Back in 2011 I decided to hang my hat up as a custom home builder and get into the real estate industry. I was already used to working for myself, and real estate sales seemed like a perfect fit. A great industry, however, not for the faint of heart. You must have tenacity and confidence, like most businesses.
What I quickly realized after I did my studies and was told about how much money you can make in this business, is that there is a path to getting there and it’s not by listening to the masses, surround yourself with knowledgeable, successful people and have them as peer mentors. As a builder, we built up a reputation, for high end, quality work and with that my business was mostly referral based and work just always rolled in. Most of our work came to us through a couple of architects.
As a realtor, all that went away. Within two years of start up in our industry it is widely known that that 80% fail and of that 80%, 20% take the lions share of the business out there. My biggest goal, be one of the 20%. I was lucky enough to have some connections and quickly started calling people in my circles and within three months, had my first couple of transactions underway. Then I hit a wall. I thought, signs out in the community would just cause business to flow in, that’s some of what you are taught in training. Not So.
I had quickly realized that I knew less than I thought I did about the inner workings of the real estate industry. I had to quickly face my fears. Cold Calls, door knocking, what, that’s how I must get business outside of print advertising. Hmm, suddenly I am seeing that all the things I have anxiety over are the exact things I need to get over to succeed. As they say, be careful what you ask for.
I decided to enroll in some training to get used to door knocking and cold calling and got on with it, as I was told this is the best way to build a database of contacts. I went at it, nervous, often not liking cold calls or door knocking. Time and practice got me better at it, I just didn’t like going about business this way, so I set out to set ourselves apart in our industry. We live in Keswick, ON. A town of about 25000 people and just under 10000 households.
We didn’t have deep pockets full of money, so I was thinking, how can I build my business and database in the community without spending a ton of money. Print is very expensive and unless you get calls, can’t be tracked. I noticed that our community was heavily connected on Social media, specifically Facebook, so I started following some people in my industry in the U.S. because at that time, social media was not yet a viable corridor for business in our marketplace. I learned quickly how to communicate and create content that was causing us to stand out from the crowd and we started to build a following. Then, I began to create and run at this time, six Facebook groups. Keswick Rentals to real estate resource, Newmarket Rentals to real estate resource, Georgina Lakeside living, The ONES vehicle events, the Realtor Referral Network and our business page The York Region Eco Team. Each one is Niche based and since 2015 we have build up group membership to approximately 4800 people and another 1500 plus people on my personal wall. As of late Facebook has really been stepping it up and making it easier to communicate with those we don’t know through ad posts, boost posts and with active buttons and sign up forms. With clear intention, we keep our business and personal lives separate on Facebook. ONE THING that is a KEY factor in using social media and I mentioned earlier, is to surround yourself with the right people, personally and professionally. Don’t be scrolling for hours on end, reading one negative story after another, or in groups scrolling through all the dogma, it will affect your being and it was my single biggest motivator for who I keep on personal and business walls. I control the content and energy in my groups in a positive manner and on my personal wall as well. You don’t need to unfriend or delete people. The negative ones will begin to fall away on there own. We all have stuff in our lives. Facebook should not be a portal for it. Look at it this way. Think of someone famous that uses Social outside of Donald Trump. They often share all the great highlights of there lives. Family, places, contribution to society and then they walk away. They don’t applaud or condemn those that remark to their posts, they simple create a reason for you to follow them as a fan, a leader, or for your inspiration, so that you can take this into your own life and create paths to joy and success.
People know what we do, so we do not breach that trust by boring them on our personal walls with business. Because we communicate with these people with frequency through our Niche based focus. Since 2015, we have been able on average, generate commission sales of between 80,000 to 100,000 plus each year and it is growing, with very little ad spend, until recent times, all organic, just time and genuine interest invested. In 2016, that amounted to close to 40% of how we generated income in our business.
Leadership was telling me if you really want to be successful, build a Niche based business, I was like Huh, what, HOW. They said, that’s up to you to figure out, so I sat down and started to think of what can we do that no one in our community is doing from a real estate standpoint. Giving back was important to our family, so we decided we will start doing events. Our 1st, a community garage sale for the neighborhood we lived in. I got graphics done, picked a date and then communicated through our groups and other groups in town. I also went door to door and got close to 50 homes to sign up and picked up two listings from that effort. We handled the permits, arranged to tables for those that needed them through a local supplier and I also called a friend with a green house business that donated all his end of season flowers and vegetable plants that we sold at our house with all the proceeds going back to local organizations/charities. Since starting that in 2014, We then started a yearly pie giveaway to celebrate Thanksgiving. We went to a local market and got them onside to pick up a portion of the cost and then approached a local lender to get involved and each year we giveaway 200 pies at our event, with a car show, music, face painting, our ask is to bring non-perishable food items that we donate to the local food pantry in exchange for the pie and fun times. In 2015 we started a local car show in Georgina, every Saturday night May to September, free to the public. We fund it from our real estate business, local grant, calendar sales from a calendar I create each year, with pictures from the weekly shows. We have gotten our lottery license and hold a weekly 50/50 draw, half goes to a weekly winner and half back to one of four chosen charities each summer.
We are now known as the Event King and Queen of Georgina. It is a fun and rewarding Niche we have tapped into. We have really gotten our brand built up quickly and relatively low cost, by influencing local businesses to contribute to our events, so we can offer prizes, etc. This in turn got us connected to the community. At each one of our events we have numerous prizes we are giving away and we have people filling out ballets for the prizes, along with stay in touch cards, so that we can update them on our events and how much we are giving back to the community, pictures, etc. My singular goal was to not abuse the privilege of people filling out cards and then have us harassing them. We always approach everyone from the mindset of contribution and have our brand softly build into all of it. Because of our events, open houses, door knocking, client communication, meeting people we have built our database to over 4100 individuals with emails, addresses and phone numbers, double that, when you include all of our Facebook communities, close to double that again when you include all the other platforms, like Linked In, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.
This brings me to my final point of how to build up a database of client information, management!!
I quickly realized that we needed to get a Database management system. I looked at many and wanted one that best suited our needs and wants. We use a cloud based app called Contactually. It is easy to use, integrates well across all our platforms and allows me to segment all the different ways we are connecting with people and communicate with them in very focused ways. It also integrates well with Video. We use Bomb Bomb as our templated video host to communicate with our database.
It is key that you touch your database with frequency. In our industry, we are trained that you should be communicating 33 times per year. We took this very seriously and sat down and created a plan that comes from contribution first and foremost. When it comes to asking for business, we never ask directly for business and we share how clients benefit by having my 30 plus years of build knowledge at their side. We always ask who they know that may need our services and come back around to them if they are responding to us. We always reward our referrals generously. We cannot advertise this, compliance rules do not allow it, so make sure your able to do that within your business, otherwise you could get yourself in trouble.
We do a lot of video, along with edgy marketing that in not conventional in nature, always listening and learning new ways to communicate. It works, especially when you tap into your genuine self. You must however push past glass ceilings. True success lies just beyond what you believe you are currently capable of. We have gone from not being known in our community in 2014 to being in the top ten percent of realtors in our community. We didn’t spend tons of money with print ads, or highways signs, we utilized technology, social media and coming from contribution by getting out into the community with events and leveraging others through solid ideas, planning and doing what we say we will do. This has caused our business to be primarily driven by referrals now and in real estate, this is a far more economical way to build your business and I am sure, same goes for most businesses.
The Brick and mortar way of doing business is fading away. Case in Point. Amazon, versus Sears, Netflix versus Blockbuster.
There is an abundance of business everywhere in any type of economy. Just step into it and stay focused on your end goals and do not waver. Keep moving, embrace technology and leverage people…. You MUST attract people and cause them to want to communicate with you. CONTRIBUTION and TRUST are key. Then they will do business easily with you.
Gary Semeniuk, Sales Representative.