At Agent Reboot in New York City, The Corcoran Group’s Matthew Shadbolt and Virtual Results’ Jim Marks outlined the online and offline challenges real estate agents face today as they attempt to market their listings and their businesses.

Jim Marks opened his session at Agent Reboot with an interesting proposition: "Technology makes marketing more difficult." While it may be true that technology has made marketing less expensive, cutting through the noise on so many different advertising channels makes it increasingly more difficult to be heard above the ever-increasing clamor.

In the past, you could advertise in the paper, perhaps on the radio or television, door knock, or use direct mail. Those were your choices.

Today, there are still those choices plus thousands of blogs and other online media choices where you could attempt to promote your listings and your business.

From average to extraordinary

With the meteoric increase in the amount of online data, it has become increasingly difficult for agents to get the word out about their listings and their services. Marks explained how email filters (over which you have no control) keep potential clients from receiving your marketing communications. Today, people block agent communications using the "do not call" list and caller ID. In fact, Marks cited a recent study that showed that 42 percent of direct mail never makes it through the front door.

Complicating the issue further, most of us tend to suffer from a media-induced attention deficit disorder. Marks described it as being in the middle of a sentence on one topic and suddenly saying, "Hey! What’s that?"

Marks recommends that the way to cut through the noise is to use pull marketing as opposed to push marketing. Push marketing includes cold calling, running ads, sending out postcards, and door knocking. Pull marketing is sometimes described as "word of mouth" or trust marketing. It’s based upon having others recommend your services as opposed to you promoting yourself.

Shadbolt shared a similar approach. Social recommendations and brand recommendations are becoming the difference between being in business or not being in business. Even if you are going out to buy a doughnut, most people will search online to see what others report about their experience with the store and the various types of doughnuts they sell. Shadbolt argues, "The difference between success and failure comes down to one word: excellence. Anything less means obscurity for you and your business."

Storytelling builds connections

According to Shadbolt, telling stories is one of the most effective ways to connect with potential clients and maintain strong connections. Storytelling provides the foundation for lasting memories and long-term connections. When you market a property, don’t settle for just a long laundry list of features, as many agents do.

Shadbolt believes that you must tap into the DNA of what it feels like to own a home. What makes this property unique or specially suited for a particular type of owner? What is it like to live on this specific block? Who lives in the neighborhood? What makes them interesting? What businesses and recreational facilities are nearby? What do people who live there do for fun? The secret is to build a robust story that captures the buyer’s attention and allows the buyer to determine whether this lifestyle is right for him or her.

Mobile untethers hyperlocal and goes outside

Until recently, we were tethered to our desktops. The big shift for 2013 is that mobile not only frees us from our desktops, it also frees us from a laptop requiring a router with either a wireless or hard-wired connection. Our clients have the ability to shift rapidly across platforms (social media, YouTube, email, text, phone, laptop, tablet). Because of this, agents must be fluid and design their businesses to meet these shifts.

Consequently, what is happening on Facebook is now less important than what is happening outside.

The ability to take virtually everything we do with us via our phones or tablets requires agents to pay attention to not only the types of ads that they run, but when and where they run them. To illustrate this point, you may do a post about a local cocktail bar that is the hot new place to be in your local area. The challenge is you don’t want to do that post on Monday morning when everyone is focused on the workweek.

Shadbolt gave another example about sharing a link to a fantastic restaurant that features rooftop dining. While this would make a great post for the summer, it’s a poor idea in the middle of the latest February snowstorm.

Turn your sphere of influence into your sales force

Marks wrapped up his session by saying that if you want to double your sphere of influence all you have to do is to engage with your existing sphere. Let them be the ones who share how great you are, and watch your business grow now and for years to come.

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