• Marketing should be a two-way conversation. It's not enough to broadcast; you must engage.
  • Don't be afraid of analytics. Make sure to track and measure your marketing activities so you know what to keep spending money on and what to ditch.
  • It pays to be hands-on! Stop outsourcing and get more involved to create authentic and meaningful connections with your community.

I know from my various attempts at being small business owner (hot sauce extraordinaire, freelance reporter and marketing consultant) — it’s hard. It’s a balancing act to fit in everything including the paperwork and client needs, and then there are those vital activities that feed your business.

That’s right; I’m talking about marketing — particularly the real estate marketing marketing mistakes you need to stop making now.

Some people, like me, are natural-born marketers. We get excited about mapping trends, grabbing the attention of our audience and uncovering new technology to reach people. But hey, it’s not for everyone.

Whatever your reason is for becoming a business owner, one thing is for sure — you need some kind of marketing. Otherwise you’re sabotaging your success. So, here’s my advice on what not to do when marketing your business in 2016.

1. Stop treating all your clients the same

No one wants to feel like everyone else — including your clients. The ability to personalize your marketing approach is and will continue to be big this year. The real estate professional who can master this will stand out from their competition and win over business.

We teach our members to rank their database from A to D. Your A clients are your top referrers. They’re the ones who shout your name from the rooftop and who tell all their friends and sometimes strangers how amazing of an agent you are.

These are the people you want to build strong bonds with. The ones you want to have coffee with on a Monday just to catch up; the ones you want to visit when they have a new baby, and the ones you want to send monthly handwritten notes to.

Your ability to authentically connect with and serve these key business relationships will determine your success this year. Remember, you don’t have to do this with everyone. Be selective.

Pick your top 20 percent (the most engaged relationships in your database), and make sure to get face-to-face with these people on a monthly basis or at the very least give them a call.

2. Stop avoiding analytics

Too often I see agents obsess over chasing online leads, social media and advertising. I’m not saying these marketing efforts don’t work, but where most agents fail is in the analytics department. They don’t track or measure their results and have no clue what’s working and what’s not.

To clarify, when I say “track and measure” I don’t mean only recording how many views or likes you’re getting. What I mean is: can you confidently tell me how many leads and closed transactions you received last year as a result of each specific marketing campaign?

Analytics are a challenge for all marketers (including myself), but there are some key numbers you can record that will show the ROI you’re getting.

  • Use Google Analytics to measure website traffic from social media and digital ads.
  • Use Google’s URL builder to track leads and conversations from specific marketing campaigns in Google Analytics (you’ll need to set up goals and a dashboard).
  • Use Facebook Insights and other free social reporting tools to monitor growth, impressions and engagement.

If you’re having trouble getting started, a great resource to help you map this out is “How to Measure Social Media.” This book helped me big time when I was new to social media marketing.

Figure out what’s working. Is it email or Facebook or Zillow? Then double down.

3. Stop thinking social media is free advertising

A decade ago, social media was the Wild West. It was uncharted, free for the taking, and for marketers, the best thing since sliced bread.

Today, this is not the case. It’s a noisy, crowded space filled with what seems like endless updates on the Kardashians. You have to work hard to fight for your clients’ scattered attention and make sure you’re delivering the right information at the right time. The art of engagement takes testing, skillful planning and in most cases a little cash.

Where the cash comes in is reaching your ideal people. Social media has drastically evolved from a free networking and community platform, to big advertising business, and you have to pay to play (especially on Facebook).

If you want to get noticed and promote your business on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, I suggest you create a monthly budget for ads and promoted posts or tweets.

It doesn’t have to be huge; you can start at $200 to $300 a month and go from there. See what works and what doesn’t and adjust accordingly. You have to find your brand’s sweet spot.

4. Stop ignoring your customers!

Small business owners and marketers work hard to get in front of clients. You go to battle against big corporations with big budgets to be seen and heard.

This is why nothing irritates me more than when I go to a Facebook page, blog or Yelp account and see a bunch of comments and questions left unattended to.

As a marketer, I’m offended by this lack of regard for the customer who took time out of their day to publicly interact with a brand.

So what’s my point? If you decide to put your business out there on the Internet, make sure you’re not all promotion and no follow-up. Have a monitoring and engagement plan to ensure you’re not just talking at your community, but also that your listening and responding.

It should be a two-way conversation. This plan can be as simple as time-blocking 10 minutes a day to check your feeds and respond to questions or comments.

5. Stop being hands-off

I work around a lot of real estate business owners. A comment I get a lot regarding digital marketing is, “Can I hire someone to do it for me?”

As much as I wish I could say yes, it would be a lie for most of the people who ask. I’d say 80 percent of small businesses don’t have the budget to hire a marketing team, and I don’t typically recommend going with an agency because they usually produce work that doesn’t look or sound like you.

Where I’ve seen agents experience the most success with digital marketing is when they combine an in-house marketing coordinator or manager with their own direct involvement.

Occasionally, I also recommend working with a consultant to train your existing team members, help you create a strategy and come up with fresh ideas. What this looks like is having a person in your office dedicated to posting on your social media, sending your email campaigns and pulling reports.

But it still requires you to play an active role in leading the strategy and making sure there is consistency in your messaging. In other words — your is participation required.

I share these tips not to bash small business owners but to bring awareness to ways we can continue to up our game when it comes to marketing.

I hope you find them helpful and leave this page with a few action steps to help you build more meaningful connections with your business relationships both online and offline.

Katrina Van Duzee is the marketing manager at Buffini & Company. Follow her on Instagram or Facebook.

Email Katrina Van Duzee.

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