I think everyone would agree, there are different quality of leads. Someone from your sphere of influence is certainly a better potential lead than the guy behind the counter at the tire shop that you handed your business card to as part of your attempt to pass out as many cards a day as you can. If you continuously market to your sphere of influence (friends, family.........friends, family) or in some cases just keep it fresh in their heads that you are an agent, when the time comes for them to buy they may do it with you (of course some of you would say to never mix business and friends or family, but that's another topic). By handing out business cards to every person you come across in the course of a day, you'd probably be happy with one in a hundred calling and inquiring about your services. So naturally, these leads have different levels of quality.
So where does a lead cultivated by your ActiveRain blog or your subsequent participation on Localism rate in comparison with the other ways to get leads? Let's take a look.
I'll start at what I believe to be the worst quality lead and work my way up from there.
This is a lead generated by the infamous (at least in Matt's opinion) lead aggregation machine. Companies like Housevalues and HomeGain dominated this space in the early 00's and wedged themselves in between the consumer and the real estate agent. Consumers finding their way to these sites, and others like them, would often be left feeling duped. A television or radio ad for Housevalues would send you to their website where you would fill in a form leaving your name, address and contact info with the promise that you would be given a value for your home. Then with the consumer's contact info in hand, they would turn and sell it to an eager agent ready to help you sell your home and find the next one. Many times though the consumer just wanted to see their value and were not interested in talking to anyone. To their credit, Housevalues (I'm not as familiar with Homegain's internal workings) does have a good lead management platform and some of you may have had success with their leads. By enlarge though, the leads are the bottom of the barrel when it comes (quickly becoming came) to quality. With each and every lead, the agent has to demonstrate credibility, build rapport and ultimately woo the client with your local market knowledge. In essence, you start over with every lead..........again and again and again. And don't forget the best part, they may have even started feeling duped.
This is a lead captured on your website, or in some cases your companies website. Even within these leads your level of quality can range a bit. There has been ample discussion on ActiveRain about forced registration versus non forced registration. I would venture that a lead that isn't forced to register will generally be a higher quality lead than one that is, but the fact still remains, it is an on-line lead. These people are now willing to give their contact info on the premise that they want some piece of information about the listing and generally aren't that surprised if they are contacted (I said generally). You have demonstrated very little credibility other than you have a website, which just about anyone can do these days (and does). If you do in fact end up with their contact info, then great. The reality is you still have to demonstrate that credibility, build rapport, and ultimately woo the client with your local market knowledge before they are going to work with you. Needless to say, the glaring difference is the client doesn't feel duped (although they may if you force them to register which inevitably leads to names like "Not on your life" and email addresses like "Ibetyouwish@youknew.com"). Again though, you have to start over with every lead.
I would say that the traditional farming techniques fall relatively close to this category as well. You have demonstrated minimal credibility ("Well, the guy/lady can afford these mailers every month") but still built no rapport and demonstrated no local market knowledge (I guess the fact your title company can get the address correct on your mail labels may demonstrate minimal local market knowledge). The client in this instance though will generally initiate the first verbal communication which makes it a bit easier for the weak at heart (but deep in pocket).
Everyone loves this kind of lead. Why wouldn't you? Even referrals though can vary somewhat in their quality, but they generally come with a little more of three main ingredients of a lead. Credibility can vary from highly established to barely established at all. Your barber, who you have never helped buy or sell, may tell you that his son is thinking of buying and that you should give him a call. He probably can't vouch for your credibility much further than you always have a $20 in your wallet to pay when he's finished (except for that ONE time). A referral from a past client though may come with much more built in credibility as they can vouch for how fantastic of a job you did for them (because, of course, you did a fantastic job). With a referral though in many instances you still have to demonstrate to that individual what your level of expertise is and then of course build one on one rapport with them. I think most people will take someone else's word on expertise, but want to see it demonstrated to them personally as well. Rapport is something you have to start over with on each and every referral client to some degree. Still, we like referrals because they come with some level of the three ingredients built in. But a common thread remains, we have to start over with each one every time.
I'm going to skip ActiveRain and Localism for a second and deal with the highest and best form of lead, then come back.
With a repeat customer you already have the three ingredients built in. They have worked with you before so they know that you are credible, they know that you have the local knowledge, and they know that they get along with you (rapport). ActiveRain and Localism actually give you the opportunity to come just about as close to this as you can get without having worked with someone in the past. Needless to say, hang on to these people. Use them for referrals, make sure they know how to find you (another benefit of ActiveRain if you don't have a well ranking website, or one at all).
I would say that the potential for a lead you can generate from ActiveRain and Localism falls right between a referral and a repeat customer, and here's why............
How do you demonstrate to someone that you have credibility over the internet? The best way is to give them a peak into what you do on a daily basis. Show them experiences you have had with other clients and how you handled the challenges that presented themselves. Show them that you can spell and understand the proper usage of your and you're. Show them that you know the extent of your own limitations and are willing to seek out the advice of your peers. These are all components of some of the more successful blogs written on ActiveRain.
How do you demonstrate your expertise in a local market over the internet? You write about that local market. Do like Rich Jacobson and write about the local businesses that serve your market. Do like Lenn Harley and consistently write about the current conditions in your market. Do like Broker Bryant and continually write about how good looking you are.............(wait, I mean about all the great things Broker Bryant writes about .) Basically do like any of the very active people on ActiveRain. If you're a regular reader of any of the three blogs (and countless others) I mentioned, you can clearly see that these people understand their markets. In posting your blogs then, make sure you get them into the right market area for syndication to localism. Now a consumer can find all that great info you produced in one place.
How do you build Rapport with someone over the internet? You give them a glimpse of your personality. Write in an informal manner that lets the client into your world. Broker Bryant is GREAT at this. Can anyone here that has read his blog not feel like they are getting the essence of this man? By continually giving you glimpses of who he is, readers can't help but build a rapport with him. I feel like if I sat down for a beer with Broker Bryant I would already like the guy. In fact, I've never spoken to him and I like him. I've had a chance to sit down at lunch with Rich Jacobson and I liked him already. Gerhard Ade is an agent in our office, he is a very intelligent man and you can see the thought he puts into his blog. I had the opportunity to know him before I started reading his blog, but I can see his intelligence and his sense of humor in his writing.
Now here is the best part about a lead you get from Localism or ActiveRain. You have demonstrated these things to the consumer over and over again but only had to write it once. Someone new that comes along only need to read some of what you have written in the past to get an idea about you. YOU DON"T HAVE TO DEMONSTRATE IT TO THEM OVER AND OVER AGAIN FROM SCRATCH.
Now think about that for a minute. Someone wants to know what you know about pricing. You've written about it. Someone wants to know what you know about Marketing. You've written about it. Someone wants to know what to expect when you show up at their home for a listing presentation. Shoot, you haven't written about that yet, so you tell them, then you write about it so the next person can read about it. ActiveRain and Localism give you the opportunity to chronicle your knowledge, your credibility and your character. Even better than that, they know how to get it in front of the consumer.
The success stories of people are plentiful. I know Mark Flanders has closed business as a result of leads that contacted him after reading his blog (he told me at lunch). Many of you are in the same boat. I would venture a guess that what you were able to demonstrate to the client via your blog prior to having ever met them was a huge factor in why they contacted YOU!!!!
Chronicle your knowledge so that you don't have to demonstrate it over and over and over again.