Marketing is the process of helping potential customers find your business or service. We know people don’t buy and sell homes continuously, so the process of hiring an agent frequently beings before the customer is even ready to make contact.
So, by making yourself ‘followable’ and providing content marketing that consumers actually want, it’s possible to nurture prospective customers (and past clients) digitally.
If you do this, these types of nurture programs more often lead to a brand preference for your service and ultimately turn into leads, revenue and clients for life.
The process of marketing in this way leads to a concept we call friction-free selling.
And wouldn’t we all love to be able to effortlessly convert more prospects to customers?
Attract – Nurture – Convert
In Transform XII, we learnt a bit about a guy named Marcus Sheridan.
When Sheridan graduated from university in 2001, he joined two friends who were starting a swimming pool company.
For the next seven years, business was good. With real estate prices rising to historic levels, anybody could get a loan for a swimming pool. Many folks did.
As you might have predicted, the wheels started to fall off in 2008 when the Global Financial Crisis hit.
Pushed to the brink of bankruptcy, Sheridan was forced to pivot (yes, the word has been around for a while!), and he found success in a simple but powerful content marketing strategy.
He subsequently wrote a book on how he saved the company, ultimately generating millions of dollars, called They Ask, You Answer.
A shift in consumer behaviour and the blur between sales and marketing
Before we move on to the principles of Sheridan’s system, we need to cover several important points.
First, consumer buying patterns have gone through a monumental shift over the past decade.
As Sheridan points out, multiple studies show that the vast majority (Sheridan tells us it’s 70 per cent – his book was published in 2017, so it’s likely higher than that now) of the buying decision is made before a prospect talks to a company.
This is consistent no matter what market you are in – large, small, B2B or B2C.
Second, you might think that the lessons don’t apply to real estate or your specific market.
But funnily enough, everybody believes their business is the one exception to the rule – that the people in your industry don’t buy the way this system suggests they do.
Of course, ultimately, that’s up for you to decide, but there’s only one way to find out, and that’s to try it.
Everything is a test until it’s not, right?
“They Ask, You Answer” defined
The core of They Ask, You Answer is an obsession with what your customer is thinking, searching, asking, feeling, and fearing.
So if you are only following other real estate agents on social media, if you are only writing articles like “7 ways to get ready for Spring” and not thinking about what your customers really want to hear from you, it might be time to think about your own marketing pivot.
As the story goes, while Sheridan was pondering how to save his company, he sat down at his kitchen table late one night and brainstormed all the questions he had received about fibreglass swimming pools over the previous nine years.
When he finished, he had more than 100 questions on the piece of paper.
Then, as you might have guessed, he and his business partners set off to answer each one in a blog post or video. Most of the articles became blog posts on their website, with the question’s title becoming the post’s title.
These weren’t one or two-sentence answers – these were real answers with deep explanations. And they weren’t glorified sales pitches – they approached each answer with an educator’s mentality – answering without bias and only trying to educate the readers.
As Sheridan points out, every single industry has hundreds of buyer-based questions. So it’s ironic that most company websites don’t even address more than a few. This phenomenon is definitely true in the real estate industry where listings are usually front and centre of everyone’s websites.
If you find yourself thinking, “There’s no way our customers have that many questions,” take it as a red flag. It means you might have lost touch with what your customers are really looking for – and you need to start learning what your ideal customer wants to know.
After a few months of employing this strategy with his pool company, Sheridan started to look at the web analytics on their website to determine what was working and what content was generating the most traction.
He found there were five types of content that seemed to generate the most interest and buying behaviours:
- Pricing and costs
- Versus and comparisons
- Best in class
Why were those the ones that moved the needle the most? Because those are the issues that we (and all consumers) obsess over when considering a purchase.
Most businesses hide from those questions or only deal with them face-to-face with customers.
Content subject #1: pricing and costs
If you’ve ever gone on a website to research a product and couldn’t find pricing information, you’ve likely felt what Sheridan calls the “F-word of the Internet”: frustration.
Most companies resist putting pricing information on their website for three reasons.
Every situation is different.
Yes, your pricing might vary from client to client, depending on their needs. But no matter what business you are in, it’s possible to give your prospects a range of probable fees. So at the very least, you’ll want to give your customers a sense of your pricing model, whether you are in sales or property management.
Your competitors will find out what you charge.
Spoiler alert: It’s unlikely that your competitors have no clue what you charge. And I can tell you right now, based on our AREAs survey, that the national average is about 2 per cent plus GST; in some states, it’s regulated, so there’s no huge secret.
You’ll scare customers away.
Sheridan makes two great points here.
First, if your customer can’t afford your product, there’s little to no chance you’ll convince them on a cold call.
Second, price is not about affordability; it’s about psychology.
You are more likely to trust a business that’s upfront about its pricing.
So instead of hiding behind one of those excuses, be willing to address the main pricing questions with some specificity.
A proof point: Sheridan’s piece titled How Much Does a Fiberglass Pool Cost? has generated $3 million in additional sales, directly attributable to the article.
Content subject #2: problems
This content subject is all about turning weaknesses into strengths.
When people make significant purchasing decisions, they tend to worry more about what might go wrong than what might go right.
For instance, Sheridan tells the story of how somebody might decide between getting a fibreglass pool or a concrete pool. For years his prospects would ask him something like, “What are the problems with a fibreglass swimming pool?”
And, you can be pretty sure that whatever questions people ask you in person, they’ll also search for online.
And that’s why they wrote a post titled, Top 5 fibreglass pool problems and solutions.
Everybody in the pool industry thought they were crazy for writing that post.
But – how many of their competitors had that information on their website?
How many prospects wanted to know the answer to that question?
When considering whether or not to address the elephant in the room, you must choose. You can allow your future client to search for and find the answers to those questions themselves, or you can address them directly and allow your customers to determine whether or not it’s an issue for them.
Aside from creating a level of trust your competitors won’t dare match; doing this has two advantages.
First, you get the opportunity to explain why, despite the problems, your service would be a good fit for the prospect.
For instance, one of the drawbacks to a fibreglass pool is that it might not be as long, deep or wide as the client might like.
But if lower maintenance and a pool that will last a lifetime are more important to the prospect, it might be worth the trade-off.
This turns your weakness into a strength.
Second, you eliminate people from your sales and marketing funnel that will never become customers, freeing you to pay closer attention to those that might.
If they find out the problems eventually (they will), they might as well find out now.
Content subject #3: versus and comparisons
The third primary content subject is something that consumers are fascinated with – comparisons.
This versus that.
One agent Vs the next.
Over time Sheridan and his colleagues heard the same question: What’s the difference between a fibreglass pool and a concrete pool?
So, they wrote a post titled Fiberglass Pools vs Vinyl Liner Pools vs Concrete Pools: An Honest Comparison.
Again, the temptation here is to even avoid bringing these questions up. Why address problems that some of your prospects might not even consider?
Two of the reasons we covered in the previous section – turning weaknesses into strengths and using marketing to eliminate bad leads.
The other two reasons are traffic and trust.
If people are thinking about these questions, they are searching for the answers online. Would you prefer they come to you for the answer or some third-party site that lets other (sometimes misinformed) consumers answer it for you?
Search engines love this type of content and serve it much higher in the rankings than self-serving sales messaging.
When your prospect sees that you are open and honest, they are more likely to trust you during the rest of the sales process, and you are more likely to make a sale.
Content subjects 4 and 5: reviews and best in class
One of the questions most consumers will ask (whether it happens to be Google or their friends) is, “Who is the best real estate agent in Runaway Bay?”
Sheridan tackled this by writing a blog post titled, Who are the Best Pool Builders in Richmond Virginia (Reviews/Ratings)?
He listed the five companies he truly believed were the best.
And, for good measure, he neglected to include his own company.
Sounds crazy, right?
Well, Sheridan reasoned that as soon as you put yourself on that list, you lose all credibility.
It becomes a puff piece, and you jeopardise the trust you are trying to build with this strategy.
The second reason is less apparent but even more critical. Where are those prospects when they are reading this post?
Hopefully, on your website.
Not your competitor’s website or a third-party website.
Because the article is on your website, it means you control the messaging.
And while you don’t want to include your company in the list, you can position yourself as the expert in building trust with your potential customers and increasing conversion rates.
The link to friction-free selling
Let’s go back to the beginning.
The more knowledge a customer or prospective customer has of you, your service, and is comfortable in that knowledge, the more likely they will say ‘yes’ to you when it comes time for you to ask for the agency agreement.
Sheridan says that if a prospect consumes five articles from you and then organises a meeting, they’re more likely to do business with you over someone who booked the call straight away.
In essence, the prospect qualifies themselves in or out to see if they are a good fit.
So if you can build trust by answering questions before you get to the appraisal or appointment stage, the prospect is much more likely to convert with way less friction than if you started the relationship with a cold call.
In case you need some inspiration, here are some good questions to start with:
- How much does it cost to hire an agent?
- What are the fees involved in selling my home?
- How can I calculate my profit after I sell?
- What is the impact of taxes when selling my home?
- What is the cost of waiting to buy a home if mortgage rates rise?
- Can I still sell my home if I don’t have a place to move into yet?
- What if I can’t buy after I have sold?
- What should I do if there are multiple offers?
- Auctions frighten me, how do I hold my nerve and succeed?
- What happens to the real estate market if mortgage rates rise?
- What home improvements will increase my home’s value?
- What home improvements should I avoid when selling?
- How much will the marketing costs be?
- Why should I go all out on a marketing campaign when my home will sell quickly?
- I’ve missed out on so many properties lately, what should I do?
- If my house will sell quickly, why do I need an agent?
- Should I wait to sell in Spring instead of right now?
- 5 reasons why (a past client) hired (your office) to sell their home
- How we helped (insert client) secure their dream home
- Why (vendor) decided to sell his property before the Spring
- How (investor) increased the value of their property through making (specific type of) improvements
5 The Best/Top
- What are the best questions to ask when interviewing an agent?
- How to find the best agent for you
- The top 10 homes for sale in (insert area)
- The top housing trends of 2021
- The most notable real estate sales in (insert area) in 2021
- The best way to attract buyers when selling your home in 2021.
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