(This is Part 4 of a six-part series.

(This is Part 4 of a six-part series. See Part 1: Are your ready to sell your real estate practice? Part 2: Finding best successor for your real estate biz; Part 3: How to build a saleable real estate biz; Part 5: Putting a price tag on your real estate business and Part 6: Navigating the sale of your real estate business.)

How much is your business worth? Beefing up your book of business not only makes your business more profitable today, it increases its value if and when you decide to sell.

The last three columns examined how prepared you are to sell your business right now in addition to four key steps you must take to maximize the worth of your business. Today’s column examines the fifth step, which is beefing up your book of business.

Step #5: Beef up your book of business by taking any of the following steps

1. Renew contact with past clients

One of the simplest ways to build the worth of your business is to renew your contact with past clients. A simple strategy to get back in touch is to hold a client appreciation event and to invite past clients. Be sure to follow-up after the event and maintain regular contact.

2. Use local pay-per-click advertising to niche market

Pay-per-click advertising is one of the best ways to build a book of business you can document. Pay-per-click works much like a yellow pages ad, except you are only charged with someone clicks on your ad. Priority for ad placement is determined by how much you bid. The higher your bid is, the better your placement will be. An important challenge for agents who work in major metropolitan areas, however, is that the search words you would bid on are highly sought after by major companies. This drives up the cost. The solution is to bid on specific niches that the big companies ignore. In addition, you can use the new local search features as well. There is a fraction of the competition as compared to national search. Furthermore, each niche market you control increases the worth of your business.

3. Consider implementing “pay-per-call.”

If you don’t have a Web site, Ingenio.com’s pay-per-call service allows you to have a Web presence without having to invest in a Web site. The system works much like pay-per-click, except that you are only charged when someone calls you. The system is still in beta, however, a number of early adopters are already using it. Surprisingly, the pay-per-call ads I was able to find actually had priority over the pay-per-click ads. A different approach comes from www.E-agent.biz. Not only do they provide lead generation and a Web site for their clients, they also have a new program that only charges agents for leads who call them.

4. Advertise on cable television.

Cable television advertising is one of the best advertising buys available. You can target markets based upon geographical area, and ads can be as little as $2 per spot depending upon your local market. Advertise on shows where you see the major department warehouses advertising. Other great places to advertise include travel shows, golf shows and shows where they advertise platinum credit cards or luxury vehicles.

5. Maximize your return from you Web site

To make your Web site more effective, hire a search-engine specialist to optimize your site. Take your picture off the home page and put it on the “about us” page. Make sure you have a link to your local Multiple Listing Service as well as to information for buyers and sellers. Take as many pictures as possible of each of your listings and post them to your site. Use drawings or give-aways to attract repeat Web visitors. You can also easily add e-coupons to your site by working with local vendors or by using Baton.com to obtain coupons from major stores such as Target.

6. Host a neighborhood Web site

Neighborhood Web sites are an excellent way to conduct geographical niche marketing. A good place to begin is with your own neighborhood or geographical farm. This is a particularly effective strategy for working with condominium or planned-unit-development projects. You can offer the Web site to the board of directors at no charge. This gives you immediate visibility to people moving in the area as well as providing an additional motivation for sellers to list with you.

7. Join a lead generation company

Lead generation companies can give you a huge competitive edge in the pay-per-click arena. Companies like HomeGain almost always have first-page Web placement in major metropolitan markets. By joining a lead generation company, you can obtain the benefits of national search and can still divert a proportion of your fees to local search as well. Because the major companies buy Web site placement in so-called “blocks,” they can obtain a better price than an individual agent can. These companies also have the staff that can determine the best strategies to obtain top Web placement.

Interested in knowing more ways to build the value of your business? See next week’s column.

Bernice Ross, co-owner of Realestatecoach.com, has written a new book, “Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters,” available online. She can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com.

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