Every October I start my business plan for the next year. I like to have it finished by Nov. 1. My process starts with a critical evaluation of the past year.
I keep it simple by deciding how much money I want to make and calculate how many transactions I will need to achieve my goal. I then list where the business will come from. I can count on a number of transactions from past clients, friends, neighbors and referrals. The rest will come in through the Internet.
Once I determine where the business will come from I sit down and figure out what I need to do to make it all happen, how much it will cost and how many hours it will take. A budget is critical and so is tracking expenses. My goal is to maximize profits while minimizing the amount of time and money I spend. Call me the lazy Realtor.
The largest part of my business plan is a social networking plan and a plan for my blog, which is the centerpiece of my online marketing efforts. The plan is pretty unique — the how-to book on this has not been written yet, which is fine because it will be obsolete before it is published.
I am often asked where I find the time to write a blog post every day and take so many photos. It is simple: Both are a core part of my business plan and I set aside time each week for writing and photography.
The failure rate for blogs is pretty high. I have read that 95 percent of them will fail. I suspect that part of the reason for the failure is that blog owners do not treat them as part of the business and the blogger does not set goals or have a plan in place.
Just "sort of, kind of" writing a blog is a waste of time and can cause marital discord when the blogger stays up half the night puttering around on the computer and has nothing to show for it. Writing a blog is not for everyone.
My social networking plan is fairly simple. My goal this year is to stay as local as I can — 90 percent of my clients will be people who already live in my town — and to attend more local social media events.
Time spent on social networks has to be measured. Not all social networks are equal and they are not for everyone. The trick is to spend enough time at it to generate some results but not so much time that it interferes with business, and to be strategic when signing up for social networks.
Other components of my plan include a budget and an education strategy. I take education seriously and start my plan by thinking about what I need to learn. My budget will include money for books and for educational opportunities both inside and outside of the real estate industry. Most will be related to marketing or technology.
In general I will be spending more money online this year and less money on print advertising. The time and money I spent online last year had the highest return on investment.
What I like the most about being a Realtor is that there are many ways to do the job. I believe that to succeed in 2009 I will need to work hard but will also need to be creative, flexible, and open to new ideas and opportunities.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.
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