Are you getting the best return on your marketing dollars? The only way to tell for sure is to track your leads.

While everyone says you have to be using social media to generate leads today, this may not be the case for your specific market.

I recently reviewed the tracking for an agent’s lead generation sources for the last 12 months. Based upon your personal experience, which of the items on this list would you predict to be this agent’s top three lead producers?

1. Two-line open house ad in a local paper.

2. Best-buy ads in local paper.

3. Agent’s personal video.

4. 12-month postcard program.

5. Company website

6. Property search from agent’s website

7. Cable television ad campaign

8. Yard sign

Of the 1,537 responses to this agent’s marketing over a 12-month period, the top three lead generators were:

  • yard signs (71.7 percent);
  • best-buy ad campaign in the local paper (15.6 percent); and
  • company website (9 percent).

All the other categories produced less than 1 percent each.

Keep in mind that this is a snapshot for one agent. The results for your business may differ dramatically. Nevertheless, if you don’t track results, there’s no way of knowing which lead generation sources are worth the money and which ones need to be eliminated.

Yard signs still rule

The National Association of Realtors’ Profile of Buyers and Sellers consistently shows the same result: Yard signs are the No. 1 generator of leads (although the Web is now in a statistical tie for first place.) The question is, how are you managing this lead opportunity?

Many agents still use their office telephone number on their signs. A better approach is to use a call capture system that uses a toll-free number and a prerecorded message to capture leads. When a potential client calls to listen to the message about the property, the system captures the caller’s number and sends it to the agent within seconds.

The agent is entitled to the contact information because the agent paid for the call. The newer systems incorporate text messaging as an option as well. If you’re not using this type of system, you could be missing hundreds of leads every year.

A second way to capitalize on your yard sign is the good old-fashioned brochure box. While it’s cool to use a QR code (a "quick response" code is a type of bar code that can be scanned with a smartphone camera), most QR codes tell you only how many times the code was scanned, but don’t provide the prospect’s cell phone number.

A brochure doesn’t allow you to capture a lead either. But what you can do is print the listing information on one side of the brochure, and then provide information on your other listings on the back of the brochure. If you have five listings, you would be marketing all of your listings from all five locations.

This greatly increases the likelihood that the prospect will visit your website or pick up the phone to call you for a showing.

2. Best-buy ad campaigns

Whether you run this campaign in a local paper, on your regular website, or as a stealth website (i.e.,, this approach is a proven winner.

The agents who use this approach normally update their best-buy list each week. While it may take a little time to comprise the list, you can generally tell which listings are creating the most buzz. Buyers love great deals and will regularly visit websites or newspaper ads searching for the top buys in a given area.

While some experts argue that print marketing is dead, if you examine the agent’s results from above, this is definitely not the case. In fact, the local newspaper was a better lead generator than all the other options combined.

This illustrates how important it is to be tuned into how your target market accesses listing information in specific price ranges and locations. It also demonstrates the need to have an idea of the type of buyer who will be most interested in your listing, and to employ marketing that’s tailored to their lifestyle and preferred mode of communication.

For example, if you were marketing a property in a retirement area, there’s a good chance that your high-probability buyers still prefer print advertising.

On the other hand, if you’re marketing a loft condo close to the downtown music scene, your high-probability client will be more likely to find you online. Your advertising campaign might involve using your blog or a Facebook business page to highlight great places to hear live music, profiles of local restaurants, and other aspects of the local lifestyle.

3. Websites are still important

Even if the people in your area love the local newspaper, you must still have an online presence. National Association of Realtors research shows that consumers visit agents’ individual websites about as often as they visit the local company’s website. To obtain the best results from your online marketing, you must utilize both.

4. Immediate response is a must

Regardless of what type of market you are in, consumers want immediate replies to their inquiries. Today, 50 percent of all Internet leads go unanswered. Many agents take days to respond to email, if they respond at all.

The bottom line is this: You have to fish where the fish are, but if the fish are biting, you must be ready to reel them in. Otherwise, you’re just throwing your marketing dollars away.

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