Are you actively prospecting for new business? Do you depend exclusively on your referral database to send business your way? To continue to make money in today’s shifting market, you must have a three-pronged marketing plan that does more than just rely on someone else to generate your leads for you.

Several years ago, I had a conversation with Gary Keller who personally coaches the top agents in his company. His observation about his top producers was quite enlightening. He said that the agents who use only traditional prospecting must work significantly harder to generate leads as compared to those who depend on referrals. On the other hand, those who work exclusively with referrals do not control their lead generation. These top producers can see up to an 80 percent decline in production when there is a dip in the market. The agents whose production remained consistently strong in all markets were those who actively prospected for leads AND actively stayed in touch with their referral database.

Whether you are in a severe market slowdown or in a red-hot seller’s market, your marketing efforts must make a major shift if you plan to survive. For example, the real estate industry is still spending approximately 80 percent of its marketing dollars on print advertising. This includes mailers, newspapers, brochures and magazines. These sources, however, generate only 8 percent of our business. This means that we are virtually ignoring where a huge portion of our leads originate — the Web. Current estimates indicate that almost 50 percent of all Web leads go unanswered. In fact, according to the “Home Buyers Searching for Housing” (2005), 21 percent of the Internet home buyers found their agent online. Another 20 percent of buyers first found their home on the Internet.

What does this mean to your business in 2007? First, to maximize your business, you must have a three-pronged approach to marketing your services.

Traditional Prospecting

The basics still work. “Right now” business is still the quickest way to generate leads. This means you should be calling on expired listings, for-sale-by-owners, holding open houses, and door-knocking. Anything that puts you in a face-to-face situation with buyers or sellers is still at the heart of real estate success. The way you prospect these people is to offer them a service, rather than asking them to do business with you by mailing them a postcard. For FSBO or expired listings, this offer could be use of your 800 Call Capture system. For open houses, invite neighbors and people from move-up areas to attend the open house and make sure that you include fun refreshments. When people attend, have a list of properties that are good buys, foreclosures or properties priced about 30 percent to 40 percent less than the house where you are sitting. Select properties that are not open. Give your visitors a list and offer to show them any properties that they would like to see.

Referral strategies

Sending mailers is a piece of the puzzle. The bottom line is that you must be face to face with your referral database at least two or three times per year. You can do this with two client appreciation events plus at least one private meeting with them. A great way to do the private meeting is with an annual report. Quite simply, this is a list of the sales over the last year in the person’s area. Include color digital pictures of their area; throw in some articles on the current market conditions; and place these materials in an attractive binder. Deliver it in person to keep your connection strong.

Web strategies

Consumers continue to shift their business to the Web. In 2005, 79 percent of home buyers used the Internet as an information source (NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers 2005). While it is relatively easy to market your listings on multiple Web sites, figuring out a lead-generation strategy is more difficult. The hottest trend for 2007 is to start a blog. This allows people to get to know you anonymously and to learn to trust you. A regular reader has a high probability of becoming a future client. Again, you are providing a service before you are asking for business. While blogs take time to write, it is much less expensive than marketing using traditional mailing. It also puts you online. In fact, all of your print advertising pieces should direct your recipients to visit your Web site and/or blog.

Another strategy to capture more leads from your site is to offer a service that motivates the consumer to provide you with their contact information. For example, this could be an offer of an e-course on “How to Buy Foreclosure Properties” or “Tips and Techniques for First-Time Buyers.” Rather than giving Web visitors a free report, break the report into three to five sections and send it out as a “course.” You could also offer free e-coupons from

No matter what type of market that you are in, to keep your business running strong, don’t limit yourself to using a single strategy. Instead, provide great service, use traditional lead-generation strategies, stay in face-to-face contact with your referral database, and use your print advertising to drive people to your Web site or blog.

Bernice Ross, national speaker and CEO of, is the author of “Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters” and “Who’s the Best Person to Sell My House?” Both are available online. She can be reached at or visit her blog at

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