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Creating a Winning Game Plan for 2010

Editor’s note: Each month, we enjoy bringing you many informative articles regarding numerous different facets of personal marketing. This month, we bring it all together in a comprehensive guide that will help organize your marketing efforts for the coming year. As we enter into December, now is the time to plan next year’s marketing schedule. This exercise is a major undertaking that requires ample time and attention, so don’t delay. After reading this article, set aside enough time to map out your 2010 game plan.

What’s your plan for 2010? If the first thing you thought of is “Well, hopefully the market conditions allow for a good year,” it’s time to reevaluate how you approach your career. When you operate from a proven game plan, success comes much easier. And that’s what this month’s article is all about. It’s about taking what you know, using your resources to the fullest and making things happen instead of waiting for market conditions to dictate your success.

If you’re serious about success, this article is all about helping you create a winning marketing plan for 2010. But remember — a plan isn’t a plan unless it’s written down, so start by downloading your blank game plan. Then, follow the comprehensive year-round marketing plan we’ve mapped out for you. Your own plan may vary based on your budget, what’s available in your area and other factors, but try to use these suggestions as a guide and follow it as closely as possible.

Once you’ve mapped out your own game plan, it needs to become your guide to the coming year. You should review it every quarter and chart your progress.

The problem we see far too often is that agents don’t plan their marketing in advance and then their marketing suffers by operating under a shotgun approach that lacks focus and consistency. Too many times agents operate in the deal-to-deal mentality — “It’s been a bad month, I better do some marketing.” That approach is ineffective and a total waste of money. You need to stop operating from deal-to-deal and develop a long-term plan for growing your business. That’s exactly what this game plan is all about — setting a plan and sticking to it over an entire year to get all your marketing money working together to present a consistent image.

Develop Your Mix
The first step toward a successful 2010 is determining how you’re going to disseminate your marketing message. There are virtually limitless combinations of various channels at your disposal. Analyze which marketing methods will be most effective for you. If you’re not quite sure yet, this article will walk you through many of your choices.

As illustrated in the sample game plan worksheet, your year-round marketing plan should built from a combination of the following aspects of personal marketing: online marketing, social networking and email farming, direct mail, strategic networking, advertising and public relations.

Start with the Basics
No matter what combination you choose, make sure your plan calls for continual communication with your PSAs — Past clients, Sphere of influence and All leads generated — via both direct mail and email farming. This critical group provides the core of your business and must be tended to before you target anyone else.

Now let’s examine some of the methods you’ll choose to include in your marketing mix.

Web Sites and E-mail Farming
It never ceases to amaze us how many agents still do not have an adequate web presence in today’s Internet age. Agents are shooting themselves in the foot by choosing the cheapest option just so they can say they have a web site. Many others don’t have one at all or simply rely on a tiny section on their company’s site.

You should be driving traffic to your site through both search engines and your marketing. But it’s not enough to simply get people to your site, however. The key to success on the web is providing valuable content to your visitors. Don’t only give them a reason to visit, but you also need to inspire them to return frequently. You want their experience on your site to make a positive impression and convey a sense of quality and trustworthiness.

That’s why your annual game plan needs to have scheduled time to work on adding new content to your web site. These activities need to be scheduled and executed with purpose. The beauty is that continually adding new content to your site will not only lure visitors back repeatedly, but it will also increase your search engine ranking. The more timely and relevant information your site can communicate, the more business your web site will generate.

Your site should also demonstrate the value you bring to your clients by offering free special reports and other “opt-in” opportunities. For purposes of your 2010 game plan, your focus should be on increasing your “opt-ins” and growing your email database. The larger you grow your email database, the more you can take advantage of this powerful and virtually free of charge method of generating more leads and increasing your bottom line.

Social Media Integration
2009 was the year that social media grew up and transformed from “that thing the kids are doing” into an essential element in business. From a marketing perspective, there’s great strength in generating a strong following on Twitter, building relationships on Facebook and LinkedIn and becoming a trusted resource for valuable information through your personal blog. Your 2010 game plan should include time reserved specifically for working on improving and capitalizing on these — and any emerging — social networking opportunities.

This doesn’t mean just “having” accounts on the various social media sites and posting without purpose, but truly using them to your advantage. Establish yourself as the authority on your local real estate market by providing timely, market-related updates via the various social media outlets. To maximize your effectiveness, you need to map out how many posts you’re going to make a week. You should aim for a balance of personal and professional content in your posts.

If you’re not sure where to start with social media and feel you’re falling behind, get educated in this topic to avoid making costly mistakes.

Direct Mail
Right now is an outstanding opportunity for you to make a big impression in your farm area using direct mail. By following a consistent mail plan and continually providing new content to homeowners in your mailings, you can build credibility and generate more leads.

We recommend mailing an average of three times per month to each person in your direct mail farm. This way, you’ll establish name recognition quickly and maintain it consistently. Some of the tools to consider in your direct mail toolbox include:

The keys to success in direct mail are to follow a plan and resist the urge to make rash decisions. Tailor your content to your audience and market conditions, but do not let those factors encourage you to deviate from your plan. The more you can hit your specific market segments with timely messages and important content, the more your phone will ring, and the greater return you’ll see on your investment.

Strategic Networking & Referrals
With all the talk about agents wanting to “get back to basics” and some even resorting to doorknocking, we feel it’s important to stress the effectiveness of strategic networking. Note that word “strategic” in that last sentence, because having a strategy is the true difference maker when it comes to making the most of networking.

At Hobbs/Herder, we view networking as an essential part of any holistic marketing campaign. What that means is that it’s not a haphazard activity, but rather one that has a written plan, written objectives and a desired outcome. In simpler terms, you need to strategically schedule your networking activities to ensure maximum effectiveness. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to tell yourself that you’ll get around to networking someday, yet it never happens.

  • Strategic networking involves setting a goal to hand out a certain number of personal brochures every month (100 is a good number) and then holding yourself accountable to this goal. To get started, answer the following questions:
  • What do you currently leave behind when you meet someone in a networking scenario?
  • How many personal brochures do you hand out on a weekly or monthly basis?
  • How many opportunities are you missing by not making a concerted effort to engage in strategic networking on a regular basis?
  • What will you do to ensure you hand out more brochures on a consistent basis in 2010?

When it comes to referrals, most agents view them as bonus clients that fall from the sky. It doesn’t have to be this way, though, if you schedule a concerted effort to generate more referral business. Don’t be afraid to ask your past clients and sphere of influence for referrals on a regular, planned basis. Schedule letters on a quarterly basis to keep these important relationships prosperous.

Far too often, agents do not consider these activities as part of their overall marketing mix. The irony is that strategic networking and referrals are powerful, inexpensive methods to generate more business. Don’t overlook this essential activity in the coming year.

Print Advertising
Unfortunately, for many real estate professionals, only one thing comes to mind when they think of advertising. That’s definitely not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about personal, emotionally based, image-building advertising that promotes you and helps you establish a relationship with your target audience.

Your advertising dollars should be split into segments such as: ads in “home” publications, ads in newspapers and magazines, billboards and cable TV. Each of these advertising outlets should have their own line on your game plan.

You need to determine which of these categories will be most effective for you in reaching your target market and focus most of your advertising dollars there. For this example, we’ve divided everything into a fairly even mix to give you an idea of what a full-scale media campaign looks like.

On the sample game plan we’ve provided, we’ve divided print advertising into two categories: “homes” publications ads and newspaper ads. We chose “homes” publications simply because that is where many agents place a majority of their advertising, and because those publications are typically widely available in most areas.

However, don’t limit your options to just to these publications. Take a look at all of the publications available in your area. Focus especially on those that appeal to your target market. Pay close attention to any publications designed specifically for a niche market or geographic area you may be farming. Don’t worry if other agents aren’t advertising in particular publications. As long as you know the publication is well read by your target market, it may be just what you need to stand out.

Television Advertising
Cable TV offers a new advertising frontier for many agents. We’re not talking about house ads on TV or dull, “I’m the best agent” infomercials, but actual 30-second spots that promote you as an individual, capture your audience’s imagination and tie in with your personal marketing campaign.

Because of the cost effectiveness of this medium, advertising on television is no longer just for the big national advertisers. Like outdoor advertising, rates will generally be higher in large metropolitan areas, but if you check with your cable company, we’ll guarantee you’ll be surprised at how inexpensively you can purchase airtime. For more information on how you can get a leg up on your competition by taking advantage of the untapped opportunities in cable TV, click here.

Scheduling your TV commercial time is similar to billboards and outdoor advertising, with bursts of frequent air times followed by off times. Your cable representative should be able to provide you with market analyses and demographic information to help you determine the best time of day and the best programming for your ads.

The Public Relations Plan
An oft-forgotten but important part of your marketing mix is public relations. Having an article written about you or being quoted by the newspaper or local TV news show is powerful advertising that you can’t put a price tag on — and it’s free!

But the only way to get this exposure is to make yourself known to the local media, and that’s why it’s so important that you plan your public relations schedule ahead of time. Schedule sending between one and three press releases a month to editors and reporters in your area. Your schedule should include specific topics for each press release you plan to send. Otherwise, when the time comes to send out a release, suddenly you need to think of a topic and write the release, and chances are you won’t do it because you’re simply too busy for that kind of undertaking.

Knowledge is Power
Finally, you cannot overlook continuing education in your marketing mix. If you’re serious about personal marketing, you need to attend an absolute minimum of two personal marketing seminars each year. Not only will this expose you to new ideas to keep you on the cutting edge of marketing, but each visit will recharge your batteries and keep you excited about your career. Just like your marketing, you must plan these activities now.

Make Your Plan Work for You
A major part of having an annual game plan is analyzing what generating the best results. Once your plan is finalized, you need to stick to it like glue. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you follow it blindly. Once per quarter, you need to sit down and analyze what has been most effective and make adjustments as you see fit. Be careful, though, not to do this more frequently. You don’t want to end up in the “plan of the week” mode. Review your plan quarterly, and then stick to it.

Putting Your Plan to Work
It’s been said that a plan isn’t a plan if it’s not written down. Well, we couldn’t agree more. You cannot underestimate the power of your game plan worksheet. It should be one of the most frequently used sheets of paper you will use in the next 12 months. Post it on the wall as a visual reminder of your progress!

Here’s to a great 2010! If you have any questions or comments regarding this article, please drop us a note at Greg.Herder@HobbsHerder.com.