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How to Cultivate Relationships for Your Real Estate Business

Friday, September 8th, 2017

To Cultivate Relationships is important for real estate agents.

If you’re here reading this, you’re likely a real estate agent who is looking to Improve your business. As agents, we often watch other agents and get sold on the idea of sending out snail mail, paying big bucks to a lead generation service, or signing up for a generic website. The truth is that sales are about cultivating relationships, sustaining existing relationships, and obtaining referrals. Often as real estate agents, we scramble around trying to find anyone and everyone who might ever want to buy or sell any piece of property ever. This can become frustrating, and many agents wind up feeling like they are spinning their wheels until they finally close a few deals and get a few referrals. Many agents only have a sputtering inconsistent business and often feel they are continuously starting their business over and over again.

What I choose for my real estate coaching students, instead of them constantly reaching out for new business, is for them to cultivate relationships so that their real estate business becomes totally sustainable. When you focus on knowing who you are, who your fan club (tribe) is, and how to have a consistent steadfast marketing campaign, you can create and cultivate a growing fan club that will work with you as well as for you.

Do you have a Core Marketing Plan?

Unwavering core marketing and follow-up will sustain a steady flow of business and the critical element is to cultivate relationships.

You should have a marketing plan in place that can be tweaked for improvement only when necessary. The key to this core marketing plan is that it needs to be continuous for you to have any real lead generation success. Consumers count on consistency and agents that do, win.

A good marketing campaign that reaps tremendous results includes my favorite Top Tier communication. The ideal components in a Top Tier communication includes; person-to-person interaction over the phone or in person, handwritten notes (yes, really handwritten), and having events for those you are trying to attract to your business with appropriate subject matter. It also includes regular communication and interaction with your database. A database can only be a Fan Club if you cultivate it into a community you actually know. Again, the important goal is to cultivate relationships.

Here are Some Examples of Top Tier Communication. I for one, love the kinds of communication that make it as personalized as possible:

One on one phone calls – (Know your fan club database personally) Make sure to connect with common interests when you know them, ask questions, let them talk. People love to talk about themselves.

Personal emails – Again, the more personal the details the better. If it looks like a form e-mail with someone’s “firstname” filled in, it’s not Top Tier Communication.

Personal notecards – This is one of my favorites. There’s nothing more personal than a hand-written notecard! The best part about these notecards is that people feel bad about throwing them away so they’ll keep them around and it will remind them of you every time they look at it. Your personal note may be the only one they received, this year, that wasn’t a preprinted one. Check it out, even family sends holiday cards that are preprinted. Believe me, they are emotionally hungry!

Educational Events – You should have regular educational events, such as first-time homebuyer’s seminars, Mold classes, and social media education for people in your database network. This will help them realize that you provide service and value.

Other Events – Other events, such as social events, holiday gatherings, and customer appreciation parties can make clients feel like they are appreciated as well as remind them that you are the resource in real estate.

Of course, don’t forget about the other tried-and-true methods of communication, although it may not exactly be as personal:

Direct Mail with a Call to Action – Direct Mailers are often an effective way to remind people that you’re out there and you’re looking for new business. You can try making a mailer that might be useful to certain people, like a Football team schedule or a calendar, so that they’re more apt to hang it on a wall and think of you every time they use it.

Social media – You definitely should be up to date on social media networks. Try Facebook and Twitter to start, and then perhaps try adding in LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram when you reach pro levels on the other two. The key is that you be up to date, if the last post on your Facebook page is from 2014 we have a problem, as it doesn’t look like you’re an active agent. 58% of marketers indicate that their social media efforts have generated leads. Social media produces almost double the marketing leads of trade shows, telemarketing, or direct mail.

Facebook Ads – Facebook ads, if you’re unfamiliar, can be posted from your Business Page. If you don’t have a business page you need to have one to differentiate your personal life from your business life on social media. Once you get a page going, you can run a Facebook ad, which is super cheap, starting at only about $5, and it’s ultra-effective. Content marketing costs are 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads.

Video – This is the wave of the very near future. Try using Facebook Live to record and exciting one-minute blurb about a new restaurant, an upcoming event, or even an open house you are having. The sky is the limit on this one. You can download this and use it in other ways as well. The wonderful news is that Video is trending, and Facebook algorithms push your video to the top of people’s news feeds, so by simply posting a video you’re already increasing the chances of it being seen over your other methods of communication by almost 3 times as much.

Blogging – If you want them to follow your blog, be a resource. Provide relevant information that showcases your knowledge and post it on LinkedIn as well as your blog. The search engines love new content and this will set you apart as a noted expert in no time at all. Everyone wants to follow the expert. 88% of business buyers say online content plays a major to moderate role in vendor selection, yet just 9% of respondents think of vendors as trusted sources of content; the most influential types of content across both the awareness and evaluation phases of the buying journey are third-party validated research reports and studies.

Newsletter – Your newsletter can include a lot of things, such as business recommendations, a featured resource story written by you, an editor’s corner showcasing a testimonial or story that causes people to follow you, and other relevant information. The more informative the better, people will be more inclined to keep it and share it if it provides important information. Also, when you send out your newsletter using a source like Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, Service for Life, or ConvertKit (blogs), be sure to have the analytic features activated. This will tell you who opened or didn’t open the newsletter, who clicked on the links and who didn’t, and how long the average person spent reading your newsletter. You’ll be able to use this information to call those who liked it and find out if they have any businesses or individuals that they can recommend that may appreciate the newsletter. For those who didn’t, you can call and make them aware of its value so they will open the email. Additionally, the Constant Contact program and others have a feature where you can send out a repeat e-mail blast to remind people to open something that they haven’t previously.

Agents should focus their short and long-term business on referrals. Your database should be built with a sustainable fan club of loyal followers in mind. This is an important key to any business, but especially to businesses revolving around sales. You should be reaching out to people constantly to add to your database, but the most important thing is to continue to cultivate those people who are already in your fan club. Remember, they know 200 people that you probably don’t know.

You can continue to cultivate your growing fan club by:

Personally engaging with your Fan Club database – Send them e-mails and call them whenever appropriate and possible. You can send them birthday cards as well, or even anniversary cards from when you sold them their last piece of property.

Being active on Social Media – You should post at least once a week at a bare minimum. 60% of marketers create at least one piece of content each day. It’s acceptable to post several times a day. As long as it’s either interactive, useful, or entertaining, you can’t really go wrong posting it. What people don’t want to see is too much personal information (like your granddaughter’s dance recital pictures) or repeated requests for them to buy or sell something. Sales is about name recognition and annoying consumers will result in the opposite of what you are trying to master. 71% of consumers who have had a good social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others.

Having a Facebook Group – Having a Facebook group is a really good way to share information with people who want information from you. On your Facebook page, you’re sharing with people who follow you but may not necessarily need a lot of updates or information, but if you set up a group for people who need and have requested information, it’s easier to post more frequently without feeling that you’re bothering them. You can even set up different groups like “Bob Smith’s Facebook Group for First Time Home Buyers” for example, to target different audiences within your network.

Farming a demographic or geographic location. – Pick an area that you’re very familiar with and that you love. It could be somewhere you grew up, a place you visit often, the neighborhood where your family resides, or just an area of town that you are passionate about. It could also be a community with the most potential for growth. Suggestions for farming a geographic location are utilizing your MLS for tax records, finding expired or withdrawn listings in that area, or even buying call lists or zip codes in that area. You can drive around and look for rental signs or for sale by owner signs as well. I have a friend who contacts any property owner with a piece of land that is overrun or overgrown, or desperately in need of repair. Contacting local businesses like nail salons and hardware shops could be a great way of building yourself in an area. Not only are you able to reach the local business’ customers, but you establish yourself as someone who’s helpful and willing to do what it takes to help their business grow and build. You can become active in the PTA or neighborhood association, make Facebook ads or other social media ads that target alumni of a certain popular university or club, buy a billboard in that area, or place an ad in the church bulletin to achieve demographic farming success. Also, selecting a prime location that has a rental room or a club house that can host your events is a wonderful idea and can be used for both geographic and demographic farming depending on how you advertise. Education is the window into a consumer’s ability to trust you as a reliable source. By establishing yourself as a resource, you no longer are viewed as a salesperson but as a community partner. Find out if the area you want to farm has an active monthly newsletter. If not, offer to do one for them. If they already have one, build one that is unique and fun that doesn’t conflict with the existing community newsletter.

Low or robust listing inventories won’t matter any longer as long as you have a referral generating business building strategy.

You also want to make sure that your consistent with the way you brand yourself and the way you approach your marketing. If you’re a down-to-earth funny guy, and you like to make jokes- you should have that come through on all of your branding. If you’re a very serious and detail-oriented woman, that should shine through in your statistics and market analysis. What you shouldn’t do, is confuse people. It’s okay to be a person who likes scuba diving one day, attending a football game the next, and then going to work the following day, but that’s your personal life. It’s okay to be multi-dimensional in your personal life, but being multi-dimensional in your marketing can confuse people causing you to not be taken seriously and ultimately discarded. Be yourself, just be consistent. Many successful companies say that “the 3 Cs of customer satisfaction” are “consistency, consistency, and consistency.”

The bottom line, is that you can choose any strategy that works best for you, but the key is that you do it consistently. If you hit one method of communication hard and then forget about it for days, weeks, or even months at a time, your fan club and tribe will not be as receptive to future communication. You want to be as dependable and responsible when it comes to marketing as you are when it comes to taking care of a listing. Slow and steady wins the race here, no one wants someone who posts a hundred times and then forgets about their cause. Be consistent and helpful and you can’t go wrong in generating referrals, and sustaining your successful real estate business. Cultivate Relationships and then never stop following up!

Computer Hacking Methods and Protection

Friday, September 8th, 2017

Protecting your computer against hacking is different from protecting it against viruses that you accidentally or unknowingly invite into your computer that then cause damage in one form or another. Anti-hack is about protecting your computer against external entities that are deliberately trying to get into your computer to cause damage and to steal from you – or cause damage. Viruses are impersonal and hacking is personal.

Anti-Hack software is now out there for sale in addition to anti-virus software. These products protect you in ways that anti-virus software does not. Following are some examples.

DoS (Denial of Service) Attacks:

DoS attacks occur when too much traffic is directed to your company website at once. The web server essentially ‘chokes’ on the amount of traffic trying to squeeze into it’s network hardware. Attack scripts are easily downloadable and you do not need to be an experienced engineer to launch an attack. Upset customers seeking some sort of revenge or disruption, competitors interrupting your site, or these days, as in the recent major hospital attacks, the trend is to hold your web site hostage until some ransom is paid or some demand met. “Ransomeware” is a relatively new term, but it is gaining a lot of visibility in recent times.

SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) Attacks:

Akamai’s Prolexic Security Engineering and Response Team (PLXsert) recently issued a threat advisory warning of DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks abusing the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) interface. PLXsert SNMP DDoS attack campaigns target various industries including consumer products, gaming, hosting, nonprofits, and software-as-a-service, mainly in the US (49.9%) and China (18.49%). The attackers used an online tool posted by the hacker group ‘Team Poison’. This latest wave of attacks targets devices running SNMP which by default is open to the public Internet unless that feature is manually disabled. Anti-hack software is now being created that help prevent SNMP attacks such as this by preventing the attacker from forcing network switching to secondary gateways.

SYN/AWK Attacks:

This is a little complex but basically, a SYN flood attack is similar to a Denial of Service attack in that there is request made to the web server that ties up its resources and makes it unavailable to other connections. When a computer or web browser tries to connect to a web site, what’s called a 3-way handshake is used to establish the connection between the two computers. In a SYN/AWK Flood attack, the computer offers its hand (1-way), the server reaches out to meet it (2-way) but the offered hand is quickly withdrawn. The server waits for the hand to come back until it ‘times-out’ and then the cycle repeats millions of times. The 3-way handshake is never established and all other connections are refused while this is happening.

USB Auto-Run Attacks:

By default, Windows runs any executable, program, or script on a USB drive the second it is inserted into any computer or laptop. This means that anyone* with unauthorized code, like a virus or a key-logger or backdoor program – all of which are easily downloadable – can walk past any computer in your building, insert the USB drive for just a second or two, and take control of your entire business without you knowing about it. Anti-virus software knows this and will try to block known vulnerabilities, but what about the unknown ones that were created this morning?

*I want to get them thinking locally here too. Friends could do it, your wife could do it, your kids could do it, the babysitter, your priest, etc…

Remote Connections:

Here’s a test; right-click on My Computer and select the Remote tab, or, in Windows 8, right-click This Computer and click the ‘Remote Settings’ link on the left side of the System panel that opened. Is ‘Allow Remote Assistance connections to this computer’ checked? Click the Advanced button and you will see how far this goes and how easy it is for your computer to allow others to connect to it. You can actually allow others to take complete control of your system.

This was designed for a helpdesk in a major corporation to connect quickly and easily without a lot of authentication fuss. The average home, school, and SOHO system is obviously not on a corporate helpdesk so closing these interoperability ‘features’ will help protect your system against external intrusion. If you ever need them back on, you can explicitly turn them back on. But we don’t believe they should be on by default. Neither does the NIST, the USAF, The DoHS, or even the NSA. Check for the current settings on your computer – then update if necessary – I’ll bet you find that this setting is on, allowing remote control to externals.

Microsoft Program Inventory:

In Windows 7, Microsoft quietly introduced a feature they call ‘Program Inventory’. A direct quote from Microsoft states: “The PDU inventories programs and files on the system and sends information about those files to Microsoft”. Not only are you constantly sending information about every installed program on your machine, but also information about every single file that a program can open. Read that quote again: Microsoft ‘inventories all of the programs and files on your system’ and they admit it somewhere buried in the guts of the operating system.

But they didn’t tell you before they implemented it. You would be shocked at what they are doing with Windows 8 and especially the new and free upgrade to Windows 10. How on Earth could you have a sustainable business model giving away your main product unless there was some massive reward for doing so. Your information is most likely that reward. Find this window in your system settings to turn off the feature if you wish to protect the privacy of your information.

Conclusion

While no system can be completely 100% secure in today’s rapidly changing computer threat landscape, there is absolutely no reason to give intruders a helping hand. Easy-connection and interoperability features and settings need to be switched off by the dozens. The goal is to make it more difficult for intruders, much more difficult, rather than to continue to have operating systems with hundreds of open doors, windows, and step-ladders into private areas just waiting to be exploited.

Windows 10 is particularly vulnerable and there are many settings you should be considering turning off to protect yourself further so be sure to learn more about this – there are many video guides for doing this available on YouTube today.

In summary, there is a definite reason why hacking is on the rise globally. People have realized just how easy it is now to gain control of your computer – and they are doing it.