• Last year, I decided I was not going to directly advertise my business. Instead, I try things like social media giveaways.
  • Within 10 minutes of one user engaging with my post, I had a phone number, home address and email address.
  • Advertising can be great for brand awareness, but otherwise the key to getting what you want is to offer something first.

Last year as I was putting together a business plan for my foray into being a full-time real estate broker, I decided that I was not going to directly advertise for business.

It has always fascinated me how rarely brands like Apple, Chick-fil-A, Starbucks or Tesla use advertisements to promote their products. Instead, they orchestrate “leaks” or strategically position giveaways (Cow Appreciation Day, anyone?) to generate buzz around their companies.

A few months back, I got fed up with the Starbucks gift cards I had laying around and decided to do a fun giveaway.

The nuts and bolts

Thanks to HGTV, everyone likes to feel like an interior designer, so I let people live out their fantasies by posting a photo on Instagram and Facebook of part of my living room that is empty and asking for design suggestions.

I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone — get some creative ideas to make that space usable and increase engagement on my posts — without a huge cost to me.

Although I said I would choose two winners, I actually chose three (I dug through my wallet and found a third gift card).

However, I didn’t specify how I would choose them … and therein lies the rub. Sure, it was a giveaway, but I used it to my advantage.

I selected responses from people whom I didn’t know personally but were creative and had posted more than a one-word response. I also looked at profiles to make sure my winners had some sort of connection to my region — whether they lived here or followed similar North Carolina accounts that I also follow.

I struck gold, and I was about as surprised as you are.

The willing lead

I messaged one girl, Jessica*, thanked her for her suggestion and asked for her address so I could send her the Starbucks card.

Her response not only included her address in Florida, but she also asked me: “How do you like living in Raleigh? I am thinking about moving there next year!”

This, of course, sparked a conversation about everything my city had to offer and me brainstorming ways I could further help her.

She told me she was visiting for a week in a few months and asked if I had any suggestions on where to go. I try to go the extra mile — so rather than write a few sentences, I responded, “Let me know the dates you’ll be here and what kind of activities you enjoy, and I’ll put together an itinerary for you! Could I have your email?” Boom.

Within 10 minutes of this user engaging with my post, I had her phone number (we switched to text soon after I notified her of her victory, as Instagram DM is not the most efficient method of communication), home address in Florida (where I was sending the Starbucks card) and her email address (where I was sending her the itinerary I was going to write up for her).

She gave these all to me willingly.

Now, I am not one to exploit my “power” by having all of her personal information, but you bet I’ll be following up with her on her subsequent trips to Raleigh.

I just think back on how many visitors at open houses were unwilling to sign in or would sign in with false email addresses that later bounced back — there was no incentive for them to give me their contact information, and they probably expected that once I had their email, I would be spamming them with content promoting my business. I don’t blame them for not wanting to hand over their email addresses!

Hit-or-miss vs. deposit strategy

Advertising is so hit-or-miss. It can be great for increasing brand awareness — but otherwise the key to getting what you want (which, in our business, is contact information to slowly build up a relationship that could potentially result in a sale) is to offer something first.

I strongly believe in that philosophy.

I think about every relationship with my customer as a bank account — I have to make a certain number of deposits first, before I can make a withdrawal. How can I expect to withdraw anything if I haven’t made any deposits? That would likely lead to someone feeling used.

Instead, I create value by figuring out what someone needs or wants and then going the next step.

Is she a first-time investor who wants to know how to calculate a rental property return? I don’t just give her a formula she can use. I send her my spreadsheet that I use with instructions on what to look for, so she can play with different numbers.

Does he want recommendations for a good local restaurant to try? I’ll go further and write up a full itinerary. I don’t care if he never uses it or only goes to half of the places I suggest. What is important is establishing myself in his mind as an expert of the area.

After all, why would anyone hire less to help them find a home?

* Name changed to protect the innocent!

Tiffany Alexy is a real estate broker with Fathom Realty in Raleigh-Durham metro, North Carolina. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

Email Tiffany Alexy

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