begin with a high-level plan to:
- Make their brand well known in the area (which usually means marketing to an entire geographic farm, consistently, over a long time period).
- Communicate their expertise and value proposition (which means using hyper-local or market-relevant content and evidence of the value the agent can offer).
One great tool to accomplish both of these objectives is a 12-page farming publication.
While prospecting represents a crucial stone in the real estate lead generation mural, it isn’t a replacement for marketing. Regardless of the tools an agent uses, prospecting can only be effective if the agent is also working to build her brand community-wide. This will bring results from the vast berth of an entire farming area – not just from a narrow band of “ready to sell right now” homeowners.
So without further ado – here are three tried-and-true prospecting tools to boost your 2020 results.
Here’s to a new year of even greater success for all of our clients and readers!
1. Predictive Analytics Software
Particularly in the past 5 years, predictive analytics providers (such as SmartZip, Remine, Offrs and HouseCanary) have been fast changing the face of real estate marketing – taking lead generation and prospecting to a whole new level. Every platform has its own special spin, but the underlying idea is the same for them all.
Predictive analytics software will evaluate and forecast market trends, and can be used to predict the behavior of any specific market. By combining big data and automated marketing, a company like Remine (the top pick among our clients) can help agents strategically prospect to the people most likely to be selling a home at any given time. The software identifies triggers and patterns common to local sellers, and routinely spits out a list of homeowners most likely to sell in the next 6-12 months.
In the real estate business, these insights can be used as signals to know who to call, write a letter, or pay a visit on any given day. Much better than randomly canvassing a neighborhood or calling a hit-and-miss list.
Predictive analytics are a brilliant companion to geographic farming (note: some companies advertise these services as “farming” tools; farming is about marketing to an entire area regardless of when the homes might sell). Lots of agents use these tools as a replacement to marketing, giving agents who actually market a serious advantage. Instead of being one of the many strangers pouncing on homeowners as they pop up on predictive lists, an agent who has consistently farmed to the homeowner in the months (or years) leading up to that point will be recognized as a trusted expert.
2. Software for FSBO / Expireds (like RedX)
FSBOs and expired listings are well-known troves of potential business. Lesser known are the technologies that have emerged to help agents identify and communicate with these valuable prospects.
We researched several companies and these received the highest accolades from our own clients: the top three are RedX, Storm Dialer, and Vulcan 7. These tools help agents to easily identify that low-hanging fruit to call, door-knock, or mail a personal a letter to (and they aren’t just limited to FSBO and Expireds). If agents really wants to amp conversion percentages, they can take these leads and follow Discover’s Top Agent FSBO Conversion Plan
Software from these or other similar providers can serve as a Swiss Army Knife to transform prospecting from an ad-hoc effort to a well-oiled machine. With these powerful platforms, different categories of leads are provided daily, including not just expired listings and FSBOs, but other opportune segments like pre-foreclosures.
For agents who want to combine a FSBO & Expired Listing tool with an all-in-one lead management system, RedX is the best option among the ones listed above. It’s like BoomtownROI – for any agent familiar with that wonderful platform –plus leads. Their “Vortex” prospecting dashboard allows agents to see leads, past clients and sphere of influence contacts in one place. Filters sort the leads into categories, to help prioritize who to call or follow up with, so agents don’t mistakenly reach out to a FRBO instead of a FSBO, for example. Built-in scripts and objection handlers are also provided, as well as follow-up tools to help keep warm leads from slipping through the cracks.
3. Dynamite Letter Templates
Another item to be sure to stow neatly into your prospecting toolbox are prospecting letter templates. Why go through all the work of specified individual letter generation yourself, when there are so many plug-and-play templates that make the process turnkey, streamlined and easy?
Here are 11 free templates from a website called The Close. You can use them for lead categories ranging from Expired Listings to Pre-foreclosures; there’s even a “divorce prospecting letter.” Much time and care has been put into these super useful letters, to make sure they do not appear as though they’ve been generated without regard or relevance to the reader.
If you are worried about other agents using the same templates, regardless of the templates you end up using, you can switch them up a bit. The key to benefitting from already-written letters is to have them ready personalize and print (or email).
To maximize efficiency, agents in larger markets should do a swath of each category at a time, rotating who will be prospected to every day or week. In these instances, the agent should put a lot of thought into their prospecting schedule, and get comfortable with MailMerge so they can quickly personalize a large batch of templated letters in one go. Agents focused on smaller farms will want to prospect to leads the moment they become fresh, rather than waiting for a handful to build up. In those cases, there’s rarely a need for Mail-Merging letters; it’s often faster just to manually personalize the letters each time. Pro tip: when mailing letters the old fashioned way (versus email), it’s best to hand-write the address on the envelope, and to write the return address with the agent’s name and address only, skipping the company name. This way, the agent doesn’t appear to be hiding who they are (like when a letter arrives without a return address), but they also increase the chance of a prospect opening it.
Letter templates are perfect to utilize in conjunction with predictive analytics and Expired / FSBO software tools, which point agents to likely sellers and other leads. Beware of using templates pre-loaded into some of these systems, since they are used by lots of other agents, Regardless of the templates or programs an agent uses, they should be sure to take a few minutes to customize the templates to their own voice.
Not farming yet? Learn more
Check out this Page for more information and great visual examples of the custom publications Discover has been providing to top agents for several decades.
It’s farming that checks all the boxes for effective real estate marketing, and it is designed to be completely turnkey. And when it comes to Discover’s custom papers, agents enjoy territory exclusivity, too.
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