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The Tools of the Trade for Real Estate Marketing

In Bangor, Maine, there aren’t many real estate agents conducting proactive marketing campaigns. Fortunately for long time agent Manon deCarlo, she’s one of the few who are taking advantage of this real estate agent marketing void and she’s been reaping the rewards year after year.

In each of her first few years in real estate, Manon de Carlo had steadily grown her business. By about the fourth year, though, her production topped out at about $4 million in sales. “I hit that plateau and stayed there for a long time,” she recalls. “I just kept thinking to myself, ‘What can I do to increase my business?’”

Manon decided to attend a Hobbs/Herder seminar in 2000. By the end of the event, Manon was convinced she needed to do a better job with her personal marketing. “I knew it was a lot of money to invest, but the personal marketing approach was exactly what I was needed to take my business further.”

Immediate Returns
After her first year of implementing her direct mail campaign, Manon’s production jumped from $4 to $7 million. That number steadily increased every year, with the pinnacle being $20 million in 2005 when the market was at its hottest. But as we all know, things were destined to change in the world of real estate. The bubble was about to burst and not even Manon could avoid it.

“I watched many brokers and agents leave the business when things got tough,” Manon says. “I had a choice to make myself.” Manon’s choice was to make a commitment to her business. She wasn’t going to slow down her marketing efforts for anything. She would keep doing what made her successful. “I put my blinders on and kept moving forward.”

A Truly “Powerful” Tool
Though she actively uses all her marketing pieces, the main tool in Manon’s toolkit has always been the PowerKard. “It is well named. It’s very powerful,” she says. She has a large mailing list of 7,000 homes broken down into different segments. For every listing or sale she gets, Manon sends out a customized mailer. It’s a simple plan she follows, but it’s been highly effective for her.

“People call me because they feel comfortable with me. They feel like they know me better than other agents. And because they see my regular activity in the market, they know I am a good real estate professional.”

Manon also sends out a quarterly newsletter that is well-received by her geographic farm. Another key piece she sends is her annual “Market Update.” Every January, she sends a PowerKard to all 7,000 homes in her farm listing the previous year’s sales in each particular community. “It’s a real ‘keeper’ piece,” Manon says. “I go into clients’ homes all the times and see it posted on their refrigerators. They really value that information because they want to know what sold and what it sold for.”

Staying Successful in a Slow Market
Since the market cool-down, Manon continues to hold her business steady. She sold $12 million in 2009 and is on pace for similar numbers this year, far and away leading the competition in her area. Most of her business is still regular buyers and sellers because her marketing campaign has allowed her to keep a strong market share. Short sales are few and far between for her, which is just how she prefers it. While other agents avoid spending money on marketing like the plague, Manon continues her plan and keeps growing her market share throughout the Bangor area, which will position her well when the market takes another upswing.

One of the other programs that has helped Manon find success in a tough market is following the Hobbs/Herder expired listing program (which comes with registration to the Hobbs/Herder Gateway seminar. She identifies and mails to 4 or 5 homeowners a day whose listing contracts have expired with other agents. Manon also actively markets to her past client database, which numbers about 1,000. They receive her quarterly newsletter, greeting cards at Christmas and Anniversaries and, of course, her yearly Market Update PowerKard. For her, it’s important to stay in front of the people who’ve already worked with her. Manon knows they quickly forget, so they have to be reminded that she’s a valuable resource they can turn to for their real estate needs. The result has been a steady flow of repeat and referral business.

Continuing to Move Forward
Yet as successful as Manon’s marketing efforts have been, she knows she can be better in a number of important areas. That’s why she attended the Gateway conference in Boston this year. “I wanted to know what else I should be doing with my marketing,” she says. “Needless to say, I learned a lot in those three days.”

Probably the biggest area of improvement for Manon will be in her online efforts. From bettering her website design, content and branding to getting more active on the Social Media front, she knows she needs to get more current with the times and generate more leads from her Internet efforts. “The business has clearly changed, especially the way people communicate,” she says. “I need to take better advantage of these opportunities.”

Another strategy that Manon re-learned was the detriment of marketing her team instead of herself. For years, she’s been using a logo that promoted “Manon & Team” on her marketing pieces. At the seminar, though, she saw the value of marketing herself first. It’s more personal, more engaging and, in the end, much more effective. “I’m in the process of changing my signage and cards to reflect my name and not the team’s,” Manon says. “I think it will have a very positive impact moving forward.”

In addition, Manon knows she needs to use her brochure more often. Whether it’s mailing out to her farm or handing it out to people face-to-face, she realizes she’s not utilizing one of her best marketing pieces to its full potential.

“I’ve been very successful with my campaign, but I know I can do even more,” Manon says. “The Gateway opened my eyes to so many more possibilities, I’m excited to take the next steps forward.”