Leads are the lifeblood of any successful real estate agent’s career. More leads mean more business.
Below, we’ll go through the types of lead generation and seven tactics for inexpensive earned lead gen. Whether you’re a new agent or one who needs a boost in leads, these strategies will strengthen your efforts.
The best lead generation strategies utilize all or some of the following ideas, and the most successful agents leverage each strategy in support of the others.
Types of leads
There are two types of leads: paid and earned.
Paid leads come from websites such as Zillow to give you a chance at contacting leads when they inquire about a property.
Paid leads aren’t necessarily a bad idea, but if you can’t respond immediately to any given lead or your budget is limited and you aren’t paying for the top agent spot on any given platform, then buying leads can be a case of good money chasing after bad business.
Earned leads are far more valuable than paid leads. Earned leads may not cost you money but they will require time and sweat equity. Earned leads come from efforts such as blogging, email marketing and networking.
Within earned leads, there are two places leads will come from:
- Inside your sphere of influence
- Outside your sphere of influence
Sphere of influence
Your sphere of influence consists of people you know closely or as acquaintances. Your family, friends, former colleagues and members at your church or country club are all included in this bucket. Make a concerted effort to collect contact information for these individuals, especially email addresses.
Just because your friends know you are in real estate does not mean they will remember that when the time comes to sell their home. Even your family needs constant reminding. To do this, reach out regularly — one good way to do this is through a weekly email newsletter.
If your friends are on your weekly distribution list, then not only will they know you are in real estate but they will remember when the time comes. These people can also be reached via social media, especially Facebook and Instagram.
The best leads — that is, those most likely to end up at a closing table — typically come from one’s sphere of influence.
Non-sphere of influence
No matter how social someone is or how large their sphere of influence, they should always be seeking to expand this sphere. This can be done in the following ways:
- Special events
- Social media marketing
- Email marketing
- Neighborhood farming
- Open houses
1. Special events
Special events can be an excellent and inexpensive way to reach potential members of your sphere of influence as well as further relationships with those already in your sphere.
At Chilton & Chadwick, we use art shows to invite potential and current clients into our office, so we can have intimate and fun discussions with them over wine and cheese.
These events have the benefits of selling art (an additional source of revenue for us and an additional specialty), introducing us to new clientele, cementing relationships with current clientele and benefiting the local art scene.
If art isn’t your forte, then you can focus on something that is fun, interesting and meaningful to you, such as pet adoption or another passion.
Host events regularly enough and well enough that people will want to attend them in the future, and more importantly, will want to bring friends with them (thus expanding your sphere).
And of course, be sure to have information on hand about you, your listings and your services for people to take home.
You do not need to be a professional, New York Times-level writer to blog. In fact, that is part of the beauty of blogging — no one expects you to have majored in English — you just have to have something valuable and interesting to say.
Furthermore, you do not necessarily have to have your own blogging platform to make blogging effective. If your company has a blog, then utilizing that system at least once a week will pay dividends to your business (and if your company does not have a blog, then you are probably at the wrong company).
Blog about topics that are both meaningful as well as interesting to yourself and your current and future clientele. Occasional real estate market updates are certainly helpful and relevant, but too much too often can become boring and repetitive.
Find a niche. For example, promote and cover local charitable events. Is there a pet adoption event happening next week?
Offer the details to your readers, and while you’re at it, ask the organizer for a quote as well as photos of some of the available animals. After several posts of this nature you will subconsciously become synonymous with charity and good deeds with your readership, and that is good for business.
You should be blogging at least once a week, and remember to write about any upcoming special events you have planned!
3. Social media marketing
Simply put, there is no acceptable reason for real estate agents not to be on social media and not to be using it to market their properties and services.
If you feel you are not youthful enough to effectively utilize social media, then ask your company for training or a younger person in your office to help get you up and running. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other platforms are free means of reaching potentially thousands of people that could create business for you.
It is also irresponsible of agents who are listing properties not to be using social media to market their properties. Clients rightfully expect that their agents will be using every tool at their disposal to get their property sold, but if you’re not using social media as an arrow in your quiver, then you are not servicing your clients properly.
Not only is social media an easy way to attract free attention, Facebook and Instagram especially have made it very easy to target specific geographic areas (perhaps the neighborhood you farm?), people with special interests (perhaps people interested in sailing if you are selling a waterfront property?) or those you would like to be working with (people between the ages of 25 and 35, who may be buying their first home?).
Social media is also a great way to get more eyeballs on the blogs you publish and to promote the special events you have coming up.
4. Email marketing
You might hate the email newsletters you receive. You might mark every email solicitation you didn’t sign up for as spam or write nasty notes back to the sender, but you receive those emails for a reason: they work.
Systems like MailChimp now make it easier than ever to upload your email contacts (this is why we were collecting them from our sphere of influence) and to design beautiful, eye-catching newsletters that your distribution list will now sub-consciously associate your professionalism and real estate expertise with.
The more often your list receives these newsletters (we don’t recommend more than once a week) the more likely they are to remember you when it comes time to buy or sell a house.
Your newsletters should be a mixture of new listings you have, recent success stories, interesting events around your market, market news, the blog you wrote that week and any special events you have coming up.
5. Neighborhood farming
Farming is one of the tried-and-true methods for gaining new business. Focus on a particular neighborhood, and through mailers and other means, increase your name recognition, and therefore, the likelihood that someone will call you when they are in need of your assistance.
This could be a ZIP code or just a few streets. Although mailers cost money, they are actually relatively cost effective, especially in comparison to paying Zillow or other equivalent online services.
And because people are receiving less and less physical mail, your mailers have all the better chance of standing out and getting read, especially if you are religious about regularly sending them (ideally, once a month).
Of course, these mailers should have your social media information on them and could include any special events you have coming up (this is what I meant above about certain strategies feeding and helping other strategies).
In addition to farming through mailers, you should also be pursuing expired listings in your farming area via letters, emails and phone calls.
Don’t just focus on properties that recently expired. Properties that expired one, two and even three years ago are prime targets; these owners were once clearly interested in selling their property, with real time now having passed, they are probably very interested again.
Networking is by far one of the most important, effective and fun strategies to generate leads. You will want to be networking with:
- The general public
- Other real estate professionals
If you live in an area where there are numerous art, philanthropy or social events any given week, then you should be attending as many of these as possible, at least one per week.
Unfortunately, real estate is a 24/7 business, and if you cannot find one night per week to go to an event (or to host one if there aren’t many opportunities), then you are not investing your all into the business.
Real estate is not a 9-to-5 career — it’s a creative endeavor where one must constantly be looking for opportunity, not just in the market, but everywhere at all times.
Charity events, art shows, wine tastings and book talks are all good places to be, but you will certainly know more about what is most appropriate for your particular area.
Side note: I have noticed that many real estate agents are trigger happy when it comes to giving out their business cards. It is far more important to collect business cards and contact information than it is to give them out.
All of the people you network with and get contact information from should then be placed in your email database so they receive your weekly newsletters.
But as important as networking generally is (that is, with non-real estate professionals) networking with your colleagues in complementary markets is of equal importance.
For example, if you service northern New Jersey, near New York City, then you should be having lunch or a drink with one to two New York City agents per month.
Make sure that they know who you are, how good of an agent you are, and that you are happy to pay a referral fee if they have a client who is looking to transact real estate in northern New Jersey.
The referral fee you will pay them will be well-worth the repeat business you could get from not only the referred clients but also from the agents themselves.
If you service one of their referrals particularly well, ask your client to send that agent a note saying how happy they were to work with you. Like you, agents like to know if they recommend a good or service (even if it is another real estate agent) that their client has been well taken care of.
Other agents in areas you do not cover yourself can be excellent sources of leads (and remember to be a source for them too).
7. Open houses
A traditional method, much like neighborhood farming, open houses are excellent ways to meet potential buyers.
Although you should first and foremost be focused on selling the property where you are hosting the open house, don’t let buyers who aren’t interested in purchasing that particular property go to waste!
Be sure to review the market before every open house and know what else is available so you can speak knowledgeably.
If you are not capturing these potential buyers’ contact information, then you are wasting time. Like networking, giving other people your card is largely a waste of time.
Get their information, especially their email addresses. Follow up with these people as soon as possible, by which I mean that very day.
Do not wait until the next day or a few days later to send them information or a follow-up note. They have already forgotten who you are.
This is your livelihood we are talking about — muster one last wind after you have gotten home from your open house on Sunday, and at least send everyone you met a thank-you email and perhaps properties or more information on the house they just saw with you.
If you do not have many or any listings, then connect with a bigger agent in your office and offer to host open houses for them. Do not think of it as you doing a favor for them; if anything, quite the opposite — they are doing a favor for you by giving you the chance to meet potential clients.
Be sure to promote these open houses on your social media and your email newsletter beforehand.
These seven strategies are not only mostly free, but they are also highly effective. Tie these tactics together, and you’ll keep your pipeline full your entire career.
This article original appeared on January 10, 2018.
Chadwick Ciocci is the founder and CEO of Chilton & Chadwick – Global Real Estate Concierge. He is also the vice president of Culture Home, a real estate development company in Greenwich, Connecticut.