Although the temptation to spend money on fancy logos, direct mail drip campaigns, Facebook ads and online lead generators is real, your best investment is building relationships — and that doesn’t have to be expensive.

Looking for more advice? Check out Inman’s New Agent Essentials.

How much money should agents be spending on marketing? As the economy continues to ebb and flow, there are many ways to answer this question, but the short answer remains the same in any market. The amount you choose to spend on marketing depends on the size of your business and your goals. The benchmark is anywhere between  5 percent and 10 percent of your gross commission income.

However, the short answer is not always the best one. Anyone can spend money, and plenty of platforms are more than happy to take your money with promises of significant ROI. When you’re the chief cook and bottle washer of your business and don’t have the benefit of a marketing background, trying to decipher which platform will give you the best results can be daunting and frustrating. 

The better answer is this: Spend as little as possible. In fact, if you’re fewer than five years in the real estate business, my advice is to spend nothing.

While the temptation to spend money on fancy logos, direct mail drip campaigns, Facebook ads and online lead generators is real, your best investment is building relationships. Building relationships doesn’t have to be expensive.

Open houses

Working open houses for other listing agents in your office is the quickest way to add to your database and pick up unrepresented buyers. Busy listing agents are always looking for support with open houses, and if you’re willing to cover their open house, most will allow you to pick up any unrepresented buyers.

Tech stack

If you work for a big-box brokerage or a mid-large size indie broker, they likely have a tech stack that includes a CRM and CMA tool. If they do, there may be some set-it-and-forget-it tools within the stack that provide you with an automated way to stay top of mind with your sphere.

Email newsletter

Send a regular email newsletter to your entire sphere. By regular, I mean at least monthly, preferably weekly.

There are many free email service providers out there, and if you’re using a CRM, it likely has newsletter templates. Email newsletters are a great way to bring your personality forth.

It’s always essential to include valuable real estate information. Still, I believe that including something personal like a playlist, recipe, or photo of you doing something you love goes a long way toward building trust.

Social media

When it comes to social media, there are two main strategies — an inbound strategy and an outbound strategy.

Your inbound strategy is your content strategy, and it is critical to building know like and trust among friends, followers and future clients. Your outbound strategy is your intentional engagement with others. If you do nothing else, make sure you spend 20 to 30 minutes twice a day actively engaging with friends and followers.

Active engagement means having a genuine interest in the content that others post. Check in with people you haven’t talked to in a while, comment on their posts, ask questions, and offer answers where you can.

Personal notes

Who doesn’t like a handwritten note, especially these days? Writing notes is something you can do later in the evening as you’re binge-watching your favorite Netflix show. Invest in high-quality personalized note cards and commit to writing 10-20 personal notes each week.

Popbys

Popbys have been around forever. Popbys allow you to engage face-to-face with a past client, and most people are delighted that you thought of them and took the time to stop. They don’t have to cost a lot, they can be creative, and you can find tons of ideas on Pinterest. I recommend scheduling popbys quarterly.

Buyer/seller seminars

Pre-COVID, buyer/seller seminars were always in person. These days it’s acceptable and even preferred to host them online. I like a Zoom webinar format so that you can capture attendees’ names and contact information through registration.

Promote the virtual event by creating an event inside your Facebook page and inviting your friends and followers. Include a mention in your eMail newsletter and send a dedicated email to your sphere. I also recommend promoting it inside your local Facebook groups as long as the administrator allows it.

Free home valuations

In a market where listings are at a premium, providing free home valuations can be a great tool to inspire someone to sell. RPR has an excellent report, as do many CMA tools.

Print out the report, attach a custom cover letter with a hand-written signature, enclose it in a 10 x 13 white envelope and send. The key is to follow up with a phone call a week after it goes out. Creating free home valuations can take time when done the right way, so it’s essential to get very targeted and commit to making five to 10 per week.

Community involvement

Community involvement is likely one of the most authentic ways to build relationships and win business. Find an organization that resonates with you, like your local government, local business networking groups, a non-profit organization, or your kid’s PTO or sports team.

In addition to building relationships, involvement in organizations like these give you the feel-good factor and shows others your dedication to the community.

All of these are low-cost and no-cost ways to grow your business. While they may not require an investment of money, they do require an investment of you and your time and energy.

Christine George is Head of Marketing and Agent Development at Leading Edge Real Estate in Eastern Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Cape Cod, Customer Experience Sage at Zinnia, and Blogger at Believe in Balance.

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