I’ve got a secret — a couple, in fact — that could really and truly transform your business.

First, there is no “magic” in real estate or any industry. The common theme I see in so much promotion of new ideas is that they’re quick or easy. It makes me sad to see a piece of software sold to agents and brokers with promises of leads, money, happy clients and more, all with just two clicks.

That stuff is like a unicorn — often talked about, but purely fiction.

The real not-so-secret tools

Successful agents run businesses; they don’t just “work for a broker” or treat the daily grind as a job. The methods they use to run their businesses are often long-proven means of customer engagement and business management.

Ironically, the biggest new ideas in real estate have come from other industries and were tried and tested long ago. Have you heard of big data and analytics? I was working on data warehouses almost 20 years ago. You think video promotion is new? Have you seen television in the last 60 years? Yeah, video isn’t that new.

There are a few concepts that have yet to really take hold, but they eventually will. It’s no longer enough to have a few business cards, some signs and multiple listing service access; real estate success in the 21st century is going to require a little boost from 20th-century corporate life.

Six Sigma

Everybody is looking for a “system” that will help them with everything from generating leads to working with clients. Six Sigma is all about taking the process you have and making it better. Common corporate terms related to this include “total quality management,” “business process management” and “kaizen.”

First, you need to define the processes you use. Write out the steps you use to engage clients, colleagues and suppliers. Then think about what you do in each step. You then would use Six Sigma to evaluate (using data) how effective each step is and the overall process.

The goal of Six Sigma is to analyze what you do, how you do it and where there’s room for improvement. It’s driven by data that you might already have. For example, how many days on market are your listings? If you track the marketing activities you do (website hits and so on), then you have insight into what works and what doesn’t.

Rather than just continuing to do what you do, figure out how to do it better. Read “Lean Six Sigma for Service” by Michael George to learn more about the concept and how to implement it in your business.

One-to-one marketing

Also referred to as “1:1 marketing” or mass personalization, this is a concept that goes back centuries but became formalized in the 1990s. It’s about personalizing your interactions with customers and is usually part of a larger customer relationship management strategy. Just to be clear, your generic drip campaign in no way comes close to this.

To effectively engage both prospects and clients, you need to know them. Some of this information can be derived from talking to them, but more can come from big data and other sources. The key to making this work is having the business process and information to track who you talk to.

The benefit of using this approach with customers is better engagement, building trust faster and retaining clients over the long term. All of these things are often promised but seldom delivered in real estate.

Read “One-to-One Marketing” by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers to understand how this works and how to implement it.

Why are these secrets?

Obviously, neither of these resources is really secret, but the concepts are seldom discussed in real estate. Getting ahead in this field requires more than thinking outside the box — it means thinking outside the industry. These subjects require significant training to master and take a lot of time to implement.

You don’t need to become a Six Sigma Master or expert in personalized marketing. Just bringing the basic concepts into your business to improve processes, marketing and customer service will have a profound impact. Read the books, and you’ll be off to a solid start toward becoming the business owner you want to be.

Bryan Robertson is the co-founder and managing broker of Catarra Real Estate.

Email Bryan Robertson.

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