It’s a new year and time for a new marketing plan. Agents often waste a lot of their marketing dollars by failing to plan ahead. For instance, they buy a lot of random, one-time ads from quick-talking salespeople, rather than running a consistent campaign in targeted publications. Or they don’t get around to mailings for lack of time or organization. You can avoid these pitfalls with a little forethought and a planning session with your calendar. A few pointers:

It’s a new year and time for a new marketing plan. Agents often waste a lot of their marketing dollars by failing to plan ahead. For instance, they buy a lot of random, one-time ads from quick-talking salespeople, rather than running a consistent campaign in targeted publications. Or they don’t get around to mailings for lack of time or organization. You can avoid these pitfalls with a little forethought and a planning session with your calendar. A few pointers:

1. First, decide your total marketing budget for the year. A good rule of thumb is committing 2 percent of last year’s income to marketing activities. To make a real splash, up the percentage and spend 3 percent-10 percent.

2. Now decide your marketing “time budget.” Successful agents are active in their community, organizing blood drives, serving on Chamber of Commerce committees, raising money for charity, and so on. Decide which volunteer activities are likely to help you professionally, and how much time each month you are going to devote to them. (Note: You may want to volunteer time just for fun or duty’s sake, but be careful about letting those activities eat into productive work hours.)

3. Schedule a brainstorming session. Whether you are a single agent or running a team, set aside a morning to think about your marketing materials and activities from last year. Decide what worked and what didn’t. Write down everything you want to do for the coming year and in what month each activity should happen.   

4. Add one or two new activities you would like to try. In marketing, the best recipe for success is trial and error. If you have heard about a new idea that’s working for a colleague, such as a client appreciation event or a newsletter or you have seen a clever new type of advertisement, decide now how to implement the idea. 

5. Now, schedule tasks for all these activities for the whole year. For instance, say one of your items is monthly “Just Listed” or “Just Sold” postcards, a job you have let slip. Mark on your calendar what day each mailing needs to be developed, prepared, and posted.

6. Break down complex tasks into several steps. Say you want to send a calendar to your VIP list on Dec. 10. Write down each task associated with the creation, editing, production and mailing of the calendar, assign a day to that task, and mark it in your calendar. Leave plenty of time between tasks for unexpected delays. Assign each task in writing to the person responsible.

7. Commit to regular ads with publications that work. Call your ad reps and ask about volume discounts. Decide the number of column-inches you will run for the year and schedule days in your calendar to change up and submit your ads.

8. Plan a program of regular phone calls to past clients. Schedule the calls. Make the calls. Enough said.

It doesn’t matter if your marketing budget is big or small. The secret to success is implementing a calendar-based system for getting the marketing tasks done. Follow the steps above and you will have a more effective program with lower stress and less wasted money. There are thousands of ideas out there for great advertising and marketing concepts. If you need inspiration, hit some real estate Web sites, attend a real estate sales conference or seminar, or just look around you – the competition is always coming up with something new. Here are a few quick ideas to bring to your marketing brainstorming session:

  • Develop a newsletter

  • Host a client appreciation event

  • Develop a listing presentation folder for new prospects

  • Improve the look and quality of your marketing materials

  • Mail out a quarterly “market data” flyer showing inventory and home sale statistics for your farm area

  • Write five hand-written thank-you notes every month

  • Add a new page to your Web site with useful information for relocation prospects

  • Develop a new ad for the “prestigious properties” section of a high-end magazine

  • Hold a home-buying seminar for apartment renters

  • Change up a standard ad with a new headline

  • Send out something new to your farm, such as a magnet, note pad or sports schedule

Have fun, be productive, and Happy New Year!

Howard Brinton is a real estate sales motivational speaker and the founder and CEO of Star Power Systems, a sales training organization that offers tapes, books, videos, conferences and a club that distributes selling techniques from the nation’s top producers.

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