I recently received a six-page glossy personal marketing brochure from an agent who also included a two-page letter that was an extraordinary example of the "Me, Me, Me" show. Would you hire this person to represent you on the sale of your home?

We’re in the midst of the biggest downturn since the Great Depression. The real estate market is attempting to sputter off of life support to possibly turning around in the next 12-24 months. In this environment, would you send out a six-page, trifold, glossy brochure with the following features?

1. An opening paragraph describing your Friday night date with your husband (disguised as an attempt to show the lifestyle in your market area).

2. Four pictures of yourself, including one of you walking your dog.

3. How much you enjoy walking along the beach and how relaxing that is for you.

4. A description of how great your negotiation skills are.

5. How much people need your guidance when they purchase a home.

6. An additional two-page letter that has paragraphs that read like this: "I just wanted to take a moment to say how much I value you. Building relationships is what gives me the greatest satisfaction in my career. I have enclosed a personal brochure about me and my business philosophy. I hope that you will take a few moments to read it. I want you to feel comfortable calling me if you have any real estate questions." In case you weren’t counting, there are 11 references to "I," "me" or "my."

7. The letter was signed "Your Realtor."

This agent probably paid a lot of money for a marketing piece that was current back in 1991, but is way out of sync with what consumers want today.

There are a number of serious problems with marketing your services this way. First, when you sign a letter with "Your Realtor," you are setting yourself up for rejection. Chances are the recipients of this piece already have a Realtor that they would trust over someone who sends them a "Me, Me, Me" vanity marketing piece.

Second, there is an assumption that the person who receives the marketing piece is not in the real estate business. Third, this signature assumes a relationship where none exists.

Several years ago, Steve Kantor of Best Agent Business surveyed 1,000 homeowners about the types of marketing materials that they received as well as their responses to those marketing materials.

Here is a sample of some of their responses about print marketing pieces from real estate agents. These comments illustrate how poorly the "Me, Me, Me" type of marketing material is received.

In terms of postcards with pictures:

  • "They are totally useless. Photographs of agents are especially irrelevant to their purpose."
  • "I’m also really turned off by cards and brochures that feature your spouse, kids, church affiliations, etc."
  • "Offers for free home evaluations? I just toss those, too."
  • "Why do agents always have to include their picture? Who do they think they are — movie stars?"

Furthermore, research from SHR, one of the major brand management firms in the country, shows that when you send a postcard with your picture on it to someone’s home, you are essentially an uninvited guest. The result: You and your postcard go in the trash.

Now imagine the result when you send a personal brochure that’s all about you to people you have never met.

If you’re still doing vanity marketing that focuses on you rather than the person receiving your marketing piece, you are not only wasting your money and your marketing piece but you (by extension) will end up in the trash.

Should you drop your print marketing program?

Absolutely not! Your print marketing program will work best when it drives consumers to your website or blog, where you have a greater opportunity to build a long-term relationship. Here are some proven ways to make your print marketing work for your business:

1. Substitute "you" for "I" and "me"
Regardless of whether you’re writing a copy for a newspaper ad, a brochure, a postcard or the Web, shift from using "I" language to using "you" language. In other words, make it about your recipient rather than about you.

2. Take your picture off of your marketing materials
A number of studies including research from SHR have repeatedly found that people are more likely to contact you for a special report or some other service if you include your website or a QR code. The moment agents add their picture to the marketing piece, however, the consumer response drops to nearly zero. 

3. Make your marketing pieces about the lifestyle in the area
If you are going to use pictures on your marketing pieces, focus on illustrating the lifestyle in the area. If the agent in the example above had included pictures of past clients or of someone other than herself enjoying the lifestyle in her market area, she would have had a very powerful marketing piece.

4. Be a solution for their problems
Information that assists the homeowner in some way is one of the best ways to market your services. A smart strategy is to link your marketing to events that happen at various times of year. For example, you may do a marketing piece with a checklist on how to winterize your home if you live in a cold climate.

If you live where it’s hot, you may want to recommend some suggestions for lowering your electric bills, including having any air conditioning units serviced regularly.

5. Be unique and have fun
Rather than sending the same types of marketing materials that everyone else uses, be unique. Look for what is interesting and different that will make the person who receives your marketing pieces take notice.

If you haven’t done so already, review your current marketing materials and dump the "Me, Me, Me" language. You will be pleasantly surprised at the results.

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