Frontier Family Spotlight: Marilyn Smith

 

MarilynThis month, we’re excited to introduce you to Marilyn Smith, Director of Marketing/Client Relations from the Cypress Office. Marilyn joined Frontier Title Company five years ago, but has spent the last 12 years of her career in the title industry.

We asked Marilyn a few questions about herself and her experience working at Frontier Title Company. 

What do you think sets Frontier Title Company apart?

Our Customer Service is the best, bar none, due to the fact that we work as a team throughout our company. Our tagline – “We don’t work 8-5, We work START to FINISH.”® – truly defines Frontier Title. 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Meeting so many wonderful people and making lasting friendships. 

What are three of your defining traits?  

Conscientious, Loyal, and Passionate

What is your personal philosophy?

I live by the Golden Rule.

How do you define success?

Success to me is knowing at the end of the day that I did my best, helped others, and I am loved by family.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

Going to my grandson’s games, enjoying my kids and grandkids, going to church and to dinner after with friends, and I’m always up for a good movie.

Vacation: Why You Need One and How To Make It Work

When you are in charge of your own business, there’s an assumption that you can do whatever you want with your time. However, that “freedom” often makes it harder to get away. And even when you do take a rare vacation, it’s hard to make it a true vacation – work always beckons.

With Labor Day weekend coming up, here are some whys and hows of how to take the time that you need without sacrificing your business.

WHY YOU NEED TO TAKE A VACATION

First of all, multiple studies have shown that your brain still works while it’s relaxing. In fact, during mental “down time” your brain is focusing itself on boring, but essential, tasks like memorizing skills you learned last week.

Secondly, your brain has two levels of operation. One level is focused on tasks while the other is focused on letting your mind wander. If you are always in task mode, your brain isn’t able to daydream, wander, and come up with creative solutions.

Thirdly, it is scientifically proven that people who take several short vacations are happier and remain happier for up to two weeks after their vacation is done. So, it’s not only beneficial to take some time off but to take smaller, more frequent vacations.

 

HOW YOU CAN MAKE IT HAPPEN

Plan. Plan for how taking the time off will impact your business. What might happen while you’re away and how can you plan for it now?

Arrange for Help. Even though you’re operating independently there are probably other agents in your office who can cover for you while you’re gone, especially if you offer to return the favor. Set up what you need before you leave and work out how compensation will work in case you need to call on them.

Be Clear with your Clients. You don’t want to surprise your clients with having your fellow agent step in to cover their questions, showings, etc. Make sure all of your clients know you’ll be out of town and introduce them to your colleague (at least via email) before your departure so they feel comfortable with the situation.

If You Must Work. If you plan on being reachable during your vacation, make sure you set aside specific times to handle work calls and emails so that they don’t interfere with your time or your family’s time to relax. Schedule a little time in the morning and/or a little time in the evening to catch up on what you’ve missed!

 

Hiring A Real Estate Assistant

Congratulations! Your business is taking off! In fact, you’re so busy you could use a few more hours each day, or a few more days each week. Suddenly, tasks you once loved are feeling like busy-work and you’re terrified of missing phone calls, details, and deadlines. It’s probably time for an assistant. And you’re not alone – about 18% of REALTORS® have assistants.

The first question you need to ask is if you need to hire a licensed or unlicensed assistant. Each state has their own requirements for what unlicensed real estate assistants are allowed to do. Click here for the guidelines from the Texas Real Estate Commission. Once you’ve made your decision, posted the position, and picked a few interviewees, you’ll need to know the best questions to ask and methods to use to sort through candidates and find your perfect partner. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Phone Interview

Your first experience with a candidate should happen over the phone. This gives you the same “blind” experience that your clients will have when they call your office. This is a great opportunity for you to get a feel for the candidate and the way your customers will feel when interacting with them. Are they friendly? Knowledgable? Articulate?

If they didn’t answer your first phone call – was their outgoing message professionally-minded? Did they return your call promptly?

At this stage, ask basic questions like “Why do you want to leave your current job?” and “What’s your ideal position?”

First Interview

The first face-to-face meeting gives you a chance to evaluate the professionalism of the candidate. Watch for their people skills, energy level, professional mannerisms, and your own chemistry with the applicant. In this round, you’ll want to ask open-ended questions that require the candidate to talk at length about his or her experiences and requirements. Try questions like “Tell me about your experience in real estate” and “What challenges are you looking for in this position?”

Second Interview

After the first interview, you may have found your perfect candidate. If you’re still trying to make a decision, bring your applicants in for a second round. Before bringing them back in, give them a task to complete to demonstrate their ability to follow instructions and to be trained. This will give you a chance to check attention to detail, follow through, and the quality of his or her work.

Questions in this round should still be open-ended, but should give examples of situations the job may present, giving the candidate a chance to explain how he or she would respond.

This is a good time to bring in other members of your team for their input in the hiring process. You may also want to ask questions like “Tell me about a crisis you experienced in your last position and how you handled it” or “How would you handle a conversation with an angry client?”

Making Your Decision

No matter what phase of the interview process you’re in, there are no right and wrong answers. You have to trust your instincts and be able to take pride in your office and staff. You are the only person who can decide what will work for you and help your business continue to thrive. We’ve added a few sources below for more reading on the subject. Best of luck in taking the next step!


SOURCES

http://www.realtor.org/field-guides/field-guide-to-personal-assistants
http://www.trec.texas.gov/newsandpublic/publications/specialtopics/unlicensed-assistants.asp
http://realtormag.realtor.org/tool-kit/personal-assistant/article/interviewing-tips

Avoid These Social Media Mistakes

It’s no secret that social media is the most affordable and most effective form of marketing, when used correctly. But making mistakes on social media is easier than you think. Small missteps won’t always lead to disaster, but may make customers shake their heads and take their business elsewhere without saying anything.

It may be a good time to do a quick survey of your social media and see if you’re making any of the following mistakes.

 

Getting into Social Media without a plan

It’s easy to get excited about social media at first. Many people will join a network, load their profiles with great information, generate some buzz, then disappear when keeping up with it gets time consuming. The first step is to have a social media marketing plan. A good plan will include the time investment, goals and strategy, and plan for interaction. Create a calendar and fill it with articles, information, marketing opportunities and more, then use a scheduler to set up your posts weeks or months in advance. Once your initial time investment is taken care of with planning and scheduling, you can maintain your work, posting periodically if you come across useful information and interacting with your audience.

Not Posting Regularly

You’ll be surprised to know that you don’t necessarily need to post every day to be considered “active”, but you do need to post on a regular schedule. You’d hate for a potential client to find your page through a great post, only to see that it was your first one in six months! For Facebook, 1-2 posts per day is ideal. For Twitter, the number is 3-5 tweets. If those numbers sound outrageous, start with posting two or three times each week, and working your way up.

Overposting

While you want to post regularly (see above), inundating your followers with more information than they need is a quick way to lose their attention. Every couple of weeks, take a look at your progress and see which posts are getting the most or least interaction, check if there’s been a significant rise or fall in your audience numbers, and adjust your posts accordingly.

Very Little Interaction

In many cases, profiles have updates but no participation in conversation. Lack of conversation with your clients and followers decreases value of your social presence and you don’t build on valuable relationships. Social Media should be treated like a live event. You would never go to a party and wait for everyone to speak to you – you reach out, you engage, and conversations thrive. Social platforms work the same way. Follow sites you find interesting, comment and converse as your page.

No Real Followers

Are you posting information to the same 50 or so followers every month? Your page could offer the best information, but a small following won’t get you anywhere. To avoid this, interact on social media, tag other businesses and colleagues, and give people a reason to follow your page. If you’ve invited all of your friends to like your page and the number is still stagnant, it may be time to run a promotion or pay for sponsored post to reach new people in your target demographic.

Not Spending Wisely

Speaking of ads… Social media advertising can be very affordable, especially as your following is just getting started. However, if you’re spending money on ads and not seeing results, you may want to do a quick search on how to create a more effective ad, utilizing Search Engine Optimization and current trends.

Not Knowing Your Target Audience

Just like in any other form of marketing, it’s crucial to know who you are trying to reach so that your efforts aren’t wasted. Trying to reach millennial? The way you speak and act online will make a huge difference, as you want to stay ahead of trends. Trying to reach the elderly? Though many older people are using social media, your target may actually be their middle-aged children who are more likely to use the internet.

 

Is It Time To Rebrand?

Is it time to rebrand?

Rebranding is something that needs to happen every so often. It keeps your business – and your own mindset – fresh and open to change. And of course, it’s a great idea to do a regular internal audit of your business, your mission, and your brand to make sure that you’re still where you want to be and headed in the right direction. Now more than ever, businesses need to be able to adapt to a changing world.

However, rebranding is a big step to take. It’s not something you should do unless you absolutely have to. So how do you know when it’s time to rebrand?

When All You Have Is A Name

Many of us make the mistake of equating “brand” with “logo”. It’s true that branding often starts with a good logo, but the logo is merely a representation of the brand itself. Think about well-known brands like Apple, Target, Starbucks, etc. Apple’s logo is a simple, clean apple, but it represents innovation, passion, power through technology, and imagination. Anything your business stands for, anything people have come to expect from you – that’s your brand. When many small business owners begin their career, they have an idea and a name, but don’t often take the opportunity to think through how their name, their logo, their mission, and their ideas all fit together. If you haven’t taken this step – it’s time to REBRAND.

When Your Message or Strategy Has Changed

Have you been operating independently, but now you’re growing your team? Are you trying to reach a new demographic? Over time, markets change, industries change, and our own personalities change.  Branding is all about building a reputation around your message. And the reality is that your message is going to evolve as your business grows and evolves. If your message isn’t evolving, then chances are you’re not evolving and that’s not a good thing.

Your Current Brand Limits Your Growth

While it’s important to find a focus for your business, you also want to make sure that your brand gives you room to grow. How do you know if your focus is too narrow? Take a look at your customer base – do most of your customers come from similar backgrounds or demographics? If your brand is becoming known for serving only one kind of customer, you’ll have to do some work to let others know you’re willing to serve them as well.

 

Things Have Gone Stale

If you are feeling bored with your business, it’s definitely time to reexamine what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. If your customer base has dried up, it’s time to reflect on your brand. You should be the most passionate and most excited about what you offer. If you aren’t, set aside a day (or a weekend if you can!) to brainstorm, redefine, and rejuvenate your brand.

Remember: If you aren’t deliberate with your branding, others will define it for you. Take control!

 

Win A Client For Life

Loyalty is a hard thing to manufacture. And sometimes it isn’t enough to create and promote outstanding service. Clients are finicky and one false step can cost you a customer or a harsh review. There are no guarantees, but you can certainly increase your chances for loyal customers by building strong relationships.

Ask Questions First

Before you rattle of your resume and spill all about your business acumen, truly focus on getting to know your customer. Psychologically, we like people who like us and your interest in who the client is and what they are looking for will help build this bond. Business is becoming more personal every day. Clients want to work with people they like and can relate to. As you learn about your client, you’ll discover that your commonalities create an organic and natural relationship.

Reveal Something About Yourself

After you learn about your prospect and it’s your chance to have the floor, talk about yourself in a comfortable and relaxed way, as you would speak to a friend. Without revealing something too personal or embarrassing, share an anecdote that shows your human side. According to a study the Journal of Consumer Research, if a salesperson shares something persona, even something as simple as a birthday or a birthplace with a client, the client is more likely to not only do business, but to feel good about their decision to do business.

Be Clear, Be Predictable

Take a good look at your branding, your print materials, your website, and the statements you make about yourself online. Do they match your “real life” service? If they don’t, it’s time to adjust either your brand persona or your service! Customers like predictability and when you match their expectations, their loyalty will be secure.

Speak Their Language

The average customer doesn’t understand industry jargon. Make the process simple for them by using language they’ll understand and explaining what they don’t. Be careful not to patronize, but to focus instead on helping them have the best experience.

Take A Break From Texting

Unless your customer has specifically stated they’d like to be reached by text or email, make the effort to call them on the phone and speak to them directly. Things get lost in translation with the written word, and a phone call ensures that your meaning is clear, your explanations are sure, and you and your client are on the same page.

Be A Client

Notice what you love and what you don’t. Make mental notes about what bothers you and what experiences leave you smiling and change your own habits.

 

15 Minutes Can Change Your Social Media Habits

When asked why they don’t have a better or stronger social media presence, most entrepreneurs and small business owners blame time. After all, when you have contracts to worry about, clients to contact, and other day to day tasks to complete, adding just one more thing to the mix can seem like a huge burden.

However, social media doesn’t have to be as time consuming as you may think. In fact, with the right habits in place, you’ll find that with even a small time investment – just 15 minutes each day – your reputation and your client list will grow.

Here are some tips – from beginner to intermediate to social media expert – on how to maximize your presence without losing your whole workday.

In just 15 minutes, you can…

Set up your social media profile.
In fact, it takes much less time to set up a social media account. Even if you’re technologically impaired, each social media platform has a tutorial to walk you through setting up the page. See: FacebookTwitter, Instagram, etc. It should take about 5 minutes to set up your account! Look at that – 10 minutes to spare!

Find content.
One of the big keys to social media is consistency. By posting at least one time each day, you’re telling your followers – and potential clients – that you are actively invested in your industry. And by carefully choosing what you post, you’re telling your audience what they can expect from you. You can look all sorts of places for information. Start by looking for information from sites you frequently visit. You can also share information that other businesses are posting on social media; it’s a great way to build positive brand connections. Spend a few minutes each day finding content you can share!

Schedule content.
This one goes out to all the overachievers out there! When searching for articles to post, save what you like and schedule it out. You can use Facebook’s built-in scheduling, or you can take a look at a scheduling program like Hootsuite or Buffer. Your social media will be running itself all week. The best part of this is that you can make an investment of 15 minutes investment twice a week (once to find content and once to schedule it) and take care of all of your posts!

Educate yourself.
Social media doesn’t have to be a mystery. Run a quick search for something like “How does Twitter work?” or “Using Facebook to boost business” and see what you can find. Or get even more specific with a search like “Using Facebook for Real Estate” to get industry-related articles on how you can improve. For starters, check out this very quick read: Better Social Media in 15 Minutes.

Look around.
No one is expecting you to be a Facebook guru overnight. Each social media platform has its own language and culture. The best way to learn is by observing and interacting. Spend 15 minutes browsing through profiles and accounts to see how the platform works.

Check out the competition.
Once you have an account established, check up on businesses you admire, compete with, or hear about often. See what habits they use online and get inspired with your own accounts.

 

12 Things To Do During the September Slump

Every year as the school year begins homes sales invariably decline in September from August – kids are back to school, families are adjusting to the new routine, and buying or selling is the last thing most of your potential clients are thinking of. Instead of waiting for the phone to ring or complaining about the lack of business, now is the time to get to work and make your business the best it’s ever been! Here are a few places to start…

 

1. Send some handwritten notecards to clients.

You may start with the best of intentions, planning to send follow-ups and thank yous shortly after your clients are in a new home, but did you actually do it? Now is a great time to reconnect. Thank them, inspire them, and just say hello. But make sure you’re sincere in your approach or your time will be wasted!

2. Take a good look at your brand.

Branding is so much more than just your logo, but it certainly starts there. What message are you trying to send to your audience? Does your logo reflect that? And when you’ve made sure that it does, how does that message filter through your business cards, social media, print materials, and more? With time on your hands, you should be able to streamline your message, ensuring that your potential clients get the same first impression, no matter where they find you.

3. Take a small business class.

We’re not just talking about real estate courses here. Scroll through sites like Eventbrite.com and Eventful.com to find classes on marketing, branding, networking, etc. You’ll make new friends (and potential clients), learn new skills, and become more confident in your abilities.

4. Round up some testimonials.

Send out a sweet email asking for reviews, or search your business name to see what people have been saying about you. Did you know you can embed any tweet in your website? Simply click “More” on the Tweet you want to embed, then select “Embed Tweet,” then copy the code that pops up and place it on a Praise or Testimonial page of your website. Boom.

5. Revamp your website.

Old-fashioned or outdated website design can do more than turn off customers — it can tarnish your reputation and hurt your search rankings. It’s important to do a website redesign every so often to keep things fresh, update your look and keep the technology current on the back end as well.

6. Create a solid marketing plan.

Break down your promotions (New Year, Fourth of July, Back To School, etc.) and plan what you’ll need to do on a weekly and monthly basis.

7. Make a Social Media Calendar and schedule your posts.

Two of the key elements for social media are timing and consistency. In your downtime, plan what you’d like to post and use Facebook’s scheduling services (or a tool like Hootsuite, if you’re using more than one social network) to plan months in advance!

8. Write a few blogs.

Blogging is a great way to add content to your website, offer great information, boost your search results and MORE. What are you passionate about – can you relate that to your business? Are you a foodie who knows the best spots in town? Are you really into staging? Turn these into blog posts and schedule them regularly – with some real time set aside, you could schedule and write 12 blogs – enough to post once monthly for a year!

 

9. Make a financial plan to save up for that next big purchase.

What purchase would change your business? Have you been putting it off? Evaluate the cost of your existing business tools and services and see if that money might not be better spent toward the purchase of something more effective. Make a chart or a schedule if that helps and you’ll be well on your way to better business growth.

10. Do something that has NOTHING to do with your business.

Take a cooking class, write another chapter in your novel, paint or sew…give your brain a break from the stress of work and use your time to refresh and renew your soul

11. Organize your computer files.

Seriously – how many times have you complained to yourself about your computer’s lack of organization. It’s a simple change, but one that will really make your life easier and your work more productive.

12. Check out some free ebooks!

A quick Google search for ebooks on specific will produce some great results. Sites like BookBoon.com offer free ebook and textbook downloads (some with email sign up requirements) and you’ll be able to exercise your mind and learn new skills!

 

 

So there you have it – downtime doesn’t have to be a drag! Use your time wisely and your business will benefit!

The Resource: August 2016 (Houston)

 

We’re happy to share some great articles with you this month. Please feel free to pass these along to clients, friends and family.

 

August Events

Home Decor

 

DIY

 

Lawn and Garden

 

Great Ideas

 

Buying and Selling

 

The Resource: August 2016 (San Antonio)

We’re happy to share some great articles with you this month. Please feel free to pass these along to clients, friends and family.

August Events

Home Decor

 

DIY

 

Lawn and Garden

 

Great Ideas

 

Buying and Selling