Eleven years ago, I founded my consultancy business, HomeTruths. I had the crazy idea that homeowners needed independent help in selling their properties, and that I was the expert who could do just that.
I hired a web developer and spent months getting my website just right, packed with pages proclaiming my expertise and knowledge. Finally happy with it, I signed it off, pressed the ‘go live’ button and then waited for the phone to ring.
And waited some more.
Where were all these needy homeowners? Why weren’t they beating a path to my door?
Then I had a brainwave; I’d put an advert in the local paper. That was bound to work. A week later and £400 lighter, my phone was still ominously quiet.
What was going on? Why wasn’t my phone ringing off the hook with new enquiries? What was I missing??
Then I discovered marketing books. Specifically, Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch . My mind was officially blown. Who knew there was so much to learn about a little subject like ‘marketing’??
One book led to another, and before long I was reading 2-3 books a WEEK on the topic of marketing. I was absolutely hooked. Not only that, but I was learning a the same time, trying out my new-found marketing know-how on vendors in my area. And I got good at it. Really good.
Eleven years later, and I reckon I’ve read at least 1000 books on marketing, advertising, positioning, branding, consumer psychology, persuasion, motivation and anything else that I think may help me and my clients do a better job of getting the right message out to the right audience. I’ve also written around 700 articles on the subject within the property industry. I’ve also conducted or instigated a ton of marketing experiments across all media and formats to discover what works, and what doesn’t. (More of the latter, than the former, admittedly).
I’m still learning, honing and refining, but I do have three of my best marketing secrets to share with you here. At first glance, they may not seem particularly ground-breaking, but I’ve discovered that the best marketing rarely is. It’s basic stuff, with a twist, or a combination of two ideas, or just a new way of looking at things. Read these and decide for yourself:
SAM’S MARKETING SECRET #1 – A5 cards don’t work
It’s what everyone sends out by the thousand, and often the tens of thousands, so they must work, right?
Wrong. Most of the time, anyway. And here’s why: it takes no time at all to read them. I have a stack of these A5 cards in my office and a quick check reveals that the average word count on the front is less than 20. How long does it take to read 20 words? 10 seconds? 5?
You may think it’s an advantage that someone is able to pick up one of your postcards and make a snap decision about whether or not they are interested. But it’s not. It’s actually a real disadvantage to your marketing, because the reader is simply not invested in your material.
You need your audience to interact with your marketing as long as possible. You’re still reading this blogposts, and THIS is word number 553, which has probably taken you around 5 minutes to read. By the end of this post, you may well have given me your attention for up to 15 minutes, which is a whole lot longer than I could have held your attention with a canvassing card!
When you sign off your finished postcard, with its glossy image and clever 72-point message, you may be feeling pleased with yourself at putting out something ‘on-brand’ and beautiful. But does it work? I know many agents who are getting a meagre 5 responses in 10,000, or even less. Is that really sustainable?
What I like to do when I’m re-imagining agent marketing, is to try to do the opposite of the current norms. So if the average agent is sending out blanket drops of A5 postcards with less than 20 words and a big photo, what’s the opposite? What if we sent out select drops to carefully targeted properties, of long-form letters with no photo in a handwritten envelope with a stamp?
Most agents do use letters in their marketing mix, but generally only to competitors’ properties, ie tout letters. And usually they are less than a page long. But I’m suggesting you mail out to properties not on the market.
I’m currently leading a small focus group of innovative agents who are experimenting with my new letter design right now. It’s too early to share the results, but I will do as soon as I have them. In the meantime, here are my five steps to guide you in the right direction, and get this exciting canvassing strategy working for you:
- Make it long – around 1000 words, or three pages.
- Make it all about them – not you. Ask yourself ‘what’s in it for me?’ as if you were the reader.
- Make it helpful – tips and advice, resources or local market information.
- Make it easy for them to respond. A phone call is often a step too far, so can they email or go to a special landing page?
- Make it worth their while – incentivise their response. I’m not talking about a prize draw to win an iPad; make it relevant. My friends at Ewemove have written a great book on how to sell your house successfully, and they give away a physical copy of it to every enquirer. What a great and relevant incentive to respond! What could you offer?
If you try this, I’d love to know how you get on, so please, send it to me at email@example.com before it goes to print and I’ll give you some honest feedback!
SAM’S MARKETING SECRET #2 – Landlords are NOT invisible
Are you fed up of not being able to attract new landlords? Do you wish that landlords wore ‘I’m a landlord’ tee shirts so you could identify them?
I know there are many clever and technologically-advanced methods to find these landlords and track them down. Once you know where they live, you can bombard them with your literature, sure, but is that really the best way to begin what could be a long and fruitful working relationship with them?
Can you describe for me a typical landlord? These questions may help:
Male or female?
What kind of house do they live in?
What do they do?
What do they like doing in their spare time?
Let me have a go. The landlord I have in my mind is called Robert, he’s a 55 year old solicitor who lives in a four bedroom detached house, and likes to golf in his spare time. Perhaps you recognise him?
In fact, if you compared the chances of say, a 25 year old hairdresser being a BTL landlord with our Robert, he would probably be about 70% more likely to be a landlord than the hairdresser.
Once you know who these landlords are the most likely to be, then you’ll find that they aren’t invisible, after all. In fact, they are highly visible. If you want to find professionals, just look on Yell.com and they are probably there.
Now all you have to do is figure out how to attract them.
I’ve helped implement many ways of attracting professionals who are also landlords, including themed advice evenings, networking associations (your own) or even ‘Lunch &Learn’s.
What could you do to better do to appeal to those visible landlords?
SAM’S MARKETING SECRET #3 – It’s not clients you’re looking for
This last marketing secret is a little bit different, but it’s actually the most important. In fact, once I had my aha moment and implemented this strategy, my business revenue tripled in just a year.
Let me tell you the story of an agent called Julie. She has a little sales office on the outskirts of Liverpool, in a modest shopping arcade, and to look at it, you’d think she was doing maybe £100k a year, or thereabouts.
In fact, when Julie and I started working together just under two years ago, that’s exactly what she was doing.
Now she’s turning over £400k, from a team of just 4.
And that’s because I shared with her my aha moment – my number one marketing secret.
Instead of spending time, effort and money trying to find vendors in her area, she now looks for someone different.
When you send out a canvassing card, around 3% of the households in your area will be currently already on the market, and a further 12% may be considering it. That means your market is only actually 15% at best. The other 85% will get sick of your “Thinking of selling?” emails.
So instead of trying to find a needle in a haystack, and crossing your fingers that the one day your card hits their doormat is the one day they decide to sell, I’m going to suggest you do something different, and quite radical.
Look for the RESPONDERS in your area.
That’s what Julie does. She has a system of cards, letters and even inexpensive gifts, all designed with one aim in mind – to get the recipient to respond.
All she’s looking for is a little bit of information about that person. An email address, and maybe a physical address, so she can then implement a ‘touch’ campaign to make sure that when all 100% decide to eventually sell their homes – and they all will at some point – they will think of her first. She will be top of mind, and in their hearts.
So my challenge to you is to change your mindset – stop trying to find clients, and instead find a way to incentivise your responders to identify themselves. Because if they will respond positively to a canvassing card, they will probably respond positively to a market appraisal.
And then you get to work your magic.
My question to you is, now you have three of my best marketing secrets, what are you going to change in your business? Only a very tiny number of my readers will do anything different, but perhaps you’re one of them? Please, let me know, I’d love to hear from you. firstname.lastname@example.org
What to do next: Do you get my Supertips? They’re jam-packed full of great tips and marketing strategies just like this one, and best still – they’re free! Get yours here -> www.samashdown.co.uk/samsupertips
Speak to Sam: If you’d like to know how I think you could improve your marketing, just answer a few short questions here and I’ll tell you if and how you could be more effective.