By Joseph Dobrian
A “lead,” in real estate, is any person or company who might want to work with you—now, in the near future, or maybe years from now. A lead might be someone currently in the market for a home, or someone looking ahead to retirement (and selling their home) next year or the year after. To be a successful real estate agent, you must be constantly on the lookout for real estate leads, and you must create them.
Christina Ethridge is co-founder of LeadsAndLeverage.com, a Post Falls, Idaho-based company that specializes in training and networking for real estate agents. She explains that most beginning agents start with a sphere of about 200 people whom they know from school, from former jobs, or from the neighborhood. Put those people in your database, she urges, and have conversations with them. After that, Ethridge insists, Facebook is where most real estate agents should spend the bulk of their lead-generating time and money.
Why online presence matters in real estate
“Beginning agents are told to do a lot: get out there, get your name out there, knock on doors, go to open houses,” she says, “and the in-person prospecting is important, but you have to spend time online too. It’s not all about exposure, but about capturing information so that you can stay in contact with your real estate leads.
“The most cost-effective way to generate leads, when you don’t have a big budget, is face-to-face and through Facebook and Craigslist, to get people to your open houses. Offer something of value, like a checklist for buying or selling a home. You need to bring in cold traffic, warm them up, and turn them into closings, however long it takes.”
Ethridge urges beginning agents to establish a presence on Facebook and build an attractive, professional-looking website as soon as possible. As you become better known, more people will see you on Facebook and check your website.
“Driving traffic into your database is your objective in everything you do,” she says. “This takes time and consistency.”
“When you’re generating leads, focus on the boring stuff, the consistent repetition,” she continues. “Most people have very short attention spans. If they see or hear of you once, they won’t remember you. You have to be consistent and repetitive. You don’t have the marketing resources or the name recognition of Nike or Kleenex. Therefore, you have to be out there.
How to stay top of mind with your real estate leads
What are some of the best ways to keep yourself at the front of a lead’s mind, especially if it might be a long time before they’re ready to buy or sell a property? Ethridge says it’s all about being a resource through the ownership of their current home.
“Know what they need, whether it’s renovation tips, or valuation for tax purposes,” she advises. “There’s always something we can do for them without telling them they need to buy or sell now. Make yourself valuable to them.”
Ethridge also advises making people aware of testimonials, especially those from people in life situations that are similar to that of your real estate leads.
“For instance, if you’re dealing with a ‘move-up’ buyer, with kids from middle school to high school age, if you can show them a testimonial from someone you helped in that same situation, that’s more useful than anything out of your mouth.”
What’s the worst mistake an agent can make when cultivating a lead?
Etheridge says it’s selling. “If you treat them like all they are to you is a lead, you’ll turn them off,” she warns.
In all, you might sum up Etheridge’s advice thus: Be visible, be valuable, be available. Of course, in the back of your mind, you’ll always be working toward a closing. But the front-of-mind objective is to show yourself, and show that you’re there to help.
About the author
Joseph Dobrian has been writing about commercial and residential real estate, and real estate-related finance, for more than 30 years. His by-line has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Real Estate Forum, Journal of Property Management, and many other publications. He is also a noted novelist, essayist, and translator. His website is www.josephdobrian.com, and he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.