Connect the Speakers: Shari Porter on building a lead generation strategy that works

"The biggest part of lead generation is returning leads from your existing clients"

When Shari Porter was a housing counselor, she had to master grassroots marketing strategies — there was no budget to tell the world about the programs she helped manage. Now, in her real estate career, she’s been able to leverage that knowledge and understanding to get her foot in the door as a new agent, and now she uses it to help mix up her strategy as an experienced real estate professional.

Porter will be discussing how to start the year off right with your lead generation strategy at Inman Connect New York, January 29 through February 1 at the Marriott Marquis Times Square. We chatted with her about how she uses social media and how she uses disruption to her advantage.

Tell us a little more about your session. How will it address how the industry can embrace the shifting market?

I have so many friends in different companies who do the super discounts, and I work for a company that will not allow you to go under 5 percent unless there are extenuating circumstances. So one of the things that keeps me super sane in that worry is to flip it. If one of my clients says, “Oh I met with such-and-such and they’re doing it for 4 percent,” then I say, “What you pay for in a service is multiple things.”

The thing is, you have to sell yourself, and I know that’s easier said than done because it’s hard for me, too. But you’re hand-held, getting total concierge service; I market with my company trying to sell that, working for a multimillion dollar conglomerate that provides a top service of tools as far as all the marketing materials. We’re on all the housing sites and we do optimization so you show up on the first page of search results. Many companies will discount, but they won’t tell you they’re not doing that. I try to sell an actual service.

I had someone tell me “I’m going to list my house with Purplebricks,” and I said “Do whatever you need to do, but you want to make sure you understand thoroughly what’s happening.” “Because yes, you’ll pay a lot less in commission, but is the marketing there for them? There aren’t a lot of agents who work for Purplebricks and you may think you’re getting someone who specializes in your area, but they’re covering a massive area, and you need to look at the fine print of what they’re offering marketing-wise.

Do you want the best marketing, the best concierge where you’re being walked through and things are being taken care of for you? Our concierge services automatically contacts the client and will send a checklist of things they’ll do for you if the client wants it, like transferring your utilities, for free. That’s how you sell yourself. There’s nothing you can do about it; you have to adapt.

What do you think are the biggest opportunities to focus on in the real estate industry right now?

I know there are people who are very on top of social media, but I’m not talking about social media where you’re boosting your listing like a robot — I’m talking about intimacy. Intimacy of yourself on social media that makes you relatable. Do you know how many people inbox me on Facebook and Instagram weekly? Some of them are people I went to elementary school with because they see it, they feel comfortable, they feel like they can relate with me as a human.

A big part of marketing yourself is marketing your self, not your houses. I do this thing called Truthful Tuesdays; sometimes it’s cheesy, sometimes it’s dark. It’s come to a point where when I do a Truthful Tuesday, if it’s not the regular positive stuff, I’ll get an inbox — “Is everything OK?” Or if I don’t post it until the end of the day, I’ll get an inbox from a random person — “You still alive?”

I always hashtag #realtorlife, #truthfultuesday, #followyourdreams, #shariporterrealestate. You’re reading my inspirational quote but then you’re reminded, “I’m a real estate agent.” You need to think about not the marketing of real estate, the marketing of you, with the subliminal message. When you just keep putting the listings and the solds and under contract, they’re rolling their eyes and flicking right by that.

And grassroots is it — you don’t want to do seminars or go to networking events or join community groups, but you need to. I do investing seminars with finger sandwiches and coffee, I’ll do a short panel at the library, and the libraries send out their own newsletters about the event, just to give you an example. So you’re not paying for marketing because it’s going to thousands of people through their library mailout. People see your seminar, it’s free and they come. You’ll average at least 20 people that come, and if you get one buyer or one listing appointment, that’s not worth it? You have to do those things.

I know this is so elementary, but I always, nine out of 10 times, have my tag on like I’m coming from somewhere. My kids are 8 to 22 and I’ll be at a Little League game and I’m the team helper. You don’t want to do it — but guess what? The other parents are all buying and selling. Go to that T-ball game with your tag on even if you came from your house. “Oh I just ran from the office” — “Oh, I never knew you worked in real estate!”

I got invited to a business network, went to a meeting, didn’t feel like I fit in, and I was kind of bummed because every time I go to them I feel like I want to be in one but they just don’t work. So I launched one of my own, now there’s over 200 people. Just started a women’s group of professionals in the area, and a lot of these people that see me and don’t really know me, they see I’m likeable or funny, whatever your image is, you know how many deals I get from that networking group, and we get together like four times a year? It costs me nothing and now I have a group that people refer me to! I did five deals last year from that.

To stay competitive, agents, brokers and companies need to execute quickly. What do you feel are key areas where quick execution can vastly improve the customer experience?

My thing is — and I’m working on it — No. 1 is that quick response, even if you don’t have the answer. Answering right away, even if it’s an automated thing and you can’t get right back to them. Just that initial lock-in. I could be food shopping and I get one of those automated leads, you do a quick text or email back, it doesn’t have to be a phone call, and you say “I’m out with clients, let me touch base with you later; just want you to know that I saw your query and will research it the second I can. Is 7 p.m. the best time to do a conference call?” End with a question because it makes people feel like they need to answer you. Most people do answer, and they’re not going to move on to the next person because you locked it in. Then you run and do what you’ve got to do.

As far as the concierge of the transaction, I think a lot of times agents get things under contract and then they don’t talk to their clients until closing. The biggest part of lead generation is returning leads from your existing clients. Every single person you work with, picture them getting you to another person. If they don’t love you from start-to-finish and then after, they’re not referring you no matter how good you are. I’m very concierge — you need a handyman, a contractor? The concierge of the walkthrough, the hand-holding, even if it’s minimal — a weekly check-in throughout. You know how many agents don’t go to their closings? Shame on you! Why would you not go? That’s such a big deal for them. And the aftermath, I always checked in a week or two later, would go to the housewarming parties. You’re not going to lose loyalty with too much love. Once you close, you check in like a week later to see how they’re settled in. You know how much they feel like you care when you do stuff like that?

Every year I send a chocolate card, “to a happy and sweet new year.” They love that, and that’s an investment. Some of my friends have all their anniversaries on every client and send them a card, and choose one person and go to lunch. Even if the client can’t make it, you’ve asked! The follow-up after is everything. Like a doctor or a hairdresser, any service is forever, and they’ll stay in your life. The second you abandon them, it’s like a friendship — they’ll abandon you.

What are your hopes for the next 12 months, and what will you be working on?

I am a dual state agent, I do New York and New Jersey, and knock on wood, New York seems to be thriving for me. But New Jersey is lighter for me. My goal for 2019 is to really hit the streets in New Jersey this year and get the presence in New Jersey that I have in New York. That’s what I personally want to do.

Discover the opportunities in a changing market at Inman Connect New York, January 29 – February 1. Jumpstart 2019 with tactical takeaways, unlimited networking and thought-provoking speakers. Learn more.

Thinking about bringing your team? You may qualify for special group perks! Contact us to learn more.