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Keep the Leads Flowing

It can certainly seem that real estate is a seasonal busines. Market may be predictably peak at certain times and noticeably low on other times of the year. The hills-and-valleys rhythm is something that many practitioners have come to accept.

During the slower months, many realtors reason that there's little use in trying to find customers and they all but abandon effective and consistent lead generation until the market picks up. Adding up to the notion that it's harder to find customers at certain times of year.

In reality, there's no reason your business has to suffer at any time of year. You have to make the decision that lead generation is a priority 12 months of the year, regardless of how your market is performing. If your competitors aren't putting forth effort during the slow times, you have a huge opportunity, just by being consistent, to reach prospects who are serious about buying.

It sounds like an easy concept. So what’s behind the hesitation for most realtors?

For starters, most people dread lead generation more than anything. Cold calling, organizing client parties, buying big billboard ads—these traditional activities can be time-consuming, expensive, and downright unpleasant. And like most unpleasant tasks, lead generation becomes something that practitioners worry about and subconsciously avoid, choosing to keep themselves busy on the more enjoyable aspects of the business.

Given the fact that many practitioners today are keeping a close eye on their marketing funds, I'll focus here on how to execute the strategy with very little cash—through classified ads you place online (such as Craigslist) or in your local newspaper. These ads are inexpensive or free and people who are reading the real estate classifieds tend to be prospects who are actively looking for homes.

Here are five steps to effectively reach those buyers and make them call you instead of the other way around:

1. Think of advertising in a new way.

Even though you're placing an ad, your goal is not to sell the property, as counter intuitive as that may sound. That's because it's virtually impossible to sell a house with a classified ad.

What happens most often is that, as you begin to describe the property, the buyer starts to eliminate it and politely tells you that it's either too big or too small, in the wrong area, or too much money. If you've mastered the art of call conversion, you can get the buyer interested in a different listing. Therefore, when you're writing your classified ads, you shouldn't be thinking about how to showcase all the wonderful features of a particular home. Instead, think about how you can get the highest response.

2. Make ads compelling and nonthreatening.

The most effective and least expensive way to generate leads is to offer prospects something they want and make it very easy for them to get it. That means respecting the fact that no one likes to be sold to. You'll get a much greater response if prospects don't have to speak with a salesperson to get the information they're after.

How does this translate to an itsy-bitsy classified ad? Don't focus your limited ad space identifying how many bedrooms a particular listing has or whether the garage is attached, explain your listings in general terms, and prompt the reader to contact you, visit your Web site, or listen to a recorded phone message for more information.

3. Prepare for incoming calls and Web visits.

The whole point of running classified ads is to get motivated buyers to contact you. When they decide to take action, you need to provide a positive experience so that they'll want to continue doing business with you.

Your recorded voice message should have a friendly demeanor and thank the caller for contacting you about the listing. For example: "Hi, this is John Smith from XYZ Realty. Thank you for calling to receive information on lovely, detached homes with private yards on quiet streets in Newmarket. Please leave your name, price range, and mailing address so that we can send you a list of homes that match your criteria. Thank you for calling. Get ready to leave your message—here comes the tone."

On the Web, make sure prospects are landing on a page that provides a similar friendly message and a form where they can submit their name, price range, and contact information.

4. Fine-tune your follow-up.

Before calling prospects back, it's smart to consult a carefully worded script that will help you identify their needs; establish their timing and motivation; and, most important, set up a face-to-face appointment.

The key is to be helpful and nonthreatening. The best way to encourage prospects to meet with you is to make a targeted offer that provides a great benefit to them for very little work on their part.

5. Track your results and test relentlessly.

Consistency throughout the year is your goal. Place ads that will appear every single week, and run tests often to see if different wording will produce better results.

If you're trying to attract prospects in a certain niche, try using universal wording that would appeal specifically to that group. By tracking each approach, you can quickly determine the best messages and the best places to run them to get maximum return on your advertising.

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