Here begins today’s rant. It follows yet another call from yet another real estate agent (and genuinely nice guy) that has been taken for a ride, financially. This has been bugging me for awhile, even before the most recent call (I get several of these a month, BTW). I’ve talked with my own clients about it, and I’ve probably run off a few potential clients with my blatantly bold and brash “brutal” honest opinion on this particular topic.
The fact is, real estate agents are an easy mark. They believe in and look for a silver bullet to fix all their online and offline marketing woes and they are willing to buy false “Holy Grails” over and over again.
They don’t get what they want from one company (even though what was advertised was exactly what they did want)… so they go on to the next company and buy yet another “service” — another “software program” — another online lead generator — another “one size fits all” website, etc, etc, ad nauseum…
And they wonder why they never quite make it to the big leagues. They wonder why their overhead is so high, their profits so low and why the concept of personal “free time” is a misnomer.
I’ve HAD IT!!!
(Not with these agents… but FOR them!)
I want to scream at the top of my lungs… “STOP IT! STOP IT RIGHT NOW!”
And I do say just that, rather firmly (but without the shouting), to my own clients. And, for the most part, they listen. But, if there are any real estate agents, brokers or people who care about a real estate agent or broker out there reading this, please take a moment’s pause. Listen carefully without being too quick to judge. I’m going to go past my own client circle and say this to the world now…
- Stop buying well-packaged boxes of fluff for thousands of dollars!
- Quit attending seminars full of flash and showmanship that then try to sell you these boxes of fluff
- Always take the time to do the due diligence for yourselves that you would insist on doing for your clients
Most of the agents I talk to aren’t “salesmen” — they are service providers. And, YES there is a difference! The first one being, I don’t work with “salesmen” types. If an agent is all about making money and to heck with the client… I refer them on to someone else. When a client comes to me, I determine if our ethics are a good fit, if our approach to business meshes, if they are really in it to make a difference in people’s lives,… or if it’s all about the money.
The “marketing professionals” and “marketing agencies” that tend to prey on these agents are usually fairly easy to spot, if you take the time to observe. They are the individuals that make me want to come up with a new title for what I do. They make me want to “ditch” the term “marketing” altogether and concentrate only on my work as a writer… or create a new title like “relationship consultant” or “communications guru” or ANYTHING but “marketer.”
Before you begin working with someone in the marketing field…
- Always ask for references. (I’d recommend you request a current client, a past client and a repeat client.)
Yes, I know this puts the newcomers to the marketing game at a disadvantage, and that’s unfortunate for them — but do you want someone new cutting their marketing teeth on your business? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Once you have these references — CALL THEM. Don’t skip this step. Not ever.
Go to their own website(s) and check them out. If they don’t HAVE a website – run. If they do have a website determine:
- Are they using the methods they preach — or are they just preaching about “sales” and “traffic” to your site?
- How well established are they?
- What’s the professional background of the main player “courting” you for your business?
- Are they blogging? (A marketer who doesn’t blog in today’s climate isn’t staying on top of the game)
- Is their site full of useful information, articles and tips (all free) for you to peruse?
- Is the site itself easy to navigate and intuitive, or do you “get lost” in it?
- Is it all “flash” and no substance? (Content is still king. Pretty pictures are nice, but it won’t get your SE rankings up, and if they aren’t concerned with their own rankings, why would they be concerned with yours?)
It genuinely amazes me when people come to me, flustered with their current “marketing” company — or the one they recently dismissed. Sometimes a client will send me to the former company’s website. (Although I never ask for names, I can’t resist peeking, if they offer up a link or a company name on their own.)
Usually (surprise, surprise) there’s very little information about marketing and lots of “ad-speak” about how great the company is. The site content is some version of “we are better than you will ever be without us” and the agents believe them. Why? Because they are too busy to keep looking and they just hope the company is honest. So, many agents buy the services and end up with an “ad-speak” site of their own that is less than appealing to their own real estate clients.
Is it any wonder why these sites don’t work?
Now, maybe I’m just being picky… I do that alot… but if you aren’t feeling warm and fuzzy, coddled and pampered, informed and well-cared-for when on the marketing consultant’s or marketing agency’s site… what makes you think they can provide that for you on your own site, in your own print materials, inside your own business? (Heck, they can’t even do it for themselves!)
So, if you are in the market for someone to help you communicate with your clients about your business, about the advantages of working with you, about how your services help save them stress and help them avoid headaches… judge their marketing materials using the same criteria your clients will use to judge yours.
And, don’t be fooled into believing that because a company is “big” or is “well-known” or is used by “hundreds of other real estate agents” that it’s the best fit, the best buy or the best provider for you. Likewise, don’t assume you will receive better “one-on-one” service from an individual or a small company. Consider each option objectively. Do your research. Before you “sign on” with any company — large or small — you need to determine a few things…
- Are they professional?
- Well spoken?
- On the cutting edge of their own industry?
- Familiar with your industry?
And in the simplest of terms… are they someone you would trust to guide your own clients? After all, they will be guiding them – first they will help guide them to you and then they will be helping you to guide them from there.
Remember, marketing isn’t about sales. Marketing is about communication and service. ADVERTISING is about sales. Forget advertising.
Concentrate on that service aspect, on communication, on building superior relationships and maintaining an excellent reputation through deeds — not smoke and mirrors. And if you decide you need a marketing consultant, find one that thinks the way you do, believes what you believe, and serves you with the same care and dedication you afford your own customers.
Amid all the due diligence, background and other research on a potential marketing partner, don’t forget the importance of listening to your gut. If, when you talk to a potential “marketing” guru, your gut does acrobatic flips, you get that gnawing uneasy feeling, or you aren’t completely at ease with this person… take it as a sign. Always trust your gut and end the conversation if it tells you something’s not quite right. Trust yourself.
When selecting a business partner, you should look for multiple common points of reference. A marketing consultant is one of the most important business partners you will select. A good one will help you develop your brand, build your business, and reach out to the clients you want to serve. A bad one will take your money and then move on to the next “easy mark.”
The choice is yours. Select carefully.