The Question That Messed Up My Old Marketing Strategy!

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate


houndsThe room was pregnant with anticipation. The animation amongst this group of successful real estate agents was palpable.  A question had been tossed on the docket by the speaker. 

It hung suspended in the air... provoking a response. "So, how many names do each of you have in your database?"  For a group of over-achievers, this was like throwing bloody red meat to a hound dog. 

One gentleman raised up his hand and confessed to 2,500 entries. There was an audible gasp. The bar was raised high...a challenge to conquer.  Another individual threw out an even larger number.  I was out of my league and knew it.  My list of 300 was certainly not going to be newsworthy in this crowd.

What happened next took me by surprise. The speaker proceeded to place Mr. 2,500 Leads on center stage. The spontaneous interview began with a question about WHO those 2,000+ individuals were?  Were they people who received bulk mailings?  How did they come to be a part of the database?  Had they ever been asked IF they wanted to be a part of the database?  As the questioning continued, it exposed the underlying fallacy which had infected virtually all of us.  We were simply collecting names...not building strong underlying relationships.

His next statement rocked my world...which admittedly in this crowd was already pretty small.  He said, "You probably only need about 75-100 people on your database list to have an effective marketing sphere of influence!  If you take the time to truly get to know those people and learn how to serve them, you will benefit far more than sending tons of useless mailings to people who don't know you and don't care about you.  In light of what had just transpired...this was a WOW moment for me. 

We were urged to scrutinize our databases of names that we had collected over the years. The barren reality was that many of us had people we were mailing letters to whom we didn't know. The challenge required a type of radical surgery; paring down the number of names to just 100 by asking ourselves some simple questions. 

Could we put a face with a name? Did we know what our clients goals were...their hopes & dreams?  How about simple stuff like the number of kids they had or their birthday?  Many of us couldn't recollect their Anniversary with us...the Closing date of the home.

That day, I  understood an important thing. You see, it's not so much about WHO you know as it is WHAT you SHARE in common with WHO YOU KNOW that brings vibrant prosperity into relationships.  A truly satisfying business is the by-product, not the end result of connecting with people.  Unfortunately, the mistake that the agents at the seminar had made in striving to create a burgeoning portfolio list of names for a database rather than striving to really know their clients is still being repeated today.

In the next segment, we will continue to explore this important issue for the online marketing community.  Many of us are left wondering WHERE the leads are going from all the hits/clicks our STAT counters tell us we are getting on our websites.  The nagging question haunts many participants within the blogosphere...if I'm talking to people, why aren't they talking back? Have we inadvertently traded our mass mailings for websites in a vacuum? 

to be continued...

Picture provided courtesy of AMAgills photostream on

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Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley,, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

Lola.  No.  Not at all. 

When any of the over 13,000 prospective buyers or sellers go to the Internet to search for properties for sale, they will be on my IDX system.  If they decide to actively look, they can be activated in a second and resume regular daily updates.  Folks go in and out of my database all the time. 

However, they do it themselves.  I don't work my database at all.  That way, when I get a contact, it's they who are contacting me, not I contacting them.  Pull advertising requires a larger database than push, but it's much more friendly and helpful. 

I do have the 13,000 to whom I can send general announcements about special financing, like when FHA limits changed, when we offer special incentives, etc.  When a new home community opens, I can send announcements.  However, I never solicit business directly from any consumer on an individual basis. 

On the other hand, the gentleman may have been describing an agent generating business for themselves alone.  I'm generating business for about 15 different agents.  So, I necessarily need a larger database. 

Apr 21, 2008 12:49 PM #57
Lola Audu
Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate - Grand Rapids, MI
Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI ~Welcome Home!

Lisa...yes she did! 

Tina...LOL...very true!  My guess is she didn't read the post. :)

Audrey, Thanks for sharing your insights.

Susan, It's an incredibly hard thing to forces you to look at WHY you are hanging on to all those names!

Earlene, Thank you for your comment.  You echo what Lenn, Missy and Jessica said earlier.  While a smaller base has worked for many, there are ways to use a larger database in a similar fashion by creating a focused strategy of communicating the information that people want or need.

Apr 21, 2008 12:53 PM #58
Lola Audu
Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate - Grand Rapids, MI
Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI ~Welcome Home!

Bob & Caroline...yes, she was obviously making the rounds.

George, I guess it would be possible for some people to know that many people on a personal basis, but, I think most of us would find maintaining personal relationships with that magnitude of names impossible and certainly exhausting.  Thanks for your comment.

Robert...I am just thankful that someone brought this to my attention early in my career.  I would probably have spent a lot of time trying to get 2,500 names...not to talk about money.  Working with a smaller pool of individuals has been good for me.

Apr 21, 2008 01:06 PM #59
Lola Audu
Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate - Grand Rapids, MI
Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI ~Welcome Home!

Melina, by being a resource for things other than real estate information, you're not only providing value, you're building a network of relationships.  That's significant.

Joan, thanks for your comment.  I think most of us were a little surprised by the turn of events in the room that day.  I had always assumed that bigger was better until then...

Andrew...I'm not sure this is about changing something if it's working for you.  For me, it was a challenge to gain a better understanding about who my clients are to enable me to be of better service.  It's hard to do that when someone is just a name...

Very true Wayne.

Cindy...I appreciate your comment about social networking.  I daresay that most people who accept invitations from people who they don't know will check to see WHO they know in common with the requestor.  The fact is that most of us on Active Rain or any social network know each other primarily from online interractions...

Apr 21, 2008 01:16 PM #60
Lola Audu
Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate - Grand Rapids, MI
Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI ~Welcome Home!

Cyndee...thanks for sharing your experience.  I appreciate your stopping to read and comment.

Karen, Thanks.  I appreciate your taking the time to stop by and comment.

Annonymous...Thanks for your thoughts.  I don't think there is such a thing as a useless person...on the other hand, I could not say the same for a database.

Hi Kelly, This seminar was attended about a decade ago.  You make a good point about how a strategy may change depending on the source of the data.  Thanks for sharing your comment.

Apr 21, 2008 01:21 PM #61
Lola Audu
Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate - Grand Rapids, MI
Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI ~Welcome Home!

Thank you for your comment Elizabeth.

Grace...blogging is a different type of marketing.  It is marketing that pulls a visitor in because they perceive they are obtaining something of value.  There are ways in which a blogger can increase the effectiveness of this type of marketing by understanding who their audience is.  We'll explore this in a future post.  Thanks for your comment.

Ann...Would you really drop anyone...even people you really like and who continue to be your advocates, simply because you didn't get one referral in any given year?

Sarah, sounds like you're advocating a more hybrid approach.  I can see benefits to incorporating some elements of both.  However, mass mailing is expensive...if not simply for our time and expense, but also for our contribution to the loss of trees through sending stuff that people don't want or read.



Apr 21, 2008 01:31 PM #62
Christy Powers
Keller Williams Coastal Area Partners - Pooler, GA
Pooler, Savannah Real Estate Agent
I can't fathom having 2,500 contacts that I could tell you anything about! It's amazing the number of people you can remember though.
Apr 21, 2008 02:09 PM #63
Lane Bailey
Century 21 Results Realty - Suwanee, GA
Realtor & Car Guy
I only have a couple hundred people in mine, but they are people that I have known or that have asked to be on my mailing list.  I only send out a couple dozen dailys...
Apr 21, 2008 02:31 PM #64
Cindy Lin
Staged4more Home Staging & Designs // EcoJoe - South San Francisco, CA

Hey Lola

I completely agree. I normally do check if there are people who I know in common with the requestor, but I find there are just people who have like 1000 friends because they just send out friend requests aggressively to "build" the network. I don't know then how effective does the "networking" then become.  I do add people if I see them around Active Rain. I also have been accepting requests from random people I don't know but have a lot of friends in common with me, BUT like I said, I am skeptical about those contacts...

My other concern is online security. But then again, somehow I let anyone on twitter follow me... but twitter doesn't reveal as much info as facebook does. Anyway... 


Time will tell I suppose!



Apr 21, 2008 05:22 PM #65
* Rate A Home
Rate A Home - Saugatuck, MI
Lola, interesting. Glad you didn't throw out the 84,000+ members on Active Rain as your built in Data base. Grin.
Apr 22, 2008 01:48 AM #67
Lorraine or Loretta Kratz
Crescent Moon Realty, Inc. & Land N Sea Auctions. - San Marcos, CA
Certified Negotiation Consultants
I have always been a person who believes quality over quantity. Although in real estate you often hear the old ages -- its a numbers game the more numbers you play the better the odds.
Apr 22, 2008 02:00 AM #69
Therese VanderMeer
Midwest Properties of MI - Grand Rapids - Jenison, MI
Realtor-Greater Grand Rapids, MI area communities

Lola,   Wow,  I really enjoyed this post! I've always believed it was more important to have quality relationships however have also felt my contacts list was lacking in I know I'm doing just fine.

All the Best, 


Apr 23, 2008 12:22 AM #70
Clint Miller
Real Estate Pipeline, Inc. - Missoula, MT
Excellent post.  The guy with the 2,500 peep database sounds like he would be set for life as long as he continually rotates live prospects and dead ones...thanks for the info!
Apr 23, 2008 12:24 AM #71
Latonia Parks
Top Bragg Realty, Fayetteville NC, Home of the 82d ABN DIV - Fayetteville, NC
Certified Military Relocation Expert
I do agree with you, the database should be filled with quality folks.  It is a far more personal relationship that will hopefully pay off later.
Apr 23, 2008 12:35 AM #72
Diane Aurit
LKN Realty, LLC - Mooresville, NC
Lake Norman Real Estate
Lola, I'm so glad Marti featured this as I had missed it. As always your insight and willingness to share with us is most appreciated! 
Apr 27, 2008 12:21 AM #73
The Bartley Group SouthEast MN Real Estate
Coldwell Banker Home Connection - Owatonna, MN

A number of years ago we went to a Brian Buffini training seminar and learned a very important thing about database management.  DELETE PEOPLE.  We don't need names, we need people.


Apr 27, 2008 12:27 AM #74
Ann Cummings
RE/MAX Shoreline - NH and Maine - Portsmouth, NH
Portsmouth NH Real Estate Preferrable Agent

Hi Lola - I had this same epiphany some time ago.  I took the "100 Days to Greatness" course that Brian Buffini teaches, and he's a huge advocate of paring down those databases to about 100 or so, constantly tweeking it over time, but making that 100 your SOI.  People you really do know, past clients and customers, people you do business with, etc.  That 100 or so should be people who would do business with you and who would refer others to you - I've been working on just this for a little bit now, as I'm one of those that has thousands in my database.  Not an easy thing to do, to go through a list that big, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, knowing I'll end up with a great new database that will really work for me.


Apr 27, 2008 01:53 AM #75
Sharon Simms
Coastal Properties Group International - Christie's International - Saint Petersburg, FL
Lola - great thoughts! While I think the small number is great for those you "work" - we have a large database (want to remember all we've had contacts with, good and bad) but we classify clients, vendors, etc by letters. So, in effect, our A list of clients is that 75-100 clients that you're describing as the core.
Apr 27, 2008 02:27 AM #76
Fran Gatti
RE/MAX Integrity - Medford, OR
Managing Principal Broker - RE/MAX Integrity


Great point your presenter brought up.  I go through my list occasionally and send an email asking the client if they would like me to continue emailing them information on our market.  If I don't hear back, I remove them from my list because more than likely they have blocked my email anyway.  Many times I get an email back where the client or prospect tells me how much they enjoy my market reports or other emails and to keep the info coming.  I cherish those responses.  They stay on my list!

Apr 28, 2008 03:54 PM #77
Karen Rice
Davis R. Chant, REALTORS - Hawley, PA
Northeast PA & Lake Wallenpaupack Home Sales

Lola, I'm just going to say now, that I really appreciate your blogs - this one is excellent as well.  Simply having a name is nothing.  Having a name and a rapport/relationship - that's what counts.


Apr 29, 2008 12:40 AM #78
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