In my last column, I proposed that old-school prospecting (cold calling and walking neighborhoods) is dead. DOA. Not to be done ever, ever again.
Many wanted to know if any kind of prospecting works in today’s online world. I say, yes, when done right.
Call it prospecting if you like, but a more appropriate term would be target networking. Some in the new media generation have coined "pull marketing" to describe these activities, too. But there’s nothing new about these activities, whatsoever.
Here’s the gist: Get in front of your warm list and ask for business. Voila! It’s simple, effective, and inexpensive — a perfect complement to any advertising campaign. Let me say that more clearly: Target networking does not replace advertising. It complements it.
1. Call people you know
This does NOT mean cracking off calls to everyone connected to you on LinkedIn. If you wouldn’t wave at them in the supermarket, don’t bother calling them on the phone. Networking shouldn’t be insincere. If people get the feeling you’re just a dirty salesperson, the whole practice has backfired.
So start small and grow your list organically. Ten genuine friends who care about you and your business (and whom you care for as well) are better than 1,000 farmed names and friends of friends of friends.
2. Ask for referrals
Ask and you shall receive. Don’t ask, and well … you’ll find out that your mother-in-law referred her home-selling neighbor to the nice boy down the street. Still, in 2013, a majority of the general population does not understand how Realtors make their money — nor how referral business works. Don’t expect anyone, family or otherwise, to know you would like a referral.
3. Establish a buddy business
Do you enjoy a beer at a favorite pub? Frequent a nice restaurant? Act in local plays? Include your hobbies in your marketing plan.
For example, I love a particular restaurant in town. Our family eats there at least once a week (don’t judge), so it felt right to informally "partner" with them in marketing efforts. We worked out a mutually beneficial plan.
When I hold open houses, I pass out an exclusive coupon good for one free appetizer to prospects who sign in. I also use the restaurant as a meeting place, and I give gift cards at the holidays.
My frequent use of the establishment has led to business, as the waitstaff drop my name and pass my business cards out during their shifts. I, in turn, have created new fans of the restaurant. Think about how you and your buddy business can each provide something the other needs.
4. Join a BNI group
Business Networking International (BNI) is a fabulous group to join. Every member is there to do one thing: increase business. That kind of focus is worth the money.
But, if it simply doesn’t fit in your budget, I suggest starting your own networking group — one outside of the typical Chamber of Commerce meetings and young professional happy hours. Bring together businesses that naturally work together: a builder, a remodeler, other subcontractors, restaurants, local coffee bars. Start your own little prospecting mafia. Do this. It works.
5. Stay in touch
Want to grow your business bigger and faster? Don’t forget to stay in touch with those with whom you’ve already worked. They can be your biggest ally! Remember, ask for the referral. And give them a stack of your business cards.
6. Feed your fan base information they can use
Information they can use does NOT include recipes, third-grade knock-knock jokes or directions for DIY palate projects.
You are a Realtor. Give industry specific information. This might include statistics of local sales, current number of homes on the market in different price ranges, average days on market, average sale prices, and perhaps development news in your area.
So you put away your tennis shoes? That doesn’t mean you stop prospecting.
It just means you learn how to do it more efficiently, and therefore, more effectively. Performed alongside new media outreach, target networking will produce results.