Editor’s note: View the original article at InmanNext: "Having a Niche Gives Me a Real Competitive Edge."
Courtney Cooper works in Seattle, one of the Top Markets For Real Estate Agents, according to a recent Inman News Special Report.
Cooper is the founding owner and designated broker of Cooper Jacobs Real Estate in Seattle. As a broker-agent in one of the top markets in the U.S., Cooper knows what gives her a competitive edge in a hot market.
Drawing from her background as a corporate controller, Cooper relies on the numbers to tell her which tech investments produce results. Cooper recently dished to InmanNext on what puts her in front of the competition, how blogging helps, and why Bob of ActiveRain is a God.
What is the No. 1 tech challenge you are faced with?
Getting my brokers to blog more. I read somewhere once that getting agents to blog is like getting them to floss their teeth. I wish I could remember where I read that because it is so true. People initially think blogging is a waste of time until they get that first client out of cyberspace.
Once that happens, they are hooked, but until that happens agents question the time they spend blogging. My challenge is convincing them to keep going until they see those results.
Are you involved in social networking — i.e., Facebook and Twitter? If so, briefly tell us how you use it to build your business. If you are not, please tell us why.
Yes, definitely. Social networking is vital in today’s market. Many brokers still don’t get that. Facebook and Twitter are important not only for getting your name out there to the public and letting them know what you are about, but also for networking with your peers and generating traffic to your website.
Other significant social networking sites that I use are Google Plus and ActiveRain.com. Klout.com is another site, which pulls the effectiveness of many of my social networking profiles into a score so that I can evaluate my reach with these tools.
Do you use tools to work "paperlessly" like DocuSign or DotLoop? Why or why not? How important is that to you?
I have used DocuSign for years and consider it to be vital to my business. Clients enjoy the ease of being able to sign something electronically. An extra perk is that if two buyers are in different locations, they still may sign the same document from anywhere at the same time. Faxing back and forth when a husband was in Italy and a wife is at work at Microsoft produced some pretty messy contracts. DocuSign alleviates that problem.
Tell us about your website and/or blog. How many leads do you generate from your site on a monthly basis? Is that an important part of your business?
We have many sites that we generate leads and clients from. Having a niche is the best way to get really hyperfocused on the clients you want to work with. The majority of my new clients are from the Internet and found me online. I am taking that model and spreading it companywide to provide my brokers with leads as well, depending on what Seattle neighborhoods or niches they prefer to focus on.
The numbers can vary obviously, but we probably get between 200 and 500 leads a month. That number is increasing as we grow and generate more content. The brokers who are contributing the most to the content are getting the most leads.
How important do you feel content creation is to your business — i.e., social media posts, blogging, email newsletters? Do you create content yourself or do you outsource part of it?
Content creation is what drives my business. Most of the content we generate is through blogs and social media platforms with a few email newsletters thrown in. I personally still create the majority of the content on our websites, but as I train more and more agents to blog their neighborhoods, I am able to rely on their content creation as well.
How do you balance your time? Are there any tools you use to make juggling everything easier?
Having your blog posts automatically post to Twitter and your Facebook pages is the biggest time-saving tool I can recommend right now. I use Twitterfeed.com and RSS Graffiti on Facebook. I used to do it manually and it was tedious and inconsistent. This way I am on autopilot.
What is the most important tech tool or app you use on a daily basis?
My phone, obviously, but if I need to be more creative, we use Dropbox.com. I love Dropbox because it allows us to transfer files around without all the paper waste and driving around delivering documents. Dropbox also has an app for my phone so I can grab any document I want on the go.
One specific incident I can recall … escrow was missing one piece of paper for the signing. The broker just used the computer at the office and logged into Dropbox to retrieve it. It saved a lot of hassle and the transaction closed on time.
What type of smartphone do you use? IPhone, Droid, BlackBerry?
Android. I made the switch from a Palm smartphone as soon as Sprint came out with the Galaxy Droid phone and have never looked back. It was a difficult transition, but the benefits of having the Droid phone have been endless.
I love having all of my social networking integrated into my phone and the camera on these phones today is better than some of the earlier digital cameras I have had.
Do you use a tablet device? How has it changed your business?
I do have a Galaxy tablet and have used an iPad since day one of their release. These two tools are mainly for open houses and looking up properties on the go.
Although my phone can do the same thing, I prefer the bigger screens and less scrolling. In the early days of iPads, I would have a sign-up sheet at the open houses and people would sign in with their info just so they could play with the iPad.
What is a specific lead generation campaign that you did in your local market that worked well and why?
Hyperlocal marketing. Bob Stewart at ActiveRain.com taught me early on about "hyperlocal" targeting. Bob is the God of ActiveRain and he demonstrated over and over again how drilling down to a very specific market would result in more targeted leads. He calls it the "long tail search."
Before he introduced me to this concept I was always trying to be in the top results for the term "Seattle Real Estate" when people searched on Google. The problem with that approach is that every single real estate agent on the Internet, in Seattle, wants to be there, too.
In addition, buyers and sellers aren’t searching using those terms when they search most of the time. More often than not the people searching those terms are either real estate agents checking out their competition or salespeople trying to sell us the next greatest thing for our biz.
Instead, Bob taught me that writing about specific markets within the Seattle real estate market would get me not only higher up in the search rankings, but would also bring in more qualified leads. These potential clients were actually further along in the buying process because they had pinpointed a Seattle neighborhood or market already.
I took this advice and marketed to buyers and sellers using the search term "Seattle houseboats," and as a result we have a significant amount of clients interested in houseboats. You can take this concept and drill it down further by targeting even more specific markets like "Eastlake Houseboats" or "Westlake Houseboats."
Come up with your own niche and really stand out.
Read more agent and market profiles: Top Markets For Real Estate Agents.
Katie Lance is the contributing editor of InmanNext, and the social media director for Inman News. InmanNext is a part of Inman News.