I have seen a trend in our discussions in the past few months with many people in many industries. It usually starts with a conversation about marketing on a shoestring budget or how to market to be ahead of the curve as things begin to turn. I think regardless of industry, and specifically in real estate, you need to pay close attention to the relationships that you have at hand and stay in front of them as much as possible. It is far more economical to turn prospects into customers than it is to create new prospects, so your existing database should be a primary focus during these slower times. And while you’re at it, why not take the time to review your processes and make sure that your data has the utmost integrity and can be fully leveraged as things begin to turn. After all, we create the worst habits during the best of times so now may be time to hunker down and really get your processes refined and your data cleaned up.
Regardless of the strength of your CRM system, it is critical to understand that the people involved in the process will be the key factor in the integrity and accuracy of the data the system provides. We ask our clients to make sure that all parties involved hold the integrity of the data to the highest priority. Without accurate data, the accuracy of our system is flawed.
So here are six easy buckets of information that you need to be collecting.
1. Contact Information.
Yes, it seems obvious but do you have a standard for what a prospect actually is? It may vary depending on your industry, but I see two potential scenarios that I call soft info and hard info. And I like giving the prospect the choice.
A. Soft Information – First name, last name, email address and zip code. This is if you are building an e-marketing database and mainly capturing data online. The first three are obvious but many people overlook geography. Asking someone for their zip code is really not that intrusive and can tell you a lot about where your prospects are coming from.
B. Hard Information – First name, last name, and physical address. This may seem old school, but having physical mailing addresses is still very valuable. Especially if you are in any form of B2C marketing. The insights that you can gain about your database by having their address is huge, especially if you have a longer acquisition cycle. And notice I did not say phone number and email. Those are nice but change far more frequently, so addresses are still as good as gold.
2. Referring Campaign.
How did you hear about us? The dreaded question that many marketers are afraid to ask so they place a blank field on the Web site hoping that prospects will fill it in. Well, they won’t. Unless, you make it required. Which I think is ok if you gave the option to complete the “Soft Information” only. If they are opting to give you more information anyway, then they will probably understand that they may be “surveyed” a little. I recommend a pull down menu in alphabetical order by campaign type with all active campaigns listed. I recommend category (newspaper) and detail (Wall Street Journal) in a well-organized list. Here is an example:
(Pull down menu)
Direct Mail: Postcard
Direct Mail: Letter
Editorial: Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles
Editorial: Atlanta Journal Constitution
Magazine: Our State
Magazine: Robb Report
Newspaper: Charlotte Observer
Newspaper: USA Today
Newspaper: Wall Street Journal
Radio: XM Radio
Referral: Existing Customer
Trade Show: LiveSouth
I see this less as information overload and more of an opportunity to give the prospect a confidence boost in your brand by seeing that you really are marketing, despite the hard times. And please, no catch all options like “internet” or “other”. That just gives them an out.
Your database may have several different constituents, not just prospects and customers. So I recommend that you leverage your CRM to manage target audiences with segmentation. For example, here are a few relationships if you are selling a real estate community:
Advocate –banker, politician, vendor, etc.
Broker – cooperating real estate broker or realtor
Builder – potential home builder
Employee – community employee or partner
Owner – current resident
Owner Pending – Currently under contract
Previous Owner – not a current resident but was in the past
Prospect – marketing prospect
Suspect – you acquired their name, but they did not inquire with you specifically
4. Lead Type.
Many people track lead type as a campaign. But in reality how you heard about them does not mean the same thing as how they heard about you. So if the best customer ever just walks in your door that is not a necessarily a walk-in campaign. You may find that they were told by the restaurant down the street that you were exactly who they needed to talk to so technically that is a Referral Campaign that came in the form of a Walk-in.
Here are a few examples of lead types:
Agent: A sales agent identifies the lead through their own resources.
Email: They have inquired for information through the internet or over email.
Mail: They have inquired for information through a business reply card (BRC).
Phone-In: They have inquired for information by calling the Sales Office or one of your agents directly.
Walk-In or Retail: They stopped by your Sales Office inquiring about information.
5. Qualifying Grade or Rank.
Lead qualifying is usually subjective and most often done on a whim by a sales agent based purely on qualitative information. However, a simple, self-explanatory qualifying process should provide the most efficient way to gage the quality of prospects in your database and level the playing field with all agents using the same terminology.
We have found that the best qualifying data is the expected time frame to the first conversion in your process. So if your acquisition process is get a lead, book an appointment, then create the sale, we recommend tracking the first step: How long until we can get an appointment. Here are some examples:
Grade A: an appointment in less than 3 months
Grade B: an appointment in 3-6 months
Grade C: an appointment in 6-12 months
Grade D: an appointment in 12+ months (depending on your acquisition cycle, this could be the most important group)
Grade N (New): A lead that has been assigned to an agent but the agent has not successfully made contact with them.
Grade U (Unsuccessful): If you make multiple (3 or more) attempts to contact a NEW lead and are unsuccessful, use the U status until you make a successful contact and then reassign the status accordingly. This should not be used to park prospects, U prospects are still active and should be contacted regularly.
OPT OUT: Only used if a prospect specifically requests not to be contacted in the future. This is not to be used if the prospect has been disqualified by the agent for any reason, or cannot be successfully contacted.
DEAD: This prospect has been disqualified or expressed no interest. There is no potential for this prospect to purchase in the future. Use OPT OUT if the person requests to be removed from the database.
No prospect should be sitting idle. After every touch you should have an automated action that either books your next call, sends an email, drops a note, or sets a tickler for a later date. This is THE single most overlooked detail in your sales agents’ conversion process. We have found that upwards of 75% of databases never get touched after the initial inquiry and it can take 15-20 attempts to make a successful conversion in your process. The numbers do not lie; no sales professional can manually work 100 or more contacts effectively without an automated CRM.
After doing database marketing for almost 15 years as both a marketer and a telemarketer, I can tell you that it is a numbers game. The more attempts, the more results. And the better your data, the better your return on your future efforts. It will be the brands that had frequency and relevance during the down-economy that are the first to swing back with the market. So going dark now may seal your fate. We recommend getting a plan today that creates the proper operational procedures for your most valuable asset, your existing prospects, and creates regular touchpoints through multiple channels: online, email, direct mail, whatever may be most appropriate for your audience. Hope this helps.