Building Your Land Agent Brand

Building your land agent brand can be a challenge in a saturated market, where many people think they can be real estate agents, and many of those agents also think they know enough to play the land game. Differentiating yourself from the social media savvy rookies who may be all hat, no cattle, is a newer battle land agents face today. However, the ongoing dilemma is sharing your unique advantages from even the seasoned agents, whether you share the same brokerage firm or are an independent agent competing with big name firms.

The foundation of consistently communicating your distinct value is a well-designed brand promise. You must be able to communicate not only the problems you solve, but how you solve them uniquely, in order to get people to part with their cold, hard cash.

The formula is simple: your name + solves this specific problem + uniquely this way + for these specific people.

However, filling in the formula with your details is not-so-easy. In fact, most people get stuck on the uniquely this way and for these specific people parts. Some of the vanilla answers business professionals use in an attempt to differentiate include claiming, “exceptional customer service” or “very experienced” as their unique way of solving problems, and identifying “anyone who wants to buy and sell land” as an ideal customer.

The reality is, countless agents in your market, let alone the country, could likely claim those exact same things. So they aren’t unique, nor are they specific. It is essential that you dig deeper, evaluating who your best clients are and what they all have in common. When you find the sweet spot of clients you enjoy working with and who are also your most profitable clients, it is time to study those people and try to replicate them through your branding and marketing efforts.

A Tale of Two Brands

To illustrate how a clear brand promise can increase your reach and revenue, consider the power of two high-end brands that consistently gain market share, despite their substantial price tags and limited audience: Rolex and Louis Vuitton.

You will never see them market, nor advertise in the same places as Wal-Mart or Dollar General. Wasting time and money advertising to the eyeballs that are interested in budget-friendly retail is not in their best interest. They are clear on who their exact ideal customers are so they can:

  1. Share their brand promises through compelling storytelling that emotionally triggers their ideal customers.
  2. Visually uphold their brand promises in a way that delights their ideal customers.
  3. Deliver on their brand promises in a way that meets the high expectations of their ideal customers.

How to share your brand promise through compelling storytelling

Your personal story holds all of the clues you need to differentiate yourself. By following the breadcrumbs you have left behind in life, patterns will emerge that combine your personal satisfaction and your ability to effectively contribute to people and situations. Consider all of your professional and personal experience when reflecting on what makes you unique. For example, if you have served in the military it communicates that you have achieved a special kind of discipline and dedication. You are likely to attract others who have or do serve in the military, as well as those who especially respect people who have military service. Does serving your country have anything to do with selling dirt? Not exactly, but it is a piece of your story that can create an emotional connection with your ideal customer.

Perhaps you have political experience, empowering you to navigate the law and key stakeholders involved in a deal. Or maybe you not only broker the land sale, you also offer land management. Or perhaps you are the third or fourth generation in your family to be a land agent. How do you think that stacks up against a rookie when you can reference a lifetime of multi-generation land conversations at the dinner table?

Be intentional about telling such stories through your blog posts, videos, social media, website copy, while networking, in media opportunities, when speaking, or through any other marketing activity you pursue.

land agent branding

How to Visually Uphold Your Brand Promise

Rolex and Louis Vutton both have visually compelling brands that invite prospects and customers into their story of luxury, prominence, and success. They are sharing a glimpse of what it feels like to sport their products. Their visual branding is designed to evoke an emotional response to trigger a purchase.

Of course, another reason why it is important to understand your target market is to understand what other brands they enjoy, thus giving you a roadmap of how to visually stimulate your ideal customer. You can simply ask your previous and current clients what their favorite brands are via a survey, or you can simply observe along the way. For example, if your ideal customer wears an Apple Watch, has an iPhone, and is concerned about how close the nearest Whole Foods is to the property you just showed them, you can do a quick scroll through those websites and social media profiles to get inspiration for your own visual branding and messaging. Whether it is font selection, the amount of white space, color selections, or the style of images, you can easily use those visual cues to help you craft your own visual brand.

Remember, you can’t illustrate a book until you write the story, so be sure the visuals for your unique visual brand represent your unique brand story. The visual side of your brand is merely an aid to telling your brand story. Importantly, your branding should always be consistent, so be sure whatever path you choose is the one you remain on day in and day out through all marketing channels.

rolex branding

How to Deliver on Your Brand Promise

If a Rolex watch or Louis Vutton purse had any issues, undoubtedly, its owner would know the respective company would fix it in short order. They are trusted to deliver on their brand promises of quality, excellence, prominence, and more. In the same way, you must make it clear that you will always deliver on your brand promise.

First, you must do good work. While that seems obvious to the experienced land agent, it is unfortunately not the norm. Simply doing what you say you will do will go far for your brand reputation. Further, be sure to secure testimonials as soon as you delight your customers. Allow your customers to toot your horn for you and reap the powerful benefits of peer reviews. Be sure to note any awards, certifications, education, and media coverage you received, as appropriate, which are also forms of social proof that you are great at what you do. While you may feel like you are bragging, any such announcement is a small blip on the radar of the average person who consumes an incredible amount of content each day. If you do not share your successes, how do you expect anyone to choose you instead of a less worthy agent who may not look out for their best interest? Save your potential clients from a lazy or inexperienced agent for the job by simply sharing the proof that you will have their best interest at the forefront of all you do.

Clear Branding Equals Clear Marketing

When you are clear on your brand you become clear about how to strategically market your brand for results. Understanding who you serve, what problems you solve, and how you solve them uniquely, empowers you to position yourself through targeted campaigns and strategic networking. You can’t be everywhere, all the time. Not every social media channel is for you, nor is every magazine, conference, or website somewhere you should invest time and money, as your ideal customers are not everywhere, either. Further, when you are clear on your brand, you can get clear on your internal processes and train your team to uphold your brand promise, as well. Remember, no one wants to be sold to, yet your ideal customer wants to buy from someone who attracts their business. If you effectively share your brand story and the results it gets, you will become the only option in your ideal customer’s mind, eliminating competition altogether.

Amber HurdleAbout The Author: Amber Hurdle Consulting empowers companies to strengthen their brands from the inside out through talent optimization. They do this in three ways: By working with leaders on their personal brands, so they become self-aware and see and harvest the greatness in others. By using a scientific, repeatable method to recruit, retain and inspire top talent, amplifying world-class employer brands; and by leveraging those strong leaders and a “best places to work” environment so that happy employees are serving happy customers, ultimately elevating their business brands. Amber is married to Geoff Hurdle, ALC, and together they have three children and a fur baby: Kristen and Brittany, also in the land business, Derek, a junior in high school, and Nashville Gibbs the Cavapoo, who continuously works on being Instagram famous. Learn more at amberhurdle.com.

land market outlook

Seeing 2020: Land Market Current Conditions & Outlook

The longest economic expansion in U.S. history continues to churn out more output and job additions with each passing month. November 2019 marks 125 consecutive months of growth and the momentum factors hint at the trend continuing into at least spring of 2020. Then what? A recession? Not likely, except for one policy error.

Though the populace is intensely polarized politically, as related to the economy, U.S. consumers are indicating high confidence. The consumer confidence index was 125 in September, well above the 100 neutral mark seen throughout 2019. For reference, the index has been under 100 for nearly a decade starting from 2007. The solid expression of confidence about the economy is without a doubt due to the very low unemployment rate of 2.7%, an all-time high in total household wealth in the country as the stock market boomed, and record high real estate values. The prior peak in the net worth of all households was $70 trillion in 2007 right before the last recession, sunk to $60 trillion at the depths of the foreclosure crisis, and then rose to $113 trillion as of mid-2019. Quite an incredible feat, though we should be reminded that wealth holdings have become much more concentrated at the top. All this could mean good things for the land market outlook in 2020.

Consumers consequently are opening up their wallets. Consumer spending rose 2.6% in the second quarter of 2019, after adjusting for inflation, and has been the prime engine for GDP growth over the past few years. Spending on consumer durable goods – with a long product life span – has been even stronger at 4.4%, attesting to the longer- term positive assessment of the direction of the economy. There is no over-borrowing to fuel personal consumption. Finances are coming from an employment growth of 2.15 million net new jobs, rising wages from $27.30 per hour to $28.09 over one year, and higher wealth by a few trillion dollars. Miraculously, there are more job openings today (7 million in August 2019) than the number of unemployed (5.7 million workers).

However, there is not as happy a story for businesses. Corporate profits are indeed very high, especially after cuts to the corporate tax rates a few years ago, rising from $1 trillion in 2008 to nearly $2 trillion now.

This partly justifies why the stock market is near record highs. But even with healthy financial conditions, companies have been less aggressive in spending the cash for machinery, factory expansion, and other investments.

Business investment spending contracted in the second quarter of 2019. Spending on equipment barely changed, but spending on commercial building fell by 4.7% from a year ago. Though assuring no oversupply of commercial real estate construction, the fact that businesses are pulling back is concerning and raising the question as to why.

gdp growth land market outlook

The timing of businesses getting cautious is directly related to the raising of tariffs and hostile rhetoric towards international trade. In fact, many companies in their public statements during quarterly earnings calls say they are cautious because of uncertainty related to trade prospects. REALTORS® specializing in commercial real estate have witnessed that trend as leasing activity markedly slowed in the second quarter to only 3.1% growth compared to better than 10% gains in 2016 and 2017, and 5% gains in 2018. Moreover, even business travel has weakened, as evidenced by falling occupancy rates at hotels, which is now at 72.4%, a full 100 basis points lower than from a year earlier.

The most troubling aspect is the actual slowdown in global trade. U.S. exports fell 1.7% recently while U.S. imports grew by only 2.6%. When both exports and imports decline for a few straight quarters, then a recession is near certain with job cuts. In a growing economy, both exports and imports should be rising by at least 5% per year. This slowdown in trade has had repercussions elsewhere. Just about every notable economy is experiencing slower economic activity in 2019 compared to recent prior years. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut its global growth estimate to 3.2% for 2019 after having forecasted 3.6% earlier in the year. The economies of the world appear to move in sync, like a rising tide lifting most boats — and the movement reverses when trade restrictions are put in place. The stock market has nearly always cheered at the promise of a trade agreement and sunk following the rhetoric of a trade war and retaliations of more tariffs. More positively, it is becoming clear that both the U.S. and China are looking for a deal. In such a case, business spending could boom.

One promising sector that could help with future economic growth is real estate construction. America is facing an acute housing shortage – for both single- family owner occupancy and for multifamily apartments. Home prices and rents have been rising far in excess of wage growth for five straight years.

Vacancy rates are at historic lows. The underproduction of new homes over the past decade has cumulatively resulted in around five to six million housing units that are needed today. Even in a normal year, only around 1.5 million new homes can be constructed. Therefore, increased construction needs to occur for multiple years. In 2020, specifically, housing supply is expected to improve, with housing starts expected to hit 1.4 to 1.5 million, up from 1.275 million in 2019.

With home builders still likely to be constrained by what they call the 5Ls — labor, land (lots), lending (financing), lumber (raw materials), and restrictive laws (regulation) — housing starts will still not match the demand from household formation (1.2 million), or the replacements for demolished or obsolete housing (about 450,000). All that means more demand for land and lots.

“…more demand for land and lots.”

In the commercial market space, industrial properties have outperformed retail spaces, arising from the stronger growth in online shopping and quick distribution warehouse needs. Investors are paying much more for industrial flex/warehouse properties on account of low rental vacancy rates and the sustained demand for e-commerce sales. Given that warehouses can be built in off- center sites far away from downtowns and population centers, the demand for land will grow in outlying regions.

In the meantime, the interest rates will be at near historically favorable conditions. The Federal Reserve will more likely cut its fed funds rate a notch in 2020 rather than increasing. It just means that 10- year Treasury yields will remain low at around 1.6% and the longer term borrowing rate at under 4%. In future years, watch what happens to the federal deficit, which is expected to be near $1 trillion in 2019 and projected to surpass $1 trillion in 2020. The total federal debt level, adding of all past deficits, will reach 100% of GDP in a few years, well above the 60% that many economists consider as manageable.

The bottom line summary is that while the economy is experiencing the longest running growth period in U.S. history, there is no reason why it has to falter. The economy is expected to finish 2019 with only moderate growth of 2% due to soft business spending activity, after having notched up a solid 2.9% in 2018. For 2020, a recession is not in the cards, but this assumes some type of truce in the trade war. A trade agreement will be better still and will lift business spending.

“…expect continued job creation, income growth, and rising demand for land.”

Construction spending has to rise to relieve housing shortages and low vacancy rates in commercial real estate. Therefore, expect continued job creation, income growth, and rising demand for land.

Lawrence Yun NARAbout the author: Dr. Lawrence Yun is chief economist and senior vice president of Research at the National Association of REALTORS®. He directs research activity for the association and regularly provides commentary on real estate market trends for its 1.4 million REALTOR® members.

Broker Tips For Choosing & Recruiting New Land Agents

The Value in a Value Proposition

For a land real estate business to be successful, it must be good at recruiting new land agents, both attracting and retaining them. Your priority should be to have a well-defined value proposition. There are two parts to creating a well-defined value proposition for recruiting new land agents.

This first is the financial value to your team or brokerage with total agent splits, etc.

The second part will be defining the resources you provide to potential recruits, for example, in terms of leads from the company websites, technology, print ads, and whatever else it is that sets your brokerage apart. Next, you should also address the more intangible elements of why they should choose to work with you. For example, “We are the best-known land brokerage in the area” or “We have a culture of sharing that welcomes new agents,” etc.

Once you have a well-defined value proposition, it’s time to go find some talented people.

Prospecting Recruits

First things first, call agents that you have worked with in the past. Then, start calling agents that are working in the area(s) you serve. Next, begin thinking about the people you already know who are in ancillary positions that may be able to become good agents. Lenders, county extension agents, insurance agents, and even wildlife biologists are all a natural fit to join the land industry.

Now comes the time to set appointments with potential recruits. In order to have a consistent interview process, we recommend crafting a standard list of questions. This helps to maintain a consistent schedule for you and the new potential recruit, and it gives you the ability to best compare candidates. Besides if you do not have a consistent list, you will spend more time with some than others, missing information which could lead you to overlook some talented people.

Recruiting Top Candidates

Once you begin the recruiting process there are a few factors to consider.

First and foremost is determining if there is a cultural fit. If they don’t want to work from the office and everyone else does, there is a lot of potential for disagreement over the long-term. A lone wolf is not comfortable in an office full of people who share information and best practices.

Next, you’ll want to examine the potential agent’s drive or motivation. If someone is financially motivated, are they willing to do the activities necessary to earn enough business to create the income they desire? If they are only willing to put in the minimum effort and expect championship results, they are doomed to failure. It is your responsibility to set reasonable expectations upfront.

A person that says they like their brokerage but they feel like there must be something else in this business is an ideal candidate to have these conversations with. Ask about their business, how do they currently generate leads for clients? This will give you the opportunity to showcase all the tools and systems that your team offers. At this point, most people can see the value in partnering with you and are ready to come onboard. If not, set a follow up time and keep the dialogue going.

Immediately after the interview, it’s time to set follow up appointments. Consistent communication is the key – just like it is with potential sellers – remember the best agents typically are already working in the field and the decision to move to a new team is not taken lightly.

 

Tim Hadley, ALCAbout the Author: Tim Hadley, ALC, is an agent with Keller Williams Realty in Gladstone, MO. He joined the REALTORS® Land Institute in 2017 and is currently a member of their Future Leaders Committee.

 

kasey mockAbout the Author: Kasey Mock is the Director of KW LAND Division at Keller Williams Realty International. Mock is a member of the REALTORS® Land Institute, serving on their Future Leaders Committee. Make sure to check out his break out session diving further into this topic at the 2018 National Land Conference in Nashville, TN, in March.

 

 

Five Books All Land Agents Should Read

What’s better than settling down with a really good book? The only problem we can think of is that there are so many great books out there about the land industry that there’s not enough time to read them all. For this article, we’re sorted through hundreds of books to find the five best books that can help land agents learn more about the industry, learn new skills, and study the success of other great land agents.

The Land Flipper: Turning Land Into Dollars by E.B. Farmer

This book was at the top of Accredited Land Consultant Lou Jewell’s list of his favorite books about land. It is an excellent introduction to the land industry and includes step-by-step chapters following the entire land selling process. Some of the chapters include:

  • How to find, negotiate and buy land with very little money out of pocket
  • Dividing land in order to multiply your profit.
  • Techniques for improving the land in order to make it attractive to buyers
  • Cheap, easy ways to market and sell your land

If you know a new agent who just started selling land, this book could be a great “welcome to the industry” or “welcome to the brokerage” gift.

Buying and Investing in Land: A Guide for Land Purchase: How to Buy Land the Smart Way and Learn How to Avoid Land Scams — Even if You Are a Beginner by Dianne Ronnow

This book shares the secrets to success of the wealthiest land sellers and investors. It also exposes the biggest scams in the land industry that even the most experienced land agents have fallen for and teaches you how to avoid being tricked. Whether you’ve just started your career as a land agent or have decades of experience under your belt, this book can be a great addition to your land library.

How I Turned $50 into $5 Million in Country Property – Part Time: And How You Can Do the Same by B.K Haynes, ALC

When a book is written by an Accredited Land Consultant, you know it’s going to be a read worthy of your time! B.K. Haynes, ALC, channels what he’s learned from over fifty years of buying and selling land into a comprehensive look at buying, selling, and investing in rural land.

The Greatest Salesman in the World, by Og Mandino

This book, found in William Burruss, ALCsGoodReads, may not be about buying or selling rural land specifically, but the lessons about salesmanship, hard work, and success are essential for land agents. The book even comes with a suggested reading structure so that you have time between chapters to reflect on and think about the different books.

Buying Rural Land: Tips and How-Tos by Tom Brickman

Looking for a quick read? Tom Brickman’s e-book is a collection of short essays and articles about rural land. Brickman shares what he’s learned from 40 years in land. The book covers includes “to-do” lists for buying and selling land, what to look for when inspecting a property, and tips on developing people skills. The best part of all? It’s free!

We’ve only covered the tip of the iceberg when it comes to great books for land agents. If you know of other books that helped your career in land, be sure to mention them in the comments section. Happy reading!

Want to learn about the land industry in a more hands-on way? Be sure to check out our upcoming LANDU courses to learn about everything from Transitional Land Real Estate to Land Investment Analysis.

About the Author: Laura Barker is a freelance writer based out of California for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She has been with RLI since October 2017.

land agent

RPR Offers RLI REALTOR® Members Valuable Resources

I had the pleasure of attending my first National Land Conference (NLC) in New Mexico in March 2019. I found RLI members to be engaged, knowledgeable, professional and truly focused on networking. Attendees seemed dedicated to learning from one another and determined to enhance their business and the industry as a whole. Those in my session were especially interested in seeing what RPR land data is available to them as REALTORS®.

The opportunity to represent REALTORS® Property Resource (RPR) at NLC19 was very gratifying. I personally helped educate RLI members about the value of the RPR platform and the tools it offers as a REALTOR® member benefit of the National Association of REALTORS®. It was also great to hear from members that already have discovered the value of RPR and how they are using RPR in their daily business.

Yet, it’s so valuable to receive input on how we can make RPR even better for members and listen to how we can help you succeed. In addition, at every conference we attend, we speak with members that are very familiar with RPR, but also with both veterans and new members to the industry that are not familiar with RPR. We encourage members to explore and take advantage of the powerful tools that RPR has to offer REALTOR® members nationwide. And, we’re listening ~ we always want to hear how we can enhance RPR to help your business.

About RPR

Established in 2010, REALTORS® Property Resource provides access to a comprehensive property data platform exclusively for REALTOR® members. The data, reports and tools help agents do their job more efficiently, and helps them impress their clients with their industry knowledge and expertise.

When it comes to real estate, REALTORS® need access to accurate and reliable data quickly. Pulling together bits of market data here and there can be frustrating as well as time-consuming. Agents need it all in one place, at the touch of a button.

RPR land data

RPR Tools, Data, and Reports

RPR gives REALTORS® access to the nation’s largest property database. As a practitioner, all this data, and RPR’s tools and reports, offer a distinct edge when it comes to serving real estate business and investment clients.

The ability to reference reliable data that backs up your advice is critical to getting a deal done. At RPR, we work with the top data providers in the real estate space and are constantly researching new ones to ensure REALTORS® have the best data at their fingertips.

For example, in 2018 we partnered with SMR Research to provide tenant records, and a big focus for 2019 will be to expand our listing partners to some of the top national listing platforms. Below you can see a list of all our major data partners. This will hopefully give you a better understanding of how each partner plays an integral part in helping REALTORS® “piece” together their knowledge of the markets they work in.

RPR Data Resources

All of this data is available nationwide. This truly makes RPR one of the top research systems in the country!

  • Public Record Property Data – Black Knight – Over 154 million parcels of property, including residential, commercial and
  • Trade Area Data – ESRI 1 Billion data points highlighting key economic, demographic and spending indicators along with ESRI’s Tapestry
  • Employment Data – 3DL – Updated monthly down to the county level
  • Business Points – ESRI 12,487,119
  • Traffic Counts – Kalibrate Over 2,000,000 plus traffic points
  • Tenant Records – SMR Research – 8,531,568
  • FEMA Flood Maps – PolicyMap – Nationwide coverage

Let’s also review Listing and Sales data resources that RPR aggregates on the RPR platform. Listing data on the RPR platform is licensed with over 600 MLS (Multiple Listing Service), CIE (Commercial Information Exchanges) and other nationwide partners and represents over 700,000 total listings with 652,000 for sale and 118,000 for lease. As a user you can access the MLS/CIE listings that you are a subscriber to in addition to any listings that MLSs or CIEs share with all NAR REALTOR® members to view. If you are a member of one or more local MLSs or CIEs you can access this additional rich segment of data that is integrated within the public property record information.

A unique and powerful tool in RPR is the Trade Area report that can be useful to see community trends, demographic analysis and consumer spending data. ESRI, an RPR partner and leader in GIS software, provides a significant portion of the analysis tools to generate these comprehensive reports that can quickly give the agent and client insight into a market area.

Land transactions can take many directions, whether for Residential or Commercial development, Recreational, Ranch and more. RPR’s partnership with Valuate allows REALTORS® to ensure that a potential land development project makes sense before spending real money. This is done through Valuate’s® back of the envelope or BOTE calculators.

With this tool you can apply your knowledge of general construction costs, building time frames, market rents and much more to see if the stabilized NOI yield on cost makes sense to move forward under. This calculator is currently available for condominium, industrial, apartment and office developments with plans to expand into other property types in the near future.

RPR Mobile

RPR Mobile™ combines the power of your smartphone or tablet, with the data and reporting from RPR®. This allows REALTORS® to easily locate any property around them, create and send company branded reports, and even view local market statistics. If your “office” at the moment is out on a ranch or on a dirt road in your truck, RPR is still there with you!

Use the app and your location to easily search and analyze on-and-off market properties, valuations, tax and mortgage info, distressed data, flood zones, mapping, demographics, schools, neighborhoods, and market trends.

Get Started With RPR Today!

The desktop version of RPR and RPR Mobile make it easy for agents to “wow” their clients and close more deals.

Looking to get started? Create your RPR account today by visiting www.narrpr.com. And remember, RPR is an exclusive benefit for REALTORS® and there is absolutely NO extra charge to access this vast amount of data.

To help jump-start your RPR learning experience visit our training resource page which offers webinars and on-demand video-learning. You can also visit our blog for a collection of helpful articles and how- to’s by going to: blog.narrpr.com

UPDATE: Good news! RPR’s powerful new data layer will allow REALTORS® to use RPR’s map interface to analyze and search for properties within the 8,700 Opportunity Zones throughout the U.S.

Andrea Goodhart RPR NLC19 SpeakerAbout the author: Andrea Goodhart joined RPR in 2011, as an Industry Relations Director with over 25 years of experience in the real estate services industry. Andrea has had the opportunity to work with real estate agents, brokers, association staff and leadership across the country and loves to be able to introduce the power of the RPR tools to practitioners.

Training New Land Agents for Real Estate Teams And Brokerages

Once we have a new land agent on our team, we know they will need to learn about the four conversations. Yes, they must learn about things like state specific contracts and compliance issues with your brokerage, but we have found that the most likely predictor of success in the industry is having what we call the four conversations.

 

These conversations focus on proactively generating business and planning activities, instead of just reactively wondering what is going to happen next.

Conversation 1: Listing Appointments

The first conversation is listing appointments. We use this conversation to show new agents that there are tools available to help them focus on their goals and business. This includes both listing and buyer representation agreements.

You can’t help the agents if you don’t have that first conversation. We are having weekly conversations with our agents and looking at where they are compared to where they want to be. This is how my team defines being a business owner.

You first determine what income you want to make for the year. Then, determine how many clients you must represent to earn that level of income. Factoring in your average sale price and commission. Check out Kasey Mock’s piece Ready. Aim. Fire! Strategic Planning for Your Land Real Estate Business for more information about how to set and achieve these kinds of goals strategically.

Conversation #2: Listing Taken

The second conversation is what we call listing taken. After you go on listing appointments, then you have listings taken. Of course, we don’t get them all and some we choose not to represent. If you go on listings and don’t get the seller to list with you or the buyer to have you represent them in their purchase, then we know what we need to improve on.

This is the crossover or what I call the wall of value. Now we are getting ready to earn our commission.

Conversation #3: Closings

The next conversation is closings. To talk about the third conversation, closings, the goal is to take the emotion out of the conversation and create clarity by lifting the fog. Nobody will say no to their own goals. We ask the agents if we can help them set really Big Goals, which helps them to think bigger. If you can’t imagine being successful, it is very hard to achieve.

Conversation #4: Profit.

The final conversation is about profit – not just your gross commission income (GCI). It is possible to earn a huge amount of gross commission and not be profitable. We can track our fixed cost as well as our cost of sales. Leaving us with our actual profit.

These four conversations are a general overview of how we teach new agents to think like a business owner, plan for their future, and not just accept things as they happen. If you need more profit, the best place to start is to either lower your expenses or go on more appointments to increase gross commission earned.

About the Author: Tim Hadley, ALC, is an agent with Keller Williams Realty in Gladstone, MO. He joined the REALTORS® Land Institute in 2017 and is currently a member of their Future Leaders Committee.

 

kasey mockAbout the Author: Kasey Mock is the Director of KW LAND Division at Keller Williams Realty International. Mock is a member of the REALTORS® Land Institute now serving on their Future Leaders Committee. Make sure to check out his break out session diving further into this topic at the 2018 National Land Conference in Nashville, TN, in March.

Unleashing Your Social Media Strategy

Before I get started talking about social media strategy, I want to make it clear that I can’t give you advice on using social media in a vacuum — because that’s not how social media for business works. Your social media efforts need to be part of an integrated marketing strategy mixed with your other marketing efforts — both digital and offline. In a minute, I will get into what exactly that means for a land professional, but first we need to talk strategy.

So, let’s talk marketing plan. We are going to assume that you have already done a SWOT Analysis identifying your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (if not, this is a good exercise to do at least once a year). We are also going to assume you have already identified your target market and done some research about them. And now you are looking to identify the main objectives, set your strategic goals, and define and implement the strategies of your overall marketing plan—including figuring out how social media fits in.

Social Media Marketing Objectives + Your Marketing Funnel

Below I’ve pulled together some common social media objectives that land pros often have (or should have) to get us started:

  1. Position Yourself As The Expert in Your Market
  2. Create Top of Mind Brand Awareness
  3. Build Relationships and Trust with your Core Target Audience
  4. CLOSE MORE DEALS!

You’ll notice ‘close more deals’ was last on the list (and not just to save the best for last) because by doing the first three, it makes achieving the fourth goal much easier.

 

Now before we jump into using social media, first I want to start with the foundation – your marketing funnel.

When you are creating awareness in your marketplace, by using things like social media, placing paper or digital ads, sending email blasts, guest blogging on industry sites, pitching properties at haves and wants sessions, etc., it all needs to drive traffic back to your website.

website traffic | digital marketing strategy

Why drive people to your website? 

Your website is (or should be) the place that hosts anything and everything a prospect needs to turn them into a loyal client who can later become an advocate in the marketplace of your services. Which therefore means your website will be the place to make reaching your goals happen.

In other words, your website is where you start turning prospects into leads and leads into clients and clients into advocates. We all know word of mouth is one of – if not the most – powerful referral sources. So if we can achieve having advocates touting your services, this will hopefully then drive more prospects to your website – prospects who will then start at the consideration stage. Now, keep in mind that since they skipped the awareness stage, this saves you marketing dollars in getting them to the consideration stage. That doesn’t mean they won’t interact with you on social media or that they won’t see your social media and advertising though, it just means that when they do, it will be during the consideration phase. During this consideration stage, you will still need to have that in place to continue nurturing and building these newly budding relationships.

marketing funnel

But you need to start building that relationship and nurturing it somewhere, and your website is the perfect place to do that! In order for your website to help you achieve the goals we outlined earlier, you need something that pulls people in and keeps them coming back – something you can put out on social media or your other channels that brings them to your website. Once they are on your website, you’ll want to find a way to capture their contact information, for example an email pop up, so you can continue to connect with them via email or targeted ads.

Then, and this is the golden ticket, find a way to re-target them with your marketing. Whether through Facebook and Google Ads, email, or a combination of both, use the information you collected through the pop up or cookies on your website to re-target them. There are a lot of great benefits to re-targeting, but the biggest is that you get a bigger ROI on your ad dollars because (since they were already on your site and got there because they were interested enough in what you posted to click on it), you already know they are a hot lead that likely wants to hear more from you because they see you as providing value. Be careful here though, don’t go straight to selling — check out the 80/20 rule below and make sure to follow it when re-targeting.

How do you get people from social to your website?

The best way I have found to do this is using blogging. Now before you tune me out, I know, blogging is time consuming and just like social, it can be counterproductive to have a presence and then let it fall flat by not posting for weeks on end. However, I am going to ask you to reconsider committing time to creating a blog. Thanks to SEO and social media, blogging is not only the best (and possibly cheapest) way to get people back to your website, but it is also the best (and possibly cheapest) way to achieve the first three objectives, which we defined as:

  1. Positioning Yourself as The Expert in Your Market
    The Social Strategy here is that by writing pieces both for your own blog as well as for other industry blogs (and sharing them on social) you are not just telling people you are an expert but you’re proving you are an expert! For example, keeping your audience updated on the latest legislation or land market trends affecting them as landowners or even just the hot new ice cream shop being built on that old vacant lot at the crossroads, will position you as the expert on all things land in your market – making you the go-to agent. Don’t have time to write up a post and just looking for great content to share that landowners would find valuable? Check out RLI’s THIS IS YOUR LAND Blog with content specifically written for landowners/potential landowners and share away!

blogging also helps you achieve goal number:

  1. Creating Top of Mind Brand Awareness
    The Social Strategy here is that by posting regularly on your blog and then on your social sites, you get your audience in the habit of seeing your content on certain days at certain times in certain places — so that soon you’ll have them coming to you!

and, finally, blogging will help with goal number:

  1. Building Relationships and Trust with Your Core Target Audience
    The Social Strategy here? What builds trust and goodwill more than someone giving you something (like expertise) for free!? By giving out small bits of free, useful advice, on social media through your blog posts you’re serving your clients and potential clients without asking for anything in return and showing that you care about letting them know the things that they find valuable. So when they do need to list or buy a property, you’re the first one to pop into their mind.

and by achieving all of these three goals, as we mentioned earlier, it leads to achieving the fourth goal of:

  1. CLOSING MORE DEALS!

Even if you are posting about a listing on your social sites, you need to be driving anyone who is interested back to your website to learn more about the property and how you can help.

The Big Social Media Don’t

While we are talking about listings, I want to mention the biggest downfall most businesses make when trying to use social media for business. If you are a land pro looking to use social media to achieve your marketing and business goals, do not make your social channels solely sales channels. Do not only post listings or company news. Social media needs to be social in that you create a community and network of sharing valuable and engaging content. If your posts are strictly promotional, you will lose your audience before they have a chance to get to know how amazing your company and your listings are.

Only talking about your business and promoting listings on your social channels is to your audience the same as turning on the TV and finding out the only thing ever on is commercials – even if they are super bowl-level-awesome commercials. You’ve all heard of the 80:20 rule? You need to be doing at least 80% engaging and informational content that is valuable to your audience and that positions you as the expert in your market and then 20% sharing property listings or company news.

Now, you may be thinking – but this is a company page and I need to get my clients’ properties out in front of as many eyeballs as possible. But think about this, if you’ve driven your audience on social media away or don’t have an audience – or worse have an audience that isn’t engaged and has become trained to tune out your posts – is that really helping you get eyeballs on your clients’ listings?

I’m not saying don’t post listings, absolutely do! Facebook and Instagram are wonderful places to showcase all those high res property pics and drone videos. Just makes sure you are doing a mix of posting listings and showcasing yourself as an expert – and always do both of these in a way that drives your audience on social media back to your website where you can guide them through the rest of the marketing funnel you’ve (hopefully) put in place.

Now that we’ve talked about the big Don’t, let’s look at a few Dos of social media:

Do Tell A Story
You may need to put a little PR spin on it but every piece of land has a history – and even if that isn’t known, it has a future. Find an angle and try to create a story around your latest listing that people will want to read. This is a great way to still get eyeballs on your clients’ properties without coming across as like you’re trying to sell, sell, sell. Write that story up in a blog post on your website, link to the listing from in the post, and share the link to the blog post all over social.

Tell A Story

Do Keep It Local
The best way to create share-worthy content is to make it relatable to your audience. Write (or at the very least share) pieces that inform your audience about what’s going on in your local market. Whether it’s telling them the top places to enjoy the land while hiking locally or new legislation that affects local landowners – be the source of all things land in your market. If you can add your expert take on that post as well – even better!

local social posts

Do Use Video
In case you’ve been living in a closet the last few years, social media sites and users love video. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth ten thousand. Whether it’s you touring a property, sharing expertise on a topic, or a listing promo video clip, get it on social. To extend your videos reach on Facebook, keep in mind they are more likely to show your video to people if you upload it directly to their site or ‘Go Live on Facebook’ (versus say uploading it to YouTube first and sharing the link to the video).

drew ary video social

Be consistent
One of the best ways to build trust and keep yourself top of mind is to post regularly. Give your audience something to look forward to and a reason to stop by your page every day. There are some great tools out there to help you schedule posts – hootsuite is a personal favorite and its free — but nowadays most social sites including Facebook and Twitter, have ways to schedule your posts through their site directly. Set aside 30 minutes a week to schedule all your posts for that week. Now, that doesn’t mean you should set it and forget it though. Check back and engage with those commenting on or sharing your posts. Pro tip, check out Canva for creating graphics and Pixabay to get free stock photos to use in your social posts.

social clock

Also, be consistent in your voice. The tone and voice you use in your communications is as much a part of your brand as your logo. You know better than anyone your clients, what tone would they relate to, what voice do they want to hear?

Be genuine
Finally, the most trustworthy people are those you know are being genuine. Help people get to know you and your company’s values and personality through your posts. Be yourself, have fun, and do what you do best – help people!

genuine social post

To wrap it up, being on social media is not as simple as starting an account and putting up a few posts. For your social efforts to be effective, they need to be strategic and integrated into your overall marketing plan (which should be integrated into your over all company strategic plan). Make sure to check out the full Unleashing Your Social Media Strategy webinar recording for some great tips from my co-hosts Drew Ary, ALC, and Wendy Johnson, ALC. If you guys ever have any questions for me, you can also find my contact info on the staff page.

 

 

Jessa Friedrich, Marketing Manager, REALTORS Land InstituteAbout the Author: Jessa Friedrich, MBA, is the Marketing Manager for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She has served in her current role in the land real estate industry since March 2015 and has since fully rebranded the organization, developed and optimized their new website, and created and implemented a new strategic marketing plan that has a heavy focus on social media and content generation. Jessa has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree with a specialization in Social Media Marketing from Lewis University. She has seven years of experience developing and implementing digital and social media marketing strategies for small to medium sized businesses and a proven track record of success. As Marketing Manager for RLI, she has seen the power of using both paid and organic social media growth strategies as a part of the organization’s bigger picture strategic plan to help grow their annual National Land Conference by 44% and to help sell out its annual LANDU Education Week for the first time in history. Since 2015, the marketing strategies being implemented have increased the organization’s organic website traffic by over 145%, which includes a 941% increase in social traffic to the site. As Marketing Manager, she has also played a large role as part of the team that has led the organization to see over an almost 40% increase in new members in year one and a 47% increase on top of that in year two so far. Copyright Jessa Friedrich 2018.

Shift Your Brokerage into High Gear

This piece was originally featured in the Summer 2018 edition of Terra Firma Magazine.

Five years ago, I was a hobby farmer in Western Ohio, on the prowl for a new career. After 19 years in the automotive industry, working my way up from lot porter to salesman to GM and president of a dealer group, I was ready for a change.

I was eager to apply my background and experience in consumer marketing to a new line of work, one that preferably highlighted my passion for land. Should I get a broker’s license or go to work for a management company or call up a trust department to see if they had any openings? I honestly had no idea how to proceed. Fortunately, my wife, Jessica, made a brilliant suggestion: Call the publisher of that magazine I was always raving about, and see what he had to say. You probably already have an inkling of how things turned out.

I lobbed an email to The Land Report publisher Eddie Lee Rider, and that very day I got a call back. The sales guy in me immediately liked this. Not five minutes into our initial conversation, we both sensed an opportunity. My gut told me to sign on with the Magazine of the American Landowner. After a heart-to-heart with Jessica, that’s exactly what I did.

Almost immediately, I recognized that the tenets of marketing and branding that build successful dealer groups also applied to the successful marketing of land. I guarantee the lessons I learned as I worked my way up from the mailroom to the showroom and finally the boardroom can better your book of business.

 Consistency is Key

One of the principle tenets of automotive marketing is that reach without frequency equals wasted money. Eddie Lee hammered home this very same point to me. “If someone wants to buy a one-time ad, tell them not to waste their money,” he says. “Selling land isn’t about when a broker is ready to market a listing. It’s about when a buyer or a seller is ready to pull the trigger.”

“Consistency is key” is especially true when marketing land and your services. A well-crafted branding message, delivered consistently, creates top-of-mind name recall. In my humble opinion, this could well be the factor that generates that all-important phone call from a potential buyer or a motivated seller.

 There is No Off-Season

Many industries target a certain time frame to ramp up marketing. Car sales is not one of them. It may seem as though dealers are doubling down when they do a “year-end clearance,” but that’s just one of many arrows in their quiver. How many times a year do you see ads about factory incentives? Or special dealer financing? By the time you factor in all the limited-time offers that are pitched – President’s Day, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Back to School, Black Friday, New Year’s Eve – a far more sophisticated strategy emerges. Automotive dealers market 24/7/365.

So if investors who buy and sell land have no off-season, why should you?

Yes, we both know that as the calendar year wraps up, so does deal pace. I equate this to an auto dealership’s year-end clearance. But if your own marketing slacks off during the off-season while your competitors are busy reinforcing their branding, guess who gets the cold call in the middle of winter? Guess who hits the ground running when the snow melts or school lets out? Not you.

As entrepreneurs, our instinct is to keep our powder dry when things slow down.

Yet the decision to buy or sell a legacy property is often a family decision that is discussed and debated during the off-season, a.k.a. the holidays. Does it really make sense to pull back your marketing at the exact moment you need to be building your business?

Like countless brokerages coast to coast, The Land Report shifts into high gear as spring turns into summer. Yet we consciously produce our biggest issue of the year, which features The Land Report 100, so it comes out in December. Why? Because we practice what I’m preaching. Our must-read content is on coffee tables and in private jets precisely when families gather for the holidays.

Effective marketing is a full-time, year-round commitment. The consistent marketing message that you deliver, even during spells of lower activity, builds brand equity and name recall. These are priceless.

Marketing is Not an Expense. It is an Investment. Treat it as Such.

Best practice dictates you establish a marketing budget and commit fully to it. Budgets create limits; you can’t have a presence everywhere. So, do your research, negotiate well, and pick your platforms based on their position within the industry. Only invest in favorable brand association. Demand added value for your marketing dollars. Above all, challenge your marketing partners to deliver your message effectively and specifically to the right audience. Trust but verify.

Please note that I said “platforms.” Do not put all your eggs in one basket, be it print, online, or direct mail. And that includes my own title, The Land Report. Do you go to the trade shows your target buyer attends? You’d be surprised how many of those events take place during the so-called off-season. How about hosting your own event, even if it’s just a cast-and-blast for a handful of key clients. Again, money well spent.

Fish where the fish are. By that, I mean make sure you connect with your target market in person, online, via direct mail, and in print. That’s a sound investment.

Branding is Not A Slogan. It’s the Truth.

I’ve always been a big fan of Ford’s slogan: Built Ford Tough. It’s confident. It’s catchy. And it hammers home the fact that more than a century after Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company, Ford is very much an industry leader. I know that for a fact because I spent the majority of my career with the blue oval.

Let’s apply that marketing savvy to your business. If your brokerage has been around for a while, what are you best known for? A specific land use? A certain market? A specialized expertise? Spell it out in an honest, straightforward manner. At The Land Report, we call ourselves The Magazine of the American Landowner. It’s confident. It’s catchy. And it hammers home the fact that we share the stories of America’s leading landowners.

But what if you’re new to the business and just starting out? What drives you? What inspired you to launch your business? Are you a longtime local? Then put those deep roots and your local ties to work for you. Maybe you relocated to the land of your dreams. If so, doesn’t your trailblazing decision make you the ideal candidate to pave the way for others who might want to do so? Do you love to hunt? Is life better on the back of a horse?

Consider these questions and write down your answers. Look at it closely. Refine it. Hone it. Buff it. THAT is your brand.

There’s Never Been a Better Time to Market Your Brand

The landscape of marketing choices for land professionals has never been more diverse. Traditional advertising is gone. Kaput. Once upon a time, advertising featured an “offer” that was deliverable through standardized channels. Today, it’s all about experience marketing. When I got my first paycheck in the automotive industry, Facebook, Google, and YouTube didn’t even exist. By the time I left, key influencers were creating billions of impressions with blogs and podcasts that reached consumers via their iPhones, a product that debuted in 2007. This avalanche of new technology has created exciting opportunities for small business owners to create and control marketing and branding. Use it to your advantage.

I’m a big fan of Instagram. The visual-forward nature of this rapidly growing platform and its ability to integrate video and drone footage gives a broker the unique opportunity to conduct virtual showings on multiple listings from a handheld device. If you are a land broker in 2018, an active Instagram account is a must, not an option.

Finally: hashtags, hashtags, hashtags. Marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuck insists that for real estate professionals, the most effective way to grow your Instagram following is through the use of strategic hashtags. This means the use of a minimum of 10 hashtags per post. I recommend including hashtags featuring the state where your listing is located as well as the type of property – i.e., #farm, #ranch, #timberland, #hunting. Keep the hashtags relevant and watch the interactions with your posts build.

Thanks to Jessica’s suggestion, I’ve been on board with The Land Report going on five years now. Even better, I’m applying insights and ideas that I gained in one of the most competitive industries to my new career. I sincerely hope that one of these kernels of truth helps you take your book of business to the next level in 2018 and beyond.

P.S. If you want me to share more, reach out to me at davidz@landreport.com. I’ll even help you set up that Instagram account you’ve been putting off. 😉

About the Author: David Zawalich lives in west central Ohio with his wife, two kids and a Wire Haired Pointing Griffon named Zeke. His love of land and the outdoors was sparked as a child in the wilds of northeast Pennsylvania. He employs his unique vantage point as a landowner and marketing professional as the Associate Publisher of The Land Report.

Getting to The Top: Finding The APEX of Success

The REALTORS® Land Institute recently presented the 2017 APEX Awards Program, sponsored by the internationally recognized magazine The Land Report, to identify and recognize the nation’s top producing land real estate agents. Over $1 Billion in property sales were recorded by RLI’s top 50 agents in 2017. That’s an amazing accomplishment to say the least, and this success again demonstrates the knowledge, work ethic, and power of the collective brokers within the RLI organization. Clearly, RLI partnerships are a force to be reckoned with.

At this year’s APEX Awards Ceremony, Michael Murphy and I of M4 Ranch Group were honored to be recognized with four APEX Awards, including a tie for 2017 APEX Top National Producer, a tie for 2017 APEX Broker of the Year Recreational Land Sales, both as a 2017 APEX Top Twenty Producer, and both as part of the 2017 APEX Producers Club. First, I want to pass on my deepest appreciation for the blessings our clients, our company, and our team experienced in 2017. We had “one of those years” that all of us in RLI work diligently to produce.

In 2017, the M4 Ranch Group Team was able to close over 95,000 deeded acres in 35 transactions. You, the top professionals in this industry, clearly know that just does not happen every year. You also know it has a much better chance of happening when you build the right platform, establish the right avenues for success, and most importantly, associate your company with the right performers in the industry.

We at M4 Ranch Group have worked tirelessly to do just that, working daily towards building a platform that couples time-proven tools with the newest technologies. We are both challenged and excited with learning new technology as well as with refining the ancient art of human relations. Being successful in this business is a never-ending quest for knowledge from understanding the details of an ALTA survey, easements, and water rights to understanding the history of a property and the biology of its wildlife.

M4 Ranch Group has been fortunate to capitalize on the neverending opportunities for education through our RLI Colorado Chapter. In our RLI Chapter, we focus on the needs of the industry, the needs of our chapter as a group, and the everchanging needs we as professionals face daily to better ourselves and our companies.

Each of us in the industry knows that “we only eat what we kill.” This industry makes no payment for a second place finish. If the transaction does not close, we don’t get paid. Our success at M4 Ranch Group in 2017 is without fail directly tied to the strength, intelligence, and the never-quit attitude of Team.

While Michael and I were recognized by RLI for the fantastic success in 2017, that success would not have happened without the back up of our partner, Michelle Murphy, as well as the rest of our amazing team. If there is one path to success, it is to build on peoples’ strengths within your organization and allow them to flourish in their niches.

We are all faced with what seems to be insurmountable challenges in the industry, including marketing, meeting our clients’ needs, and budgeting so that we get the most bang for our buck. Marketing alone presents an almost-bewildering array of decisions, from a virtually limitless list of print opportunities to working every technological angle to develop the highest web rating for listed properties, from full page banner ads and web listings to drone tours, from multi-page brochures to 3-D property imaging, from the highest standards in mapping to the local chambers of commerce. It seems no one person or firm has the perfect answer here. I do know that those who rise above never quit, and they never take the easy path. Nevertheless, many of these top firms are very humble in their success. If not, they only have to wait for a down year to regroup with humility!

It is easy to get tied up with statistics: where did we get the most results, what drove the most traffic, tracking web hits, social media clicks, direct leads, direct mail, etc. We can be consumed with questions. “Are we in the right market?” “Did we spend those dollars wisely?” “Will this work?” However, in the midst of our continuous data gathering at M4, we have recognized that the single biggest avenue for success has been relationships. In particular, we can attribute success after success directly to the personal relationships built within our RLI Chapter.

Without these friendships, partnerships, and working relationships, M4 Ranch Group would not have seen the success we experienced in 2017.The bottom line is that the RLI Colorado Chapter is, simply put, something special. The Chapter is built on the philosophy of “A Rising Tide Raises All Ships.” If you don’t have the answer you do have someone to call within this group who does. The level of integrity is extremely high. You just flat out can trust those you work with, something not said often in many industries, and sometimes even less in ours.

Building on the past outstanding years of effort from National RLI we are entering into a new era. With the appointment of Aubrie Kobernus, CEO, and the drive and tenacity she and her team bring to the table, this organization is rising at a rocket rate. The rest of National RLI and the nation’s chapters are working daily to build that same level of integrity into everything from the ALC Designation and LANDU Education Program to the National Land Conference. RLI continues to work to help each of us better understand the strengths of those we work with, better understand the knowledge base of our partners, and better understand how they can share that knowledge base to help us all succeed.

Knowing the professionals in our industry is a major key to success. That’s one of RLI’s main benefits. We at M4 Ranch Group are honored to work with each of you, we are honored to call many of you friends, but most of all, we are thankful.

This article originally appeared in the 2018 Summer Terra Firma Magazine, the official publication of the REALTORS® Land Institute.

About the author: Dan Murphy has experience running restaurants, a guest resort, owning and operating a respected outfitting business in Colorado for twenty years, and as a current owner of M4 Ranch Group, a division of Team Murphy Realty, LLC. His company specializes in ranch and recreation properties in Southwestern Colorado and Northern New Mexico.

Choosing (And Using) The Right Client Relationship Manager (CRM) Software

Picture this: It’s Friday afternoon, 3:00pm. You are scheduling your next week’s business activities, setting priorities, and putting a plan in place. You’ve had a pretty successful week – got a contract on a large listing, met a new prospect who is likely a buyer for a couple of projects, went to a successful networking event, and called 25 new prospects on big land tracts. You’re feeling good. But as you begin to plan, you look down and see business cards scattered on your desk, a wrinkled legal pad with half-legible notes, and a desk calendar sprinkled with coffee stains. You breathe a deep sigh and wish that you were better organized.

Does this sound like you? Perhaps it’s not as bad as all that. However, I think we can all admit that we have been there. Things get busy and we run our business with pen, paper, and our own brains. But in the long run, all 3 of those things will fail you. There should be (and is) a much better way.

Client Relationship Manager (CRM) software is the extra brain that every successful business operator needs to keep their business at peak efficiency. A CRM is far more than a list of clients. Used properly, a CRM is your contact database, your personal assistant, your calendar planner, and your goldmine of information. It will remind you to follow up with a new client, call a prospect you should’ve heard from by now, or get in touch with a past client at regular intervals. We’ve all got way too much flying around in our heads to remember it all. Handing off a lot of that responsibility to a CRM is a great way to free up brain space and time in order to focus on the most important aspects of your business.

Many of you are already using a CRM at peak efficiency. Great! Stop reading now and go make it rain. But many of you are not using one well, or worse, not using one at all. I submit that in today’s market with all of the available technology, speed of information, and industry competition, it is more important than ever to be the person most engaged with every prospect you want to do business with. Your CRM will keep you honest and consistent with that engagement.

I’d like to offer three tips for choosing a CRM as well as three tips for using one – and using it well.

CHOOSING A CRM

Tip 1: Keep it simple.

Many CRMs have intricate functionality and can perform high-level categorization and analysis on your contacts, prospects, and pipeline. These features are great. But make sure you will actually use them before you select a CRM that does so much. You might get bogged down in all the functionality and lose sight of the goal.

Remember that the CRM is supposed to serve you. Not the other way around.

Tip 2: Don’t break the bank… at least at first.

Do you want to spend thousands of dollars on a CRM? There are many available. Do you want to get one for free? A few of those exist as well. If you’ve never used a CRM before, start with a free one (Zoho and Insightly are free for 1 or 2 users). You might not get every bell and whistle but as discussed above, you don’t need them. Once you are accustomed to using a CRM effectively you can always upgrade. And you’ll be far better prepared to select among alternatives since you will have some likes and dislikes from your free experience.

Tip 3: FORCE yourself to use it.

When first starting out with a CRM, you will be tempted to use all of your old methods as a crutch. As you encounter frustrations and growing pains, you will tend to shy away from the CRM – only using it when it’s convenient. This is no good. Select a system, spend a few days playing around with and getting used to it, then COMMIT. If you encounter issues, use the help function. Or use Google. Figure it out as you go along and deal with the pain up front. You want to get that machine good and oiled up so that it’s smooth sailing once you’re past the indoctrination period.

USING A CRM

Tip 1: Do it right from the beginning… or at least from right now.

If you’re just getting started or only have a couple of years in the business, make this a high priority for yourself. Properly creating, growing, and maintaining a quality database can be tedious, but it’s far more tedious to get 10 years down the road and try to do it all at once. Maybe you’ve been in the business for many years and use a spreadsheet, a notepad, or even a Rolodex (anyone??). All of that should be converted into a digital CRM. YES, it will take time. YES, it will be painful. But the benefits you will reap when it is complete far outweigh the work of getting it done.

Tip 2: Once you figured out the basics, try a new function or capability.

Once you have pushed through the transition, you should be pretty comfortable with the functionality – at least the basics. When you’re feeling foggy, learn something different about the software and find a new way it can help you. You may discover that it can tell you something interesting about your business operations. What’s your average time from listing to closing? How often do you really call that important client? How many new calls do you make on a weekly or monthly basis? By exploring different functions you will more deeply understand your contacts, your process, and your overall business.

Tip 3: Change to a different software after 3-5 years.

OK, this may sound crazy but I really do believe it is beneficial. As technology continues to develop, newer, better, and less expensive options will always be available. If you shop around every few years you may find a product with functions you’ve always wished your current CRM had. Furthermore, moving to a new system will force you to look at your information and clean it up. It’s kind of like moving into a new house.  You might finally decide to throw away that box of stuffed animals you’ve had since you were six. By cleaning up your database once in a while, you will keep it streamlined and relevant – making it more useful in your business.

A well-maintained and properly utilized CRM can make a struggling business good and a good business great. With very little effort, anyone can introduce a much higher level of structure to their business, keeping the pipeline full and the clients happy.

About the author: Caleb McDow is a land specialist and vice president with Crosby & Associates, Inc. in Winter Haven, FL, with a Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE) and is a licensed private pilot and drone operator. McDow joined the institute in 2014 as a Military Transition Program (MTP) member.  He serves on the Institute’s Future Leaders Committee and regularly blogs on real estate issues. Caleb McDow can be reached at 352-665-6648 or caleb@crosbydirt.com