Writing and publishing is a powerful way of helping people discover you, your services and how you can solve their pressing problems.
Writing, publishing and offering valuable information via a FREE REPORT can be an incredibly powerful lead generation tool. Why? Because Free Reports make a valuable offer -- a component of utmost importance to any and every marketing campaign. Especially a lead generation campaign.
A good, solid offer has two components:
1. What the prospects gets.
2. What is required of the prospect to get it.
There are both hard offers and soft offers. A hard offer is when you are presenting the prospect with the opportunity to part with their hard earned money in exchange for your product or service. Or, perhaps, you are asking them to make the hard commitment of making an appointment to speak with a representative.
A hard offer in the real estate industry might be an appeal to have a potential seller call and request a free market analysis. Or for a buyer: an offer to make an appointment for a free income qualification. Why is it considered a hard offer, after all it's a free offer? Think about it. Consumers really aren't as naive as we believe. The astute consumer knows your "free offer" is nothing more than a gimmick to gain an appointment. And asking for an appointment, a face-to-face meeting where a decision is expected to be made, is a hard offer.
A soft offer often works better. A soft offer is one which the prospect is asked to request some type of material that is mailed or shipped to him or her and makes this request by writing, phoning, faxing or some other mechanism that does not require a face-to-face meeting (that is, a confrontation and worse... the need to make a decision).
The power of a properly presented soft offer lies in the fact that it is the most painless, risk-free way for prospects to raise their hands, get in touch with you, and say "Yes, you're talking to me. I might be interested. Tell me more"... without having to subject themselves to a sales pitch of any kind whatsoever.
A soft offer is painless. Keep this in mind because it has been proven that people are motivated to take action by either a desire to gain pleasure (benefits) or a desire to avoid pain. Pain avoidance is often the more powerful motivator of the two.
Real life example. Recently I referred a close friend and associate of mine to an exclusive buyer broker, educating him on the benefits of using this particular broker. I easily elicited his income, debt ratios, amount of money needed available for a down payment, etc. I easily got the okay to give the agent his name, phone number and best time to be contacted.
She contacted him, built rapport, and reaffirmed the same information. Then she asked him to agree to an appointment with a lender to gain pre-approval and wow! The change was incredible. His entire demeanor changed from carefree to uneasy. His voice went from confident to waiving. His previous gung-ho attitude was replaced with a birage of excuses which seemed to immobilize him.
Why the change? Pain. Or more accurately, his perception and anticipation of pain. For whatever reason, conscious or unconscious, this otherwise sharp, capable, success-oriented individual related pain to meeting face-to-face with a lender. And his innate motivation to avoid pain at all costs was so strong it prevented him from going forward. (We got past this hurdle pretty easily, however. We ended up having a telephone conference appointment with the lender and submitted all the required paperwork and banking records by Federal Express. Was it a hassle? Yes. Was it worth it? Of course. Not only did this fellow end up purchasing a lovely home in the high $500,000 range... he has since referred at least four people to this particular broker!)
Beyond pain and pleasure, Dr. Abraham Maslow developed a theory of human motivation that is directly applicable to marketing. Maslow insists people are motivated by their needs, and he classified these needs into 5 distinct levels of importance.
Level One includes our physiological needs. The need for food, water, air, rest and housing.
Level Two includes our need to feel safe and secure.
Level Three addresses our social needs. The need to belong, feel accepted, being loved.
Level Four is ego related. Our need to feel self-confident, self-reliant, gain achievement, recognition.
Level Five is our need to grow, our self-fulfillment needs. It addresses our vision.
But if you really take a good, hard, honest look at all of Maslow's motivations... you'll discover it all really boils down to pain and pleasure. It's pleasurable to feel noticed, accepted, and to be "in the know." It's extraordinarily painful to feel estranged, outcast, a geek, or ignorant. It's pleasurable to feel "in control." It's painful to feel manipulated.
It's painful to have to reach outside of my comfort zone and speak with a professional about something they know more about than I do (which makes me vulnerable) and who (I perceive) will attempt to take advantage of me (and make me look bad in front of my friend, family and co-workers).
So use a soft offer. It works, and works well. Strive to make your first contact as painless as possible.
Of course you're thinking a soft offer appeals to prospects who are not ready to make a commitment, who have no intention of doing anything more than gaining free information or free services simply because they're bored, greedy, or just looking. True. It happens and it will happen. Lots. The soft offer generates an incredibly high level of response because there is no sales pressure or risk of being at the receiving end of a prepared pitch by a high-pressure, fast talking salesperson who's only intention is to earn a commission. It promises benefits that prospects can obtain risk-free and which they can review and enjoy at their leisure. So... of course... people will take advantage of it. That is the purpose of the free offer, the soft offer. You want huge numbers of people taking advantage.
Think of it this way. Would you rather spend three hours a day cold calling people who have not heard of you, have not indicated a desire to do business with you now or in the future, and who are not in a very good mood because your phone call or door knock interrupted their dinner... or would you rather spend three hours a day following up, qualifying, and working with people who have raised their hands and said, "Tell me more. I may just be interested..."?
Many marketers mistakenly believe that all people who respond to soft offers really aren't serious. They are simply collecting free stuff without any intention, need or desire to conduct business. In other words, they are not real prospects. And while their are some people of which this is a true observation... for the most part it simply is not true.
Soft offers generate soft leads. Soft leads can be extremely profitable. Soft leads can make your fortune. Guaranteed! In short, there is no reason NOT to use FREE REPORTS. I can not imagine not using a FREE REPORT of one kind or another. People love to receive something FREE and what better way to open and initiate a relationship than to provide your prospects with something they love? Your goal to give them something free, something of value, something infinitely more interesting than just another FREE Market Analysis of their home - everyone gives that away AND everyone knows it is just a disguised trick to get you in the door. So let's get started creating our fortune, shall we?
One of my mentors, a direct marketing genius in his own right (he's not in the real estate industry) uses this type marketing--the soft offer, free report--campaign as his primary lead source and profit center. Powerful? You call it... In less than two years he has generated a 3.5 million dollar business of which he nets 40%! He calls it his triple-hoop program.
The first hoop, of course, is your ad or your mailing piece. It is designed to get noticed and, hopefully, it does. Then your prospects are lead to take some type of action... to expend some calories, pick up the phone and request your free information product, your free audio tape, to listen to your free recorded message of valuable information.
Hoop two: they listen to your brief message.
Hoop three: they stay on the line and request a copy of your free report.
Triple qualifying hoop. By the time these folks have jumped through all these hoops, you can rest assured that they have, at least in their own minds, a viable reason or need for your report.
These people have now become self-qualifying leads. Self-qualifying leads that have called you, predisposed to doing business with you because they initiated the relationship.
Now, let me ask you something. Would you rather go about chasing business or have the business jump through hoops chasing you?
Now here's the rub. The key to making this type marketing campaign work is to be willing to give your prospects ALL of the information they need to make an informed decision... whether they do business with you or not. When you make that kind of commitment, go in with that mind set and provide that type of unconditional service... in that moment... when you provide an honest, valuable, educational service without expectation return... you have laid the foundation of trust--an essential building block to erecting your real estate career to be everything it can be.
If you can do that, if you can actually deliver your free reports and other educational materials without expectation of return, without an expectation of conducting business, you will have immediately set yourself apart from the crowded streets traveled by most "sales professionals" and will have positioned yourself in the role of a professional real estate counselor or consultant. Very, very different positioning, indeed.
The difference that makes the difference?
Salespeople and their solicitations are considered by most to be unwelcome pests. People meet salespeople with anxiety, with automatic psychological barriers of resistance. Consultants, on the other hand, are considered welcomed guests. Friends looking out for their best interests.
Use Free Reports, but use them wisely. Freely. Unconditionally. And, I guarantee you-your phone will begin ringing off the hook with self-qualified leads, people predisposed to doing business with you over and above all of your competition. Now, honestly, wouldn't that just break your heart?
Here's another important aspect of using free reports. YOU are responsible to follow up. Not the prospect. In fact, if your goal is simply to advertise the availability of your free information, sit back and mail upon request and then hope your phone will ring off the hook with prospects anxious to do business with you... GET REAL! Provide the free information and then institute a thorough and comprehensive follow up system. You must follow up on your leads. Because out of 50 people who respond to your marketing efforts... you'll be lucky if any of them call you direct on their own accord. However, if YOU FOLLOW UP, out of those same 50 people... chances are good you'll do immediate businesses with 5% of them, business within 3 months with another 15%, and business with a full 50% or more within the course of a year! So do your job! Be the professional you know yourself to be. Follow-up.
In fact, the true definition of a free report is a "bait piece." The term bait piece refers to the free information offer you provide in your advertising to generate a high number of leads, a high number of inquires. The term "bait piece" is used because the FREE REPORT or FREE BOOKLET or FREE AUDIO TAPE or FREE SEMINAR is not offered simply for the purpose of giving away valuable information or to educate the public... but rather to "hook" the prospect into giving you their name, address and phone number for the express purpose of making it possible for you to follow up by telephone or personal visit.
How To Create Successful Free Information Offers
Step #1: Pick an interesting topic for your free report, tape or voice mail message. The topic should be something that will interest your prospects while at the same time helps educate them on the value of using your services.
Keep the pain/pleasure theory in mind as well as Maslov's motivational theory as you choose your topic. Do you want to address your prospect's need for pleasure? Then you might pick a topic such as: How To Buy A Home For Zero Down. Want to help eliminate pain: How To Stop Paying Rent And Get Wealthy In The Process.
The topic you select should serve two purposes. One, it should not only explain a certain way to do a particular thing, it should also help predispose your prospects to accepting your methods and information as the most logical, acceptable, and desirable way to do things. Second, your topic should position you and your affiliates as being the local experts on the topic (the folks who "wrote the book", if you will).
Your topic should also be interesting and relevant. You must strive to appeal to your prospect's self interests while promoting your own. It's a delicate balance, but once achieved... well worth the effect.
Step #2: After selecting your topic, you need a catchy, benefit-rich title. A title is similar to a headline... it's purpose is to gain attention and create enough interest to carry them into the piece.
Effective titles promise a benefit, arouse curiosity, answer a perplexing question, or ask a perplexing question. Making and offer of "inside information" is a good technique. Using number titles... 7 Ways To, 6 Important Questions You..., etc., are also powerful. Here's some ideas:
9 Critical Questions To Ask A Realtor Before You Sign Anything
17 Home Selling Mistakes Which May Cost You A Fortune
How To Decorate Your Home For Pennies
3 Most Common Pitfalls To Buying Your First Home
Special Report: How To Buy A Home $3,000 to $10,000 Below Market Value
Inside Secrets Of The Pros: How To Make Your Home More Valuable
7 Steps To Selling Your Home Fast, For Top Dollar
How To Sell Your Home In California
Real estate's Dirty Little Secret... Are You Being Taken For A Ride?
Money Secrets Bankers don't Want You To Know
Your title is important because it will determine, like a headline, whether you can get prospects interested enough to request it. Pick your titles with care. And be specific. Target your intended prospect.
Step #3: You've picked a topic and chosen a title. Now ' time to determine what type of information product you are going to make available. Will it be a one-page brochure? A 60-minute audio tape? A 5 minute free recorded message, or a small booklet... a free report?
Step #4: Now it's time to create the product. You'll need to determine the contents, make an outline, and write or record your material.
The most important thing to keep in mind as you work through this process is that the contents must make good on the promise conveyed by the headline, provide useful information, and be accurate.
The contents do not have to be revolutionary, new or improved. In many cases, your information may be the first exposure your prospect has had to the information in any sense so... in a very real sense... it will be new. But it is imperative you make good on your promised benefits--even though you are offering something for free.
So that's it. 1) Pick a topic. 2) Write a provocative title. 3) Determine your format. 4) Create it.
Then advertise. Make it as easy as possible for your prospects to obtain your information product. Use a voice mail system if possible. Simply reiterate the benefits of your product and give your prospects a chance to leave their name, address and phone number so you can send it out. If you are cost conscious (and who isn't?) you might want to call the prospect first (under guise of getting their delivery information correct) to qualify them. Then mail. Then follow up and get them happily involved with your services.
It really is that easy. And it really is profitable.
Here's a Sample Report
- 7 Steps to Selling Your Home Fast
- and For Top Dollar
You are planning a move. Maybe it's voluntary; maybe not. Nevertheless, you are planning to a move and you need to sell your present home.
You want a fair profit. Your goal is to get as much money out of the sale of your home as you can, to recoup some of the time and investment you've put into it over the years. But you also realize you don't have a lot of time. You need a quick sale.
That's the dilemma.
How do you decide how much to ask for your house in order to secure a fair profit and generate a quick sale at the same time - with the least amount of headache and hassle?
Take heart. It's possible.
Regardless of the market - be it hot or cold; regardless of the season - be it summer or winter; and regardless of the fact the house down the street has been sitting on the market forever without any takers - you can accomplish the goal of selling your home fast and at a fair price if you follow a few simple principles.
1. Think of the building you are preparing to sell as a house - not your home. You must detach yourself emotionally from the sale of your property and view it as just another commodity for sale on the open market. It is no more and no less a residential property for sale to a buyer who is ready, willing, and able to purchase it.
2. Realize what you think your house is worth has absolutely no merit. Being a commodity on the open market, a house is only worth what other people are willing to pay for that particular style of house, in that particular area, and at this particular time.
3. Determine prices of comparable houses. A lender always hires a professional appraiser to evaluate the value of a house before underwriting a loan. The most important factor an appraiser uses in determining the value of a house is the reliable data gathered from comparing the selling price of similar properties in style, size, location, and relative time frame - usually 30 to 60 days.
4. Hire an appraiser to give you a documented opinion as to your house's value. Realize, however, the appraisal you receive is only the appraiser's professional opinion based on reliable market data - but it is only an opinion. Only a buyer willing to put money in your pocket can tell you what your house is actually worth. And be aware that appraisals are often too high - appraisers are more likely to overstate the value of a house rather than understate it.
5. Ask a broker for help. Another way to help determine what your house is fairly worth is to ask a real estate agent. Many agents offer a free comparative market analysis in the hope you will list your house with them. Get the broker's opinions in writing and obtain at least three appraisals from different brokers. This will protect you from a common but tragic practice of telling you what you want to hear. In the trade it is called "buying the listing" and it happens with appalling frequency.
6. Learn the asking prices of similar houses for sale. While actual sales prices of recently sold houses are the best source of information, knowing the asking prices of houses still on the market will give an idea of the top range of market values in your area.
7. Gain an overall view of the local housing market. Is the market hot or cold? Is it a buyer's market or seller's market? It is also helpful to know the total inventory of homes currently on the market in relation to the number of homes currently pending sale. For instance, if 356 houses are for sale and 42 houses are pending sale, the ratio is 1:8. This means there is one buyer per eight houses for sale. Called a Total Market Analysis, this data can be the most powerful information you can gather to best position your house for a fast, profitable sale.
8. Price your own home. Given all the above data you should now be in a position to determine an asking price for your house which will ensure a fair profit and a fast sale. The trick is to price your home a little below current asking prices and a little higher than actual selling prices. The actual price you chose would best be determined by a total market analysis and would ensure a lot of buyer activity as well as providing you a fair, over market profit. It's like having your cake and eating it too!
With the right information, you can price your house to sell for the most money, in the shortest amount of time, and with the least amount of hassle. Simply follow the seven basic principles and you are well on your way to a fast, profitable sale.
If you would like in depth information on how to best price your home for a quick, profitable sale as well as receive a free, complimentary Total Market Analysis - contact Roger Realtor at 555-555-5555 or, if you prefer to receive more information by mail, call 555-5555 ext. 3365, 24 hours for a free recorded message.