Are you ready for 2019? It’s not too late to get your business plan in order!

If business is slowing down this holiday season, you could be looking forward to the rest and relaxation. Taking the time to rejuvenate is crucial to staying energized throughout the year and give you a good, fresh feeling when things pick up again. However, if you’ve got the energy and drive (and we know you do!) then this is the perfect time to make a plan for better business!

Plan It Out

This is a great time for reflection on the last year of your business. What has worked for you? What has caused you extra stress? What have been your shining moments? What opportunities did you miss?  As you look ahead to the new year, think about what you can get down on paper now to ensure success. Make sure you have holiday mailings, promotions, and events scheduled out with notifications and reminders so that you don’t miss a single chance to reach a new client.

Make Your Resolutions NOW

Where would you like your business to be this time next year and what can you do to set things in motion? Make New Years Resolutions for your business. What would help you the most? Can you make a goal to attend a certain number of networking events each month? How about making a plan to to finally hire an assistant? Hitting a sales milestone or growing your team are great top-of-the-list options.

Say “Hello” for the Holidays

We all know the importance of sending holiday greetings through the mail, but a quick, in-person stop can make a big difference for a special client. Take the opportunity to let them know you see them as more than just a business connection.

Party Time

Host a neighborhood gathering to let your neighbors get to know you a little better. We all prefer doing business with people we know and like. If you’re always talking about your business, this could be a chance to meet others on a new and personal level.

Live Giveaway

Hold an online contest for your social media followers. Who wouldn’t want a little extra money at the holidays. Give away a prepaid gift card to one of your followers for a store or restaurant via live Facebook video. Even better, promise to make the contest a monthly feature of your business. Watch your audience grow with the chance to win!

Look Ahead

What can you do this month to prepare for January? Are you sending out New Year’s postcards? Celebrating other fun holidays like National Pie Day or Strawberry Ice Cream Day? Find some fun ways to include your clients and prospects in New Year fun.

Safety First On Halloween

Halloween is a fun time for young and old alike, but it also presents plenty of dangers.  With only a couple of short weeks before the big event, we want to remind all of our friends to keep safety a top priority! Here are some great tips, courtesy SafeKids.org and The American Red Cross.

Trick Or Treat With An Adult

Children under the age of 12, children should always have an adult with them when trick or treating, especially after dark. If children are old enough to be without supervision, they should restrict themselves to familiar and well-lit neighborhoods and streets.

Safety On The Sidewalk

Trick or treaters should stay on the sidewalks at all times. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible. Avoid using electronic devices so that both parents and children can remain aware of any traffic or other trick or treaters. Cross the street ONLY at corners and crosswalks, paying attention to traffic signals.

Costume Safety

Dark costumes will reduce visibility at night. Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape and use lighter colors for costumes if you can. Glow sticks are both fun to carry and add to your child’s visibility. Finally, take care to ensure that costumes aren’t too long to avoid a tripping hazard.

Driving On Halloween

When driving on Halloween, stay aware that there will be children in almost any neighborhood. Children are excited on Halloween and may not be paying attention to standard safety rules. Take extra time at intersections and driveways. Drive more slowly than usual, especially during peak trick or treat hours, usually 5:30-9:30pm.

Boost Your Brand – These Three Things Will Make A Difference

Setting yourself apart from the crowd in the real estate industry is no easy task. The industry changes daily and staying on top of the competition can be a frustrating and never-ending pursuit. However, there are a few things you can do, and keep up with easily, that will help your clients, both current and prospective) feel good about working with you.

Build Community

Clients want to see that you are both invested in your community and an expert in your field. Taking measure to build and strengthen local groups helps achieve both of these results. We’ve written before on how creating a Facebook Group like a neighborhood forum can help your business grow. Using social media to connect a neighborhood, a group of like-minded people (like pet lovers, local hiking and running enthusiasts, etc.) is a fantastic way to network and to help others see how invested you are. But it’s not the only way. Here are other ways you can build community in your area:

  • Host a neighborhood happy hour in your area
  • Put together a block party in your subdivision
  • Sponsor an area trash clean up
  • Take a leadership position on your Homeowner’s Association board
  • Join or start your own MeetUp

Offer Free Resources

Show your potential clients that you’re not only in this for the commission. By offering free resources, you’re showing goodwill, but you’re also increasing the likelihood for reciprocal engagement and turning leads into clients. There are plenty of things you can offer without spending money. EBooks are a popular offering – easy to create in your free time or during a business lull, and offered as a free download via your website. You can pick from a variety of topics, but stick with something that interests you. Consider some of the following topics:

  • Staging Tips For Selling Quickly
  • 10 Things To Do Before Your Home Goes On The Market
  • Neighborhood Guide for your city’s most popular areas
  • School Information
  • Best Outdoor Activities in your city
  • Free Family Fun Activities

Partner With A Charity

By partnering yourself with a non-profit organization you care about, you’ll be doing good for the community. It’s also a great differentiator and a way for people to learn more about you and what sets you apart. Some ideas for partnering with charities include:

  • Hosting a food, clothing or toy drive at your next open house
  • Sponsor a family in need
  • Have your office participate in Habitat for Humanity

Get Ready For Some Productivity! Delegate These Tasks Today!

Business growth is great – it’s what everybody wants! Unfortunately, there can be an uncomfortable in-between place between being small enough to handle it all yourself and being big enough to hire full-time help. But don’t worry! You have another option: Outsourcing! As you struggle to keep your head above water, consider the following tasks for outsourcing.

Marketing

There are plenty of companies and freelancers looking for new clients. If you love your work, but struggle to stay on top of important dates and opportunities to market your services, finding a firm or a contract professional to help you on your way is a huge weight off of your shoulders. Marketing professionals can run about $50/hour, but if you’re paying them for just a few hours a week, you’ll be in good shape. Outsourced marketing personnel can handle creating a marketing schedule, communication with vendors, mailings and more.

Data Entry

Whether you’re looking for someone to input your information into the MLS or clean up your email database, a data entry professional can help streamline your work. A freelance data entry contractor can charge between $12-20 per hour, depending on their skill and experience.

Graphic Design Support

Even great tools and apps like Canva and Snapseed can frustrate the technologically-challenged agent. Graphic design professionals are available at a variety of rates and skills. If your needs are simple, you may want to hire an art student to whip up Open House flyers in their free time. If you’re looking for more consistency in your look, an independent graphic designer will usually charge between $45-75 per hour, but may be available for less on a retainer.

SEO Management and Maintenance

If you’ve read anything on getting traffic to your website, you know that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is crucial. If you don’t understand SEO, you’re not alone. It can be confusing without professional help, but implementing the right keywords and techniques can put your business at the top of search results. An SEO expert will probably charge one rate to analyze your website and set up your pages for success at the start, and then an ongoing monthly rate. These rates vary greatly depending on how experienced the professional might be, so be sure to shop around.

Creating Valuable Content

One great way to improve SEO is with consistent blogging and content creation. Search engines like to see that websites are being regularly updated and blogs are the way to get there. Most people start with big plans to blog, write consistently for a few weeks, then let it go. An outsourced blogger can help you stay consistent and top-of-mind with your clientele. Expect a good, experienced blogger to start at $75 per blog.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and MORE

Now, to be honest, the best social media is personal. If your goals are to create engagement and develop relationships, it is always best to handle your own social media. However, if you are short on time, and looking for someone to keep your page up-to-date and consistent with posts and current events, hiring someone isn’t a terrible idea. Most social media gurus will ask for a monthly retainer, varying from $25-75 an hour.

It’s Time For You To Stand Out!

In the not-so-small Real Estate World, it’s easy to feel lost in the crowd. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or ready to make a splash as a newbie in the industry, the competition is fierce. How can you set yourself and your services apart from the rest?

 

Find A Niche To Call Your Own

If you’re new to the world of real estate, this one might not come as easily as it would to a more experienced agent. However, focusing on mastering a sub-section of the market is important. Just as in any other business, potential clients are looking for someone who can understand their unique needs, whether it’s a veteran, a luxury buyer, a senior citizen, or a first-time buyer. General knowledge is fine, but finding your niche allows you to shine.

Newer agents may want to focus on a particular neighborhood or zip code, a specific type of property, or a specific kind of client. Seasoned agents can look at their past clientele and transactions to find both their strength and source of joy to find a niche.

 

Highlight What Makes You Different

In both personal and professional circles, your personal characteristics, hobbies, and relationships are the most interesting thing about you. Take advantage of any memberships you hold in social organizations, churches, or academic environments and look to serve your fellow members. On social media and on your website, highlight your passions. You may love rescue dogs, local theater and art, or running marathons. These differentiators certainly won’t hurt you, but they will absolutely make you easier to find for a potential client who shares your interests.

 

Become An Expert

One great way to separate yourself from the crowd is to offer training events or workshops that connect with the public in a meaningful way. Local libraries often offer space for free and these spots make great locations for community classes. You don’t have to stick to the classic first-time home buyer class either. If you’re an expert stager, offer a course on staging a home to sell. If you’ve found a niche working with seniors, offer a class in helping elderly parents move. There are a wealth of topics to teach that could both help the public and help your business.

 

Marketing Tips To Carry You Through The Fall

Autumn is on its way! In Texas, that means more football than falling leaves, but there’s still a distinct feeling in the air throughout the fall months, and with some of the ideas below, you can use it to your advantage when it comes to lead generation.

Get Involved

There’s always something to do in the fall months. From high school athletics to community festivals, there are wonderful opportunities for sponsorship and involvement. Go a step further than placing that ad in the football program and volunteer your time. It will give you a chance to talk to people instead of just hoping your ad catches someone’s eye.

Give Back

This is a great time to sponsor a food or clothing drive for the less fortunate. Partner with a local business and spend a day collecting items for those in need. Bring along some refreshments to hand out to your new friends.

Refer Your Fall and Winter Weather Vendors

Remind your mailing list about your favorite gutter cleaners or lawn clean up crew. As your clients prepare their homes for colder weather, you’ll be able to keep yourself in the top of their mind by helping them find good help quickly.

Help Your Clients Prepare

Create a Winter Weather Prep checklist or ebook that visitors to your site can download by signing up for your email list. The information will be useful, and you’ll be able to keep their attention with future emails.

Beat Them to the Punch

Every business sends Christmas greetings, and most homes are so inundated with cards that promotional mailing gets completely overlooked. Get a step ahead by sending a Thanksgiving card and recipe to your mailing list!

Big Dates

There are great dates to take advantage of during the fall season that may help you reach a new audience. Remind your constituents of these dates or plan special promotions around them.

October 8 – Columbus Day
October 14 – National Dessert Day
October 27 – Make A Difference Day
October 31 – Halloween
November 4 – Daylight Savings Time Ends
November 11 – Veterans Day
November 15 – America Recycles Day
November 21 – World Hello Day
November 22 – Thanksgiving

Sources and Further Reading:
Fall Real Estate Tips
20 Fresh Fall Ideas for Generating More Leads
3 Fall Marketing Ideas for Real Estate Agents

 

 

Autumn is here! In Texas, that means more football than falling leaves, but there’s still a distinct feeling in the air throughout the fall months, and with some of the ideas below, you can use it to your advantage when it comes to lead generation.

Get Involved

There’s always something to do in during the fall. From high school athletics to community festivals, there are wonderful opportunities for sponsorship and involvement. Go a step further than placing that ad in the football program and volunteer your time. It will give you a chance to talk to people and make some good connections instead of just hoping your ad catches someone’s eye.

Give Back

This is a great time to sponsor a food or clothing drive for the less fortunate. Partner with a local business and spend a day collecting items for those in need. Bring along some refreshments to hand out to your new friends.

Refer Your Fall and Winter Weather Vendors

Remind your mailing list about your favorite gutter cleaners or lawn clean up crew. As your clients prepare their homes for colder weather, you’ll be able to keep yourself in the top of their mind by helping them find good help quickly.

Help Your Clients Prepare

Create a Winter Weather Prep checklist or ebook that visitors to your site can download by signing up for your email list. The information will be useful, and you’ll be able to keep their attention with future emails.

Beat Them to the Punch

Every business sends Christmas greetings, and most homes are so inundated with cards that promotional mailing gets completely overlooked. Get a step ahead by sending a Thanksgiving card and recipe to your mailing list!

Big Dates Ahead

There are great dates to take advantage of during the October and November that may help you reach a new audience. Remind your constituents of these dates or plan special promotions around them.

October 14 – National Dessert Day
October 27 – Make A Difference Day
November 4 – Daylight Savings Time Ends
November 11 – Veterans Day
November 15 – America Recycles Day
November 21 – World Hello Day
November 22 – Thanksgiving

Sources and Further Reading:
Fall Real Estate Tips
20 Fresh Fall Ideas for Generating More Leads
3 Fall Marketing Ideas for Real Estate Agents

 

Turning Strangers Into Leads

Many of us regularly attend networking events, mingle with colleagues and potential clients, pass out business cards, follow up and hope to gain a little business from each event. But, if you stop to think about the daily encounters you have with strangers, from elevator rides to standing in line at the grocery store, your opportunities to network are exponential.

Finding leads among strangers isn’t easy, and it takes a certain boldness in personality, but with the tips below, you’ll be well on your way:

Start With A Common Topic

Open the door to a conversation by finding the common ground. Small talk cliches are great here – try weather, holidays and events, how you each know an event host. Your first impression should be a positive one. Save complaining for another time.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

If you ask a question that only requires a “yes” or “no” answer, you’ll probably get a very short response. Instead of, “Have you attended this event before?”, try something along the lines of, “What do you think of this event?” When your conversation partner answers with their thoughts, you can find something in their statement to grab onto to keep the conversation flowing.

Give A Sincere Compliment

Who doesn’t love receiving a compliment? The trick here is to compliment physical appearance or clothing only as a last resort. So wait until you’ve been involved in conversation for a few minutes and you can get an idea of your new friend’s personality or talent. Try “It sounds like you’re very successful,” or, “You’re very easy to talk to.”

Share Opportunities

As you learn more about someone, look for ways you can help them instead of looking for business opportunities for yourself. You’ll be building a more positive impression for yourself, which is much more likely to generate business than looking opportunistic.

 

Get More Leads By Improving Your SEO

It doesn’t matter if you’re the best real estate agent in the city, if you don’t have leads, you won’t make any money. Finding new clients can be frustrating, but we have a few ideas that may help when it comes to creating a website with a high SEO.

It requires a little patience, but in the long run, optimizing your site will generate more traffic and more leads. In brief, optimizing your site is a little like setting up guideposts for search engines like Google. When someone searches for something like “Real Estate Agent”, the search engine looks at a couple of different factors to determine what pages show up first in your results. These factors include age of site, number of pages, unique information, frequency of updates, and, of course, the words on the page, among others. This is why you’ll often see Zillow and Trulia at the top of results – they’ve easily got most agents beat on age of site and number of pages.

How can you optimize your site for a higher ranking?

Content

The actual words on your site are, of course, a big deal for search engines. Most important, you want to make sure that the words you’re using on your site are words that potential clients will be searching for. For example, your designations are important, but are buyers and sellers going to know and search for industry terms like ALHS, e-PRO, and GRI? Keep this information, but check your site for “search terms” like “homes for sale in Stone Oak” or “Cypress real estate agent.”

If you’re comfortable with the back-end of your site, you can also add helpful terms to your images, page title, and more. For example, when you post a picture of a home, the photo title may be a string of numbers or even “123-main-street.” By changing these titles to something like “home-for-sale-77494”, you’re giving search engines one more clue that your page is relevant to the search.

Frequent Updates

Next, you can make more frequent updates, through a blog, for example. By posting regularly (even once a month), you’re showing sites like Google that your webpage is active and current. If you set up your site a year ago and haven’t changed it since, search engines aren’t going to want to show your page to visitors. It’s also a good idea to check your site every couple of months and update outdated information.

Unique Information

Having unique information on your site is very important. For example, a certain real estate brokerage recently rolled out a brand new website service for all of their agents. Included on these sites are 5 sample pages and 4 sample blog posts. All of these pages have exactly the same content. When a search engine scours the web for relevant information, it will find thousands of pages that are identical (except for contact information and agent names). Search engines don’t know what to do with thousands of pages that look exactly the same and will feature them much lower in results than pages that have original content. If this sounds like your website, the best thing you can do is rewrite the pre-fabricated content you were given to reflect you personally and professionally. This will benefit your SEO, but you’ll also be creating information that your clients can use.

Be Patient

It takes about 60 to 90 days to see results from SEO improvements, and may take as much as 6 to 12 months for newer websites. Improving your SEO is a long-term project with big results, so keep making updates, posting original content and checking your site for search terms, even if you aren’t seeing immediate changes. In the long run, you’ll be building a site that search engines want to feature and, of course, that offers great information to prospective clients.

 

You Don’t Have To Suffer In 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!

Build Your Business This September

The kids are in school, vacation is a distant memory, and the holidays will be here before you know it. How are you marketing your business this month?

Upcoming Holidays

Looking ahead to October, Halloween is always an obvious choice. But there are plenty of other ways to reach out to potential and former clients.

  • National Homemade Cookie Day (October 1)
  • World Teacher’s Day (October 5)
  • Fire Prevention Day (October 9)
  • National Nut Day (October 22)
  • Make A Difference Day (October 28)
  • Get Organized Week (First Week in October)
  • Fire Prevention Week (Second Week in October)
  • Cookie Month
  • Popcorn Popping Month

See more at www.NationalDayCalendar.com

Helping Those In Need

There’s been so much tragedy in the news, starting with Hurricane Harvey in our home base of Houston. But there are earthquake victims in Mexico, Hurricane victims in Florida and Puerto Rico, and wildfire victims in Montana and the Northeast, among others. This is a great time to help serve those in need and foster community spirit. Give.org operates through the Better Business Bureau and gives information on charitable organizations. Do your research before you align yourself with a particular cause.

Fall-Themed Newsletters and Social Media

Fall is a great time to consider selling or buying a home. You can use your newsletters, social media, and emails to encourage prospects to take advantage of the extra activity in the market. Create a blog about the advantages of buying in the fall and post to social media or include it in an email blast. Don’t forget current clients – give them reminders on preparing their homes for fall, including cleaning gutters, roof maintenance, heater tips, etc.

What other ideas do you plan to employ this fall?