Your business cards are printed. Your newly established website has all the bells and whistles modern technology can offer. You have four-color fliers printed on high-quality stock. You’re ready to start selling real estate. But still there’s something missing: clients.
Now’s a great time to be entering the real estate profession. Home sales are way up and properties are selling at record highs. But let’s be realistic. As someone new to the business, finding customers — buyers and sellers — is going to be your toughest challenge.
Here’s how to generate leads — both free and paid — to build your reputation and clientele in your new profession:
Generate Your Own Leads
Use the fact that you’re new to the industry to your advantage. Let friends and family know you are happy to spend as much time with them as they need to find the right home or develop a strategy to get their home sold quickly. Offer tips for ways your acquaintances can maximize the value of their property. (But remember to tone it down a bit. Not everyone wants to talk about real estate all the time.)
Find customers where you’re a customer
Many people probably consider you to be their customer. Among them are your hair stylist, barber, dry cleaner, fitness trainer and chiropractor. Now consider them your potential customers.
If you are friendly, enthusiastic and helpful — without being pushy — those you’ve build relationships with in the past can help you spread the word.
Keep your eye on your own neighborhood
Certain behaviors can be tell-tale signs that a house is being prepped to go on the market. Chat up neighbors — whether you know them or not — when you see them gussying up the exterior of their homes, especially after a history of neglect. Maybe they’re readying it for sale. Likewise, knock on the door or leave your card and other promotional materials at a house that’s fallen into disrepair. Maybe it’s in foreclosure, or about to be. Estate and garage sales can be good indicators of an imminent move. See a carpet cleaning truck? Many people don’t clean their carpets unless they’re about to sell. Introduce yourself to the homeowner.
Watch for carpet cleaners, roofers, carpenters and painters
Speaking of vendors, you’ll be doing business with all sorts of vendors and home improvement professionals as you help your clients ready a home for sale. Ask your go-to vendors to return the good. They’ll give you leads on where they’re doing business. Make their customers your customers.
Tailor to the young and the previously young
Adults at both ends of the age spectrum are often contemplating moving. Keep your marketing materials in view at apartment buildings with a high concentration of young professionals. In “more mature” neighborhoods, target your materials toward people who may be ready to downsize.
Visit (or host) open houses
You may not have any of your own listings, but you can help your colleagues sell theirs. Open houses are all about making contacts. Chat with the people who come by. Find out what they are looking for. Are they particularly interested in a home in the area? Offer to find comps.
- But don’t just email the list to them. Follow up with a phone call or two.
- Don’t drop the lead if you don’t hear back. Follow up with them in a few weeks. Remember — deciding to buy and sell a house is a process. Just because someone isn’t ready to choose you as their agent the moment you meet doesn’t mean they won’t be ready to sign on later.
- Automate the follow-up process with an app such as Open Home Pro or Open House Toolkit to automatically follow up with people who sign in.
Pay for Leads
Buying leads has a loose definition. It ranges from paying a third party to do the digging for you to pay-per-click advertising.
You may be thinking about investing in some of those prospect lists that have been flooding your inbox since the day you got licensed. Surely these companies know what they are doing — after all, they found you, right? But buying leads is largely a trial-and-error process.
The quality of leads differs greatly from source to source, and until you’ve tried a few sources, you won’t know if buying lists is a good direction for you. These lists can be a great new source of clients for newbies but they can also drain resources if you don’t successfully turn those leads into sales. See what sources your peers use and ask a few questions of vendors before you sign on the dotted line.
- How long is your contract? And if you cancel, who owns the lists?
- Does your list also go to other real estate agents? If so, how many? If you’re getting the same list as everyone else in your area, it may not be worth your time or money.
- What is the average conversion rate?
Diversify your websites
If you’re just starting out, you don’t need 10 domain names or landing pages that point to your site, but a few can’t hurt.
Motivation for this strategy originally stemmed from trying to take up all the page-one spots on Google’s search results. But Google caught onto this and now having multiple websites is mostly beneficial for targeting purposes, not SEO.
Clients have different needs and therefore want different information. For example, if you owned austinhomes.com, austincondos.com and austintownhouses.com, you could better direct your website content to your audience based on what they’re searching for, and as a result of this relevant approach, also rank better.
Make sure your site is mobile optimized regardless of how many you have. Google ranks mobile-friendly sites higher than sites that aren’t mobile-optimized.
Pay-per-click ad campaigns — like those on Google and Yahoo — can help you get exposure when potential customers use certain search terms. This concurrently helps your search engine ranking. It’s best if you do this in a targeted manner, as it can become very expensive if you’re bidding on popular search terms.
Facebook ads can be particularly effective in generating leads because you can set narrow parameters — demographic, age, sex, location, and even interest — to really hone in on your ideal customers.
Be conservative and track everything
Your most effective tool when paying for leads is good tracking. Be conservative in your approach to any lead buying and evaluate your financial position before pouring money into lists. Buying leads can get pricey and it’s important to have a good grasp on your cash flow and what you’ll have to do to get your return on investment. To keep tabs on everything, use QuickBooks to generate Cash Flow Statements, and integrate apps like Float for cash flow forecasting.